Thursday, August 28, 2014

One per day – Sugar free July

July was a month of recovery, I recovered a bit of form (thanks to a good few weeks swimming), I recovered mentally thanks to the study break at uni.And I recovered a bit of shape thanks to a sugar-free diet that was not quite sugar-free.
I just cut any added sugar, sweet biscuits, scones, cereal bars, sauces, drinks, deserts and any other sugar-ladden food that was not naturally sweet. That meant I kept eating fruits and sweet veggies. And I also treated myself to a sweet treat once a week.  The result was nothing extraordinary in weight-loss (I wasn’t looking to lose too much weight, anyway) but it was a good reflection on what habits I needed to shave off to keep to my sugar-free promise. It wasn’t extremely hard, but it was not a walk in the park either. I reckon doing this twice a year is a good way to go about it.
What else happened?
keeping to the pack at the Welly XC champs
We had the final race of the XC season, a 6-lap-12km affair in the northern beaches of Wellington region. Cross Country is good fun, and this race was great fun, firstly because it is hard mentally and secondly because it is good banter with club mates. My performance was nothing to write home about, I got into a group and there was no group ahead to aim for, therefore the interest went from going fast to staying-in.  By the end, I had no legs for the sprint, so I trotted to a happy 46min finish 15th or so overall.
In the pool front, we had our second Time Trial, and I was happy to see the time going down closer to 20 than to 25. There still a lot of room for improvement, but the signs are good.
Wellington is much colder than Auckland, and there were a couple of mornings that the cold and the wind made it easier to stay home than to go out training. I don’t regret a good lay-in, especially when the road is wet and windy.
With the XC season all but finished, the focus was to road racing, or doing something else. I went for something else and started a long base-training block, aiming to get miles on the old 890’s and ready myself for the tri season which is just round the corner.
And then there’s August… but that’s another story

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One per month – June

June is the start of the winter. And this is our first winter in Welli, which is a colder city. The days went very very short straight from the start of the month. The rides home in the afternoon became shorter,and didn’t venture into places that are quite dark.
After 3 months and a half we finally started a swim squad proper. Even though is not as much as we used to swim back in Aucks, it is great to be back to 5:30am starts and great pool routines. Coming from 2 years of minimum 3.5km per session to nothing to a 2.5-3km per session gig was not too bad. We still miss the feeling of having just completed 4 or 5km of solid work, though. The first week of the squad was Time Trial Week. I won’t go into the detail, but it wasn’t as bad as we were expecting.

For me, it was a confirmation that I had lost some of the magic... but that I still know how to pace.
Every split was pretty much spot on, except for the slow start.

On the XC racing front, there was the Dorne Cup, a two-lap-8k race that crowns the best of welly. I
killing it at the Dorne cup
did a little face plant on a hill, and then ran out of gas on the last 1km, but all in all I achieved my
goal of going under 30min.

A week later was the event I was looking forward to. The Wellington half marathon. I was given a ticket by my mates in the old job, so I wanted to make them proud. I had six weeks of pretty solid prep, only hampered by a chesty cold that knocked me out a 6 days before the race (ie. just after the other race). I had toyed with the idea of trying to go for 75min , which would be my PB by a long shot. I knew I had the base, but I also knew that I had done bugger all between March and May.

wardrobe malcfunction 101
Anyway, the race went well and I ended with a respectable 1:17 and change on a windy day. Loved it. Unfortunately I had to go for a pretty unconventional wardrobe choice, but it was all a matter of keeping warm and not letting the cold get the best of me.

All in all, June was a great month to bed-in the routines for swim-bike and run, both for me and Nat.

We also had essays and exams, and friends visiting, which is always a great way to keep motivated

Monday, August 11, 2014

And the sprint finish

Blood, sweat and no glory. LOL

One per month – May

Yeap... I did it again. Over three months with nothing said.

Although I do have things to say. Just lack of time/motivation/a Dictaphone?

Anyway... back the writing bloc. What happened in may? Looking at my diary I was well into training for the wellington half

marathon in June. Lots of running, not a lot of swimming and starting to bike consistently. The cross

country season started in April, and I did two races in May, a 5Kyer for the Varsity Relays followed by a 10Kyer  for the Vosseler shield (I love the athletic's naming system for their races). the next week.
Varsity was great, the 10k? not so much... I had a bad prep and a bad beard (look at the photo). The only good think was a massive sprint to the finish trying to get one-up on a good mate.

