Monday, August 30, 2010

The Tardis Gets a Workout

A few weeks ago I blogged about the logistics involved with ironman training and, in particular, the vast capacity of the red Tardis.

This past week the red Tardis has stepped up another level in its abilities and our military precision has had another dimension added to the organisation in our household.  This has all come about because of yet another facet that has been added to my training plan... 

Swim Camp.

When you think about swim camp you might think about a weekend or week spent doing a couple of swims a day and the rest of the day sitting or lying around recovering and enjoying the sunshine.  Well that's my romanticised view of it!  However back in the real world, swim camp still means two swims per day, but that is fitted around full time work commitments.  While a genuine swim camp allows you to focus on the swimming only, my ironman swim camp gets fitted around everything else happening in the day, i.e. work.

So my typical swim camp day goes something like this:
5.30am - alarm goes off.  Togs on, spare work clothes, breakfast, lunch and second pair of togs and towel into the Tardis, eat a banana.
5.45am - scooter roars into life and I'm on the way to the pool.
6.00am - pool opens and I'm there with the first morning rush.
6.10am - starting my first swim session of the day.
7.00am - 1900m session finished (distance varies slightly but you get the idea) and I'm in the shower.
7.30am - arrive at work.  Unpack breakfast and lunch.  Throw a bagel into the toaster and make a herbal tea.
7.45am - logged in and eating breakfast while starting to sort through the day's work and emails.
1.00pm - (time varies according to the day's meeting schedule, but you get the idea) head out to Jellie Park.
1.30pm - in the pool for second swim of the day.
2.15pm -1900m session finished and I'm in the shower.
2.45pm - arrive back at work.
5.30-6.00pmish - finish work for the day and head home.  Both sets of togs and towels in the washing machine and then on the heated towel rail overnight so they are both ready to go again the following day.
9.30pm - bedtime!

So the Tardis now deals with my breakfast and another pair of togs and towel and it's no wonder I feel decidedly like a packhorse when I leave home in the mornings!

Swim camp has been good, though.  It's been an effective way of getting some real distance under my belt and I am now swimming around 4km on swim camp days, albeit in two batches.

Next thing I'll start growing gills...

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tour de Hanmer Springs

So, how do you stop an Irongirl getting bored with her long Sunday morning rides?  Easy - send her away for the weekend....

Last weekend marked the first of several overnight group rides that Coach Dave decided to organise.  The idea was to provide a change of scenery and yep, you guessed it, keep things interesting!  It's a very simple idea - just bike to a distant destination, stay overnight and then bike home.  Dave organised a van and trailer  as support vehicle, arranged accommodation and provided plenty of enthusiasm.  All we had to do was bring an equal dose of enthusiasm, our riding gear, sleeping gear, food and some cash.  Oh, and our bikes!

So this first trip of the year was to Hanmer Springs.  Usually a nice day trip from Christchurch (in a car), at about 145km and a steady climb to the alpine village, it would take we intrepid cyclists most of the day.  And while we all brought plenty of enthusiasm with us, it would be fair to say there was also a bit of trepidation lurking behind everyone's laughter.  For some of us it was the dreaded hills - would we cope, would we get dropped by the bunch and spend all day trying to catch up?  For others it was purely the distance - would we last the distance, would we keep up with the group or would we get dropped by the peloton and spend all day trying to catch up.  And would the others get bored standing around waiting for the stragglers?

Dave, however, was having none of anyone's hesitations.  We would ride as a peloton, maintaining a steady pace, have plenty of breaks along the way to regroup and, most importantly, have fun.

And so we did.

Safety was a prime consideration and Kate, who had volunteered to do most of the driving, soon found out that her visions of stopping for a coffee, muffin and read of the paper while she waited for us were just that - visions.  The trailer had been covered in signage, the van had an orange flashing light and this combination would stay on our tails the whole way.
Do you think there's some cyclists ahead?

