Friday, December 25, 2009

Hot Potato's Grand Adventures

Thursday, December 24, 2009
Hot Potato's Grand Adventures
After Saturday's half ironman, we spent a cruisy morning in Rotovegas, eating curry for morning tea (as you do...) and picnicking with Jenn and Damian at Redwoods(if you thought it was windy at Tikitapu on Saturday, you should have seen Sunday!!!)

Then we drove to Cambridge, where we unpacked the tri-stuff from the car, before driving back up to Auckland, for a romantic, goodbye Jaffa-land, dinner at Non Solo Pizza in Parnell. On Monday I spent the morning at work, tidying the office and sorting 5 years' worth of sent emails, while Phil started packing, and ran some errands. Then we packed up our whole apartment into the back of the station wagon ( was furnished, so very little furniture), cleaned it al out, and drove back to Cambridge on Tuesday morning, running a few painful pre-Xmas and pre-travel errands on the way. We unloaded the car at Phil's (patient) parents' place, packed up his travelling suitcase, and drove back to Auckland, all the while trying to sort things out with the landlord and carpet cleaners. We arrived in the early evening, had drinks and dinner with Phil's sister, then spent a final, sheetless night in the apartment, before leaving for good at 6:30 on Wednesday morning.

Now we're 2 days into 5 weeks of travel, sitting in Incheon Airport (Seoul), enjoying yet another random Cornfield Christmas. From here, it's London, Bled, Ljubljana, Munich, Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona, and London again! So posting, and training, will be sporadic, but I'l see you again in 2010 for volume three, Hotpotato: Taking on The Tron.

Merry Christmas, and happy training!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Race Report: Rotorua Half Ironman, and my second attempt at sub-6

Warning: Long. Detailed. No jokes or pictures.

This year's Rotorua Half Ironman was success in every way that matters- if not so much in terms of time.

We arrived in Rotorua on Friday afternoon, having spent the morning getting chores done in Auckland and Cambridge, and once again checked ourselves into an ensuite log cabin at the Rotorua Thermal holiday park. I absolutely adore it here, and am forever grateful to Kathy and Paul for recommending it for our pre-race stay last year! Once again, we had a great swim in the lake which was definitely a little colder than last time, but not too cold (and certainly not as head-tighteningly, penetratingly chilly as the Contact race in late November), a quick ride on the, once again, road kill littered run course (which I will be riding in my women's tri next year- all 9.5 k of it!!!), then headed to registration.

It was pretty windy, and I remarked to Phil as we loaded our bikes back onto the roof (read: Phil loaded the bikes, and I pretended to be useful by passing him cloths and taking the wheels off him) that "at least in Rotorua the wind doesn't usually pick up until later in the day".

Big mistake.

Once again, Jenn and Damian drove up (/over) from New Plymouth to cheer and sherpa, so we enjoyed a very brief "Christmas" with them before heading to the hot pools (some of the best Holiday Park pools ever), and settling back to drink tea and eat Jenn's fantastic homemade blondies (basically like a chocolate chip cookie merged with a brownie- I ask you, what could be better??) I slept MUCH better than I did last year (still a little restless, but without that maddening "nervous. can't sleep. stressed out." feeling), but, once again, 3:30am came too damn quickly. It was chilly at the campground, but in that way that 3:30am tends to be, especially in the central North Island! We ate our porridge (with dates, cinnamon, LSA and brown sugar) sloooowly and about 4:30 headed back to the cabin to get dressed and head to the race site.

It was FREEZING. My normally cosy "Arthurs Half" 2XU jacket was no match for the bitter breeze that was whipping around Lake Tikitapu and I regretted saying to Phil the previous day "it's so much easier packing for a triathlon in summer- none of this effing about with polys and gloves and cosy socks." Tell you one thing- I'd have given my right arm for beanie and a pair of cosy socks yesterday morning (well- maybe something else, the right arm comes in kinda handy for swimming, and holding my body on the bike!) The area was pretty quiet when we arrived, and it felt like we had heaps of time, but once we'd fiddled about with tyres, including a last minute rear wheel tube change after Phil realised it was one of the crappy ones with a short nozzle, so neither my pit-stop nor my CO2 gun would work with it. Then, after we'd put the bike on the rack, Damian THANKFULLY realised that we'd put the wheel on too tight and it wasn't spinning. Thank you FBIL- I'd have lost it if I'd discovered that in T1!!

I remarked to Damian and Jenn that it might not be such a day for PBs after all. The wind was stirring the lake up, and definitely felt like it would get in the way on the bike, especially with a 10m draft zone! But to be honest, I didn't really believe it would be a problem, especially given the gains I've made on the bike this year. Then, the race director said at briefing we'd have a lovely tail wind bringing us back on the bike. In hindsight, I wonder if my "piss-taking sensor" skills were on the blink??

Swim- 39:49
It's a deep water start, and the men start 5 minutes before the women. It was a bit messy this year, probably because people resisted taking off their top layers for as long as possible, and when the whistle went, there was a pause before a big chunk of the field left, and still lots of stragglers running in from the beach. I think the one good thing about being a female triathlete is that it's much harder to miss your swim start!

It was really hard to figure out where the start line was meant to be, impossible to hear the anouncer over the wind and the choppy lake, and absolutely impossible to see the first buoy- 900m from the start! I have finally started racing in contacts this year, but the buoys on this swim course were easier to see when I was swimming blind!!

Getting out to the 900m buoy wasn't too bad. It was a bit messy at times, and hard to sight, but it was also just in a fairly straight line from where we started, so not too hard to go by feel. I could tell I wasn't swimming fast, but I was passing people, and catching drafts off the occasional pair of feet. Made it out there in around 17:00, which is a bit av, but what I expected given how it felt. The way back? a whole nother story. I had no freakin idea where the second buoy was, and it seemed like no-one else did either! Swim hats everywhere! I also started cursing Hooksie's policy of "byo swim cap" (fundamentally, I am a BIG supporter of this one; I have enough shitty latex caps as it is)- I wanted to know whether I was passing or drafting off women (good thing) or very slow men (bad thing)! I muddled through as best I could, but I suspect a Kate tracking GPS would be all over the show! The waves were also dragging us around in strange ways, and people would go from my left to my right to my left again within a matter of minutes. Finally, I caught site of the buoy from a couple of hundred metres away. It was great to have something to aim for again! Rounded the second buoy, and pushed the final 200m to the third buoy (although, I unfortunately swam over a boat ramp in the process. Ow.) I emerged from the water at 39:18, dazed and frustrated, but not too unhappy with the swim, and crossed the swim timing mat in 39:58, official time 39:49.

Reluctant brickbats to Hooksie and co for the inadequate buoys. I don't know what went wrong, but it was an absolute shocker. Those wee yellow buoys are fine when they're 200m apart, but not when there's 900m between buoys, especially when they're on a diagonal.

T1 was uneventful, and not too slow. Jenn and Damian cheered us up the beach with homemade signs, which was AWESOME. I had a brief chat to some of the dudes around me (I love this race, because there are DUDES around me- such a nice change from the hyper-competitive olympic distance events!), got my helmet, shoes and Garmin on, and raced out to the mount line, where I was promptly blocked by some muppet who didn't bother to think before he stopped to get on.

Bike- 3:24
I felt much more hardcore than last year, with aero bars and Mike's old aero helmet (which has really done the rounds now!). Oh- and the fact that I had two drink bottles filled with replace on my bike, instead of a big uncool Camelbak. It's the little things ;) I felt like a poser in the aero helmet, but I figured it would encourage me to spend more time in the aero position, so I would just have to handle the jandal. In terms of data, I eventually decided not to mount the Garmin on the handlebars, and instead to ride by feel, with the occasional look at the wrist to check average pace, HR and cadence. I must admit, I quite like riding without too much data- it definitely helped me in the Contact race, although if I'd had readily accessible cadence info in Tinman, maybe my average wouldn't have been 99!

I passed a couple of dudes up Tarawera on the way out, but kept it pretty easy, and made sure I started drinking pretty much straight away. Of course, pretty much everyone passed me back on the descent- I'm quite happy to do it at 65-70kph, thankyouverymuch! The ride out to the turn off was great. Good roads. Good aero position. Keeping up the drinking. Munching on mini bagels with PB. I was averaging a little over 31km/h, but keeping it easy, as I knew the return leg would be a b*tch, even with the promised tail winds!

Daryl Bloomfield, who organises the (I must add, AWESOME) Scorching series in Wellington passed me either just before or just after the turn off to Whakatane. Last year, he passed me early in the bike, and I didn't catch him until the gun club. He's a tall, well-built dude, and can really nail the flats and downhills, but that size is not really an asset for a hard, hilly, run. This year, I decided to stick with him. I passed him on the first wee climb (up Hell's Gate on the way out), and didn't see him again for a little while, but he can't ever have been too far behind, as he caught me again sometime a few minutes later.

