Thursday, December 30, 2010

holiday postcards

Boxing day in the Kauri forest, Northland. Went for a 40km hilly ride and started playing with my new toy, the Olympus µ tough camera.

The old Rover, the tent and Nat on dinner duties, there was hundreds of rabbits as well, none made it to a picture, though.

further north, on the sand dunes of Opononi, more biking and an amazing view from the top of the hill
back to auckland and a gentlemans ride with my mate Jeremy

and my mate Ro later on

And Sue and Kylie later on.

The holiday is a good time to do unstructured training, and mine was to drop the swim and do what I can on the bike. Turned out that I managed to scoop two nice ones in the North and a long one in Aucks, as I kept riding I bumped into training buddies all over the place, funny people.


Friday, December 24, 2010


We're goin' oop norf,
They even call it the far noth, but I'd argue that travelling 400km to get to the northernmost point in the island is not at all far. Anyway, only 2 more hours to go and we'll be on holiday till the 5th of Jan. Depending on internet coverage there may be updates or there may be nothing.

It's been quite an experience and hopefully 2011 will bring more fun and some good results. You all be safe out there, and don't train hard, enjoy the family and friends.

 a quick balance on the sports front

Positives: I still love the sport, I got my first ever victory, I made to the worlds in one piece (unlike the cervelo).
Negatives: found the worst ever airline (you're welcome, Bruneii air), and the dodgie's ever insurer (you suck Travelsure).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Q&A session with Valen

OK, I need to set the record straight, I am not great with correspondence. But (and there’s always a but in my speech) I do listen to questions and comments. I’ll go over them in this post.

can he handle the pressure?

The Lance business:
When I thought of the dude coming to Rotovegas I didn’t realize it was for the January sprint distance race, a week later I tried to enter and it was choker. No chance at all. I may consider an entry as an elite, but I need to take a month off to train and rest and not to work.

The races to come:
3 Jan Whangamata Sprint tri
7 Jan Tauranga Half (husband and wife team) TBC
30 Jan Christchurch Sprint tri
6 Feb Kinloch Sprint tri (nationals)
13 Mar Wellington Oly tri (nationals)

Coopers test:
This was explained in an older post.

The season
It’s being a lot about playing and the serious part of the business will start mid January, we’ll have a great time then.

Racing and winning

Yesterday was the last race of the year (I fink)… the PURE BLONDE summer series was on tonight and I got a placing. Third time lucky proved to be true, I was lucky that the guy that took the other two races was not there, and I was lucky the other peope that could have taken the race were a bit back on the field after the 1km swim. The water was warm and the pace was just right for me, It was a group of 4 of us getting off the water in a 10sec span. The run to transition is 70 to 100m uphill, the gradient is 8 to 12 %. after halfway I realized that trying to run all the way was a bit ambitious given the state of my legs and the HR jumping over 100%. I shuffled the rest of the way, got on my racers and off to run. I had a flash transition and was out first. I ran as fast as I could, but it wasn't very fast, I was worried I was going to get cought. After the first lap I saw the chasers were about 30secs behind and promised myself that they would not get me. The legs were screaming for mercy up the hills and I doubt they were as happy as me to be leading. I crossed the line with 45 secs to spare, which is not a bad feast to end the year.
And the fun continues
Today in the morning it was TT day, we did a 1500m on the outdoor pool. Wettie was not dry from last night and I went for the whole set on my jammers. There wasn't flash times, but there was a lot of gut and self convincing to keep going after halfway. Ended with a sub par time, but happy for backing the race up with solid racing and training. Another positive is that I've offset allt he piggying out that occurred over the last 10 days.
It's now be time to pull the plug and start enjoying NZ finest reds,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rotorua Half Ironman race report - money in the bank

The start
we stayed 2min down from transition and could afford a long sleep till 5am. The race start was 6.25, Nat got dragged into swimming for a team, so it was three of us (Nat and I plus our mate Jeremy who was staying with us having breakfast and leaving just in time to get there, park, and set transition. Gordon, Carl, Paula, Megan and Kylie, Cyril, Oli and Sue, Brownie, Ingram, everybody was there and ready. I must say we were a bit later than planned and had to set up in a rush. The day was not great, we had drizzle and showers for the past two days. The race was going to be wet, not very hot and not very windy. 

The swim - 
I warmed up for about 30 seconds before we were ushered out of the water. The swim was a beach start and two laps in an anticlockwise triangle. The field was of about 200 guys. The lake temperature was about 18 degrees, with no current or chop of any kind, the water was clear and you could see like 10m under with no trouble. The gun went off and I was sharp to start with, got clear water in the first 50m and went about my business, without lifting my head to look until half way through the 450m we had to the first buoy. I then settled into a rhythm and kept going, I was towing 4 or 5 guys behind me and I kept towing them through the first and second buoy. After the second buoy we had another 450m of swimming to do, and I got someone else to take the leading duties. I lifted my head to check who it was and it turned out it was my mate Jeremy!, I decided to swim alongside him to the turnaround buoy. We did 13.48 for the first lap. I lost Jeremy on the first turn of the second lap and just kept going, as it was only a few more minutes to be over it. In the end he nick me by about 10/15 seconds. We both were in the top 15 out of the water. T1 was a shocker… i was rainy, and grey and I didn't have the time to set up and practice my moves, I had to grab the pump and it wouldn't stay in my racesuit back pocket, I took it in my hands and out to the bike course. 

