Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Commute +

We didn't commute to work nearly as much as we should have last year, and we're intent on improving things this year. I've set myself a wee goal of 2011 miles in 2011 (shamelessly stolen from Mary), and given that I did around 1500 in 2010, I'll need to do as much extra bike mileage as I can without ruining myself!

An extended commute is a perfect way for us to combine working out with being green, saving dosh, and saving time. It's between 27 and 30 km each way, depending on the route, and it's a great course for a bit of a blat (wide, smooth, fast roads), so it's not just an excuse for a cruise- actually, it's great training for time trialling! Because it takes us about half an hour to drive in anyway, we get an hour of training for only half an hour of getting ready time. Awesome. There's seriously no better way to start the day! I mean it- it's better than brunch.

Today's two-way commute was particularly awesome. It started with a pb journey in, covered 70km in total, featuring some neat city intervals [i.e. having to mission up hills to get out of the way, and rushing to avoid missing the lights], and ended with quiet country roads and Subway for tea.

Eastside 5k: Haiku

I said I'd recap every race, but sometimes there's very little to say. Thank goodness for haiku:

One day every month
Racing is best avoided
Twenty five oh six

The end.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Three types of recovery

Any new athlete will hear a lot about the difference between "active" recovery and passive, or rest-based recovery.

The week after my (fourth) Half Ironman, I certainly got a bit of both: some light cycling and running, plenty of day to day activity like wandering and hydrosliding, but also plenty of pure and simple R.E.S.T. TV watching, reading like a fiend, and a fair bit of race-recappage!

So, you'd think I had my recovery bases covered? And that I'd be raring to go when I got back into full training this week. Right?

Not quite.

For all my focus on combining active and passive recovery, I almost completely neglected one entire part of recovery: I'm going to call it "focussed" recovery, but please, please feel free to give me your own word. I'm talking about massage, compression gear, yoga, ice baths, foam rolling, stretching. You know what I mean.

It's not that I did nothing. I had a massage in Hamilton on Friday, 6 days post-race. I might have worn skins once, but it was SO hot, and so great to be roaming around in shorts. As I mentioned, thanks to my stupid inner thigh wound, I couldn't wear my quad sleeves- but I did try. A few half assed minutes stretching in front of the TV. I even spent a few minutes using Phil's evil trigger point toys (something I have now go Phil also referring to as "hurties").

But with NO work and 4.5 hours of training, I think I should have been doing a bit more- especially since I was recovering hard so we can get back up for the New Plymouth Half in 3 weeks' time. The return to training was harder on my legs than I expected, and I feel like I could have prevented that, to some extent, by being a bit more focussed on my recovery. Perhaps a couple of full trigger point therapy sessions (they're about 15 mins with a DVD). A couple of morning yoga sessions. More deliberate stretching.

Next time, I'll make sure I combine all three types of recovery!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recovery and skillz


My recovery week was well and truly a recovery week- with only 4.5 hours' training, no work, and no travel I wondered what to do with myself! (the answer? housework and too much internetting)

We went out adventuring on Monday (to Raglan and Waingaro Springs), but otherwise stayed home, and mucked around in Cambridge and Hamilton. Phil worked Thursday and Friday, but didn't have as much on as he'd expected, so it was all pretty cruisy.

The legs stayed stiff well into Tuesday, but were loosened up by the steep walk down to the beach at Raglan, and running up the stairs to the hydro-slide at Waingaro. I had a massage on Friday, and have done a bit of trigger point therapy to get rid of residual tightness, mostly in my hips and lower calves. Sadly, I couldn't make the most of my new quad sleeves, due to the damage my saddle bag to my poor fat inner thigh!

I've now definitely got to that point where I'm itching to train again- right where I should be. Yesterday's 2k swim and today's 1:30 ride both felt great- strong and easy. I'm looking forward to getting back into it tomorrow, especially the running.


I also decided to make use of recovery week for some bike skillz work. Not having ridden as a child (well, at least not since I was about 7) has meant I've always been a little behind when it comes to basic bike handling- it took me weeks to learn to stand up on the bike, , I couldn't drink on the bike for ages, and carried a camelbak on my first Half IM, and I sit my butt on my saddle before I clip my feet in, even at stop lights (oh, the SHAME)! Riding the MTB has helped, and I'm a million times for comfortable on the bike than I was in 2006-2008, but I still have a wee way to go.

But now that I have real tri shoes, I need to start working on real tri skillz, so I've set myself a goal of learning proper bike transitions in 2011. After our ride today, we decided to head to the polo grounds (we kept off the proper horsey grass) to give it a go! I took my camera thinking "yay, I'll have something to blog about", but when we got there it was flat. Which is a great pity, as this would have been much more interesting with photos. Maybe once I've got transitions down, I'll do a photo tutorial? But then, is anyone else as much of a gumby as me? I doubt it!

