Saturday, November 12, 2016

IM New Zealand - 18 weeks til race

A liitle late - but better late than never.

18 Weeks until Iron Man NZ and a non typical training week this week. Tuesday of this week was Melbourne Cup Day and for any international readers I might have that’s pretty unusual in being a horse race that somehow gets a public holiday here in Victoria. On top of that if you’ve got Tuesday off, who on earth is going to come to work Monday so I took leave that day also. The upshot is having a work free Monday and Tuesday meant I could squeeze in some heavier work this week.

My coach took advantage of this flexibility in my work this week to program a hilly three hour ride on Monday and another 2 hour spin on Tuesday plus short jogs and swims. It’s funny, I can say I’ve got the day off work and can do whatever I want but don’t assume that means training jumps to the head of the list. My wife also had Monday morning off and the possibility to have a morning together was irresistible so I shouted us (ok mostly me) a small sleep-in, breakfast and then (and only then) a late morning ride in the hills past Frankston.

Now the riding past Frankston isn’t like the Dandenongs, these aren’t mountains by any stretch, it more rolling hills. However, the Olivers to Overport (for example) climb is a tick under 4 km long of going up so in the 3 hours of riding it’s pretty easy to go over 1000 meters of climbing which is pretty representative of most Iron Man courses I seem to be doing these days.

And all in all this day went well. I’m just three weeks into the serious prep for NZ, 18 weeks to go and I’m riding Sharkbike in close to full IM configuration and I returned times for most of the major climbs in the top ten of my best efforts on strava so I was feeling pretty chuffed. On top of that it was a glorious day with bright blue skies, temps in the low 20’s, not a lot of wind and it all finished with a roll down Oliver’s hill before pulling up almost immediately at the car and a drive home. 

Oh – what is “Sharkbike”? Well until recently my Tri Bike (that you can see above)  has been known as ‘Shaz the Shiv’, a name I had no intention of changing. Recently however, when the bike debuted its new paint job at IM Austria it (not me – I have no illusions on that) got plently of cheers and had people calling out “go Sharkbike”. So, with that, Shaz is out, and Sharkbike is in.

Most of the rest of the week was pretty standard with nothing particularly noteworthy. Some routine riding to work, some runs and 2 km swims. Nothing to write home (or in a blog) about.

That said, Saturday was a big day. Not big as in a lot of work done, but big in terms of its importance (to me). On the program it was nothing really special, 60 spin on the bike – 5km park run – then another 60 min spin. Things didn’t quite go that way. I gave myself another weekend morning with my wife and move the workout to the early afternoon. Sine I’d missed the organised park run, I swapped it for a TT at a local running track. Well the easy spins were, well, easy spins – no biggie. But the 5km TT turned out great.

In the last blog I posted how happy I was to be chipping away at my 5k time. So far in the past 6 or so weeks its dropped from just under 25 minutes to around 24:20. This week I sliced almost a minute off that dropping to 23:33. To put that into perspective, my best ever 5 km time is 23:25 and I was hoping to beat that before going to NZ in Mar 2017. That run hurt like hell but PB’s are supposed to hurt.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

IM New Zealand - 19 Weeks Out

A really solid run week done and done.  Some running every day (although some pretty short and light) for 7 days straight.  All in all it went really well.  I hit every session and got through it feeling tired and sore but in a good way.  No niggles, pulls or tears, just good clean work induced DOMs.

Anyway the week culminated in two quite different days.

Saturday was high intensity day and it was all about a 5km time trial at the Chelsea Park Run.  The instructions from my coach were pretty simple, smash myself.  Ok, put this in perspective, I'm not a fast runner, my best time this year is a little over 24:30 for the 5km, my best ever is 23:25.  My goal is to beat this before New Zealand in Mar 2017.  Well I got stuck in a slow pack at the start and wasted a lot of energy dodging and passing.  After the first km I was out in the open and free and accelerated.  Three km in and I wasnt far off doing an all time PB.  I need to be under 4:40km's and Im close but I had nothing more, my heart rate hit 175 which is pretty much my max and a sign that my speed is only going one way now.  Sure enough km 4 saw my pace drop slightly while my heart rate hovered between 173 and 175.  But this is where impressed myself, I was determined to at least get a 2016 PB and drove on.  I couldnt look at my watch at the time but reviewing the data I now know I pushed my heartrate to 180, the last km was my fastest and I did indeed record my fastest 5km run for the year.  

