Friday, 30 March 2012

Karen writes: The money is paid, cant back out now!

I have officially paid for, and received confirmation that I am registered for the 2013 Ironman.  The printout is pinned to my wall behind the computer, I can see it when I glance up.  YAAAAY!

Hmmm, we might be doing the budget grocery shop this weekend...

Karen writes: The Serious and the Trivial

Oh Kate.   What can I say apart from thank goodness you got onto that when you did!   The spectre of Melanoma is one to  think about when you spend hours and hours out on the road in the Kiwi sun, and belonging to the generation roasted from an early age in the name of a ‘healthy tan’ (usually with lashings of vegetable oil applied), we aren't the only ones for whom it is a serious consideration.  

Overall I shall remember March 2012 as having had more than it’s fair share of disappointments, starting with our Ironman experience, then a succession of things on the personal front, all with the backdrop of the very unsettled Health Promotion work environment right now, and then Kate’s near miss to top it all off. 

To introduce a bit of trivia, in spite of (or perhaps because of?) all the other serious stuff, possibly the most annoying thing right now is a song which has been stuck in my head since hearing in on Radio NZ National last week, it was someone’s choice for ‘best song ever written’, and the last time I remember listening to it was on vinyl…that says how long ago that was. 

So on the bike the other day racing through the beautiful East Auckland countryside when my brain should have been in full idle “...it was long ago and it was far away (oops, mind that stone)...”,  or out running ticking up the mile after mile to the accompaniment of  “...and it was so much better than it is today...".  Of course it is complicated by the involvement of two voices, a male and female, I’m starting to feel like singing strangers have taken up residence in my head.  I'm not going to be mean enough to specify exactly what the song is in case  I pass the infection on, suffice to say, "help", I need a Meatloaf exorcism.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Kate writes: results

Its a funny thing waiting for test results. You never think that they will be bad. Well Tuesday night the phone rang whilst I was driving home, so like a good girl I did not answer the phone. It was my GP saying that she did not want to leave the results on the phone and will call me at home. Hypochondria set in! I waited all night until I went to bed. I was going to die! I know that's stupid but its the way I think. The following morning I get to stalk my GP. I find her in the car park of a different surgery that she works in. She beams at me and tells me that I should buy a lotto ticket, the mole was pre melanoma! It had been caught before it had turned nasty. What a relief I can breath again. I need to go and have more of the arm removed and a check for any other moles, but basically I will be ok.


But it made me think about the sun. I'm usually good with sunblock, but now I think arm and leg protection is a must. I've seen some nice red arm warmers I will buy those.  This mole has been there for many years and came with me from the UK. We must all take care and cover up. I have a new campaign, watch out I will be telling everyone to cover up and put sun block on! We can never take anything for granted.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Karen writes: Rotorua Marathon here I come

Just got serious after 3 weeks of mucking around in regards training, a 5 week programme for the Rotorua Marathon has arrived from Grant by email.  Today's scheduled effort is my favourite...NOT...gym, 9 exercises, split into 3 groups by 4 minutes of hard spin. It's not hard work, I just struggle to start, and then struggle to keep going.  The girls tried to help, but I was too worried about someone damaging themselves with their enthusiastic swinging of the weights, then when the swiss ball started getting bounced back and forwards between them in the lounge it was time for my helpers to be retired reluctantly to bed.

It's funny, after all that hard work before the Ironman, I now don't have any confidence in my fitness, hopefully getting back onto a programme I can prove to myself that I am still fit!  I am losing weight though, while I was working so hard before my weight had gone up to 75kg, now I'm down to 73kg, still eating too much and not doing nearly as much exercise...go figure.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Karen writes: Weetbix Triathlon

Older daughter went to bed last night curiously unconcerned that the weather looked dreadful, the wind was blowing and the rain was drumming on the tin roof, but she had perfect confidence that her Weetbix triathlon was going to go ahead this morning.

Everyone was reluctant to get out of bed to head off into the cold, wet dark, I can relate to that, but as we hit the edges of the city and saw the city lights, then started spotting other cars with bikes on them the mood lifted.   St Heliers weather was just as bad as Maraetai weather.   Rain and rain, oh that is such familiar stuff.   By the time it was daylight, the rain was slowing, and by the time the swim started the sun was out, it was a perfect day, so perfect I was regretting not plastering everyone with sunscreen.  Really busy though, there was a madly milling press of kids on the field, an unending stream of bobbing red, black, blue, yellow, orange heads in the water, then frantic activity on bikes, and less enthusiastic running, an obvious trauma to some.  We just watched the news on TV and this busyness was explained, 3000 children apparently participated in this event.   
The girl was calm and collected in transition (a lot more than I usually am!), was confident on the bike and comfortable with her run. She justifiably soaked up the admiration, consumed sponsors product, and unlike last year doesn’t even seem to be particularly tired or grumpy.  She was upset by an accident in front of her on the bike-ride, and was worried about inexperienced cyclists (?), but thinks she will be back next year when she is 9.  Her 6 year old sister has been saying she doesn’t want to do a triathlon ever, she has been very consistent about this, today however she said she “might”.  Progress.

