Juneau's Bursell completes New Zealand Ironman

Extra bike training credited for finish of 92nd overall

Posted: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Juneau's own John Bursell completed his fourth Ironman competition and picked up a personal goal along the way on March 7 at the Bonita Ironman New Zealand.

Hall Anderson / The Ketchikan Daily News
Hall Anderson / The Ketchikan Daily News

Bursell said he chose the competition because of the relatively cool temperatures that could replicate his Southeast training. He had struggled dealing with the heat and winds of the infamous Ironman World Championship at Kona, Hawaii, in 2007, but the mild climate of New Zealand made him confident enough to proclaim the goal of finishing in under 10 hours. Bursell eventually met that goal, hitting the finish line with a time of 9:57.17 and finishing 92nd overall.

"I (credit) the extra use of training time," Bursell said about hitting his goal. "I think it took me a couple of years to physiologically adapt to the volume of training and the duration of the events. I had a lot of help."

The blistering time on the cool course once again qualified Bursell for the Ironman World Championships in Kona this year. He said he is driving himself to post a much better time this year in Hawaii after focusing on enjoying the weekend during his first trip.

Bursell also said he has been "pretty much" continuously training for races since undertaking and completing his first contest in Couer d'Alene, Idaho, back in 2006. Roughly three quarters of his preparation over the past six months has consisted of bike training around Juneau to prepare for the 112-mile portion of the event - easily the longest stretch in comparison to 26.2 miles of running and 2.4 miles of swimming.

"The biking is most important part of race because it's just the longest part," Bursell said. "For me, I spend more than five hours on the bike and I need to come out of it feeling good enough to run a marathon."

The training appeared to work, as Bursell completed that portion of the course in 5:14.02 and said he just hopes he can pace himself as perfectly in future races.

Of course, Bursell's training also includes plenty of swimming, as he practices in a local pool at 5:30 a.m. two days a week and recently began using an "endless" pool to prepare for the straight-forward repetition of the race.

Past experience has taught Bursell that most Ironman races are well run, and he said "the Kiwis" always had everything under control - a key reason for why he felt so comfortable throughout most of the race.

There were a few rough spots the Bursell shared with the other American runners - not turning into the right lane while running on the local backroads.

"I would say that was the most difficult part," Bursell said. "Otherwise, the course was pretty straight forward. The country roads kind of felt like I was back home in Idaho riding through the fields."

While most of Bursell's spare time will be geared towards preparing for Kona, he added that he and some friends had been inspired by increasing local interest in triathlons to hold a race around Auke Lake this summer.

•E-mail sports editor Trent Makela at sports@juneauempire.com.

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