Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Favourite metrics

My favourite quote is from Galileo Galiei "measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so", the hard headed determination of a man of science contained in those 10 words (funny, the spanish translation is also 10words long) stuck to me since the first time I found it while doin an essay at uni. In a way, that motto underpins the history science and technology over the last centuries. It has been great way to bring the illusion of order into situations that sometimes are beyond comprehension.
Brought into the sporty world, there was a whole new world of metrics that I discovered as I got more into triathlons and cycling; from the basics like speed, perceived effort and cadence to more specific like heart rate, stride cadence, power, altitude, pace, and all the combinations that come to play like power to weight ratio,  drag coeficient and blah blah blah. I've learned that there is a huge basket of metrics that one can produce, monitor and record. Coache's job would be to make smart use of those metrics in planning the best possible programme to get us in A shape for our A race.
A self coached athlete will find a way to organize a training schedule makin use of a series of metrics and in most cases it will be a great way to get from day 1 to race day in a better, fitter state.
In my case I work mostly on HR and perceived effort. Cadence and pace come to play a secondary role in the more specific workouts and the rest has been trial and error. I'm a good boy and I do as I'm told. So far the system has worked and I trust it will keep going the same way.

Panmure pool, a great discovery

But when I look back into my diary and check the best days out I've had in the year, most of the sessions have been run paying attention to one specific metric, it is that one that won't allow my mates to get too far away (on the swim, or the bike or the run) and vice versa. the work for it is HONEST, whenever I wrote down in my diary that it was an HONEST session it means that we went in a solid pace, and making sure everybody stays in that zone where you can go hard OK for a good period of time. It's a pity I don't have a honestymetre to use in every workout. I'll have to ensure I do find a way to make it measurable, and pass that information to the boss, It may be the breakthrough metric of 2011 and it may even get me a placing.

On the training front I had to think on my feet to make sure the weekend was put to good use. The brick session of Saturday got cancelled due to rough weather but I didn't get the message. As I was already on the venue with the customary champion's brekkie inside my guts I decided to do a solo brick. I went to a nearby pool, set my bike on the trainer and got to work, picking the session from the pre-Budapest days. It turned out to be a great day, the swim ticked along nicely, the legs felt great on the bike (I made sure I gave them a contained hammering) and the running was just neat, in a stunning volcanick lagoon track. I guess coach did it on purpose (to forget me on the cancellation text) to get me angry and make me use all that anger and aggression in my training day and it worked, thanks G!  (ha ha ... I don't think my theory is true, tho.

champion's brekkie: muesli and beer
Sunday ride was an HONEST ride with my mate Jeremy, I just love doing this. You all keep smiling, and be safe out there.

Friday, January 28, 2011

and then something happened

After an OK weekend. Monday saw us starting a hard week of training, the season is well underway and the two National Champs are round the corner. This means a lot of fun, hard, quality workouts. And a lot of other ones that are not as much fun, but still of good use for the final objectives. 
 The mini-tri's are a good sample of that. So... I was saying, monday was a hard day at the pool, and the evening session was the ever present cooper's test night. A good sign is that I went beyond the last mark by about 30 metres. I probably said this before, but these tests sometimes are a lottery, you never know how the legs are gonna respond during the first 3/4 minutes of the test. Once you're cleared of that the anaerobic motor kicks in and you don't know if there will be enough gas to finish full throttle. It was a good result and more interesting from the HR point of view. This time around I didn't go as high as last time, but I recovered quite fast after 1 minute of rest. If you want to know the secret of how to nail 3685m in 12min go to this post .

gotta love country roads
 Tuesday was off and Wed was a long day at the office, I couldn't make it to the swim session, which was 1000m time trials, I did them today instead. But something happened between my rest day and the rest of the week. The wednesday long run went OK but not great and the thursday bike TT was shite, even though I went as hard as I can, something didn't quite work. And to top it up the swim TT's were average as well. Coach recomended to go for a blood test, which I will do as soon as I can. But it is not a great concern so far... shite happens, everyday and one has to keep on rocking.
So there I went today to do some trackwork and nailed a good set in the prescribed times and in a reasonable HR band.

