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.