Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Last "pre race" blog

Yep that's right, the next time you see I new post I will officially be an "Ironman". The family and I are heading down to Taupo tomorrow afternoon to get all set for the big day. So I'll be spending tomorrow morning packing, unpacking, repacking, checking and rechecking (you get the idea).

I think at this point the thing I'm most nervious about is not fitting everything in the car. That's a bit of an improvement on how I was feeling last week and is largely thanks to a sensational final ride I had on Sunday. It was raining and windy and I spend the first 20 minutes of it sitting on the indoor trainer watching the rain drops fall before toughening up and heading outside. In the end I had one of the best rides I've had for ages. It was 70k's and I averaged 35kph without feel particuarly challenged (I suspect the wind was working for me for a change).

Although I wasn't to keen to head out in the rain, it now looks as though that may have been the best thing. I've just seen the long range weather forcast and its for rain in Taupo (and pretty much everywhere else) on race day. Which is a bit rough when you consider that there's been a bit of a drought lately, still I guess the farmers will be happy.

My preference is for ot and sunny, and I don't normally perform all that well when its cold and wet, but on last Sundays effort it would appear that warm and wet suits me just fine.

So I reckon I'm ready, just need to figure a way to squeeze everything into the car (including a wheel chair which is causing me some logistic problems, but I'll work it out!).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Glad its not this weekend

I'm so glad that Ironman isn't this weekend. All day its been raining and blowing a gale (well not quite a gale but it is very windy). At the moment there's a storm over half the country which has largely put the breaks on any training for today. Not that I much planned, pretty much all I have left to do is a 70k ride (at some point this weekend - if it doesn't work out I'll resign myself to the indoor trainer tomorrow), and a 2k swim on Monday or Tuesday - and that's it! No more training for me (for now anyway).

So this time next week, assuming everything goes well, I should be well into the run. Of course if things don't go well then .... who knows.

As I'm not doing any training today I've kept busy buy finishing up my bike seup. The race wheels are now on, and the bike computer set up (not as easy as it sounds as the sensor magnet isn't made to fit a tri-spoke wheel, nothing that duc tape can't fix though). I've glued a broken in tubular onto the front and have resigned the old one as a spare.

Tubulars are great, but they're not perfect. On the plus side they hardly ever puncture (in fact I've never had a puncture while using tubulars) and they're generally faster than clinchers. If you do happen to puncture they're also much quicker to change (as you simply peel the flat one off the rim and slap a new one one.

On the negative side they're quite a bit more expensive to replace and if you do happen to puncture then they're basically a write off. Also if you're unfortunate enough to puncture while out on course you need to take it easy on corners as most people aren't in the habit of carrying a pot of glue with them, and theres a reasonable chance they could roll off the rim (for this reason you carry used tubulars as spears so they stil have some old glue on them which will hopefully re-activate). The oher big downside is that carrying spares is a pain as its not simply an inner tube that you carry, but the whole tire.

So the other thing I've been doing today is fitting two spares onto my bike frame under the seat. Originally I was going to carry one in a bottle holder behind the seat and simply use two bottles on course (picking up drink as I go, as well as having a bottle in my special needs bag), but now I'll carry three (two electrolyte and one water) so I'm not as reliant on the aid stations mixing the drinks properly (in my experence the seldom do). I'll still need to pick up drink on course, but I just won't be as reliant and will be able to ride through a couple of aid stations - thus saving a few precious seconds!

I'll be writing down my race plan (both "A" and "B") over the next couple of days. I've got a pretty good idea of how things will go for the swim and bike, but the run could be a bit dodgy. My main aim for the run is to actually run it (barring the aid stations, which I'll walk). If I can do that then my run time will be OK.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

One Week to go!

Well eight days actually.

Just a quick update, so far this week has not seen a lot of training but has seen a lot of preperation in other respects. To be honest there now is very little I can do to make myself physically better equipped to deal with race day, so training is, finally, taking a back seat. In its place I've been busy making sure that the gear is going to be all ready and in tip top shape for the big day. The one thing that I really don't want to have to deal with, and that is quite preventable, is gear failure, or having equipment that is not working at its best.

The one peice of equipment that is perhaps more important than any other, and which has the greatest scope for failure is, of course, the bike. My bike is not new, and stuff does wear out, so getting it in for a service has been a top priority and I finally did that this week. As it turned out there was a fair bit of tightening and twecking to be down, plus a new chain to actually drive the thing along. My chain was very worn, which wasn't a surprise, and the thought of it snapping has been a reoccouring nightmare of mine. So that was happily replaced and now my ride is quitely gliding along again, silky smooth ...

I've also got the bike and helmet check out of the way by having this done at a local accredited shop, so that's one less thing to worry about on race week.

Also it looks like the long awaited book is taking shape. For those of you who may not be aware contributing to a book about Ironman is my part of the sponsorship deal which propelled me to do this whole Ironman thing in the first place, or at least it propelled me to do it this year and not next year (and of course next year, like tomorrow, never really come around). Anyway have a look at the book details (thats me on the bike by the way)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Enough Training Already!

