Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pure Blonde Aquathlon series - race 4 RR

Officially the last race of the season for me, the race was doubled as the aquathlon national champs. It appears that aquathlon (run-swim-run) it's becoming as speciality in itself and ITU world champs will require the participants to have run as part of a series in the national federation (well... that's what I heard). 
Being new to aquathlon and with 4 races under my belt, I reckon that the format is pretty good as it does not require a huge time commitment, and it is done and dusted in usually less that 1 hour of excercise. NZ can only cater for a few of these, and the Pure Blonde series is the second one in Auckland. It would be good if it was only one and a bigger field, but that is politics and business, two subjects that I am even more an amateur that mulstisport. 

Anyway, a cr@p weekend and my first 9hours sleep in a very long time. I woke up at 9am feeling tired. the fun thing is that I had NO THING the day prior, other than eat, study and sit around the house. I did a 30min stretching session while on skype with our parents and had a very light brekkie. Nat was driver and photographer and we got there with plenty of time to spare. There was the usual faces and quite a few new ones, that I know are fast guys. I was expecting a bigger field and a lot of hard work, so all good on that front. 

The numbers were slightly up from the other previous races, but not the 150 I had imagined. I went for a warmup run wih my mates Gordo and Reado. Legs felt OK, and after some serious stretching the upper body was firing as well. There was a few changes to the traditional circuit to suit the format (from 3km run to 2.5run this time, and triangle swim istead of box. There was a group of 6 or 7 good runners that I knew would be running pretty much together the whole race. My plan was to stick to them and see if I could pull an extraordinary swim and still be in contention out of the water onto the second run. The first 200m the people at the front was pushing a serious pace, sub 3min km. I made sure I was close but I was not up the front. Then the unexpected happened: there is a 90˚ left turn to go on a clockwise run around a block. The front guys ketp going straight, a few of us doubted but just kind of kept going... but then someone said something and we all realized we've missed the turn. I yelled WRONG WAY!, and turned back. The whole episode was 3 to 5 seconds.

I re entered the course and kept going... I realized I had an advantage of about 10 to 20m to the front guys. After about 20seconds the penny dropped.... this is my chance to go for it!.... I ducked in and went as fast as I could for the next km or so, then the body cought up with me and so did the first of the chasers. I was the first to T1 together with the eventual winner, Liam Scopes with a 10 to 15 seconds advantage (and a HR higher than other times, I must admit). The swimming was tought $hit, I was hiperventilated and dizzy for the first 200m of each of the two laps. I got passed by two or three guys in the 1km swim and I am lucky it was only them. 

Out of the water I got a good T2 and out I was chasing the 3rd runner. I did realize I was being chased too, but didnt pay too much attention to that. Halfway through the first lap I heard the steps of my mate Reado right behind me... the guy in the front was just over 10 ahead, I tagged along him and we passed before the start of the 2nd and final run lap. Reado decided to push the pace a bit more, and I had nothing to respond... I stuck to him for 400m and then the gap just kept growing and growing. And I had a guy 10secs behind me!!... I made sure I was not passed again and finished with a worrying look in my face. 4th overall and 3rd in the Age group (national champs!)

The afternoon followed with prizegiving and I got my bronze medal, and my prizes for the overall series winner for the swim-run and aquathlon series. I even scored the second spot prize of the season, a good box of cereal bars. 

As I was saying, this particular combination of disciplines has a good potential as it is easy to train for, and you can make it as complicated as you want if you're serious about speed. If any of you has a chance do one of them next season, here or abroad, and enjoy it... otherwise is not worth the effort.

keep rocking and pray for some sunshine 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blow the middle ground

A long boring day in Auckland, made the decision not to go training in the morning, as the weather what $hit. That bought me some time to finish with all the chores and the study... and finally get to blog what I'd though since the race in Welli.
A couple of days after the race it was the Abu Dabi Tri, a different race format with a gruelling 200km bike ride. That kept me thinking about how sometimes we are constrained in our training in order to have a great race in a set distance. I then investigated a bit about fun tri distances and found about some crazy races out there with overly long swims, or bikes or runs, something we don't have a lot here in NZ.

Anyway, what I thought is that over the off season, besides doing all those stupid miles sessions that I like so much, it is a good idea to lift the ceiling of what can be achieved in any of the three disciplines. Why not going for an all out swim PB? why not going for a 50km run? why not going for a 12secs 100m sprint? or up the biggest hill in the town or the region? or the country? there is many sporting ventures that we think we can't do but yet we can. Say, for example, our average pace... whatever that number it is, it is the result of the middle ground between our fastest pace and the slower pace. My theory is, that we don't loose much by lifting that fastest pace a notch for one time.
What happens if we realize that given we did it for once, we try again? and again? I guess that sometimes we have to throw everything out the window, find out a whole new world and move the middle ground up, or down, but shake it for the sake of it and put some spice to the training.

