Monday, August 8, 2011

Enjoying a Hill Ride

Sunday morning, as regular as a church outing, we are out riding.  Coach Dave decided it was that time of the year when we should be getting back into the hills, but post-earthquake our options have become quite limited.  Half of the Summit Rd above Christchurch is closed due to rockfalls.  Evans Pass, the road between Lyttelton and Sumner is also closed, and is apparently so munted it possibly won't reopen.

So we took the only other real option: up Hackthorne and Dyers Pass Roads to the Sign of the Kiwi, turn right onto the part of the Summit Road that is open, head all the way along until we hit Gebbies Pass, turn right and head down Gebbies, right onto the main Akaroa-Christchurch highway and back home via the compulsory coffee stop at Tai Tapu.

It was a gorgeous day, not too cold, no wind and beautiful views across to the snow-capped southern alps as we headed along the Summit Road.

It was also a day when I had the opportunity to reflect yet again on the progress I've made in the last 12 months.  This time last year I would have been freaking out about biking up Hackthorne, especially in a group.  However today I chugged my way up, led the way down and when we stopped at Tai Tapu for coffee made Coach Dave do a double-take with my comment:

"I really enjoyed that".

Who would have thought...

Doing a Duathlon - Just for Fun

Came across my debrief notes for Coach Dave after the JD Duathlon in June.  Even though it's a couple of months old I thought I'd post it here as it provides a really good reminder about how sometimes we need to get outside our comfort zone and do something different.  No matter what the experience, there's always something to learn and gain from.  So, this is my email to the coach:

Yesterday was pretty awesome - exceeded my expectations :)

I guess my main goal was to not come last (because that was my biggest fear) ... which I achieved, so that was all good!  I remembered what you said about staying within myself and did that, but tried pushing my pace as well.  The aim was to stay strong and steady.  I intentionally started out at the back and it was a good mental boost to be able to chug my way past a couple of women.  And then at the end of the run I found myself caught up to the last male and so gave it a burst to get past him as well and that also felt good (nope, not competitive at all!).

Looked at my time at that 1km mark on the run and it was 5:45 so that was good.  Didn't have my Nike band on so don't know what my pace was for the rest of it, but it felt much the same.

The bike was a blast.  I went hard and passed pretty much everyone that came into my sights.  Got passed by some of the blokes and 3 of the girls but that was about it.  Had an average cadence of 90, av speed of 32.2km/hr, max speed of 37.0km/hr and max cadence of 102; wasn't wearing heart rate monitor.  Pete took a quick video of me going down the main straight on one lap  ... woohoo!

One of the best things about the bike leg is that I nailed the art of taking out my drink bottle and drinking while pedalling AND staying on the aero bars.    Haven't managed to do that before, so was really happy. Because I was riding so aggressively I took a swig from the drink bottle a couple of times on each lap - really wanted to make sure I could maintain my pace and not die from lack of energy.

I got back into the second run and my hard ride was telling on the legs but I knew I only had to do 2.4km so pushed it again and tried to maintain a reasonable pace (for me).

I did feel strong to the end but also completely stuffed by the time I crossed the finish line.  And while I was a bit tired last night I've recovered well again and had no aches or pains today.  We did an intense wind trainer session at Andi's this morning (Time Trial Power session on DVD) and my legs did remind me that they had raced yesterday so I flagged a little bit midway, but overall I've felt pretty good.  After our bike this morning I also did an easy 30min aquajog session with Pete - a bit of active recovery.

So, despite my scepticism and complaining, I'm glad you convinced me to do it.  And I can see I should be doing several more of them ... for training purposes :) A race definitely keeps the pressure on, that isn't there in a training session, and that's got to be good for me - right?
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Plenty to Reflect On

OK, so my blogging has been horribly sparse over the last couple of months.  I have no real excuse except for the fact that life gets in the way sometimes and other priorities take over.  It's not been from lack of enthusiasm, or from lack of training and, in fact, there have been at least four draft blogs that I started writing but which are now so out of date that it seems pointless publishing them.

As I said, though, training hasn't stopped and, if anything, it's been an interesting time for reflecting on the progress I've made in the last 12 months.  What a difference a year makes, so to speak.