Half of our peloton, ready and eager to get going
We departed Anna's just after 8.30am on Saturday and headed out to Rangiora then through Sefton before stopping at Ashley School to pick up the rest of the group.  Two hours after our departure from Christchurch we arrived in Amberley where we had our first stop for muffins and coffee at the Nor'Wester Cafe.  Yummy muffins and great, hot, coffee.  Just the fuel we needed to set us up for the first hill stage: Waipara to Waikari through Weka Pass. 
Nor' Wester Cafe
Bikes patiently waiting at the Nor'Wester Cafe

This section was my biggest concern and, sure enough, once we started climbing I got dropped by the group.  Not to worry, though, I had mastered six hill repeats up Hackthorne Rd last weekend so I wasn't about to be beaten by a series of climbs up Weka Pass!  Shortly after I fell back Simone also dropped off the back of the group and I slowly started to pick her up.  All was going well though - I wasn't dying on the hills, just getting up them more slowly than the others and I could still see them ahead.  About halfway to Waikari I realised I wasn't alone, though.  Heading up yet another climb a voice behind me suddenly said "slow down your cadence and your breathing."  It was Dave.  I had realised earlier that there was someone behind me but didn't know it was Dave that had dropped back to keep an eye on Simone and I and make sure we got through the climbs OK.  Soon I caught up with Simone, and Dave stayed with us both until we got to the final climb where he tore off like a jack rabbit to catch the others, calling out "well done girls, this is the last climb, you've made it to Waikari!"

We were both stoked to hear that news and, to celebrate, Simone said "I've got our theme song".  Next thing you know, the hills of Weka Pass are echoing to the sound of "Fat Bottomed Girls"  as we sung at the top of our voices while shooting down the final hill into the sleepy settlement of Waikari where the rest of the group were waiting.

It was then a relatively brief ride through to our next stop, in Culverden for lunch, a section of the ride which was made more entertaining by magpies carrying out bombing runs on us as we encroached on their imaginary section of the road.  We did, however all make it through unscathed and some of us were completely oblivious to the attacks - probably a good thing!

Time for lunch in Culverden
At Culverden we stopped at the Red Post Cafe for lunch and had a table around the corner to ourselves next to the open, roaring fire.  It was a great atmosphere and we very quickly realised that we shouldn't get too comfortable or else we'd never want to leave!
Simone - Does My Butt Look Big in this?

Once we were all fed Kate decided she was going to ride and so Dave took over driving duties and I somehow got landed the job of calling "time" every five minutes, the signal for us to rotate so that everyone gets a turn at the front of the pack.  We went well as a group until about the last 15km before Hanmer Springs where we hit some more hills and I got dropped again.  The whole group got spread out a bit at this point but we came together when one of the boys up front got a puncture, by which time people were generally starting to tire out a bit.  It was then every man for himself into town and a group of 8 very tired cyclists were happy to see the driveway of the house we were staying in that night (which happened to be at the end of two rather stiff climbs!).

We got in at about 4.30pm very satisfied with the day's efforts.  It was a pretty quiet night, dinner at Robbie's Bar and Bistro and then back to base where the guys proceeded to watch three television channels at once.  It must be a guy thing...but it was a tactic that ensured all the girls had retired to their beds by 9.30pm!

Sunday morning dawned chilly but with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind.  The planned departured was 9.00am but we were all organised and on the road by 8.30am.  After a steady climb the previous day, Sunday proved to be great fun.  We got some excellent downhill stretches and the pace of the peloton was marred only by one "Schleck" incident where Dave managed to drop his chain while leading the pack up a climb.  Unlike Contador, however, the peloton didn't attack but good-naturedly waited while he sorted out his mechanical...

Brief pause at just outside Waikari
The Red Post Cafe in Culverden hosted us again, this time for a morning tea stop where we devoured their entire supply of raspberry and white chocolate muffins.  Our apologies to anyone else passing through Culverden that day and missed out...they were yummy!!!  At the top of the hill at Waikari we paused again for a regroup and change of driver before a fantastic drop down Weka Pass and into Waipara - it definitely made the climb up the previous day worthwhile!