I've made my objective this season to have a few of those epic fun times. Don't have them mapped yet, but I'll make sure it's noted.

Tomorrow is the last race of the season, National Aquathlon Champs. The weather outlook is a bit dim, and we may not have great numbers, but there's still a bit of speed left on the old legs to fire through the race. A full report due tomorrow nite.

Enjoy your weekend

Sunday, March 20, 2011

report from a week later

Well, it's been and gone...there is only one more race, the aquathlon national champs in a week's time, and the season will be officially done for me.
At the moment my life is divided into three workstreams, the work-workstream, the uni-workstream and the training workstream. Each of them has their own timing and each of them require a fair amount of my awake time (40-20-20 hours). The magic is to somehow coordinate them to sync their disctintive ups and down in a manner that minimizes stress. When that doesn't happen I'm in a kind of limbo. The next three weeks are one clear example. Although I could start my off season next sunday, I will continue to train at the same levels until mid april.
The uni-workstream dictated that decision, as I have a break that I will use to travel to Argentina without suffering in the academic front. I have no races targeted in Argentina (yet), so it will be a proper break since the week after worlds. The motivation between now and then is to keep fit and lean, and continue to strengthen my core and legs, not a great motivation, but better than nothing.

On the training front it was a flexible week, with a couple of decent workouts, the first one was a 5k'er on the pool and the other one a good 90k ride with hills, the rest was at a turtle's pace and with lots of thinking in the middle. The thoughts were probably influenced by the Abu Dabi race and were about extraordinary things and lifting the middle ground. I'm still working the wording out in my mind and will have really exciting and breaktrhough teori for you all,

On the racing front, my mates Oli, Ro (4 races in 8 days), Josh, Marie, Nick and Gordo were out at the races, I made my trip to cheer for some but not for the ones racing on Sunday.

Have an awesome weekend,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The balance

Wellington is the biggest race in my calendar. It is not only the National Champs, but the qualifier for World Champs, and a good way to gauge where I am in relation to most of the same age groupers. Over the past 2 years I went to Welly with great expectations, and it turned out to be an average to poor race. These are the times

2009 - 0:22:40 1:11:41 0:38:09 2:12:30 88th overall
2010 - 22:27 1:11:34 35:44 2:09:45 5 28th overall
This time around things changed
2011 - 22:38 1:07:33 35:51 2:06:02 18th overall

not sure what my right hand is doing
The first thing that stands out is that my swimming is consistently up there, all of these times I was at the tail end of the first group of swimmers. I guess that if there’s any progress to be made here it will require a mechanical change of some sort.

The bike,
4 minutes shaved is less than a 10% increase, but an increase indeed. The two factors that have made a difference here are the amount of time I’ve spent time trialling, and the addition of a pair of zipp 404’s to my race arsenal. What a difference do these bad girls make!

The run
I was stoked with my run last year, and I am disappointed with my run this year. I had the secret objective of going sub-35, and it didn’t happen. Overall it is not bad and it shows how strong the training has made me, being able to keep going faster or stronger in the three disciplines.

good straight line coming out of a bend
and overcompensating with the right arm
Tansitions and nutrition
I’ve made good inroads on this front. The transition practices at brick sessions do help a lot, and racing a few races in the season I’m used to live on gels for up to 4 hours.

On an unrelated note, I’ve just entered IMNZ 2012, 800 dollars later I am excited, but also a bit sad, as the budget for the last couple of races for this season has disappeared, meaning no more fun at the races for a while.

Stay tuned for some more action, and a few cosmetic changes to the blog,

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tri Series Wellington - race repot -

Wellington is the venue for the standard distance Nationals, It has been like this for the past 5 or 6 years, and being located in the middle of the two islands there is an element of fairness to it in regards to access from all tri clubs and tri fans to get their butts in gear for the event.  The race organization is always top notch and I said before that I love the city so much that I cannot say anything bad about Welly. 
We are lucky enough to race in the waterfront and port area, that means an early start so vehicle and marine traffic can be disrupted as little as possible. This is a minor inconvenience for the athletes, as it is not quite daylight yet, and we get pretty dark race starts. 
Preparation for this race has been solid, with a few very interesting workouts, I knew I was in top shape 8 days before the race, and the tapper week was welcome as a final sharpening up. 

