Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lake Hayes Christmas Triathlon, in a few words.

There's always very little to say about a Sprint triathlon: I went as hard as I could given my fatigue levels, I improved on last year's time, and I got 9th female in the open category. Some of New Zealand's top guns came out, including pros Nikki Samuels, Jamie Whyte, etc. Sweeeeet.

The swim was a touch choppy, the winds had picked up. The bike was windy as all hell. Power numbers were embarrassingly low due to....
1. Some big training last week, culminating on a Christmas Day "breakdown session", where I ended up off the bike with nothing left, realizing I still had a 10k brick run to... well, "run". I distinctly remember running into friends on the trails and waving my arms about, saying I had no idea how I was going to make it home and they replied: "What? Your home is just 2k away..." Yes, I was done.
2. Half the time, in the crosswinds, I'd have to get out of the aerobars and physically push my bike into the ground to prevent being sideswept.
And the run... I ran it. Far below LTHR, but with good form. That's what is most important to me right now. Loved the heat, saw people wilting and crushed them. As usual, no girls passed me on the run and I passed quite a few.

So... all in all... about a 5 minute improvement over last year's time, in tougher (windier, hotter) conditions and with lower HR averages (as a result of increasing fatigue from training). Cool beans. It'll get there. I'm entered in the Outside Sports Ultimate Tri Series, mainly with the intention of learning how to "go hard".

Jan 14: Jack's Point Tri. 500m swim, 20k road bike, 5k off-road run
Feb 19: Paradise/Glenorchy triathlon. 750m swim, 18k mtb, 6k run
Mar 17: Moke Lake tri. 750m swim, 20k mtb, 6k run
Apr 6: Lake Hayes Easter tri. 750 swim, 20k road bike, 5k off-road run

The boy toy was my sherpa for the day. He did a greaaaat job.  
Pre-race... Einstein is READY FOR THIS SHIT. 
And we go... 
Been working on run form... now just need to keep building
strength in the new positioning. 
After the race, we made out way to Queenstown for the obligatory post-race Fergburgers, where we accidentally got 3 instead of 2, back to Lake Hayes for the prize-giving, to the QT pool for a 1.5hr swim session, and back home to relax and eat delicious fruit salad as the sun set over our mountains. It's been a goooood Christmas week.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pretty Photos 009 - A new view

I've seen Stevenson's Arm, The Peninsula and down the Clutha River a million times, but sometimes you stumble upon a new view of the things you see every day and you have to look twice, take a photo or two, because hot damn it's even more beautiful today than all previous days, combined.

Who's excited for Christmas?? We're going to have perfect days up until next Sunday: fine, light winds, sunny, around 26-27C. 

My plan for Christmas Day: 
- Race simulation of the Challenge Wanaka half bike course (90k), and transition run. Should give me an idea of what I can put together next month for the half-iron. Everyone is going to be huuuuung over from the previous eve; roads should be empty. Damn, can't wait!!!
- Leg soak in the lake, river or creek post-ride/run
- Spend the rest of the day recovering, opening presents, making fabulous food and eating it with the boy toy. I think we're shooting a rabbit for dinner! Jetboating?

Two days later I've got the Lake Hayes Christmas Sprint triathlon, one of the oldest triathlons in New Zealand (1982 or '83?), sweeeeeet. Did it last year in downpour conditions, legendary.

Oh, and apparently I twitter now (tweetered?): @krystynag47
Not sure how to use it though.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Now sponsored by: TRAINING PEAKS, baby!!

I am excited to shout that, for the next year, I am sponsored by the one, the only: TrainingPeaks!

I am part of their 2012 Athlete Ambassador program! Boom, baby!! The team was announced today, link here.

I've been training using the TrainingPeaks software for going on almost two years now (Feb 2012 will be my two year anniversary, celebration time!!!). Sometimes I forget that there are athletes out there that don't use TrainingPeaks to analyze their day-to-day workouts, their week-to-week training and their month-to-month and season-to-season progression.

I remember starting out as a triathlete (i.e. I flopped around in the pool year-round, only biking and running in the 3 months that Canadians call spring-summer-fall), and I used BeginnerTriathlete to log my workouts. For a beginner, the website is totally awesome and I still do love browsing the forums for some laughs, some knowledge, and the sexy sexy classifieds. But, there came a point when:

1. I needed a way of analyzing more than just week-to-week volume. I needed to see what had to be done in the future, record what I had just completed, and analyze what had been achieved in the past. KEY TO SUCCESS!
2. I needed a way of communicating with a coach, without him crying his eyes out because I was calling him daily. ENTER TRAINING PEAKS.

