Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wind and Rain, and Screaming Kids, and Wind and Rain

Christmas has come and gone and, all of a sudden, I am staring January in the face.  That's a tiny bit freaky as January is the last month of full-on training before February, which is the taper. 


December has been a mixed bag weather-wise.  The distances in the pool are building up and I am now doing sessions of over 3km in the 50m outdoor pool at Jellie Park.  The outdoor pool is great, although it does become a real test of your patience at times when you have to share it with screaming kids.  (What is it about kids that compels them to scream all the time?)

One particular session occurred during what must have been the last week of school.  I got to the pool at lunchtime to find that every school in Christchurch seemed to have chosen that day to have their end of year pool party at Jellie Park.  The place was absolutely heaving with kids and I'm sure the noise could have been heard from the outer city limits.  It was absolute bedlam and it was all I could do not to turn around and walk straight back out again.

But no, a workout was required and I knew I'd be glad I stuck it out once it was done.  Usually there are 3 or 4 lanes in the outdoor pool roped off for lane swimming.  On this pool party day, however, the lane swimmers were given 1 lane and as it was such a nice day, there were half a dozen swimmers sharing that space, determined to make the most of the weather and not be intimidated into using the indoor pools.

So I jumped in and duly finished the swim.  The lifeguards had their work cut out for them as the kids weren't satisfied with having only 7/8 of the pool and frequently decided they should be able to play in the lane as well. We adult swimmers got our revenge this week, however, when the skies opened and the rain came pouring down.  The kids showed their true colours and retreated inside while we lane swimmers had the outdoor pool all to ourselves, and it was bliss!

Bike sessions have also moved up a notch and 3-4 hour rides are now the norm with 5-6 hour rides coming up next month.  The weather has played its part in this (most frequently the wind) with several days of strong, gale force nor westers.  These winds are notorious, coming straight off the southern alps and gaining temperature and losing moisture across the Canterbury plains until they hit Christchurch as a hot, dry wind that induces migraines and leaves people feeling generally cranky. 

One of the real gains I've noticed, however, is that the winds are affecting me less on the bike than they used to.  Earlier in the year a headwind would knock the stuffing out of me and turn the ride into a complete misery.  Now I hit a headwind and just change into a lower gear and keep spinning away.  Yes, I go a little slower into the wind (as does everyone), but my attitude is completely different and it makes the ride much less torturous. Plus there's always the tailwind to look forward to as well!

The winds, then, didn't hugely affect my training apart from one day when they were strong enough for me to cancel the ride and do a run instead.  Flexibility is a great thing. 

The Christmas weather hasn't stopped there.  We've also had a deluge of rain across the country and that's meant flooded rivers all over the place.  Today I had direct experience of that during my regular bike ride out to Sefton.  It requires me to bypass the motorway and head over the Old Waimakariri Bridge.  However the bridge was closed due to high river levels, a fact I wasn't aware of until I got out there and found the detour signs and cones out across the road.  There was a security guard there as well and so I thought I'd check to see if it was OK for pedestrians/cyclists to go across.

"No, you can't ride over, but we can give you a lift across to the other side", he said. 


It turns out that Environment Canterbury had a staff member on duty with a ute whose primary responsibility today was to provide a shuttle service for cyclists.  He put the bike on the back of the ute and then drove me and the bike up the motorway to the other side of the river where I could resume my ride. 
The Old Waimak Bridge - the high river level meant nothing was getting across this old dame.

Apparently he had done several trips already this morning and had also found out that cyclists' sense of humour usually showed an inverse correlation to the value of the bike when he told one lycra-clad bloke to "just throw the bike on the back of the ute, mate".  The polite response, I believe, was something like "ah, this bike's worth $20,000, mate - it won't be thrown anywhere". 


Seriously, though, it was a great service being provided by Environment Canterbury and much appreciated by this irongirl - who still had her sense of humour.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas (Ironman Version)

(Feel free to sing along - you know the tune!)

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 6 vaseline tubs
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 7 water bottles
  • 6 vaseline tubs
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 8 training programmes
  • 7 water bottles
  • 6 vaseline tubs
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 9 gooey race gels
  • 8 training programmes
  • 7 water bottles
  • 6 vaseline tubs
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 10 lycra tri suits
  • 9 gooey race gels
  • 8 training programmes
  • 7 water bottles
  • 6 vaseline tubs
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 11 ripe bananas
  • 10 lycra tri suits
  • 9 gooey race gels
  • 8 training programmes
  • 7 water bottles
  • 6 vaseline tubs
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me
  • 12 bars of chocolate
(because I'm still human, and it is Christmas, and my true love loves me...)
  • 11 ripe bananas
  • 10 lycra tri suits
  • 9 gooey race gels
  • 8 training programmes
  • 7 water bottles
  • 6 vaseline tubs
  • 5 number pins
  • 4 sports bras
  • 3 spare tubes
  • 2 aero wheels
  • and a Taupo Ironman Entry

Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Day to Challenge the Most Determined

Today was one of those training days I'd rather forget.  Well that's not quite true.  There were some definite positives, but it was more of a day that seemed to put more than the usual number of obstacles in the way of a great training day.

I had taken the day off work especially.

Yesterday (Sunday) St Pete was competing in his first ultra marathon, 50km in Hagley Park, and so I had arranged for Sunday to be a rest day for me so I could support him in his quest.  In return, I took today off work so I could complete my traditional long bike ride.

So I was set down to do a 5 hour bike followed by a 60 minute run.  The plan was to break it up into two rides.  First would be a 3 hour circuit out through Kaiapoi, to Sefton, Rangiora and back to Christchurch.  I would call in at home to replenish the food and water supplies on the bike and then head out again for a 2 hour ride around MacLeans Island to Prebbleton and back home.


The day dawned fine and warm, and not too windy to start off with and so Pete suggested I put the new aero wheels on.  Great idea.  So it was done and by 8.00am I was out the door.