Finally we turned again onto State Highway 1 and and headed into Amberley.  The traffic was noticeably heavier on this stretch and Dave did a great impersonation of a herding dog as he kept us in single file and, at one point, sprinted his way to the front two riders who had decided it was OK to ride two abreast again.  In normal circumstances it would have been fine, except this time there was a 4WD sitting behind them, too scared to pass due to the police car sitting on his tail.  It was a very funny sight to see.

We hit Amberley 45 minutes ahead of schedule but thankfully our booked table for lunch at the Nor'Wester Cafe was ready and waiting.  Eight hungry cyclists plus one driver (and Pete, who had come out to join us for lunch) were soon tucking into dishes such as soup, eggs benedict, BLTs and toast.  And not much was left over.

3.00pm Sunday and I rolled into the garage at home.  Feeling strong, and tired (if that's possible) but very happy with the weekend's efforts. The weather cooperated, the company was great and, all in all, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a weekend...and ride 290km!

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Rare Quiet Week

The road to ironman isn't always training, training, training.  Occasionally I get the odd quiet(er) week, and how enjoyable it is.  It provides a valuable opportunity to catch up on sleep, reacquaint myself with St Pete and stay in touch with the idea of NOT training, something that Ironman finishers have a bit of a problem with after the event...(called the post ironman blues).

This week has been one of those quiet weeks and, while I know it won't last, I've been enjoying it all the same.  Monday the unthinkable happened - no training!  Tuesday was the toughest day, with a 2600m swim, followed up on Wednesday with an easy 40 minute spin on the wind trainer and then tonight, an easy 30 minute run around Hagley Park.

Despite being an easy week, Tuesday's swim proved to be a bit of a challenge.  Not because of the distance, but because of the people!  While reorganising my working day I decided to do my swim at 4.00pm rather than the usual lunchtime session.

Big mistake.

Jellie Park is a great facility - it has two indoor 25m pools meaning they say that they will always have lane swimming available.  Always having lane swimming available, though, seems to be an almost debatable concept when, out of 16 possible lanes, only 2 are actually available.  Being after school, the sports pool (the 2m deep one) was completely unavailable due to the swim squads while the recreation pool (the shallower one) had two lanes blocked off for kids to play in and another 4 lanes booked for lessons.  That meant we lane swimmers were squeezed between shouting, yelling, splashing kids on one side and classes of 15 or so kids having lessons in the lane on the other side.

Of the two available lanes one was being used by people walking up and down the lane leaving one lane available for those of us actually wanting to swim.  So you can see where this story is going.  During the time I was there there were no fewer than 5 other people in the lane with me, all doing different strokes and different speeds.  And of course I had all my paraphenalia which provided its own challenges.  While the pull buoys and fins aren't so bad, doing 500m with the paddles is an interesting experience when you're trying to (a) not hit the lane rope next to you and (b) not whack the swimmer(s) heading in the opposite direction.

On the upside I had great practice with dealing with all sorts of distractions, gobsful of water and others swimming in close proximity to me.  All good things to get used to for ironman.  On the downside, it wasn't a good quality swim.

Next week I have "swim camp" - four days of two swim sessions each day.  The original plan was to go before and after work.  After Tuesday's experience, however, I've revised that plan and will now go before work and lunchtime.  Hopefully 6.00am won't be so manic!

Getting ready for swim camp also required some new gear - as if I didn't have enough already!  While I do have a complete set of gear, the time has come for a second swimsuit and towel (yet another couple of items for the Tardis!).  So it was off down to Rebel Sport and I now feel very patriotic in my black Speedo endurance swimsuit...

The quiet week will soon come to a close, and there was a good reason for the relative slothfulness. Tomorrow (Friday) is another rest day and one I will make the most of as, this weekend, is an epic bike ride to Hanmer Springs, a distance of just under 300km over the two days.