I have to say that I’m pretty much over this whole training lark! Realistically I’m not going to get any fitter before 1st March, and really the only improvement I can measurably get now is to freshen up and be well rested.

It’s been a long haul, and to know that in two short weeks I’ll all be over is both daunting and exciting. Daunting because really there is very little else I can do, after all these long months of training, to prepare myself any better and there’s still the nervous doubt of just how I’m going to cope on the day. In the ideal Ironman world my training volume would have probably been twice what it has been. But my life is not solely about Ironman. I also have a family who have not seen nearly enough of me as it is, and who are my top priority. As such my Ironman plan has always been to fit training around family rather than the other way around. I think my biggest training week has been 13 hours, and consistently between 10 to 13 hours for the last couple of months. Before that my training was peaking at around 10 hours. So a big question for me is “can you do a meaningful Ironman on that amount of training?”

For me being the type of guy I am, I do no want to finish down at the back of the pack (or at least not to far down the back anyway). I’m reasonably confident that I’ll have an OK race as endurance sports have always seemed to be something that I’ve been able to adapt to fairly easily … be still there’s doubt. I’m comforted by the fact that I’ve run marathon’s, I’ve biked big k’s and swum the distance, so my doubt is tempered with healthy optimism. I guess I’ll have my answer in a couple of weeks, if it all works out I might even patent my training system!

This week has been fairly relaxed on the training front, partly by design and partly due to a number of social engagements. I only did a few light sessions during the week leading up to a typically busy weekend.

On Saturday I finally got around to doing a four k swim. The weather forecast was for a fairly horrid day so it was an easy option (as a side note, I read in our local paper that the North Shore beach’s have been invaded by microscopic jellyfish that are causing stings and nasty rashes, so absolutely no more sea swims for me this summer!). Dragging my way through 160 lengths was rather mind numbing, in the end I did it in four 1k sets with 40 seconds rest so I didn’t go insane. In the end I still got the counting a little mixed up in each set, so I actually swam somewhere between 4k – 4.2k (my theory being that it’s better to swim to far rather than to short). It took me 1 hour 35 which is about where I expected it to be – my pick for Ironman is a 1 hour 20 – 1 hour 30 swim, anything less than that will be a bonus.

My form was fantastic … or the first two lengths anyway. By the end of the swim my form was pretty poor and I’d pretty much had enough, in saying that I didn’t actually feel all that tired (sure my arms were happy to stop moving) so that bodes well. My swimming has certainly come a very long way! I amused myself by chasing after other swimmers feet as much as possible, good practice for Ironman and basically if I go faster than 1 hour 20 it will be because I’ve managed to draft most of the way.

Today was a 100k ride, which actually ended up being quite tough as I had a fairly strong headwind for probably ¾ of the way (don’t ask me how that worked out, it just did!). Still I got in on 3 hours 18 (30.3kph average) and although I was a bit more tired that I would have liked to have been, the legs seem to get to the right pace. One of my worries and consequently something that I’ll be focusing on in the race is keeping the bike under control so that I can actually run the marathon. Assuming the wind doesn’t play a major part, an average speed of 30kph is pretty comfortable for me, and I know I can run of it well.

So with that in mind it’s not hard to do the maths. 1 hour 30 for the swim plus 6 hours for the bike makes 7 and a half hours. My best marathon time is four hours and I’m pretty sure I won’t be running a PB at Ironman, but if I have a good race and the wind doesn’t mess up the bike then a 13 hour race is a possibility. They say you shouldn’t have time targets for a first Ironman and I tend to agree, as there’s so much that’s new. But I do know the course (especially the bike course) fairly well, and I think barring a melt down – which is entirely possible by the way – sub 13 is possible for me. In saying that my main goal for Ironman is to firstly finish, and secondly actually run the marathon (excluding the aid stations and maybe the odd up hill … got to give a guy a break you know), the rest will take care of itself!

Not much planned for next week. My bike’s getting serviced on Tuesday and at some point I’ll get it down for inspection. Other than that I’ll be doing one more swim, one more run and a couple of short rides before a final 70k ride on the weekend. After that the legs go up and the full taper begins in earnest.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nearly There

Its not long to go now.

This week as been a little different to what I’d planned due to unforeseen events, but you have to learn to be flexible when you have a family to consider.

Sadly my four year boy, Sam, broke his leg on Monday night while bouncing on the trampoline. His dad (me) may have had something to do with it as we were having great fun, right up until the awkward bounce that did the damage. To say I feel bad about it is something of an understatement. Still as one doctor said, at least I was out there actually playing with him.

The break meant a stay in hospital overnight and me sleeping on the floor next to his bed for the rest of the week. Sleep has been in rather short supply, and uninterrupted sleep is now a distant dream (again). Still he’s in good spirits and is getting more comfortable everyday. I think tonight I might try and actually sleep in my own bed.

Training wise this has lead to a fairly chunky reduction in training for the week (compared to what was planned). For instance on Waitangi Day I ended up doing a ride of less than a hour where I had planned a swim of 4k’s and a run. The rest of the week was a similar story. Compounding matters was the small fact that I’ve been really tired due to a lack of sleep.