As I headed out of town the wind started to pick up a bit and, by the time I got to Kaiapoi there was a persistent nor-wester making life reasonably miserable.  Never mind, I thought, once I turn at Sefton it will be on my side and once I turn towards Rangiora it will be behind me all the way back home.

Until then, though, life was challenging.  Having deep dish aero wheels does improve your performance but it's a bit like going from the comfy family station wagon to driving a Formula 1 race car.  In side winds they can be quite twitchy and so you do need to be able to keep your nerve and pay attention to what's happening around you in order to stay on the right trajectory. 

And then there are the trucks.  Big trucks.  Logging trucks.  Milk tankers.  The side winds they generate as they tear past you  with less than half a metre to spare are enough to blow you off your bike if you aren't paying attention and I definitely had a couple of F... moments.

After a reasonable slog, however, I was rewarded with the turn towards Rangiora and I knew from then that I'd be able to make the most of my speed wheels and have a great run back into Christchurch (and get my average speed for the ride up as well!).  For half an hour I had a fantastic time, getting up to about 44km/hr.  It felt really good, powering along and the wheels were doing their thing in fine style. 

And then it turned to custard.

Just as I was approaching the bridge that goes over the motorway, just before the Waimak bridge, I realised that the back wheel didn't feel right.  I stopped to check it and, sure enough, it was punctured.  Bugger.

Never mind, I had a spare tube and so set about replacing it.  Unfortunately I only one spare tube so it was going to be a case of getting home and then changing the wheels over and using the regular wheels for the second ride.  Not to worry, I set off again.

And got about 3km down the road.  To Belfast, just on the outskirts of the city.

Yep, the back wheel was flat again and this time I was stuck.  I didn't have another tube and so the SOS phonecall went out to St Pete (who had also taken the day off work) to come out and get me.  Damn.

We got home and I proceeded to change the wheels over and, while doing so, noticed that the tyre on the front wheel had a pretty big bulge in it.  Double damn.  A quick ride around to the bike shop confirmed my worst fears - the tyre was stuffed (broken they called it) and was likely to blow at any time.  Even worse, a blowout on the front wheel could be pretty nasty so I really didn't want to be riding it at all.

New tyre on wheel, and wheel back on bike, I finally headed out the door for my second ride at 1.00pm - two hours behind schedule and feeling reasonably fed up with the whole thing.  Because my first ride had only lasted 2 hours 30 minutes I needed to increase the second ride and so had to aim for a further 2 hour 30 minute ride. 

By this time, though, the wind had gathered sufficient force to turn the ride into a total grovel.  Heading out to the airport and around the back past MacLeans Island was right into the wind and I finally got to experience a decent tailwind once I crossed over the Old West Coast Road and started heading towards Prebbleton.  As with the stretch from Rangiora earlier in the day, this section of the ride finally put a smile on my face and the wind had increased sufficiently that I was able to hit a top speed of 48km/hr.  Awesome!

Of course it didn't last nearly long enough and before long I was back at Halswell and riding around Cashmere and up Colombo St, again into the wind, before getting home.

By the time I walked the bike through the front door at home it was 3.45pm and I was completely over the day.  Physically I could have done the run as scheduled.  Mentally I just couldn't drum up the enthusiasm after the events of the day.

The run can wait until tomorrow.

The Real Work Starts Now

It's December and suddenly we're into the final 3 months of training before I-Day.  Given that the final 3-4 weeks is spent tapering, it means that I have 2 months of real work to be as prepared as I can be to tackle the ironman challenge.

And real work it will be.

Over winter I have been given a variety of training programmes that have focused on the different disciplines of ironman.  There have been the long group bike rides.  There has been swim camp and the swim drills to get the technique going.  And I have maintained some running and completed my favourite running events to maintain that discipline as well.

The last couple of weeks, then, have been relatively relaxed as far as training goes and, as an example, this was my schedule for the last week of November:

Monday: 1000m swim
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday: 1 hour bike
Thursday: 1 hour run
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 30min swim, 1 hour bike, 45min run
Sunday: 2 hour bike

My fitness/strength/endurance must have improved as that type of schedule seemed pretty relaxed.  What I hadn't quite realised, however, was that it would be the calm before the storm.  Coach Dave had big plans and he was saving it for December and January.

When I got my training programme covering the period up to 6 February (when the tapering begins) there was one word to sum it up.


My comment on Facebook summed it up pretty well also: "...makes my training up to now look like a walk in the park.  The real work starts now!"

Basically we're into the serious stuff now and this is where every session becomes critical to my eventual success in Taupo.  I can expect to get tired and so need to focus on making sure I get enough sleep and recovery time.  I need to eat well.  And I need to focus on completing one day at a time - otherwise I'll get overwhelmed with the enormity of it all.

As a comparison, then, here is my program for the week immediately after Christmas:

Monday: rest day
Tuesday: 3200m swim + 40min run
Wednesday: 3hr bike + 40min run
Thursday: 90min run
Friday: 3hr bike + 30min run
Saturday: 70min open water swim + 2 hr bike + 60min run
Sunday: 4hr bike + 40min run

The time allowed for all this also represents a significant increase and to give an idea of the scale of the training load over the next couple of months, here is a weekly summary of the hours I'll be dedicating to training:

Week beginning

29-Nov 1:20 8:30 1:35 11:25
6-Dec 2:10 9:00 3:40 14:50
13-Dec 2:30 10:00 0:50 13:20
20-Dec 1:30 7:00 1:40 10:10
27-Dec 2:50 12:00 5:00 19:50
3-Jan 3:05 13:00 3:30 19:35
10-Jan 3:00 4:00 1:10 8:10
17-Jan 3:00 8:00 2:45 13:45
24-Jan 3:10 12:00 4:50 20:00
31-Jan 3:40 12:00 4:00 19:40

Ironman is definitely my part time job in the short term ... albeit unpaid!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dreams are Free

One of the natural thoughts you have while training for ironman is, will this be the only ironman event I ever do, or is this destined to be my "calling" in terms of sports?  Am I about to discover my ideal sport, the one that I am going to go back to year after year or am I going to finish the 2011 event and say "never again"?  