Sunday was as different as a day could be after Saturdays high intensity smashfest.  Sunday was a three hour powerwalk.  This is a new thing for my training and I'm really enjoying this kind of work.  Not least because I get to combine training and photography which is super cool.  I havent processed my good photos from the day yet but even the phone shots are looking ok.

I am developing a love hate relationship with my weight vest though.  I hate it pretty much all the time and love dropping it in the car when the slog is done and dusted.  Still my legs are looking more like legs and less like gigantic sausages so the vest is doing its job.  Anyway the power walk was, all in all uneventful, nothing flat so 90 minutes going down and 90 minutes going up.  There was a fair bit of wildlife though, a couple of wallabies, a wombat, a lyrebird, a billion mosquitos and a leech that attached itself under my watch and I only discovered after I accidently squashed it resulting in a hand covered in blood and 5 seconds of thinking I was going to die.

So with that behind me another week of training in the bank, solid numbers coming up and I'm feeling good.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

IM New Zealand - 20 weeks out

Previously I’ve found the discipline of recording and broadcasting how my training has gone and where I’m at is really helpful in keeping me on track. So, while I’ve been ‘training’ for my next event for a few months now, with 20 weeks until Ironman New Zealand I figured I’m now in the hard core prep zone and I could benefit from some increased focus.

If you haven’t seen my earlier posts on this topic this isn’t meant as a blow by blow account of my training. There aren’t going to be a lot of numbers and I try and keep brags and excuses to a minimum. Rather I’ll keep this fairly high level and general.

Ok, first things first, my coach (Craig Percival at No Limits Endurance) has me doing some slightly different training these days which is interesting and hurting me in all new ways. Basically, Craig has me working hard on strength and power. Like a mate of mine (Peter Coombe) I’ve come to triathlon late in life from other sports and like Pete I’ve been very focussed on trying to get lean and light and finally, like Pete, this has only been partly successful. So now, while I still don’t want to be carrying weight I don’t have to, this is now a secondary consideration, now the main goal is to develop the power I need to handle whatever course I’m dealing with at the weight I am (rather the weight I might be in an alternate universe where I’m built like Jan Frodeno).

So what does that look like in training terms?

Well so far its meant a lot more variety with greater changes in intensity rolling from long leg busting hikes up hills with a weighted pack to fast and furious 5km time trials. Likewise, on the bike there’s long, relatively easy Maffatone based rides at very low heartrates mixed with grinding big gears up hills that set my legs on fire. Its just a few weeks in but right now it feels right.

Ok, so that’s the background how did this week, NZ MINUS 20 go?

Depending on how you look at it this week was either really good or really bad. The good, I did virtually every session as planned and felt great. The bad, the only sessions that didn’t quite work were the key Saturday sessions of a hilly ride followed by a hilly run, the others that I nailed were really all just leading up to this. In short the weather screwed me. I tried riding Saturday but at one point I worked out that on the bike my visibility was only about half my stopping distance. That point was when I grabbed the brakes hard to avoid a car turning in front of me and simply sailed on barely slowing. If the car hadn’t – finally – found his gears and started moving I was going into the side of it. So I bailed.

I tried to make it up on Sunday but just couldn’t complete the ride as programmed. I did get do the run however so not all bad.

My NZ MINUS 19 program is in – lots (and lots) of running this week so wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

IM Austria 2016 - A Curates Egg

I swam, that was ok.  I rode and a bit of that was great and a bit sucked.  The sucky part of the ride meant there was little running but I found myself at the finish eventually so it all sort of worked out and I was actually pretty happy in the end.  There, thats my 'regular' race report.

With the regular narrative bit done, heres a more meaningful report  - for me at least.