Anyway, I admire this event hugely, the organisation is amazing, I mean, 3000 children in one spot, being encouraged to make their first and sometimes only journey across the triathlon finish line.   The Weetbix tryathlon is in it's 20th year, Good luck for another 20 years of inspiring kiwi children.

Kate Writes: surgery

I am getting ready for Ironman. Well its a year away, so its those jobs I have put off. I am seeing a nice physio in Parnell who specialises in sports injury's. The Achilles seems better and I did a good run the other day. I have just got to remember to stretch. The other job I needed to do is have a mole removed. The Dr said last year that it did not need urgently removing so on Friday I had it removed. I kept my eyes closed the whole time, only opening them once to see this huge hole in my arm. I have the arm strapped up and huge bandages holding it all together. It does not hurt! but I think the strapping does. Anyway it has put my plan of an ocean swim off, the wetsuit can  be put away for a few months.

I woke up this morning thinking I would go for a run but the rain was pouring down, and I cannot get the bandage wet! So I went off for a good walk on West Coast Beach with Rach and the dogs. I wore my arm warmers to protect my arm, but the sun came out and we had a lovely walk. The sea was rough and big surges. Its a great place to walk. I'm looking at the sun shine and thinking I might go for a run later.
My new ipod is now working, it had nothing to do with the fact that I had not plugged it in properly! But my Nike sports band is not downloading on to the computer so I will give it one last go and then take it back tomorrow. So I will have to go for a run to see if it works.

Stitches out in 10 days results on Tuesday!  Will be back to normal next week, well what ever normal is.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Karen writes: Runner meets triathlete.

Today was long run day, and I made the mistake of not thinking about the fact that the Auckland half Ironman participants were heading off on their bikes on the same stretch of road I was going to be spending 3 hours plodding along in the sun.

It wasn't a problem heading towards Clevedon, but when I turned around and came back I was running straight into the oncoming stream of cyclists.  While leaping into the drain and back out again played havoc with my legs, that was almost made up for by having the opportunity to play one of my favorite games, 'mad smiley runner'.

How you play the game is you smile at everyone you see and see if you can get a response.  Sometimes you wave, sometimes sing out a cheery "hi there".   As expected, the fastest ones with the flashest gear didn't apparently see me, I got about a 1 in 20 strike rate from that lot.  As the field spread out though it was a different story, there were surprised smiles back, some "hello's", and even a couple of "go runner" calls.

It was a long, slow run, and I ended up stopping regularly to stretch as the muscles weren't feeling that flash.  Poor run it might have been, but it was profitable on the sports equipment front.  I found 2 different sorts of C02 bike pumps with full cartridges, a small bonus for spending rather a lot of time trying to stay out of the way of whirring wheels by struggling along in the drains (plus I can say I was being a tidy kiwi!).  I think those pumps are going to need future design consideration, I remember commenting how many were on the road at the Taupo half Ironman and now wonder how hazardous those little pressurised cylinders might be if left exposed to the elements for too long.

Speaking of triathletes, older daughter has just finished packing her transition box for tomorrow's weetbix tryathlon.  It's an early start for the whanau to get into St Helliers, hopefully the rain will have stopped by then!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Karen writes: Signing in for Ironman

It all seemed a bit of a fizzer entering online this time.  Last time I remember we were both soooo anxious, so jittery about actually pushing the button which committed us to what seemed like complete madness.   Afterwards I felt physically sick and had to walk around a bit with "what have I done" running round and round in my head.  I'm not sure anyone in the office actually believed at the time we were going to really sign up, including us!

This time the anxiety is about not getting in rather than the event itself.  Although we have been promised guaranteed places, the worry is more along the lines of "what if I made a mistake?", or "what if the computer malfunctioned?" and it turns out I'm not entered at all (and Kate is!).

Last year the unknown was part of the excitement of the process of our first ever Ironman.  This year, its a peculiar hybrid of the known and the less known...we know we can complete the training, we know what we need and how to use it, we are pretty sure we will complete on the day... injury... infection... catastrophic occurrences and natural disaster allowing.   I visit the Ironman website or read the manual and it is now familiar stuff, not full of arcane and terrifying references like it was before, and I'm not searching the internet looking for answers in other peoples training experiences like I was before, I've now had my own.  Likewise when we get down to Taupo next year we will be retracing our steps rather than forging new territory.  That's the tiniest bit sad really.

So it is our first, and it isn't.   At risk of wishing my life away, roll on June when we can really start winding up for 2013.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Karen writes: Another year of insanity.

Sigh.  I've signed up for the 2013 Ironman too.