St Pete probably hopes that once is enough although publicly he'll tell you I'll probably do one more, just to get it out of my system.  And on the basis of doing at least one more the conversation invariably turns to bikes and a prediction as to whether my current speed machine has another ironman in it after March, or will it be time to invest in an upgrade.

My Avanti Cadent is a great bike, no question.  It's a full carbon frame and Ultegra componentry and I've now got a pair of awesome Fast Forward carbon aero wheels for race days (and other days when I want to give myself a treat and ride the special wheels!).  If I were to get a new bike it would have to be a specialised time trial bike and wouldn't you also want it to be a bit special....with a custom paint job maybe...???

With that in mind, and because dreams are free, I've come across the Trek website where you can custom design your own bike.  They do a fantastic time trail bike, the Speed Concept 9.9, and you can use their website to design your own colour finish and even have your name printed on it.  

For a cool US$9000 here, then, is my dream bike:

Enhanced by Zemanta

Livestrong Junkie

Over the past few months I've turned into a bit of a Livestrong junkie.

It all started quite innocently enough, back in June, when St Pete and I went to New York for a week - a prize I won with Qantas and radio station MoreFM.  While there I came across a Livestrong bike jersey in a sports store and decided I had to have it.  I've always admired Lance Armstrong and the work he's done with the Livestrong Foundation and I figured I wouldn't see many of those jerseys back in New Zealand. 

So the jersey duly returned to New Zealand with us and became a regular feature on my long Sunday rides.

Not long after I started thinking about getting some new sunglasses.  I had a new aero helmet for Ironman and it fitted close in around my face and I had been finding that my sunglasses were slightly too wide to fit inside the helmet comfortably.

I was quite keen on Oakley's Jawbones and as luck would have it, that model comes in Livestrong colours.  It only seemed right, then, that this should be the pair to get, to match my cycling jersey.

In rapid succession followed the Radioshack limited edition 28 jersey.

This jersey was designed for the Radioshack team for their final day of the 2010 Tour de France and has the number 28 on the back, in honour of the 28 million cancer sufferers around the world.  Because they didn't get it pre-approved by the Tour officials, though, Radioshack were forced to remove the jerseys before the race started and had to ride in their regular red and grey colours.  At the end of the day Radioshack claimed the Team honours for the tour and the jerseys finally got an airing on the podium and gained enough notoriety to be in hot demand by Livestrong/Radioshack/Armstrong fans worldwide.

I admired the jersey along with the rest of the world but never dreamed I'd see them on the racks in Scotty Browns in Christchurch.  All reports were that they were being released as a limited edition and it seemed pretty obvious that they'd be snapped up well and truly before heading to this part of the world.  It was an opportunity then too good to pass up and one was added to my ever-increasing Livestrong collection.

The latest addition has been the Giro Ionos Livestrong Helmet.  Completely unnecessary (there was nothing wrong my with previous helmet) but the balance has shifted to an extent now where I can only think of myself as a Livestrong Junkie and so must have the entire collection...if Lance's Giro Livestrong aero helmet ever appears on the shop shelves then St Pete had better hide the credit card!!!

Speaking of St Pete, he's being slowly sucked into the Livestrong collector's vortex and has ordered his first Livestrong products...along with Livestrong bike pants for me, all on their way from the Livestrong store in America!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Day of Distractions

On my ironman journey, Saturdays have now become simulation days.

They are the days when my training session consists of a swim, followed by a bike, followed by a run.  (Just like the real thing, but shorter!) And now that summer is officially here the swim is happening in the open water, either in the lake at Pegasus or in Corsair Bay, over the hill in Lyttelton.

Last Saturday's session was no different.  I was tasked with a 40 minute swim, 2 1/2 hour bike and a 30 minute run.  Andi, training for the Lake Wanaka Half,  had a similar program although a shorter bike and so we decided to do the swim and bike together.  The plan was to drive out to Corsair Bay with the bikes, do the swim and then bike from there home where I could then do my run around Hagley Park.

Pegasus would have been great but thanks to the power of Facebook I had found out that there would be waka sprints out there that morning and, while they weren't starting their races until 9.00am, likely preparatory work in the lake (i.e. setting up lanes etc) could have made swimming a bit of a pain.  So Corsair Bay it was.

It was an early start.  While Pegasus was out, there was also the distraction at Corsair Bay with the annual Harbour Ride, one of Christchurch's premier road cycling events.  The route for the ride would go past Corsair Bay and up over Evans Pass to Lyttelton, exactly the route we were planning to follow after our swim.  We therefore wanted to be well out of the way before we got mown down by elite riders such as Hayden Roulston!

We therefore pulled up at Andi's place just after 7.00am, loaded her and her bike, and by 7.30 we were pulling wetsuits on at the water's edge at Corsair Bay.  It was a gorgeous day and there were already a few swimmers out in the bay doing laps around the boats.  Coach Dave was already there and had done his first lap by the time we got in.  He decided to do another one with us and so off we went.

Google Earth view of Corsair Bay with a typical swim circuit marked in yellow - approx 1km
Swimming conditions were great, although it did get a little lumpy once we were out by the yachts and out of the shelter of the bay.  We got our first lap done, though, and Dave headed off to his next fitness session of the day leaving us to do another lap.  I had a much better time with sighting and we set up a good routine - figuring out our next landmark (or yacht), swimming to it then stopping and refocusing on the next point.

We got out after about 55 minutes and had done about 2 km of swimming, so a good effort.  It was then out of the wetsuits and up to the car to get the bikes ready for a ride.  Drinks and food loaded, I started walking the bike onto the tarseal to start riding and suddenly realised I was still wearing my Nothinz.  They are so comfy I'd forgotten I was wearing them but it's a bit like walking out the door of your house in your snuggly pyjamas.  ...and tricky to clip into the bike pedals!
My orange Nothinz - ugly as, but SOOO comfy!

