Sunday, February 27, 2011

The people of Christchurch

There is one thing that has dominated daily life in NZ for the last 5 days. It's the terrible tragedies brought in by a massive earthquake in central Christchurch, in the south island of New Zealand.
As I grew more and more familiar with this country I learnt that Chch is not only the most important city of the South Island, but home of many great personalities in the sports, businesses and the arts. The one thing I got to know is that people of Chch is tough, they are as hard as they come and their rugby teams are usually top contenders everywhere (that's a big say in a rugby mad country as this one). That is usually stuff of joke when many city boys from Auckland complaint about a bit of cold weather.
This time around the people of Christchurch needs as much help as it can be, they are going through tough times. We all have done something, but if there's space and time in your schedule you could make room for any of these two initiatives that will do their bit.

First one is this coming thursday, the TACT PURE BLONDE SERIES is on, and all of our entry fees are being donated to the Christchurch Earquake appeal fund. If you are in Aucks, come around to Point Chev beach and do a workout while helping out.  Another incentive to come to this one, race sponsors Pure Blonde will pitch in with a 6pack of this low carb beer to each entrant of the race.

Secondly, the guys at Hot Potato have organize a virtual 5km run to raise funds. Check them out and help them out, we can all help and it will be welcome

Friday, February 25, 2011


I was out on my own to do a 40km TT on the bike. Doing TTs has become an important part of my training in the last year. I counted over 20 TT’s (not including triathlon races) since I started this blog.

At an average 25km each, that’s over 500 kilometres of riding against the clock. If we count the triathlon races (3 half iron rides, 2 oly, 2 sprints) we get close to 1000km of TT riding. It is a fair bit. After a time one starts to get the hang of it and finally like them. They are demanding, usually on the upper reaches of our heart rate and they are tough on the mind. One has to be perfect synch to get all cogs moving and going well in them. I can count three great TT’s in the past year. The rest are good, and then a few average ones and one or two that sucked big time.

Yesterday was a particular one as it is one of those key workouts 2 weeks out of race day. It was the race distance, there was a hard run after and I had carte blanche to go for it. Unfortunately I couldn’t do it with the rest of the squad in our little handicap system. Coach was worried and worried me by saying that I would benefit for being in a situation where there are more around me acting as carrots. I knew I was in a good frame of mind, but the question kept popping. Can you do it? Can you get yourself into a racey frame of mind even if you’re on your own in the middle of the airport logistics and industrial hub?

So it was time for mindgames. this time of the positive ones, the ones that can work enhancing our performance and aid our workout. I originally had nothing in mind other thank going out there and pushing hard on my pedals. But after coach’s questions I thought I’ll put more of a plan into place and got into my mind that this was the most important workout of the whole training programme, that this was THE race or just below. That no other thoughts should cross my mind other than getting there – fast. Every other rider on the route was a target and I was there to catch them. Every time I saw my HR going below certain numbers I would spin faster, and get an extra gear. Every part of the course I kept thinking “ and here is when I should catch so and so” “ and here is where X will catch me… I should try not to let him go too far away” and thoughts like that. There was a couple of patches where I started thinking about work, or uni…. I moved them both away and kept thinking in wellington, and the wind and how similar the TT course is to the race cource, and how similar that TT was to my last race in Welli.

The result? I had a great TT in windy conditions. My secret objective was to be over 90% average HR for the ride, but due to tailwind and headwind influences I was just below. The second objective was to be closer to 1:05:00 than to 1:10:00. I ended up finishing right in the middle.

The run after was not as harsh and overall a great day out on my own.