The run up. 
After 8 months of sort of self training I realized I wasnt ready for an Ironman and wasnt going to be ready unless I changed something.  So I changed something, I spoke with Craig Percival, told him exactly where I was at, asked him to take me on but gave him the option to take a pass.  Thankfully Craig said yes and so I launched on 10 weeks of intense effort to get ready for a race I had been thinking of, but not taking seriously enough, for 12 months.

I say ten weeks but lets be realistic.  There was a week when we got settled in.  There were two weeks of taper at the back end.  Of the seven weeks left two were lightish recovery weeks.  So in other words, after 8 months of some pretty unfocussed training I was proposing to turn it all around with 5 long rides and runs. 10 hard swimming sessions.  10 intense mid week runs.  Its pretty frightening when you think of it like that isnt it?   But that the reality, and on the back of that I developed a race plan.

The Plan.

1.  I was actually feeling pretty good about the swim and looking back at previous races I reckoned I'd bludged a bit on this leg before.  So the plan was to push it a bit and set up the rest of my race with the chance of getting a PB.

2.  I had no idea where my ride was at so the plan here was to be conservative.  Spin up the hills, recover where necessary, make up time on the descents if I can.

3.  With Craig I'd been achieving great results with planned run/walk in training.  I was confident in the plan and frankly pretty certain that with this strategy would get me a PB for the run leg.

Put all that together and I was tentatively thinking I could go as quick as 12 hours if it went great, maybe out to 14.5 if it went really wrong.

The Result.

1.  The swim was a dream.  Just concentrated hard on form and while I never pressed hard I just focussed on keeping good cadence and maintaining feel.  A 1:08, a 2 minute PB in fresh water.  Loved it.

2.  The bike was ok in parts.  Started great, got a hit from another rider that screwed up my indexing and cost me my granny gears.  From around 60 to 120 km I had to grind up a couple of pretty nasty climbs, this cost me.  So a decent first lap, a dodgy second lap and 14 minutes stationary in bike service.

3.  Run, what run?  I actually felt pretty good in the beginning, I waved to Libby convinced I was going to nail it.  I was very, very wrong.  3 km in my left hammy cramped, then my right, then my quads.  So it was 39 km of improvising to squeeze what I could out of the race but really it was so frustrating that I didnt really get to show what I felt I was capable of.

The Lessons.

1.  There is more time for me in the swim.  A longer more serious training effort and some more optimistic placement at the start (so less time swimming over others) and sub 60 is possible.

2.  The attention grabbing bit of the ride was clearly the hit but the real lessons are in the strava data.  The plan was to keep my heart rate down, keep it sustainable, dont crawl but deliver my body to the marathon ready to run.  What actually happened was I spent 20% of the bike, 1 hour 17 minutes at threshold or above.  Yeah, the accident hurt me but I must be honest if I'm going to improve.  I wasnt strong enough and it cost me any chance of running well.

Whats next.

IM New Zealand is next.  This time I have 30 weeks, I have a coach and I'm going to lay it on the line and say publicly I have a goal.  

I reckon I can do the swim in 60 minutes.  I reckon I should do the bike in 5:30.  I plan to finish the marathon in 4:30.  Throw in transitions and some change and my target is 11:30.  Of course conditions on the day can plan havoc with this but thats my plan now.  Its 2.5 hours faster than I did Austria, 30 minutes faster than my PB at Busso but if I do the work I can do it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Training Diary: Week 5 – 7 Aug to 13 Sep

 Weekly Goals:

Follow the coaches plan, hit the TT’s hard and get more structured in my eating.

So happy to see a light session for today because:
  • the weather outside sucked and I didn’t want to ride in it and
  • after a big weekend my legs were toasted and the break was welcome. 

One guilt free trainer ride coming up and slammed down.

Did a little stretch and core strength session at gym today too.  I'm noticing my core just kind of ‘collapses’ when I’m running tired, trying to build up a little more strength.  Also a good excuse to escape the office at lunch.

What a run!  Programmed as an own venue/easy run to time.  Got to admit wasn’t inspired at the start.  Despite light training yesterday legs felt heavy all day and real sense of "Meh" around this whole activity.  Still after starting I just felt right.  Right road, right sound track – everything was just as it is supposed to be.  Had to consciously slow myself down as a found myself running hard next to two dogs down the river path and laughing at how magnificent life is.

