Sunday, November 22, 2009

A fairly disappointing race - but I've had time to reflect

Yesterday I had the first round of the Contact Trophy at the Blue Lake, in Rotorua. I did this race last year prior to the Half, so it should be a good measure of my progress.

It's fair to say that I'm not particularly happy with how I went. Having said that, there are some positives, and on reflection, some good reasons why things didn't go as well as I might have wished.

There were fewer people than last year, and not many people of my ability, so I pretty much did the whole race on my own. The conditions were worse than last year, with the wind in particularly a lot stronger.

The swim

Last year I took 27 minutes including transition. This year, 34. Transition was quite a bit longer, but still.

I did swim appallingly slow, and try as I might, couldn't get on anyone's feet. Not entirely surprising, given how little I've been able to swim. Then again, the race was clearly longer than last year, and the swim times are slower across the board. I didn't feel too bad, apart from being conscious that I was slow, so that's a positive.

The bike

I hoped to have some really good power data - but somehow the data hot wiped before I could download it, which is very annoying!

I know that I averaged more than 200 watts, and given the hills, the normalized power would have been a lot higher than that, but unfortunately, I don't have the data! Feck it!!! Very, very annoying! (Then again, apart from the interest value, the race is such that the data would not necessarily be that helpful in working out pacing for Rotorua).

I felt pretty good on the bike this year. I was a few minutes quicker than last year (1:29 vs 1:31, but again with a longer transition), but I felt a lot stronger throughout. Last year, in about the 4th lap, I died. I couldn't get my HR up and push any harder. This year I could have, had I wanted. So I was quicker, felt stronger, even though the wind was up, and I was able to push consistently hard on the flats.

So, all in all, fairly happy with the bike.

The run

Where it all started going wrong. Last year I was absolutely dead at the end of the bike, but once I go onto the run, I was able to push. I was under instruction to take the first lap easy last year, then push hard. I took 52 minutes last year.

This year, I got off the bike feeling a lot stronger than last year. And I know I am running better than last year. I had a good result in the Auckland Half Marathon recently, and I've been running quicker for the same HR than last year.

So I headed off from transition, and the legs felt good, I got into a decent rhythm. I felt a bit blah along the beach, but then the sand is very hard to run on. Then I got to the first hill, saw a dude ahead of me, and I went to start pushing up the hill, which I normally can. But I couldn't. In fact, I could barely keep up with him. I really had to push myself hard to stay in touch, and while I passed him on the downhill on the other side of the lake, I couldn't get that far ahead of him.

I started felling a bit better after 5k, but was not actually able to run any faster (in fact, my average pace went down). I passed a few more people, but just didn't feel right.

54 minutes. 2 minutes slower than last year, and I was not happy.

I couldn't understand it. But then I started thinking (and Kate made me start thinking). A week ago I took the week off training because I was sick. The week before the race I got back into it, and while I was feeling ok, I was still not 100% (some times I found it hard to breathe while swimming, and I was coughing up some gunk - albeit clear gunk - every now and then).

So, I think (and hope) that I just hadn't fully recovered, and despite riding better, and feeling better off the bike, I just didn't have the energy to do the run I know I'm capable of. And hopefully I'll be 100% soon.

Some positives
  • I rode better than last year, and at no stage felt like I was about to die.
  • I seem to have recovered quite well. Last year I was super sore after the race, and took a few days to recover. This year I'm not that sore at all, and am hardly feeling it today (I suspect that's partly because I was not able to run anywhere near as fast as I can).
  • My knee did not get too sore at all.
  • My shoulders didn't hurt at all during the swim.
So while I was not a happy camper afterwards, I've had some time to reflect, and there are definite positives. There are also good reasons for the negatives - I'm not making excuses, I think they genuinely explain what went wrong.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sick. Again. Damn it.

While we were down in Wellington a couple of weekends ago, I picked up a nasty cold. Over the course of last week, my lungs have filled up with gunk and for a couple of days I had almost no energy.

So, no training for me at all last week, which sucks. Particularly because I've been feeling (swimming aside) increasingly fit.

What doubly sucks is that I was going to be doing the bike as part of a team (with Mike and my lovely wife) at the Karapiro Half. I was really looking forward to a good, long, TT; not only for the training, but also to get some really good power data. Fortunately, Paul was able to step into the breach, which was really appreciated!

I'm feeling a heap better, apart from my lungs, which still have a wee bit of gunk in them. I'm going for an easy run tonight, and I'll be in Auckland tomorrow, so will ride in the morning with Kate.

Hopefully I'm right in time foe the Contact race in Rotorua this weekend!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

1:26:31 (sorry, it's been a while)

Yep, that was my time for the Auckland Half, and I'm stoked. It's a fantastic race, and I'm really pleased with the time. It was cool to compete in such a big race, with supporters everywhere.

It was an early start (4:00), so we had enough time to wake up, eat breakfast, and wander down to the ferry terminal. We'd mucked around a bit at Devonport (read - I waited forever to go to the toilet - and luckily there was one roll of paper left), so the start line was rather full. But I found a small gap near the front, and jumped the fence, which was good, because my gun time was only 10 seconds more than my clock time.

The race starts off with a few short but steep hills, and is pretty rolling (with a few larger hills) until you get to the Harbour bridge. My plan was to go out at 1:30 pace (so 4:15 mins a km), but I was going a bit quicker than that (not because I was getting caught up in the race start), and was feeling good, so just kept going. At five k I started picking it up a bit more, and then again at 10k.

The bridge was hard - it's steep from the North Shore side, and has a really steep camber for the first 300m or so. But I set my sights on a guy ahead of me (by that stage I was passing slow marathoners) who was clearly doing the half, and pushed to catch him. I got quite close, but he got a bit further ahead on the way down. I had averaged 4:06 mins/k until the bridge, it got up to 4:10 at one stage, and it took me the rest of the race to get it back down again.

After that, I thought it would be mostly flat - but I was wrong. You don't just run around Westhaven, there is an out and back up a steepish hill, which was a little dispiriting. But I pushed hard, then started pushing harder on the way down. I then found a friend, who was pushing pretty hard, and I ran with him for the last 4k. He was going just that little bit faster than I may have been, which was good, because I was able to hold the pace. I then pushed ahead of him in the last 2 k, and thought I'd gotten away, be he held on.

The final stretch is pretty cool, with people lining both sides for the final 300 - 400 m. I thought my friend was done, but then I heard him coming, and I heard the crowd getting excited, so I started sprinting, as did he, with me pipping him at the line. The last 300m I averaged 2:51 min/k, with a fastest of 1:54 mins/k.


Final time - 1:26:31;
Pace - 4:06 mins/k;
Normalized pace - 4:03 mins/k (while not a flat race, you finish only 3 m higher than you start, and I obviously kept a fairly even pace throughout);
Average HR - 182, max 205 (I'm not sure the max is right - that came when I running downhill early in the race, so I suspect it isn't).

Similar lesson to the Legend - while I paced myself well, I perhaps needed to push a little harder a little earlier. I'll just have to let Kate predict my time again (she said she thought I'd do 1:26:?? to 1:27:?? (perhaps the upper end, but still), and pace myself based on that =)

Here are some fun graphs:

Heart rate (apart from the silly stuff early on, nice even effort, increased steadily at the end):

And pace (across my splits - of which there were 19 - I missed a couple of k's):