The issue for cross country racing is being able to start fast, be strong up the hills and continue to be
fast in the flat. I can do all that... but not when I’m anaerobic. Steep learning curve there, but I think I got it pretty much sorted for the final race of the season.
Apart from that there was plenty of university activty, with a great essay on climate change and the obligations of New Zealand towards its citizens and and as part of been a responsible neighbour. Oh.. and a trip to Christchurch, a run through the glaciers and a super cool run to Huka falls.

Livin' la vida loca in godzone :-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Racing in the Queen city - Triathlon Nationals race report

WOW what a fantastic day to be playing in the big smoke. Great sun, not too hot and no much wind. It was a recipe for fast racing.
This was my return after 2 years of not racing (for some reason or other) in the standard distance event. I never loved the distance because it was not short enough to play to my advantage as a swim-runner, but it was not long enough to play to my advantage as a consistent runner. Anyway, the opportunity came to go and do it and I was determined to enjoy it.
First tri ever... 
The swim was a breeze, no major inconveniences for most of the leg. Because they send us in waves, we cought some of the slower guys from previous waves. In any case, I was nowhere near where I traditionally fare in these races, so I had a good time swimming protected by the big middle pack. The water temperature was good to swim with no wetsuit, but that would have meant a further 2 min of my time given away and I was not prepared to do that. At the end of the day, it is national champs and one has to deliver.
There was a looooooong transition to the bike and I made it slower by putting a pair of socks. There’s two reasons for that, firstly, I was wearing my mate’s shoes and didn’t want any blisters or bleeding ruining them. Secondly, I was going to wear socks for the run anyway, so might as well put them on now and make a shorter T2. The bike was a 3 lap course mainly flat with one climb at the top of Queen Street. The climb was short enough and greatly compensated by a 1.5 km downhill section from the top of the golden mile to the Ferry building. That was the highlight of my race… doing 60k plus at full throttle on the busiest street of Auckland was an experience to repeat. In races like these, I am usually passed by a dozen plus others. This time I managed to hang on and even pass some people myself. I was thoroughly impressed by the performance of my lended bike. An old aluminium P3 that flew through the flats and ripped through the asphalt. Unfortunately I hadn’t had my ceremonial Nutella on Bagel brekkie, and I was banking on some gels to bring the extra energy. But I lost them somewhere. I realised only when I went to grab one after the first lap of the bike.
T2 was fast and I was feeling good… although not flash-like due to the lack of caffeine and sugars. I ran at a steady pace with the idea of unleashing the beast in the last 2km.
But there was no beast, my run time was over 39 minutes, a good 10% over what I would consider my top runs. I was passed by a couple, but passed a few myself, so all in all I went up on the run too (4th fastest in the category) and finished in a respectable 2:14 and change. The best was yet to come, though.
On reflection I came to two very encouraging conclusions. First, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the short distance like I hadn’t done before. Secondly, I was fairly competitive without specific training and virtually no swimming. So, there is not only potential for a more competitive performance, there’s potential for lots of fun doing many more races next season. And who knows… maybe even a world championships trips is not too far out of the way. 
That brings an end to the season of multisport, I think. It's now time to go into hibernation mode and start a good block of endurance and strength training. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Back to basics

Had enough of this ultra thing… for now
After careful meditation the last couple of weeks I came to the conclusion that I am biting much more than I can actually chew in ultra running terms. That is not a bad, thing, on the contrary… it will help strengthen my jaw and, with time, allow me to chew as much as I bite.

Metaphors aside, the learning from Tarawera and Auckland 70.3 was: I can get away with doing long races without base. But only to a certain point. That certain point for me is a decrease in performance that sees me fall from the upper lines of the results sheet. It is a blow to the ego and I have now healed. 
What rests to be done is to go back to the drawing table and re-match ambition with the realities of how much time there is to put on the training. And how much choice. Should I cut on swimming for good? (not) Shall I start training a bit earlier to get miles in? (maybe). Shall I take a month off?