I had decided to try out the bottle stop this year, so ditched my "She Triwoman" bottle just before the 30k mark (damn thing deserved to be ditched, as that was the single most disappointing and utterly unprofessional triathlon experience I have ever had... ) Then I slowed to grab a water from the first little dude I saw. And failed. Then slowed more. But chickened out at the last minute. I almost always keep my left hand on my bike, except when indicating, and, even then, taking it off still makes me nervous. Something to work on- maybe I should practice left hand drinking next year. Eventually I decided I'd have to actually stop, so I slowed down and unclipped at the next water bottle swapper. Embarrassing!!! Bouquet to the bottle stop people (and to all the other fabulicious 'Vegas volunteer crew members), again- those dudes are awesome.

Daryl passed me on the first wee hill after the bottle swap (I had no momentum at all) at the same time as some winner decided to pass me on the left. Dbag- there was no need for lefthand passing in this race (in Tinman it was hard to avoid), and although I was probably being a little annoying (drinking, shifting, sorting myself out), a little patience doesn't go amiss. Being sandwiched between two bikes is not cool at all!

I started mentally calculating when I should expect to see the top guys. They'd have had a good 20 minutes on me out of the swim, and they'd have been nailing it along the flat and rolling hills out to the turn off. I figured it would be between my 30 and my 35. At 32.7km, I saw the first dude, but didn't see the second dude for another k! Then I saw the first chick. Phil had some lofty goal of beating the ladies (optimistic, but not too crazy, actually, given his goals and the top female times from last year), but when I saw first lady within the top 10-20 dudes (I think..) I knew she'd be caning him (...which she was). I could tell at this point that the return jouney might not be as fun as I'd thought- the top guys certainly looked like they were working into the wind. That made me up the effort a wee bit, to try to buy some time. I made sure I stayed aero most of the time after seeing the first 20 or so guys. I knew he wouldn't be up there, but I wasn't risking having him catching me upright! (he doesn't believe I spent any time at all in the aero bars at Tinman, but I promise I did!) I saw him in about the same place I saw him last time (it was my 39.5k), but I knew we were both doing better.

I reached the turnaround in 1:31, and started the return journey full of optimism. Basically, I was imagining myself texting everyone after the race to tell them about my sub6 finish and half-hour pb. Hah!

Of course, I hit the headwinds before too long, and the long battle started. Hell's Gate became something to look forward to, as it would signal a break from the wind, and a new stage of the course, but it was still a good 20k away. I had a bit of a mental shut down as I rode around the lakes on the way towards the next landmarks, the 60k bottle stop and the Hell's Gate climb. I found myself drifting into random day dreams about next year, when I remembered that instead of thinking about awesome things, it was probably a good time to be doing some awesome things, so I put pedal to metal and tried to pick up the pace a bit. To no avail.

Hell's Gate hurt much less than it did last year, but it still hurt. I would love to say it's because I'm fitter and awesomer, but I suspect it's at least partly attributable to my 25. And to think I wasn't sure I wanted it! I passed four people on the way up, including Daryl, who by this time had certainly recognised the friendly competition we had going, and managed to up the gears for the descent comparatively quickly after I crested it (ps- man, that hill has one long crest!)

Sub 3 was long since out of reach, but I wanted to finish the "Hell's Gate to bottom of Tarawera" leg at an average of 30km/h, to salvage some sort of respectable time. Again- hah! I was freakin dreaming! But I did manage to stick near my triplets, Jim, Dave and Daryl, who were all wearing this year's jersey with dark shorts. Daryl had quite an edge on me between Hell's Gate and the turn-off, but he was still dimly in sight, and I knew I just had to pick off Jim and Dave (it's pretty sad when the people you're picking off are old, paunchy dudes, but at least this year they were younger and less paunchy, and at least it was me doing the picking off, not vice versa!) I leapfrogged with Jim for a while- pretty intensely. It was a lot of passing and passing back, and I suspect we were both getting on each other's nerves, but I think it meant we caught Dave, and then Daryl more quickly.

Although the winds were all kinds of nasty- not strong by Welly standards, but soul-sappingly consistent- I didn't feel the intense fade last year, and I still had knees to ride with after Hell's Gate. I was being passed, but keeping up with my buddies, and passing the odd person (including the woman on the HYBRID, who seriously rocked that ride!!!!) meant I was nowhere near as demoralised as last year, even as I watched my shameful last year's time become reality again. In my worst nightmares about the race, I never imagined that happening! The Lynmore turn-off arrived much quicker than last year (although it took even longer to get there), and I hoofed it up there, behind Jim and Daryl, and a few other ride buddies.

Tarawera Road was once again a complete sufferfest, but nothing like the pain it was last year. I span past Jim, and then Daryl, and laughed when Jim asked me what cogs I had that he didn't- a compact with a granny 25 on the back comes in handy sometimes! Cruising past Daryl seemed to spur him on, which spurred me on, and we battled up the hill, and along the rest of the road back to T2.

I lost my bike in T2, but luckily had half iron sherpas Jenn and Damian yelling at me, so I found it after not too much dazed circling! As I ran out, I noticed another Wellington legend who featured significantly in my race last year, Ann Bondy. Last year, I raced against Ann (who is decades older than me, and an absolute inspiration) in quite a few events, although I'm sure she wouldn't have known it. Basically, I beat her on the swim, she catches me on the bike, and wipes the floor with me, and I spend the run hunting her down. Last year, she caught me on the flat not far from the turn off on the way back, and although I caught her on the run, eventually, she only finished a couple of minutes behind me. Having Ann and Daryl there helped me to accept that this year's 3:24 was actually a vast improvement on last year's, and that I had to head onto the run feeling like a champ, not a dismal failure.

Time: 3:24
Average speed: 26.1 km/h
Average cadence: 86 or so (91 for the first half.. a shocking 81 for the second half!)
Average heart rate: 164
Top speed: 62km/h (disappointingly chickenshit down Tarawera)

Run- 2:06
After Arthur's Half, I had high hopes of running a sub-2:00 half off the bike this year, but I knew that with all the offroad time, the heat, and the hills, that taking 13 minutes off last year's time was going to be a big ask, even with improved bike fitness and, y'know, actually having knees this year! So I'd settled on a goal of around 2:06, which is around 6:00/k. As I started the run, I felt like this was doable, but a minute into it, when I hit the first wee climb on the bush track I started to doubt it! I got passed by a few teamsters, and passed a couple of people in the bush, but it was a pretty lonely 3km/20 minutes!

Emerging from the bush was a bit of a double-edged sword. It was great to get off the trails, to have some company (read: targets) again, and to see the rest of the race going by, but it was stonking hot! Definitely hotter than last year, right from the get go. I was living from water station to water station, and by the end was getting two cups, drinking one slooowly, and tipping the other over my head.

I kept myself sane by pressing the lap button at particular landmarks, or, in some cases, just randomly. That way, the 6:15 for the first go at the bush track was a distant memory for the 4:52/km cruise down the road from the lookout, and up most of the way to the gun club turn off! The gun club section is horrible, but also a very good section for a shite cyclist/decent enough runner like me, because on the way out, you basically get to see everyone who might remotely be in your "passing zone", and on the way back, you get to see just how far back all those people you left in T2 or passed in the early stages are!

It was good to see Mike running back along the gun club road, a good distance ahead of me, but he wasn't feeling great. I didn't realise just how shite he was feeling until much later though. I didn't really think I could catch him, so focussed on picking off the ladies in front of me, most of whom were team runners after the gun club turnaround cone. I saw Mike again coming through the buried village, and this time he said "you'll pass me for sure". I still didn't think I had a hope in Hades (...what it felt like out on the run...), until I got to the lookout, with two of my team cyclist-runner pals, and saw that I was less than 700m behind him (it had been about 350m since I'd seen him, and I guessed that I was travelling faster).

The "lookout back to beach" stretch felt long, as usual, especially once I got to the bush-lookout area, where we started to mingle with speedies again. I was feeling pretty rubbish, but moving faster than almost everyone else helped me to ignore the heat, and the pain, and to keep moving. There were people walking everywhere, and a couple of middle aged men called out as I went past "oh no, I'm being passed by another young woman, do you have any idea what that does to my ego???" I wanted to reply "dude- if yo' gonna walk, yo' gonna be passed!"

I got passed (!) by a mega fit looking, quite a lot older than me, lady at the drinks station, and actually thought she was on her second loop, but she gave me someone to try to hold onto as we neared the beach again. Then I saw Mike in the distance. I wanted to stop and crawl or walk or cry, but I told myself I couldn't walk a step until I passed Mike-I still didn't think it would happen, so I was really just saying to myself "don't walk!"

