Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
What a fantastic race. This was the inaugural event, and it was fantastic. The course is great, and it's really well located.
I've been training fairly well, but the volume has been down a little but since Tauranga, but the swimming's been improving, as has my running, and I was feeling fit.
I really wasn't in the mood for a Half Ironman on race morning, but I got everything ready (after leaving the drink bottles at my bro and sis-in-laws' place), got wetsuited up, and had a bit of a warm-up swim.
The swim was two (apparently) 950 metre, triangular, laps. It's in a harbour without any funky tides, but there was a little bit of chop, and not a massive field.
I tried to find feet early, but perhaps got a little bit wide (given the size of the field), so pushed a bit to find someone to hang onto. About 250 or so metres in (the first buoy) I found some feet, and comfortably hung on for the rest of the lap (I was not having to work all that hard - I'd lost the chance of getting onto fastish feet, so the aim became energy preservation, rather than a massively quick time).
At the end of the first lap we had a quick beach run. It turns out I'm a lot quicker than anyone else who swims at my speed, and I gained about 20 metres on the five or so people who'd been around me. This actually wasn't great, because I didn't want to swim on my own. So I swam for a bit, eventually someone caught me, and I hung on for another 300 metres or so. After the final turn, the guy I was following started going a slightly funny way, and I eventually lost him, and the last stretch was a mixture of on my own/finding feet.
I was more than comfortable throughoutt the swim, and came out in a very pleasing 35 or so (35.49 to the timing mat), which is pretty good, and even if it's 11 metres shorter than Tauranga (which it may have been), it's about the same time but with amuchh smaller field to draft off.
There was a long run to T1, where we were given a bag with my helmet, etc. I got some help taking my wetsuit off, put it in the bag, and I quickly got my bike and headed off.
The bike is a fairly hilly to rolling course. No big climbs, but very little flat, so it's hard to get into a rhythm. There was a fair bit of climbing to start with, but I made sure I contained myself, and didn't push too hard (oddly, big guys were smashing themselves to pass me on hills, but I was going quicker on the downhills...)
I was feeling pretty good on the way out, and drinking a lot more than usual (the sea in NP seems quite salty, and I think I swallowed a bit during the swim), and held a fairly comfortable pace. I knew we were supposed to have a tail wind out, but I swore we had a very sight headwind - boy was I in for a shock. Peter Hughes was a a technical official, so it was nice to see a familiar (from the blog world at least), and get a bit of on course support.
I got to the turnaround in 1:20, then realised how wrong I'd be - there was a nasty, constant, headwind. Not only did I have a lot of false flats (the climbing version) on the way back, but I had to do it into a headwind. My average watts on the way out were 185, norm watts of 201 (so about right), AHR 166. I was passed by quite a few people on the way out. With one exception (a former elite cyclist who can't swim to save himself), who blitzed the bike course, I would see them again later.
The way back was hard, really hard. I caught a few people, and tried to keep a consistent effort, but it was tough, and I was struggling to hold a good wattage. But I kept slogging along, not doing anything too silly. There were people around me, but not really anyone to pace off, so this was a long, slow, effort home. It took me 1:40 on the way home (I was just under 3 hours, which was nice!). Average watts home (when it should have been easier to hold a higher wattage, because of the wind) were 180, norm power of 191 - so really not good enough - AHR 162.
Overall time was 2:59:49, average watts 182, norm 196 (lower than Karapiro or Rotorua 2009), AHR 164. Almost exactly 30 mins slower than Tauranga. But given the fastest time (Mark Bowstead) was 2:25, it was clearly not a fast course.
So he bike wasn't quite as quick as I'd have liked, and I was feeling a bit zonked after the ride home. But I'd saved a bit off energy, and the legs felt good as soon as I hit the run. There's a bit of a climb, then it's fairly rolling after that (never too hard, but there's a couple of nasty little climbs). The race started at 7:30, so it was already really hot, and there wasn't an aid station until about 3.5 km (half way into the first of three laps). There were two on course (so six all up), it's just that you couldn't get to the first one early to start with.
The run was really hot, and I was holding a comfortable, if not super quick, pace. I was caught a couple of k's in by friend number one, and we ran toghether for about a lap and a half. I held his pace comfortably, but my stomach was feeling a bit gross (and I threw up in my mouth a few times). I'd already passed a few of the people who raced past me on the bike.
About a lap and a half in, a dude from Germany caught us. He was here to to Challenge Wanaka, but got ill, so had to pull out, so came and did NP instead. He was holding a faster pace, and I quite comfortably kept up (while friend number one dropped off). He didn't look super old, but after the race I discovered he was about 45, and some post race stalking led me to discover than he's done a 9:30ish Ironman, and been to Kona. I kept up with him for the rest of the race (and we continued to pass people) - we both took time at aid stations to throw as much water as we could over ourselves (and took time as the local kids with the hose/bucket/water pistols), enjoyed the chat, and we finished at the same time.
