Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Karen writes: New Red Scott

I have my new bike.  It has quick release wheel thingys, it took me ages to get the wheel off and wedge it in the car so I'm not sure why they are called quick release, there doesn't seem to be much quick about them but I am assured they are more secure. This is the bike I would never have considered buying, it wasn't remotely in the family budget and besides I loved my old bike. Why would I buy a new one when I was perfectly content to complain and grizzle about my old girl, she always got me home after all, and the thing about having something a bit worn and scruffy, you don't have to be obsessive about looking after it.

But now I have this brand new bike, luckily I got it really cheaply as it is a model from a previous year but it gives me pause for thought when I think about the replacement value. I understand why some think cycling is an expensive thing if the option is to just go out and buy such an item at full price, it seems like such a lot of money for something non-essential. But the mean looking red machine is now mine after 3 hours of bike fitting to first priority of comfort, next priority of some degree of efficiency, and lastly that all such important items as my pink bell were installed.  I watched the bare-basics bike, which I have to admit didn't really incite any feelings of adoration in me to start with, begin to take shape as Tong from the Scott/Avanti Outlet store attached my various bits and pieces.  My seat went on, heights were adjusted, angles changed and I perched on it on the wind trainer and pedaled on instruction. Leg straight, heel down, look forwards, heel up, lean forwards, back, look forwards. Gradually I could imagine the bike folding itself around me, becoming mine.  Then I got to take it for a strop around the carpark to see how it really 'felt' and I found myself starting to fall in love. Wow, talk about light, wow, the gears WORK, ohhh, the brakes dont squeal. I cant wait to take it on a real road tonight, and shock horror, might even be looking forward to the planned 160km on Friday.

My biggest problem now is that I have nothing to wear with a RED bike, the blue branded gear will clash, my blue/grey helmet will look odd, pink cycle shoes with red? Ah...there may have to be some essential shopping come next pay-day, and after 3 years perhaps it is time for a new outfit for this Ironman.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Karen writes: The end of the White Scott

I cried today.  It was over something that some would consider silly, but I still cried. It wasn't a death in the family or anything really, really important in the scheme of things, but today my old Scott bike was declared unfit for use, so I cried.  My reaction was not too surprising really, I struggle to get rid of an old pair of running shoes or favourite shorts, how could I not grieve for my faithful two wheeled companion of some years and many miles.

Rewind to this morning.  I packed the Scott into the back of the small car, I was getting better at whipping the front wheel off and then putting it back on without looking like I was trying to wrestle a metallic monster into submission.  Got to the Avanti shop, wheel back on, she trundled perkily into the workshop, and I left for work wondering what the cost was going to be. Likely a new chain because I hadn't had one of those for ages, possibly some bearings to be greased and tightened, possibly something else as the mechanics nearly always find something when I bring her in for an infrequent service.

It was late afternoon when I got the call, I looked at the phone, yes, bike shop, the Scott must be ready. I've got bad news says the mechanic, your bike cant be fixed, it has cracks in the frame.  Can it be welded?  No, but we have more bikes. Oh.

The Scott Speedster at IM 2013
What a sad end for my poor, if sometimes crotchety old friend.  I thought about those thousands of kilometers and hundreds of hours every year and how I would now never actually ride her again.  I thought about how I wouldn't be leaving her in the Ironman line-up this year even though she has worked so hard to get me to the start-line...again.  I wont be giving her a friendly pat to say thanks and I wont feel perversely proud of her scruffy aging countenance snuggled in among all of the shiny newer versions.  I thought about how I wouldnt share uphill joy or downhill terror with her again, never get her chain grease on my clothes (I suspected she did it on purpose), never run her wheels over a dead possum, battle cows on a country road or gripe about the racket as I cajoled compliance out of her creaky gears.  I would never have the opportunity to make up for leaving her dirty and covered in spider-webs in the shed in the off season. The old Scott is gone. RIP white Scott.

Actually, I thought she would come to grief ultimately through neglect, when everything just wore out through lack of cleaning, lubricating and replacing of essential bits. This was not to be, it turns out this would have happened even if I had been obsessive about the maintenance, this was metal fatigue of the frame and I couldn't influence that. I should just thank my lucky stars she didn't come apart on one of my long rides in recent times.  I complained to the men in the workshop that I had thought she would last longer but they seemed to think that she had done quite well considering how much work she had done over the years.

But HELP, apart from an attack of sentimental angst, I have Ironman in 4 weeks and NO BIKE!   And I have a 160km ride this weekend, the longest ride in the training programme, it cant be done any later and I cant miss it!