The bike
out of transition there's a little hill, then 4 or 5km downhill and then onto the main road which is flat for about 30min. I quite didn't get into a rhythm and got passed by more people than I thought…. it is a constant in my races, that people seems to fly by me on the bike. The plan was to do my race and don't get psyched out about stuff, same as it happened in Karapiro, a few would be too aggressive to start with and then fade on the last 20km. The first 30km where a bit disappointing, but I got into the turnaround only 2min off my desired time of 1.20. The weather was drizzly, showery at times, but luckily not cold, it was a bit scary coming down the hills trying to see where I was going with no eye protection After that I got my act together and started rolling a bit more aggressively. A shot of red bull and a gel helped with the legs and the sharp mind. At 60km I started to feel even better, so I put my head down and made sure I catch a few guys that were up the road. I was in the middle of that when the saddle bag came off, I heard the noise and made the decision not to go back for it. I has lucky I didn't have a flat on the last hour. 3km later I heard another noise, it was another red bull shot gone. To top it up, I lost an arm pad from my aerobars further down the road. The last 15km of the bike are hilly and many times windy. I passed two more guys up the hill. and got into T2 just about on the time I wanted. I must say, though, that there's room to improve in at least 5 minutes on the same conditions. I lacked that "racy" mindset at times, and I paid for that. It looks like I enjoy the race soooo much that I forget that it is a race, he he.
On a separate topic, the course is an out and back, which allows to do a headcount and see where one is at. I saw the first guy and he was 5min ahead of the chasing bunch. But the good news was that my mate Jeremy was in the chase bunch, in fourth position when he got past me, and finally in 2nd at the end of the bike leg. He was flying on that bike… and would not let go of his place easily. He ended up 5th overall male, with a great swim and bike and a solid run. 

The run
I had left my stuff in a bag for T2, so it would not get too wet. It took me a bit to get everything out and I forgot to put my race number, but I am still OK with how it went. The legs were feeling OK, yet a bit stiff on the quads, but I thought I'll have a good run. And what a run it was!, I said in the previous post that it is a brutal off road run, I realize now, that I was looking through the eyes of my defeat 2 years ago. Yes, it is a hard run, but it is not as brutal as I remembered it. I got off T2 together with the first girl, that was good motivation, as I said to myself "you are not getting chicked, valen" we run the first two km together at a punishing 3.30 pace. That part of the trail has a lot of switchbacks, turns and not a lot of hills. As soon as we started to hit the more undulating bits my quads, hammy, calf, glutes all started conspiring against me and menacing with popping out of my body. It was a big bother, and a painful patch. I said I would not walk or stop unless the muscles stopped working, and I endured a fair amount of pain. It eventually got better on the flatter parts. To my bad luck, there is only about 6km of flat in the whole of the course. I was feeling well in my mind, and there wasn't any stitches or tummy cramps. it was just the legs aching, but they were able to run, so I made them go as good as the could. I passed quite a few and for the first time in some time I got passed by two guys. One training buddy, Brownie, was ahead of me like 3minutes and I each time I saw him on a turnaround I would said to him to take care that I was coming strong. there are 3 of those turnarounds and on the last one, at about half way, I realized it was doable. I kept a good pace, run past the first girl and did the last lap as fast as I was able, the HR was up there as it was my mate, I cough him with 500m to go and we had a laugh. I crossed the line in about 4.47, 2min off what I calculated, but I was extremely happy with my performance. according to my polar, the run was a 1.27, but I'll wait for the official results to get the proper time. 

The balance
this year for me is about racing and learning, and the last couple of races have been great learning experiences. They were both outside of my comfort zone, and both were strength events. There is a lot of room for improvement, but each race has given me a wealth of experience and it is all money in the bank. In this particular one I learned a lot about pain, and how to deal with it compromising as little as possible in the performance department. 
I just love this photo

After the race

it kept raining and drizzling, but each of us stayed after the race to see our mates finish. Jeremy was the first one, I followed together with Brownie, Carl did a superb race for his team and they won the mixed teams division going under 4.30. Then it was Ingram's turn, and Oli, Cyril came after that and not far behind was Julia and Gordon (Julia took the vet womans), finally Kylie crossed the line for Nat's team. While waiting we had a couple of heinekens, and a lot of chat and banter. A great weekend to finish off the year and go in holiday mode for ten days. 

Rotorua HIM

the north island has been in a foggy, misty, rainy state for the last 5 days. Not the greatest setting for a long race, but it all went OK.

Finished in a time of 4.47 something and got wet, lost a saddle bag, an arm pad from my aerobars... but a great day of racing.

The report coming out as soon as I finish work.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rotorua HIM pre-race thoughts

The race organizers sell it as the best half in New Zealand, with the most beautiful 2km swim, 90km bike and 21km run on offer. I’d say they are undoubtedly the best HIM of the North Island, but the short version of Challenge Wanaka is quite a scenic route all over, but I can’t comment coz I haven’t done it.

Rotorua is a premier within NZ, sitting in the heart of a geothermal system, it has plenty to offer the tourists; from hot water natural springs to outstanding geothermal parks. For the sporty kind, this is an off-road paradise. X-terra NZ is hosted in Rotorua, as well as many MTB and trail races. It is also known as Rotovegas, because of its resemblance to sin city (I think this is quite a nonsense, though)

Anyway, this was my first HIM 2 years ago and my personal worst in the distance. In my defence I have to say that my parents arrived for a visit one day before the race, and there were nerves of all sort going on. And I blew up big time on the bike. But a good day out and I even got a spot prize (a wetsuit for my lovely wife)

The Swim
The course changed from the last time I swam it. It used to be a 1 lapper and now it’s changed to a 2 lapper on the other side of the lake. The lake itself is a great spot with no current or any other hiccups, will benefit the more streamlined swimmers because of the freshwater. A good thing is that I can drink all the water I need during the swim. It shouldn’t be hard to go under 30, but you never know.