Anyway, long story dramatically cut short, I already knew 2012 was going to be awesome because:
- I am loving being back training and racing in New Zealand
- I am going to travel throughout the United States yet again in their summer, and experience the joy of the Whole Foods parking lot once more
- Many many 70.3s and 1 full IM of racing, yay!

And now...
- Representing Training Peaks, hoping to improve their software via personal-use feedback

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pretty Photos 008 - Lakeside running

We've got some massive lakes on the South Island, and I'm just beginning to explore outside of the Wanaka region. Undulating trail running along the edge of Lake Hawea., represent!!

Silver Island!

Rather wide 4WD-type tracks. I much prefer narrower mtb
tracks but the views alone are to die for! 


Monday, December 5, 2011

Sometimes, it's not about "training"

Sometimes it's about being stuck indoors working all day, rushing home from work and NEEDING to go for a bike ride because the day was so perfect, you couldn't experience it, so here's your last chance before it ends.

Ended work at 6pm, out riding at 6:30pm for just shy of 2 hours on empty Sunday roads (maybe 5 cars passed me?), and we still had another hour and a bit of daylight after that. Although I do love mornings, the way that the setting sun hits the mountains, leaving some ridges in darkness and others in blinding light, well that's just heaven.

Rest week is done -- time to go up up up until Lake Wanaka half-iron taper, then race baby race January 21st!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pretty Photos 007 - Cycling when the world is asleep

Although I love going out to ride in the early morning, I hate the cold and unless I am dedicated to riding with a group or a friend or two, I tend to delay my rides in the AM until it is a bit warmer. But, when I do get out in the early mornings to ride, I love it a hundred times more. There's something magical about having the roads all to yourself (which happens particularly frequently here in New Zealand). We ride on state highways, one laned, and in the morning we'd have maybe 20-30 cars pass us over a 3-4 hour ride. It is GLORIOUS. 

My friend and I did the gnarliest ride: it's only 90k but it is either UP or DOWN, and some sections are absolutely grinding it out 45rpm, in the granny gear, don't even want to stand up b/c you feel you'll fall over. No climbs are long, it's just a long series of bitchy short ones (less than 10 minutes long). It's the hilliest 90k I've ever done without straight up going over a mountain pass, as you can do in, for example, Colorado. 

But now I'm in the long-awaited rest week, and there's been a lot more time to take it easy, still eat as if I am training 20 hours/wk, get massages, go jetboating, make supper without eating half of it before it's ready, and best of all: sleep in. The weather is warming up and I think once I'm on the other side of this rest week, it'll be full-blown summer! Time to slap on the sunblock every hour, including on the ears. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Barefoot Running

There's been a particular popularization of barefoot running and minimalist running in the last few years. Although I commend the rejection of overly cushioned shoes, the rise in injuries as a result of jumping into barefoot running too quickly is problematic.

I have read Born to Run, and after I did I, just like many others, decided to give minimalist running a go. I too quickly transitioned to far more minimalist shoes before my calves, glutes and feet were ready for it, and I developed debilitating shin splints. That took a while to bounce back from, and now I've taken an altogether different approach to what I have termed barefoot, or minimalist "movement". You shouldn't be a minimalist just while performing the act of running, you should be a minimalist walker, hiker, and eventually runner.

I've got a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, although I prefer my New Balance Minimus trail shoes, and I wear them while walking absolutely everywhere. That's how my second attempt at minimalist running has started out. I've now noticed that I prefer the ground feel and movement of these minimalist shoes while walking around town far more than I do my clunky road or trail shoes, or even flip-flops, which cause bizarre biomechanical movements. I've been using them for hiking as well, and they are fabulous. I feel very light on my feet rather than how I would usually feel in hiking boots: clunky and like a box monster.

Secondly, I've also been running barefoot as the w/u and c/d of my track session - our track in Wanaka is a 400m grass track. I then slip back into my running shoes (yes, the rather cushioned Saucony ProGrid Ride).

At the moment, that's where I am at. I very rarely go for a 20-30' run in my NB Minimus trail shoes, mainly because my calves are REALLY still feeling it after that run. Best take it slow, rather than regret it later.