Watching Phil's demonstrations, I quickly realised I'd have to take a few baby steps before going the whole hog. I think weekly skillz sessions will be on the menu for a good few weeks, and I don't think I'll be smoothly transitioning by New Plymouth!

Step 1 was addressing my secret shame, and learning to start my bike off the saddle. Believe it or not, I gammied up my first couple of tries, but Phil was a good teacher, reminding me to push off hard. Once I had the push off down, we practiced gliding one-legged to get used to putting my weight on my anchor leg. The grass made this one a bit trickier, as we couldn't get much speed, and odd bumps made gliding trickier, but I got the hang of it.

Then we worked a little on my standing. Phil's been frustrated with how static my bike is when I'm out of the saddle, but moving it didn't feel natural, so we spent a few minutes riding round to at least get the hang of it on the flat.

Finally, we decided to put my new one-legged gliding skills to the test, and to practice dismounts. I've always had a weak left side, and generally anchor with my left hand while doing anything I need to do with the right. My lefthand indicating used to be completely ridiculous! However, I've practiced using my left hand more on the bike, and thought I was doing much better- at least until it was time to unstrap my left shoe. It took about four tries to rip a little piece of velcro! I managed one awkward but overall successful dismount, but then realised I'd been using my right leg the whole time, and had dismounted on the right. Apparently left would be better, so I went back to gliding practice, this time using the left leg as the anchor...

Even if I can't get a confident mount this season, I think the first stuff we practiced will help me take off quicker, and my goal will be to dismount like a real triathlete by the end of the season! A weekly skillz session will be invaluable- maybe u-turns next time?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Port of Tauranga Half Ironman: Hotpotato Smashes Sub-6 at last (Part V: Aftermath and comments)


As soon as I finished the race, I was in the "recovery tent" sculling back cups of coke- recently it's been all about the cola for me, both during and post race. Boy did that taste good! There was an impressive array of food, but I couldn't face anything other than orange slices, so I ate a couple, and took an apple for later. Then I made my way outside for hugs from my husband, and to thank my awesome race supporters. Phil had finished in 4:47- a massive PB and a great time. After a few minutes, we headed back to the tent for more cokes and waters- we were thirsty as, and those little cups didn't go far!

Then we headed into the sea for a cooldown and swim. Damian and I (the true water babies of the bunch) stayed in for a fair while, despite the jellies. It was a little chilly, so just perfect for some post race recovery.

By the time I finished, transition had opened for bikes to be taken out, so we didn't have much waiting around to do. I felt a bit bad that we didn't stay around for longer, as it really SUCKS when there's no-one there for the last finishers, but since it was a blistering hot summers day and we were at a beach 3 minutes walk from town, I thought there would probably be enough support for everyone. Plus, our awesome supporters who had spent a whole morning standing around in the sun were HUNGRY (...and we knew that we'd be hungry soon too!)

With our faithful pack mules, we were able to get everything back to the car pretty easily. I stuck a t-shirt over my tri-suit, applied some more sunscreen, and changed my shoes for jandals while Phil got changed. We walked down to the other end of the main street for Pluto Smoothies (us) and sushi (them), and sat in the sun dissecting our races.

Then we did a little shopping, Phil and I had sushi, and we headed back to our cabin, where Jenn, Damian and I went swimming, while Phil played around with data, and crashed asleep on the floor (...a post Half IM tradition, it seems!)

Prize giving was huge, and one of the best I've been to. Free food and beer (my vege burger was just what I needed to see me through til proper dinner), and they really ripped through the prizes, so it didn't take too long. I won a spot-prize; a $100 voucher for a nice restaurant in town, and we quickly decided to use it for a celebratory brunch the next day.

Then it was fajitas and margaritas at Mundo Mexicano (the pineapple margarita was amaazing), an evening swim at Pilot Bay (calm but cold), and gelato and coffee around the corner, before heading home to bed.

I woke up early (5:53am) on Sunday feeling bright and cheerful, and decided to get some air. It was a little rainy, and the kitchen wasn't open, so I got changed and went for a walk with Jenn. I'm always awake early and quite energetic after a big race, so a hilly walk was perfect.


The official results look like this:

Swim: 39:50 (128th female)
T1: 2:39 (129th female)
Bike: 3:00:53 (149th female)
T2: 2:20 (100th female)
Run: 2:03:06 (96th female)
Total time: 5:48:48

Place: 118th female, 18th F2529

This really shows just how much my bike (especially) is letting me down (my swim also, but less so). I finished 96th on the run, but 149th on the bike, and several of those who finished well behind me in my AG beat me on the bike. 96th overall was 10 minutes faster than me. I only needed to take a minute off my swim to place 96th in that leg (something that's eminently doable), but needed to take 12 minutes off the bike.

Of course, to get anywhere I need to get better at all three. To qualify for LD Worlds, I thought I needed something around 5:25 (obviously never going to be doable, but useful as a benchmark), but as it happened, I'd have needed a 5:11. Holy crap!