Watch out for the update on Monday - assuming I survive!
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Underestimating my Abilities

Another weekend, another milestone.  Coach Dave's training programmes come through innocently enough, but I've come to expect the devil to be lurking in the deep dark depths of the detail.

Take the session he sent through for my Sunday ride - it went something like this:  "...find Hackthorne Rd and go up, turn into MacMillan Drive, down Dyers (Pass Rd) x6".

At first I just saw the first bit - the bit that said I had to climb Hackthorne Rd, go into MacMillan and then shoot down Dyers Pass Rd.  Just as my brain was digesting this relatively unwelcome bit of news I then spotted the tiny postscript.  x6.  Yikes.

Yes, I know I had swatted the seagull with my ascent of Gebbies Pass a few weeks ago, but it was obviously still flying around, just out of reach, ready to swoop back at the tiniest sign of hesitation. 

I had never biked up Hackthorne Rd before.  Had no idea what the gradient would be like, let alone do it 6 times!  I had biked Dyers Pass Rd - on the mountainbike, with much lower gearing. With the marathon clinic we regularly run up Hackthorne.  Well, some people run up it - I tend to walk up it, and so the gradient looms large (and steep) in my imagination!

I was so convinced I would struggle to do the whole six reps I sought out Dave's advice as to the priorities.  i.e. do I just do as many climbs as I can and then do the rest of the ride or do I do as many as I can, go away and do a stretch on the flat and come back and try again?  The message that came back was clear - make sure I do the six!  There were a couple of options - break it up into two sets of 3 reps or three sets of 2 reps, heading away for a spin inbetween.  "Don't walk up the hill", Dave said, "if it gets too hard head back down, regroup, and try again".  He finished off with a final gem of advice; "And don't forget, you are an ironman!"  As if I could forget!

Sunday dawned fine and clear.  No, wait, it actually dawned wet, cold and cloudy.  As I walked out the door and got on the bike I realised that, typically, this would be a wind trainer day.  There was a steady drizzle and conditions that would normally see me flicking through the DVD collection for the morning's entertainment while spinning in the comfort of the lounge.  But hills awaited and, with an epic weekend coming up (more about that in future posts), there was no point putting it off for a fine day.  Do the hill reps, I thought, and if it's still miserable I can at least call it a day then.

So bravely I headed down to Hackthorne and faced my first challenge.  The first part of the climb started OK - a long, straight climb that seems to go forever, but doesn't.  It flattens out for a brief moment and then the road heads to the right and climbs again and just around the corner it's a welcome sight to see the signpost for MacMillan Drive.  Turn left and keep climbing for another 100m.  Initially I thought (hoped!) that I had finished climbing for that set, but no.  After a small downhill and sharp left hand bend there was another short, sharp climb before another drop and gentle rise to Dyers Pass Rd.  That is the final climb and it is all the way down Dyers Pass to the bottom and along the bottom of the hill to do it all again.

Coming down Dyers Pass was pretty interesting - drizzle made the road conditions slippery and so hands were on the drops AND making full use of the brakes the whole way down.  In fact coming down required just as much concentration as going up!  Just as well there wasn't much traffic about - especially at the roundabout at the bottom of the hill.  Despite going very slowly, the final corner off Dyers Pass is particularly steep for about 2 metres.  Fine in a car, hairy on a bike...

Amazingly enough I completed the six reps without too much drama.  Well it probably wasn't the prettiest and it definitely wasn't fast.  But I did it and, in doing so, totally underestimated my abilities.

I am an Ironman!

