This race is for a special breed. An event for triathletes of widely ranging abilities who all share the same common goal. To get to their finish line. To race on New Zealand's best course. To accept a real challenge and to stare down and defeat their demons. To SUFFER. To support each other. To just get home.
Here's what to expect.
It starts easy enough. Triathletes know the only calm they paid for is a toasty warm, millpond lake. The swim is New Zealand's best. No question.
Those that return year after year, get it - somewhere out there amongst the hills and heat, cold and sometimes rain of the bike will be that one hill with their name on it.
They know that somewhere out there will be THAT MOMENT where you go from daydreaming about P5's to a sorry realisation that you are already in your easiest gear.
At the bottom of the climb.
And after mumbling "well that came earlier than I thought" is the sobering reality that you are a long way from home and that your yellow wristband won't save you now.
Or maybe you will escape the bike. Learnt from previous years that perhaps doing latte laps on the waterfront isn't the best training after all. Got out into the hills and put in the required miles. Perhaps not.
After the bike, all that stands in the way of glory is a simple run. A walk in the park. 21 km. You could do it in your sleep. I mean, weren't those the exact words you used when you couldn't but help brag to your pool buddies how you were going to nail this course.
Funnily enough, the old timers in the lane next to you remained knowingly quiet.
Because this isn't any triathlon. This isn't Swim, Draft, Run. This isn't lawn bowls - this is proudly New Zealand's hardest Half . I hear there is a Half in Australia with the swim is in a fast flowing river and the bike is all downhill. All tailwind. If it sounds like you, just stop reading. Now.
You will suffer. We promise you that.
If you do this race, you will probably tell your friends afterwards that the Rotorua Half was more beautiful, demanding, personal and loaded with more camaraderie than most others. To reach the finish line was a greater victory and joy than most other races you have ever done. You will probably tell your friends that everybody should do this race once in their lifetime.
If, on the other hand, a friend told you this story, then it is time to warn you. During this event, you will probably be tired, you will love, then hate the hills, sometimes you will feel lonely and you will probably experience being unusually emotional as you cross your finish line during the weekend.
But also be warned, this race doesn't tolerate prima donna triathletes. Have you heard the joke -
"How do you know if there is a triathlete in the room?"
"Don't worry, he'll tell you."
If this guy is you, best you do the big city race at three times the price and half the challenge. And don't forget to wear your hat, scarf, tattoo, polo, tie pin, shirt, pants, undies, socks and shoes that scream triathlete to your soon to be ex-girlfriends dinner party. This gig isn't for you.
Because Rotorua is about being casual yet super competitive. No valet parking in transition and poncy elite waves. It's beer at the finish line. Full strength.
And Rotorua is above all else - camaraderie.
When the Devil visits (and he will) - you won't be alone. Your fellow triathlete will be right there with you, having their own personal conversations with their own private demons. They won't be saying "you look great" because you won't - you will look like shit.
In fact, they might not be saying much at all. You may only get a mournful look of understanding from a pair of sympathetic eyes.
You may get a - "Hang in there mate, there's a beer at the finish." "With "full strength" the only words you can muster in reply.
All that waits is exactly what you trained for.
Full strength indeed.
Brand New Day was founded by Shane "Hooksie" Hooks, and runs events all over the country. Brand New Day have been running the Rotorua half since 1999. Originally based in Taupo, the event moved to the picturesque Blue Lake in Rotorua in 2006 to find a better class of triathlete.
Tikitere Hill. This photo makes the climb look pretty flat. Yeah Na. It's not. It's the climb where it all begins.