a view from the top, Mt Eden on a nice day
The current and coming weeks have many workouts where one races against the clock. It is a good way to train the mind and the body to do two things. The first one is to make the mind push the body to the limit of excertion and a bit further if posible, the full syncro between brain and muscles to make sure that all the money that's in the bank is well spent. The second one is to blow up, to go waaaaay too hard to the point where there's just a black tunnel and no light beyond. Only by going there one get's to know the signals that announce the big WASTED state. Every time in the season that we get to these weeks I treat it as the ones where I will learn more about how much I'll ask my body at the time of a race.
I must confess, though, that besides a big blow on last week's bike TT (I had not a lot of legs for a run right after) I haven't hit the wall as much... I will probably do so next time around.

stay tuned!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The week that was

pheeew.... it's been busy times. Both, training and work have geared up and I found myself more ready for bed than for a 1/2 blogging session.
A grey day in September
On the training front it was a moderate/easy week (easy on the pool, moderate everywhere else) with the race las Tuesday, TT (which saw me going to 95% of my HR by mistake) and a new breed of brick sessions that made a great impression in the squad.
How to become a better time triallist.
The TT business went like this; we have a set TT course for 16 or 25km with repetitions of a big and a small lap depending on your distance. I know that my big lap takes me between 14.45 and 15min, if I'm there after the first lap I know I am on track. This time around I did it on 14.30, which meant I was either going too hard too soon or I was in line for a season't best, the second lap was just 4 seconds slower, things were looking groovy!  Just a couple of days before coach and I  agreed that doing more and more TT's is the only way to get better at time trials. So, there I am, in line for a PB and trying to hang on to it... I didn't look to the HR monitor often enough, and after finishing and doing the run off the bike I check the data and it turned out I was flat out the entire way, with the average being 91% and the max 96%. I thought that would be a NO NO, but it wasn't and I got a season's best that I must crush in the upcoming weeks.

A new kind of bricks
Saturdays bricks were different this time around. We're all at a level where most of our improvement on the fitness side has been made. There is room to get better, but that will be only after a new base period during the autumm and winter months. Now it is time to get smarter and race smarter. With that in mind, our brick session was changed from the usual swim-bike-run to 3 mini triathlons with proper transitions and 2min rest in between each rep. It was as closest you can get to a race situation. Coach came up with bike stands that we set up as if it was a transition area and we had a proper run from the sea to the transition and from there to the road. The distances were 600m - 6.6km - 1.3km approx. the bike was hilly and the run was flat. We had a group going with Jeremy and Martin and we ended up doing similar times, our transitions were OK, then better and for the last one I think I nailed them in flash times. There's a video that I have to get my hands on and will put in the blog soon.
this is the first time that I do three little triathlons one after the other almost nonstop. It was good to work on the higher intensities, and great race simulation because the transitions were the exact environment you have in a race. Being a short bike, it also helped for me not to loose so much ground against better cyclist. Now I want more, so we'll see.
Saturday afternoon the weather got greyer and greyer and it rained for most of the night and morning. Non stop. No long Sunday ride, trainer instead.

I hope your weekend rocked as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pure Blonde Series, Race 4 Report

Tropical storm Zelia is forecast to strike New Zealand as a tropical cyclone at about 09:00 GMT on 18 January.

Tropical storm Zelia is forecast to strike New Zealand as a tropical cyclone at about 09:00 GMT on 18 January.
Data supplied by theUS Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Centersuggest that the point of landfallwill benear34.6 S,172.0 E.Zelia is expected to bring 1-minute maximum sustained winds to the region of around138 km/h (86 mph).Wind gusts in the area maybeconsiderably higher

Despite forecast like the one above, the PURE BLONDE series went ahead yesterday evening at Point Chevalier beach. There wasn’t many of us, but the spirit of adventure and good vibes by everyone in there were enough to get things going.

Organizers had to change the registration, transition and finishing area, moving them to a more covered space. The change was minor but meant a steeper last 10m of the run to transition. The water was warm and one could have swam without a wetsuit. There was a little chop coming from the north east, but nothing too bad that a stronger kick would not offset.

The swim was the usual two lapper, the buoy appeared to be no as far as previously, but it drifted for some time to accommodate itself in the right spot. We started the swim ready for a fight with the current, and I got first to the first buoy 30m off the start. Then it was just a matter of swimming strong and making sure there was no one passing me. My mate Nick was out there, stuck to my feet, that kept me honest for the first lap. The second lap was a more relaxed business, as I knew I had a few seconds to spare and we would all be more tired. I made sure the gap didn’t shrink and got out of the water with a half a minute advantage.

contrary to some rumours, I didn't run on the beach and turned around at the right points. LOL
Such a lead should be more than enough to win the race, but you never know until you know. So, for good measure I put the hammer down on the first km of the run (silly mistake, the first 1km is a slight uphill) and then settled into a pace. At the turnaround I could see that Martin was coming second and looking pretty good. Again, I ensured I kept running tall and fast over the next lap. On the last 500m I knew I had it so I relaxed a bit.