Well, I will be soon.  :)

75 Reasons to do Ironman

I recently came across a blog from 2006 headed "140.6 Reasons to do an Ironman".  (140.6 is the distance of ironman in miles, with many US half ironman events being promoted as 70.3 ironman events.)  Anyway, the blog really resonated and so in the mode of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, here are my 75 reasons for doing ironman.
  1. Makes everything else seem so SHORT.
  2. The three week taper before the race.
  3. The four week recovery after the race.
  4. All the chocolate you can eat.
  5. All the pizza you can eat.
  6. Mike Reilly's hoarse voice still bringing people home at 11.45pm.
  7. St Pete waiting at the finish.
  8. For all the times you've heard someone say "I'd do one of those ... I just can't swim."
  9. Finishing your last workout and smiling because you know "I'm SO ready."
  10. Easy runs and rides the week before.
  11. For everyone who has ever asked you "Why?"
  12. For the teachers in school who told you you tried hard, but lacked natural ability.
  13. To silence the one voice inside your head that still believes that rubbish.
  14. Knowing that as you step in the water on race day - YOU MADE IT THIS FAR! Now just get home.
  15. Spectators looking up your name and cheering as you plod past at sunset.
  16. So you can answer "one" when people ask "How many days does that take?"
  17. Sharing a smile with people wearing the finisher's T-shirt the next day.
  18. High fives from people you don't know.
  19. Walking to the start with Cameron, Terenzo, Jo and Gina...
  20. Getting lapped by Cameron, Terenzo, Jo and Gina...
  21. Getting lapped again on the run by Cameron, Terenzo, Jo and Gina...
  22. Making the turn for home.
  23. Sunset over Lake Taupo on the run.
  24. It's easier than Eco-Challenge.
  25. You enjoy the smell of chlorine.
  26. You've had enough of your current social life.
  27. You need to prove to your mum that even if you get on the bike right after you swim won't catch a cold.
  28. Helicopters over Lake Taupo.
  29. To backstroke at the helicopters.
  30. To wave at the scuba divers.
  31. Roadies think you're nuts.
  32. Masters swimmers think you're nuts.
  33. Your running club KNOWS you're nuts.
  34. The 12 step program to make you stop hasn't been invented yet.
  35. Knowing that, when you wake up at 4.00am on race day, the next time you go to bed you will be a VERY different person.
  36. First and last place get the same amount of cheers.
  37. Knowing that, after the gun goes off, you don't have to worry anymore.
  38. Makes your next marathon just a nice morning run.
  39. To make your boss jealous because YOU have a life that doesn't involve the office.
  40. Because the longer you're out there, the less per hour it really costs!
  41. Finding yourself in the middle of your doubts ... finding a new meaning of being scared.
  42. Finding out that you're far stronger than those doubts a few kilometres later.
  43. Falling in step on the run and making a friend to the end, without having to say a word.
  44. Cards in your special needs bags.
  45. Your friends are watching on the web.
  46. Whatever you want for breakfast the morning after.
  47. Watching people headed home while you're headed out, thinking "I'll be there soon..." and they cheer for you.
  48. Understanding why that is as you're cheering for people headed out when you're finally headed home.
  49. Calling encouragement to people with a flat tyre and seeing them smile for just a moment.
  50. Hearing people cheer you up while you're changing a damn flat tyre.
  51. Rolling into T2 knowing that, no matter what, you can't have a flat shoe from here on in.
  52. To see if it really feels as good to do as it does to dream.
  53. Chalk messages on the road.
  54. To try and finish in daylight.
  55. To try and finish before midnight.
  56. Pete already thinks you're a hero - prove him right.
  57. Your friends don't - but you might prove it to them, too.
  58. 2000 volunteers, all for you.
  59. Glowsticks.
  60. Hearing them say "You're almost there!" all day long.
  61. Being nearly almost there - for real.
  62. Quiet hugs before the start.
  63. Kissing him goodbye, and promising "I'll be back later..."
  64. The first time you think "Holy crap - I'm doing an Ironman!"
  65. Beating back the voices that say "Holy crap - you can't do an Ironman!"
  66. Kilometre 42.
  67. That moment when you KNOW you're going to make it for the first time all day.
  68. Turning away from Lake Taupo.
  69. Turning into the finish chute.
  70. The Finish Line.
  71. The first step after you cross the line and think "HO...LY..CRAP...!"
  72. The Medal.
  73. The Towel.
  74. Because they said I can't.
  75. Because I say I can.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Add Another Layer...