The bike
It winds down from the blue lake through the red forest and onto the airport road, then there’s a couple of bumps on the way to lake tarawera and then back home the same way. I am doing an innocent desctiption here, the course profile may help me better.
The first time I went sub-3hr. I hope I can be around 2.45 this time around. And keep some legs for later.

The run
This is the most awesome half marathon I’ve ever done. It is a full off-road run that circles the blue lake twice and goes through a fine gravel path to a forestry operation and further on to the buried village. The upside is the amount of shade you get around the lake area. The downside is the hills, steps and bumps all over the place, but it is good fun. It didn’t look like fun in 2008, though, when I ran a 1.52. I am hoping to stay under 90mins.

The athlete
This was the last A race of the year but it has been downgraded due to my enforced rest a few weeks back. Training since mid October has been steady, with a few nice surprises in the test sets. The body weight is floating between 72 and 74 and should stay there for the next month. The heart rate readings in the morning have been coming down from the last week. There’s two or three more days to bring it even further down. Sleep has been below average, it is a worry that will sure sort itself out after the holiday.
The plan
I need to stop at the bike shop to get gels, CO2’s, killer instinct and a pair of climbing legs. Then it’s gonna be like this: swim hard for the first half lap, then stay in a good group and see what happens. On the bike, get to halfway point in 1.20 and take it easy for 5km, hit is hard after that and kill those hills. You never know how the legs will be for the run, but if they are OK we’ll be running 8km real good and then see what happens.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A hot weekend

Race day minus 5. Taper weeks is on and the weekend was the last blast before the HIM and the later Xmas break.

I could not avoid the big work Xmas do on the Friday, but I limited myself to a couple of quiet beers. It was a good feed for the solid workouts to come.

Saturday was a hot day out, I biked for 40mins with my mate Gordo, and then we did the usual brick session (40-45min swim, 1hr bike, 25min run), I got home to a great breakfast and a even nicer nap. Such a beautiful day, Saturday. Pity we ended up having to do a little Xmas shopping instead of going to the beach and lie down.

I want a fixie for Xmas
Sunday was a 3 hour ride out to Betthels beach, we didn’t quite make it there, but we were “close enough” to the 3 hours. It was gentleman’s pace, so the legs felt OK for a 20min run off the bike. The rest of the day was out on the beach on the hot Auckland weather. I should have drank more water and I paid it later.

After the night sleep it was the last big swim session, we did about 4km with 400 TT, 200TT and 100m sprints, a real beauty. I have my good sleep assured after the swim only, and the rest of the day will be work and cooper’s test at night. Bring it on!

As I said, I’d pay for my poor hydration on a later stage. Half way through the swim my shoulders locked up, it was sort of a cramp, but a rather painless one. The end result was the same, though, I was unable to swim comfortable. After a few stretches it was all back to semi-normal conditions, but I wonder how much different the last two TT’s would have been.

All in all, a great weekend with solid training, good confidence boosters on the pool and a good outlook for the rest of the week, with the taper programme kicking in after tonight.

This is the last week of what I intended to be a base training period. There is 4 more weeks that will be still mainly aerobic stuff, but with the holiday in the middle, it will be a random pattern. It didn’t turn out as I originally thought in terms of the miles clocked on the bike and run. I should probably use the next 4 weeks to focus on doing some more long slow and hill rep stuff on both disciplines. The swim is OK, and I have to ensure I can keep clocking close to 15km for the week.

Congrats to all the ones sweating it out in the Taupo Half this weekend, great numbers all over the place.

Stay tuned for the RotoVegas race forecast.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Race Report - The Great NZ Santa run

Being Santa in the Southern hemisphere is a hard job. Not only you have to endure the summer heat and heat waves in the core of the solstice, but you have also a hard time trying to find raindeer.
Some colleagues and I decided to enter this charity event that supports the KidsCan foundation. KidsCan does a great job in helping children achieve big things, or small ones, but making sure they do what children must do and have all they need in terms of food, education, and support networks.
The race is only an excuse to get people together and raise some much needed funds. The circuit was a 3km that was later changed to a 2.5km for safety reasons, and there was about 300 santas on the start line.

My warm-up was very poor but I avoided the cravings for a beer and a pie at O'Hagans. We did a few stretches (see photo attached) and then the race was on. I swear I saw people with the Nike Lunar races and other racing flats gear. I said to my mates that we only needed to stay in the front group.

We run in a bunch of 20 for the first 500m and then the pace picked up a bit, the bunch went down to 7 or 8 th. By the halfway point my heart rate started to pick up and I was breathing my own facial hair (see photo), so I decided to go for bigger strides. It turned out the first three guys upped the tempo a bit more. All the field was coming the other way and we had to negotiate our way through a lot of santas, my side jumping skills came handy at this point and I had a clean ride. Some other weren't that lucky and I heard a few bumped into each other in the heat of the race.

The last km was less chaotic and I was able to stick to the front guys, there was a final turnaround and 400m to go, someone launched a sprint and I tried to follow but had no legs, then the old diesel engine picked up and I managed to finish 2nd in a time of 7.20.  I rolled through the line in joy.

All in all a good fun race, I'll make sure next year I get a proper running programme and a tapper week for the event.

Ho Ho Ho!

Monday, December 6, 2010

the big limiter

yesterday was a day of races, two big triathlons on the same day, one in Auckland, the other in Mt Maunganui, I've never raced any of them in the oly distance, and I hope to do so next year. 
Anyway, a day of races and many guys in the squad were stoked to have achieved more than they hoped for at this time of the year. They were not big races in the national calendar, but for these guys they were either the first one of the season, of the first one ever or a good hit out before a big race in the next month or so. That got me thinking on how good it is to have great results, and how important it is to discover that most of our boundaries are locked from the neck up. 

