Saturday, November 29, 2008

Meet Eric....

Eric The Strada:

..who will be joining me in Rotorua provided my compact crankset arrives next week.*

(And not to be confused with Eric Estrada.

....Although they're both smooooooth)

*Not quite the same bike- to get ultegra, I had to get blue instead of zippy lime green.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Some progress...

At the Red Rocks Xterra, late September. The picture that made me contact my nutritionist.

8.6lb down (on average)

At the Contact Race, late November.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Contact Cup Rotorua: Race report

Another epic post. For this one, I recommend chocolate biscuits and coffee. Clearly by the time I get to the half-IM I'm going to need to break it down….

Pre- prelude- tiki tour, pasta and geeking out:

P had been up North since Thursday evening, but I flew up to Rotorua on Saturday afternoon. I was shocked when I got out of the car and felt winds as strong as those I'd left in Welly. That wasn't part of the deal! We stayed with P's friend Chris and his partner, and took a brief tiki-tour of the course before heading home to get ourselves sorted out for registration and a bike-course recon mission. I'd met Chris before but hadn't realised he was a bit of a cyclist/du/triathlete as well- it as great to have his feedback on bits of Tarawera Rd and the Okareka loop. Lucky bugger can pop over to Blue Lake on his bike for an after-work swim. Having said that, the dairy around the corner has an agg-rob every month, so I'm not sure how far my jealousy really goes…

After buying some post-race, we headed back out to the lake to register, pop into the water and do a loop of the course (which by this time had reached epic propostions in my overactive imagination). Kathy's Saint told us we were mad for adding more torture to the weekend, but I wanted to be sure I could do it. We arrived at the venue about 20 minutes before registration opened, and, as we unloaded our beasts (which probably weight more than they're worth!), P amused himself by mentally calculating the value of the U19s bikes. I amused myself thinking rude and judgmental thoughts about the U19s parents.

We headed out onto the loop. As usual, P waited for me to start, so I was ahead of him. Unusually, he didn't overtake me in the first twenty seconds. Then about halfway up Tarawera Rd (from the lake) he yelled out at me to slow down- turns out that in my desperate bid for survival on the hills, I was nailing the thing, and poor old sensible P was spinning away behind me wondering what on earth I was doing (I'll return to this theme later). The loop was gorgeous, but hard. And the descents were a real treat to a bitter Wellingtonian. The Rotorua definition of "pretty windy" is basically the Wellington definition of "lovely big corners and no need to brake!" The chip wasn't too bad either (last year it was fresh, which contributed to the slower bike times). Tarawera Rd was easier than expected, but the climb out of Okareka was much harder. I was prepared for it to go on and on, but I wasn't quite prepared for how difficult the first bit would be- it looked gradual enough, but the speeds I was doing were more like "a bit steep, but not too hideous."

We decided not to bother swimming, and went to registration instead. Definitely disappointed with the schwag. Although I no longer wish to support Orca for personal reasons, I love my tri-top from my first Contact race, and I'm quite disappointed that 2XU didn't come to the party (perhaps because the announcer couldn't stop saying "two ex-ell"). Also- a latex swim cap? And no treats?! Not even a shoe clinic voucher (although to be fair, I'm always happy to get a copy of Multisport in a race pack). Pretty sad for $80, Contact!

Gelato in town (P's lemon mascarpone was amazing), then we headed back to Chris and Nicki's for showers, piles of pasta, glasses of sav, and games of buzz. I had a sudden thought about transition times, given the three quite different races, and luckily I checked the race info, and discovered that transition closed at 6:50am. Just over 3 hours before our race. Goodbye sleep in and leisurely breakfast!

Prelude- how to arrive 3 hours early and still be running late:

We set our alarm for 5, and got up to try to quietly make porridge. I lost my hair-tie, didn't have any spare, and spent about 15 minutes unpacking and repacking my bag, shaking everything out, then scrunching it all back up again, but to no avail. So after forcing down porridge, getting ourselves together in typically disorganised fashion, we headed out to find somewhere that would sell hair bobbles at 6:00am. Fortunately Countdown was open, but they seemed to be out of hairties! Just as I was about to go for a packet of rubber bands, I noticed the one pack of hairties they had left- lime green, proper bobbles (probably that's a word for the weetbix kids out there) with wee plastic dolls on them. Charming. And so practical for 3 hours of movement and shifting headgear.