As we approached the beach, my right inner thigh (just above my knee) cramped horribly, and I let out a wee yelp. I imagined heading straight into the finish without doing the godawful second loop, but soon realised I'd be explaining a 1:20-something half-M off a 3:24 bike. Uhhh- not likely!! So I sucked it up, and finally edged past Mike near the toilets.

Jenn, Damian and Phil were cheering as I ran past. I rolled my eyes and gave them a big double thumbs down! Phil looked totally chillaxed, and I wondered if he had met his goal of going sub5? The finish clock read 5:45, which was 5:40-lady time, so I knew sub 6, and sub 6:10 were out of the question- I've never managed to run the loop track in under 30 (although I'm confident I could if I ran it straight), especially not the hard way (anticlockwise). I hit the lap button again, and headed back in.

The second loop in the bush was even harder, but luckily there were still people to pass- both people racing with me who were fading and walking, and people who were heading out for their first loop. Poor bastards! There were also lots of spectators, and unsuspecting victims out for their Saturday walks, all of whom were great with the cheers and claps, and thankfully short on the patronising encouragement! Earlier, I'd been a box of fluffy ducks- yarning with volunteers and my fellow gorillas, calling out effusive thanks to the cheering spectators, but by this stage, all I could muster was a pathetic thumbs up. My thigh kept twinging for the first couple of ks, and my achilles (which had also niggled a little on the bike) started threatening to misbehave. I'd missed the finish/transition area drink stop, and could feel it. I ended up stopping to walk up a longish, but not that steep, hill, for ten, then twenty, then fifty paces, before I slapped my CG and pushed back into a gammy run. My pace was abysmally, embarrassingly slow, but I soon overtook my new friend (who had only been on her first lap before), and my old friend, beige contact t-shirt dude. We stayed together for awhile, but they both passed me back before we'd left the bush, which seemed to go on forever. It feels so much longer anticlockwise!

Even though I didn't have much left, I walked for another drink and splash at the final aid station, and started a new lap for the 2-odd ks back to the finish. I was pretty sure I had a solid PB sewn up, and that I'd be seeing an improved run time, but it was hard to tell, with limited and muddled Garmin data. My pace for the last "leg" was 5:32/km, and I crossed the finish mat at 6:21 race time, 6:16 lady-time, for a 2:06 half marathon, and a ten minute PB.

I accepted my medal (and some teasing! I was famous for all of ten seconds) from Hooksie, accepted a warm Export Gold from a volunteer, and accepted a hug from my Phil. As soon as Phil told me about his times, and his experience on the bike, I knew I was right, and that I could take this 10-minute PB as something much more. One day I will master this race, and I am such a masochist that I will be back for more until I do!

Monday, December 14, 2009

5 days!

I can't believe there's just 5 days to go.

It seems like forever ago that I moved up here, started training with Paul's plans, found myself a good local running route, and tackled the Waitakeres (...and the Auckland traffic) by myself for the first time...

Since then, I've:

  • done nearly 300 hours of training ( that's where my bonus went....)
  • burned 180,000 calories, an average of 714 per day (this is according to buckeye.. which lies)
  • completed 267 workouts, at an average of 1.06 sessions per day
  • improved my average aerobic run speed from around 6:20/km in April to around 5:50/km now
  • learned to ride aero!
  • swum the equivalent of the Lake Taupo Challenge
  • covered the length of New Zealand by bike, and made it back up to Christchurch on the (virtual) return trip
  • lost 2.5-3 or so kilos
  • run three half marathons, done two standard distance triathlons, 3 open water swims, one fun ride, one offroad starlight run, and one duathlon

I'm pretty stoked with how this year has been, with fun and fantastic training, and solid, if not spectacular, race performances, and we had a bloody brilliant weekend to round off our "real" training.

I rode well on both Saturday and Sunday, and Phil even commented on how much better I was keeping up with him on the way out to Titirangi yesterday. I averaged 5:00/ks off the bike on Saturday, even including our cooldown (I'll be honest, it was HARD). We had an uncomfortable but OK open water swim on Saturday, and a stunning wetsuited pool swim in the Parnell Baths on Sunday.

I'm ready, Rotorua. Bring it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tinman Race Report: Solid, but unexceptional

First, go read Coach Paul's post about pushing yourself on his new blog, because it's good and it just rings So True. Then come back and read my race report.


I did a bit of thinking and talking about goals and so on leading up to Tinman. I did a bit of maths, figured out that 2:40 was about the best I could do (leaving a little for transitions), so decided 2:50 sounded about right. Then, after a fun brick workout on Wednesday (yes, getting progressively faster off the bike at 6:45 on a humid weekday morning is my idea of fun), I decided I could go sub:50 on the run. Then, as we discussed the race on Saturday afternoon, I decided I would like to at least get out on the run before the winner finished!

I achieved two out of those three goals, had a few disappointments, and learned a LOT about my strengths and weaknesses. All in all, the very model of a training race!

"Deep" water start; 2 laps, with a run around a gantry on the beach.
The water at Pilot Bay was calm but chilly. The shallows, where I'd warmed up with Phil, were pleasant enough, but once we were all up to our shoulders, waiting for the gun to go, it was a bit shivery! Still- nothing like that head splitting, ear hurting cold a couple of weeks ago in Rotorua.

The start was relaxed, but within 100m or so, I found myself sucked into the washing machine. It wasn't the biggest swim start I've done, though I'm sure it was close, but it was by far the most aggressive. It wasn't just your garden variety kicking, bumping and swimming over; there was a bit of extra grabbing, pulling and thumping thrown in too! My shoulders were aching, I felt pretty gammy, and I messed up a little bit of navigation during the first lap, butI was passing yellow capped men (fortunately none of them my husband) left, right and centre, which was nice for a change! However, I knew I hadn't swum well, so when I saw that the swim clock read 26:51 (24:51 in lady time), I knew that it was a short, rather than an awesome, swim!

I saw Kathy getting herself sorted in T1 as I ran to my bike, and correctly concluded that I'd be passing her on the run. If I'd beaten her onto the bike course, I like to think we could have played some leapfrog together, and that having her in sight would have kept me honest!

Two laps of a slightly long 20k course (10k out and back). Flat and fast.
My goal was to come in at over 30km/h. The plan for achieving that was getting into a big gear as quickly as possible, and hammering for dear life. I was a bit nervous about the size of the race and of being pinged for accidental "drafting"!

The bike went well, but I found it very difficult to push hard, partly, I think because of the voice inside my head saying that 30 km/h was "enough". My legs were spinning right round (like a record), but every time I upped the gear, they protested. My average cadence for the ride was 99 rpm, which is MUCH higher than I wanted it to be. I have the leg strength to push a bigger, harder gear, and I nail my legs on hills all the time, so I really need to focus on being able to really push it during flat races.

The other trouble I had on the bike was trying not to fall foul of the 7m rule, while surrounded by people who had NO sense of tri-etiquette whatsoever, and who were insistent on trampling the 7m rule whenever they could. Having people pass me in groups of 4 or 5, then take up the whole side of the road making it impossible to pass back was a pain in the nuts, especially trying to hang 7m back while the cheaters surged ahead. Number 348, in particular, deserves a brickbat. We leap frogged for awhile in a friendly sort of way, until she passed me, then proceeded to suck the wheel of the woman ahead of her for a few minutes, sitting just slightly to the right making it impossible to get past. When I did decide to go for it, I got told off by an old dude in fluoro gear for not being on the left!

I finished the bike at an average pace, by the Garmin, of 30.3km/h, but a disappointing split time of 1:22:50 (1:23:05 is the official time). I felt like I could do it again! My average HR for the ride was 171, which shows I was putting a decent effort in, but boy-oh-boy, those 3 minutes are falling next year!

Being a (comparatively) good runner is awesome. Sure- I come out of the swim to an empty bike rack, and come back from the bike to a full one, but I then get to spend the next 10km running everyone down.

I decided to use my Wednesday workout to my advantage, and to re-set my lap every 5 minutes or so, and focus on lap pace only. The workout taught me that sometimes I slow down because I'm relaxed or "bored", not really because I'm tired. Pushing hard for 5 minutes, and counting down til the next lap, then pushing harder shows just how hard you can work if you make it happen.

The strategy worked OK until I got to the Mount base track. My lap paces were a little uppy downy, but I was keeping them in the high 4:00s and low 5:00s. I had a bit of an "a-ha" moment where I realised that when I felt like I was sore and slow, it was actually because I was working hard, and when I felt "strong", I was actually slowing!

I really enjoyed being in a big field, and passed people pretty much non-stop, and as far as I am aware, only got passed by one lady. Only one of my passees (a dude) passed me back, and I think he was in a team, so massive props to me! Unfortunately, the problem with being an OK runner and a shite cyclist is that everyone I passed was someone I should have passed, so it wasn't enough to really keep me honest.