I am so glad we did Tauranga. It's a much bigger event than the other halfs we've done, and it was great fun (in hindsight...) It was fabulously run, and the tech officials and volunteers were amazing.

I had quite a few "why do I do this?" moments during the ride (and, to an extent, the run), and seriously felt ready to "retire" at times, but it didn't take long for excitement and enthusiasm to kick in again, so I can't wait for New Plymouth, and the rest of our season. I'm really glad to have a few weeks now to get a teeny bit more fitness, nail some of these bike issues, and maybe drop a little excess baggage.

If I play my cards right, New Plymouth is a totally sub-6-able course!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Port of Tauranga Half Ironman: Hotpotato Smashes Sub-6 at last (Part IV: The Run)

Follow the links to Parts I, II and III

When I saw my low HR on the second half of the bike, I thought to myself "at least I'll be able to smash the run." I spent a stupidly long time in T2- it didn't feel that way,and T2 does include a reasonable run, but 2:20 is STILL TOO LONG, and made it onto the course JUST as Graham O'Grady finished- goal 1 checked off! It was quite neat heading out as the leaders finished- seeing them make their way down the chute, and watching the other pros on the finishing straight was inspiring.

After a few hundred metres, I looked at my watch. Oops! I was running 12.3 kph, and my average pace was 11.9. I felt like I had started conservatively, but obviously the excitement had got to me. My HR was 168, which was exactly where I wanted it, but I dialled back a teeny tiny bit, since I knew I had two horrible hot loops of the Mount ahead of me.

I was passing people, though maybe not as many as usual. Even though I was disappointed with my rubbish bike, I was around fitter looking people than I sometimes was in Rotorua, and it was harder than usual to make my passes, possibly because it was flat.

I saw my official supporters twice on the first lap, and they shot me with the water shooters they'd brought with them (... best idea ever, beeteedub). It was absolutely baking hot, and I was living for the aid stations and the hoses there. I decided to stick to water for the first lap, and add some coke if I needed it on the second. I was carrying some Clif Shotblocks, so I had calories, and coke is either the best thing ever, or the worst idea imaginable, so I didn't want to take it too early. I was taking in as much water as I could, and only throwing it over my head if I had enough- luckily there were plenty of hoses (etc) out, and just before the base track there was a spray tent. Awesome.

I also saw Kathy with her friends, and as I climbed the hill up to the base track, I saw Mike for the first time. I'd been given permission to walk the hills, but having Mike+camera ahead of me pushed me to run, which was lucky, as the official race photog was hiding up there too- a seriously EVIL place!

They both got me looking pretty happy, but I was definitely hurting. I'd reset the lap on my garmin so that I wouldn't be too disheartened watching my average pace go down and down on the Mount. My average pace for the first lap was 5:24/km, at an AHR of 169, which I was pleased with. I really think I could have held that pace- or a little slower- for most of the run if not for the two loops of the Mount to go solidly sub-2, but I guess we'll see in New Plymouth! I walked one of the hills on the track, as Coach Paul had told us to keep it easy, but found starting running again so unbearable it was better to just shuffle up, especially since the walking had little effect on my HR and RPE. I tried to push the downhills a little, and was often running my normal road paces on the flat and downhill bits, which was good. My overall pace for the base track (plus a little more- I think I pressed lap after the drink station) was 6:23, at an AHR of 170. Not as bad as it could have been, that's for sure!

I'd seen Phil heading out on his second lap as I approached the Mount for the first time, and kept setting myself little *beating* Phil goals. First I aimed to get onto the Mount track before him. Once I was on the track, I wondered if I could get off before he caught me, even though that seemed unlikely. When I was just about done, Phil's coach passed me and told me Phil was catching him, so I picked up my pace just a little bit, and was feeling OK when I saw Mike again at the other side of the Mount. Mostly, I was looking forward to getting some speed again!

The distance from the edge of the Mount to the finish/turnaround is always longer than it looks. Luckily, the course support was amazing, and the atmosphere was great. I got a squirt from J and D, and hi-5s from a whole row of kids. I asked J and D if I could beat Phil back, and they looked pretty doubtful, so I gave it a little push to the turnaround. As I completed my turnaround, focused Phil was about to kick to the finish- unfortunately, he was too focused to hear my cheers. Also unfortunately, I was too focussed on him to pay attention to the race clock, and had no idea how I was doing- the one thing my Garmin didn't display was total time!

Here I am saying to Mike "I beat Phil!" (I'm sure he eventually figured out what I meant....)

My legs were pretty shattered from the Mount, and my feet were a bit sore. My main feeling was elation that I hadn't been lapped by Phil, but excitement at the number of aid stations coming up was a close second :) I started catching and passing some of the ladies who had passed me in the second lap of the bike, although it wasn't as easy as it sometimes is! My pace was lurking in the mid-10s (kph), which was OK, but I'd have liked to be closer to the 11s, as I was in the first lap. One lady, in particular, was impossible to shake, which was OK with me, as she provided valuable motivation. I knew pretty early on that her plan was to tuck in behind me and then drop me at the end (she did), and to be honest, I wasn't bothered. She wasn't in my AG, and I had no real desire to beat her- the motivation of having someone right on my tail was good enough! We managed to pass a whole heap of people together!