Too late for Trademe, so I chased the moths off the credit card and looked at some bikes in the Avanti Plus shop.  How about a time-trial bike, that's what the triathletes use? Nope, I'm not going to be in permanent aero position, I'd look like someone trying to dawdle in a Ferrari, not going to happen.  I looked at the on-special updated version of my Scott, um nope, couldn't afford that.  I looked at the cheaper versions, still more than I wanted to spend, and did I really want a quality downgrade?  I remembered that Kate had said there was an outlet shop in Manukau.  I loaded what was left of my poor bike into the car again.

Well, I walked into the shop and after a bit of explanation they couldn't have been nicer. They pulled the bits of my old  bike out of my car, the tape measure came out, a bit of uhming and ahhing and I got shown a few nice looking bikes, nope don't want those, did they have a Scott?   Yes, but not my size, they would have to get one in. Then an AHA moment, look at this 2012 bike, carbon fiber, it features this, that, and something else.  It started off at this price, it's on sale at This price, but you can have it for THIS price.  Gulp.  It was just outside my hastily considered budget.  Can it be ready tomorrow?  Yes, they said, leave your old bike, we will transfer everything across (including pink bell), you can come for a fitting tomorrow morning.

So tomorrow I will have a new bike.  A new Scott.  Really, an actual new one, not a new-to-me second (third) hand one. And this one...this one is red.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Karen writes: SRAM Tour de Hunua

Saturday, out of bed early, off to Clevedon for the annual Tour de Hunua bike-ride.  No nerves this time, I knew what to expect having done this event last year. I did however look rather wistfully at the Tri-Maori triathlon being setup at Umupuia as I drove by, the sea looked gorgeous and an event involving a dip in that seemed a much more appealing prospect than a long, hot, and hilly ride.

Driving onto the dusty paddock at Clevedon, lots of cars, lots of bikes, no Kate, she had her own training plans for the weekend and unlike me she is sticking to her plan.  I parked, got the bike out of the back of the wee car and reassembled it with much re-checking of the levers and nuts, I have this paranoia that I wont do the front wheel up and it will fall off going down a hill.  Hang around, talk to the man next door, hang around, visit the toilet.  Now every race has it's disadvantages and advantages.  This event is SO heavy on male competitors that the queues for the portaloos and the men's toilet are very, very long.  The women's toilet however has almost no queue at all, this was because of the roughly 1: 7 female to male ratio.

What can I say about the ride itself?  The course is spectacular, but hard. You leave Clevedon straight into hills, big hills, there are a few flats, but then always more hills to trick the unfamiliar. A number of people who rode past me commented that it was a "hard ride", I kept to myself that there was still harder to come.  I spent much of my time by myself which is never good for motivation to push hard, and I rode (or wandered) for 4 hours 47, which was about a minute slower than last year.  I had exactly 4 people behind me out of nearly 500 by the time I finished, but I finished feeling like I could keep going.  Yep, I'm definitely at the back of the pack, but I felt good...BIG TICK...this was the confidence booster I needed to prove to myself that I am nearly as fit as last year.

Sunday, out the door early again, I ran 23km with a bit of walking (laziness rather than anything being wrong), a bit short of what I wanted to do but I was still pleased with the effort, it was an effort on 'tired legs' after all. The only thing of interest was while dawdling along the main road I saw something shining in the drain, oh, someone had lost their flash Samsung 4g mobile phone in it's nice Otter box.  It was too big to go into my waist bag so I had to carry the thing for another 15km which was a bit of a pain and must have looked odd, but when I got home I was able to ring the owner who came and collected it with great relief. Turned out a wallet I had found on that road the week before and dropped in at the police station also belonged to him, he'd left phone and wallet on top of his car before driving off. Such things do make a long distance run more memorable.  Anyway, I'm now entering week 6 out from Ironman. The plan (as always likely to change completely) is Monday another bikeride and spin, Tuesday swim, Wednesday run, Thursday off, Friday Annual leave for a big bike-ride, Saturday swim, Sunday big run.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Kare writes: 6 weeks out from Ironman

I had a pretty good week last week, my long ride was over 130km, it felt slow but good. The long run was a bit of a struggle so I cut it short, but coming straight after the long ride I wasn't too disappointed and while I'm still under on the swim distance when compared to where I was last year, I'm not too far off.  Overall I managed well over 15 hours of training which is really unusual for me. My sore neck has gone away with just occasional twinges to remind me to do more stretching, and I got new running shoes. I had been thinking about changing these from the super-padded Asics Kayano which I have worn since they first came out...decades ago... to a lighter and less padded model one step down. I came home with a pink and black pair of GT2000's which the man in the shop convinced me were the best bet.  I'm reserving judgement on these at the moment, getting used to less padding in the forefoot (I can feel every stone on the trail) and a slightly lower heel is taking a bit, but no injury problems after a total of 40km run in the things so far.