How do you play your mindgames?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Three weeks to go

Friday I was given the final part of the programme for the oly distance national champs.
i realized it's less than 20 day to race day and I got a strange sad feeling, like saying goodbye to a good friend that's out for a long trip.
Anyway, I was sad for a bit and the next minute I was busy trying to translate all the scribbling from my diary to the coache's format. Trying to merge the writing that took me 5 weeks to put together into a spreadsheet is a bit of a mission, but I think I'll be done by mid week. I have to provide comments and perceived effort for each and every session, and then we'll check if I've stuck to the programme or not and what trends come in.
Then it was work, and training and sleeping (friday) and training and more sleeping and chilling (and some darn good baking on Saturday) and training and off to the races (on Sunday).
This time it was not me racing, but going to cheer my mates Gordo, Ro, Josie, Alesha and watching the pro's race on the city centre at Takapuna beach, a great city spot and a great race in baking hot conditions.
in the battle of the sport drinks  Mizone beat Powerade

Bev Docherty beat Kris Gemmell on the final sprint and they showed how much of a leap there is between the first and second tier athletes in the sport. I think it's good and it should keep all of the guys on the second bunch hungrier and more determined to get there and kick ass.
Back to my favourite subject (me and my training), there was a couple of nice surprises in the programme, like 2 Sundays off and a week with 2 days off in total... this is a first time ever kind of thing, so I thought I'll have to celebrate it by sleeping in.
19 days to go, I won't probably get any fitter than I am now, but I should get faster, and leaner, and more determined than ever to get to the podium.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pure Blonde aquathlon series - Race II report

A lesson learned.
Another gorgeous auckland day on the hottest February on record. It all started with a morning sleep in and late start at work (8.30). Comes mid morning I got a text from my mate Reado that he had come off his bike and was in hospital. Fortunately it was just a matter of a dozen stitches here and there and not major grazing or broken bones. He was commuting to work and a pedestrian just appeared on the road. That kind of brought me to the reality that accidents do happen and it is always wise to be ready for when they come. I'm gonna start commuting to work soon, and this was not the most encouraging news. The good news is that he was able to make it to the race to watch and we were all happy to see him walking around like (almost) nothing happened.
Him and I and Martin are the fastest runners when we're fit. and our swimming is very similar, so it's always good to race them taking the bike off the equation. With Reado unable to race and Martin off crook, it was a matter of checking who else would turn up at the races and trying to hang in there for another placing.

Comes Shannon. He's a really nice guy that races in our age group. We've met here and there and in the last world champs him and Reado did 8th and 9th on the age group, so I knew I would have to make my best if I wanted the win. The format is 3km run split in two laps, 1km swim (another two), and the same 3km for dessert. The start was conservative for the first 400m, then I decided that If I wanted the race I'd have to work hard for it. What better then that puttin a few sprints here and there and try to get into the water with a healthy lead?
I tried once and the small group stuck to me. I tried again and it was me and Shannon, I tried again with the same results. by the end of the first lap I decided to give it one more try. there's a hill that I know I can run hard on a good day.  I did and it didn't work. I decided to wait and try to hang in there for the swim.

We transitioned into the ocean and Shannon took the lead, I followed, not without some effort. It was my time to sit in second place and I did no work for both the swim laps.

I did a flash transition and got a few seconds of lead, it all lasted until halfway the first lap. It was then that Shannon decided to put the feet on the gas and he passed me like I was standing. I tried with all my might but by the infamous hill that starts the second lap I knew I had close to nothing in the legs for a 1.5km sprint. I kept trying until halfway and by then there were 100m distance between us two. that was the race gone, so I held myself up for the finish.

A second place and a lesson learned. I am not sure what was what I learned, but I know that it is about controlling the efforts and been mentally there all the time (which I was). That's why these small races are so important part of my training. they're as real as it gets.

thanks to my sponsor Nat, who bakes the best cakes in the world
Then it was dinner at home and up at 5.30 for swimming squad. I thought it would be a gentle swim.

But I was soooo wrong. We ended up swimming over 1200m of Level 4 and Level 5 (out of 5) stuff. Lucky I had the wettie on. I am happy I nailed the intensity and times in all but one of the sets (I don't like swimming 300metres, it;s a distance where I cannot find the right pace) but it would have been nice to have a wetsuit PB for any of them which didnt happen

All in all a great couple of days, hope yours was up there as well,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The bucket list

Last weekend Richard Usher took the Coast to Coast in the South island of New Zealand. A training buddy of our, Julia, was the third female vet across the line in over 15 hours 50 min of racing… WOW!