Given the lower volumes I’ve been trying to focus on quality instead. So my swims have been all about technique (it sounds awfully grand talking about me swimming and technique in the same sentence), focusing on keeping my hips high, getting a good glide going and not lifting my head. I’m fully expecting to spend 1.5 hours in the water during Ironman. Any time I can shave off that will be a bonus and give me more time for the cycling and running. Conversely if I spend longer than that then I have less of a cushion. So that was alright, you can still have a thoroughly worthwhile swim workout in an hour, but how do you get a worthwhile ride in only an hour? (My ITB has been a little tight again so I’m being a bit curious with the running again and just doing maintenance stuff now).

The only real answer is to find hills and attack them. So on Wednesday I had a one hour slot (my wife was working and I was looking after the kids) and set out to put some suffering into my legs. The route I picked was up Albany Hill and turning off to Albany Heights Road, then onto Wright Road before ending up on East Coast Bays Road then back home. It proved to be a really good test. There are two significant climbs (up Albany Hill and again up East Coast Bays Road), with Alban Hill being the hardest. I usually start off at around 16kph going up Albany Hill and end up at around 14kph as the pitch steepen’s midway through. This time round though I started at 20kph and held that speed for most of the way eventually dropping to 17kph. This was a bit of a surprise and I good reminder that its surprising what you can do if you have the right mental attitude. Heading onto Albany Heights Road gave the opportunity for some shorter “hill sprints” (where you basically click into a higher gear, stand up on the pedals and sprint – the goal being to break into you anaerobic zone, quite useful if you’re a road racer as that’s one way to drop people up hills, but probably not so useful for a time trialling triathlete). The net result was 30 k’s in just under 45 minutes at an average speed of 38kph – which would be great if the Ironman ride was only 30k’s long … or if it had more hills … hmmmm).

Saturday saw me finally do my last 180k ride (actually in the end it was 178.9k’s but close enough I reckon). The first 120k’s went pretty good, but the last 60k’s felt like I was dragging an anchor, and I was not enjoying myself. I think the biggest reason why it was such a struggle was because I was bone tired. I hadn’t had more than 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep all week and had been finding it increasingly hard to keep my eyes open.

In the end I finished the ride in 6 hours 25 minutes for an average speed of 27.8kph which is a bit slow for me (I’m hoping for 30kph at Ironman – the chip in the road is pretty big which sucks a k or so off your speed). On the plus side, I was super tired which I won’t be for Ironman as I plan on being well rested and tapered. Also the course was way harder than the Ironman course is in Taupo (depending on the wind of course – it generally blows off the lake creating a tail wind on the way out, which is slightly downhill any way, but a head wind for the ride back, which, of course is slightly uphill. I’ve ridden that road on some pretty windy days which were hard work!)

By the end of the ride I wasn’t feeling too happy, had just about run out of water and electrolytes (I usually carry a bit of cash with me just I case, but didn’t this time) and couldn’t stomach the thought of another gel. I was using a new gel which had added caffeine. They worked well enough, but tasted terrible. I think I’ll use them again at Ironman as the caffeine gives a good kick, but space them out with some standard gels as well.

Its now less than three weeks to go and time to start thinking about easing things back a bit. For me that doesn’t actually mean a big change in my weekly volume as it hasn’t been that big anyway due to work and family. But no more 3 hour plus weekends. I will be doing one more 90 odd k ride next weekend, and have a 4 k swim planned for some time this week. Spread in between will be a couple of short runs, nothing to big as I think my shoes are about to give out (judging by the tightening ITB) and a new pair of shoes is unfortunately not in this quarters fiscal sporting budget. I’ll also be doing some shorter rides, mostly on hills to keep the strength up. I had wanted to do some flat distance but that’s probably not going to happen, which is ok and that aspect of Ironman will actually be quite nice.

Today I’ll try and get in a short run (after mowing the lawns of course) and get to work gluing some new tubular’s onto my race wheels. Later on this week the race wheels will go back on and my bike will be going in for a service. It’s all coming together!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Quick Update

Just a quick update on things.

The training is largely going to plan. This week I picked up the running some more and feel pretty with where I'm at. The workouts included a 21k (half marathon) run which I did at just under my usual marathon intensity (by heart rate). The idea is to get use to running a little slower than usual as this stresses the muscles in a slightly different way, and lets face I'm ulikely to be striding out at a sub 4 hour marathon pace on Ironman day. In the end I did the run in just on 2hrs which I thought was a little on the fast side, but then again the heart rate was where it should be ... maybe I'm getting fitter ....

I've made a minor change to my bike setup by raising the aerobars by 5 mils. Not a whole lot, but its made a huge difference. My long ride this week was a hilly 100k's and I finished it in just over 3hrs and felt really really great, in fact surprisingly fresh. I put it down to the new bike position I've also messed around with my nutrition and for the first time in several weeks, had no stomach problems at all. Next weekend is another 180k effort, so that will be the real test.

That will have to do for now as I'm far to short on time.