Got to the course, and bustled down to transition only to find it empty. It seems most people know that "Transition closes at 6:50am. Limited access afterwards" is code for "pop in whenever and rack your bike- there'll be heaps of time." D'oh! And we didn't even get an early riser's advantage- transition spots were organised by race number. So we had three hours to kill, and nothing much to do but wander, read in the car and swim in the lake. And before we knew it, we'd done it. And that was without any reading in the car, or any warming up. Just trips between the car and transition (lets see how many things we can forget …), watching the U19s race (a smooth T1 is clearly something that comes with age/experience…), trying to find Kathy and Paul among the other spectators (Kathy found us minutes before our race started), catching up with friends from Welly and beyond, and generally killing time in the way that only seems to be possible at events.

Then all of a sudden, we were struggling into wetsuits, discarding baggage, and lining up for our briefing, without having been in the water at all. Oops. We managed about 5 minutes after briefing- long enough to discover that the water was lovely and the bottom was rocky and then pop out, in time to squeeze the excess water from our suits, and await the starting gun.

Swim- a comedy of errors

The boys were off, and I tried to decide where to start. I was in place, and ready to go when the airhorn went off behind me, and we rushed in. I started swimming as soon as I could, to get my feet off the rocks, and felt the cool, clear lake water rush over my cap, onto my face and into my eyes.

Into my eyes?

Wait- that's not what's supposed to happen. Oops. Goggles down!

Oh no! Pushing your goggles down while you're UNDER WATER doesn't help. Bugger! Right, stand up on the rocks. Goggles empty. Goggles down. Time to swim.

Hmm- where'd everyone go????

After the goggle debacle, it took awhile to sort my breathing and get into a rhythm. Checked my time at the first buoy and was a bit disappointed to see 4:40 (I think it was around 250m). Turned the buoy, and swallowed a whole lotta lakewater, and headed to the next one. I seem to have trouble navigating the straight edge of a triangle swim- wherever I headed, I didn't feel quite on course, and I couldn't find a safe pair of feet to hang with. Made it to the next buoy at 7:35, and realised that the triangle was not equilateral. Then I headed back in. I knew I was aiming for a sight buoy, and that we’d run around a cone on the beach, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out where to go, so I blundered along in the general direction of the beach, until I got blown out of the way by the lead men on lap 2, and thrown completely off track. Bugger again. I kept on my merry way, pausing to search for the ellusive buoy and cone. A couple of times my pauses turned into actual stops. On the second or third one of these, I saw it. The Big Giant Yellow Buoy on the beach- strangely enough right in the direction that people seemed to be swimming in. I headed into the beach, not wanting to check my watch at the turnaround. Feet on rocks, running gammy, round the buoy and back in. Time was 12:12, for what was supposed to be 750m, but I was feeling marooned at the back of the pack and convinced that the swim was short again, so a super split was no consolation.

Lap 2 was less eventful, but not much fun. I couldn't find a good person to draft off, and couldn't find anyone to attack, so it just made in around at my own wee pace. They must have moved the beach on the way back, because that ruddy yellow buoy just never got any closer. My watch read 25:53 on the way out of the water, but that was little consolation given the deserted bike racks!

Bike- up and down and up again… and again… and again...:
T1 - no comment. Wetsuit off. Lap splits on watch. Glasses on. Helmet on. Race belt on. Socks on, shoes on, and we're off. Oh- bugger. Again! Buttons on my waterproof watch are different to the buttons on my garmin. "Lap" on the Garmin is "stop" on the swimming watch. OK- no time to deal with this- I'll use the bike computer for the bike, then reset the watch in T2 and start the run fresh, and just guesstimate total time.

The bike was great- most of the time. If you have to get passed, and then lapped, it might as well be by the best in the business. I've described bits of the loop a few times now, so I won't go into detail. Basically, my mind went like this:

Lap 1: Right we're up the hill. Not bad. Probably won’t be much fun the 5th time round. Oops, brake for the silly right turn. Where is everyone? Am I dead last? There were some bikes- but maybe they were leftovers from the 3-9-3? Cadence is good! Nice! Speed- well, not to worry. There's always the downhill. WHEEEEE! Holy crap- that guy blew past me like… like.. something really fast! Why can't I go 70km/h downhill? Better get into a low gear so I don't get caught out on that uphill. Where is the climb? Hmm- probably should have been pushing a slightly higher gear along there. Ah- here's the climb. And a line of people as far as the eye can see. And it gets nasty steep just up that corner. And there's some fast men zipping up it. Right- lets look at distance, not speed. Only 1k to go on the first loop. And only 4 more to go! Dooooooown we go again.

