Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rebel Run Sydney - In Search of that Elusive Negative Split

A fair bit of time is spent during the year planning various events to do between my ironmans.  For the last couple of years winter has been a time to focus on running and, let's face it, I need all the help I can get in that department!  We've therefore set up a bit of a routine, with the Blackmore's Running Festival providing me with an off-season opportunity to run a marathon and still give plenty of recovery time before summer kicks in properly.

When the Rebel Run Sydney dropped into our inbox last year we made a mental note of it but, at only 10km, it was barely long enough to justify putting the running shoes on, especially given it was held out at Olympic Park.  This year, however, the organisers added a half marathon distance to the event and that was enough for us to sit up and take notice.

Well, for St Pete to take notice.  Given my plans to do the Spring Cycle and Sydney to Gong ride on the weekends either side, I figured I had done my running for the time being and could therefore play cheerleader and go be support crew for him for a change.

The guys in my life, however, had other ideas.  In fact both of them ganged up on me and Coach Dave had no hesitation joining St Pete in deciding that I should enter it as well.  Well, what the hell - I didn't put up too much of a fight, and what's another training day, just with the bonus of a medal at the end of it?!  D, however, had another very good reason for me to add this to the calendar.

The coach's nirvana - I would aim for a negative split.  Oh joy.

My running's been going great this year, but they've all been characterised by the traditional problem of starting strong and fading at the end, whereas the goal of coaches all over is for us to start out slow, build throughout the distance and finish strong.  So you do the second half of the race faster than the first half, hence the negative split terminology.

So finish time today wasn't of any interest.  What I needed to do was run each 5km split faster than the previous 5km, and I was given the following times to aim for:

1st 5km: no faster than 6min 15sec pace
2nd 5km: no faster than 6min 00sec pace
3rd 5km: no faster than 5min 45sec pace
final 6km: own choice (a.k.a. "go like hell!")

We also managed to rope in bootcamp buddy, Sarah, to join us - although I was under no illusion that I'd keep up with either of them!

The conditions on the start line were pretty much perfect.  Clear skies (although later to be clad in smoke from the NSW bush fires), 15 degrees and no wind.  I wasn't feeling any pressure, just keen to get going.

After a bit of a delay the gun goes off and we're running.  Sarah disappears into the distance and within a minute I've lost sight of her.  Pete decides he needs a toilet stop and so he deviates as soon as we cross the start line, however storms past me at the 850m mark - in race mode and not even slowing to acknowledge my existence.  Nice…lol.

I get going, though, and try to focus on finding a pace and slowing it down.

Not very successfully, however.  First km goes by - 5min 48sec.  Oops, a bit fast.  Try and peg it back a bit for the 2nd km.  Nope that didn't work either - 5min 35sec.  Faster than the first kilometre!

I carry on like this for the first 5km, not feeling flash - no real rhythm, feeling like I'm working too hard and way too conscious of the people running past me.

Don't run everyone else's race.

Finally after 5km had ticked by things started to fall into place.  I felt as though everything was flowing a bit better and I was able to relax into a steady rhythm that wasn't expending too much energy.  There was possibly a good reason why it had taken time to get into it though.  I had run that first 5km faster than I should have, with an average pace of 5min 50.5sec.  Oops.  Sorry Coach :)

The second 5km was much better and I went through that second stage marginally faster (5min 50 pace).  Still faster than had been planned but also sticking to the plan of the second 5km split being faster than the first!

At around the 13km mark I started to become aware of people slowing down around me.  Either that or I was picking things up a bit.  I was feeling pretty good though, and so started occupying my mind with the game of picking off the next person in front of me.  From that point on I started making my way up the field, focusing on passing people and being aware of the fact that no one went past me for that last 8km.

I felt strong, physically and mentally, and was confident enough to back myself and keep the pressure on.  That 3rd 5km split went by in an average 5min 45sec pace - exactly what coach had wanted.  Now I just had 6km to go and could do whatever pace I wanted.  Does that mean I could walk if I wanted????