Here we are running up the first hill the second time:

...and again:

...and again:

She was walking more hills and drink stations than me, but then catching me up. I was finding it fairly easy to drink, so ran (shuffled) the drink stations. My goal was not to walk on the second loop of the Mount, but I succumbed and walked on short, steep incline. Maybe I could have taken her if I'd followed the same strategy, but it was enough of a death march by this time that I don't think I could have! Our average pace for the second loop was 6:24/km, which I'm jolly pleased with. My AHR had climbed to 173 by this point.

Finally, we made it off the track, and it was time for the final sprint home (it's about 700m). Though by this time, "sprint" meant "shuffling at 5:36/km" (AHR 176). I had no idea what my time was, but I knew I'd come fairly close to a 2 hour half marathon, and that I was well sub 6 overall. My friend passed me, and I couldn't quite stick with her (she crossed 6 seconds ahead of me).

The race clock said 2:52:xx when I finished, and I crossed my fingers and hoped like heck that was "pro-time", not "man-time" (and certainly not "lady-time") as that would mean a sub 5:50 finish. It was- and my official time was 5:48:48. My official run time was just over 2:03, which is a bit disappointing, but oh well- at the end of the day, it's the combination that counts, and a 2:03 half, including 6ks of offroad in stinking midday heat is nothing to be sneezed at!

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! Last installment- aftermath and race "review"- to follow ...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Port of Tauranga Half Ironman: Hotpotato Smashes Sub-6 at last (Part III: The Bike)

(Parts I and II)

T1 was pretty slow, in 2:39. I was 128th lady out of the swim (UGH) and 129th in T1! However, there was a teeny bit of a run from the swim timing mat to my bike, and a bit of sorting out to do, as I'd decided to wear socks on the ride, and needed to pack some gloves in my back pocket to save my hands in case of punctures. Losing one one place was definitely not as bad as it could have been!

The bike was two laps of an out and back, with a couple of small-medium sized detours. The course is similar to the course at Tinman- it just goes out further, to bring the total distance up to 90km.

My goal for the ride was to approximate an average power of about 155-160, by shooting for an average of 31-32 kph. I have no idea if this would be right, but it was about what we guesstimated during our ride the day before. To do this, I figured I'd try to maintain 33-35 in tailwinds, and to hold 28-29 in headwinds. I've sometimes tended to spin too much on flat courses, so I focussed on pushing biggish gears and staying aero as much as possible. I also wanted to stay in my big ring as much as I could, as shifting all the time can be a real pain in the nuts (one of those things the pros don't have to worry about).

I knew that, as in Tinman, I was starting the bike a little further back than I should have been, so I wanted to make up some time. I tried not to let myself drift too much at the beginning, and settled quickly into aero position and a decent gear. I felt pretty good, and soon picked off a few people ahead of me (who REALLY shouldn't have been). One lady had an incredibly noisy bike- I don't know WHAT was going on there. She was a bit bigger than me, so kept catching me in tailwinds, but the sounds of the bike GRINDING were so awful, I was motivated to stay ahead. Whatever gets you going, huh?!

There were still a fair few AG men coming through (judging by the results, about 100), and the super speedy teamsters were also getting on their way, so I was getting "legitimately" passed quite a lot. But I tried to at least pass a person for everyone who passed me, and for the first few ks that worked OK. I had a pretty solid ride out to the main turnaround, but lost a bit of pace on the detour on the way home.

It was probably in the last 7ks or so of the first lap that my lower back started to hurt. This has happened a few times recently, especially on hilly rides, and I'm hoping to work with Bike Fit David and maybe Phil's chiro to come up with a solution before New Plymouth.

As usual, my goal was to finish the bike before the pros finished the race, and I knew they were close to finishing the ride when I finished my first lap, so I had to keep going strong! I also had to keep up the pace if I was to have any shot of breaking 3 hours.

There was a reasonable headwind on the way back on, particularly on the "rough" section. I watched my average lap pace slow, and slow, and slow. At one point, my current pace was 24.5! I was feeling pretty uncomfortable, and lost my mojo for a little while. I also lost a few places :( (It turns out I lost THIRTEEN female places overall during the bike. Fark!) Luckily, I could see the dudes coming back, and knew there was a sweeeeeeet tailwind waiting to take me home. Thinking of that spurred me on, and I made a bit of ground back up- though it was mostly men I was passing.