Our mind is the biggest limiter, and our ability to whithstand pain on the third place I'd put flexibility. But there's no doubt a great deal of our training and racing is played in the head. I had my doubts about being able to run below 40 when I first entered triathlon, I wondered if it was at all possible to run under 40 after biking for a good 70 minutes. And then it happened. 

The same thing during training, every now and then coach will throw a crazy number for a swim or run interval. There are two types of answer, the first one is to start thinking about how feasible it is to go for it, this is the mind trying to avoid the body getting yet another trashing by going hard. The other answer is to duck down and see what happens. I never know which one I am gonna give, but I am trying to marshall my thoughts towards b. 

As the months go through we all get to know more and more about our body, its strengths and weaknesses, and at times we may take other people's word on what they think is one weakness of ours. This can be rather toxic if it stays in the back of our mind. For example, someone could say that I am not great getting off the saddle in the bike. If it comes from someone that I respect, I'll take it, but I need to be strong and proud enough to know that this is an observation of my fitness on one particular time, not an observation of my cycling skills in general. If I can't get to isolate or contextualize the observation, there's the risk that I'd believe and live by that opinion, which will increase my limitations in getting my arse off the seat when I'm racing. (by the way, I am not famous for jumping off the seat of my bike)

 How could I become a smarter racer? I wondered, and although I don't have an answer to that, I am taking this year to explore and be as good as I can in remembering every little thing that goes through my head during training and racing, and how many times I focus on what I think I won't be able to achieve.
I hope to find the triggers and work through them. I have enough experience and more important, I've seen a lot of my mates do what they believed was not possible, that should be able to counter balance the limits the mind tries to put so the body doesn't hurt. 

On the training front, I'm still spitting the last bits of the flu, I'd say that I am 90% there, and in good spirits for a moderate/hard week ahead. 
Stay tuned for more on the upcoming race, miles, and hopefully some fresh photos. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

good coach / bad coach

between racing and coaching, i will always take racing. Being a coached athlete, i think, it's easier than being the coach himself. You have to wear the good coach/bad coach hats at all times and some of us are a real pain in the neck at times. 
In my particular case, I have a good relationship with my coach, and I tend to keep him up to date to the smallest details. I like to try new things and sometimes works gets in the middle, so I make sure the alternatives are discussed and it all moves forward nicely. Some other times I tend to step out of the programme just for fun and do a little sprint that was not meant to be and the training run becomes a little race for 2 or 3 minutes, that seems to annoy him pretty good. 
Anyway, where I am going is that besides the odd incident our partnership works well, I get the results and when it doesnt work, we figure alternatives. 
This afternoon I went to put up a tri club tent on a race venue. The race is tomorrow and we're making sure the club is there to support its athletes. Being on the race environment I felt like I could do one tomorrow, to make up for the one I missed last Sunday. I was going through all the motions and all and I even convinced Nat to OK it. But then I thought I better check with the big boss, and he didn't even think about it, he just said no and that it would not be a good idea to race so soon after the flu. 
I'm gutted, there was no option to do it easy or do the sprint distance, it was just NO, he he he. I guess he was wearing the bad coach hat, or the good one, who knows. 

It'll be 4 hours ride instead, 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

one week

That’s how much time went between workouts.

It was an unwanted holiday, but there was no opting out. After days of fever, boredom and very interesting readings and filmwatching it was time to hit the road.

I was tempted to have a full day of training for myself, given that work was out of the picture, but fortunately, the calm prevailed and it was 1hr ride and 1hr gym to start with. Everything was nice and relaxed, and even though recovery took a bit longer that usual I am happy I was in the right path.

That was yesterday.

Today I’m back to work and I opted out of swimming in the outside pool and give my throat extra couple of days for recovery. There’s a long run in the agenda and Auckland is looking beautiful.

What’s next?

I don’t know if any changes are needed in the programme, there may be a bit of tweaking to do, but nothing overly serious. I had to pull out of a race in my schedule, there’s no other I can do to replace it (well, there is, but it is this weekend and I would probably benefit more from a long ride).

I have 18 days to pull out one hell of a race in my next HIM (and probably the last of the season). I need to work-work-work.

On another note, we've been confirmed that Lance Armstrong is gonna race the Xterra festival in April, and Mirinda Carfrae will be taking on IMNZ. There's little more you can do to sell out a race and these guys will be jumping in joy. Which brings me back to the fun of doing triathlons in this little country. There aren't many sports that allow you to race alongside big superstars, I hope I can race against Lance, and kick his fat a**, that's all the motivation I needed from now till mid April, he he he.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

what can I do?

after a busy weekend with a double whammy on Saturday (brick session in the morning, long ride in the afternoon) and Sunday off with Nat just arrived from Argentina, I was happy to go out swimming on Monday morning. 
The reason is that this is the first hard week on the programme since October, and I've been missing the hammer sessions. Monday's swim was certainly challenging but it's out of the way now.... so all good. The running session was a beauty, 6 hill reps at level 3/4 of the heart rate. 
Tuesday was a bike TT but Nat got sick and I had to look after her, so it didn't happen, then another hard swim on Wednesday and back home.
I soon as I finished breakfast I knew I was more tired than usual, and two hours later I was in bed with fever. It turned out that for the first time in ages I got sick. The rest of the day was miserable, and I just got up to more misery, I'm going to the doctor now and see what's the story. 
I was suposed to race on the weekend, there's the first race of the national series, but I'm afraid I won't be a starter. 
On the bright side, there's plenty of books to read and a couple of good movies to catch up with. 