Kate Writes :IM 2013

Well madness or maybe its sanity has arrived. I filled in the boxes and said yes I am interested in booking a place for IM 2013. It is unfinished business. Several people from my training camp have also booked in, so its like a big family all supporting each other. Karen is at Uni today so can not do it until this evening. She better do it!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Karen writes: Don't tell Kate!

We have a marathon in less than 6 weeks, training is getting serious again on Monday after a couple of quiet weeks.  Last night I had an altercation with a chair leg while hanging washing out on the deck in the dark...that isn't a toe which will take kindly to being squashed into a running shoe in a hurry!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Karen writes: Maturity catching up...in some ways

I am…ahem…a mature athlete.  In many respects my body is in better shape than it has ever been, better than when I was much younger and skinnier, and certainly it works and feels better when working than when I was a teenage runner back in the days when modern concepts of sports hydration and nutrition hadn’t been invented.   I like my arms again after years of covering them up, I enjoy my hard working legs, I have hopes for ongoing improvement in various other bits as the strength training continues to slowly make changes, and I love being able to burst into activity…just because I want to.    Like when smallest daughter was learning to cycle, I could run beside her without a thought, or older daughter is currently training for a weetbix triathlon, she might be faster, but I can keep going when she runs out of puff.

Sometimes things remind you that you aren’t a youngster any more though, that time thing shifts the goal posts in subtle but nonetheless important ways.  For example I noticed while trying to read the labels on the unfamiliar energy gel packets down at Taupo that I was struggling a bit. Imagine if you will, me hanging grimly on to the bike handlebars with one hand, sunglasses gripped in my teeth, holding the packet closer then further away from my eyes with the other hand, squinting trying to find the word “caffeine”, shutting one eye then the other, all while still pedaling.  I was sure at the time it was...the light...moving about too much...the quality of the printing.   Hmmm, I also noticed that Taupo had been mass producing rather indistinct road-signs!  Spectacles anyone?

And the brain, research says (I love that short but all-powerful statement), RESEARCH SAYS that brains work better with exercise, I should be brilliant...in reality, I hate to think what my brain would be like if I wasn’t exercising!  The capacity to be amused by small things hasn't changed with theoretical maturity however, I took this photo yesterday morning at the local school, impressed with this tree and its unusual fruit.

Kate Writes : new equipment

I have a whole year of getting ready for the ironman. So time to but new equipment. I am trying a nike sportsband. I'm not very good with electrical equipment and can not even get a watch to work . So why try this one? Well it only has one button! It should help with measuring my runs and timing them. I have down loaded the info and waiting for the usb thingy to charge. I will run later and see how it goes.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Karen writes: How fast?

I said "I want to do Rotorua marathon faster".   Grant the Ironman trainer hasn't given up on me yet and said "how fast?".  He suggested rather facetiously that if it was just a few seconds I could do a sprint at the finish.  I said I wanted to do under 4 1/2 hours, I always aim for 4 1/2 hours and haven't quite managed it yet. Kerre Woodham (one of my marathoning inspirations, see this 2008 interview) did 4 1/2 hours in her first marathon effort, not me though.  Given my failure to achieve even this goal in spite of repeated attempts, I thought I was being a bit brave by adding on the "under" word.

My friend said "go for 4 hours, you can do it".  I muttered something about setting goals which weren't going to embarrass me too much when I failed to meet them.

Fast is something which worries me a bit.   I can plod along at snails pace, not much faster than walking if truth be known, but I feel like I could do it forever if I had to.  Slow is my comfort zone, nothing hurts, I can look at the world.  I like to be able to talk when I run, I could probably sing!  I like (need?) to have enough energy when I finish to be sure I can...drive home safely,...be mum...cook dinner...do the washing...get up the following morning... work without the urge to fall asleep on my desk.  I also have had problems in the past with not having much tolerance for being too energetic, having a thyroid condition it is easy to overdo things and end up being in a state of torpor for a month.

100 steps Tracey Walk Maraetai
Right now I feel pretty fit though, and it makes sense that if there was ever a time to put more effort in it is now, add 'icing to the cake' so to speak.  So I started yesterday by doing some of the dreaded hill training.  Anyone who runs or walks around Maraetai knows the Maraetai Drive hill, the short but steep Alexander Ave, the Omana steps, and last but not least, what is called locally  'the 100 steps' (its actually 120-something depending on how you count the landings) going up from Tracey Walk, now that one is a real challenge to run up.

The lungs and legs coped well with a double dose of all of the above, just the calves reminding me that they weren't too impressed on the last few inclines...but the head doesn't like it one bit!

kate Writes: The next week

I came home feeling very despondent from Ironman that did not happen. I was given two lovely presents. the first was my new number plate. IRON K8. It was a nickname that I was given and now seems to fit. I will just have to do Ironman next year now!

I was also given a lovely top , from my sister and niece. It is beautiful and I will enjoy it.