Windbeeches on the Schauinsland in Germany (Bl...Image via Wikipedia
Triathlon is a summer sport - and that goes for ironman as well.  Nothing makes a triathlete happier than heading out for a swim, bike or run on a gorgeous summer's day.  Training for ironman, however, is more than a summer season project.  Most athletes will start training for ironman seriously 8 or 9 months out and many of us (me included) will be training consistently for almost a year.

And that means only one thing.  There is no getting away from training in winter.

Don't get me wrong.  We're not having to wade through snow and ice like some fellow athletes in the northern hemisphere.  A frost and occasional bad patch of weather in Christchurch is generally the worst that needs to be contended with.  But even so, winter brings its own challenges, and challenges for the team management in particular...

Tonight I was tasked with a 60 minute spin on the wind trainer and then a 20 minute run off the bike.  Spending an hour on the wind trainer is great in the winter...for me...  I don't have to contend with the dark, cold, wind, rain or ice.  There's no concerns about punctures, drivers running me off the road or animals running onto the road.  Instead I get to spin while watching the news or whatever else might be on TV at that particular time.

For St Pete, though, it means freezing his bits off.  You see, with the wind trainer in the lounge there's no way I want to be going hard out in a room with the heater on.  No, I'm looking for as much cool air as possible and so Pete walks around and opens all the windows and doors so there is something approaching an equilibrium between the 4 degrees outside and 14 degrees inside.  Then he goes and adds another layer or five until such time as I stop and he can turn the heating on.

The sacrifices he makes for my comfort...what more could you ask for in your team manager and chief cheerleader?
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Some Days It Just Doesn't Happen - But That's OK

The end of another week and the countdown continues.  208 days and counting.  This was a week which reinforced the message that the journey to ironman is never going to be perfect.  Some days training goes well, other days you wonder why you got out of bed.

2010 Christchurch Half Marathon
And that happened this week with my running.  Running is something I have a real love-hate relationship with.  I love running because it's good for me (keeps me fit, helps control my weight) and yet I also hate it because it's bloody hard work.  Most people would say forget it, do something you like.  And, yes, I do question my sanity virtually every time I head out the door (especially in the middle of winter)! 

However because it's not easy, the aerobic workout I feel I get from going for a run is much better than swimming and biking, activities I enjoy much more and would do for fun.  I feel like I have to work harder running than I do swimming and biking and so it feels like I'm getting more benefit from it.  To encourage myself to run, then, I've ensured I've had goals to work towards, i.e. the almost dozen half marathons I've now completed and the two full marathons.

You see, running because it's good for me is not a motivator, but working towards completing an event is.  I'm not interested in going out and training just because I should.  However training to complete an event provides that reason.  And while I might hate going out the door and starting out on a run, the feeling of completing the training, the distance, or the event more than makes up for it.  It feels fantastic!

Wednesday night, then, I was due to do a 60 minute run, with some pace drills.  My body had other ideas.  I felt sluggish, tired, there was no gas in the tank.  After 2 km I called it a night and we walked home - on one hand annoyed that I didn't complete the programme but on the other hand understanding and accepting that sometimes you just need to let your body catch up with things and if it's not happening, it's not happening.

After spending the rest of the evening in the la-z-boy being waited on by St Pete, I had an early night and was back to normal the next day.

In contrast, my run with the club yesterday went great.  We set out from the clubrooms and headed down to Bowenvale Ave before climbing up Bowenvale Track to Victoria Park and then down Dyers Pass Rd and back up Barrington St to the club.  I did a comfortable 6:00 min pace for the first 5km to the start of the track which we walked up.  It was then a reasonably conservative jog down Dyers Pass Rd and then a final 1.8km up Barrington St.  I was feeling pretty good on this last stretch and so picked up the pace a bit and was stoked when we got home to find that I had done the Barrington St leg at 5:40 minute pace.  Outstanding.