Senior moment sorted, we headed away.  It was a slight downhill into Lyttelton but once we passed the main centre of town we started a steady climb up to Evans Pass.  It's not a steep climb so I quite enjoyed taking it slowly and (almost!) having time to enjoy the scenery.  Andi went off ahead (because virtually everyone is still faster than me on an upward slope!) but waited at the top of the pass and it was at this point I stopped as well.

We were conscious of the elite riders coming through in the race and there was a decent group of spectators and photographers stopped at the top of Evans Pass waiting to see them come through.  We waited for a few minutes trying to work out if we had enough time to carry on, and not get run over, and eventually decided we may as well have a shot at getting down the hill first.

So we headed down and got through Sumner and Redcliffs and to the end of the causeway.  At the end of the causeway the race would make a hard left turn for the final kilometre to the finish line.  Being enthusiastic cyclists it was only right that we allow ourselves this little distraction and see the leading riders come around.  So we stopped there and a couple of minutes later the leading riders started coming through.  It was great to watch and we ended up waiting until the first of the elite women came in as well - fantastic stuff.

It wasn't to be our only distraction, though.

We carried on around to Brighton and rode along Marine Parade, only to find the road closed up ahead.  The suburban Santa Parade was on and so the road was blocked with sugar-enriched children and their frazzled parents.  Thankfully Santa had just gone past by the time we got there and so we were able to slowly make our way through the crowds as they dispersed back to their cars.

Just goes to show that a bike ride never has to be an ordinary thing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

South Island Half Ironman; or - It's Just a Training Day, Part 2

I can't do this.

Yes you can, just put your head down and do steady strokes. Don't think about the distance.

Shit, that looks like a long way over there. I feel sick. I should eat something, but ... Shit, that looks like a long way over there. Shit. Shit. Shit.

It was a grey, chilly Saturday morning at Lake Hood. I was standing at the edge of the lake looking across at the orange buoys and, in particular, the one in the far distance. In just over an hour I would be in the water starting my training day, which also happened to be the South Island Half Ironman.

1.9km of swimming lay ahead of me and the location of the buoys was freaking me out.

I had been a little bit tense that morning because, even though it was just a training day, I had managed to load plenty of expectations onto myself. There was going to be a lot going on and to think about afterwards but ultimately it would be invaluable in testing strategies for ironman.

Because ironman is not the day to be trying out anything new.

The plan for the day, then, was to do a good swim, practice a smooth transition to the bike, a good steady bike leg, practice a smooth transition to the run and then complete one lap (of three) of the run course before pulling out.

The expectations on top of that were plenty. In the swim I wanted to see some improvement in my time from last year, to show for the hours I had spent in the pool over winter. That wasn't going to be so easy, though, when my mind wasn't completely cured of its swim demons. In the bike leg I had also added the expectation of a faster time, especially as my bike was now sporting a pair of Fast Forward F6C carbon fibre deep-rimmed aero wheels. Scotty at Scotty Brown's had very generously agreed to let me trial them for the event and had promised they would be so fast, and I would like them so much, that I would wet myself (and then buy them!). So, obviously I was keen to see exactly how much of a difference they would make.

But before I got onto the bike I had to get through this blasted swim.

Wetsuit on and one of Coach Dave's gems of advice was to get into the water extra early and have a bit of a warm up. It would help settle the nerves and I could check out the best spots to sight off from water level. So I did this and, just as I was getting into the water, a speedboat idles past, heading out into the lake with two huge yellow buoys on the back. Within a couple of minutes the boat had dropped off the buoys, placing them in position on the course - in a spot much, much, closer than the permanent fixed orange buoys I had been freaking out about just 20 minutes earlier.

Duh, what was I worried about? I can do that!

Before you know it the gun's going off and we're away.  I wait a little for a bit of clear space and then start swimming.  All through the swim leg I periodically stop and breaststroke to get my bearings again (definitely need more practice at sighting while swimming!) but the most encouraging thing all the while is that I'm not hyperventilating and I'm not at the back of the field.  There are actually people behind me.

On the outward leg of the second lap we almost have white caps on the lake with a good stiff southerly in our faces, which also results in the odd gobful of water when you least expect it.  After commiserating with a bloke who was breaststroking alongside me and looking much less comfortable I decided I had done enough stuffing around and put my head down and went past him.

Because I'm not competitive at all ... yeah right.

46 minutes 42 seconds after the start I haul myself out of the water and feel good enough to run the short distance into transition and to my waiting bike.  Behind me I can hear Pete call out that I had a PB and, indeed, I had taken 6 minutes off my swim time from last year.  However that was the least of my concerns at that particular time.

Game Face On
The adrenaline was pumping and so my only interest was stripping off my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap, whipping on my helmet, putting on my sunglasses, clipping on my belt, putting on my socks and then bike shoes.  A little more than a minute later I've taken the bike off the rack and am running towards the transition exit.  At the same time another woman pulled her bike off the rack and was also making her way to the exit.  I was feeling so good I ran past her and jumped on the bike and took off like a woman possessed, registering a T1 time of 1 minute 45 seconds.

I'm not competitive at all ... yeah right.

As I'm heading out on the bike I look down at the bike computer and make a surprising discovery.  My heartrate is 174 beats per minute.  Significantly higher than my intended heartrate for the bike, which I had planned to have in the vicinity of 145-147.  Damn, better try and drop it down a bit, at least get it back below 160 which is the top limit of my training zone.  13 minutes later it finally drops sufficiently for my bike computer to stop incessantly beeping at me.