Plan of action, I will learn to swim faster and breathe on both sides. I will bike more and get stronger, I am seeing a physio about the Achilles heel and will do my exercise! I will run!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Karen writes: Time to change gear

After what turned out to be a couple of light training weeks...ha ha...I am ready to get moving again with a view to doing a better job of the Rotorua Marathon which is in just under 7 weeks time.  I plan on bringing my time down, wanting under 4 1/2 hours for the 42km if that is physically possible.  The photos also came back from Taupo, I am not in the least bit tempted to buy them, partly because it wasn't the looked forward to real event, but also there is nothing like unflattering shots in lycra AND neoprene to make you think seriously about how losing a few kgs might be a worthwhile investment if you want to stride it out in public again...weight loss is not sensible in the latter stages of a serious training programme, no excuse right now however, except for an ongoing case of the impossible hungries.

So I had a short run on Saturday evening to see if the legs were going to work, and then a lovely 16km run on Sunday which reinforced the fact...that yes the legs do still work (why did I think they wouldn't?).  I now feel like I am over the unplanned rest period, and am ready to go.

I dug out the programme Grant put together for Perth way back in...July 2011...and there seemed to be lots of days off (at least 2 a week, that is a luxury) and I had forgotten that you only do ONE session a day on a marathon programme!. I remember now though all those nasty hill thingys, intervals, tempo plus runs which I have to admit to being a bit, actually, a lot slack on.   Hmmm, I really didn't like them all those months ago, perhaps they will mean more now that I have different goals and am looking from a different perspective.

So while before I went to Taupo I was told not to ask for a programme until I had had a couple of weeks off after Ironman, I figure since it wasn't Ironman at all but actually just an abnormally short training week, its time to get back on the metaphorical training horse and say "please, I now want to go FASTER".  Who would have thought the original plodder would say that?

Hopefully I will get over it soon.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Karen writes: A week later

Going a bit nuts here.   Feeling physically in excellent shape, wanting to do some exercise, but figuring since there is another whole year of training ahead, it’s probably a good idea to take the opportunity to have a wee rest right now.   Also, there is plenty written about recovering after a big event, nothing about what to do for a big event which simply didn't happen...it's like the training momentum builds and builds, then....crash...nothing!  And while the half IM saved us on the day, it was still a shorter effort than some training days had been in recent times.

Just heard that the entry for next years Ironman isn’t opening tomorrow morning as was advertised, apparently there is work to be done first sorting out the reduced rate overseas Ironman opportunities which were to be offered to us as compensation for our 'lost' event.  Not an option for me and Kate, we just want to sign up for next years Taupo version, and we will remain on tenterhooks until we can sign on the dotted line, pay our money and then start planning.

Looking at our blog entries from last week we were so excited, by this time we had settled ourselves down in Taupo, were working our way through registration and getting ready for the biggest sporting event of our lives.   So much has happened, now the mind is trying to come to terms with another year of buildup and the body is trying to figure out how to recover from the Sunday half IM and cope with different energy in and expenditure demands (ie, still wants to eat everything while doing very little).

So a week later, I’m Flat.   Haven’t signed up yet for the Rotorua marathon which is on 28th April,  Kate is thinking she may not, she is being sensible talking about letting her ankle heal up properly.  The whanau also went through a lot last weekend so hauling them off to Rotorua in 8 weeks tiime will take some thinking about too (maybe bribery/corruption).  Will start running on Sunday and see how it goes, hopefully being super-trained, and having had a whole week off, I might recapture just how great it can feel just to run for the sake of running without needing to extend the limits up, up, up.  Yet.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Kate Writes: Taupo Half

Today I feel more positive about the event. We completed another Half Ironman and I can still walk! I had to re think the day and my timing.


Swim
The water was 15 degrees, thought it might be cold but once in , it was really quite nice. I warmed up and got ready to start. I could not see where I was going but just followed the rest of the girls. I came across a pink float so knew I was on the right course. Eventually I found a big buoy in the water I had gone off the course a bit but swam over to it and along to the next one. The water was a little choppy at this stage but I knew we had turned the corner and was on our way home. I found the other end and a big buoy there and the flags were flying and home I went. It took me 51 minutes.


Bike
Transition was slow 10 minutes, but there was a long walk to the tents. Next time I will run a little. I had a great bike ride, doing an average of 24k an hour. Enjoyed most of  it and even got an official telling off for being too close to the next bike. It was dry and mainly warm for the bike with a little wind on the return journey. It took me 1h44mins to go out and 2 h back.

Run
 The run was good. I'm not run fit as my achilles has been causing me problems. But I ran at about 7k an hour with my last lap being my fastest. As you can see from the picture I was going very fast and the hair was being swept behind me.

I finished in 7hours 28 minutes. Rank 1343 out 1417. 36th in my age group out of 44. I'm pleased with the result, its just a shame it was not what we went to do. But watch out next year I will be fitter and faster than before.

Karen writes: Rest week and what next...

The sun is out, however it is getting cooler in Auckland now that Autumn has officially started.  Not that it ever got particularly warm this summer, which had the benefit of making training more comfortable.   