No way!

There were plenty of people to pass and that's all I was interested in doing.  Hold the pace, keep the form strong and don't stop until you get to the end.

The final 100m is a right hand turn as you head down under the grandstand and then another right hand turn into the ANZ stadium to the finish line and as we headed through the tunnel I passed chicked another guy.  As I went past I mentally prepared myself for a sprint to the finish with him, however he didn't put up a fight and I crossed the line, ahead and on exactly 2 hours.

Great run, and while it was 2 minutes off my PB that didn't matter.  What did matter is that although I started out faster than I was supposed to I still managed to improve my pace for each 5km split.

Coach will be smiling :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Spring Cycle 2013 - Perfect Way to Spend a Sunday Morning

So this morning I ticked off the Spring Cycle.

Despite living in Sydney for 2 years now it was my first time doing this event.  I first came across it only a few weeks after we moved to Milsons Point.  It was something I thought would be cool to do but for various reasons didn't get around to actually entering until this year.

It's organised by Bicycle NSW and one of its main drawcards is that it's the only event each year where you get to ride on the road over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It starts out in North Sydney, heads over the bridge and then winds its way through the city and then west to Olympic Park.  For the kids (and less "able" there is a shorter 15km City Ride which lets you ride over the bridge and then finishes in Pyrmont.  The Classic Ride, which I did, is 50km (well actually it turned out to be 54km according to the Garmin) and then for the first time this year they also offered a 100km Challenge Ride.  This longer distance followed the same route as the Classic Ride but then added 50km of criterium-style laps at Olympic Park, targeted at the elite and club riders.

Spring Cycle Route

Given the size of the event I really wasn't sure what to expect.  In particular, would the crowds make riding a bit of a dodgem game and would that take some of the enjoyment out of it?  Would it be a  bit like the City to Surf (crowds-wise) except on bikes?  In the end, and after a bit of a strategy talk with Coach Dave and St Pete, we decided that I would treat it as simply a bit of fun - go out and have a blast, try and find a bunch or two to hang onto and see what happens.  The important thing would be to get to the end in one piece and have fun doing it.

So being the good irongirl that I am, that's what I did!

We woke to perfect conditions.  The plan would be for St Pete and I to walk up to the start at North Sydney (only about 20min up the road from home).  There were several advertised start options - 6.30am for the 100km riders, 7.00am for experienced riders doing the Classic and 7.30am for the social riders.  I therefore planned for a 7.00am start and then Pete would head out to Olympic Park on the train and meet me at the finish.

A bowl of porridge to start the day and we were out the door just after 6.00am and walking up the road to North Sydney.  As we arrived the first bunch were assembled ready to get started and so we were able to watch them go by as they headed off.  I noticed, though, that there were a number of Classic Ride numbers amongst the Challenge Ride numbers, so it didn't seem that the groups were being policed at all.

Irongirl has ants in her pants...
Furthermore, once the main group went off we realised that other riders were also heading off, rather than reassembling and waiting for a 7.00am gun.  It soon became evident, then, that the start gate was in essence being left open and you could therefore get going whenever you wanted.

Being a non-timed event this was a great way of spreading out the crowds and seeing as I hate waiting around I was soon putting on my bike shoes and saying to St Pete "well I may as well get going"!

By around 6.45am then I was on my way, with probably only around half a dozen people around me and plenty of road space to move.  Soon I was shooting down the hill and into it, up and over the harbour bridge, along Cahill Expressway, up to Hyde Park and down to Mrs Macquarie's Chair.

We then climbed out of the Botanic Gardens and retraced our path to Cahill Expressway, heading down and then through the city and around Darling Harbour before slowly making our way west towards Olympic Park.

What followed, then, was a couple of hours of pedalling fun.  The crowds weren't too bad and the open, "start when you're ready" idea had a lot going for it in terms of thinning the numbers out - although I don't know what it was like further back in the field.  For me it was relatively easy to pick off people.  So I'd pass someone and work towards catching up to the next person, maybe sit behind them for a little bit if I needed a break and then, when they got too slow for me, I'd go around them and hunt out the next guy.