The bike course was a 3 lap out and back route of 15km each way.  The advantage of an out and back course is that you generally get hammered and helped by the wind equally each way.  And it certainly was the case this time around.  On the outward leg we fought our way into a strong southerly, which was on our backs for the inward leg.  Throughout the bike I concentrated on keeping my heartrate within the training zone and keeping the cadence relatively high.  On top of this was maximising the time spent on my aero bars and making sure I ate and drank regularly.

There wasn't much time, then, to actually switch off and get into any sort of riding "zone".  I had a steady stream of "stuff" to think about - cadence, position, heartrate, food, drink.  And then there'd be someone up ahead of me to focus on and pass.

Because I'm not competitive at all ... yeah right.

The day was cold and drizzly and so I didn't really warm up properly.  I also started to get the dreaded tingling finger at the start of the third lap.  However 3 hours and 11 minutes later I rolled into transition.  Faster than the previous year by a minute but the improvement would have been greater given the weather conditions and the fact that the course actually measured 91.8km rather than 90km (almost 2km longer than last year's event).  Those wheels seemed to do their job.

I spent a leisurely amount of time in T2, racking the bike, taking off helmet and changing shoes.  However I wasn't worried as my day was now over.  The important stuff was done and now I just had a 7km run do around the lake.

I started running and for about a kilometre all was good.  Then the course headed off the tarmac and started a 4km stretch off road around the back of the lake.  And it was not fun.  My head had finished for the day and a little voice that sounded awfully like Dave's was on my shoulder saying "just do 100m of the run if you want and then stop".

Why on earth did he have to give me that out?!

I plodded on, mostly walking around the back of the lake but not really caring, and thinking about various options.  I could stop, turn around and walk back.  I could finish the lap but skip the extra kilometre down the cul-de-sac just before the end of the lap.  Or I could stop being so pathetic and just do the whole lap as planned.

By the time I got back onto the tarseal I was starting to feel better and ended up completing the full lap, albeit in a very slow time of around 55 minutes.  That was fine, though, and I stopped running and handed in my timing chip.

All in all, then, it was a really successful day and plenty was learnt from it.

I was stoked with my swim.  Still slow but a definite improvement on last year and on target for a 1 hour 30 minute ironman swim (which I'd be really happy to achieve).

The first transition went perfectly and I was feeling really good there.

The bike was great, despite the conditions.  I didn't improve the time hugely but it does seem that the course was almost 2km longer than it should have been.  Also, the winds were stronger than last year and it was colder, so I expended a reasonable amount of energy staying warm and keeping the bike in a straight line.  That, and the fact that I was pushing my cadence pretty hard, contributed to me holding the aerobars in a death grip for a good portion of the ride - something I don't normally do.  As a result I ended up with a numb/tingly finger.  Something to remember for ironman - light hands on the aero bars and remember to move the hands and fingers around more.

Even better though, in my age group I was third fastest in T1 and third fastest in the bike leg.

Not that I'm competitive at all ... yeah right.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Facing my Swim Demons

Tuesday night was the scene for one of those training sessions that really test your ironman resolve.

It was the night I faced up to my swimming demons.
It was the night that Coach Dave realised he had underestimated the strength of those demons.

It was a learning experience for us both.

Over the weekend I had told him that I felt I had done enough pool swimming.  I felt that what I really need now, with little over 100 days to ironman, is to get stuck into some serious open water swims in the wetsuit.  I needed to do this as the memories of last year's half ironman were still burned into my memory banks, and it wasn't a fun memory.

I guess I had experienced what all novice triathletes experience.  That first 2-300 metres where my breathing wasn't right, I felt constricted in the wetsuit and, as I tried to stop hyperventilating and watched the rest of the field swim away from me, I seriously questioned whether or not I could finish the distance.  I did get there in the end, but it really took all my willpower and self talk to get me through and I knew I had a bit of work to do to get my mind to the end of the swim leg at Taupo.

Over winter, then, I spent a lot of time in the pool, practising drills and working on technique.  As a result I'm now swimming much more freely and smoothly.  However tempered against that is the knowledge that, while a swim session might be up to 2700m in total, it would be broken down into drills which have generally been 200m or 300m at the most and with turns (and extra breaths!) at the end of the pool, at the end of every 25m.

What I needed to do now was get comfortable with longer swims and sighting - and I was only going to get this experience away from the pool.

In the weekend, then, I relayed these concerns to Dave and so we organised a wetsuit swim with Andi out at Pegasus on Tuesday night.  I was particularly glad to be getting this in with half ironman looming as I didn't really want my first wetsuit swim of the season to be in a competitive environment!

Pegasus Lake
It was a great evening, weatherwise.  Temperatures hitting 30 degrees, sunny and calm, and there were plenty of people at the lake enjoying the evening.   The lake itself is about 760m long, perfect for a decent stretch of swimming.  If you look at the photo above, we got into the water just out of picture at the bottom then the plan was to swim under the bridge and then all the way up the photo to one of the two beaches at the far end.

So, wetsuits on and in we get.  Andi bowls into the water and starts swimming and Dave and I follow close behind.  Within a couple of minutes we are steadily stroking our way towards the bridge.

Which, for me, lasts approximately 1 minute.  I stop and look around. Man, I haven't gone far and the bridge is still in front of me.  Oh and look, Andi and Dave are at the bridge already.  OK, better get going again.

30 seconds pass.  I must be at the bridge now.  Nope, keep going.  Another 30 seconds pass - finally, I'm under the bridge and Andi and Dave are about 50m ahead of me.  Damn, they make it look so easy.

And so it continues.  In short, I'm totally pathetic. Andi and Dave cruise along and before long are tiny specks in the distance and I'm hyperventilating in the middle of the lake thinking I'm getting nowhere and I'm never going to get to the end of this blasted stretch of water, and what's my coach doing taking off and leaving me behind like this?!!!!!

So I continue on with my totally irrational thoughts.  Meanwhile Andi and Dave have reached the end and are sitting on the beach waiting for me.  When I finally haul my sorry self out of the water I'm ready to fire the coach (and tell him so) and then burst into tears.  Not feeling much like an ironman now...