Lap 2: Hm. This was easier the first time. Why can't I push up hills like P does? Ah, there's the speedies again. No girls yet though. Hmm- this little extra bonus uphill will be boring by the 5th time round. OK- time to capitalise on the downhill. COME ON! Just go over 50 for one measly second! Oops- this corner's always just a tad sharper than expected. Hang on- better drink. Ick. Oh- there's everyone climbing the hill again! Let's see if I can pass anyone. I can?! Woo! Am I at the top yet? Passed again. No wait- you have your name on your bum. You can pass.

Lap 3: Average speed. No- don’t want to see that. How about distance then? This sucks. I suck. Bike sucks. Two and a half more laps. Only half way. What? How is she passing me? Can I get her back? Naw. Damn downhills. Wow- Brett's passed me already- legend! I wonder where P is?

Hey- no fair filming me from the lead motorbike while I puff away behind the leaders! Leave me alone!

Lap 4: Oh, hi honey. Yes, I'm delighted that you're zipping past me between laps. Simply delighted (actually, in all seriousness, I was glad it took P til the 4th lap to lap me, it was lovely to see him and I was happy that he seemed happy, and was riding his own race). Oh look! A girl for me to chase. Hm. She's not going so fast up these hills. I can do it. I CAN DO IT! I DID IT! Oh.. barely 200m down the hill, and there she goes. Ah well, I'll catch her on the next hill (I did. But she beat me overall) Hang about- how I do I get back to transition. Fuck it- I knew I should have listened to the briefing! Oh- oops, DRINKING. I need to do more of that.

Lap 5: Last time. Boy- I need to change down earlier each time! Lucky this is it. Boy, that headwind picks up each lap- bloody speedsters got out before the weather started to turn. Last time! I'll catch her- I really will. Right- lets nail it along here. What do you mean, NO?? Oh come on- did you have to tell the angry dude in the SUV there were only a handful of us left right in front of me? Oh- and thanks, I KNOW I'm nearly there, I'm sure I'm NOT looking strong, and just because a lot of others have gone before doesn't mean I'm some charity case in need of your pity eyes!

DONE! Boy- lots of bikes here. And all these people finishing. Maybe I'll just do one lap?

Nutrition: 1/2- 3/4 bag sports beans; about 250ml SIS drink (BAD Kate)

And because Mike needs proof, here's me coming through between laps- possibly laps 3 and 4?

Run- all alone in the big bad woods:
I hadn't realised how much it sucks to be at the back of the pack. Especially as a woman- no-one feels anywhere near as sorry for last man as they do for last overall. People pack up, and marshalls leave as you run past. People meander around the beach, forgetting that some poor suckers still have another lap to go.

When they cheer, it has a slightly patronising edge. No "woohoo!! looking goood!" for us at the rear- it's "keep it up! you're nearly there! you can do it!"

Well, DUH. I've just come off a course that's nearly half uphill, and I'm running 5:45 minute ks. I know I can frikkin do it! Just because I'm last out of the superstars doesn't mean I'm a charity case. And if I were- I'd still prefer an honest "WOOO!" to this crap.

This sounds awfully bitter, but I actually had a fantastic time in the run. It's just a gorgeous course! I am perfectly fine with my pace (5:48/k overall) given the hills, the beachy bits and the fact that I was pretty much alone with no-one feasible to chase. I saw P, and he didn't quite streak off in the distance (he was pretty quick, but he stayed within eye shot for at least a couple of minutes). I felt good, my pace felt steady and I thought I might be able to come in under an hour (I was wrong...) Although I struggled to kick it up a notch, I felt like I could hold the pace for a long time (another 10k?), and every k I ran I felt a bit better. On the second loop, I chased a lady down. I didn't quite beat her, but I gained a lot of ground, and she thanked me for keeping her honest.

Finally, it was out of the woods and along the beach (ick) to the finish line and to P (who had a fantastic race, and beat me on the swim, which is one for the books!). I was happy to see that I'd come in under 3:25, which sounds pretty abysmally slow, but it's a bloody hard course, and a quick google shows that those who finished around me are all capable of sub-3 standard distances, mid 1:40s half-marathons (etc etc)...

Run nutrition: one yucky gel, water at all drink stations

To come:
- recovery
- why I need to be slapped
- some lessons

Friday, November 21, 2008


I'm really looking forward to this weekend, and to the few remaining weeks of training before the race. While I'm not quite where I want to be, I'm starting to feel like it's all falling into place- from Monday's time trial and Tuesday's hill reps to Wednesdays tempo run (averaging just over 5 min ks, which is faster than I've been for awhile) and Thursday's good, solid climbs (Mt Crawford, and back home the steep way). Plus, I've been focussed on my food for the last few weeks and I'm down 7.5lb. Maybe not where I thought I'd be, but I'm starting to feel more like ME again.