Today was a good day.


Slow to get rolling this morning – was it that I didn’t want to ride or was it the destination?  Anyway a decent but otherwise unremarkable 30km commute.  Was scheduled to do a tt ride this week but can get to velo and just cant find a section long enough on my route.  Settled for hammering 20 (broken) km.  No great insights, no witty revelations, just calories burnt and muscles exercised.  Sometimes that’s enough though.

Another uninspiring ride home – on the upside though it was nice and uneventful.  Miles and minutes in the bank – nothing else to see here, move along please.


Run TT day.  A little warmup toddle, some stretching and a gentle cool down but lets be frank, its all about the one lap of the tan.  I rarely mention numbers but a tt without them isn’t a tt is it? – 18:45 for a tic under 4 km, about 1:30 slower than my best.  BUT averaged better than 5 min kms for the first time all year and also ran fastest single km for the year.  Also, mentally able to hold threshold (and beyond) for nearly 20 mins.  Not the result I wanted but the trending is good and that’s ok for now.


I SWAM!.  Not far, not fast but I swam.  Was better and worse than I feared.  The good – I can still swim ok, the bad I ran out of power really really fast.

One thing though is I can really feel the benefit of practicing swimming well.  I’ve had more valuable swimming instruction from Sean Foster and Neroli Nixon while training to be a triathlete than in 6 years of competitive swimming as a kid/teenager – wished I had this coaching then!


Bike issue meant I binned this mornings session.  In short, dropped chain, wrecked chain, replaced chain (and removed and then refitted chain rings).

Planned to do session alone in afternoon but scheduled ride-run-ride-run too hard to manage from home.  Settled for simple studley park reps.  Didn’t meant to do anything special, certainly wasn’t smashing it but turns out I did some of my fastest ever laps of the boulevard.  Really confused.


Sleep in – thank the Lord!

Not sure if I can remember feeling this good about a rest day.  Lots of sleep but just tired all day.  Is that because I really needed it or just my brain filling in a gap because I knew I had the day off.  This can really screw with you so better not to think to hard about it, just let it happen.

Weekly Summary.

Interesting week.  Usually I can summarise a week barely looking back at the notes but this time I had to reread every day.  Just cant find a sensible narrative for the week, I started with a ‘soft’ day didn’t grind out anything really extraordinary during the week but finished the week dead.  Even reviewing the week nothing really gels, tt’s were slow but ‘easy’ days were some of the fastest things I’ve done for months.  Oh, and I swam for the first time in six weeks.

Overall I think that my life outside of training, which is good but a bit on edge at the moment, is messing with my head.  Its one thing to have a nice progressive training plan but if your head and heart are all over the place shouldn’t be surprised that performance becomes unpredictable.


Last point – lots of accidents on Beach road and beyond.  Some with mates who are way better riders than me.  Note – be careful!


Also, a quick lesson on how to give news people.  When you come up to someone waiting for their partner to come in from a ride "there's been an accident" and then follow up up with "Libby's ok, she's stopped to help."  Other way round is recommended.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Things I Love: Photography

So far my "things I love" series has been limited to things I love about triathlon.  This post I'm branching out, photography is some I love alongside tri.  That said, I really, really love it when I mix the two pleasures.  

(which is why if you look at my race calendar I've planned races I wont compete in but that I will photograph)

I really enjoy, perhaps even love photography. Why? Ultimately I think there are a couple of reasons:

1.                  The Art.  I can be artistic despite having virtually no ability with my hands.  Now its dangerous, perhaps, to label ones self as ‘artistic’ but bear with me.  Art is defined as many things but I’ve found my favourite definition:

 Art is a revolt, a protest against extinction.

 AndrĂ© Malraux (1901–1976), 

Ultimately that is what my art – my photography – and I suspect this blog, is.  Sometimes I’m seeking to capture beauty, or ugliness, or my kid’s expression, my wife’s face, a mate doing something extraordinary, a place I've been or perhaps just an image of a car I like but in every case its that notion of ‘capture’ that’s key here.  My art is the practice of taking something, imprinting myself on it, preserving it and making it available for later.