And I’m feeling much more positive today.  I’m also feeling more tired, having forgotten that it isn’t the day immediately after an event I feel any impact, it’s usually the second day.  Still no aches and pains, a bit tight across the lower back which has been a longer term problem, thighs a bit stiff when I get up from the chair after sitting for a while, and just that residual low energy.  Even the blisters have flattened themselves out and while a bit ugly are no longer tender.  It goes to show that even though we were trained for twice the distance, a half Ironman is still a significant drain on the body.

So, the plan. 
1)   Body (and mind) recovery this week.
2)   In the next week or so we will tally up the donations and get them off to the diabetes team in Christchurch, I am sure they will understand that things were outside of our control at the end.  The donation link is still open for this if you would like to make a last minute contribution to making things a little easier for those caring for people with diabetes in Christchurch.
3)  We were invited to join a diabetes related team of amateur athletes doing Ironman 2013, this is now a strong possibility.
4)   Rough plan of events for the 2012 year.  For me that means hopefully the Rotorua Marathon at the end of April, and definitely Taupo Cycle challenge, plus others probably.
5)   Be ready to push the button at 10am this Friday to enter for Ironman next year which is set for 2 March 2013 (there will be a whole lot of other people doing the same I suspect).
6)  A new challenge needs an updated blog, to come...

I did idly speculate about what I was going to do with all the sports gear I had accumulated over the year, now I guess I have the answer to that one!  In the meantime, time to rest, eat, walk, eat, and work on some new dreams.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Kate Writes: emotional weekend

Getting to Ironman has been an emotional journey. Having arrived on Thursday, booked in and got to the race meeting we were very excited. I found my coach Gerrard and the group of friends from camp, we sat down to listen to all the rules and regulations. Falling asleep as the last speaker got up to talk and started talking about the weather BOMB. Well that woke me up. We might not be able to do the swim, he said. Ok I was worried about the swim, that's OK I thought. Then he said if there is no bike race there will be no race.  OMG, we might not be doing it! My coach was sitting with us and he told us all to carry on as normal and get ready.


Friday came and the morning was spent getting our bags ready and bikes ready and then off to town we went. We booked our bikes in and looked the part as if we were going to become Ironmen. It was going to be cold so we also went to buy more clothes. The extra meeting that night at 4pm was an eerie experience, 1600 people jammed into a sports hall all waiting to hear the news. The lady who stood up the front and told us the weather bomb was happening and coming right over Taupo on Saturday and the whole event was cancelled was very brave. It was the only thing they could do, but we could not believe that it was happening. We had trained for almost a year for this event and now it was gone. There was silence in the room. I wanted to cry but no one else was crying. We walked out and into the cold air. I dropped Karen off to get the bikes and went home to get the bike rack for the car. We picked up the bikes and stored them back in the garage.
Gutted is the word I have used the most. There was nothing we could do.


Saturday came, the sun shone, but the wind whipped around us and we knew it was the right decision.
Again 4pm meeting, were they going to be able to put on a half Ironman the next day. It was a hard ask of all the volunteers and officials. We sat in the same hall all holding our breath. YES they were going to do it. WOW at least we would have some closure. Home we went to prepare for the next day.


I have cried a lot over the last few days and would like to thank Family and friends who have supported me. LOL

Karen writes: Report on the consolation 'Not-Ironman' race

With the 2012 Taupo Ironman being cancelled because of the 'unprecedented' weather, the organisers kindly pulled out all stops to run a half Ironman on the Sunday, for which I am pathetically grateful. Losing our first Ironman opportunity then going home with no culminating point of all that training and effort would have been devastating emotionally and physically. Getting to that Sunday race however was an event in itself, is it on, isn’t it?  That extra day of eating was a killer and it was hard to take anything too seriously about getting ready…in case the substitute was cancelled too.

Sunday morning, up at 5am, race breakfast of rice porridge and yoghurt, look at the weather and figure out gear, panadol on the way out the door, and down to race start.

The process was different because we had taken our bikes back home on Friday to keep them out of the bad weather so we wheeled our bikes, carrying our swim bags and wetsuits into the main tent with 1500 others. We had to strip to be marked in indelible pen, my race number on the right arm and leg, and ‘FF’ on my calf.   A bit of speculation about what that FF meant, some suggestions more flattering than others. Kate was FG, it was actually for ‘Female’ and the age group we were in.

We were able to check our bike and run bags, I swapped some gear around to suit the shorter distance and better weather.  The 2 day old sandwiches packed when we thought we were racing on Saturday were also replaced.

Hanging around in the transition area with everyone else, we checked out the amazing collection of bikes.   We found 14 out of the 1500 or so bikes without tri-bars, so my poor old Scott was definitely in the minority, as predicted.  She was also one of the older bikes, I was rather proud of her scruffy uniqueness as she snuggled in next to all those super-fast, super-expensive models!  Finally it was time to suit up and then head down to the water.   It was COLD.  We were told the water temperature was 15 degrees, I didn’t even want to think about that, having found Tikitapu cold at 20 degrees.   Being hypothyroid I don’t cope well with cold temperatures, I tend to want to go to sleep, but fortunately there was enough adrenaline to keep me going on the day.

