More than just a race…an amazing experience I had at Ironman New Zealand.

An added bonus – amazing cultural experience – at Ironman New Zealand

In addition to the great race at Ironman New Zealand, Ironman provided an additional AMAZING experience that I was so fortunate to participate in. I got to perform a Haka at the Welcome dinner, got to work with a Maori dance group, and they welcomed us for an amazing meal the day after race day – along with some additional dancing.

Why? Taupo New Zealand (where the Ironman was) will soon be hosting the 70.3 championships. As they consider what to do for the occasion, they have considered incorporating some traditional experiences for the athletes (that’s all I know – I didn’t get any of the details and am not sure how it would work, but it lead to a great experience for me so I’m not complaining). To test something out, Ironman provided an opportunity for 12 athletes to join a Maori dance group to perform a Haka at the welcome dinner. To select the 12, Ironman posted on the 2019 IM New Zealand Facebook page. They provided a few details. To enter in the contest, we just had to comment on the post telling them what we were most excited about for the upcoming race. I entered. 12 were randomly selected (6 of each gender so not total randomness).

I never win anything I enter!!! So I was shocked when I received the email that I was in. It felt like a mixed blessing…it sounded like a great opportunity – but it also meant performing in front of a ton of people. It also meant that we would be spending more time in the town of the race because I would have practice Wednesday night and perform Thursday; and then there was a lunch on Sunday. But no regrets, this was amazing.

On Wednesday, the dance group welcomed us by performing, explaining a bit about their culture and singing and dancing, and then teaching us the Haka that we would perform. We had received the words and a video of the performance ahead of time. I mistakenly worked really hard to learn the words, but didn’t focus on the dance moves. I realized later that no one would be able to tell if I knew the words – but it would be frighteningly obvious when I messed up my dancing!

Thursday was performance day. The professionals performed a variety of dances first, and then we joined them for our Haka. They gave us face tattoos for the performance! It was fun and what an opportunity. I have a video! But have to use my other site to post it. Check it out here.

On Sunday, the day after race day, the group welcomed us to the leaders home – which is also set up as a cultural center. They performed a welcome in Maori. It was amazing to observe even though I didn’t know what they were saying. A member of our group happened to be Maori and was there with his wife. They responded to the welcome, which was also incredible even though we didn’t understand that either. Then they talked to us about their culture and history, and then started to dig up meat and vegetables from the Hangi pit. Here are some pics.

The meal – from the pit and other items – was just amazing! It was followed up with some dances, and we even joined the group for a bit.

Thanks to Ironman for such a great, unexpected opportunity in addition to the great race!

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