Sometime on the final 25km my Co2bra (holding my Co2 pump, tubes, etc) must have shifted, and try as I might, I couldn't put it back. A pointy edge was rubbing against my inner thigh with every pedal stroke. It was quite sore and rather bothersome, but I was mostly able to ignore it. It wasn't until after the race that I discovered it had rubbed its way through my 2XU trisuit and had started in on my poor thigh, which now has a scab about the size of a $2 coin!

(I'm sparing you the thigh pic...)

I didn't capitalise quite as much as I'd hoped on the tailwind on the way home, mostly as I was struggling to stay aero. I couldn't quite catch up enough to get a legal draft, and the people passing me were mostly team riders, with a few AG men thrown in. The one plus is that the AG men were mostly 40-50, rather than 55-65 which is what they usually are!

I made it back into T2 in about 3:00 (official time 3:00:53). I was a bit disappointed, but I knew I hadn't thrashed my legs too much, and that I'd have a good run in me, which was a huge positive!

*Nutrition: I drank nearly 2 bottles of Cran-Apple Rain (sports drink for women- won a tub of it at a Club Nite) at about 200 cals per bottle, ate an Em's Mini Cookie (120?) and the best part of a tube of shot blocks (so, 180 or so probably).

A quick comment on the bike before I move on:

My AHR for the first lap was 159, which is on the low side of about right, but my AHR for the second lap was 153, and I noticed a few readings in the 140s, particularly during the headwind. This SHOULD NOT BE THE CASE.

I think it shows, at least in part, that while some of my bike problems are fitness/strength-related, posture and technique are probably THE biggest factors in my conistently AVERAGE bike performance (the rest of it is mental). I know some discomfort is normal in a 3-4 hour ride, but I am SURE I find cycling more uncomfortable than most other cyclists, and this seems to be borne out by my race performances, as well as in training.

I've been struggling with the bike for years, and gradually isolating and fixing my problems (fear, horrible bike, climbing, cornering and descending skills). Posture/position has been the biggie for awhile. I've totally BANNED glasses on the bike, to stop me arching my neck and head up, and I did a great job during the first lap of looking straight ahead- I barely knew who was returning on the other side of the road for once! The good thing is that I now have some more things to work on, and the beginnings of a plan to work on them. I REALLY want to get good on the bike- these legs have got to be good for something!!

The other point is technique. My average cadence on the second lap was 76, which is just terrible for a flat course. I was tending towards too HIGH a cadence last year, but I've slipped back into bad habits. Back to the trainer?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Port of Tauranga Half Ironman: Hotpotato Smashes Sub-6 at last (Part II: The Swim)

(Part I)

(Please excuse the absurdly detailed post- I want to cover everything, for Coach Paul (who doesn't have to read it all) future-Kate, and for any readers who do this event in the future)

Before I get into recapping proper, I need to say a HUGE thank you to MIKE, the best unofficial** race supporter and paparazzo of all time. Unless otherwise credited, the photos in my recaps have been cheekily pinched from his facebook album. Check out his blog- both because he is neat, and for a link to the rest of his great photos!


The swim was two triangles- a small (700m) one first, followed by a big (1300m) one.

The water was choppy, and I was worried about pretty much everything- getting the tides right, not panicking if I saw a jelly or stingray, not being eaten by a shark*, not swallowing too much salt water, not getting bashed in the face, not crashing into a boat, not getting run over by a cruise ship. You get the picture. It was a much bigger swim than I've done before, but surprisingly not too violent. Or else I'm just getting used to it! I stayed with a huge group for the first loop, and got a few kicks, but nothing too hard. Of course we caught the slowest men pretty quickly, which is always annoying, but probably not as annoying as being swum over by two hundred women is for them, so no hard feelings!

I was supposed to go wide to the first red buoy, so I started towards the left of the group, and headed towards the left of the boat that was blocking our line of vision. I probably should have been a little further over. Most people seemed to take another line, but I think Coach Paul's advice was spot on- even though I was aiming wide, I seemed to take a fairly direct line. I was a trifle TOO close, and ended up in the fray a bit when I reached the buoy.

The trip from the red buoy to the yellow buoy was choice. I finally understood what people were talking about when they referred to "being sucked along". It was just a mess of frothy water and waving limbs, and the vague hope of a yellow buoy ahead. Before I knew it I was being slammed up against the buoy again, and turning back to the white turning buoy.

Yellow to white was hard. I was supposed to swim narrow, as the tide was dragging out, and the shoreline makes swimming in a straight line difficult. I couldn't see the white buoy, and couldn't keep my line, so I kept drifting into the shallows. Again, Coach Paul's advice was priceless, as I knew what to expect and how to combat it. We had to swim around the white buoy then run up to the beach and around a turnaround gantry. I have a love/hate relationship with these sorts of swims- the opportunity to adjust goggles and check timing is great, but having to jump around on shells and rocks an extra time is not so great. Also notsogreat is the tendency people have to stand and walk as soon as remotely possible. It was ridiculous!