2012 IM 70.3 Swim (picture by Glenn)
The elite athletes swam first, the water had a slight swell which seemed to get bigger as time went on, but nothing as bad as what I usually trained in at Maraetai beach.  We got in the water and it actually felt better than being out in the air, I stayed near the shore and jogged up and down in the water to keep the circulation going.  The men started, then it was our turn. I was thrilled that there was no sign of that anxiety problem I had been struggling with on and off since the Rotorua half Ironman and enjoyed looking at the rocks on the bottom of the lake.   It was a nice swim, but I did have trouble figuring out which marker to aim for and at one point suddenly realised there was no-one around me and I was heading for the middle of the lake.  There were a few people who got pulled out as I went along, I felt very sad for them but was relieved that I felt ok, and just kept taking it steadily, not working too hard. The cold did get into my skull and my head hurt though.  Swim was 50.51 minutes, similar to Rotorua.

Out of the water, onto the green carpet to take the 500m trek to transition and I realised I couldn’t feel my feet!   Up to transition, someone called my number out as I came through the entrance and my bag was handed to me so I could go straight into the tent to change, very efficient, lots of friendly, fabulous volunteers who made every effort to get things right.  The tent was busy, I dithered over getting my wetsuit off and over what to wear, which showed in an 11 minute transition time. Decided eventually on wearing pretty much everything including arm and legwarmers, just tying my jacket round my waist in case I needed it.

The bike chain came off on the first hill.   There is an ongoing problem with the front derailleur which a few trips to the bike shop have been unable to solve.   I avoided using those front gears at all on the whole ride which was fast on the way to Reparoa with the wind behind me, and slow on the way back up the long shallow hills to Taupo.   I wasn’t happy with the ride, and think this is an area I can definitely focus on, strengthening my legs more especially.  I did enjoy riding through the support stations, there were people lined up with bottles of drink, gels, bananas etc.  You slowed down as you rode in and yelled out what you wanted, there was then an efficient scramble to have what you needed further down the line ready as you rode past.  Drink, food, and hi-fives.

Couldn’t get over the noise made by the bikes with the fancy filled in wheels, a group coming through a closed in area was almost deafening, they roared.  Amazing how much stuff there was on the road too, lots of those little gas pumps, bottle cages, a few toolkits, and plenty of drink bottles.

Raced downhill through Taupo township, someone took the bike off me after my 3 hour 49 ride, and I went into the change tent.  I realised I still couldn’t feel my feet, got into running gear and was off for two laps out to rainbow point and back in the afternoon sun.  I would pay for not thinking about those feet more, I got some nasty blisters which I luckily (or unluckily) didn't feel while running, particularly my little toes, I seldom blister even in the worst of conditions.

First lap of the run (picture by Glenn)
There was one jarring note, I’ve said everyone was so friendly, but the official aspect was very noticeable at this event. I guess it had to be to make everything fair and run smoothly, but some were plain scary, like when an official at the turnaround for the run told me rather brusquely to concentrate on the job when I yelled hi to Kate over the other side of the road.  The people of Taupo were super friendly to make up for it, and on the run there was a chance to briefly have a natter to someone, which wasn’t there on the ride because you weren’t allowed to ride near another bike. 

One thing I did notice was how many people really struggled with the run.  I wondered how they would have done for the full distance.   My main problem was I wasn’t excited and didn’t stick to my strategy or to the eating plan, I really couldn’t be particularly bothered and that lack of enthusiasm showed.  It is also obvious I didn't work hard enough when I came out with enough energy to manage a busy evening getting home and organised, and able to be back to work with no signs the day after (except the blisters of course).  I thought about it as I ran, could I do the whole thing, and came to the conclusion that of course I could have, but was in no doubt that it would have been very Hard.

Over the finish line, lots of people cheering, my whanau were there too, and then it was all finished. 

So, our Ironman adventure for 2012 is over.  It is a strange place to be, we have the medal...a real Ironman medal...the  t’shirt, and the finishers towel, but we aren't Ironmen.  We might have done all the hard work to get there, might have gone through an event, but we didn’t really challenge ourselves as an Ironman should. I probably felt closer in the week before the event, when I couldn't imagine any reason I shouldn't achieve that title.  The only cure will be to do the real thing…hopefully next year.  Roll on Rotorua Marathon in 8 weeks.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Karen writes: Adding Taupo 70.3 Ironman to the completed list

Just a quick blog post because I have just arrived home, bundled tired, grumpy children into bed, sorted out what the cats have brought into the house in our absence and put the first of several loads of washing on from the weekend away.