The Swim and T1 (22.38)
My swim exit from 2years ago
funny that I exited the water in same times
The swim is a deep water start, we walk to a pontoon in a marina a swim a counter-clockwise box. Deep water starts are a different animal and you have to make the most of your explosive speed trying to get the body in motion and up to race speed in those first 20 odd seconds. There is no momentumm from a previous run or dolphin dives. I am very methodical on this front, and ducked under the cover of the top swimmers of our age group. I expected to be on their feet the whole time. Someone else had different plans for me, as I was swam over and across twice in the first 150m. I had decided to stay right and a large pack was swimming to my left. Our little pack of 6 kept swimming at a good pace and 50m from the first buoy a few guys veered right and I styed in clean water in a straight line to the turn. I managed to turn OK and catch the large pack in the front. It was an easier swim until the second buoy and then smaller groups started to spread out. I was in a group of 4 and we worked together until the last 200m when someone sprinted and I didn't follow. At two points in the swim I thought I've seen my mates Martin and Carl passing me, but it turned out not to be them. I exited the water in good shape, yet a bit high on the heart rate. T1 was a flash, I had arm warmers on from the swim and the wetsuit left off pretty well, I think I even passed a couple of guys. There was three or four bikes out of our rack, so pretty happy to be on the top of the age group swimmers.

The bike and T2 (1.07.33)

My bike is always trouble, but I am a very hard worker and was waiting for moderate improvements in this area. To support that objective I got myself a pair of racing wheels (zipps 404's) from Elite Race Rentals. If you're in NZ and need to buy speed, go and visit their website, great prices and great service. Anyway, I thought I'd buy myself a couple of minutes of with these babies. And what difference do they make, I felt I was on a formula 1 bike. The perfect rolling of the wheels, the sound of them cutting through the wind, it all helps you go faster. Anyway, I left T1 and was having a bit of trouble to get my heart rate up and I wasnt doing much speed for the first 3-5 km. I'm always passed by a couple of dozen people, but this time it was only three or four, and then my mate Carl, flew past. I got my arse in gear and I was on a mission. There was this man in an road-cone-orange race suit a good couple of 100m ahead of me, and it looked like we were doing same kind of speeds. I got him as my carrot and worked for about 7km to catch and pass him. Once I passed him another guy from my age group passed me and we kind of stayed in touch for the next 10km, (i'd pass him on the flat head winds, he'd pass me on the little hills). At the turnaround mark I knew I was in the top 25 or 30 of the whole field. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the big bunch with the top guys of my age group was only 2min ahead. I made the decision then to do whatever I could on the bike not to loose more time on them. As I turned around I saw my other mate, Martin about 45 secs behind. That was my second mission, not let Martin catch me and if I was passed hang on to him with all I had. 
I passed the the other age group guy and picked a couple of hundred meters on him, and that was the last person I passed. A guy in a road bike cought me and it looked like he was in a mission too. I made sure I was on the draft legal distance and stayed behind him for a few km. I passed him at thr 35km mark and didn't look back. As I approached T2 I did two little mistakes. #1 was to try to get my armwarmers off while I was riding on the aero bars. I should have been on my brake hoods and it would have been soo much easier. #2 was to take my shoes off too soon, which ended up in me losing a bit of time on the last km. T2 was fast but I should have not worried about taking the armwarmers for there, and do it while I was running. 

The run (35.51)
Valen running 2 years ago (note
The tired head and arms)
As  I ran off T2 I saw Martin getting ready and cheered him. I know him and I run pretty much the same times (he's slightly better off the bike, but only 5 to 10 seconds on 5km), so that gave me a good way to monitor progress. I explained the run in my previous post, nice and flat, not a lot of turns. I tought I've packed my running legs, and I did. But I should have packed the best-shape-of-my-life running legs, and I sadly didn't. I had the expectation that I'd run sub-34 for this race and to do that I knew that each 2.5km  needed to be 8.30 or less. I got to the first turn on 8.53 and feeling good, I pushed a bit harder and got to the halfway mark in 17.45. Not too far, and really pumped, i kept pushing but I couldn't get any faster (a bi of wind, maybe?). By now most of the field was on the course I came across many mates and gave them a bit of cheer and high fives. I passed about 6 people on the first lap and another 6 on the second. When I did the last turn at the 7.5km mark I went as hard as I could, there was two guys at about 150m and I said to myself that it would be a shame if they turned out to beat me and be on the same age group. I passed the first one with 1km to go and the second one with 400m to go. Then I took a deep breath and went with all my might. I crossed the line really happy to had given my all. It turned out that the last guy I passed was on my age group.
The balance

Overall is good, but I will have a more detailed balance in tomorow's post. 
stay tuned, 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The tapper week

WOW!, can’t believe I’ve come to be so busy lately. I’m 2 days from race day and the tapper weeks has been a busy one as well.

It all started with a day off on Sunday, which I used to sleep till 9 in the morning and get a lot of chores done so to have a cruizy week. Monday was a hard swim, and a hard run (the last big workouts), the swim went well, but the run was forced to stop due to a recall from my quad injury. Fortunately, it was only a minor scare and I although I haven’t run since, I know it won’t be a problem on Race day. Tuesday was a short TT, with personal best time. Then another swim on Wednesday (only 50min) and a bit of spinning to keep the legs in motion.