I was pleased to see 12:21 on my swim watch. Since the second lap followed a similar pattern to the first, just bigger, I felt pretty good. I actually reminded myself "don't get complacent- any extra minutes on the swim are minutes you don't have to shave off the bike and run." Cocky much?!

Sadly, the second lap was harder. Not sure why- I think actually the first lap was possibly a little short and the second a little long, as others' (ok, Phil's) impression was similar. I had a pretty good trip out to the first big yellow buoy and across to the next one, but the tide must have been moving with a vengeance by the time I got to the second buoy, and the trip back seemed to take FOREVER. It certainly didn't help that at the first yellow buoy (see above) we met some of the slower team swimmers. That was all kinds of fun. Not.

I finally crawled out in 39:21, and crossed the timing mat up the beach in 39:50. So, still "acceptable", but barely, and not a lot of leeway for the bike and run.

Next up- the bike!

(As you can see, I am real stoked at the various teamies around me).

*apparently, and this is very much rumour, there WAS a shark!
**my official supporters are also amazing, but I don't have their photos yet :)

Port of Tauranga Half Ironman: Hotpotato Smashes Sub-6 at last (Part I)

Well, after three years of training and three half ironmen, I have finally broken the magical 6-hour barrier. I may have missed all of my benchmark goals, and I may not have reached the level I feel deep inside that I should be capable of, but with an overall time of 5:48:48, I can at least say I went convincingly sub-6.


We drove down to the Mount early on Friday morning to meet Phil's former coach and his fiancee for a morning swim in Pilot Bay. Even though we were there too late to get a sense of the tides at race time (I'm not quite committed enough to get up before 5am the day BEFORE race day) it was good to look at the Bay with Coach Paul's advice in mind. We did a very relaxed first loop, with plenty of stops to practice sighting and consider our best boat navigation strategies. The sea was calm and glassy- perfect start to the day.

We then got changed (well, I chucked some tri shorts and a jersey over my togs) and headed out for a short spin- out to the first turnaround and back. The streets were chock-full of all manner of cyclists, and it was fun absorbing the festival atmosphere. We even saw Gordon McCauley (who, as a team cyclist, went SUB-2 on the ride) out with a motorbike pacer. I took it easy, but was still pleased that the boys didn't lose me. The new race tyres were a dream- I was super glad to have passed Phil's tyre-changing test the night before!

After our training, we had our helmets checked, then headed into Tauranga to check into our holiday park (Silver Birch... a big fat THUMBS DOWN) and for lunch with our friends from Wellington and their 5 month old. The restaurant was typical overpriced waterfront Italian-fare, and our huge calzone sat heavy in our tummies for a good couple of hours. Fortunately it wasn't too greasy.

We then drove back to the Mount (travel between Tga and the Mount was a feature of our weekend- that's what happens when you don't book accommodation until November...) for registration, body-marking and bike racking. I loved being able to ditch the bike the night before, though it was a bit of a pain faffing about with bike paraphernalia on race morning. I was pleased with my spot in transition- in the same bay as for Tinman, and right outside a noticeable brown house.

We then hit up the expo, and spent way too much money some compression gear. I took considerable pleasure from the fact that I was at least a size bigger than Phil in every measurement- my big muscly legs are something I can't change so might as well embrace! There was some time to kill before briefing, so we wandered to the dairy and for drinks and ice blocks. I love the new strawberry splice!

As the day went on, my enthusiasm grew along with my nerves. I remarked to Phil during our little walk "it's a pity that no matter how excited I am, I'm still not going to get any fitter than I am". Ah, so true!

Our chief supporters, Jenn and Damian, arrived during the briefing, so we gathered all the fixings for some pasta, and drove back to Silver Birch to make dinner. Which was easier said that done. We'd booked a "kitchen cabin", but unfortunately that meant a grotty old fridge whirring away by the bed, a teeny tiny virtually unreachable cupboard, and a zillion year old two burner stove balanced on top of a microwave. The only pot suitable for pasta was lid-less, the (too small) frying pan was encrusted with burnt grease, and our only kitchen utensils were a bendy slotted spoon and a blunt bread knife- neither of which were ideal for cooking mince! Luckily Jenn and I are seasoned pros at spag bol, and the meal we came up with was pretty darn yum!

After dinner, Jenn, Damian and I headed for a quick swim in the (quite nice) pool. I unloaded my key stresses: "what if the swim's horrible?" (a: it probably will be, but you'll still get out eventually) and "what if I get pinged for drafting even though I was doing nothing wrong?" (a: you'll take your penalty like an awesome person, and tell the world you would have gone 3 minutes faster if not for those annoying cheaters). The swim left me feeling refreshed and relaxed even though the pool was very warm. It was way too hot for the cuppa I'd planned, so we all got to bed at a respectable hour (about 9:30). Sadly, going to sleep wasn't so easy- the cabin was absolutely stifling. Phil and I had sweat beads forming on our brows as soon as our heads hit the pillows! I wasn't feeling particularly stressed or nervous, but I drifted in and out of vague sleep for the next few hours.