I don't want to "taper", but don't want to waste my legs either, so I didn't run on Thursday evening. I've been a bit under the weather and snuffly in the mornings so I slept in a little and did Flexible Warrior yoga at home this morning. I had a few drinks to celebrate my amazing boss this evening, and now I'm home watching Gilmore Girls and baking nutritionist-approved banana bread, and looking forward to jumping on a plane, seeing my boy again, scoping out the course, meeting some new peeps, and going for a good hard training session.

Of course, as the half approaches, I'm thinking ahead. We've been planning to do the Ocean Swim in Wellington the weekend before the BIG DAY, and thinking about doing Tauranga too. I'm planning to do a "test" 5k in February sometime, and deciding then whether I have a shot at 3:50 at Rotorua. After that focus on endurance, I'm planning a good, fast 1/2 m in Wellington (or somewhere else....depending on a whole lotta other stuff), then starting the half-iron training again for Tauranga. Or maybe the South Island Half which looks speedy and above all is CHEAP! (obviously well ahead of myself- don't worry, I don't take myself too seriously!)

Anyhoo, we're getting to the home stretch now... I'll be back with a torture report next week, and counting down to the big un!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ups and downs

I've had a couple of good days after Sunday's race. I'm really pleased with my recovery. After a recovery run on Monday morning I did a solid 1k time trial in the pool after work (17:35- which isn't actually as fast as last time, BUT this time I know it was 1k not 950m, and I was nowhere near as stuffed).

This morning was back to hill repeats up Mt Vic. I was feeling grumpy after last week's session, as I didn't improve at all, and P improved heaps AGAIN (to be fair I was incredibly congested and spent the rest of the day snuffling and feeling pathetic...) My man agreed to stick with me for one rep so I could push myself a little better, and I was happy to come under 9 mins for the first time, and even happier when I took a minute off my descent time!

After the hill reps (I really do need to work on attacking the hills- my second rep I just couldn't get my HR up again), we went down Alexandra Rd which I haven't done since my stupid wee crash two years ago! The ride down wasn't great fun- bumpy as heck, but I got to the bottom and round the awful corner at the bottom a lot more happily than last time (I'm having trouble linking to the post, but it was October 2006...) That's a demon conquered anyway!

I've also rather rashly signed up for the Contact Energy Event this weekend. It will be entirely a recon race (its in the same area as the half)- or else I won't be able to handle the very real possibility of being DFL! I had a looksie at the times from last year, and the TOP female bike times for the 40k ride are in the mid 1:20s (incl T2) and the top male time was 1:10. The course is 5 loops of an 8k circuit, which includes a sharp 1k climb with up to about a 14% grade. All up, there's 150ish metres of ascent per loop. EEK!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What the f**K do you think you're playing at....???

Signing up for a HALF ironman! In ONE MONTH???

This thought entered my head, as I took off on loop one of the 3-loop (7.5k) run, ran smack bang into a gust of wind, and promptly got passed by a muscly backed lady in red.

"What the hell are you doing thinking you can run a half marathon off a NINETY k bike???"

But, I'll start at the beginning....

Today was our first tri of the season. My longest tri do by 250m, 10k and 2.5k) and P's first ever. Possibly the only "practice race" I'll do before December 13. It was windy yesterday, and the wind was forecast to stay strong. I was more philosophical about this than I usually would be- despite my nervy post last night and stressed sounding buckeye and facebook posts (poor old Mike must have been well fed up), I recognised that the conditions would help me treat the race as a good, solid, practice, rather than a major event. Plus, I rode yesterday, so I knew I could stay on the bike- I'd just be slow!

We were up earlyish, but pissed around a bit, and by the time we got to Scorching Bay we were in a bit of a hurry. Luckily, the race start was delayed, so we had time to pop into the water, go to the loo and check out the flow for transition.

Swim: 1k
The men started the swim two minutes before the women. It was a 2 lap course, and the water was quite deep. I started off strong, and feeling good, but soon lost track of the fast ladies, and started to wonder how far back I was. The water wasn't that choppy, but I found navigation very difficult- on minute I was heading well to the left of the buoy, the next minute I was face to face with bright orange and churning water. The worst bit was the distance between the first two buoys- it looked like we should be making a right angle turn, but it was actually quite diagonal. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried, I ended up further off course. I was concerned when I rounded the buoy closest to the shore at 11:25, as I figured it should be about 500m , but I was passing women and slow men, so I just pressed on. The second loop wasn't much better than the first, and my mood certainly didn't help- I had high hopes for this swim, after a solid training season and hugely improved times at all distances in the pool. By the time I reached the shore (possibly it was when I got to transition-I can't remember when I changed laps!) my watch read 23:39, for the slowest 1k I've swum in a very, VERY long time.