Stay safe out there

Sunday, November 21, 2010

why bother

During last week's HIM I got some time to myself and besides the obvious nerves of the race, I started asking myself some questions.
It is not strange, I s'posse, that we ask ourselves questions before, during and after the race. What I am doing here? Can I finish this race? Am I going to hard/slow? where's my gels? why on earth did I pay $xyz to get here if I'm not feeling 100%? and the list goes on.
Those are the types of questios that often times come, showing that the mind is still the most powerful determinant to the result of our race. If you give yourself the wrong answer, you're cooked, you're off the zone and the race is no longer your race, or a race, but something else much more negative than it was intended to be.
Karapiro was not high in my list of races, but after the dissapointment of Budapest, I guess the result came as a good pat in the back. Back to the questions, I was on my bike and had this plan of being conservative for the first hour or so. More than a few went past me and at some point I questioned if I was being too conservative and letting go more than it should be. The answer was not, or better, not at this early point of my training and with little strength on the legs.
The other questions came on the run, I was running fresh and happy, with my chin up and not thinking 'bout the time. As I was passing through a boring part of the course I questioned why bother coming to a place 3 hours from home, without Nat to do a race that would mean little to my season and without throught a little day out afterwards. I said I was happy, so, in a happy mood I said to myself that it is not the destination what matters sometimes, what matter is the trip.
My destinations for this season are three, both Nationals after Feb, and a Half in a month's time. There's little chance that I'll be in peak form for the Half, but at least I'll be setting a benchmark for what it was the base block of the training. There are other races mixed in between, and I am sure the questions will come to me at some point. But, as I said, what matters is the trip. Training and racing takes me to a bunch of beautiful places. Been out on the bike, or swimming in the ocean or doing a running trail, I get to see this country in a way I never thought of. Many training sessions are not just that, but a trip to the outdoors and the chance to see those great places. That's what matters to me.
So, why bother? I guess that I bother because each time I am out there I am doing one of the things I like the most, and I am very humbled that I have the chance to do it and proud to be doing it. Giving up would be stabbing myself in the back.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seriously - this is how I started running

Patrick's post posted the question, and when I remember I just have fun about it.
Argentina is a football country, we all play it at school, secondary school, grown ups, and so on. My dad plays week in and week out with his mates, even though he's got a bad back. Even though I was not super talented for the sport, I played for some time with my friends but never seriously. I did play basketball for some time, but I wasn't super talented either. We trained to play basketball and that was the first time many of us were introduced to training schedules, routines and specificity. After moving to the big smoke I left all sports aside and picked up swimming in our last year in Buenos Aires.
Many friends would go out running, but I found it boring as, and never got to run over 3km without questioning what the hell was I doing running.
So, at 25 I had never been "out for a run" outside the basketball training, which was usually around the court. It was the winter of 2006 when I decided to enter the 1/4 marathon in Auckland, which was 3 months away. We've been out for a few runs with my flatmate Julian (out of boredom) and that winter I pinned together a training plan (run 2 or 3 times a week) to make it 10km. I entered the race never ever having run more than 8km and I was still not fully convinced by running as a sport.
The following year I started swiming even more seriously, and entered the half marathon. That winter the runs got longer and longer and I even managed to do a 17km run before the race. That was when I started not taking the Ipod with me and actually run to run and not to listen to music.
I guess I had some talent because I did a sub 50min for my first ever 10km and a 1.45 for my first ever half marathon. Finishing the big run gave me the confidence to give triathlons a go.
Over the past 3/4 years it has grown on me to the point where the mileage has increased ten or twentyfold. And I even got my lovely wife hooked.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


He's the big guy on the left and my brother in law. Got to see me racing once together with the bunch and they had a cracker of a day just yelling s--t while I struggled with my run.

I remember him shouting while I went over the turnaround cone for about 5 metres.

Today was his birthday and he wasn't here to celebrate, life is a bitch sometimes.
So, here's to him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Karapiro Half - latest news

It turned out I was not as fast as I thought, althougth I did pretty much as guesstimated in my previous post. Here's the full data:
finishing time: 4.49.58
Swim+T1: 32.16 - Bike+T2: 2.49.04 - Run:1.28.38
12th overall and 4th in the age goup. slower than last year, but better overall placing... funny.
Sunday and Monday were relatively easy, with 2hr ride + 1hr swim (good times, tho) and 1hr run.
Tomorrow is day off, and it all starts again on Wednesday

