WHEN he toes the start line at Hawaii's Kona Ironman 70.3 in 116 days, Bendigo triathlete Nathan Meade will have capped a goal years in the making.
Meade qualified for the world's most prestigious long-distance ironman by being runner-up in the 30-34 age group and 15th overall at Ironman Cairns.
The 30-year-old leapt 69 rungs in the standings from his debut at Cairns a year earlier.
"To compete at Kona is a goal I have chased for a long time," Meade said.
There were 40 qualifying places up for grabs as triathletes contested the 3.9km swim, 180.2km cycle and 42.2km run in Cairns.
A brutal test of mental and physical toughness for Meade was completed in 9 hours 19.05 minutes as he achieved splits of 59.54, 5:00.34 and 3:13.24.
"The rolling hills make Ironman Cairns incredibly tough, especially the headwind from Port Douglas back to Cairns."
It will be a hectic lead-up to the October 12 showdown in Kona.
For Meade it's not just training or work as a project manager at Carpet Call Bendigo.
He and wife Kelsey have a baby due in mid-July.
In the lead-up to Cairns, Meade trained up to 18 hours a week.
"Cycling is the leg that takes up the most time."
Part of his plan for Cairns included regularly training with top athletes Andy Buchanan, Brady Threlfall and others who are representing Athletics Bendigo in the XCR19 series.
Many laps were run at Lake Weeroona.
Meade's first cross-country hit-out was leg one of XCR19 at Jells Park and he aims to race this weekend's Ekiden Relay at Angelsea.
"I didn't cramp on the run leg in Cairns, and my times were a lot more consistent.
"A goal is to run the marathon (42.2km) in less than three hours."
He believes the biggest gains in time can be on the cycling leg.
Meade's first triathlon was in his teens, but the focus was mainly on football and stints with Sandhurst, Bendigo Bombers, Bendigo Gold, Kangaroo Flat, and then back at Sandhurst.
He played 60 senior games for Sandhurst across seasons 2009 to '13.
Triathlons are now his number one sporting pursuit.
"I have always enjoyed endurance sports, so being able to combine swimming, cycling and running is a great challenge," Meade said.
The current Ironman Hawaii course record was set in 2018 by Germany's Patrick Lange whose winning time was seven hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds. The women's course record is eight hours, 26 minutes and 18 seconds, set in 2018 by Switzerland's Daniela Ryf.
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