As we got more and more involved in the endurance sports thing, more and more events start to get into our bucket list. I am not a purist in any kind, and therefore my bucket list is varied and spread along the globe, the order is arbitrary, there’s no preference, only the idea of doing the event some time.

1 – Race a Marathon swim: It was on my plans for mid January this year and it didn’t pan out. I may try to get into the event next year. The idea of a 10km plus open water swim is appealing in many senses, the main one is to investigate my endurance and nutrition tactics for such a long event.

2 –IMNZ: if all goes to plan, this will be a tick in the box next year. I never got the IM bug, but the event is so well run and set in such a nice location that it would be a shame not to do it. Besides, IM training will help me step up the bike legs a notch.

3 – Triathlon de La Paz, Entre Rios, Argentina: this is the most famous event in my homeland. It’s been going on for close to 30 years, and the atmosphere is incredible (I’ve only watched videos, but I can tell you wanna be there)

4 – Do the Coast to Coast one day race: This iconic kiwi multisport race is the dream of many multisporters and most people that has done it loves it. I have never raced a multisport race involving kayak or mountain running, but I’d like to think I can manage to do this race one day. The downside is the cost of the C2C campaign.

5 – race a long distance trail run in NZ and Argentina on the same year: the K42 series is a website I started checking more and more often, again, this may take time and patience.

6 – Wellington to Auckland bike tour: or any other 7 to 10 days tour for amateurs: I loved doing a 3 day tour, but I’d love to go further with a good group of mates.

Speaking of bucket lists. What about trying to become the oldest swimmer swim between the south and north islands of new Zealand? … my mate Geoff is doing just that, go and check his blog and give him a few words of support, he’s on a waiting list and if the weather holds he’ll be dipping in the cook straight waters soon.

Race day today, so I shall have some news tomorrow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ready to be fried

Another fast week has passed. The sprints nationals race was followed by a hard week of training (hard in volume and excertion) and work did not leave a lot of room either. Add to that a mate staying at home and you get tired... really tired... hence the lack of blogging. 

The first news would be the arrival of a new gear bag, thanks to the helping hand of Shaun, one of the mates from Monday running and the MGR pool. He's a cool guy who also helped us when we were fundraising for our Europe experience.I turned up to training on Monday and he asked me if I still was chasing a free bag. it turned out he has a spare that he got as a spottie on a race some time ago. this kind of little things are the ones that make many of our training groups and clubs so cool... everybody is always happy to extend a helping hand.
Then there's the development of the week. I didn't sleep as much as I wanted but still managed to nail every session as per the programme. The coolest one was the Friday sprints (200m x12) which were all in virtually the same time and in a nice progression of heartbits. This is going to be the fourth time we've gone through a scheduled and periodized programme. Every time I pick more and more signals that can help me tell where I am, and on this date I can honestly tell that I am ready to be fried. There will be 20odd days of mostly hard work in the water, the bike and the asphalt. I am ready for them and I don't know how much I can give. That's a great morale booster and makes things much more easy. 

I have to say that there was a day off in the middle of the hard week. Day off are good to catch up with resting and eating, so we did make a visit to Alesio's in the Posonby food court. The pizza was inspiring to say the least. This was followed with attendance to a nutrition seminar that almost made me feel bad about it, but instead brought us to buy a big pot of nutella, he he he. 
Overall, a great week with a new bag, pizza, good training times, nutella and a day off... IT JUST DOESNT GET ANY BETTER!

Oh.. yes. It does. I met another mate, Oli, on the third on my long ride today, we went on for almost 2 hours. Oli is a long distance man, but he's yet to do an ironman. We were riding with his wife Sue, who is 4 weeks out of race day (IMNZ) and among the chatter we agreed that being solo on the IM rides in NZ sometimes is a bit of a bummer. So I said that I will have those questions answered next year, as I plan to do the event in 2012. It just happens that Oli will be doing it as well... and we're of similar abilities on the bike, so my Ironbuddy maters are sorted over 1 year before the race, and 3 months before I even start training for the event.