So, some edited highlights -

Wellington Half Marathon:
St Pete and I went up to Wellington and I had high hopes of nudging a PB out of it.  Coach Dave, however, suggested a not so lofty goal which as usual was entirely sensible given it would be the first race of the season, or race in the off-season, and first race trying out the new running style.  So rather than a PB he suggested I focus instead on a good technique run.  So I did that, but still secretly really wanted to nudge my PB (yep, just a touch of stubbornness there!).

On the day the weather had other ideas.  It howled with wind and threw in a bucketload of rain as only Wellington can.  I did, however, put in a solid performance which included flashes of brilliance when I wasn't leaning into the gale force northerlies.  Eight kilometre splits (of 21) were at sub 6 minute pace, compared to last year when I only managed one kilometre split at sub 6 minute pace.  My overall placings (overall, age group, gender) were on average 12% improved on last year, so I came away very satisfied.

JD Duathlon:
Coach Dave suggested I do this event "for fun".  I was less enthusiastic.  A 2.6km run, 15.5km bike, 2.6km run is way too short (and fast) to be my idea of fun but, hey, who am I to argue with the coach?  So St Pete put up with my grumbling on the morning of the event and I did my best not to embarrass myself at the back of the field.  In the end the positives far outweighed the negatives - I maintained good form on the run (check out that photo!) and had a blast on the bike.  Being held on a motor racing track meant there was no traffic to contend with and a fantastic smooth surface so it was head down, aero position, going for it....hehe.

The last couple of months have been good for reflecting on my swim.  It's amazing how the mindset can change as soon as you've knocked off a 3.8km ironman swim.  That leg holds absolutely no fear for me now and I am totally in tune with the idea of finding another 15 minutes off my swim time next year.  I've found rhythm and power in my stroke and have gotten used to the feeling of exerting more power from my shoulders and arms while swimming.  Coach Dave suddenly hasn't got much to tell me when we have our group sessions and I'm enjoying the workouts much more. 

My strongest and favourite discipline hasn't changed much.  I'm still happiest on the bike and noticing an improvement in my climbing.  A ride out to Sefton a couple of months ago had me shouting for joy as I crested a hill in the middle of pack.  It wasn't a big hill but last year I didn't have a hope of keeping up with the group as we climbed.  More recently we headed out to Kaituna Valley where the turnaround point is at the head of a reasonably steady climb.  And while I was not trying to be at all competitive, it was a very happy irongirl who made it to the end of the road (and top of the climb) in second to last place in the group (rather than last place!!!).  It's the small things that delight...

After a couple of hard months getting used to my new running style my perseverance is starting to pay off and I am feeling less and less like a penguin and more like a runner.  Others have noticed my improved form - more bouncy, less ploddy (!) and my speed has definitely picked up.  I am now managing to maintain around a 6.00 minute pace on my 10-14km runs whereas last year I was about half a minute slower per kilometre.  That half marathon PB is in my sights!

Always a bone of contention, last year I resisted the idea of consciously trying to drop any weight before ironman.  It's been such a lifelong battle for me and I felt that my real focus had to be getting to the finish line no matter what my weight was.  Fuelling my body adequately in order to properly prepare it was more important than shaving off a couple of kilos.  In the end I lost about 5kg leading up to Taupo, which I certainly didn't complain about.  This time around, with a 2 hour improvement to focus on, I found myself mentally prepared to make a slight adjustment to my diet and see how much I could drop over the winter months before training ramps up again.

So St Pete and I downloaded an app onto our iPads called Tap and Track.  It's a comprehensive calorie counter which records all the food you eat and the exercise you do.  You program in initial data and what sort of weight goal you have, ie goal weight and how much you want to lose a week.  From that it gives you a daily calorie allowance and therefore provides you with the tools you need to make sensible decisions about what you eat.  Diets don't work and so I am not on a diet.  I've simply made a slight modification to my routine with the aim of dropping no more than half a kilo a week.  With the app I can, and do, still have my favourite chocolate.  I can still have McDonalds for lunch.  The only difference is I now know when I've done enough exercise to be able to enjoy those treats without feeling guilty or wondering if it's blowing my calorie intake for the day.   So my McDonalds Angus Burger, fries and hot apple pie is truly savoured guilt-free after a minimum 3 hour bike ride (for example).

So far it's working really well - I've lost 5kg since ironman and I don't feel like I've been on a diet, so there's no sense of undue restriction.  It's just a way of life, just like training is now a way of life.