A big change for me, the Ironman people have announced that the nutrition available on course is different this time round, instead of Powerbar for both gel and bar, there are Endura gels and Em's bars.  They have kept the Horley's electrolyte drink fortunately. At Ironman last year I had taken sandwiches along which I just couldn't face and ended up throwing out, meaning I went completely off my eating plan which is never a smart idea. This year I'm going to try to stick to my plan and using on-course nutrition makes things much easier, so I invested in some of these new items so I could try them out. The first thing I noticed is the Endura gel is of thinner consistency, that means having annoying sticky fingers and you cant fold the top up and save some for later, but on the plus side the top pulls off easily and the grape flavour I tried tasted nice enough. The Em's bars are more natural in texture than the highly formulated Powerbars from last year, you can chew up real oats and lumps of chocolate which almost makes you feel like you have had proper food, and the good news was I seemed to have enough energy combining the gels and bars for my ride and no upset stomach.  So, for over 5 1/2 hours on the road my eating looked like this...

1st half hour - grape gel with caffeine
1 hour - banana with Horley's drink
1 1/2 hour - grape gel with caffeine
2 hour - half chocolate oat explosion E'ms power cookie plus Horley's drink
2 1/2 hour - grape gel with caffeine
3 hour - half chocolate oat explosion E'ms power cookie plus Horley's drink
3 1/2 hour - half chocolate oat explosion E'ms power cookie plus Horley's drink
4 hour - grape gel with caffeine
4 1/2 hour - half chocolate oat explosion E'ms power cookie plus Horley's drink
...lost track somewhere in here...finished with a handful of jelly belly sports beans

This was an average of 60-70g of carbohydrate/hour for the first 4 1/2 hours before I got mixed up and bored and gave up paying attention.  I took in around 2 litres of water as well which worked out about right on a mild day. This is likely to be very similar to what I do on race-day, with a few more bananas thrown in and some electrolyte capsules if it's hot. Plus, the last couple of hours on race-day will be gels only so I can get off the bike and run without food sitting in my stomach.  I have several more long rides to practice on, starting with the SRAM Tour de Ranges this coming Saturday.  This is a terrifically hilly ride out through the Hunua, to Kaiaua and Kawakawa bay and back to Clevedon which I did last year and is a route that Kate and myself have done a number of times for training.  Hopefully the ride will go well and I can tell myself that I am at at least the same level of fitness for this stage in my plan as I was last year...

Monday, 13 January 2014

Karen writes: Obstacles

I went for a ride, of course that was not what the training plan said I should be doing, but it fitted.  Older daughter looked at my trademark pink legwarmers before I left, "are they new?" she says. "Nope".  "They're clean" she observed. I looked, they did look clean.  Why?  They were inside out. These poor things had been getting very grubby, more chain oil than clear space, but aha, here was a way to now double their reasonable lifespan. Anyway, with the old-new inside out pink legwarmers on, I took the easy route, headed off towards Clevedon and wandered round a bit there feeling uninspired.

The most significant thing about this ride was something you only see when your training is mostly on country roads.  I came scooting around a corner on Monument Road and there was a significant obstacle.  Cows all over the road.  Ok I thought, they are just crossing I will wait for a car to push through and follow it. Well it turned out that from my low vantage point I couldnt see that the cows were not in fact just crossing the road, but actually walking along the road for a good few hundred meters.  I didnt realise this until I was in the middle of them and the car had moved ahead leaving me surrounded by enormous swishy bohemoths, swishy and sloshy I should say. Oh dear, picking my way through the spaces, trying not to spook the animals, worried that a gigantic hip would just swing into me and quash me into another one.  I came across a car marooned in the middle of the herd on the opposite side of the road, the lady looked in disbelief when I appeared in front of her then laughed uproariously.  My smile, understandably, was a little bit strained, I wondered if she would still be laughing if I climbed on her car bonnet, with my bike, to get out of the way.  Finally I got through, in one piece, with only minor splashes of green on the bike as evidence of having taken on the herd and won. Next time I run across a "stock crossing" sign I will most certainly head back the other way!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Karen writes: Things change