...Anyway, like I said, I was going well until I got to the Mount. I don't have my splits here, and I'm not sure quite where the Mount is in the greater scheme of things, but I was on pace for sub 50 for the run when I hit the track, though it would have been tight! As soon as I hit the undulating, gravel track, I watched my lap pace slow to a 5:30/km. Ouch! I changed my garmin display to HR. I don't normally do this in races, because I have a tendency to think "OK, it's 172, that's good enough", but this time I thought I could motivate myself to push my HR higher, rather than being glum about the slowing pace. There were a few Sunday strollers to dodge, and still plenty of people to pass, which was lucky. I think I'd have definitely slowed more if the track had been deserted. The views were absolutely stunning, but every time I rounded a corner, I could tell there was still a fair bit of Mount to go!

My one pass-back passed me as we came off the track, and I re-set my watch as I was nearly there. I got a real buzz from the spectators and drink stop ladies as I pushed towards the finish line, but I couldn't quite catch the guy who'd passed me. I crossed the finish line at 2:46:00 (2:48:00 on the clock) for a run time of 53:17, and a final run split (just under 1km) of 4:42, which I have to say is not too bad for a hot, undulating, and slightly long, run off the bike!


  • the fitness is there- well, getting there!
  • my endurance has definitely improved, so I can afford to go a little nuts!
  • flat should not mean "easy"- it should mean "different hard"
  • I need to be more confident using bigger gears
  • my race swimming still really sucks
  • I need to stop being limited by "what I'm capable of". In my early running days, I exceeded expectations, and pushed hard. Now, I set realistic goals, and either hit them bang on, or just miss them. I need a happy medium

Bring on Rotorua!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


December is going to be a MASSIVE month in the Hotpotato Household.

We're counting down to the Rotorua Half Ironman on the 19th, but before we get there, we've got Tinman this weekend, a plethora of holiday parties and, on the 17th, my last day at the job I've had for the past five years!

Then after the Half, it's back up to Auckland to pack my wee apartment up, shift it all down to Phil's parents' place in Cambridge, then turn around and go back to Auckland to take off for our 5-week European adventure!

After 5 weeks of travelling, and freezing ourselves in Seoul, Slovenia, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Germany, Denmark and Spain, it's back to the 'tron, where I'll be house-hunting for a week, before starting work on the 8th of February (...the day after my 28th birthday), then kicking off the rest of the NZ tri-season with TriWoman races in Karapiro and (with my sister) Rotovegas.

Phew! I'm tired just thinking about it!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wonderful weekend

We had a fabulous weekend, chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool in the Rodney District, and indulging ourselves in post-HoBOO, pre-final-half-ironman-prep fish'n'chips, ice-cream and beer. We slept in, and wandered around the Matakana farmers marker for hours, sampling cheese and chocolate and pastries and wheatgrass shots and green smoothies, and buying organic goodies for a holiday park BBQ dinner. We swam in shallow water at the campsite in the late afternoon sun, and again at Goat Island marine reserve until we wussed out because of the stingrays...

But just in case anyone thinks we were out there slacking off:

After Goat Island, we climbed for 5 steep minutes until we got here:

Then turned and swore when we saw what was coming next:

Then endured another 15 minutes of constant pain, of grades topping out at over 20%, of steady climbs becoming our "respite", before reaching the triumphant top, and looking out at how far we'd come (see the sea in this picture?? well, we basically came from there).

...and then we rode for another hour and a half, but nothing quite mattered after that climb!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Worthwhile"? A ramble.

This comment on Are We There Yet? got me all riled up today:

"Personally I'd get a life and stop the pointless running, cycling etc. Try travel. Or living. Or voluntary service overseas.

Much more worthwhile uses of the short time you have on the planet than endlessly sweating your way around the city, breathing in rubbish from cars as you go.

But that's just me - I've always found sport utterly without point and not even remotely pleasant."

While I recognise that the poster has the right to his or her own opinion about sports, I reacted to the suggestion that my hobby is objectively and unequivocally less valuable to me than travelling, and that it is somehow not "living" (I have no issue at all with the fairly uncontroversial proposition that triathlon is less worthwhile than volunteer service overseas) and, although I commented on Ann's original post, I wanted to explore it further here.

I think the first point is that triathlon is not mutually inconsistent with travelling, "living" (whatever that's supposed to mean) and other activities. Of course, every hour I spend training is an hour I could spend doing something else. But realistically, if I didn't spend those hours training, I'd probably be shopping, drinking, reading, internetting or on the couch. I certainly wouldn't be travelling or volunteering overseas for an hour every morning before work, because that would make getting to work by 8:30 a bit tricky. Having said that, triathlon has made it harder to pursue other hobbies; to learn languages, salsa dancing or thai cooking; to attend plays and poetry readings, and even (in my case) to learn to drive.

But when what we're talking about is a hobby, who's to say which is "better"? Sure, learning French would make it easier to get around France. But being fit means I can climb a mountain while I'm there. Thai cooking would be grand; but the fruits of my labour would be so much less satsfying if I wasn't devouring them at the end of a good day's training. Renovating my hypothetical future home would be a very sensible, grown up, way to spend a shit load of money in the hope of realising some tax free capital gains, but I'm just not convinced that I'd find it as personally satisfying as a 4 hour ride.

But, let's say my own enjoyment isn't enough. Personal satisfaction =/= "worthwhile". Fair enough- that's a philosophical inter-generational debate I can't really be fagged getting into right now. Let's start with personal improvement. It is simply undeniable that triathlon has made me a better person, or at least made me more self-aware of my (significant) personal shortcomings. There's nothing like a petty tantrum over a shitty race result, or a husband who says "well, that was a good recovery ride" after three hours of fucking torture, to demonstrate that you're not as grown up as you think you are. On the other hand, there's nothing quite like going from someone who was scared to roll down a smooth anthill on a bike, to someone who can navigate the Okareka loop in her drops. From someone who squealed and panicked after riding a mountain bike over a stone to someone who..well, someone who is getting there, more and more every day. I haven't had a chance to see yet what this means for me in the rest of my life, but I don't think anyone would disagree that having faith in yourself is kinda handy.

OK, so we're still all about me. Is there anything about my tri training that benefits others? Directly- Phil, and my hypothetical future babies will benefit from having a fit, healthy, personally satisfied wife and mother. Others I know have been exposed to my hobby, and in some cases, this has led to them experiencing all of the personal satisfation I described above. Phil is a perfect example of that. Indirectly? I may be less of a burden on the health care system, and the environment, although in the latter case I doubt it (in fact, I'm probably hurting the country, because if I didn't have triathlon as a hobby, I would spend 10 hours every day earning money for a big corporate law firm, and I'd pay more taxes...) More indirectly? Well, my participation in triathlon events is an increase in quantity demanded, which leads to an increase quantity supplied, which is good for all the other triathletes. And oh- all of that extra money I spend is contributing a fair amount to the tax pot through others...

Next, to think about "living". I've assumed that what the commenter meant was "having a life", rather than simply existing and continuing to breathe. In my view, that means living life to the fullest, doing those things that make you feel alive. So let's reflect about triathlon, and "living", with the following few thoughts in mind:

Having the fitness to share your grandfather's 80th birthday mountain climb with him. Bobbing up and down in your wetsuit in Wellington Harbour on a sunny summer's evening. Looking out over the city and the Hutt from the top of Mt Vic, and seeing the snowy Rimutakas and Orongorongos in the distance. Holding onto the Pencarrow Lighthouse for dear life in 130kph gusts. Twisting and turning down a mountain bike path in a battle against the sun. Getting muddy. Getting wet. Falling down, and getting back up. Meeting new friends, and celebrating their triumphs with them.

If that's not life.... What is?

Right now- time to train. Off the the Parnell Baths!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Contact Tri Series: Rotorua

UPDATE: The official results have been edited, and in actual fact my time was 3:21:21, NOT 3:26:21, so it was a 3 minute PB after all. A few edits marked throughout

After finishing the race, I sat on the bank in the sun, and talked to Phil who was in a grump. He was slower overall than last year, his swim was abysmal (he thought) and he just couldn't push it on the run. He was not a happy camper. In fact- for a change I had a taste of what it's like to be the partner of the brat, rather than being the brat myself!

I sat him down and lectured him:

"I know you're grumpy and it's disappointing, but that's what racing is about. Sometimes it sucks. Last year, the swim was short, maybe 1300m max. This year, it was at least 1500m, if not more, and you haven't been swimming! You beat your bike time, and not only that, felt miles better on the bike than last year. You may not have been able to push hard on the run, but you ran nearly the same time,even though you're still sick. And you know full well you can run. And you can run off the bike. You just didn't today, and that's OK. In fact, I'd take the success on the bike, all while feeling better than last year, and take that as one in the bank for the Half."