So we sit down and talk about what's happened and deduce that the main problem is that I'm not breaking up the swim in my mind.  All I'm seeing is the far end and it's looking like a loooong way to go and so my brain is telling me I can't do it.  The same principle applies to a marathon or a 180km bike.  You don't think about running 42km.  It's just too far.  Instead you break it down into four 10km runs.  The Ironman bike is chunked down to four 45km segments which is much easier for the mind to deal with.

Once we got that issue sorted Dave worked out a strategy for our return swim.  We picked out three spots down the lake and we would swim to each of those spots.  That broke up the swim into much more manageable segments and, with the three of us sticking together it was a much less traumatic (almost enjoyable!) experience. 

Dave also showed me the best way to sight.  Whereas I had been focusing on their ever-reducing heads as they swam down the lake, Dave had me looking for much larger objects which are easy to find with a slight glance while swimming.  Like big trees or buildings, well above water height.

It therefore turned out to be a very successful evening and, while it's going to take more than one session to have me swimming happily for long stretches, the experience has set me on the right trajectory to the ironman swim course.

Oh, and Dave is still coach!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Grand Traverse

So what better way to spend a long weekend than by a bit of a bike ride?  Coach Dave decided that we should have a go at the three passes - Porter's Pass, Arthur's Pass and Lewis Pass, by way of a bike trip over Canterbury's anniversary weekend.  Being intrepid athletes, six of us eagerly signed up and assembled on Friday morning complete with bikes, clothes and stacks of food to keep us well nourished and hydrated throughout our journey.
Andi, Simone, Toni, Dave, Curly, Brendan and Chook - ready to go

The plan was to drive inland to Springfield and then start biking from there.  We would head over the first pass (Porter's) and then continue onto the village of Arthur's Pass for our first night.  Day 2 would see us ride over Arthur's Pass, and then head north to Reefton, via Moana, for our second night.  Our third and final day would involve a climb out of Reefton, over the Rahu saddle to Springs Junction and then over Lewis Pass, stopping at the Engineer's Camp where we would load up the bikes and drive back to Christchurch.

Friday dawned sunny and hot in Christchurch.  A stunning spring's day that actually felt more like the middle of summer.  Andi was joining us for her first overnight bike trip with the group while Simone, Curly, Chook and I were becoming old hands at Dave's expeditions.  This time around we were also joined by new boy on the block, Brendan.

The set up was pretty standard and much the same as the Hanmer Springs and Methven weekends.  First up, a van that could take us with bike trailer which could take all our gear.  The back of the trailer had large warning signs so motorists knew cyclists were ahead as well as an orange flashing light sitting on top.  Everyone in the group would take turns driving the van, tailing the peloton and providing the bailout option if anyone ran out of "gas".

I was due to drive the first stretch, from Springfield to Castle Hill, on day 1.  Driving this leg was fantastic in my eyes as it meant I didn't have to bike up Porter's Pass.  Yep, I'm much better at hills than I used to be but still relatively hopeless and this one was the steepest of the three.  Before we started, though, there was the requisite coffee and muffin stop.  In Springfield we called in at the Yelloshack Cafe, located on the main road, right next door to their Springfield donut, right out of the Simpson's movie.  The carrot muffins were divine - a taste treat with raspberry on top and chocolate inside, well worth a separate journey back at a later date!

The donut was hilarious - when the Simpson's movie came out, various towns called Springfield were "honoured" with a huge pink donut erected to celebrate its release.  Springfield in Canterbury was the New Zealand location for this and it was a huge structure which attracted its share of fans and detractors.  In September of 2009, however, the donut was set on fire.  It was left a partially charred mess and most people thought that would be the end of what many considered an eyesore.

But no, on our arrival in Springfield, we discovered that the donut lives a much smaller tractor tyre!!!  Definitely not the imposing structure of old, but painted in the original pink colour and in keeping with the agricultural nature of the region.  I didn't get a shot of it (doh!!), but this photo of it partially completed gives you the idea...

The peloton heads towards the mountains
Anyway, after getting our fill of muffins, coffee and picking up lunch everyone set off.  Six in the peloton and me tailing them for this first leg.  Porter's Pass came up reasonably quickly and before I knew it I was guiding the van up the climb with the speedo registering at 0 km/h.  About three quarters of the way up Simone and Chook decided to climb into the van and so I stopped to help load the bikes and ferry them to the top.

Staying safe with the high viz vest
At Castle Hill it was time to swap drivers and I was really glad to finally get going on two wheels rather than four.  That happiness was moderated, however, by the gale force headwinds that were coming through the mountains.

We continued a gradual rise for the 54km journey from Castle Hill to Arthur's Pass and had no respite from the wind the whole time.  We therefore had a relatively slow average speed of just over 20km/h and it became almost a case of surviving the 2hr 30min ride while at the same time enjoying the stunning scenery.

What a great way to see the country.

We finally rolled into Arthur's Pass and it was great to unpack everything at the house that had been rented for us all.  The fire had been lit and the evening was spent relaxing (and refuelling with such treats as lasagne and tiramisu).  By 9.00pm we had all headed to bed (such party animals!).

Unpacking at Arthur's Pass

The next morning was cool and clear.  We were awake at 6.00am and by 8.00am we were ready for a long day.  Chook, Simone and I headed off 30 minutes before the rest of the group.  We were slow on the hills and there was a decent climb up to Arthurs Pass before a huge descent on the other side to Otira and then Jackson's where we would stop and regroup with the others.

Within about 2km of climbing up to the pass our clear, cool, day had changed to cold pea soup.  We had climbed into the cloud and I reached the summit of the pass barely able to see 2 feet in front of me.  Chook was somewhere ahead of me and Simone behind but none of us were in sight of each other.  I had been looking forward to the descent however it turned into a slow progression, heavy on the brakes and hoping all the way down that a car didn't come along.  About halfway down I passed Chook who was taking it even more carefully.  Thankfully I was wearing a fluorescent yellow vest, however the visibility was so bad it would have been nice, in hindsight, to have had the whole group together with the van right behind us.  We'll know this for next time!