I have noticed that here in Wanaka there is a huge portion of the population (most people, in fact) that are barefoot walkers. At our run group, there is always one or two that do the track session in VFFs. Rugby practice and drills are mainly conducted barefoot. Pickup games in the park are barefoot, for the most part. The kids at school play outdoors and run around barefoot in spring, summer and fall. Those that wish to wear shoes, do. They are neither encouraged or discouraged from barefoot or shoe-shod play. Walking around town you've got many people walking around barefoot, and in the summer months, I'd say a good 20% of the people shopping for groceries at the supermarket are barefoot. Although I love that I can do that here, I'd never be comfortable doing so in a proper large town or city. The hazards of large city streets on your feet and health are overwhelming.

Where do I want to transition to with the barefoot movement? I never want to be an actual barefoot runner. I always want some form of protection on my feet, particularly from thorns. I would like to see myself use the NB Minimus trail shoes more often on the trails, but that still requires plenty of calf strengthening. I'd like my regular run shoes to be a bit less cushioned with a more neutral heel-to-toe drop. I'm just not there yet. And I'm definitely not rushing it.

On another note, here are some pretty pictures from an early morning ride with the girls:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pretty Photos 006 - The road curving away...

It's a little orgasmic when you're climbing hills and you see the road curving away ahead of you. I LOVE IT. And photos never do it justice!

We're getting our spring winds here in Wanaka and most days the winds are so strong that crosswinds are quite likely to blow you over. Headwinds, tailwinds, all manageable. Crosswinds? GET THE HELL OFF YOUR AEROBARS!! Holy batman!! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pretty Photos 005 - It's spring!

It's spring and the flowers are blooming. Doesn't get much better than this!

I'm getting into mountain biking and I'm at that stage where I oscillate between:
- Oh god, oh god, a corner, how do I turn? Ahhhhhh.... and *fall*
- Sweet, I'm awesome, let's go through this turn reallllly fast... and *wipe out*

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spending time in the water

There are a lot of triathletes out there that have a love-hate (or just plain hate) relationship with swimming. It's understandable, as swimming is the least "intuitive" of the three sports. Water is definitely not a medium humans are naturally accustomed to. Although I am not a triathlete that despises the swim, in fact it had been my favourite of the three for years until last year, when my love for all 3 sort of blossomed out equally. One thing that I am a huge proponent of is swimming OFTEN. I like to swim 6 days a week, and definitely not all are HARD days, or even low intensity big-volume days. I believe in swimming often just to maintain a really good feel for the water, so never more than 48 hours goes by without me experiencing the sensation of propelling myself through this liquid medium.

Here's how I've broken it down per week:
- 2 group sessions lasting 1 hour, they are in the early AM and they are "SWIM FAST AND HANG ON"
- 2 group sessions again lasting 1 hour, although these are relaxed with maybe 30-40' of solid swimming but a huge focus on technique, with the middle 20' solely technique work. In those 20', we'll cover maybe 300m tops, as we focus on one part of the stroke or another (e.g. 20' of hand entry work)
- 1 group OWS; in the last few weeks the water had been too cold to venture out for more than 20' so it'd been a short burst to the buoy line in the lake, up and down it a few times, then back in and hope to god your feet don't fall off. Now, however, the water is a pleasant yet still chilly 11-12C (51-54F) so we can put in a solid medium length swim of about 2k.
- 1 solo pool swim, some decent mileage (maybe 3-4k), free-focused and with specific time or effort intervals that I need to hit.

It is the frequency of swimming that I believe to help the most in improving my swim economy and speed, and also I just plain love it. There is variety in effort levels and water conditions, group and solo work. Also... if I didn't attend the Sunday morning open water swims and had slept in, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of seeing these views:

Caaaaaaalm lake, that doesn't happen often! 
Swam out to The Rock, about a 2k trip. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tour de Femme 70k road race -- the report!

Wanaka always surprises me. Last year, we had the hottest November on record, with most days in the 30s Celsius. This yeas has been... slightly different. The day before the 70k road race,  we had a southerly from Antarctica move through and dump snow down nearly to town level. Out of nowhere, I got hailed on! The winds were whipping fiercely (maybe 50km/hr, with gusts upwards of 70? Not a gale, but close).