Photography makes “my” art really well.

2.         The Gear.  I love stuff, particularly hard edged, mechanical and/or electronic – doesn’t matter, tangible stuff.  Its fun to read about stuff, touch stuff, makes lists about stuff.  Photography does two things:

a.                   gives me a whole new category of stuff to play with, and
b.                  gives me a whole new way to interact with other stuff like cars, planes etc.

Win, win I say.

3.         The Sharing.  Closely related to “The Art” is “The Sharing”.  If art is a protest against extinction, sharing that art is a protest against isolation.  Sharing photography – easier today that ever before - thank you Internet – creates links between people.  Take someone’s photo and they become part of your life, better still, show them that photo and your lives intersect.  Show it to the world and we all know each other a little more.

There are limits here and photographs must shared (and indeed taken) with care.  Susan Sontag wrote in 1977, in a pre digital, pre internet, pre selfie age:

“Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.” 

How much truer is that today that ever before?

Moreover, she also warned

“To suffer is one thing; another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more - and more. Images transfix. Images anesthetize.” 

While this quote refers to suffering, I suspect the deluge of images being taken and shared can both transfix and anesthetize many of our feelings.  My lesson here is that with a camera taking 12 frames per second, a 100+ gigabyte memory card and a decent fibre internet connection I could take and share tens of thousands of images, but I shouldn’t.  Images need to be taken and shared thoughtfully if they are to retain their power.

So anyway - I my photography.  I get to be a little arty, I get to play with my gear and I get to share it with people.  So, you'll be seeing more photo related stuff on this blog from now on.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Things I love about tri: The Race

The Race

One of the biggest issues I had for about 20 years of trying to lose weight and get fit was a total lack of focus.  I could diet, I could work out and these might even work ok for a while but ultimately I was still just a fat bastard on a diet or working out and sooner or later the focus would slip, the diet would become lax, the workouts become less frequent and I would revert to being just a fat bastard again.

Triathlon has changed that by giving me a focus and an identity courtesy of a simple little thing. “The Race”.

Without “The Race” I’m just going for a run, a swim or a ride.  It doesn’t matter if this is long or short, fast or slow, on the hills or on the flat. Ultimately, it doesn’t even really matter if I even do this run, this ride or this swim.  

“The Race” changes everything.   Suddenly it matters a lot whether I run, ride or swim.  It’s really important that I do the session as planned and if I don’t there will be consequences (see my Roth race report for what they might be).  “The Race” gives me focus.

Perhaps even more interesting, ‘The Race’ begins to define me, it gives me a healthy identity.  I’m not just a guy going for a run, a swim or a ride – ‘The Race’ makes me a triathlete.  That identity is important, it means that watching what I eat, or making sure I exercise isn’t an optional extra, it’s a core part of me.  It means that the work isn’t a temporary burden, it’s an expression of who I am.  The reason this has worked for me while dozens of diets and work out plans didn’t is because I recognized “I” had to change.  That who I was could not be happy.  (PS, this has some really interesting implications for the whole body positivist crowd – as a former fattie they really annoy me).   “The Race” is a powerful tool for forging and maintaining that identity.

Which brings me to the race plan.  For “The Race” to be effective there must be actual races on the horizon otherwise all its power just bleeds away.  Therefore I need a race plan.  

Rather than secret it away, I figured that like my training diary, I may as well share it and use it as a conversation piece and sort of clearing house.  So, I haven’t included my 2015/16 race plan in this post.  Instead its got its own page so you can following this link here or select it from “My Pages” up there on the right hand side of this blog.

In short the plan is this.
  • Ballarat 70.3 A bit of a warm-up, set a standard for the rest of the season etc
  • Do the active tri sprint series in Melbourne.
  • Not doing the Gatorades - not because I dont like them, they are great, rather lots and lots of mates do these races and I want to photograph them and I cant do that if Im racing.
  • Geelong 70.3 End of the season and an A race - aiming for sub 5 hours.
  • IM Austria in June - set a goal after Geelong but looking to PB as a minimum.