Sunday, February 20, 2011

Getting Closer

It's been an interesting couple of weeks. Tapering has been the goal and Coach Dave promised that this meant it would get easier. As always, I have learnt not to take his comments literally...

The volume did come down. No more 4, 5, 6 hour bike rides. No more long runs or long swims. However if something is taken out you can be sure it will be replaced by something else. In my case the volume was replaced by intensity.

So I've had a couple of weeks of sprint sessions. Things like 200m sprints ... x10.  Then there's been bricks (bike/run combinations), for instance bike 10 minutes then run 10 minutes ... x3.

For someone who doesn't do fast (this is why I'm doing Ironman and not sprint triathlons), I have at least been able to show a turn of speed on foot, albeit for short bursts. To put it in perspective, though, my standard run pace is around 6min 30sec per kilometre. I managed to pick this up to a pace of 4min 30sec for a 200m sprint. Over a marathon distance that 4:30 pace would translate to 3 hours 10 minutes.

But get this, the 2010 Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae, ran her marathon in Kona in 2 hours 53 minutes...! So even if I sprinted as fast as I could I still wouldn't be able to keep up with her - and I was stuffed after 200m.

Anyway, enough of my abundance of slow twitch muscles.

Tomorrow the bike goes in for its pre race service and compulsory ironman check. Race wheels are on and looking fab!

The lounge is looking like a triathlon shop as spare gear to take to Taupo is slowly finding its way downstairs - spare tubes, CO2 canisters, swim goggles, drink bottle, helmet, bike lock, bento box etc etc etc.

My remedial swimming lesson also wasn't so bad. A very minor change to my stroke had Coach Dave happy as a clam however I did have to reaffirm last night that 13 days out is too late for him to think I can change my running form. He had seen me running for the first time yesterday and realized that I run like a boxer (tight upper body, arms held high rather than low and relaxed). It's something I've been aware of my entire running career but have never managed to fix - one of my unique quirks!

Yesterday was also my last significant open water swim. And even at this late stage it provided a new experience in my ironman journey. The experience of a 1m swell. There was dragon boat racing on at Lake Pegasus and so we headed out to Corsair Bay for my 45min swim. Corsair Bay is usually sheltered and calm and for this reason the favoured Saturday morning swim venue of the Canterbury Tri Club. Yesterday, however there was a southerly coming right into the shore and so calm made way for 2-3 foot high waves, making it a real challenge to swim in. I was getting tossed around and several gobsful of salt water were swallowed.

I'd have to say it was good to have the Canterbury Tri Club in the water as well - they were reporting that the juniors were feeling a bit jittery out there and I don't blame them. I don't think I would have been particularly happy about being out there on my own. I probably didn't do much more than about 1200m in the 45min but I did it and can be sure that no matter what Lake Taupo throws at me I can handle it!

Finally, last night my riding buddies got together last night for a BBQ to wish Curly and I good luck for Ironman. I hadn't seen some of them for a few months, as my recent training has been all about solo rides, so it was great to catch up and their support has been amazing. Curly has also been under Coach Dave's guidance and put the whole event into perspective when I asked him how he was feeling as our training winds down.

"Ironman?", he said, "it's just a long training day".

So true.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The word according to St Pete

11 months ago Toni aka Irongirl101 and I had a conversation about the possibility of Toni doing Ironman in 2011. Now that discussion is about to become reality.
As you will have read from the numerous blogs written there has had a few speed bumps ( be it weather conditions, tiredness or the amount of time allocated to training) and even a wedding didn't get in the way of the Ironman journey.

Along the way the lounge got turned into a training zone with the bike on the wind trainer over the winter months, and while the wind trainer has been put away even today there is a bike in the lounge.. What the....

Over the 11 month lead up, I have become Team manager, chief motivator, door kicker outer (during the winter months when a long ride is required), run coach, head of laundry and head of cleaning, also head chef ( yes I make Gordon Ramsay look like a sissy) and in charge of bike rescue, when on the odd time the a helmet change has been required or a puncture has occurred and the spare tube is the incorrect size (thanks Scotty Brown). All this would be cool if I had staff. (doh I don't).

So with only 12 days to go, Toni is now in the tapering stage of training, only a 3 hour bike ride today, and the coming days includes more rest days but some short sharp sessions, Included in this will be some nice run sprints, which I am looking forward to and Toni isn't so much.. okay Toni hates sprinting!!!

On the 5th of March I will drive Toni to the start and support during the day, all going well 14 to 14.5 hours after the start, Toni will be an IRONMAN.

For the next few weeks after the event, not a lot of training will take place as Toni takes a well earned rest and takes over all the household duties (bet Toni is looking forward to that) and also makes Gordon Ramsay look like a sissy, meanwhile I will begin the buildup to the Christchurch Marathon.

But in early April the journey starts again and Irongirl201 will be the focus. Taupo 2012 is only 377 days away.

- Posted using BlogPress from Pete's iPad

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Remedial Swimmer

Last week Coach Dave had a (not so) brilliant idea.