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Karapiro Half - race report

The week leading to the half was different to the usual pre-race week with Nat not being around and me being super organized and having all my week's meals ready on the Sunday prior. It was boring to be on my own, but on the bright side, I watched some good war and sci-fi movies and I was involuntarily getting over 8 hours sleep. The HR checks indicated I was in good form.
So, after a couple of hour's drive I got to Cambridge and then to the lake to pick the race pack and attend the briefing, I didn't do any running or biking in the evening. A pretty average pizza wasn't the ideal dinner, but it wasn't that bad either. I had eaten well all week and I made sure I was snacking well as well. I stayed with italian Nick, one of my training mates. He was good company and we helped each other doing all the setup for the race.
Breakfast was the usual toast, peanut butter, banana and honey and 3 gels, and a shot of redbull. We drove to T1 and got things sorted, from there we drove to the swim start.
Swim + T1
The day was a stunner and Lake Karapiro looked very inviting to race. We started together with the teams, so it was about 250 peopl dashing to the first buoy 50 metres into the lake. After a left turn at that buoy, the aim is to make it to the boat ramp 2km down the road. I did what I have planned and made it to the buoy among the top 10, then got clear water and went about my business with a relaxed pace. It worries me that sometimes I may be too relaxed and not to "racy" in these type of swims. Anyway, I made sure no one went past me without me drafting of their feet. It turned out only 2 people passed me (maybe more, but they were too far off the my line of sight) Over the last 500m I picked up the tempo and got off the water in about 29 minutes (I did not wear any watches in this race).
T1 was slow, I had a gel on the run to transition and got my bike jersey, helmet, sunnies, socks and shoes and the pump. Nick came right after me and we ran out of T1 together.
I posted before about the bike course at this race. It's challenging and getting it right is getting your race right. I haven't done a lot of strength training over the last three months if I wanted to have some legs for the run I needed to be smart in using my energy. The plan was to start conservative and keep a good cadence and rythm. Eat one gel every 45 min, drink every 15. I had a cereal bar just in case, but I don't do well with solid food on races.
The first hour was spot on, I was peddalling on 98rpm, there was westerlies blowing but nothing extraordinary. As long as the speedo kept being over 36km/h I was a happy man. About a dozen people biked past me on the first hour. I wasnt sure if they were experienced in the course or just new to it and had a different plan, nevertheless it didn't worry me, wich is a good sign of mental strenght: I knew I was doing the right thing for my race and I wasn't going to deviate from the plan. I had my first gel at 48 min.
And then the hills started
I went to the small chainring on every one of them, made it to the halfway marker/aid station and had 6 riders on sight. I was happy with my plan. There's a descent of about 7km with gentle bends and good straights, I pedalled all the way down and by the end I had passed 4 of the riders. the other two were just 500m up the road. That descent marks the start of the hills, I kept working to plan and passed 2 more riders, another couple passed me as well. I had my second gel and kept pedalling, by now I was in company of someone in similar conditions, we played cat and mouse for about 20km and then he peeled off in the last hill before the lake. From the lake to T2 is about 12km into the wind. I didn't made any progress on the guy. I found a red bull in my lunchbox, downed it and kept pedalling at 98 till T2. The plan appeared to have worked, I was tired but not spent and happy to start a half marathon. The bike speedo said 2.47. Not flash, but not bad at all. T2 was fast, I got my cap and sunnies and headed out
I am used to short, fast races where the first km is real fast and then it slows down just a little bit to end up with an even faster last couple of km. The half required a different approach and it greatly depended on how much damage was done by the hill cycle course. I hit the pavement on a good sub 4min for the first 5km, then I faded a bit and kept running in good form but not very fast. I watered at the 3km, 7km and 10km and again on the same places on the second lap. I think I ran well because no one passed me and I managed to catch 3 or 4 guys that flew past me in the bike. I don't have a time, but I guess it should be about the 1.30mark.I was happy and proud the plan worked and even though I got a bit of cramping I think I've never felt so good in a half marathon run. I thought about a lot of things while running, but that's material for another post.

The overall balance is positive, very positive. I gained a lot of confidence for the next one in a month's time and I also have some feedback for the coach on areas we can improve between now and then. I missed my favourite supporter/photographer but I think she would be really proud to have watched me yesterday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

another race!, and some times

Today I entered the race. The Karapiro half ironman is a nice little race situated in Lake Karapiro, Waikato. I’ve said before, the lake is famous for breeding the best of NZ rowing and many rowers take on multisport of the occasion.

The swim is on a fresh water natural lake, we’re bussed 2km up the road to the swim start, then the course is to go 70m into the lake, swim parallel to she shore for 1.7km and another couple of hundred metres into shore again. Transition is just next to the lake and it’s pretty straight forward. Freshwater swimming is a good opportunity to do a fast-ish time as you don’t have much challenge from swells or waves, you can stretch and glide in every stroke and go hard without blowing up.

The bike is a big 90km loop that takes us out around a big mountain called…..mountain. It is not a fast circuit, but the first hour is a solid ride where we can expect to make good advances. Then it start to get worrying, with some hills, and more hills and more hills. Not big ones, but the succession of them makes them a threat. On a fine day it’s a 2.40 ride, we’ll see how that works in real life. We end up in downtown Cambridge, where the second transition is. the whole town is out there watching.

The run is a semi urban 2 laps circuit that goes on the riverside and then onto some new subdivisions just out of town. There’s a single hill on the run and it’s a 2min climb that does some damage. On a fine day we’d be roasting under the mid morning sun.

The race is a prep race in my calendar. I’ve have trained regularly for it, with long rides and long runs, but I am only half way there, there is a lot more of strength and endurance work to be done in the next 5 weeks so I am not looking for flash results. On the other hand, it is a race, so I will give an honest effort to try to get as high as possible on the final results. There is one mate racing alongside and he’s going to be a serious threat to many as he’s trained hard over the whole winter and is ready to hit it. I shall see him going past me after 40odd minutes on the bike.

It was a weekd of Time trialling, except for the run, that has been very shy for my liking. Monday we did 1km repetitions at a steady 3.30's and Tuesday was our return to the Aipor Oaks time trial, we have the chance of a 16km 25km or 40km TT. I choose the middle distance, it's long enough for me, he he he. I'm happy with my overall performace of 41minutes and even happier that the new bike geometry is working OK for TT effort, I was able to power through on head wind sections that usually would be a pain in the back. I even managed to run decentll for 1km after the bike.
Today was a swimm TT in the morning, I was lucky I only had to do it once, the other guys in the lane had to do it again after 5min rest. 1000m under 13.30 is OK forme and I walked out of the poos feeling good.
Three more days to race day, it's time to start with a race plan, and checklists and so on

Monday, November 8, 2010

4 cars, 1 truck and 2 utes

That’s how many vehicles went past us on the Sunday long ride. Rural Auckland on a Sunday morning is a nice, lazy, green and hilly place to be. Getting out and back into the city is a bit more complicated and traffic is bad, but it’s only 40 minutes. The ride was long and at a very civilized pace, one of my mates was still a bit tired from the 200km K2 race and the other one is training for a half marathon, so he was just happy to pull as along. 6 days before my half ironrace it was logical not to over-do it.