In encouraging Kate to do the Orca half Ironman I admit to having what could be construed as selfish reasons, but truth be told she didn't need much encouragement anyway...the discussion went along the lines of "why dont you..." and "yep I've signed up".  The fact is that she was depressing me by doing more training, without a planned event, than I am doing with Ironman just around the corner. An important reason for me celebrating her signing up is that endurance training is lonely without someone to share goals, challenges, screw-ups and successes with. Now that Kate is safely committed I also have a good excuse to inveigle her into some long rides and swims which will inevitably make my own training journey easier. Of course its especially convenient that her event is to be held in my home area so she needs lots of training time on the actual course to ensure the best outcome!

While it would be insane for me to think about doing this event myself I will probably still be a bit jealous on the day watching her race. This will be a fitting punishment for me doing Taupo Ironman 4 weeks earlier without her. The girls and I will most likely cheer Kate through the swim at Maraetai Beach, transition, onto the bike, then a while later we will head over to Kawakawa bay where the bike leg finishes and the run is held.  I am envisaging a picnic on that beautiful beach, and 6 opportunities during the 3 lap out and back run to yell encouragement and brandish tempting items like ice-cold watermelon and drinks. I thought about putting a sausage on a BBQ except those fragrant fumes could be construed as cruel and unusual punishment and possibly result in a justifiable lynching by the other runners.

So Kate is back into formal training.  As to my training, Monday evening the plan said spin and strength work.  I went home after work, the weather was nice so I got on my bike and rode off towards Clevedon. There was a gentle breeze, the heat of the day had gone, everything looked fresh and beautiful after light rain in the morning, the traffic was quiet and I was reminded that cycling isn't always about being hot and anxious and working miserably hard for hours on end.

Then my neck started hurting, but if I didn't turn my head I could ignore it. Fortunately I didn't have to make too many right hand turns which would have meant I had to look behind me. I turned back at the Log cabin and rode to Pine harbour for spin class still feeling positive. Spin was about speed intervals, so many seconds going fast or on higher resistance, so many seconds rest, repeat repeat repeat. After spin, I cycled home. Not sure if that counts as a brick session given both parts were bike related and a brick usually involves two different disciplines, but it was a satisfying 2 1/4 hours of pedaling and with the interval stuff in the middle I felt like I was actually working.

Unfortunately my neck got progressively more painful, I had an uncomfortable night and today I am holding myself rigid, aware of a spasm of some sort down the right side if I move.  These are the sorts of things that happen out of the blue and you have to decide if it is something worth worrying about or something to adapt to as best you can. I had no obvious moment when an injury occurred and when I put pressure on the offending area I can turn my head ok, so I am choosing the option of keeping going, in a modified fashion. I have moved my day off to today, I might put swimming off till the end of the week and just see how I feel over the next couple of days using antiflam and hotpacks for relief.  Training can continue at a low level, and as the next important milestone for me is the SRAM Tour de Ranges 110km cycle on the 18th there is plenty of time to be right for that. Sadly I wasn't able to talk Kate into that one.

It just goes to show that things change in a moment. Just as Kate had no idea she was going to sign up for another event which has put a whole cascade of changes into her life over the next couple of months, I had no idea that I would end up with a sore neck which requires immediate alteration of all of my carefully crafted training plans. I look back over the blog and my training diaries from other years and I see lots of these moments, good moments like unexpectedly deciding on a new challenge, or bad moments like an injury.  These moments and their consequences always seem terribly important at the time, strangely I had forgotten pretty much all of them until I actually read about them again.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Kate writes: something to work towards

Well Christmas and New year are over with and I have been very slack in my exercise. A few swims and 1 run, no biking. Well all of that has got to stop. The Boss :) made me sign up to do another half Ironman. Actually its just what I need, it does not take me long to make a decision. I need something to work towards otherwise I cannot be bothered. I've now booked to do the Auckland Half out of Maraetai. Don't need accommodation and no long drive. Should be fun but there are some very big hills! Tonight I start training Yippee:)