Then I got home, found out I was not, as I had thought, 5-10 minutes faster than last year. In fact, I may have been 2 minutes slower. And I had my own stampy, bratty tantrum, while Phil was off getting pizza, and I grumbled on facebook, and on the blog.

But now, I'm ready to listen to my own advice, and the advice of my coach and virtual training buddy, who know better than me, and be proud instead of bratty and stampy.

So, here we go: Contact Tri Series 2008 & 2009- A comparative race report

Last year: forgot to put goggles on, short course, deserted bike racks, out of the water in 25:53, and out of T1 in 28:12 (I think.. the official results are by memory)

This year: started well, felt strong. The Great Contact Lens Experiment of 2009 has been a grand success, so I didn't have the sighting problems I've often had in the past, and I was able to stick with a group much more effectively. Reached the turn around buoy in 14:40, I think, and was out of the water in 29:13. Not the best of times, even for a 1500m course, but could be worse. The run up to T1 was long, and I fumbled around a bit getting myself sorted for the tough bike, but I was in and out in a little over 2 minutes. Apparently I took over 7 minutes, which I find VERY hard to believe (it felt like 3, and Garmin says I was on the bike just over half an hour from the start), but who am I to argue?


Last year: The five lap course was more painful every time, and by the end I wanted to top myself, and then go postal on everyone else. I was riding the carbonless wonder, and had three chain rings, so was shifting all over the place to deal with the easy climbs, steep climbs, long climbs, power-sections and technical descents. My average lap time was about 22:00- arrived in T2, to a full, full, bike rack, at 1:49:xx, and was out on the run at 1:51:04.

This year: My splits were pretty consistent (20:30; 20:37; 20:37, 20:50 and 21:19, which includes entering T2), though my button pressing wasn't quite on the nose, and the first lap (with an elevated post-swim heart rate) felt much harder than the last. My average cadence was between 85 and 87 for each lap, and my AHR sat in the 160s, with my max (apart from lap 1) in the low 170s. My compact cranks were an absolute godsend, and I remembered to stay in my big chain ring as much as I could. Having decent componentry also meant I didn't have to anticipate the claims, and shift in advance, as I did last year! I passed far more women than last year, wasn't passed by Phil, and I never once felt like stopping (apart from briefly toyed with skipping the last lap (kidding!)


Last year: Apart from seeing Phil at the beginning, the run was very, very lonely indeed, and I felt like I was coming last. Peoplew ere packing up the drink stations. I held an OK pace, and I think my finish time was 1:05:54, for what I think is just slightly over 11km. During the second lap, I chased down a lady in purple, and crossed the finish line with her. My average pace according to the Garmin was about 5:48/k overall, but the official number is more like 6:00/k (ugh)

This year: The run felt far less lonely, even though I didn't see Phil. I held a good pace down from transition into the beach, and then focussed on keeping my average Garmin pace below 5:30/k for the first loop, and succeeded until about 3/4 of the way through. A couple of NZ-team-kit clad ladies passed me, and I kept them in sight for as long as I could, and also picked off one lady in purple during the first loop. First loop time was 30:30, and Garmin says my average pace was 5:37/k. AHR in the 160s, so lower than usual.

The sun came up during the second loop, so I walked the beach drink station the second time, and took a bit to get going, which took my lap pace to over 6:11/k. The second loop was all about passing, and watching that average pace go down, which was most satisfying. After passing a couple of dudes (yes, dudes!) I created an imaginary opponent (I wasn't creative to name her, so she just stayed "Imaginary Opponent") who lurked at every corner, beckoning on. At a couple of points, she morphed into a Real Opponent, but the real opponents were all on their first loops, passing them lacked any real sense of satisfaction, so I relied on Garmin, and the Imaginary Opponent to get me through. I hoped to finish by 1pm (which was the time I finished last year, but we started later), but came out of the woods a couple of minutes later, ran across the beach, leapt the ditch, and crossed the finish line at 1:02pm. My second lap pace was 5:48 by the Garmin, but my official run time was 1:04:40 1:04:04, which is 5:52/k 5:49/k, not the 5:42/k my Garmin said it was. Silly Garmin.


On reflection, I can see that I am in better half-IM shape than last year. I had a much more successful bike ride, shaved nearly around a minute nearly two minutes off the run (every bit counts!), and the main culprit for the disappointing time was the longer swim and transition. Also, last year my training was all about hill repeats, so I had strong hill legs, but lacked endurance, which means my training was better suited to this course than to the Half. Last year, we discovered that a person's time for 5 x the Okareka circuit was roughly equivalent to their time on the Rotorua course, particularly if that person faded spectacularly after the turnaround. This year, since I plan NOT to fade, I am confident that my bike time could come down from 3:26 to somewhere in the realm of 3:10 to 3:15. I also think I could hold the Garmin pace from the run today over the full course, but to avoid being crazy ambitious, I'm going to confidently say I could average 6:00/ks, giving me a 2:06 half, compared to last year's 2:13.

Lastly, I need to learn to leave myself out on the course in a tri. I have left my whole self out there in three half marathons this year. Sure- my triathlon AHR should be lower, but I'm not convinced I'm pushing hard enough.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Thought I'd had a good race today, but official times are up and it's the same cr*ppy time as last year. Going to go tidy up, mope, and eat pizza with Phil and come back when I'm not in a stupid grump.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The week that was:

Since last weekend's night run:


Open water swim season is upon us, and the wetsuit has had a workout this week.

I did the 1k swim at the Takapuna Beach Series on Tuesday night. Official time was 18:26, including the run up the beach, but I'm pretty sure they subtracted 30 seconds somewhere- oh well, not complaining!

Then did the swim leg in the Karapiro Half Ironman for Team Buckeye. Finish time was in the realm of 39 minutes, which isn't particularly awe inspiring, though trying to keep a straight line for 2 straight ks in a wide river/lake was a bit tough. Arms have been stuffed all week, so suspect wetsuit swimming will take some getting used to! Luckily, there are few more opportunities to work on my open water racing skillz prior to the big one. Full details and pics on Mike's blog.


No big adventures, just a few 1:30 - 2:00 rides around Aucks, with a lot of time on the North West bike path. A 2:00 ride is definitely feeling short now, which I suppose is the goal, and I'm also starting to be able to decide whether I want to attack hills, or just cruise, rather than puffing away just to survive.


My run is starting to come together. The new Mizunos are great, and feel much better than my big, heavy, clomping Brooks Adrenalines. My pace for any given HR level seems to be better (I'm not going to look fot data to back that up- I'm sure it'll disappoint!) Mostly it's been an hour here and there, and mostly on rolling hills around Herne Bay and Cambridge.

This week is a decent one, and we'll be ending it with the Contact Triathlon in 'Vegas. I'll be on tired(ish) legs, but still hoping to do some serious damage to last year's time!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Xterra trail series, race 4 (starlight event) : a race report in haiku

running in the dark
all 'round a mountain bike park
with husband in tow

some steep hills, too:
up to twenty five percent
hell on my poor calves

pizza at the end
running with my bestest friend
fantastic event!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Helping me get perspective... my dear bloggie-friend Pip, whose latest post explains her recent absence from blogland.

Pip- enjoy recovery. And once you're back on your feet, how about joining me in Wanaka in 2011?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

My non-whiny race report is on its way. Sloooowly.

For now, some not-so-hot photos of me finishing (and even VIDEOS. Can you spot me?).. and some much hotter photos of Phil sprinting off the Bald Guy in Black (and "winning", although subsequent stalking shows that the Bald Guy in Black was actually faster).


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Not too bad...but not too good either

AHR 174

I gave it a good, solid go, and I'm really glad I finally got to race healthy, do my best, and have some fun.

It's just a pity that on a day with perfect conditions, of PBs being crushed and expectations exceeded left, right and centre, my best wasn't what I hoped it could be. Nothing like it.

Here's a pretty picture of cumulative pace.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Umm... seems that whenever you plan to be slammed at work, and refocus your priorities so the goal is survival, work ends up being "not too bad, considering..."

This hasn't been an ideal taper week, but it hasn't been the hell I anticipated either. I've left the office by 8-8:30 every night so far, and it looks like tonight will be similar. Far from the all-nighters I was fearing.

So, (apart from the knee I dinged mountain biking) there's no excuses this weekend!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Not too bad, considering..."

I have unresolved issues with half marathons. After running a few in 2004-5, and kicking some serious heinie with a PR of 1:42, I sloooooowed. This year was to be the return of Kate the Speedy Half-Marathoner.

In August this year, I ran my first half marathon for ages. I was feeling great during the build up, until I spent the two weeks immediately preceding working late every night, did a cycle race I should have skipped, and predictably got slammed by a cold that knocked me down flat. My finish time of 1:54 was credible, but for me it was “not too bad, considering….”

