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.