Run time was 1:38:31, actual pace 4:47 mins/km, norm 4:44, AHR 168, max 179.
Final time 5:17, 19th male, 21st overall (out of about 100). 5th in my age group, and the 13th fastest run overall (men and women) - which showed the value of not smashing myself on the bike.
I loved this race. It's a great, scenic, course, well organised, and had a great vibe. It;s really what Karapiro should be like, except it's far from it. I'd definitely be keen to come back next year.
I'm happy with the race. Faster swim than Tauranga (should have gone faster even), albeit on a possibly shorter curse, slower bike in tough conditions (should have been a bit quicker) and the same run on a rolling course after a much harder bike.
Next I have nationals in Wellington on 12 March, then Xterra on 9 April - I'm looking forward to both, particularly Xterra (given I don't want to go to Beijing, nats is less important, apart from pride – because I know a lot of people racing, and will have a lot of friends there to support me).
Friday, January 14, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I won't go into the pre-race at all – Kate has summed it up very well here.
I woke up just prior to the alarm, at 3:30 am, and notwithstanding the sweaty night's sleep (thanks to a very hot cabin), I felt pretty good. I had oats, blueberries and yoghurt for breakfast (which is, give or take, what I have almost every day), and I think that worked better for me than porridge. I had pretty much packed the car the night before, and we headed off just after 4:30.
We arrived at transition just on five (when it opened), and it was nice to have a bit of time up my sleeves. I had an issue pumping my rear tyre – my new floor pump head doesn't fit in the gap in the disc covers, so I had to borrow someone else's pump.
Unlike Kate, I wasn't stressed at all. In fact, I was perhaps a little too relaxed. I think that was partly because I had time up my sleeve, and I knew I'd worked hard over the last few months.
I did muck around a bit, and had to wait in line for a while at the bathroom, but eventually got wetsuited up, and headed to the water. There were people everywhere, but I managed to get a bit of warmup, somehow managed to find Kate for a pre-race kiss, then I found my position, just to the left of the wide buoy.
I have been happy with my swim recently. I had a couple of lessons with Jeremy Cronin at the endless pool at the Waikato Uni rec centre in December, and they've made a massive difference. I had always thought I swam well, that I had good body position, a good stroke, etc, and couldn't understand why people with much worse looking strokes swam much faster than me. Turns out I wasn't wrong – just that my swim timing was terrible – I was swimming catch up, and has massive dead spots in my stroke. So the last few weeks have been dedicated to stopping that, and making sure I'm always propelling myself forward. It was tiring – because I wasn't having rests – but it made an immediate impact on my swim speed. So I was interested to know how that would translate into the race.
I went hard to the first buoy, and basically got sucked along. I couldn't actually go around the buoy, because there were too many people cutting across in front of me, and I wasn't going to wait for them to go around properly. I kept working hard, and finished the first (700m) lap in what seemed like no time at all. At that stage, there were masses of people up and walking, all the way to the shore. I tried to swim, but there were too many people in my way, and, frankly, walking was quicker. Once around the buoy, I was able to swim clearly back to shore, then start the second lap.
That was when it started unraveling, somewhat. I was feeling comfortable, but I kept on losing people. When I swam next to people, I was keeping up with them or even going faster. When I decided to try and draft, I all of a sudden lost them, and couldn't keep up. I often found myself with clear water in front, and no feet to get onto. Also, I nearly had my timing chip pulled off, so had to stop and adjust that, and twice had my goggles punched (not hit, but punched; seriously, who even swims like that??) off my face – so had to stop and fix that – again slowing me down. But I kept working, and once at the final buoy (and the walkers) I dolphin dived my way back to shore (quicker than either swimming or walking), and came out in 37:00 exactly. A swim PB, so something to be happy about, but I actually think I should have gone faster, and I will keep chipping away at it.
I had a reasonably quick T1, and I was off. I hadn't practiced getting onto the bike with the shoes already attached, which was silly, as I had a couple of problems, but once on, I was away. Except I wasn't. I had (for the umpteenth time, I might add) forgotten to zero the torque on my Powertap, which is important, because otherwise the power data (which I use to pace myself in races) is meaningless. So I stopped pedaling, took all my weight off the pedals, zeroed the torque (which didn't need it) and then I was off.
The plan was to ride at between 200 and 210 watts. This is a flat course, and my normalized power for last year's Rotorua and this year's Karapiro Half's was about that, so it seemed about right. I was holding that, feeling comfortable, and passing a lot of people. Then a few people passed me, and I noticed that I could (legally) follow them, and it saved me about 15 watts. And that is how I rode for the rest of the ride. If I felt someone (or a pace line) was going too slow, I went to pass, holding about 210 watts. If that meant I passed them, I did. If I couldn't, then there was no point, and might as well save my legs for the run. It worked well, I had some regular company (off and on – most people really can't hold a consistent output, and were usually going faster or slower than me). There was one guy who was going well, and I tried to keep up with him, but when we got onto Parton Road, he ended up between two cars, and I lost him, which is unfortunate, because when pacing off him I was holding about 200, which meant I was going fairly quickly.