Those are the workouts, but the most important two things during tapper week are Rest and Stretching. It is never too late to stretch and there is nothing as too much rest. I’ve kept those two thoughts on the top of my list, and I am in great shape, both physically and mentally, so let’s talk about the race.

Wellington Oly distance race:
The venue and the swim

Welly is the city I like more in NZ, the place where I’d love to live. They say that you can’t beat Wellington on a nice day, but nice days are apparently the exception and not the rule. We are fortunate enough to have the marine traffic stopped for our race and we swim in the middle of the Lambton Harbour, the area is protected and there won’t be more than a moderate swell. I’ve had a mix of experiences in the past, from a power swim to an average-middle-of-the-pack paddle. The temperature is a big factor, and if it is not too much below 15 degrees air temperature we should be fine for a swim of around 20min.
The bike
This is the gamebreaker of this race. You either have it or you don’t. The course is an out and back that follows the coastline and clifflines of Wellington’s harbour and the mouth of the Cook straight. There will be wind blowing, the strength of that wind will influence the results big time. In my personal experience I prefer the wind to be moderate to strong, as although it is a bit of a pain when it is on one’s head, it is great aid when it’s on the tail. My calculations are that as I am not the strongest biker I’ll lose about 5% (2-3km/h) on the headwind to the top age grouper. But we’ll be only 2% apart on the tailwind sessions. That is thanks to my newly found leg strength-endurance. The cold factor won’t be a disadvantage, and the legs should fire OK.
The Run
It is very simple, flat out and back 2 lap course. Only 5 turns in the whole race (out of T2, turnaround, lap1, turnaround, in to finish shoot). We’ll be all getting off the bikes around the 60 to 65 minutes. At this time there will be a gentle breeze. The tactic for this session is to go as hard as I can. Hopefully I’ll be on the top 20% of the field and on a good day my run should prop me onto the top 10%. We’ll see how it goes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pure Blonde Aquathlon series RR

Thursday was my dad' birthday, but since he's some 15000km away from Auckland I missed the dinner and drinks and went to the races instead.

This time around Pure Blonde Aquathlon was special, as all funds from the race were going to the Christchurch earthquake relief appeal. We were quite a few but could have done with a few more. The conditions were optimal (very light breze, tepid water and a not very punishing sun).

The race started with the usual 3km run split into two laps. There is a bunch of us in pretty good form at the moment, so I knew that at some point it would be a race. A bunch of 4 went to the fron on the first lap at a very civilized pace. We weren't having a conversation, but there was air in the lungs to start one if necesary. Towards the end of the lap we go down and then flat for about 300m, this was a good breather and we then went up to start the second lap. My mate Martin was driving the pace, but then Reado took over. He's a great runner and I knew he woul'd get the better of me if he was at the front. At midway point I felt there was room for an effort, if it all went well it meant I was gonna swim by myself and keep a good lead. I went with a good effort and when i looked back a couple of minutes after, I had a 50m lead. I kept it that way until T1.

Got in the water quite relaxed and swam a steady first lap of the 1000m course. I decided to put a bit of a hammer on the second 500m, and started swimming a bit harder, but my googles leaked and I was itching the eyes. It turned out I was waaaaay off course and when I got back into it, the other two guys had made an insight into my lead.

I got off the water with 15 secs to spare, I did a flash T2 (hopefully I can keep flash T2's for the next couple of weeks) and got running with all my might for the first of the last two laps. After the first one I knew it had enough to relax the pace a bit. I did and apparently reado and Martin as well, as when I went into the final 200m I had like 20 seconds advantage.

I don't know what was my time when I crossed the line, but I was back to being first and happy to have another one under the belt. We had a few laugh afterwards and we went back home to get ready for the final two days of training. After Saturday the tapper week starts!

All the winners donated their prize money to the red cross to match the organizer's spirit.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

in the hurtbox

yeah.... it is one of those weeks in the year where I am in the hurtbox.
the programme reads "hard week", whic makes it harder is that it is coming on top of an already hard week that involved a 40km TT and good running as well.
I'm 9 days from the A race date and I should be close to the top of my fitness. the last couple of weeks (well, actually since the Kinloch race) I have come to the realization that it has been really easy for me to het in the hurtbox during those key workouts. Probably the best learning of the season so far.  There is a fine line between being able to access the hurtbox and smashing every session and ending up with burnout sindrome and It looks like I've managed to get the point.
Monday was a double whammy with 3 200m swims under 2.30 (which is good time for me) and a superset with a couple of 3.30min/km. Tuesday was a PB on the 25km TT and I backed it up with a decent 1500m TT at the pool.
Top top things up I started my new job on Monday (I got a promotion) and I also started two papers at uni.... it's been a very long 4 days, but I'm in goods spirits.

Keep tuned for Pure Blonde race report