 I crossed the line almost together with Ro, who was using the race as a practice for his stroke and stride race this evening. I was the first one of the people racing long course. The whole race was a bit harder than I originally thought due to the wind, but it was good fun.

The only bummer is that I may have a little strain in my shoulder or neck muscles and I had to pass on this morning’s swim because I was sore.

First placing of 2011, if it all goes to plan there should be a few more in the bag before the season ends.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Che Guevara, chickens crossing and mate

The track on a Friday morning

It was the end of a hard week of training. Although it was not hard week as as a hard week would be, the increase in intensity of the workouts and coming back to double shifts after the long TT of 10 days ago did take a toll. I had a sore lower back for three days, something that I do get every now and then and I just noticed it coincides with these transition periods.

I was glad to see the weekend and had no plans other than train and be at home reading and watching some movies. Saturday was time for brick sessions and we started to polish specific skills for the upcoming races, the weather was just perfect and made for an ejoyable experience in the water and on the roads as well.
the rest of the day was a bit of housework and Argentine chorizo for a friends B-Day

Diego, the asador
Sunday was a long solid ride with Martin, he and I did a two person TT a few months back, and this time around I proved to be a good hanger-on, taining him on is scheduled 3x20min TT efforts. I didn't have a free ride, though, I covered two two minutes shifts, on the head wind. On the top of the Twilight hill (that's a proper name for a hill) we had to stop at a chicken crossing.

Argentina: Mate rules

The rest of the day I laid on the sofa, resolving an Inspector Montalbano case and watching the movie about Che Guevara. The movie triggered a homesey feeling and I made myself a full kettle of Mate. Mate is a hot drink that is cooler than tea or coffee to many people in Argentina, paraguay, Uruguay and south of Brasil. There is no better laxative than a cold mate, and no better companion for a long afternoon of nothing much. The downside is that I got swollen tummy and felt pretty average for the rest of the night.

that's my 2005 model

it proved to be good rest and I am back 100% we'll have to see what the HR data shows for the week ahead.

Speaking of the week ahead. Tomorrow is the last of the swim-run part of the Pure Blonde series, if you're in Auckland c'mon in, it's your chance to swim while a tropical cyclone sweeps the country!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a big lot of fluf about categories

Any categorization is arbitrary and I am not going to write a new chapter in the book of triathlon in this post. But it doesn’t cease to puzzle me where a lot of athletes place or are placed in when it comes to racing at home, abroad and at world champs. Someone once told me that there could be three categories of athletes: social/completive; competitive and professional athletes. That same person described herself as a completive athlete, however she finished in the top 5% of his age-group on race day. But I’ll take that categorization as the start point.

What are the features of each category?
One could say that the social/completive athlete is not a top spot getter on a race, mostly middle-to-back of the pack men and women that don’t have the drive/time/talent/aspirations to be on the top.
But that is sooo wrong… many people underestimate their talents and some over estimates them

The competitive athletes have the drive/time/aspirations to be on the top, and probably will be middle-to-top of the pack on race day. In addition, a certain element of passion (in the form of a harmless mania) for the sport. WRONG AGAIN!  there are many of us that spend a lot of time and money (harmless mania) but are not front of the packers.

The pro athlete shares the same characteristics than the competitive athlete, but a lot more of training/support and access to resources allows them to develop more fitness/skills/exposure to racing and therefore improving their overall preparedness come race day.

The conclusion?
Keep it simple, there’s pro athletes and recreational/age groupers. The pro’s make a living or intend to make a living out of it. The rest of us does it for fun/fitness/lifestyle (insert what you want)

Blurry vision from doing hill reps.
That was only the starters, where I wanted to go is to that grey area where people is undecided for either or.

In most big races there are age group athletes that kick some of the pro’s butt and end up scooping into the top 10 or 20 of the field. In NZ the division between pro and age grouper is constantly shifted depending on the event, the event organizer and the general politics of triathlon.