The day of the Tour de Femme 70k road race dawned and we were greeted with 7C (45F) temperatures, with wind. The race itself starts at the Lone Star bar just outside Wanaka and climbs up the Crown Range Rd, a 35k climb starting at 300m and topping at ~1200m before it turns right back around to finish at the Lone Star again. It's a very gradual climb up into the mountains over the pass, except for the last 3-5k which are significantly steeper. On a summer day, it's a beautiful ride as we pass over the Cardrona river numerous times, with flowers everywhere. On this particular day, we started off cold, and we rode up to even colder terrain. Snowy mountains, glacial rivers and ice starting to creep onto the roads. Given the conditions on the road, we were forced to turn around about 1k from the top because of all the ice, grit and snow above.

Pre-race, I just had had a caffeinated gel, get ready world.
Photo credit: Emberly W.
Just before the start gun.
Photo credit: Emberly W.
I had never been in a road race before, I didn't even have my road bike (it's in Canada). So, I felt out of place on my geeky tri bike. Nevertheless, I hung with the front pack of girls for as long as possible, but got spit out the back around Cardrona, about 22km in. I worked with 2 girls, first with the hopes of catching the group, and when we realized that was impossible, we just worked together to keep up a good tempo.

Once we hit the turn around, we were all smacked HARD in the face by a brutal, cold Northwesterly wind, maybe 50km/hr. You couldn't BREATHE going into it, and it was cold as shit (1C - 34F). Our group, now of 5 girls, had split up a bit at the turn around and I worked my balls off trying to catch up and get a draft. The difference was huge. The 5 of us worked together to bring it back home. If you were at the front, breaking the wind, you couldn't breathe and stayed up there for 2 minutes, max. If you were behind and had a draft, you were pretty much coasting. It was difficult to split the pack up any, just because there was absolutely NO WAY you could break away in that wind. Nevertheless, we brought it in quickly, everyone sharing their pull equally.

Then tensions rose a bit as we approached the end, but I had no idea as I'd never been in a cycle race so was just drafting along in 3rd position in our 5-woman group. The girl in the front had GONE OUT HARD, and the girl ahead of me couldn't respond. I finally realized what was going on (duh), so gunned it too, dropping the 3 girls behind me. I ended up coming in 3 seconds behind the girl I was chasing, for a 4th age group place in the 20-29 category. I was 2:20:17, 10th overall out of 21 girls. The girl that won was a beast, and came in at 2:03:17. In those conditions, holy crap!!

So, first cycle race and I freaking loooooooved it. What a blast. The race was in its inaugural year and all the ladies enjoyed themselves despite the tough conditions. It could have been because we were then provided with a free meal and a small bottle of champagne each. Maybe.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pretty Photos 004 - Deans Bank

Switchbacks, baby

Views of the Clutha River
There you have it, I love seeing shots of other people's trails! This one here's a mtn bike track that is so twisty and curvy your GPS doesn't even know what to do with itself.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

5 stitches!

So, in my ever-impressive life, I've managed to slice open my finger while cutting pumpkin. I even recollect thinking, as I changed the angle of the knife: "My, this would be bad if it slipped". Slip it did. I cut through the skin, the subcutaneous flesh right down to the bone and the tendons. I thankfully did not sever any tendons and so all that really needed to be done at the medical center was the cauterization of cut blood vessels to stop the blood gushing, and 5 stitches to sew me back up.

No swimming for 10 days! No braking on the left hand side (back brakes) for 10 days -- who needs back brakes anyway?? I didn't when I went for a group ride today! And no falling over onto my right hand side while trail running for 10 days, which is a big ask for me. I did indeed fall yesterday while running on some steep as downhill mtn bike tracks and landed, HARD, but thankfully on my right hand. Close one!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pretty Photos 002 - Group ride

Group riding is best with 6 people. Here's the 4 of us, with 2 just behind getting the shot. I'm the dorky chick handing out peace signs. 

Pretty choice morning, eh?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pretty Photos 001 - Minaret Burn track

And so begins a series of posts that don't necessitate many words. I rarely have fascinating things to say about my training (I swim! I bike! I run!) but I do always have beautiful photos to share.

On a 15k trail run today. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

First OWS of the season!