Hope you're having a great weekend out there. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tri Series - Kinloch race report - Part II

THE BIKE 37.16 HR Ave 91% HR Max 95%

The bike was going to be tough business, but I was quite high and happy with my swim and T1 so I kept the good spirits and hammered the first 3km. Reado and I have sort of talked about me hanging on to him on the bike as soon as he passed me. I tried and it worked, for about 10 min I had him in sight but could se the gap getting bigger and bigger. The good news is that while I was concentrated on that I kept passing people and not getting passes so much. Then it was hills time and I did my best to keep going. A guy in a P3 and a young fella stuck to me so we kind of kept each other honest going up and down the next 10km. A few known faces went past me, it was surprisingly late when my other mate, Martin, cought me. He was on a mission and quite bummed about his swim, we talked for 20 secs and he flew away. At the turnaround I was 50th or so out of all males.

Coming down the hills I was as careless as I could and I’m happy to report to have gone past 5 or 6 people, a couple of lightweight kids and a few big boys. We came back into town and TT’d our way through T2, a couple of more passed me and I passed another couple. The legs were full of ants, but I knew that it would be a matter of minutes before the race was finished.

THE RUN 18.20 HR Ave 93% HR Max 98%

T2 was again fast and furious, and out I was pounding the pavement. The hills had taken a toll on me, I could not sprint out of T2 like some other races, and the turnover was pretty low. I got into a better rhythm after 500m and started eating my way through the pac-man that was the Kinloch run course. A young guy passed me halfway through the first lap and I clawed to him for the next lap, he then surged and I responded, but run out of legs to keep going. The last km I got a second wind and left all I had on the run. It helped me to jump from 50th out of the bike to 28th overall.. which is not bad. But I wouldn’t rate this run as one of my best. I finished in a total time of 1.07.19 which got me into 6th in the age group.


It was a good race on a gorgeous town. My secret objective was to get a placing, but there was a lot of ambition in that statement. In order to get a placing I needed at least a minute on the bike and 30 to 40 seconds on the run. Are those objectives achievable? I believe they are, it’s a matter of working harder the next time. Was there any mitigating factors? Maybe: I did a race on Tuesday, and a full on TT on Thursday, and I didn’t have any days off for 10 days straight before the race…. That has to show at some point.

How did I feel after? I felt OK right after, now I feel really happy. There’s good signs in the way the HR shows the approach to the race. The incremental efforts allowed me to have some legs for the last bit of the run, although the race was not lost there, it is a good thing to know. The national champs for Oly distance are 4 weeks away, and given the current fitness it could be easily said that there is endurance in the swim, bike and run to make a better effort.

Training for a dive start
out in the course recce
swim practice in the great lake taupo, with Nat

Race face, and a wetsuit full of wee

Monday, February 7, 2011

Contact Tri Series – Kinloch – Race report part I

Although it was a sprint distance event, the whole weekend may require two posts to go over it. Wednesday was a great day of training and a perfect recovery from the Pure Blonde.. Race. The body was holding on OK on the swim sprints and the legs were fresh for a 70min run in the evening. Thursday was TT day, with the difference that instead of being the usual 25km, it was a 16km version. I went very well for my expectations and the average pace was a massive 2km faster than the normal. The only down part was that some muscle or tendon in the groin area had enough for the day and my run was nil.

That made Friday and swim only day, which I loved. Then we packed and drove almost 4 hours from Auckland to Kinloch. (it took us 1.5 hours to get out of Auckland). Kinloch is a tiny town on the shores of lake Taupo. The town has none of the attractions of Taupo, it just has the raw feeling of a lazy coastal town where time has stopped. The race doubles as the national champs for Sprint distance.

After a good sleep we went to do a swim-run reconnaissance of the course and a later bike ride. The day was gorgeus and HOT. The afternoon nap was a sweat fest.

The swim is a beach start in the fresh water of the lake. Even on a windy day the swim is quite flat and scenic. One lap on a clockwise direction, with the chance of hydrating along the way.