In September, I ran my second half marathon for the year. It was a tough course, so I was hoping to equal or just beat my time from the August race. In the week leading up to the race, I got slammed with an unexpected increase in work, and a deadline I hadn’t seen coming (my job can be like that…) and- yup, you guessed it, raced sick. Finish time of 2:00:28 was a PW for me, but “not too bad, considering…”

On Sunday, my “A” half marathon is coming up. It’s my half-marathon PR course, and last time I ran it, I kicked out an easy 1:55 half, before kicking it to my marathon PR.

It’s not the be all and end all of my season (hello half ironman), but I’ve been looking forward to half-m redemption all year! And guess what? Due to reasons and deadlines beyond my control, it looks like I’ll be here late every night this week, including a loooong briefing session that won’t be started until after 6pm our time the night before the document is due. I’m living on immuno boosters, and doing what I can to take care of myself, but I know from experience that this is Not How You Taper.

I just want to go out there, and run and do my best. And if my best is slower than I’d hoped or involves starting too hard and crashing and burning, I’ll handle. But I don’t want another “not too bad, considering…”

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wetsuits wetsuits everywhere!

It's time to say so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodbye to my dear Orca Evo.

The Orca Evo was my first wetsuit, and the first real "investment" in my triathlon career. It's seen me through 4 sprint tris, 2 (roughly) Olympic distances, a half ironman, two or three aquathlons and an Ocean Swim. But last year I realised that I was swimming 1k in 17:00 in the pool, and 19:00 in the open water, whether lake or sea. Which was surprising, considering I'm not a nervous swimmer, and I LOVE the open water. What was also surprising was that I could whip my dear Hubbie's behind in the pool, but he would crush me when we raced.

I don't think the Orca is fully to blame for this, but as reasonably floaty woman, with a strong kick, OK technique, but not much upper body strength, flexibility in the shoulders is essential to me. And my entry level Orca just couldn't provide that. Plus, it's three years old now, and stiff as all hell!

So after our run last Sunday we hit up Swim T3 in Mt Eden. I wasn't sure whether I could face the whole trying on ordeal, but decided to bite the bullet. The very helpful salesman (I don't know your name buddy, but props to you for awesome service) asked what we were after, expressed his sympathy with regard to racing in the Evo, then eyed me up, turned to the other salesperson there and said:

"[let's call her] Amy, do we have any of the Sonar's in a men's size 5?"

Wait? What? MEN'S? I know I'm broad shouldered, but....

[Actually, I was pretty impressed. It seemed as if he was considering what would work best for me, as well as keeping an eye out for a good bargain, rather than just shoving me into the most expensive mid range suit and waving me off...]

So, for the next HOUR, I tried on a few [men's] suits by Orca and Speedo. And of course, each subsequent suit was harder to put on than the last because I was getting warmer and tireder. And I was also going down a size, so I was getting redder and redder and stickier and glowier every time I came out of the fitting room to be manhandled again. But eventually, I had it down to two (ok, I only tried on four...), so I tried them on again for a direct comparison and walked away with a Speedo STR Pro in my hot little hands.



.... until the next day, when Phil got an email from his old coach informing him that he had a sweet deal on some 2XU samples. And there was one in my (female) size. And boy, oh, boy, was the deal sweet. So I did what any impulsive triathlete does, and bought it.

And now I have three wetsuits.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to tell you're riding in New Zealand in spring

Lots to say, no time to write an epic, so here's the copout version!

1: You get drenched every 20 minutes (...ok.. maybe that's just Auckland...)
2:... but the sun dries you out before the next soaking... much so that you get sunburnt THROUGH THE HOLES IN YOUR GARMIN STRAP, and you end up with a hairtie tan-line on your wrist.

4: There are wee baby sheeps* and cows in all the paddocks...
5:...and a higher than average number of dead pukekos on the road.

6: There are headwinds...
7:...and cross winds...
8:...and winds from everywhich way all at the same time**...
9:...and when the winds stop swooping around your head, the magpies start.

and last but not least...

10: There's a sausage sizzle at your planned rest point (and they were perfect)

*For my facebook friends: On our way out, we were riding along and heard a poor wee bleating its little heart out. I made Phil stop and investigate, and we found it stuck in a ditch on the road side of a fence. We tried to rescue it for about 5 to 10 minutes, but it was a bit too far down the bank to get to it, so we reluctantly left. On the way back, the poor wee thing was still crying when I rode past (we were riding separately), which nearly broke my little heart in two. Fortunately, not much later I ran into a farmer and told him about it. And then a few minutes later Phil did the same thing...I think he might have thought we were crazy, but I couldn't bear the thought of the lamb crying for another few hours!

** I'm from Wellington, and I thought I knew wind. But I have never ridden in wind like this before! It wasn't quite as strong as Welly's gusts, but it was consistent, and it was EVERYWHERE. In Welly, you generally lose the worst of the wind when you're climbing, but on Sunday we were battling headwinds the whole way back. The not too awful climbs became some of the toughest, most soul destroying I've done, and on one descent (which I normally do at 40km/h+) I had to actually go down a gear so I could actually move my legs around!

***Here's some charts- cos we all love charts!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Field trip!

On Sunday, we went on a Field Trip!

I have been running occasionally with various girls from work, also training for the upcoming Auckland Half (or full) Marathon. It's been great to get motivated to get out after work, and I've gotten to know a few of the girls much better, which is great!

For those who don't know, the Auckland marathon and half marathon are on a point to point course, running from Devonport on the North Shore back into town (for the half), then out around the bays in the other direction and back into town (for the full). To do this, the runners have the privilege of running over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which is pretty much only open to foot traffic once a year. This means that for non-North Shore dwelling Aucklanders, the first part of the course is a bit of a mystery.

So, I decided to organise a wee field trip out with some of the running group. And Phil, of course! I originally hoped to catch the ferry to Devonport (because I adore the ferry), run to Northcote, and catch the ferry back from Birkenhead, but of course the Birkenhead ferries are complete rubbish during the weekend, so that was out. Eventually, we just decided to go for the "two cars" plan.

There were 5 of us in total, and we met at Stafford Park at about 10am, then organised ourselves and drove out to Devonport. One of the girls is doing her first half, and she looked a big ill as the drive to Devonport went ON and ON. Especially since we were going the SHORT way....

I had marked up my North Shore Cycle map (thanks again Maxx, you rule!), and prepared cheat sheets for each different group, so I handed these out, garmined up, bathroom tripped, and we were off!

Now, this is where my plan started to go haywire. See, part of the reason for the field trip was to put R's mind at ease about the hills. Because the first time I did the race (in 2005), I found the hills, including The Bridge, utterly anticlimactic. Of course, I had been training with Wellington Scottish all season, had been climbing some SERIOUS hills, and was in tip-top, killer PB shape (did I mention I ran a 1:42 that time?? Oh yeah.. I guess I did. A hundred times or so...) And the second time? Oh yeah, I was running at marathon pace, so I wasn't going to notice anything but a major incline.

This time, although the hills weren't exactly on a par with Arthur's Half, they did require some effort. The thing about these hills is that none of them is hard on its, but the cumulative effect can be to tire your legs out a bit. Luckily, the downhills are pretty easy, so there's no pounding on your quads from those. I think R was a bit disheartened. Especially as the sun emerged with a vengeance. And especially since 10:30am runs are impossible to manage foodwise, so we'd all used up all of our breakfast oats! It was only a 70 minute run, but it felt much longer!

But she persevered, and we made it back to Stafford Park, feeling fabulous, and happy with our average pace of exactly 6:00 minute ks over the 12km. Once we get to that point on race day, we'll be so excited about The Bridge that we'll barely feel the next few ks, and then we'll be heading for the finish, and waving at the brave marathoners (like Andrew and Aaron) as they continue their journeys.

2(.5) weeks to go!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Running the length of New Zealand

I can't believe I missed this!

Bruce McComb of Cambridge has almost completed the North Island stint of running from Cape Reinga to Bluff. He left the Cape on Monday 31 August and is scheduled to run the last leg from Invercargill to Bluff on Wednesday 14 October, arriving at 12noon. McComb aged 68 says that he is doing it because it is there. He starts each day at 6am and runs about 25km and starts again at 3pm and runs another 25km. McComb hopes to hit Wellington, having completed 1082km, in time to catch the 6pm sailing of the Cook Strait ferry. McComb has put up a challenge and is interested to know if there has ever been a runner older than 68 who has run the length of New Zealand.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Time for Goals!

I have finally entered the Rotorua Half Ironman.

I'd been putting off entering for months, as there was a very good chance that I would be mired in a huge case from October to December and unable to compete. Or even train. Or even keep my eyes open. But now I'm not, and I'm starting to feel my balance shift from LAWYER (and occasional triathlon doer) to Lawyer and recreational triathlete/gorilla.