Thankfully the visibility improved as we dropped down the gorge.  By the time we were out of the gorge the sunshine had arrived again and we regrouped at the bottom of the hill and then had a fantastic run down to Jacksons where we waited for the rest of the group.

Regrouping at Jacksons
After Jacksons we took a right turn and rode around Lake Brunner to Moana and, after a quick drink stop there, carried on out to Stillwater, picking up State Highway 7 which would take us up to Reefton.

This part of the trip was a bit flatter - a couple of climbs but predominantly downhill before a slow rise up towards Reefton.  Once we got past Stillwater we also finally found a tailwind and got some great stretches in at a good pace.

Around lunchtime we found a spot to stop on the side of the road and sat down to devour sandwiches and cake.  At this point it was my turn to have another stint at driving and so I followed the group again, managing to get a great shot of them alongside a coal train...

Lunch stop

Encountering a West Coast coal train
About 27km from Reefton we had another quick stop and I got back on the bike for the final run in.  It was a great ride and we rolled into town at about 3.00pm.  My day had been 120km and 4 hours 25min ride time.  Our unpacking finished, we sat down for a quick drink and a feed of nice salty chips (perfect for replenishing salt in the body(!)) and then carried out our standard routine of washing all our gear ready for the next morning.  The courtyard looked like a real chinese laundry with all our gear draped out over plastic chairs in the sunshine...
Day three dawned a little overcast but still warm.  It looked like another perfect day for riding.  At the relatively slothful time of 9.00am we were all packed up and wandered over to the Broadway Tearooms and Bakery for breakfast.  Half an hour later, and with stomachs full of eggs, toast and bacon (and in one case fruit and muesli) we headed off for our last day of riding.

It was a steady climb up the Rahu Saddle and through the beautiful beech forest of Victoria Forest Park.  While we climbed, though, the drizzle started and so the van was stopped so we could add some additional layers of clothing.

It was a group of six very wet and cold riders that rolled into Springs Junction and the weather didn't look like it was going to clear any time soon. 

Andi, me and Curly - ready to leave Reefton

Extra layers added for the rain
With the constant climbing the pack soon spread out a little and I maintained my position at the back - getting dropped at the climbs but catching up again on the descents and flat sections.  Towards the top of the saddle (and the last climb) Dave had hung back to wait for me and in the rain I saw him about 100m ahead raise a hand in the air as he went over a rise and started downhill.  He was celebrating the final climb before Springs Junction and so when I got to the top I let the bike go and went for it.

It was bucketing down with rain by this stage but I still managed to catch up with Dave and, as I went past him, yelled out "Woohoo!!!".  The poor bloke didn't realise I was coming and just about fell off his bike.

After just over 40km of riding and 1 hour 45 minutes ride time, we pulled into Springs Junction.  Everyone was soaked to the skin and pretty cold and the weather didn't look like it was going to clear anytime soon.  As a result the decision was made to call it a day rather than risk hypothermia on Lewis Pass.  Afterall it's not going anywhere!

So we all got changed and sat down for a coffee and round of hot chips before heading out and loading the bikes onto the trailer for the drive home.

All in all a fabulous weekend.  Disappointing that we didn't get to do the third pass, but you can't do much about the weather and there'll always be next time.

All in all, a great way to see the country.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Control, Cadence, Cuisine and Celebration

Last weekend's Sunday morning ride was all about the 4 Cs: control, cadence, cuisine and celebration.

Coach Dave had set me a 3 hour ride to do and the focus is now on simulating and practising actual race conditions.  And this is where the Cs came in...

Control was all about maintaining a steady pace.  I needed to find a pace that I will be able to maintain for 6 hours without trashing my legs or the rest of the body.  I've traditionally focused on maintaining a particular speed and, in particular, look to aim for a pace as close as possible to 30km/hr.  What happens, though, is that if you are on a slight slope, or if you hit a head wind, then you tend to trash yourself while you focus on maintaining your desired speed.  So I have to get out of that habit and ignore my speed. 

Dave suggested that a better measure would be maintaining a consistent heart rate range.  If I work out the heart rate range where I'm comfortable at then I'll be able to maintain that consistent effort all day and then come off the bike still in good enough shape to run.  I'm thinking at the moment that the optimal range for me is about 145-147 beats per minute, so the first focus of Sunday's ride was a controlled ride, keeping my heartrate in that "green" zone.

The cadence aspect had a similar goal.  Again, my habit has been to have a low cadence and this just loads up the legs too much.  So, again, the instruction was to forget about what speed I'm doing and focus on maintaining a light, high cadence of around 95 rpm.

Cuisine sounds like some sort of Michelin 3 star meal, but in reality this is simply nutrition on the bike!  (Just trying to keep to the "C" theme!) One of the big mistakes you can make in ironman is not eating enough or eating something that you haven't tried during training.  These long solo bike rides, then, also provide the opportunity to practice your nutrition on the bike.  It's important to trial different foods and make sure they agree with you and to get into the habit of knowing how much and how frequently to eat in order to maintain optimum performance on the bike.

My favourite cuisine on the bike has been One Square Meals (chopped into bite sized cubes), Gu Chomps and cheese and marmite sandwiches.  The One Square Meals are a Christchurch product (bonus to be supporting a local business!) and are easily cut up and eaten on the bike.  The Gu Chomps are like oversized wine gums, but chewier and stickier. 

And the cheese and marmite sandwich?  I came across that idea last year from another blog and while it sounds like an odd thing to have, it provides a great alternative to all the sweet stuff you usually end up having.  It is made with white sandwich bread, crusts cut off and cut into four bite sized squares.  I don't know what it is about it but I always feel noticeably better after I've had a couple of bites of the sandwich.