The bike is hilly, with most of the work to be done on the way out. There’s patches of 20km/hr and patches of 75km/hr it makes for good fun but if you get into a dark patch the race is over. The motivation is to keep going on the uphills thinking how cool we’ll be on the way down.

The run is 2 laps of an undulating course that winds its way through the town centre, the shore and the little marina. There’s a steep bridge of about 15m long that is the delight of off road runners.

I did this race in 2009 and the times were 12min 38.20min and 20.52min. Not bad back then, but I was forecasting a 10.30 – 36.00 – 17.30. the forecast does not take into account weather conditions and changes to the course length and so on. We’ll come back to this topic in part II

SWIM 750m: 11.43min – HR Av 82% - HR Max 92%
I placed myself (and my mate Reado) close to a group of fast swimmers (a bit faster than us), in the front row of the beach start. I started at full speed and was not going to give up until I had a panic attack. There was a lot of giving and taking but I went mostly unscratched on the head and upper body, the legs got grabbed and twisted but nothing major. We formed a big group of about 30 that kept pushing to the first buoy. I had a s@#t turn but got back into the business pretty soon. The second turn was flawless and I passed about 10 people on it. I then made my way to another group that was going well up front and the 5 of us pushed the last 200 together.

I drank some water on the last 100m and was already working my way through transition. Everything was in place and I got out real fast.

To be continued….

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two good news: a comeback and a victory

The comeback

Ian Thorpe announced he is back. The photo on the Australian papers is not very encouraging (apparently he’s been eating some pies lately). He’s one of those guys I admire and I hope he makes it to the 2012 games, it will make good TV watching. Speaking of.. here’s a great 400m race against another great long distance swimmer.

The Victory – PURE BLONDE Aquathlon series – Race 1 Report

The Pure Blonde series is divided into 4 swim-run events and 4 Aquathlon events, with the Aquathlon national champs in the end. This was the first of them and it was the first ever for many of us. We’ve never had done one before, not even for training.

The conditions at Point Chev. Beach were outstanding, great golden sun drenched beach, light sea breeze and a lot of people at the beach. Can’t ask for more for a race. The field was not big, but I think it did set a precedent and next time we’ll be busier.

The race was laps of 1.5km, a 1km swim and another 2 1.5km run laps on the same circuit. Elevation was a bit of an issue because we went from the beach up 10 metres in a 40m hill, two times each run lap. The swim was against the current on the way in and with the current on the way back. 2 500m laps. We started a bit conservative, the front group was 4 or 5 of us, and I know for sure that three of us were new to the combined run-swim of the first half. I made sure to stick behind my mate Reado, who knocked a sub 17min 5km last week. He was on tired legs, so the pace was punishing, but not that bad. After drafting for the first lap I moved to the front and did a cheeky escape going on the second lap. The idea was to get into the water by myself and swim on my own. In the works case scenario a group would catch me and I’ll draft of them for the remainder of the swim. In a perfect world, I would extend my lead. I got 10 seconds into the swim and none of the scenarios panned out. I did maintain a lead, and it was the same that I had going into the water.

The final run was hard, I went full throttle for the first 1500m and by the start of the second lap I knew I had a healthy 20 seconds to spare. The rest was a matter of keeping a steady pace and looking back every now and then to avoid surprises.

I ended up wining the first aquathlon I entered and although I didn’t get the prize money (yet), I’ll have to celebrate taking my wife for fish and chips.

What’s next?

Kinloch triathlon – National Champs for sprint distance. Sunday 6 feb.
Pre race thoughts soon, watch this space

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Goodbye to a good friend

It is with great sadness that I have to let go of my dear gym bag. We’ve had lots of adventures together here and abroad. It’s one of the few items that I have not left behind after bricks, or swim or other workouts and it has certainly made my daily routines way more bearable.

Last year it went for major renovations on the zipper area, but this time around I don’t think there’s hope of survival.
close up of the damage

I will now start the search for its replacement, donations are welcome as long as they are in a usable state. I am happy to advertise your company. Medium and large sizes are welcome. Transition bags will merit your name mentioned in this blog.

Stay tuned for my first aquathlon race report.