We did get our Half Ironman today (they call it a 70.3, it's a 'half').   I was slower than the last one I did at Rotorua, (7 hours 14 min), Kate took more off her Rotorua event time in spite of injury problems, and it was a big day for a variety of reasons, not least of which was the emotional roller coaster of the few days before and the bitterly cold start.

Anyway, coming home with the medal, towel and finishers t-shirt is bittersweet, we are entitled to them as that was the official 2012 Ironman event for NZ, but I suspect these things will be tucked quietly away in my cupboard to only be fully appreciated when the real thing has been achieved.  Yes, you heard that right, on the day the entries open for Ironman 2013, I may possibly be poised with finger waiting for the ‘enter’ button to become active, but only if Kate is able to be on board too. I say 'may', as ever, a million things in a busy life can intervene, and we have already put a WHOLE year into preparation for the IM that wasn’t, another year is another big commitment not just for us but for those around us, but there is no doubt that when you have a dream and it doesn’t come off, you can either give it up, in which case it wasn’t much of a dream, or you can do what you can to give it another go.

Had a heap of messages of support, those from when we found out IM had been cancelled and we were in a bit of a state then, then encouragement to “go for it” with the offered alternative, and now messages with congratulations.   Thanks so much!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Karen writes: The Saturday Ironman wasnt.

Kate and me have just been for a walk when we should have been out racing, probably we would have been out of the water and on the bike by now.  We admit that an Ironman race couldn't have been safely run today, in spite of the sunshine when we woke up.   We walked along the lakefront, held our arms out and the wind blowing directly into our faces nearly held us upright.  The lake was a washing machine, the air was cold and my ears hurt.

We talked about how we had read about 'post' event depression. We decided we were suffering from 'lost' event depression and that for a variety of reasons it was important to make every effort to do tomorrows half Ironman if they offer it.  It will make things complicated in terms of extending the accommodation, cleaning before we leave, packing, and getting back to Auckland late on Sunday to be ready for an early start at work and school on Monday.

  • First - whanau, yes, they are behind us.
  • Second - accommodation - the fabulous people who own the lovely house we are staying at say of course we could stay, and they wouldn't charge us for the extra 5 hours.  
  • Equipment - We have our bikes and helmets, swimming gear, but not the contents of our cycle and run bags.  The only problem there is (minor) is that I have some now past their best honey sandwiches in my cycle shirt pockets!  Yuck.
  • Preparation - we really don't feel like it, but we need to treat today like the day before a serious event, eat well, rest, work on our headspaces, tomorrow is a RACE, and it might not be what we had our hearts set on, but it still is a significant effort.
So there is a briefing at 1600 hours, we will find out then if they plan to offer an event, it still wont be guaranteed until they see what state the roads and water are in early on Sunday morning, but hopefully this "weather bomb" will have passed well and truly leaving Taupo at its beautiful best.

Trainer Grant says "hammer it, go for a crazy fast time".  I may well just do that.  So wish us luck, again please, this time for a consolation event tomorrow!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Karen writes: Not going to be an Ironman in 2012

Well, most people (in New Zealand anyway), will have heard that Ironman NZ has been cancelled, something very rare in Ironman history. We made our way to the briefing at 4pm, the dramatically worsening weather was described (last night there were worries about 45km winds, now it is 140km winds), and this weather affects most of the country with Civil Defence on alert, power companies expecting power outages, and warnings for flooding and property damage.  So 2012 Ironman has actually been cancelled.  We all sort of expected to lose the swim, I don't think anyone really thought a whole event cancellation could possibly happen.

Imagine the room, the 1600 athletes, of whom around 500 are first timers like us, this is something we have all worked really hard for, our friends and families have made all sorts of efforts to get us here over the long period of preparation.  We all have something to prove to ourselves and we have dreamed of that IM medal, but we also heard about the people who have traveled from overseas, transported equipment and they were meant to be going home Ironmen.   And it's not going to happen, not this year.

So, the organisers with many expressions of sorrow announced that they 'may' be able to run a half ironman on Sunday when the weather is expected to be better.  I'ts not quite what we wanted, but we are fizzing with built up anticipation, stuffed with fully fueled muscles, and going home with NOTHING would be just sooooo sad.

So collecting my bike in the rain with all the other athletes (organisers didn't want bikes outside exposed to the elements), I am sure I wasnt the only person hiding tears in the rain. I cried a bit when the kids came home and said they were sad for us, and then there were the texts saying how sorry people were for us which also made me overflow a bit but that was more about how lucky we are to get such support!   Thankyou.

Kate sends her love to everyone, but she says she is too depressed to write now.  Actually, don't worry about Kate too much, we are waiting for a delivery of chocolate (she has asked for caramel Whitakers and I want a whole box of continental dark) then we will BOTH feel better soon.  We are also trying to figure out if we can manage a way to stick around for the Sunday half IM (we all have work on Monday, kids back to school), and if we do, I want to do 7 hours, Kate wants 7 hours 30.