A bit before half way, I was passed by a fellow called Chad, who (for the most part) seemed to be going well, and I managed to pace off him for almost the rest of the ride. I had some regular off and on company, but eventually lost all those people.
We had a tailwind heading out, a headwind coming back, then, oddly, a headwind heading out, and a tailwind back – almost perfect really. It was never that strong – I held about 33-34km/hr into a headwind, and 39/40km/hr with a tailwind. Also, I was using Vittoria Open Evo Corsa CX's and latex tubes for the first time in a race – and they were noticeably faster and smoother.
I knew I was on target for sub-2:30, so pushed towards the end to make sure that happened – which it did, 2:29:23. I was happy, and knew that I was going to have to run pretty poorly to take longer than 5hrs.
My average watts were 178, normalized power of 184, which is much lower than any other race – but that was mostly due to legal pacing (I wasn't drafting), which, frankly, is just smart racing (and shows what a useful tool a power meter can be for racing). It's this that makes me keen to get out of the water faster. I could have gone harder without hurting myself too much. In the circumstances, it wouldn't have led to a faster race, but if I were out of the water quicker, and riding with faster people, then pacing off them, and holding a higher power, would have resulted in a faster time. Something to work on.
AHR was 161, with a max of 179, so I certainly held something back for the run.
I had a quick T2 (which wasn't aided by my neighbour deciding to place his bike in my spot, not his), and I was off. I was keeping a high turnover, and had to slow myself down (I was going at 4:05 mins/km, give or take, and the plan was to head out at 4:15 mins/km).
There were people everywhere, and plenty of people cheering for me(some who knew me, some who simply read my name on the race number, and plenty who just liked my orange shoes), which was pretty rad (and quite different from either Rotorua or Karapiro. I was going well, but Marine Parade was already very, very hot, and I knew I had to take in a lot of fluids/keep myself cool. I was averaging about 4:15 mins/km at the turnaround at Tay Street, and tried to hold that until the mount, but my legs were getting quite sore, and I slowed down to about 4:22 mins/km at the base track. I didn't kill myself on the base track, and once off, was averaging about 4:30 mins/km, which is slower than I'd have liked, but not too bad.
After the track, I tried to pick up the pace, and I just couldn't go as quickly as I wanted. I had to focus on keeping my cadence up, as this is how I run best, and it naturally keeps my pace high, but I was getting very hot (even though I was tipping water on myself all race), and while still running sub 5 mins/km, just couldn't get it closer to 4 mins/km. I was still passing a lot of people (in fact, only one non-team runner passed me all race), and near the Tay Street turnaround, I saw Gene, my old coach (who not so long ago would have handed my ass to me on a plate, but isn't quite in top shape), and tried to catch him. I was nearly at him at the base track, but he pulled away, and I just pushed myself to get around in a good time.
Once off the track, I tried to push to the finish, which was only moderately successful. When I saw the race clock, it was at 4:48 something, so I kicked on to try and get under 4:50, which I did, getting home with the clock at 4:49:33 (it turns out I was a couple of mins quicker, because that was the pro time), a pretty good effort.
I finished the run in 1:38:09, AHR 166, max 173. Average pace was 4:43, norm pace 4:41 (so a pretty even effort). Again, not as quick as I would have liked, particularly given I was able to save some energy on the bike. My hip is still not 100%, but it never really hurt too badly.
I finished 18th out of 52 people in my age group. Interestingly, none of the 17 people ahead of me swam slower than 32 minutes, and you have to go to 40th to find anyone who swam slower than me. I had the 313th fastest swim time, 110th equal T1, 177th fastest bike, 62nd equal T2 (actually annoying, as I would have been a lot quicker but for my friend and his bike getting in my way) and the 107th fastest run.
I enjoyed the race, and I'm really happy with the time, and my approach to the race. I enjoyed the on course support, and it was choice to see my sister and brother-in-law out there, and Mike, who took a lot of rad photos (which are here).
Things to work on:
As usual, the swim – here it made the most noticeable difference, because being with stronger cyclists would, almost certainly, have resulted in a faster time;
I think I had my nutrition dialed in pretty well on the bike, but again probably didn't drink quite enough; and
Just need to keep running. It should be my strongest leg, so I just need to keep working on it, and getting back in the groove.
Next up in the New Plymouth Half Ironman. The course looks great – tougher than Tauranga, but not as hard as either Rotorua or Karapiro. I have an easy week this week, then a month until NP. It's not an A-race – my major races are Nationals, a month after that, and Xterra, a month after that. Hopefully I'll go well at NP, then be flying come Nats and Xterra.