We’re in the part of the cycle where thing start to wind-down and one starts reflecting on the past season and build-up to the long slogs of winter training. It is also planning time in my household… so there will be list of races by the end of the month. And they will be made public.
I’ve also joined a run club, for the first time I’ll be mixing it up with pure runners and learn a few of their tricks. May even enter an event or two to see how much I can hold my own.
For the time being, there is this list:
6 Auckland Triathlon
12 Scottish run club race

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tarawera Ultra Race Report – A Risky Bet

I am not a betting man. Let’s say there are enough risks out there to add the risk of losing to an uncertain outcome by the promise of easy wins. I’m talking about time and effort, not money. I plan my training to be in good fitness around the racing season and enter a few key events. One of them was the Tarawera Ultra, which I could have bet I would run in a time of 10:12:00 to 10:18:00. I was (am) that fit. Or that’s what I thought until mid-afternoonon Friday. But let’s start from the beginning, and my first bet.
This summer of racing was cut in half with the addition of the ‘big move to wellington’ thing in our life. The move took its toll in the amount of time I spent training long and slow for the race. I ran more in the first 10 days of Feb than in the month of Jan. I was cramming. And that is a very risky bet… you train in a very fine line with reduced recovery times and fatigue starts building up. A few days off here and there helped release some pressure and I went through almost 400k of running with no problems. Come March 1st I was in good shape and the big runs were all out of the way. A good diet and a few runs would see me ready to roll at Tarawera.

The weather goods threw in a weakened tropical cyclone that was still severe enough in parts of the country. That meant our race went from 100k to 70 (actually 72 and change)  kilometres. The organisers maintained the climbing in the reduced distance, which translates to a slower pace (at least for me). Given my training, this should have been an advantage, but it turned out quite differently.
The start:
It was fast, dusty and drizzly. I remember going up  and up and then getting more agitated than it’s wise for the first 10min of a potential 10hr run. Then I stuck to a group and managed to pass a few here and there until I realised I’ve left the water bottle with Nat at the start/12k aid station. As I was thinking that I took a fall with a root while bombing down a small hill. The adrenaline shot from the fall helped wake up and keep going through the first lap.  I stopped to get it and started drinking. An hour has passed and it was time to start playing smart. From 12 to 25km I slowed down on purpose, drank and had 2 gels to ensure a good rhythm.
The middle:
From 25 to 52km it was a slow slog. I could feel the left part of my body hurt (not much) and tried to keep checking my form for any signs of damage. Ate gels, some fruits and water and after seeing too many people pass me, I started to pass other people again. The road was getting busier with people coming and going. It was great to see many mates along the way. It was even better to see Nat at the 3rd aid station (which she was not supposed to reach) with gels and fresh socks. All went very slow at that aid station, but I managed to gulp down a full bottle of ginger beer, ½ orange and new socks from wifey.
The end
Was the best part of my race. It felt to me I went faster than the actual 2:19:00 time splits suggest. I felt like it was an hour and a half. I remembered this final leg from last year’s VTUM and I had secretely prepared for this contingency. My legs were not the fastest going up that mother of a hill that is the Western Okataina track, but they were good to take charge down the hill to Millar road and to the end. It was a blast and I started reconsidering earlier thoughts of not racing again on longer distances. I finished in 7hours 38min, which is a very good time but not the time I would have bet on. It was a wet last hour or so and another hour waiting for mates to do their thing… they all came on with a smile in their face, which is always encouraging.
Third time lucky?
In 2013 it was a fire course. In 2014 it was a cyclone course. What will be the Vibran Tarawera Ultra of 2015? I am not a betting man. So I won’t bet on it next year. But don’t quote me on that. I could be talking a lot of sh-t 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Auckland 70.3 race report (I know... a bit late, aye?)

Let’s pick up where I left out. It was a sunny Saturday in Auckland, and we went to transition to leave the bike.
Looking good at the start
The next day was a stunner, with great weather and a big sun. Water and air tem were on the hot side and the swim-bike-run was hot too. The first leg was a PB for me, with just over 26min to do the 1.9k, the bike was one of the worst starts I can remember for a race. But it got better towards the end, still, a few minutes longer than the previous year. The run was hot and I did not switch into aggressive race mode, it was more of a soft run. I knew from the start of the run that it was unlikely I’d be PB-ing on this one.
The final result was a race 3min slower than last year. With a lot less training and a lot more suffering. I still loved it and could not have wished for a better farewell to Auckland.  Soooooo looking forward to come back, though.
Looking not too fast

With the race done and a relocation of our home for the last 8 years in sight, we went into full packing-moving-finding a house mode. There were a few farewell dinners too. And a lot of work at work too. Let’s say it was entertaining and certainly not super-focussed on training. Between the race and the 5th of Feb there were a few runs, swims and rides spread randomly. I still call that training, though J.