And then there's the liquid cuisine...  I have two bottles on the bike - a Profile Design aero bottle that sits between the aero bars right in front of me and one below in a cage on the frame.  The aero bottle has a straw sticking out of it so I can slurp up some water without getting off the aero bars.  In the bottom bottle I put some hydration fluid so I get some extra sustenance rather than just water.  The first couple of times I tried it I used Powerade and that seemed to work really well.  What I'm doing now, though, is moving to the isotonic sports mix that will be provided at the support stations in Ironman, and that is Horley's Replace.  Again, the key is to get used to it so that when you get given it on the course it doesn't upset the intestines...!

So I had control, cadence and cuisine all sorted out and headed out early Sunday morning for a solo jaunt around the Sefton block.  It was a gorgeous day - sunny, virtually no wind and not too much traffic.  As I headed back into town the fourth C came into play....celebration.

Andi is due to celebrate a significant birthday soon and so a social coffee ride was organised for the bike crew and I duly met up with them and we all headed out to sumner, via South Brighton, for a social coffee and muffin.

By the time I got back home I was pretty stuffed but very happy with the effort.  My solo ride, focusing on control, cadence and cuisine had produced the following stats:

Time: 2 hours 44 minutes
Distance: 77.4 km
Av cadence: 82 rpm
Av heartrate: 148 bpm
Av speed: 28.3 km/h

The coffee ride was another 55 km so my total distance for the day was 132km.  Fab ride and the lazy-boy nap was well deserved....and enjoyed!

My favourite spot after a big ride!

Round Rarotonga Road Race

So September and October have been a little quieter on the blog front, but there is good reason.  Mid-September saw St Pete and I head to Rarotonga for an extended break - a wedding (ours!) and the Round Rarotonga Road Race.

In line with the fact that our lives seem to revolve around being active, challenging ourselves and leading what we hope is a relatively healthy lifestyle, we picked our wedding date to fit in with the running of the 2010 Round Rarotonga Road Race.  This event has been going for over 30 years and is the main event of Rarotonga's Week of Running, a festival that includes a Hash House fun run, a Cross Island run, a relay and the race itself - a 31.5 km single lap around the island.

We had heard about the event from previous trips to Rarotonga and from Leigh and Paul who had travelled to the week of running a couple of years earlier and had returned positively raving about it.

This time around Leigh and Paul were coming over for the wedding, as was another running mate, Ang and her husband Willie.  Leigh, Paul, Pete and I therefore entered for the full 31.5 km event while Ang decided to do the 10 km option.

I'd have to say training for this event, for me, was slightly unorthodox this time around.  Because of my swim/bike/run training schedule I didn't have the run-focused buildup that I would normally have and so I was determined simply to get round the course and enjoy it as much as was possible (given the likely temperatures!).

Pete and I headed over to Rarotonga about 10 days prior to the event, and I'm so glad we did.  While our main reason for going over so early was to relax and get ready for the wedding, it also provided a great opportunity to acclimatise a little to the heat and humidity.  A couple of days after our arrival we went for a 5 km run and then a 15 km run as our final build up and boy was that hot!  It was so nice being able to walk into the lagoon at the end of those sessions and cool down, but I wasn't going to have that luxury on the day of the race.

Cooling off in the lagoon after our last 15 km training run

Race day arrived and at 5.00am we found ourselves down to the Punanga Nui Market waiting for the start.  The gun was due to go off at 5.30am and it was pitch black but still warm, probably mid 20s (celsius).  There were hugs and good wishes passed around our group and then we were away.

I started out the first 5 km nice and slowly - it was really humid and the heat was a bit sapping but I also knew I had a long way to go and the worst thing you can do is go out too fast.  Once we got around the end of the runway and had turned to head through Nikao towards Black Rock we got a bit of a sea breeze and I started to get into a good rhythm.  Which lasted about 3km...

At about the 8km mark my old running enemy made itself painfully known to me - my quads.  The blighters had seized up and that familiar feeling of having hot pokers jabbed into my muscles with every step was back again.  I had first experienced this just after the halfway mark in my first marathon and in the latter stages of my second marathon, but to have it happen so early on in this run was gutting to say the least.

While I nursed my legs through the next few kilometres I searched for a possible explanation, and quickly found it.  During the previous week I had hired a mountain bike so I could do some laps of the island, to maintain some sort of training.  Of course the mountain bikes had standard pedals rather than the toe clips or clipless pedals I have on the road bike.  As a result pedalling becomes a pushing action rather than a circular action and the pushing action requires force from your quads rather than the circular motion which is more balanced.

I had done about 4 1/2 hours of biking around the island and they hadn't been leisurely rides either!  As a result my quads had gotten loaded up and so by the time I got a wee way into the run they made their displeasure well and truly known!

The run, then, became a fantastic experience in the art of mind over matter and an excellent opportunity to live the grit and determination that is going to be needed to get to the ironman finish line.  My legs would be screaming at me and so I would alternate walking and running.  I was able to concentrate on managing my nutrition intake, taking a Gu sachet at every alternate drink station.  And I was able to practice the self talk that is needed when all you want to do is stop and, in this location, jump in the lagoon!

By the time I got to the last kilometre it was stinking hot but I didn't care.  I knew I was almost there and the pain was irrelevant.  I jogged into the market to the sound of the drummers and practised my ironman finish as I crossed the line.  Not that it was an act - I have never been so pleased to see the end of a run!

My finish time wasn't so bad - 4 hours 13 minutes.  It was around my marathon pace so, while I had hoped to go better, it certainly wasn't a disaster compared to previous events and I've taken away some great experience from it. And despite the challenges I look back on the event and remember it as one I definitely want to go back and do again.

I think Pete and I will be adding it to our calendar of annual events!!

The Christchurch Team - Leigh, Paul, Ang, Pete, Toni