There are guys that race age group but have a stint of professional or semi-professional racing in Europe or the States, and there are guys that race pro that have been ducking in the miles winter after winter to get to a peak year and try to make the most of it.

The other reality is that we live in a super small country and don’t have sellouts in every race, so it makes sense that there is only one category in some races.

But I guess that when it comes to National Champs there should be a fair distinction between pro and age groupers and if you’ve raced as an elite in any race during the year, that’s it, race as an elite on the championship… what doesn’t kill you…

As I keep writing I realize that all this whinging comes as a way to enquiry in myself about what I can do in terms of preparation to a race, what can I expect to be faced against on the start line and what can I do about it. Every athlete at the start line of the sprint champs will bring a heavy pack of experiences on their back, they will be good, bad or mediocre, and they will be from racing for fun, for medals or for money. There is only one way for me to beat them, and that is by going faster than them during the race. I am privileged enough to have access to a coach and a plan. And I’ll make the most of it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tauranga Half - race photos by Nat

Nick - looking strong out of the water
no pressure

tough bike
someone is quite happy!
I can believe he ate 4 cookies!
Megan suffering
Sue going slow as per the coaches' orders

Megan looking like a pro


the tatoo warrior

Kylie on her firs half just over 5hr

Tauranga Half Ironman – Race report

The Bay put a great day for us on Saturday and the Half went great for most of the guys that were doing the whole thing. The race was not only the national champs but the qualifying race to go to Las Vegas, where they will host the world champs next year. A few of the guys had that as an objective and all of them achieved it, which speaks very good of their talents. Graham O’Grady won the pro men race and Jo Lawn did the same on the women field. As I said on Thursday, she was indeed flying and got to win the race in the last 7km of the run. O’Grady won all the three HIM I did over the last two months, Karapiro, Rotorua and Tauranga. That’s is a mean achievement these days, there’s plenty of talent in NZ and to keep all your competitors at bay during 3 of the 5 long distance races in the north island is quite something.

My race was a race against the clock. I was on a mission to go as fast as I could during 90km. I hadn’t met my team mates until the day of the race, they were a local husband and wife and I was their cyclist because the original guy couldn’t make it. We had a little chat and organized ourselves to the predicted times to pass the transponder for the team. Really nice people.

I had the objective to go under 2.20. I had kept riding regularly after Rotovegas and the base was there. The conditions on the day were 0 wind and it was smooth roads for over 50% of the course (that would be the best road surface for a triathlon in the whole of the north island). The course is two 45km laps, that meant 1.10 per lap with a full on last 5km. Luckily long distance racing is not an exact science, and it is oh-so-common to get a great 1st half for your bike or run and then blow out that I decided to have a general scheme and then play it by ear. Nutrition was not going to be a problem, gels and water do the trick for that period of time. I left transition and settled into a good pace, I didn’t know what speed or cadence (lost my computer a week ago) but it felt OK. The first lap was 1.12, but I was fresh and I knew I had it to push harder on the next 45km. Unfortunately the wind had different plans for me and it picked up a notch, which was enough to slow me down and crush my dreams of negative splitting a 90km TT. The second lap was 1.14 and hurt, but it didn’t hurt as badly knowing that I had no half marathon to run after. LOL.

I was sore after finishing, but that didn’t stop me to be on the sides cheering as everyone went past. Jeremy, Nick, Oli, Josh, Bob, Kylie, Sue, Megan, Shaun, Vanessa, Jason, and a few others all did a great job of toughing it up on a hot run.

The rest of the weekend was all about chilling and going to the beach.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Coming soon to a pool near you

NZ is still on holiday mode; even though there's a lot of major roadworks on bridges, downtown avenues and accessways traffic is great; the radio deejays are only doing half of their shows and everything is still on sale. Many of us are coming back to work, and a more serious version of training. The exception to this mood is the selected few who compete in this weekend's Tauranga Half, New Zealand biggest race on that distance and home of the Long Distance national champs.

The race is held in the beach town of Mt Maunganui, next door to Tauranga, a beautiful surf beach that starts in the mount and goes on an on for a couple of hundred km's to form the Bay of Plenty. 2km swim in a harbour, 90km flat as a pancake ride and a hot 21km with some undulation. I've done parts of the race, but never the whole thing by myself. This year is no exception, I'm just going to do the bike for a team and then cheer a bunch of my mates, but I'll talk about that in the next post.