I've got a jam packed event season leading up to the Half, and I'll hopefully continue the pattern when we get back from our European winter adventures in February.

Auckland Half Marathon, November 1:

A Goal: Sub 1:45
B Goal: Sub 1:50
C Goal: just make it to the start line healthy!?!

Last time I did the Auckland Half Marathon (on its own) I ran my all time PB of 1:42:35. One day, I hope to finally kick that time into oblivion, but I'm accepting now that it won't be this year.

I'd also like to see if I can maintain an AHR of 180+ for the half-m distance. My recent halves were in the high 170s, and I want to see what my "nail myself half-m effort" is in numerical terms!

Karapiro Half Ironman, November 14 (swim only):

A Goal: Sub 35
B Goal: Sub 38
C Goal: Work hard and come out knowing I've nailed myself!

I'm hopeless at open water racing, as anyone who read this blog last year may recall. Put me in a pool, and I can bust out a k in 17:00. Get me in a race, and I'm struggling to keep a 2:00/100 pace despite the wetsuits and the drafting and everything! That has got to change. It's not just an open water thing either- I'm pretty comfortable, and can hold my own in the company of swimmers who kick my butt in races.

Contact Tri-Series: Rotorua (November 22)

A Goal: Sub 3:15
B Goal: PB (sub 3:24)
C Goal: Don't come last in AG, like last year!

I loved/hated this race last year, and it was a great prep-race/test race for Rotorua. In fact, the bike leg was a pretty accurate prediction of 2nd-half-of-race pace for me, Phil, the Saint and Sub6 (the masochist who did the brutal bike leg in his own time)! Sub 3:15 would be a nearly-10 minute improvement on last year (I will really need to find an easier course to get myself a respectable Olympic Distance time!)

I'll leave sharing my A-race goals until I've completed all of these. 73 days out, I think I'm in much better shape than last year, but I have a long, long way to go yet.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A wet and wow weekend!

Wow! 6 1/2 hours of training this weekend. 70 miles travelled. 3500 calories burnt.

May be common place for some, but I can't think of the last time I did that much "proper" training (there was my epic weekend of mountain biking a couple of months ago, but the MTBing doesn't count).

On Saturday we tackled the Waitaks again.

We rode up to Titirangi, as usual, then split up for Scenic Drive. I don't believe in training PBs, but it's been driving me crazy that no matter the conditions, no matter how strong and fantastic I feel, I ALWAYS get to Parkinson's lookout in 1:28:xx. So a training PB of 1:26:47 while unimpressive was most satisfactory!

The loop takes about 3:20, so instead of coming back into town and killing time on Treacherous Tamaki, we explored Swanson instead. We had vague plans of riding up Carters, doing the summit again, and then heading back, but we never made it to Carters. Thank god- Carters is a bitch of a climb (the biggie from Arthurs Half), and the trip to the summit is the climb from about the 15 mile mark to the 18 mile mark on the graph above! No ta.

I felt pretty good on the way home, and Phil's average and normalised power were higher than last time, so I suspect I did better too.

After chilling and wandering for a few hours, we set out for workout number 2, a 1 hour run. I've been struggling with my tummy on our weekend runs recently. I think the Auckland weather has something to do with it- I cannot abide humidity! So, I'm pretty happy with 6ish minute ks at a truly aerobic AHR of 144.

This morning we headed out for a 1:30 run, including the usual 20 minute E2 effort. The plan was to run out around the bays for 25 minutes, do our intervals, then head into the Domain to see the ducklings.

Legs were knackered, and weather was abysmal (again).

Here you can see me starting slow, running fast for my 20 minutes, then slowing waaaaay down as we climbed Lovers' Walk, then the Garmin going mental as we ran back down along K Rd, dodged people in Edwardian costumes on Grafton Bridge and stopped at dozens of (well, several) street lights.

Not a bad run, all in all. Amazing how much easier it is to keep AHR in the aerobic happy-place when your legs are stuffed from 5 hours the previous day :)

Now, after an afternoon of coffee and Marian Keyes and a wee doze, it's time to get some DVDs, do some chores and get ready for the next training plan...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I was late to swimming today

But I went.

Swimming takes a lot more commitment than my other activities. It's on at set times on set days. I need to pack a whole bag of food and clothes and shower stuff the night before. I need to blowdry and straighten my hair in the changing room.

So, it can be a bit hard to get back into the swim of things (oh yes, I went there...) after a hiatus. After a few missed sessions, I feel like everyone will point and laugh, and like I will splutter away in the back. I forget how good it feels to plow through the water. How wonderful it is to stay afloat in a churning sea of kicking legs.

But now I remember. And going on Friday just got 100% easier.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Yesterday's ride was awesome, and a relaxed run around St Mary's Bay and the Marina in the 7pm daylight was a delight.

Getting my dear Eric outside and up some hills was exactly what the doctor ordered!

I'm ready for another week, and as per the coach's instructions, I'll follow my fun, and follow my gut. And, to save my own sanity, I'll suck it up and actually go to swimming!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I'm not feeling very awesome at the moment.

My race performances have been disappointing (there are good reasons- but aren't there always?), and I'm not exactly kicking ass and taking names in training either. Today's E2 effort was downright pathetic!

The next few months are full of uncertainty, life-wise, for reasons I can't go into, and I suspect that's rubbing off a bit on the triathlon thing.

Preparing for a race that may never happen is a bit confusing- trying to decide whether to pull the plug or just keep on truckin', wondering whether to care. I'm trying to go with the flow, but- DUH- I'm so not a flow kinda gal, and living in a constant state of "temporary" is getting old fast!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shades of grey

Is anyone else utterly totally over this dreary, grey, wetness?? It's sapping my will to live!

Well, not quite. But it's definitely affecting my mood and motivation. I'm dragging myself out of bed. Reeeallly draaaaggggggging myseeeeeeeeeeeeeeelf to work out, and cursing the cloak of wet fog for keeping me stuck on the hated trainer. Tuesday's 12k run thatwassupposedtobehalfanhourbutwasn't (*hiding from Paul*) was great fun, but the rest of this week's workouts have kinda been more like chores.

I'm also busy but not MAD BUSY at work, so I'm not making plans for evening fun, but I'm getting home early enough (between 7:30 and 9pm) that there's no excuse for my major underachievement in terms of housework, photo projects, superfun cooking and reading. Well, there is an excuse, but a crappy one- it's called "home internet"!

I think things will turn around soon- either the weather will pick up, or I'll adapt! Time for this gorilla to get a grip :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A legendary PW

I shouldn't have done it, but I did, and it was awesome- apart from the whole being sick thing. Finished in 2:00:20, which was bloody annoying (especially since the start line wasn't chipped, and I had to wait 30 seconds at a set of traffic lights), and a PW, but holy cripes, what a fantastic race! I was sicker at Taupo, I think, and ran that in 1:54, so shows that the Legend is a challenging course.

Phil crushed it, of course, running his first half- on a bloody hard course!- in 1:34:xx. Now- THAT'S legendary!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Following on from my previous post, it's time to come up with a new term that allows all us recreational endurance athletes to identify ourselves in under three words- and preferably under three syllables!

Now- I don't have any problem with anyone else who's kinda like me using the phrase "endurance athlete" to describe themselves. It's just I have a problem using it myself. It feels more than a little wanky. And if no-one else agrees with me, at least I know Britt and Rach do!

There's triathlete. But that also sounds a little like I think I'm Kieran Doe. Plus, I'd like to feel like I could identify with the plain old runners, cyclists and swimmers, the MTBers and the multisporters too.

So anyway- let's get to work. Leave a comment with your best suggestion, put the word out on your own blogs, and see what we come up with.

To get the ball rolling, here's my first, not-so-awesome suggestion: athlite.

The line

Figuring out where the line is between lazy and exhausted, off-colour and unwell, sniffly and flu-y, sore and injured, is one of the hardest damn things about being an endurance athlete!

There should be a separate number on the scale or the Garmin for these things!

(PS- Does anyone else hate calling themselves an athlete? I need a new term!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Boo and bullfrogs

I have now had THREE, yes THREE, rest days in a row to try to recover from a not-too-bad-but-could-get-worse-unless-I-nip-it-in-the-bud-now cold in time for Saturday's legendary race!

What is it about me and half-marathons this year???

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Three Volcanoes

Today Phil and I had a 2.5 hour bike ride on tap- a nice change from the four hour monsters we've had over the past few weeks. But of course we couldn't just get out and ride; no, we had to go and do something mad like riding up three of Auckland's volcanoes.

Volcano 1: Mt Eden
Mt Eden came more quickly than I was expecting. One minute we're rolling up College Hill (that's right suckahs- I just roll right up now!), the next we're making a ghastly sharp right turn and heading straight up. But once we got over the first few horrible meters, the rest of the climb was pretty easy! Or maybe I'm just hardcore!?!