We didn't have closed roads and so there were times when we had to stop for traffic lights and also times that we had to pay attention to the directional signs on the corners.  On most intersections there were Spring Cycle arrows indicating the direction and usually a volunteer also pointing the way.  A couple of times we missed a turn - the first time I hadn't cottoned onto the arrows and followed another couple of riders around a corner only to hear yelling from behind us as the rest of the loose bunch we were in sailed straight through.  I learnt my lesson after that one and paid much closer attention to the arrows for the rest of the ride!  The second time I noticed the left turn arrow but two riders ahead of me didn't and sailed on past.  I doubted myself for a split second before doing a U-Turn to confirm that the arrow did actually point left and not straight ahead.  Thankfully left was the correct way to go - hopefully the others didn't go too far before realising their mistake - they were long gone before I could shout out to them!

Intersections with traffic lights were also mostly manned by police, their most important job being to press the pedestrian crossing button on the signals to change the lights for us.  Well even they deserve an easy day every so often!

Overall it was ride I really enjoyed and one I think will likely go onto our regular schedule.  There were a few short, stiff, climbs to deal with and there was also lots of smooth fast road and cool downhills.  And for the closet mountain biker in me there were also a nice selection of narrow windy (sealed) paths that required nerves of steel to maintain a decent line and hold off the lads behind me!  Even better there was some great scenery and would have also been a great day out for those taking their time further back in the field.

As we got to the end I had some new guys catch up, a couple of them on tri bikes, and so I took the opportunity to jump on behind them to push the final kilometre to the finish, rolling over the finish line 2hr 10min and 54km later.

The finish area at Olympic Park was well set up - plenty of food tents on site for people to grab a bite to eat - and the triple chocolate muffin and coffee that St Pete went to get for me went down a treat afterwards!  We then wandered over to the Bike and Lifestyle Expo and spent a couple of hours there checking out fab bikes, bike tours, meeting my favourite T-Shirt designer, Cycology, and catching up with Em of Em's Power Cookies. Mmmmm.  The bike even got some love - data dot embellished and registered on the national bike register using DataDotDNA, offered free to everyone bringing their bikes to the expo.  Great service!

All up, then, a great day out and a simple train trip back home where I spent the afternoon with feet up reading and getting ready for a certain little 18km training run scheduled for the morning....

... an Irongirl's training never ends :)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Garmin Edge 810 - Testing a New Tool

Another winter/off-season is over and summer is poking its head around the corner.

Before I head into full-on ironman training again, though, there's a few more "fun" events coming up.  In fact they'll be occupying the next three Sundays:  Tomorrow it's the Spring Cycle, next Sunday the Rebel Run Sydney (half marathon with St Pete) and the Sunday after that the big one, The Sydney to the Gong Ride.

A summary of my next three Sundays...
With the purchase of Black Beauty I have had the opportunity to turn the Avanti back into a real road bike - so the clip on aero bars have come off and I have taken her in to see Mark at Jet Cycles for an adjustment to my bike fit, ready for pure road riding rather than hybrid road/tri riding.  And that's left me able to do the Spring Cycle and Gong ride, both huge events on the Sydney riding calendar.

Today was time for another ride, though, and with a slightly different purpose.

Coach Dave had set me a 3 hour easy/steady ride and that was a perfect opportunity to test out the latest toy tool in my training arsenal, the Garmin Edge 810.  The great thing about the 810, and the reason for getting it, is its ability to navigate.  With my plan to ride back from Wollongong in a couple of weeks I was keen to ensure that once I hit the 180km mark, getting lost would be the one thing I wouldn't have to waste precious energy on.

So in preparation for today's ride I mapped a circuit in GarminConnect which would take me across the harbour bridge and out to Olympic Park.  Once there I'd sample a few of the bike trails then head across the Parramatta river and follow the Ermington shared cycle path before carrying on through Lane Cove and back home via St Leonards and North Sydney.