On the positive side, I found my legs were OK for most of the ride and I didn't have to push real hard to keep going up the hills. I was not doing anything anaerobic and still managed to climb well.

Saturday was my return to brick sessions @ the beach, we had a sunny Auckland morning and even though I lost the way on the 30km bike leg I still had lots of ward work done. Surprisingly, the swim was particularly hard.

This week is about sleeping lots, so I’ll get underway with a siesta and try to keep things moving.

Hope your weekend was fun!,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pure Blonde Series – Race 2 Report

Conditions were better for the second round of the Pure Blonde swim-run series. For starters, we had very little wind and the air temperature was well above the 15 degrees we had in the starting race. Water temperature was on 18 degrees, so it would be a better playing field.

There was a change of the swim course due to difficulties with the surf lifesavers not turning up to patrol. Instead of an out and back course 300m into the sea we had a 50m swim to the first buoy, then parallel for 200m and then back to the start for a second lap.
We had more people doing the race as well, so it was a really cool day to be out racing.

I started my swim full on for 50m to avoid complications in the turn, as 50m is not enough distance to sort out fast and slower swimmers and the whole field would be squeezing together. Got to the buoy alright, yet a little wide then it was a tail swell until the next one. All I could see was the buoy and the guy ahead of me getting farther and farther away. I swam with all my might to keep the gap to a minimum. Got to the start of the second lap in second position and after the first turn my mates Reado and Jeremy caught me. I did the lazy thing and let them pull me through the second lap. Thinking in retrospective, I should have stayed in the lead of our minibunch.

4th out of the water and into transition, got sorted quickly and started running in third place. The first swimmer had 1min and something on us. Reado was ahead by 25m but he can’t run fast due to injury so I ran past him and we kind of bunched for the next km or so, then I kept going and he kept doing his thing. At the turnaround I saw the first guys was within reach (about 20secs) I tried and I tried, but my legs had little strength to increase the cadence and I just could not surge. I guess more endurance and speed specific later in the season will sort this out. I ended up second 15 secs from the winner.

As I was running I thought to myself that the rest of the series will be very interesting, I’m going through the first bit of my training and I do hope that results keep improving and I can get a better placing. But you can only control what you can control, and sometimes there’s better ones racing and it is only fair they take the prize.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts on speed, and an extraordinary evening

You all may do the same and leave the mind wonder while doing those long runs or rides or swims. One of the thoughts that came to me (apart from the supermarket list, stuff about my friends in Argentina and what I would wear for Friday at work) was that there’s a point where speed becomes a by product. I’ll explain, as we keep training and getting fitter and then increasing volumes we all have small or big gains in terms of speed and race results. We may even think we can stop ageing, but that’s not true.

After some time, we all hit a point where the gains get smaller and smaller, and that when we realize that we can’t beat ageing and we can’t beat genetics. However, we can certainly keep improving and that’s when the focus changes to technique. By just reading many of our blogs it’s easy to see a trend that many times end up with us doing small changes to hour swim, run or pedal stroke or cadence and get to another level in each discipline. Stretching seems to be a big one, and then coache’s advise on swimming and running are just behind. I am not sure how it works on the bike, though.

I guess what I wanted to say is that the main focus many times is not going harder faster, but doing it in a way that has not other result than going faster, and then going harder AND faster. Funny, hum?

The second part of this blog is about last nite. There’s this race called stroke and stride, it’s been held in Mission Bay, Auckland for some 20 years now. There’s plenty of stories and many world champions had raced there. It’s a swim-run event and is fast and furious, but it also a good introduction to multisport. Last evening was the first race of this season, and while the girls were out, there was a pod of orca whales swimming with them. This was not a stunt by a wetsuit manufacturer, it was real black big mammals swimming 100metres from shore.

The organizers had to delay the men’s start until the rowers and surf lifesavers moved the whales out. It was cool to watch and I guess it could have played in some of the men starting the race 5min later. The photo is thanks to Sarah, who saw her husband venture into the sea of killer whales. I was supposed to start but I couldn’t fit my long run any earlier, so that’s why I was in the sidelines. Only in New Zealand, he he he

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cooper's test is back

With any new campaign it comes the time to set a benchmark. Cooper’s test at the beginning of the season are that, a benchmark to keep us honest during the next four to six months. Yesterday was a nice day to be out on the track. Many mates did not do the test because the past weekend was a long miles day for them . There was the 200km K2 race, that is really similar to having TdF hills day running in your backyard. And there was the Auckland Marathon and half marathon, both of them filled since June.

Over the weekend I felt the lower part of the calf suffering a bit on the run. I was afraid it would repeat for the cooper’s test, but it didn’t and I’m happy about it. Winter test are done in a 600m loop in concrete with 2 big sharp turnarounds. Summer tests are done in a 400m oval loop in the grass. The splits for each of them are different for obvious reason, so it pays to be aware what to expect for each lap.

Unfortunately the track is not in optimal condition as there are a few bumps and the grass is a bit long. We still gathered a good crowd and I suffered from not having a couple of my fast pacers along. I started on 1.17 and finished on 1.19. The rest of the laps were on the 1.20 to 1.25 range and there were 9 of them. 2 very good ones, one excellent and six average laps.

I’m happy as my pb on the track was 50 metres shorter than what I did yesterday, so I’m preparing myself for harder workouts to come, but also nicer numbers on a 10k’er.

That's two training buddies fromt he old guard, Bob and Cyril, both of them do over 3100m on their cooper's test at their 50's.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


As the saying goes, it's not good to confuse ambition with ability. We went out for an in course training for the half ironman that a couple of us are doing in two week's time in Karapiro. I remember from last year that the course is hard-ish with a long succession of small hills that play with your head if you're not in top game. When I did it last year I had a few longer rides under the belt and I prepared for the race quite seriously. I was also getting married six days later, so the mind was in top game.