I was catching up with him and fellow Iron Virgin, Curly, to go over our race day strategies.  During the course of the discussion Dave and Curly noted how we hadn't had a technique session for a few months (basically since summer started) and so Dave suggested we have a light technique session at the pool on Saturday afternoon as a tune up to make sure we were all on track with our stroke.

So it was set, and I was quite looking forward to it.  Afterall I felt that in the last month my swim had really come together and I was now calm and relaxed in the water, and my open water swims were no longer the mental battle they once were.  I was interested, though, to see how I was looking in the water and so on Saturday morning I got St Pete to take a couple of short videos of me swimming at Lake Pegasus.  There are a couple of bridges going to a small island on the lake so Pete was able to stand on the bridges and get some good footage of me approaching, going underneath the bridge and heading away the other side.

At the pool I guess I optimistically expected to get some positive reinforcement from the coach that I was on the right track and things were looking good to knock off the swim in Lake Taupo.  But it didn't quite pan out that way.

Turns out my arm was straightening out in front just a fraction too much and my 3/4 catch up had almost reverted to a 1/2 catch up and so I spent several lengths swimming and having my arm held up by a stick from the side of the pool as Dave tried to prevent me from stroking too soon.

When I wasn't laughing (and drowning!) from fighting this stupid stick I was suggesting to Dave that 3 weeks out from the event is maybe a little too late to be trying to fix my swim stroke....  I know he meant well and they are only minor adjustments, but at this late stage (and with the swim being my achilles heel) it was starting to feel pretty major.

All is not lost, though.  I have a one-on-one session with Coach Dave on Thursday.  (I've dubbed it my remedial swim lesson!)

Hopefully between the two of us we can crack this nut in a simple way for me to remember on race day. 

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scarily Calm

The countdown is really starting to feel real now. This week the numbers were released and I am now officially athlete 1038 for Ironman New Zealand 2011.

Having a number has really hit home. This is actually happening. My 11 months of training is almost done and in 20 days time we will be in Taupo and I will be about to hit the start line. Instead of feeling freaked out, though, I'm actually feeling quite excited. I'm feeling ready, I'm going over my race day strategy (and it feels reasonable) and I just generally feel prepared.

We are also close enough now to be starting to organize stuff for Taupo. And that's always fun! So the bike is booked in for its service. The wetsuit will be going in soon to get its little nicks glued. The ferry tickets are booked. Accommodation is booked. A padlock has been purchased to lock the bike to the rack and to the tow bar for the journey. A new pair of running shoes has been purchased. The diary has been updated with all the pre-event activities not to be missed in Taupo.

And our week-long schedule goes something like this:

Monday - drive to Wellington
Tuesday - drive to Taupo
Wednesday - brief swim and bike
Thursday - register, brief run, carbo party, race briefing
Friday - women's breakfast, bike and helmet drop off, transition bags drop off, first timer's seminar
Saturday - RACE DAY ... DOING IT!!!

In amongst all that I'll be resting up as much as possible, and we will be checking out the Ironman expo and checking out the course and transition areas as well so St Pete can work out the best spots to head for during the day.

So why am I feeling so calm?

I'm guessing it's partly to do with my light training load this week. I've come through the high volume training and this week has seen me doing shorter sessions but with higher intensity. So a 1900m swim (which suddenly seems very short!) but with some 50m sprints. A 60 minute bike with some high cadence sets. A 90 minute run with some 50m sprints. I've never been a sprinter but have coped with all this and am feeling fitter, lighter and stronger, and mentally ready.

It will be interesting to see if this sense of calm remains. Watch this space!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Today's word of the day ... EXCITRIFIED

EXCITRIFIED: The feeling of being excited and petrified in equal measures. Commonly experienced by first time Ironman athletes in the final days of training. Can also be experienced by anyone about to embark on a new challenge.

OK, you're not going to find this in any dictionary but a google search brings up a whole 9 previous uses of the word, so maybe Ironjack and I are onto a new thing. And if you can't comprehend the idea of what it feels like to staring Ironman in the face, one of the google search entries also used it to describe the impending experience of giving birth. That should sort almost half of you out.

So, yes, I am excitrified. On Sunday I was trashed and in no state of mind to celebrate, acknowledge, or even put on a glimmer of a smile at the thought of having arrived at my taper. But a good night's sleep and a return to a sensible body temperature (after the extreme heat of Sunday it rained all day Monday - go figure) have put the joy back into life and I am now ready to celebrate the countdown to 5 March.

Yesterday I caught up with Coach Dave, who pronounced me ready. He went through the race day plan and talked through different strategies to remember. Things like hydrating with electrolytes rather than just water from the Thursday onwards. Starting the swim wide to keep out of the main crush of swimmers. Keeping my heart rate low on the bike, and getting into the "green is for go" zone, and not worry about what anyone else is doing. About only focusing on running to the next aid station.

There was a lot more that we talked about and which I will cover in later blogs but the most important thing Coach Dave wanted me to focus on was to enjoy the moment. It's my day and I've worked hard to get there. My time will be irrelevant, it's all about finishing with a smile on my face.

