Put Challenge Wanaka on your list of races to do. It is just a fraction over a 70.3 and has a few hills (a tougher race then we'd anticipated) but it's fantastic.
At the briefing the day before the race, they warned us that the due to the floods (the week prior, they'd had a metre of rain in a day closing the roads to Milford Sounds and putting a big section of the run trail under water) the course would still be still open and negotiable, but very rough, so watch our footing. The other great news was that it was going to be a warm swim (17°c)... ooooh and they warned us about a 'red bridge' that athletes kept stacking on. What could possibly go wrong? Hilariously, they accidentally finished that slightly alarming brief by saying "if we have any concerns, ask them AFTER the race". At that point, Ben and I realised we'd just need to harden up and get out there.
The weather on race day was perfect; Fresh, sunny and no wind at all. I did a PB on the swim (in fresh water) and came to T1 with MY agegroup, a very exciting turn of events. However, we were the last wave of individuals before the teams left, and my whole bike ride was spent with the same bunch of blokes (on road bikes) doing the team event and this posed a somewhat annoying dilemma. They would lead up the hills drafting and working as a peloton, then as soon as it became downhill or flat I would tear past determined to leave them behind, but they would tuck in behind me and I dragged them until I hit the next hill. We literally did this for 70km of the 91.6km and we finished the race together smashing ourselves, trying to resolve the groundhog day-style revolving door, unsuccessfully.
The run was absolutely stunning, but the gravel trails were very rough and accounted for 75% of the course. Eventually, we left the trails behind, and discovered a somewhat uninspiring endless hill up a local road. The whole way I kept reminding myself that there had to be a massive downhill afterwards, right? There was, but there was also a pub with a sign saying "fresh cold beer served here". That was the closest I have ever got to an DNF.
I finished the race with the slowest time I have ever done for this distance, but I worked hard every second I was out there, so I'm happy. If you decide to do this race, do Nathan's Jindy camp first, It was perfect preparation.