First OWS of the season has kicked off here in Wanaka, and the water is cold cold cold (anywhere between 9 and 12C - that's 48-53F). Other than wearing a neoprene cap, which I don't have, I picked up some good tips of swimming in cold cold water:

- oh please god wear a wetsuit
- wear several regular silicon caps on top of one another, with the brightest on top for visibility. If you've got a neoprene cap, wear it underneath and under the chin
- if you've got booties or gloves, wear them, although I hear the gloves don't make too much of a difference
- bring hot water in a 2L container and dump it in your wetsuit before you get in the water so you've got warm water in the suit to mix with the cold lake water, and pee as much as you can once in the water and adjusting to the cold
- get over the shock of the cold BEFORE you start swimming
- after the swim, change, and warm up slowly (don't jump into a hot shower right away). I got into warm clothes, many layers, and we all chatted and had warm cups of water/tea/coffee

And here's what I've found also helps:
- if at any time you feel overwhelmed, turn onto your back, breathe and kick frequently and ferociously to keep blood going to your feet
- swim hard, and don't go for long as a result

We also had the pleasure of violent winds - we've got a Nor'wester coming through at gale force (which, by definition, is sustained winds of 63-87km/hr or higher). It is WINDY as all heck! 

Here's to more great open water swimming! All we managed today was the swim out to the buoy line (maybe 150m?), then up and down it once (2x200m) and back in. A short swim, but I don't think I could have handled much more. My feet felt like ice blocks! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Sparkle Setting!

I just found the "Sparkle" setting on my camera. Check it out:

Fish eye setting! We just got more snow dumped on us...
Pretty but cold! 

This is going to be SO AWESOME when I get back into Lake Wanaka for OWSing (when it's not 8C from all the glacial melt). Everything will be sparkle-filled!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Being a cheap ass (yet awesome!) triathlete

So there are all these articles and blog posts about how triathlon is an expensive sport BUT that there are cheap ways of doing it. This is not one of those posts. I'm not super rich, I'm a student, I got some scholarships throughout my studentship (and spent a couple thou of that money buying a new bike), but in general I've had to slowly amass all the awesome stuff that comes with being a triathlete, including but not limited to:
- Sweet, awesome kits with superb quality chamois (that shit ain't cheap!)
- My 310xt
- Power meter
- Frickin' bikes, mate! 
- Run shoes: minimalist shoes to strengthen the feet and legs, trail running shoes, road shoes, race shoes
- Regular and aero helmet
- Fees to gym, pool, etc

Anyway, this blog post is not about doing triathlon on the cheap. I want all that awesome stuff, so how do I get it while not living on the streets?
Here's how I have lived my life, and how I plan on living my life for the next couple years:
- Live in the summer months in a tent, or couch surfing, or sleeping at friends places while I travel -- love this!! If traveling to a race, please god don't spend money on hotels! That could add up to 1/5-1/3 of the cost of a bike! See if there is an online group for that race, they might have locals doing the race offering up a free place to stay for the race (see OR, go camping at a primitive campsite (NOT a motor camp, that's big $$$), and shower after you swim at the local pool. 
- Don't spend money going out to restaurants often, I also don't drink alcohol so that helps
- This is a big one but DON'T buy clothes brand new! There are secondhand shops with absolutely amazing clothing that someone has either never worn or worn once or twice. There are extravagant people out there with clothes in excessive amounts; I'm taking advantage of their ridiculous spending habits! 
- Back up and calm down with your need for technology, I have an ipod, a laptop, a shock/waterproof camera, and a crappy cellphone that can txt and call people. Boom, done for the next couple years. 
- Whatever else you buy, evaluate... there IS a better way of acquiring what you want without buying it new. 
- When traveling, readjust your need for souvenirs by doing it small (e.g. I'm a sticker fiend!! 2$ stickers on my laptop or journal are far more memorable than crappy holiday shirts one would wear once)
- Buy fruits and veggies in season, and if your fruit is going bad, freeze that shit and use it in a smoothie!

I know it's not a lifestyle for everyone, but I'm someone that isn't loaded but still wants to have AWESOME TRI SHIT, so here's how I've managed it. My days spent with friends/family are not money oriented (shopping, visits to bars or clubs or restaurants), but rather adventure oriented (training, outdoor exploration, making awesome food and then eating it). 

A couple awesome photos:
Cheeky buggers

Photo editing using, does anyone know
of another free photo editing/effects website?

God, I love my home -- is anyone out there signed up for Challenge Wanaka or Lake Wanaka half-iron? I'd love to hear from you -- there will definitely be posts in the weeks leading up to the event giving you the scoop on the race and the town if you're coming into Wanaka from afar to race.