The one good thing about a disruptive night of sleep pre-race is that it's much easier to get up in the wee small hours. I was pretty chirpy when the alarm went off at 3:30- certainly much more so than last Rotorua. I couldn't be bothered making porridge in our "kitchen", so we all had oats with yoghurt, banana and blueberries for breakfast. It didn't really fill me up, so I ate an Em's Power Cookie, and also gagged down a banana while we were setting up.

We made it to transition at around 5am, just as it was opening. It was pretty quiet, which was nice for a change. We tend to cut it a little fine sometimes! It took a wee bit of time to get set up- checking and pumping our tyres, double checking my helmet to see if it fit (it didn't, and I spent a few seconds adjusting it), taping our Co2bras and pit stop cannisters to the bikes, and getting our nutrition all ready to go. It seemed like no time at all before it was time to get in the water for our warm up!

Part II to come soon!!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Pre Race

We're off to Tauranga/the Mount tomorrow for the BIG EVENT.

My training's been OK this year, but probably a little down overall from last year- it seems the hectic pace of lawyering in Auckland may have worked for me! I'm also a little bit fat, much as I'd like to deny it. And my traditional race benchmarks have been, to be honest, a bit crap. So there's every reason to feel a little pessimistic about Tauranga, and I do.

But not TOO pessimistic. Just because I don't think I'll be quite doing "what I'm capable of" (actually, that's probably exactly what I'll do.....) doesn't mean I don't feel like I have a solid performance in me. I've been pretty open about the fact that doing Tauranga is about pretty much one thing- sub 6. And I've done enough that, even though sub 6 would be a 17 minute improvement on my best half ironman so far and a 29 minute improvement on my last, sub 6 should pretty much be cake. I'll be honest here- I'll be gutted with a finishing time that doesn't start with a 5.

Here are some goals/predictions:

Swim: anything under 40 is fine by me, but under 38 would be preferable, and a sub 37 would be awesome. If I could exit and get out on the bike by 41:00, I'd be chuffed.

Bike: I really, really, really, really want to break 3 hours, and I know I SHOULD be able to. Believing I can is a whole nother story. I'm still not riding the way I feel I should be, and I only just averaged 30kph over 40km at Tinman. Still, I'm hanging out for a 2:59:xx, and I'll be disappointed with anything over 3:05 (...aside from punctures... knock wood). 3:00 plus 40 plus 2:30 for transitions would give me nearly 2:20 for the run...

Run: I really, really, really, really want to break 2:00 in the run. I mean REALLY. But the Mount Track is actually kinda hard. And I kinda want to have nothing left at ALL after my epic 2:4x bike, so 2:05 to 2:10 would be OK. My previous half times are 2:13, 2:06 and 2:04, on quite tough but possibly short courses, so a sub 2:00 would be pushing it, but isn't totally unrealistic.

Based on these times, I'll most likely finish somewhere between 5:40 and 5:55. And that's probably my happy zone. Anything sub 5:40 and I'll be whooping for joy.

I'll be computer free for the next few days, but look out for twitter updates (NOT during the race this time, at least not from me!)


January 2010 started over gluhwein at a fireworks display in Bled, the first main stop on our European winter tour. We spent another three weeks or so overseas, and arrived home in time to catch the best parts of the New Zealand summer and to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

Of course, "home" had changed, and February saw me figuring out how to get back to reality at the same time as adjusting to a new city, finding a new home, and starting a new job. February was also the month of my 28th birthday, and a great weekend of mountain biking with Phil in Rotorua. I did two mini triathlons, with a technical DNF in the first, and a second overall placing in the second.

In March, I started training with Coach Paul again. Phil started showing me the sweet rides around Cambridge, and I took my first kayaking lesson, with vague plans of going for my Grade 2 (that never came to fruition)! I also commuted to work for the first time, and loved it (which reminds me that I really didn't do it enough). I didn't post a lot here, and I didn't train a lot either (partly due to an exciting case at my new job). I was definitely struggling to settle into my new life and new routines- something that hasn't really changed. Oh yeah- and my sister got MARRIED!

April meant a big trial (including a week in Rotorua, and my first proper speaking role in Court), more mountain biking, Easter, a trip to Wellington, and a wet ride on the Makara loop. I didn't post AT ALL here, which is just shameful. Buckeye shows me I spent a lot of time doing Coach Paul's sadistic trainer intervals. I was happy to be running sub 6:00/ks at an "easy" if not "aerobic" pace, which really shows how far my running has come!

In May, we did even more mountain biking, which I recorded in this ode to my MTB, Maxwell the Silver Hammer. Since I started mountain biking a couple of years ago, there have been a few great rides that really made me feel confident about one day being able to ride (super easy) MTB races. This was definitely one of them. I also ran my first MAF test. My goal was to do the 8km in 45 minutes and I just about made it. Now I'm regularly running that pace without leaving E1! I also did my first guest post, and ran my first 10k race since 2007, in the satisfying but unspectacular time of 49:26. We tried to get ourselves a bit more involved in Waikato life, arranging blind "couple friend" dates, and heading along to local spin classes.