The route was a mixture of roads and bike paths, and would provide a good mix to test out the unit and get used to its operation.  It's also a route I would never have dreamed of trying to do on my own in the past.  It was really exciting, then, to be trying something new and seeing some different scenery.

This is what I would try to follow...
So, bright and early this morning I set out, ready for an adventure or two.  And the morning didn't disappoint!  By the time I returned home I had learnt a lot about the 810 and had a much better understanding of what it does really well and its limitations.  Most importantly, it'll be great for my ride home from Wollongong.  Here's a bit of a summary, though, of what I found with it.

It does great turn by turn instructions when you are following roads.  As with the car GPS units, Garmin on the bike does great navigation.  It doesn't talk to you but it puts up on the screen the next turn instruction.  Once you are a certain distance away it beeps at you and brings up the distance and estimated time away from the turn and counts this down.  You get a couple of beep warnings of this as you approach the turn and then a different beep at the turn.

If you go off course it does another type of beep (I sure learnt that one fast as I heard it plenty of times!) and if you stay off course you'll get the option of recalculating the route or finding your own way back - and you'll get a beep when you're back on course.  At one point, when I ended up on Parramatta Road, I realised that giving it the option of recalculating is probably not the best option to take as it wasn't keeping me away from one of the busiest roads in Sydney.  It might have been one of the other settings I had, but in any case I stopped allowing it to recalculate and that fixed the problem.

While the turn by turn instructions are fab, they stop working when you are on bike paths.  So there was a bit of confusion (for me) while I was on bike paths going across bridges and all the way around Olympic Park as I could see the track I needed to follow on the screen but suddenly stopped getting instructions.  What would happen then is if I didn't look at the screen at the right time I could (and did) miss turns and end up wasting a bit of time trying to get back on track.  And of course I didn't realise immediately that it was simply not recognising the bike track - I spent most of the time thinking I was lost.  It wasn't until later that I figured out that it only wanted to give me turn by turn instructions on actual roads.  It was a bit like playing one of those mystery location games as a kid:  you're getting cold, colder, warm, warmer, got it!

The final lesson, and the most crucial one is pays to charge your unit regularly.  Doh.  OK, this was completely my fault and no reflection on the 810 - I've had it for a fortnight now, used it extensively in that fortnight and not charged it since its first charge when it was unpacked.


Once I got to Olympic Park I stopped to admire the scenery and have a quick bite to eat.  Next thing the unit beeps at me.  I look down and can't believe my eyes:

"Low Battery Warning"

Shoot.  OK, that's not exactly what I said...I was thinking much worse!  Here I was at the furthest point on my loop and I had 11% battery life left in the lifeline that was going to get me home.  Hmm, do I turn around and ride home the way I came?  Do I jump on the ferry and bail, or do I get going and wing it as long as I can?

Turning around seemed a pretty lame option and getting on the ferry even lamer, so I stopped mucking around and got going.  I figured I may as well get as far as I could and if all else fails I had the iPhone in my back pocket that I could bring up maps on.  It meant, though, that I wasn't going to be able to stop and take photos along what would be one of the more pleasant parts of the journey - the shared cycle path between Parramatta and Meadowbank.  Never fear, though, there is a YouTube clip of it and so here it is for you to get a taste of.  Parramatta's Ermington shared cycle path:

11% battery power, however, wasn't too shabby as by the time it finally died I was on the cycle path alongside the M2 stopped at traffic lights taking a look at the first signs pointing towards North Sydney, just 9km from home.
Lane Cove - Chatswood - North Sydney
I'm not lost!!!

All in all, then, it was a great morning's ride and brilliant to try out some different locations.

And while the 810 struggles a bit with providing instructions on bike paths, it's nothing I can't get used to and a huge improvement on having nothing at all.  I can see we're going to have some great adventures together...

That's if I can remember to keep it fully charged.

...Hmm, another job for St Pete I think!