Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Challenge Wanaka half-iron Race Report

The big hometown race of the year has come and gone. It lights up a fire in the bellies of most locals the months to weeks to days leading up to the event. The question everyone asks in the change rooms, the run track, out cycling is: "Are you doing the Challenge?" In one way or another, everyone does take part. It's an epic, tough course in a tough part of the world. I've never done a harder half, and I've raced 13! Hills, sure, rough chip-sealed NZ roads, yeah, epic foehn winds blowing off the Southern Alps down the valley, mmmhmmm.

I've done this race twice before. In 2011, this was my first full-iron distance and we were blessed with 70kph Northwesterly winds, with gusts upwards of that. I was already frightened of the distance, and on top of that with such tough conditions, I was afraid it would suck all the energy out of me so I went as slow as I possibly could to make it out alive: A 14-hour ironman! In 2012, I had had a bike crash the week before in a sprint triathlon, I was anemic and had hormonal complications that left me menstruating for 5-6 weeks non-stop. I made it through the swim, and bike, but had to pull out on the run because the hematoma was giving me too much pain. It's been a turbulent couple of years, and I wanted to perform well on this brutally honest course.

Swim: 34:38
4 seconds slower than last year, where most people, including the pros, were a good 6' slower for the full (or 3' slower for the half). I'm small, and waves buffet me about like mad. We had had strong winds throughout the night, and had some pretty serious rollers on the lake. I got sea sick. Never mind, I swam as hard as I could, and managed the seasickness as best I could.
I felt as Gina Crawford (1st Pro F) did in the swim, read her race report
Bike: 3:11:17
This includes T1, but on such a tough course, I did not bother with speed, all I worked off of was power. I knew my power output goals, and I nailed them on the head. I was EXACTLY 137W avg for the ride (I weigh 47kg/103lbs). More importantly, my nutrition practice for IM was bang on. I'm no longer getting nauseated because I am no longer overdosing on sugary gels. I had a much more even source of energy. The winds were calm at the beginning but they did pick up by the end, but not nearly as bad as I've experienced on previous occasions in training or races; maybe only 50kph?
Run: 1:50:20
This includes T2. In the end, due to high rainfall levels in January, part of the run course was flooded so they had to use the contingency run course. It meant we encountered the hills earlier on (but just as much elevation gain: 258m overall), and were more exposed to the sun. At the time, I knew I was in 4th in my AG, 1st was way out of my league, but I wanted to see what I could do for 3rd and 2nd. I just started running by effort, worked as hard as I could, tried to manage the pain in my glutes, hammies, quads and calves as they fatigued, and took in enough cals to get me through it. My partner had shouted out in T2 what position I was in, and I saw him again on the uphill out to Outlet Rd and he was surprised to see me so early. I had blown by so many people on the run that I hadn't even noticed passing 3rd. I kept motoring along but the hills were slowing me down. Finally, at some point, you hit the kilometre marker where your brain lets you suffer quite a bit more because you've told it that it's near the end... For me this was 4k to go, and I just threw myself into as much pain as possible, trying to catch as many people as possible. 
In the end, 5:43:05, on a tough tough course. Given my PB is 5:18, this is a far cry, but also far far tougher than most courses, even the "tough" World Champs 70.3 in Las Vegas. At least there they have smooth roads and lighter winds. I'm definitely content with my effort.
I was 3rd AG 18-24... but out of 7 girls only, so that provides me with very little indication of my fitness compared to others. I was, however, 18th chick out of 128. Yeehaw!
What did this race teach me or show me? Well, firstly, this is a "strongman's" course, i.e. if you have more muscle, you can muscle your way through a lot. Roller swim, hilly, rough roads, windy bike and hilly run. I am very aerobically fit, but I still lack some serious strength to stay consistent (in terms of time) despite the varying conditions. The strong girls are able to ride almost the same time whether flat or hilly, smooth or rough roads, windy or not. I seriously slow down. Strength building will be key for the future!!
Photos below...

Outlet Rd hill, just the start of it!

I am still SO happy that run form has improved as I no longer heel strike/get shin splints.
First order of business: eat an ice cream cone!!
 5.5 weeks until IMNZ!!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Characteristics of a Gooooood Taper!