It's a fast and hard fought race, many times the difference between the top 5 is nothing. This year sees the retur of Cam Brown, NZ's biggest long distance athlete together with the local top guys who include the defending champion of only 19 years old. In the womans field there will be another interesting race with Rebeccah Keat, Caroline Steffen and Jo Lawn among the top contenders. Joanna Lawn has won IMNZ 7 times... and has been a consistent top 10 performer at Kona.

But, as I was saying... we are on holiday mood and I felt like going for a swim this morning. I couldn't wake up on time to go before work, o I went for a midday-ish session and as I jump into the pool I saw Jo and her husband Armando (another top athlete) doing laps. I can't say they were easy laps... if they are gonna bike and run like they were swimming today I know where I'm putting my money. We chatted for a bit and I wished them well before starting my own secret swim set.
incidents like this are not uncommon, many times in the swim, bike or run training sessions we come around our top athletes going about their job before they move to more gentle weathers after Easter. Most of the time they're nice and even ask us about our races and so on. I love that low key attitude. I don't know if this is particular of NZ, or Auckland or you people on the other side have it as well.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


2011 is here and what a best way to start it than with a race report.

Contact Tri series, race 2 - Whangamata - 3 Jan 2011
The NZ calendar is set up to always have a good break and many workplaces are empty until at least 4 Jan, year after year. It gives people the opportunity to fly off to the beach, the lake, the mountains or wherever they're more pleased with. Whangamata is one of those holiday spots, a beautiful surf beach on the Coromandel peninsula. The race has been going on for over 20 years and now it is part of the 8 that make the series that is sponsored and run by TriNZ. I did this race 3 years ago and I remember suffering on the bike, it is a hilly course and to top it up it involves running in the sand for about 2km of the 5km run. Both times I've done sprint distance. The first time because it was my second race. Ever. This time around I chose the sprint for more tactical reasons. The Sprints nationals are 4 weeks away and this race could be a benchmark as I haven't done a sprint tri since worlds 2009 in OZ. The second reason was that it is a holiday and I didn't wanna hurt a lot : ).
The Swim

The race start is gentleman's hours 8am and the surf was on there were 2 and 3 feet waves breaking from 100m to the shore, that's fun to get in and more fun to get out, bodysurfing. My mate Martin was doing the sprint as well and Reado and the coach were doing the standard as a team as well as Kevin. In the girls field, Alesha was doing sprint distance. We're off, Martin is on my side for the first 100m and then I lost him after a big wave that I ducked into and he might have taken full face. I tried to power through the first buoy and then got a bit carried away and kept the pace to the second buoy which is also the turnaround to the beach. As I kept swimming I was trying to catch waves and bodysurf, but I wasn't lucky this time and had to be content with not being too delayed with the backcurrent. I got off the water in the top 15 (bloody 13 and 15 year olds can swim these days)

The bike

I had a fast transition and was mounting the bike with the same people I ran from the water. It all went well and no one passed me until km7, which is a good sign. I even managed to go past a few kids down the hills, unfortunately they would catch me later on when weight does matter. Martin flew past me at km 7 and I tried to hang on to him. By the turnaround he was 20 to 30 seconds ahead, but I had to slow down to zero right after as someone came off the bike at the top of a hill, as it was low speed it was a harmless business, but it cost me half a minute. I was off the plot for a bit and three or 4 guys went past me. I hung on for as much as I could and finished the bike 2min off what I would have preferred. I was still in the top 20 off T2.
The run
the good news was that the running legs were there, I started running fresh and I didn't feel the need for gels or water or anything. That boosted my morale and I just kept running. I've forgotten how nice of a race this is: running on the hard sand with the sea washing one's feet, with a great sight of sea, woody ranges and blue skies, it just doesn't get any better.
There were two laps and I did identical times for both of them, without being too much on the absolute red zone. I kind of regret it a bit, as I finished 11th, 20seconds from a top 10.
The run split was the 4th overall and it helped me to secure the first place in the age group.

I've been in a base-unstructured-holiday-ish kind of training since Rotovegas half and I've enjoyed the training, but more importantly, I've enjoyed the rest of what happens in my life. The race was a reflection of that and I am very very pleased with it as it showed me that I am where I want to be and that the tri life and the real life are in a perfect harmony at the moment. The sprint distance is such a great way of racing, I wish I hadn't let so much time run between races. I'm looking forward to Nationals now, and see where I can get.

There's more to come on the holiday, the Lance and a few fresh photos. Stay tuned.