So, just goes to show, a bad session has no bearing on how you're going to go a few days later.  Awesome!

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Managing "Team Toni"

Yes at last I get the time to write my first contribution.

As self appointed manager, chef, motivator and house keeper (yep I even do the ironing - not sure how I delegated myself that task but only for another 208 days... Yes I am counting :-) ), I get to make the decisions for the week.  But only after I check with Toni...!

I see the focus required to obtain Toni's goal and, yep, sometimes it is like I do have 2 full time jobs, but it is all good.

The training volume is slowly increasing, as can be seen by the previous posts.  Yesterday was an example of the focus required to achieve ironman status.  Our regular club run with the marathon clinic took us over a hill course that included a herd of cows and a very muddy track, from the club base to Victoria park and back via the main roads.  While others turned back at the first sign of cow poo and mud, Toni led the way showing her commitment to the programme.

Today, on the other hand, while it was blowing a southerly gale, heaps of rain and only 6.5 degrees Celsius, the Ironman-in-training did a 2 hour tour de lounge bike while watching a dvd.  Meanwhile I braved the elements and did a 20km run, in sub 1hour 54.

Umm does that mean that ironman competitors are soft (oops, not sure if I should have said that out loud)?!! To be fair, though, it would have been no fun biking into that headwind - running was bad enough...  But we did receive a text this morning from Dave the coach saying enjoy the wind-trainer, so it must be an ironman thing...

In a previous post, Toni mentioned the 1/2 ironman in Ashburton as a training run and the option to pull out after the swim and cycle.  From my perspective I can't see my Ironman-in-training doing 2/3 of an event and stopping... it's just not in her makeup and, as team manager, stopping is unacceptable!!!

Well I'll finish here for now, that ironing pile is growing bigger, but may wait for tomorrow or even next week...

(Team Manager - what I say goes, but only when Toni's not within earshot)

208 days...and counting!
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Counting to 10

How difficult can it be to count to 10?  Not that difficult, right?  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.  No problem. Afterall it's one of the first things parents and teachers drill into us as kids.  It's the number of fingers and toes we have (usually); it's the number of commandments to live by (if you're that way inclined); 10 is the base number in all things metric; and so it goes on.
Yesterday, however, 10 was way too difficult. 

It was difficult because it was "time trial" day in the pool.  And that meant counting laps.  With a stopwatch.  And doing the right number of laps. A simple task of 1000m, timed.  Hmmm.

Sounds straightforward, but keeping track of your laps is a common problem.  Just google "counting swim laps" and you'll get 656,000 links to webpages, blogs, forums and wiki sites discussing tricks and hints, and extolling the virtues of various high tech gadgets that will do the job for you with varying degrees of efficiency. Some people have a coach or friend stand poolside and count for them. Others use various counting methods, such as counting odd and even laps, or reciting letters of the alphabet.  Other suggestions include having a pile of coins and a cup poolside and putting a coin in the cup at the end of each lap, or having a block of wood numbered like a dice and turning it to the appropriate number at the end of each lap, or even treating the lane rope like an abacus and moving the floats along the rope.

But, come on, how hard can it be?  We're just counting to 10 afterall.  But there's more to it.  You see it's not like swimming from point A to point B as in an open water swim.  You have to deal with the monotony of the same pool lane, length after length after length.  And there's also so much to think about.  On the one hand you want your mind to zone out so that the time passes by a little less slowly but, on the other hand, you are also continually thinking about technique, breathing, foreign objects floating around you in the pool and, of course, the number of laps you've done or still have to do.

So, 1000m in a 25m pool means completing 40 lengths or 20 laps.  Rather than count to 20 I broke it down further and made it 10 lots of 100m and called each lap "a" or "b".  I kept track, then, by counting to myself 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, through to 10a and 10b.