So, I'm in taper mode at the moment. I've got Challenge Wanaka half-iron tri this weekend, a hometown race, and I am exciiiiiited. Here are my characteristics of a good taper:

- You start begging your coach for more training...
- You want to RACE. NOW. Or, you just wish it wouldn't exist so you could get back to your regularly scheduled ironman training
- When you're told, you do your high intensity speedwork and race pace sessions HARD, and really control yourself when you're told to "cruise".
- You no longer want to nap because you no longer are so tired that you need to nap!
- You read more; I'm re-reading the Harry Potter series... again...
- You don't care what the race-day conditions are like. You have so much pent up energy that you'll unleash it even if you have to face 60-70kph winds and rain (a possibility here in Wanaka)
But most of all...

You. Feel. Darn. Ready!

Monday, January 7, 2013

12k Race the Train, I beat the train!

We've got some really cool race companies around here, and my favorite one ( puts on some great great racing. This race in particular I was truly looking forward to. You race 12k off-road running alongside (and against) a train! The old Kingston Flyer!! And guess what? I BEAT THE TRAIN!! I was 5th F out of 53 Open Female (18-39), but more importantly -- and the reason I registered for this race -- I got a shot of me in front of that train!! But first... race report!

Kingston Flyer getting ready!
We arrived in Kingston, I picked up my race number and got changed. 35$ and 140k's (one way) might seem like a lot for a 12k run race, but for some reason I REALLY wanted a picture of myself and that train. 

Oh yah!

We get to ride the train from Kingston to Fairlight, get off, it turns around... then we RACE THE TRAIN. I acted like a kid in a candy shop. I was very very excited. 
The first couple k's are on softly packed dirt, which is a touch slow but I didn't mind. It was quite open and very very hot. With a tailwind, the front of my body got so hot, especially my face, I could FEEL the blood pumping in my face.
From there, we run through grass which got longer in longer in length, with barely a definable trail. I was slowing down quite badly, and my heart was exploding with effort, and all to keep pushing myself through the knee high grass. Even though I'm currently in training for another 2 iron-distance races, I'm still always amazed at how some short races (well, most) can kick my ass. I was seriously fucked after this 12k run race. It was harder than I expected, and my heart was at MAX the entire time.
Near the very end, I could hear a girl breathing right behind me through the grass... given that I'm not one to be passed in the late stages of a race, the second that I hit gravel track and then road, I seriously just started SPRINTING like mad. All-out, scream-like-a-little-girl sprinting! My heart rate, already near max, just went through the roof, as I later found out. I didn't look behind me, and I thought she was right on my heels the entire time, but it looks like I dropped her.
Finish chute! The train came in ~2-3 minutes after I did! 
So, I got what I came for. A sweet sweet picture of me and that train. I ended up 5th Open F, which I suppose I'm happy with but don't really care about? I mainly came for that picture and a hard effort.
I promise, no more racing until Challenge Wanaka half-iron (in less than 2 weeks' time)! On last count, I've done 6 races in 2 months, with the last 3 in the last 10 days. Caaaraaaazay!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lake Dunstan Sprint Duathlon!

Well, today's training called for an easy 55k spin down to Cromwell, and support my partner as he raced a sprint triathlon. In the past few days, we've had a severe weather warning in place: gale-force winds and heaps of rain. It hasn't been pleasant. Just on the other side of the Southern Alps, on the West Coast, they were receiving 500-600mm of rain. YES THAT NUMBER IS RIGHT, and it's ridiculous! We were getting our fair share of rain, not nearly as much, and there were quite a few days where it was blowing like crazy.

So, in prepping for the race/ride last night, I took a peak at the weather forecast for the following morning. It did not look pretty. I'd much rather race in shitty conditions than train (especially easy ride) in them, just so I avoid being cold. I, at the very last minute, decided to sign up for the duathlon. Avoid the cold of the water from a triathlon, avoid the cold of easy riding for 2hrs. Problem solved, I thought!!