Karen writes: Ironman 2014...the hard work starts

It got pointed out to me that the blog has been very quiet in the last few weeks. Considering Ironman is in eight weeks time there has actually been some work going on, I just haven't been collected enough to think about writing about it. After the Rotorua half Ironman I spent a week doing very little, just a spin class and a fairly short run, my version of recovery. I was in truth feeling pretty disillusioned, I'd had such a bad day at Rotorua, my confidence was down, and it was taking me an unusual amount of time to get back my enthusiasm back.  I was hopeful that I would feel more inspired over Christmas when it was time to go up north with the whanau and I could have a play in my favourite mountains.  I've written about how I love to escape to the Whangarei Heads whenever I can, but especially over that festive season when trips up Mt Manaia become my daily ritual. Then once I am up for more of a challenge I do the 4 hour hike from Bream Head to Urquharts bay followed by a 50 minute run back to my parents place. Every year I suffer a crisis of confidence (can I do it?), every year the weather keeps me guessing, but then I'm dropped off at Ocean beach, I climb that long steep hill to the start of the track and whatever the conditions I love it. This year the weather cleared and apart from starting out a bit tired all was good.  I found that the mad stair builder had been at work, in the middle of the wild bush in a steep rocky gully a set (or sets) of wooden stairs would suddenly appear. I was expecting this to a certain extent having seen the fashion to formalise bush tracks in such a way emerging over time, but it does change the experience. For example, quite apart from the visual impact of all of these unnatural shapes lurking in natural bush, I find that going up the stairs I'm so busy getting my footing right that I pay less attention to what is going on around me. On the downhill getting down low and sliding on my seat is no longer an option, a bit scary on a steep slope. I got back to my parents place after 5 enjoyable hours, but aware that I was slower and less energised than last year.

Got home on the Monday after Christmas, and with a small degree of panic realised that it really was time to get tough and start training proper, so it was back into thinking about how to fit the swim, ride, run into the limited hours I have available.  The weekly big bikeride is the toughest, it takes so much preparation of equipment and assembling of food etc, plus 5 to 7 hours is needed on the actual road. Always I am looking for something to make the experience easier, and this time I had splashed out on a flash new Selle Italia seat at the half price sale at Avanti Plus.  I'd come to the conclusion that the extra few grams for a slightly more padded seat makes not an iota of difference, especially since I am some 6kg heavier than when I did Ironman last time myself. I looked at the label on my flash new seat and it said 236 grams.  It's a tiny bit thicker and longer, and when you poke it while there is a little bit of give (as opposed to hard as a board) it's still pretty tiny and hardly a cushion. Out of curiosity I brought my old seat inside and weighed it on the scales, 200 grams.  The difference in weight between the seats is that of a small packet of raisins so yep, comfort wins out on this occasion. Next I found that one of my shoe cleats was ruined, must have been from that bit of walking uphill at Rotorua. Fortunately I tend to only wreck the right one each time but I replace the pair so I put an old one on which will last until I can get another new set, must remember to organise that, along with a bike service.  Then I saw that the bike had some chips in the paint, out with the white nail-polish, hopefully whatever high-tech alloy it is made of isn't corroding away underneath. Finally I dug out the fancy aero-bar drink bottle which is good for the long rides, it had been sitting in a bucket since February last year, fortunately a bit of brushing and a trip through the dishwasher got rid of the green stuff.  At last, no more excuses, on the day after New Years I got on the road for my first long ride of the year.

It was a glorious morning as I headed off round the coast. The bike creaked and groaned, it didn't enjoy some of the gears I asked it to be in, sometimes it changed gear by itself, never a good sign. What else can I say, the ride was hot, it was long, it was scary (boat trailers cutting too close mainly) and after the first couple of hours of admiring our beautiful countryside, the experience was interminably BORING. Exactly as I remembered it from last year, and the year before, and... I did get to ride alongside and talk to one woman at Clevedon, she came out of a road which I know from experience is very steep, she looked fresh and enthusiastic and told me she had done the Taupo half Ironman and was getting ready for the Auckland 70.3. She was finishing, I had 30km to do, how come she looked like she could go on forever and I was at the point of counting obsessively forwards and backwards to keep my legs turning over? Finally...109 slow km, 5 hours, 1 x peakfuel chocolate and raisin bar (new favourite), 1 x milk drink, 1 packet raisins, 2 bananas, miscellaneous gels and sports beans later and I straggled up the driveway at home and didn't even contemplate going for the planned half hour run. I realised that I hadn't thought about my new seat once, that at least was a success.

So onward to Ironman. This weeks programme:

Monday - 45 minute spin at Te Puru plus strength work
Tuesday - 50 min swim and 70 minute run
Wednesday - OFF
Thursday - 70 min run and 45 minute spin
Friday - 50 min swim
Saturday - 115km bike-ride and 30 minute run (brick)
Sunday - 24km run