And, yes, that makes me excitrified!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Now I Know What Kona Must Feel Like

It was a special day today.  Today was the day of my ironman journey where the big training ends.

Tomorrow the taper starts.

I should be excited about it, and I've been looking forward to it and counting down the days all week.  However now I'm there I don't have the energy to celebrate.

The reason?

It's because my last big bike ride also happened to coincide with the day Christchurch decided to swelter in the hottest day we've had all summer, and probably the hottest day in a number of years.

I was scheduled to do a 6 hour bike ride followed up with a 40 minute run.  Shouldn't have been too bad but when we heard the weather forecast it quickly cemented my earlier decision to start the day early.  Nor-west winds were expected and, in Canterbury, that means hot, dry temperatures.

The sort that bring on migraines and make people cranky.  Yippee.

So the alarm clock went off at 5.30am (yes, a.m. - on a Sunday) and by 6.30am I was on the road.  The plan was to do 2 laps of a circuit we cyclists call the Sefton Block.  From home it is a circuit of just under 80km and, depending on weather/wind takes just under 3 hours to do solo.

The route takes you north out of Christchurch, through Kaiapoi and back onto State Highway 1 through Woodend, past Pegasus and Waikuku before hanging a left and heading inland to Sefton.  At Sefton you hang a left again, going through Ashley and another left to head back to Christchurch via Rangiora.

In a nor-wester it's usually a bit of a grovel into a headwind all the way out to Sefton but the payback is a great run with a tailwind from Rangiora back into Christchurch.

So I headed out on the first lap.  I had my aero helmet on, last chance to give it a decent ride before Taupo, and water and food to last me for the lap.  I'd then stop briefly at home to refill the water and food before completing the second lap.  It was already pretty warm but not too much wind.  Legs were tired but that's to be expected given the training load over the past few months.

The only indication I had of what was to come was running out of water by the time I got to Ashley.  Usually the bottle lasts me for the circuit but this time I found myself pedalling through Rangiora looking for taps where I could get a refill.  I found one on the side of a church building and carried on, finishing my first lap 2 minutes shy of 3 hours.  I was feeling pretty warm but otherwise OK.

Things started coming unstuck, however, on the second lap.  By the time I got to Kaiapoi I was feeling seriously hot.  So hot I started considering the practicality of stopping and jumping into the river for a quick swim.  Instead I stopped in some shade for a couple of minutes to try and cool off a little, tossing a bit of water over me from the water bottle.  I carried on, the hot nor-wester relentless in my face and my water supplies were getting low again.  Just out of Kaiapoi I found a toilet block on a reserve and figured there must be a tap there.  So I stopped, and there was, and refilled the bottle - and poured a bottleful of water over my head.  Bliss!

I carried on but it was a true grovel and my head was getting seriously hot inside the aero helmet.  By the time I got to Waikuku I had decided that I needed my regular helmet if I was going to finish this ride and so a text was sent to St Pete - "pls bring helmet, my head feels like it's going to explode!"

At the Sefton turnoff I found some shade and sat down and waited.  Thankfully St Pete also thought to bring two more bottles of water as well and one went into my aero bottle while the other went over my head.

On I went.  St Pete had offered to take me home but I was determined to finish - plus I knew that I only had 5km of headwind to go before turning side on to it and then a tailwind home.  After 90 minutes of battling away at 20km/hr it was a great feeling to finally turn towards Rangiora and start heading home.  I got a good pace going - up to about 42km/hr but it was still hot.

It felt like at least 35degC and by the time I got back to the outskirts of Christchurch I had run out of water again and my head was starting to pound.  I knew I still had to do a run after this and there was no way that was going to happen unless I could get my body temperature down - and I was still about 30 mins away from home.  So I found a tree to get some shade under and sent another emergency text to St Pete - "can u make 1 of ur famous banana smoothies?"

St Pete has these down to a fine art and they are just the tonic when I start overheating after a particularly hard workout - 2 bananas, 2 pottles of yoghurt, 1/2 punnet of blueberries and ice.

The thought kept me going until I got home, by which time all I was capable of was dumping the bike in the garage and collapsing inside the front door, which also happened to be the coolest part of the house.  I lay there for what seemed like an eternity before I got led outside, handed my smoothie and had the hose turned on my legs and arms to cool me off.  Aaah.

Then came the decision.  Should I try the run or can it?  It was still seriously hot and my tank was well and truly empty.  We figured, though that I should give it a go and, if nothing else, do it as a walk.

And a walk it ended up being.  I think I managed to jog about 500m but, really, I've never been a good hot weather runner and today was more than just hot.  It was a bit disappointing not to finish the big week on a high note but there were 2 positives: 1; there's no way it's going to be that hot in Taupo and 2; my second lap of the bike was only 13 minutes slower than the first lap.  It felt much, much worse.

All in all a good day to get ticked off.  Today's conditions I'm sure must be similar to what's experienced at Kona and I definitely don't envy the guys that do an Ironman in those conditions.  Amazing.