We arrived to Wellington on the 7th of Feb and I went into full training mode for Tarawera on the8th. There was no hiding when you lack training on a 100km course, and there was a lot of cramming to be done. Keep tuned to the progress report

Monday, February 17, 2014

Good bye Auckland: Let’s race

(posted post-move... funny how things actually pan out... more to come in the next post Hello Wellington: let's train

So, we’re moving.
An opportunity came out of nowhere and it was a good one to grab, as a consequence our whole household of two will be moving to Wellington in a few days.  In total, there was 40 days from inception (note the pop culture quote here) to big roadtrip day. We’re now somewhere in the middle. 

Endurance sport is somewhere in the middle, not in the foreground but not in the background either. There has been packing, planning, selling, buying and there is a lot of goodbyes to make with all the lovely people of Auckland who’s been nice to us.
Before the big news the plan was:  Race Rotorua Half (see previous post), tramp around the south, Run half a Hillary Trail (see another good post) and race Auckland 70.3, then go on a training binge until Tarawera Ultra.

After the big news the plan was: Race Wellington triathlon, Race Tarawera Ultra.
What really happened was: Race Rotorua Half, tramp around Ruapehu, run for a team for Tauranga Half, get a sneaky last minute entry (as someone else) to Auckland 70.3
It’ll be an understatement to say it was a busy few weeks. But at the same time it has been rewarding in many aspects that affect race performance:
  1. I have slept more
  2. I have trained fresher
  3. According to my latest coopers’ test (see a great post from 2010) I have also reached an excellent standard of run fitness (a good VO2 number that I won’t put out because I’m too modest)
  4. I have got a lot of love from friends feeling happy about our big move
With all that in mind, I’m getting ready for the race in two days with peace of mind that things are were they should be and I am saying good bye to Auckland in the best possible way… swimming, biking and running all around town.
Keep tuned for race report :-)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

5 years on - Rotorua Half Ironman race report

The Rotorua half was my first half ironman and third ever triathlon 5 years ago. It was December 2008 and I've been training for 6 months to race. I didn't have many mates from the triathlon world, I had attended a few brick sessions with who was later my coach. My parents were arriving to spend Christmas in NZ, so there were a few checklists and plans in place to ensure I could survive a race longer than anything I've done before in any sport.
The race went well to start with, I was top 12 out of the water, reflecting my strong(er) swimming background, the bike business was long, tiresome and plagued with GI issues due to overplanning on my behalf (oh… the younger days when I would actually follow other's nutrition advice) the run was stinking hot, with a personal worst over the distance that has stood the test of time :-(. All in all, a great day at the office, and a steep learning curve in the endurance world a was happy with a 5:19 knowing there was potential to go under 5 with all the learnings taken on race day.
5 years is a long time and a lot of things have happened. The most important of them is that I have, over the period, applied myself physcally and mentally to train for endurance sport. I've done countless hours of running. I've cycled over hills, country roads and a number of places, I've woken up at 5 in the morning to go and beat the sh-t out of me in the swimming poo. I've drunk litres of coffee with mates chatting and exchanging learnings from racing, training, gear and so on. In that long time I've become a better athlete and a better person overall. 
This years iteration of the Vegas half was a different kind of monster. The swim course is a 1k lap that we do twice, the bike leg changed to a different course with a few more rolling hills and the run was made thougher with the introduction of a section of off road running around the green lake. My preparation was different as well, race plan was a lot simpler and the only downside is that I didn't prep my wetsuit, so I gave away a few minutes on the swim. 
The bike section is a test of good pacing, there are many hills and after the 2nd hour of racing they start to make a dent in your strength. One has to be mindful of that and not get carried away when some team racer or a youger athlete powers past in the first 45km. 'Tis also important to fuel some sugar to the old muscles, hills are not climbed burning fat, they are sugar-suckers and one has to plan for that. Remember, this is just the middle section, there are 90 to 120 minutes of running to follow. In brief, I got out of the water in 30th place in just under 30min and came back home 12th after biking my way through. 
The run is 85% off road, and I like to think myself as a good off road runner, so there was a good change to make up some places. As it happened, it took me longer than anticipated to get my rhythm and it was well over 5km when I started to run at the desired pace. I cought one, two and thanks to the company of a team runner, I kept the pace to pass #3 on the last 4km of the race. I finished in the top 10 of the race, how cool is that!.
It was so cool that I had a wee chat to my grandma who was looking from above.

Anything else to say about Rotorua half?
A great race in a great location. and a good way to celebrate the sport in company of two good mates who also came racing and the amazing support crew (a.k.a. the wifes)