I made my way up to T1 and was surprised to see P there. It was great to see him, as it gave me a bit more confidence. Of course, I'd rather he'd had the swim of his life and had dashed with the leaders out on the bike, but it was nice to see him (and nice to see a fair few bikes still racked). T1 wasn't too bad, I don't think I have my exact split, but it could have been worse!

Bike: 30k
We had a magnificent tailwind for the "out" part of the bike. In hindsight, I should have nailed it a bit more- after all, it was free speed. But zooming around corners at 35+ kph seemed good enough for me, and I was concerned about blowing up on the big hill, or in the headwinds. I was shocked to see the male leaders at Lyall Bay- blimey!! I was glad we'd practiced the hill, as I knew it would be best for me to change into my baby chain ring as soon as I could, as although the hill starts off gentle, it gets steep quickly, and just keeps getting steeper for 2k. Fun!!

Rather than being depressing, I found watching the people ahead of me speeding down invigorating. First, because they all looked like the sort of hardcore people who SHOULD be beating me, and secondly because I knew that after ten or so minutes of climbing (yup- my speed up that hill got down to 9-10 kph!), I'd be flying down too, and on the way home. I was glad to see P zoom past (it was great to see so much of him in the race), and just kept slowly moving up. My goal for the next couple of weeks is to start attacking the hills a bit more- right now, I'm really just surviving them!

The way down the hill was a bit of a let down. First, the chicky in front of me stopped on the turn around. I think she might have messed it up, but it seemed at the time like she was just having a break. On the tight turnaround. Made the turn, and headed off down the hill, only to have to BRAKE on the best bit of road in the course, for a dickhead in a 4wheel drive. After the nice bit of smooth, fast descent, it gets bumpy (the carbonless wonder does not like bumpy!) and windy, and generally less fun, and I got passed. Twice. Bullfrogs!

The way home was not so fun- apart from being the way home, which was good! And, for ONCE, having a tail wind alongside the airport. For once I made good use of free speed, and pushed up to 45k for ahwile. Fun! But then the headwinds hit again, and the sidewinds started sending me all over the place. Luckily, we also met the short and medium course folks at this point- it was nice to pass a few people for a change. I tried to keep a good high cadence, so as not to fry my legs, but I think I could/should have pushed harder- my competitive instincts just aren't up to much on the bike.

Total ride time: 1:12:15 (incl T2), which is slooooow, but I'll take it.

Run 7.5k

I was a bit disoriented in T2, and decided I probably hadn't had enough water. Nevermind, I'll grab some at the drink station at the turnaround, I didn't see the water there until the last lap, so I was pretty dehydrated during the whole run. Unfortunately Headed along the path by the beach, my legs seemed pretty stiff, but could have been worse. I decided I was going to stay ahead of Grey Girl, and also hoped to catch up to a woman I recognised from running a tri events. We turned the corner, smack bang into the wind, and I started cursing myself. After a terrible swim and a slow bike, I was going to be caned on the run. I couldn't fathom riding 60k more and then doing a half-IM.

I saw P partway into the first lap, and gave him a smile. He wasn't that far ahead- but he was a whole lap in front of me! Ah well. He wasn't running hard, so ended up waiting at the next turnaround for me, so we ran his last lap together, which was lovely.

My legs felt better with every 1.25k segment, and I was OK with a 27ish minute 5k split. My aim was to finish the run in about 40 minutes, so I set off to push the last 2.5k hard. I didn't quite succeed- although my leg turnover picked up, I don't think the rest of my quite caught up, and I finished in 40:28. I'm actually quite pleased with 5:20ks off the bike.

All in all, today was good. I was reminded how hard triathlon is, and why I enjoy it. When my legs turned themselves on at 5 or so ks in, I remembered that I'm training for a half- not a fast olympic distance. And I know I can keep it up on the bike- I just have to commit! I'd love to make it up to Rotorua for another practice run next week, but not sure I can manage it. And maybe another round of hill reps would be better for me!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Number One

Number one for the season is tomorrow. 1k swim, 30k bike (including a 2k bitch of a hill, and 7.5k run). Exposed, coastal course. Forecast for strong winds.

Well- it'll be an adventure, anyway!