By the way, if you are a rowing fan, the world championships are being held there over the next week. It's a nice location for a multisport race, but somehow the HIM is a low key race. Anyway, back to my business. We went there with Nick and Jeremy who are both handy riders and have done the miles. I know I haven't and I know it's OK because my program is going at a different pace and maybe in a different direction altogether. However it was a good training opportunity and I was not going not to take it. We were greeted by clear blue skies on a side and gray clouds on the other side, we were heading towards the clear blue skies. I kind of knew the road but vaguely, but none of the other two seem to know it so we came to an arrangement that if I was not on the lead I's shout at the turns.

It was a harder ride than I thought, the main reason is that we had 80% of the ride with head or cross winds. I hate them both in equal terms because I suck at riding into the wind. I never got the hang of it and get frustrated quite easily. I held my form and told the guys that I would have nothing for the second part of the ride where the ondulations are. I was not that far behind, but I was pushing harder than the other bastards. In the process I took the wrong turn at one point and we rode 6km into two big hills to a dead end street. LOL.

The last 20km were annoying enough but it all went OK once we got to a ridge that overlooks the lake. The place was busy as in pre-race mode, the world champs start time was for later in the day and there was plenty of crews coming and going and the midday sun gave it all a beautiful glare. I had my camera but was too concentrated in getting back to the truck and hanging the bike for good.

We did the last 10km into the wind with no troubles, and ran for 35minutes after. The legs were OK and the crowd in the streets were all nice to us thinking we were rowers in training, it was a fun run. So, not to confuse ambition with ability. I know I can ride 90km, but I knew in advanced I was going to push harder than the other two. What I didn't calculate was the wind factor and how much it would f---k me up, he he he.

Sunday was a lazier day and I got up at 7, went for a solo brick session. On the bike part I was happy to feel the legs were there. I saw another training buddy, Kev, doing his Sunday long ride so I modified my course and rode with him for a good quarter of an hour. Kev is a veteran IM but has a dodgy knee so now he just does Oly distance. He managed to kick my ass in a TT three months ago, not sure what drugs he take.

rest of the weekend is sofa time, reading and getting ready for November.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mt Eden, Auckland

Hill reps are back on the menu. Today was time to hit Mt. Eden again for a dozen times. The fresh morning breeze and watching dawn as I was clicking up the hill was a great feeling. It just doesn’t get any better.

Well, yes… it does. It is when you can do the same while swimming and that was what swimming in the new pool provided me with. It was not overly long distance, but I know it would be silly to jump from just over 3km to 5km.

The weeks are now taking a familiar shape, with training, a race every couple of weeks, more training, long rides and good sleeps. It’s about time I start playing with nutrition again to see if any further advances can be made in that front.

In the next month or so I have three races, two swim-runs and a half ironman. In my prior to HIM races I’ve been disappointed on the run times. I believe I'm capable of running a decent half marathon after a 90km ride. I’m trying to work out a new nutrition plan. Last time I went for bonk bars, gels and water and it didn’t work. I think I found a new weapon in the form of NUUN tablets. I think the scheme is going to be NUUN in every water bottle, 3 gels on the bike and another couple on the run. We’re doing an on-course training this sat, so I’ll give it a shot.

Tomorrow is an action packed day, training in the morning and midday +exams+last day ever at my current workplace (I’m not leaving, my workplace is merging into a regional authority instead of a city council). I’m probably out of the next for a couple of days.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

first impressions

I took the new bike out for a spin yesterday morning. I hadn’t ridden for some time and I managed to do a decent couple of hours.

The TCR Advanced is the lower of the racing bikes line of Giant. As the name states, Giant is no picnic, they have a large range and there’s constant updates, colour layout and so on. I’ve always been a bit apprehensive of big brands, for no particular reason. That said, I had a trek 1000 as my first road bike, and I had an old Giant from the first carbon eras and they were both great bikes.

Back to my ride, I was undecided between the bike I got and a TCR Alliance, which is a funny combination of carbon and alloy, the price was pretty much the same, but there was the 105 vs. Ultegra issue and the full carbon vs. alloy carbon issue. I ended up with a 105 setup, I don't know if luckily or not, but this bike didn't come with compact cranks.

Tuesday morning was the date and I took the bike for its first ride, easy spin for 10 minutes and then rolling hills for most of the next hour and a half. It ended up with a 8km TT section with headwind and back spinning home via the upland hills. The first thing to note is that 105 has come a long way, but it is sill a long way from Ultegra in terms of shifting performance and overall smoothness. I don’t love it, but it will grow on me. The second thing is that this bike is a pretty solid performer on the climbs and can hold some efforts. I reckon is a good combination of the oversized bottom bracket and the Aksium race wheels. They are not the lightest wheel, but they do the job and don’t need a lot of maintenance.

Steering up and down the hills is great and there were no wobbles in the speedy sections, only a slight drop in the top speed, but I'll probably sort that out. The head set is pretty normal, not too big, not too small. It's quite massive as well, but that's what you usually get in Giant.

On the TT section I went on to the drops and felt no loss of power, so the guy that sold and fitted it to me did a great job, Thanks Steve.

It’s a great improvement for me to finally have the right size of bike, with pretty much the right specs and a geometry that favours the type of riding I do. I look forward to more k’s on it and confirming if these impressions are right.

Another first time was for our new swimming squad. We’re now in an outdoor non heated pool and we have the whole pool for ourselves with no fast 11 year olds making us feel old and slow. The session is also a bit longer (1.5hr) but being on a wetsuit kind of makes it sweet. On the downside, I'm now driving 15min to get there opposite to 4mins from the other pool... that means less sleep.
some more on that to come tomorrow.