We forgot to take photos at the top- d'oh! But the views are quite spectactular, and worth the (anticlimactic) climb!

The way down was Not So Fun. White knuckled braking (I actually had to hold my front brake in my drops because holding from the hoods was not getting the brakes in enough), cattle stops (one that was too wide to even attempt) and trying to re-start on a steep steep steep decline! I was relieved to get to the bottom, and I don't think we'll be bothering with that one again!

My "vanquishing Mt Eden without even breathing hard" (poetic license....) pride took a blow when we turned left up Landscape Ride on the way to One Tree Hill. It was one of the steepest roads I've ever climbed! Seriously- my cadence wasn't working, so I can't use that as a reference, but my speed was somewhere in the 8-9kph zone. i.e. the "Tarawera Rd after the rest of the Rotorua Half IM with screaming knees, hammies, quads, glutes and calves" zone!!

Volcano 2: One Tree Hill

Wow. What a RIDE! Live in Auckland? Got a bike? GO THERE NOW. Your legs may never forgive you, but your sense of achievement makes it all worth while.

I hadn't been to OTH (is that what the cool kids call it? they do now!) for years and the wee lambies gambolling around the road on the sunny day made me smile. The wall alongside the road, and the people milling around all over the place made me feel like I was riding in le Tour. Just, you know, slower. And more puffed. The climb starts out innocently enough, but when you get to the "top" there's an extra wee loop to the summit (and actually, an extra wee-wee loop on within that). Approaching the first just-one-wee extra loop is like riding your bike straight into a brick wall. But instead of smashing head on, leaning back on your back wheel and riding up it. Sorry if I'm being all pansy-assed about it, but THAT HILL IS INSANEO STEEP. Luckily, it eases off a little towards the end, so you finish full of pride and enthusiasm. And also, able to talk in sentences, which helps. Though to be fair, the sentences I was going for were pretty short. Such as "WOAH" and "holy freaking mother of all that is holy". Phil was pretty impressed by my climbing skillz- he was struggling enough that he didn't think I would make it. Well, I showed that doubter who's boss!

Speaking off that doubter, here he is. In all his "I'm an awesome climber and barely broke a sweat. Actually, I climbed that in my mega big chain ring" glory.

Again, down was not so fun. But there was something about the vibrancy of the people people everywhere that made clutching at the brakes and travelling at 12 kph seem like an OK thing to be doing.

Things got a bit muddled after One Tree Hill. We took a wrong turn and we realised we didn't have any sunscreen on. So we spent a bit of time trying to get back on track, and another bit of time riding round in circles in Onehunga trying to find sunscreen. Fun (Not).

To get to volcano 3, we headed from Onehunga to the shared path that goes around the Manukau harbour. It was OK, but not a patch on the Northwestern motorway path.

Volcano 3: Mt Wellington

The lead up to the Mt Wellington climb was probably the highlight- lovely leafy suburban streets, after a good few minutes of riding through industrial areas and waiting at stop lights with no bike sensors. The rest? Not so great.

The start of the climb itself was bloody steep. I seriously doubted whether I could do it, but decided to be awesome instead- cos I am- and just freakin nail myself until I reached the top. Unfortunately, a giant big cattle stop halfway up the steepest bit put an end to that awesomeness. And it was rather difficult trying to get started again on the insane-o incline. But eventually, I remembered that I could still be awesome instead, so I executed a stellar hill start and made my way to the summit. Except, unlike the other hills, at Mt Wellington you cannot ride to the summit, so we stood at the carpark, and snapped a few shots.

What with Rangitoto looking so gorgeous and the sun shining so brightly, we decided to detour home via Glendowie, not just St Heliers. Unfortunately SOMEONE who shall remain nameless decided he didn't trust my navigation skillz (maybe fair enough, I had sorta kinda gotten a little lost trying to find Glendowie on Friday...) and took us there the yucky way instead of the gorgeous roller coaster route I'd envisioned. Luckily, he then missed our turn, which meant we took the roller coaster in anyway, and then explored a new way back to the bays, where we got Movenpick. Well, he got Movenpick and I got a distubring coloured slushie from Starmart.

Then we rode really really fast around the bays in our aero bars until we got home.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

So, I guess I should blog, huh?

Not a lot to say, really.

I am busy busy busy at work, and just barely managing to make it through each week and still feel in control of my life (it's so much easier with a house elf/husband). But just barely = managing, so we're still ALL GOOD!

Basically, "just managing" means getting home between 9 and 10, getting stuff together for another set of yummy, healthy, balanced dinners and lunches, working for an hour or so (I have a LOT of articles to read), sleeping, and repeating. This is going to be life as I know it until Christmas, so I need to make healthy habits NOW.

Training is fine. Basically, although I am frustrated by not being faster and thinner, I know that I am looking more athletic, that I am riding so much stronger, running with much better form, and swimming very comfortably and consistently.

Our four hour ride in the Waitaks on Saturday was stunning, I never faded and climbed strong the whole way, and my legs were just fine for an afternoon walk and for Sunday's 1:30 trail run. They are not so fine now after an hour and a half of panting up hill and clambering down over rocks and roots and logs! We have become complete offroad pansies! But two lots of yoga and a leg loosening fairly-swift-but-still-aerobic 10.5k run yesterday evening are helping with that!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Self flagellation

I don't know why I akways want to punish myself by reading through my archives.

It's not that I cringe at the writing (it's not anything special, but it's no better now!) or at my gormless naivete.

Nope, it's quite the opposite. Back in the day, I freakin' rocked. I was ten lbs lighter (and still thought I was fat). My easy pace was a 9:00/mile, and I was busting out 7:00s in my speedwork sessions. I had blog buds galore, and sometimes got 20+ comments on my posts.

How have I been doing this for so long, and improved so little? Is it all that ten lbs?

Early rising WIN

Another complete (work)week of early ups in the bag. I definitely think getting up EVERY day helps, so I'm going to keep getting up to do yoga/start work early/do housework on my rest days.

This week was a little harder, as I don't think I was home before around 9pm all week, so it's been home, make dinner, eat, make breakfast and lunch, pack bag if necessary, clean a little, work a little, read a little, sleep and up at 5:15.

This was so much easier when I had a house-elf (husband!), but I got through it by:

- eating a lot of corn fritters (batter in the fridge, cook for 2 minutes, scoff down)
- staying only barely on top of housework
- drinking plenty of lovely coffee

We're doing a 4 hour ride in the Waitaks tomorrow, then a 1.5 hour offroad run and a short swim (partly so I can learn to dive- eek!) on Sunday. Weather is supposed to be OK (touch wood), so should be awesome!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

LEGEN (wait for it, and I hope you're not lactose intolerant because the second half of the word is...)


It's no secret that Phil and I are complete freakin masochists when it comes to hills. So it should come as no surprise, that instead of a nice, safe, redemption half-marathon, we're going to be doing this.

Oh yes, it is going to be LEGENDary.

PS: See below for my weekly recap, which sat in drafts for a couple of days before being posted.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A recap

Well, I am well and truly recovered from my illness, and then some.

Last week was a clean sweep, with early starts every day (including a 5:45 wake up on Saturday, and a 7am stroll through Ponsonby on Sunday), and 11 hours 30 of training (plus 45 minutes of yoga).

I managed to fit this into a week in which the work, and the non-work work stuff, started ramping up, and into a weekend jam-packed with sister and FBIL fun. Somehow, everything managed to fit together, and fall into place. A relaxing weekend the previous weekend and lots of planning helped!

I feel amazing.

Here's what the week looked like:

3200 technique swim, including 12 x 50 "eggbeater" sprints. Ow!
5k run after work

(bircher for breakfast, leftover blackbean quinoa salad for lunch, and white bean and sausage stew for dinner)

A muggy 55 minute pre-work run

(porridge for breakfast, carrot salad wrap for lunch, leftover stew for dinner)

3400m swim, including a "1200m" time trial that wasn't so awesome (1250 in 21:59)

(muesli and yoghurt for breakfast, catered lunch at work, more leftover stew for dinner- lucky I like it!)

60 minute strength workout- outside, to practice standing on the way up College Hill

(porridge for breakfast, sushi [my lunch treat for the week] for lunch, and a rather pathetic grilled cheese tortilla for dinner)


(no comment on the food side of things!)

Up at 5:45 for a 1:30 run with Phil around Herne Bay

(we went to Circus Circus for breakfast, had chicken rolls picnic style for lunch and Mexicali Fresh for dinner- YU-U-UM!)

Four hour ride through Papakura, Clevedon, Kawakawa Bay- a real toughie, with wind, rain and hills galore.

(french toast with berries, bananas, pears and yoghurt for breakfast, a PB bagel on the bike for "lunch" and a big eff-off plate of delicious mac'n'cheese for dinner)