June was for darkness, inside and out. I struggled a LOT with the lack of lights in the country, and hated my morning and afternoon workouts. My running suffered, and my second MAF test was ghastly. Despite this, I entered my A race for the season, the Ports of Tauranga Half Ironman (which is now only two days away), hoping for a sweet sub-6 at long last.

In July, I passed my driving test. After too many visitors and weekends away, we stayed home and made the most of our weekend workouts in and around Cambridge, tackling the massive Sanitorium hill, running the Kairangi loop, and doing our second lap of Maungatautari in preparation for November's Karapiro Half Ironman.

was ACONSO- "August: Choosing Other, Non-Supermarket, Options". We stayed away from the supermarkets for the entire month, getting our food from farmers' markets, Bin Inns and the greengrocers instead. We really enjoyed it, but haven't put our good habits into practice as much as we'd have liked. We spent a weekend in Wellington for Phil's 30th birthday. After a disastrous performance at the Taupo Half Marathon (so disastrous I never even did a race report) Coachy put me back on long runs, and I enjoyed some great adventure runs in Wellington and Hamilton. I was pissed off that slacker Phil was performing better than me, despite missing most of June and July due to the world cup. Grump.

Then came abstemious(booze free) September. I discovered that I didn't like not drinking, so cancelled Sober October and No Booze November, though I did try to cut back on the grog, and to clean up my weekend eating. I ran Sanitorium Hill, did my first 2hr + long run, and did my first 20km training run in ages. I started tracking my monthly stats, and was pleased with my average daily training time of 1.12 hours.

Instead of being sober, October was O for Oarsome. I went for my longest bike ride EVER with Phil and Mike, and managed to run a jolly solid 2 hour run the next day. I entered yet ANOTHER half ironman, and our "season" started in earnest, with 5k races and mini tris all over the place. I took my "current" 5k time from 24:xx to 23:19. We went to Taupo to camp and ride W2K. I wrote about training "performance", and adopted the phrase "Training is the studying, racing is the exam", which I've tried to keep in mind. I trained 30 of 31 days, and racked up 46 hours of training. October really was Oarsome.

was "Oarsome" too, but for a different reason! I took a week off work to volunteer at the world rowing champs held on my doorstep at Lake Karapiro. I had to miss my usual 5k race (gutting, as it was a super fast night for everyone) and ran my own "race" instead, finishing in the acceptable "unsupported" time of 24:30. I also did my first big race of the season- the challenging Karapiro Half Ironman- and had my first ever DNF a couple of weeks later at the Contact Blue Lake event. November was a tough month for Kiwi cyclists, and I blogged about that here and here. It was a pretty solid month overall, as my stats showed.

In December I raced Tinman for the second time. My performance was pretty lacklustre, particularly my run, leaving me feeling pretty nervous about our half ironman this weekend. I was busy and very stressed as the holiday season approached, but got in most of my training, and had some very good runs and rides. We travelled to the Rotorua Half IM for a swim and a day of spectating, and did some great fast bricks in Cambridge and Kerikeri later in the month.

I'm not sure what 2011 is going to bring. The beginning of the year will be fairly full on with two half ironmen and the standard distance Nats in Wellington. I know if I'd done my best, I'd have a shot at long distance and standard distance worlds, but I haven't, and I'm a long way off the shape I feel I could be in, so Wellington will be just be a fun blat to top off an epic season. From then, who knows?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

December Stats

I've been a terribly delinquent blogger- December was a busy month, and we've just returned from a ten day camping trip- but I'm hoping to get up to date, as we have another week and a half off work (well, I have a week and a half... Phil has a week). Please bear with me as I post some belated December/2010/New Years type posts over the next few days.

First up, December stats!

December was a mixed month. A couple of average race performances and a big fat urgent case riiiight before Christmas (late nights for a whole week) had me feeling a bit meh.

But the numbers aren't too bad, I had a great swim at the Rotorua Half IM (37:55), and we did a good job of keeping up with training despite less than perfect weather and training grounds while on holiday, while having a marvellous time. And while I may not be thinner, at least I'm not fatter either!

So, here goes:

- Swim: 10:45 over 14 sessions (November 8:30)
- Bike: 20 hours over 12 sessions (November 24:44)
- Run: 12.5 hours over 16 sessions (November 7:47)
- Total hours: 43:15 (plus a 2 hour walk) (November 41)
- Average daily hours: 1:23 (November 1:22)
- Average run pace/AHR: 9:57 / 149.86 (November 151.88, 9:26/mi... the slower speed isn't surprising given the hills and offroad work we did on holiday!)
- Total calories burned 27,654 or 892 per day (November 19,190)

(go here for November stats and links to September and October)