Karen writes: Day before IM update

I was feeling so twitchy this morning I went for a short run early.  It was cold, I was still feeling anxious about whether we would even be racing tomorrow, but that little run was reassuring on two counts.  Firstly, the legs still work.  Secondly, but most importantly, there were a heap of others out there, obviously all with the same aim, all running, cycling intently, and a few hardy souls heading wetsuited for the water.

It has been such a strange day, cold first thing and windy.  Now all is eerily quiet on the weather front, as though we are all WAITING for something to happen.  Ohhhh, if only the Ironman was today it would be an excellent day, calm, mild, overcast.  The man at the bakery asked if I knew what was happening because he would normally open early for IM day, the mechanic said "of course its going ahead", and the volunteers are all business as usual.

So all goes per plan, the bikes have gone into the cycle pen not to be seen again till tomorrow morning, and we had excellent volunteers providing personalised instructions and advice ("attach your helmet to the bike in case the wind blows it off overnight", "sit on the ground in the changing tent with your legs out and the helpers can just yank your wetsuit off").    I had a moment of concern when a mechanic looking at someone else's Scott bike pointed at mine and said "there's another light one like yours".   I thought, oh, light bike, I might blow away in the wind, but then I remembered I am an Athena athlete and between my 75kg, the 10kg (feels like it) of food I am carrying, the bike should be well grounded!

Kate and me spent ages this morning packing the bags which will be used in transition, pondering the order of items in the bags, are there enough warm clothes, duplications of antichafe, spare food etc.

Oh oh, here is the RAIN.  I'm sitting on the bed in an upstairs room looking out of big windows at the lake, and it has gone from a reasonably clear view to not being able to see very much at all.   Glad I stopped at Postie+ and picked up one of their on special thermals!

Weather briefing at 1600 hours, feeling more confident about going ahead having steadfastly refused to look at the weather forecast since I saw that last one, the one that said 'gale force winds gusting 110km/hour'.  So please keep sending positive weather thoughts in our direction...if we can just get on the road we don't care if it is a bit windy and rainy!  Be a shame that the beautiful gear sponsored by Novo Nordisk doesnt see the light of day under the wet weather gear though...

Karen writes: To be or not to be

Sleep was a bit of a problem last night.  I tossed and turned for a variety of reasons, the biggest reason was totally unexpected, more on that later.  Anyway, we are finally in Taupo, home of NZ Ironman after a year of hard (and not so hard) work.  The accommodation is lovely, big daughter has figured out the TV, I haven’t figured out the washing machine. Kate took me for a quick ride on the only real hill on the cycle course, I asked her when we got the to the top, "was that the hill?".   The fridge is full of pasta and bread.

The buzz at registration was amazing, we went from here to there, filling things in, signing a disclaimer (if ANYTHING goes wrong its not the organisers fault), signing a huge flag which had all the signatures of all the competitors on it, and getting weighed (end of the day, carrying handbag).  As I type, I am wearing a wrist band with ‘athlete’ written on it, obviously in case I forget!  I couldn’t resist buying a cute little bright yellow neoprene ankle band for the transponder, the official version is just a Velcro loop and I can imagine it will be uncomfortable after 16 hours.

We went to the briefing last night, rocked up at about 7pm, and stood fascinated in a huge room with 1600 other triathlete looking people.   We listened to Mr Ironman who promised us in that distinctive voice of his, “you will be Ironmen, I promise”.  We hung on the words of Ironmen greats, Cameron Brown, Jo Lawn and some others from round the world.  Jo Lawn said “you will face challenges, but no matter what keep going, and you will get there”.  There were people in the room who had done 10, 20, 25 events, and we listened as a man in his 70’s announced his retirement after finishing 27.  A man from Christchurch talked about how 'over' everything he was with the December aftershocks and how much difference the support from the IM community had made to him and his family.   All very inspiring, wow, what a thing to be part of!

Then the serious stuff started, the medical director was worried about hypothermia (that should have been a hint), and talked about wearing the plastic cape if requested to and she trotted out the ubiquitous rectal thermometer joke to reinforce it.  An official reminded us about ‘drafting’ and ‘blocking’ and rubbish.   The man in charge of the aid stations listed in detail what and when and noted that he had 400 volunteers manning these stations.

Then...the weather.  News reader-like the weather forecast was read out.  Heavy rain, strong winds gusting up to 45km/hour, temperatures to plummet.  The upshot of this was to warn us that the swim was likely to be modified or cancelled, and the possibility of the whole event being cancelled was raised!  There was disbelieving laughter in the room.   I couldn’t process it last night, I think I was in a mild state of shock.

Anyway, this morning its dull and grey and windy outside and I'm not sure if I want to cry or have a fit of hysterical laughter.  I feel like a feed of comforting greasies and a large bar of chocolate, but figure pre-emptive grieving isn’t going to help if there is even the smallest chance we may still be Ironmen (even Iron-duathletes) tomorrow.  Briefing at 4pm today, wish us (or the weather?) luck!