Well, the weather did suck. It was cold and it started to pour. I was dreading it. I kept all my clothes on, did no warm up or anything of the sort and at the very last minute I threw all my warm clothes near my bike in transition, shivered and hopped around until the gun went off, then just started running. It was a 3k run - 20k ride - ~5.6k run. I think everyone passed me in the first 5 seconds. I don't know why people want to go so anaerobic right from the gun, it's an incredibly un-enjoyable feeling!!! I slowly reeled them back in, even within 1k. I ran the first 3k conservatively, thinking maybe I was 4th or 5th, but no idea which of these girls were in a team.

Onto the bike, it was pissing. I thought I'd be freezing, but instead I never once looked at pace or speed or power. I just worked my butt off. I thought I was clicking along quite nicely, but then I took a gander at the leaves on the road-side trees. They were blowing, quite strongly. I seemed to have a niiiiice tailwind and hadn't even noticed it. Once at the turnaround of this out-and-back course, I did get to experience a chilly Southerly headwind... but just got to working harder. Very, incredibly frustratingly, I passed a group of riders riding together. I made a calm remark that perhaps they should keep to the legal distance and NOT DRAFT. They proceeded to get right up my butt. In the end, I was towing a group that swelled to 6-7, and I was PISSED. I got quite snarky, quite bitchy, and then moved on.

Onto the run, the rain had stopped but the trail had gotten a bit muddy and was rather rocky. I, once again, just RAN. I was feeling good. Well, my legs felt like tree stumps, but other than that, I was moving really well. I passed heaps of people, but given that there were 3 different races going on (Tri Kayak, Tri Swim and Du), I had no idea what was going on. I finished, and on a day where I made a last minute decision to race, and then thinking, given the conditions, I'd suffer from the cold badly. In the end, I worked hard enough to avoid being cold, and I did indeed suffer but in a good way. ;)

After all this rambling, most of which I'm sure you've skipped, how did I do? I won the duathlon! YEEHAW!!!!! I received a trophy and a 6-pack of beer. Ahhhhh, New Zealand.

Does anyone want free beer?

And here's the obligatory painfully ugly race photos:
Run 1, pissing rain. I look like I'm sincerely regretting my decision to take part.
Finish line, end of run 2. Full on race face.

Lake Hayes XMas Olympic triathlon

I've had a great few weeks. They've been full of learning. For example, if you're stacking big day after big day, do NOT rely solely on gels. The pure sugar for hours on end, day after day, will leave you so nauseated that you'll lose all appetite for normal food, and all zest for life. I've had some epic days and weeks of training, but damn, did I learn a lesson!!

A couple days prior to this race, I rode the 150k's from Haast, over Haast Pass to Wanaka. Beautiful:

The first 3k of the climb proper are BRUTAL. Like 40rpm, easiest gear ratio brutal.

But the views are pleasant. I think this spot is actually called "Pleasant Flat"

 I'm now figuring out a new nutrition plan: namely liquid and bar nutrition, leaving the gels once I get onto the run. What are people's thoughts on Hammer Perpetuem? Any others you might recommend?

In the midst of all this, I seemed to have signed up for quite a few races. I was stacking 20-24-hr training weeks and racing as well. Rough! This day, for example, after feeling like absolute, nauseated shit the past few days, had me riding 100k's to the race site, then doing the Olympic triathlon. I hadn't eaten properly in days. I could not stomach another gel. It was rough going. I pulled myself through on the ride, and ended surprisingly strongly, and I quite literally ghost-raced the Olympic. I was so shelled, that the only way that I finished it was by telling myself -- at each and every kilometer -- that DNF'ing was more complicated than just cruising along, avoiding death. So, that's what I did. My stomach was in turmoil, and then I was finally just so hungry that I felt faint, but I am glad I got through it all. I finished 9th out of 20 females (with the first 3 chicks being pro). In that regard, I'm quite surprised. Not a shitty result on a day I can only describe as being so utterly, mind-blowingly mentally and physically challenging.

I won't recap swim-bike-run, but after the turmoil that overabundant gel-eating has caused me, peaking at the Lake Hayes tri, I was forced to switch nutrition plans entirely the very next day and have been much, much happier as a result. Another race report next!