Hard yards bring Monstrous glory

They had to go through a whole world of hurt but Ben Cochrane and Kirsty Wannan were eventually crowned worthy winners after the grueling 25km Mount Monster surf lifesaving race today.
On another stunning Mount Maunganui day, Cochrane overcome hideous cramping, a gutsy rival and his own head before taking out the open men's race at his first attempt.
Wannan, the 23-year-old Piha podiatrist, had to get through her own early woes but eventually eased home to defend the women's title she first won last year.
Cochrane (Omanu) has spent the last 12 months training at the Northcliffe club in Queensland under the tutelage of world champion ironman Shannon Eckstein.  He's spent a fair bit of that chasing his more illustrious training partners and found himself doing exactly the same during the Monster, with Papamoa's Mason Bryant getting off to a flier.
Piha's Kirsty Wannan leaps off the end of Moturiki Island, on her way to victory in the Mount Monster surf lifesaving endurance race in Mount Maunganui today.  Photos Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media Services
Bryant, also 19, led for large chunks of last year's race before being hit with a time penalty and admitted he 'raced angry' today, using that memory as motivation.  He blitzed the first 5km run leg, holding Cochrane, Ben Gillies (Piha) and Hamish Miller (Mount Maunganui) at bay through the 1.5km swim and into the latter stages of the 12km ski leg.
"The boys ran out far faster than I wanted to run and I had to play catch-up," Cochrane said.  "Mason was flying on the ski and he made me work the whole way - it was very disheartening to finally catch him and then let him go but I couldn't feel my legs at all and they kept collapsing."
Although they came into the final transition together, Cochrane's leg woes appeared to have cost him a shot at the $2500 first prize, with Bryant spurred on.
"I ran that transition hard and heard over the speakers he'd got cramp and had fallen over, so I went for it," Bryant said.  "I felt pretty good but he slowly caught me."
Training with the likes of Eckstein has taught Cochrane the value of patience - he ground his way through the final 6km board leg in a stiff offshore chop and eventually passed Bryant within sight of the beach, crossing in 2hrs 20mins 14secs.  Bryant was just 13secs back, with Gillies (2:20.47) and 17-year-old Miller (2:20.49) chasing all the way to the finish.
Wannan, meanwhile, came back better prepared than last year, putting in more specific training and refining her race strategy.  All that went out the window, however, when some early hydration ventured back up on the initial run leg.
By the time she got to the iconic leap off Moturiki Island's blowhole for the start of the swim leg, her young Piha clubmate Hannah Williams had caught her.
But a powerful swim leg and clinical ski and board efforts took her home in 2:33.20, with Williams second in 2:34.34 and Mount local Jess Miller third in 2:36.46.
"I didn't know how to approach it last year, having not done it before, but with one under my belt, I just knew when and where to push a little more," Wannan said. "I went out with my own race plan and was confident in the training that I'd done that it was enough to get me over the line."
The run leg gave Williams a glimmer of hope but it was soon extinguished.
"She's been killing it in training all season so I was kind of expecting her to take the win," Williams said.  "I caught her at the beginning of the swim and jumped off the blowhole in front but then she absolutely boosted past me and that was it.  I'm pretty stoked for her."
Midway trio Tayler Reid, Sam Newlands and Matt Scott took out the teams race in a sharp 2:18.14, just ahead of Piha duo Nick Berry and four-time Olympian Steve Ferguson, who crossed in 2:18.52.
Nearly 300 surf athletes took part in the third year the event has been held.

Omanu's Ben Cochrane during the 12km ski leg of the Mount Monster surf lifesaving endurance race in Mount Maunganui today.  
Dexion open men: Ben Cochrane (Omanu) 2:20.14m 1, Mason Bryant (Papamoa) 2:20.37m 2, Ben Gillies (Piha) 2:20.47m 3, Hamish Miller (Mt Maunganui) 2:20.49m 4, Jake Allen (Muriwai) 2:23.39m 5, Sam Shergold (Mt Maunganui) 2:24.18m 6, Tyler Maxwell (Lyall Bay) 2:24.49m 7, Tainui Kaihau (Mt Maunganui) 2:25.12m 8, Andrew Selosse (Piha) 2:30.27m 9, Andy Holder (Lyall Bay) 2:37.35m 10.
Dexion open women: Kirsty Wannan (Piha) 2:33.20 1, Hannah Williams (Piha/Mangawhai Heads) 2:34.34 2, Jessica Miller (Mt Maunganui) 2:36.46 3, Grace Kaihau (Orewa) 2:39.56 4, Katie Wilson (Mt Maunganui) 2:40.37 5.
Eves Realty under-19 men: James Scott (Orewa) 2:22.06 1, Declan Dempster (Mt Maunganui) 2:24.44 2, Callum Torrie (Midway) 2:24.50m 3, Ben Manners (Lyall Bay) 2:27.30 4, Daniel Barron (Mt Maunganui) 2:27.51 5, Oscar Williams (Piha) 2:28.07 6, Daniel Edwards (Papamoa) 2:29.53 7, David Long (Lyall Bay) 2:30.41 8, Thomas Cole (Fitzroy) 2:30.53 9, Bertie Bassett-Foss (Waimarama) 2:31.16 10.
Bayleys Real Estate under-19 women: Hayley Cox (Lyall Bay) 2:41.42 1, Kayla McKenzie (Mairangi Bay) 2:44.17 2, Amy Barron (Mt Maunganui) 2:44.24 3, Libby Bradley (Mt Maunganui) 2:48.07 4, Jessie Moore (Lyall Bay) 2:49.59 5, Jenna Barrett (NPOB) 2:51.34 6, Kate Nota (Lyall Bay) 2:52.43 7, Lucy Makaea (Orewa) 2:55.54 8, Danielle Scott (Midway) 2:56.09 9, Stef Crncevic (Orewa) 2:56.35 10.
Classic Builders masters men (over 30): Julien Lalanne (Mt Maunganui) 2:28.48 1, Michael Bassett-Foss (Waimarama) 2:35.02 2, Adam Fraser (Fitzroy) 2:43.11 3, Damian Munro (Mt Maunganui) 2:45.35 4, Vinnie Manoit (Mt Maunganui) 2:47.34 5, Anthony Gadsbey (Omanu) 2:50.49 6, Rob Sheard (Omanu) 2:52.34 7, Deano Larsen (Fitzroy) 2:54.48 8, Stuart Sherman (Woolacombe) 3:00.40 10.
Masters women (over 30): Sandra Boubee (Papamoa) 3:00.16 1.