The first couple of laps were fine - 1a, 1a, head down, 1a, strong, glide, 1a, 1a, turn, 1a, 1a, rotate hips, 1a, breathe, glide 1a, 1a, turn, 1b, 1b, 1b, and so it went.  Laps 3 and 4 were a bit tough (body getting used to the oxygen deprivation etc), but by the time I got to laps 5 and 6 I was feeling better, comfortable breathing and of course by then I was in the final half of the swim - the final stretch, and that's when it started to turn to custard. And it went something like this:

7a, 7a, 7a, breathe, what's that floating in the water?, 7a, turn, oh good, still have the lane to myself, 7a, 7a, only 250m to go, turn,  almost there, glide, breathe, 8 will be next, pull, rotate, turn, yuck, what's wrapped around my finger, feels like a hair, 8.... umm oh no, what number am I on, 8a or 8b?  aaargh!

The next length was spent calmy trying to mentally backtrack, but to no avail.  The counting part of my brain had well and truly left the building.  I got to lap 10, then, with no idea if I was about to complete 950m or 1000m.  I started doing quick calculations estimating what my time should be, based on previous 100m splits, and when I touched the end of the pool, glanced at my watch.  25minutes it showed.  mmm, might be a bit I turned around and did another lap, finally stopping the watch at 26 minutes 27 seconds.

I still have no idea if I did 1000m or 1050m but, if I did the longer distance I'll at least show a respectable improvement to my time in the next trime trial - that's assuming I manage to count to 10!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hit By a Bus

This morning I experienced the joy of waking up feeling like I had been hit by a bus.  And what a great feeling it was.

No, I wasn't hungover (duh, I don't drink!), and no, I hadn't actually been hit by a bus.  Rather, it was that wonderful sore, achy all-over feeling you get when you've pushed your body hard and it's now frantically repairing all the minor muscle tears and, in the process, getting stronger.  Oh yeah!

It all started on Saturday morning with what is normally a standard club run with the Christchurch Marathon Clinic.  It turned out to be not a typical run, however.  Periodically we have a change of scenery and this weekend we hit the blue track out at bottle lake forest.  The off road terrain is great for the joints (not so much jarring as on the roads and footpaths that we normally run) but it does have an added dimension.  Particular attention is required in order to safely negotiate the unevenness of the path, tree roots, sand and undulations, including three or four sharp, short climbs that would reduce some people to a walk (including myself in my less fit days!).  You have to watch your foot placement and adjust your stride length and pace every step along the way.  It means you can't just zone out and plod along like I'm prone to do - you actually have to think about what you're doing and pay attention to the track.

It turned out to be a great run.  I started off at what I thought was a steady pace, not sprinting but head down concentrating on foot placement and enjoying the change of scenery.  We got about halfway around the 11km loop and hit the hilly bits which I proceeded to charge up like, well not like a charging bull, but more goat-like (if there is such a thing).  Proved to be great interval training.

The last couple of kilometres was a bit of a slog but, once we finished, I realised why.  A typical "good" run sees me running at 6min 30sec to 6min 40sec per kilometre pace.  I finished the whole thing in 6min 20sec pace.  Awesome!

That afternoon I headed down to the Aquagym for a session in the pool with Dave - that turned out to be a full on session of not only technique drills but also hard out laps.  Yep, more interval training!  One lap easy, one lap hard.  And to think, just a couple of months ago I only had one swim speed (slow!).

The weekend was, of course, only half over.  Sunday saw me head out with the group on a jaunt out to Sefton and back into Sumner - 106km in total.  Great day for a bike ride (apart from the gale force norwesters!) and, after 10 minutes shy of 4 hours riding I got back home and found I had managed to achieve another leap forward in my training.  An average cadence of 83rpm - a great result for me in a group ride.

A nap was definitely in order on Sunday afternoon, and savoured!  

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