Saturday, 26 January 2013

24.01.13 Back in the pool

It is 4 days since my Ironman and the 5:00am wake up call is not something that I am happy to hear.  I put it on snooze and sleep for another 20 minutes before getting up.  I head downstairs and give breakfast to the cats.  I think about having something for myself but it is only the second session back for the year and I am sure that we will be easing into it.  I grab a banana just in case and head towards the pool.  It is nice and warm in the morning and seems like an eternity since I have last ridden my motorbike to swimming.  Usually it is a bike ride followed by a ride to work and then home however this week I am taking it a little easier.

I make it to the pool and catch up with a couple of people regarding what they have done over the Christmas break and the various races that they and I have completed.  I head into the pool area and there is no program.  We are told to jump into the water and do a 400 metre warm up.  This is followed by 300 metres worth of drills.  We are told that the next session will be 3 lots of 5 minutes of swimming.  Basically the first set is to swim for 5 minutes at 7 pace and see how far you can go in that time.  When we swim our level or exertion is based on a number out of ten.  Usually an easy swim is around a 6-7, a swim at a reasonable threshold is at 8, and a swim above threshold (absolutely flat out) is at 9-10.  The first set will be at 7 pace followed by a set at 8 pace and then a set at 9 pace.  For the next 15 minutes we are going to sprinting.

We complete the first set and I have gone around 275 metres.  We have a break and then start the second.  I am feeling okay from the first set but know this next one will be hard.  I am just hanging on to the person in front of me when time is called and I have swum around 290 metres.  We start the third set which will be flat out and my arms are killing me.  I push through counting down the laps and make it to the wall just as the 5 minutes is up completing 300 metres.  I am exhausted after this and it is only 6:40am.  We are soon told that we are repeating the sets.

I let out a sigh and can't believe that we are doing it all again!  I push through the second set of exercises, completing similar distances to what was completed on the first set.  We are finished and I complete a 100 metre backstroke warm down before heading to work.  I am officially back at training!! Why you ask, should I not now be resting??  No, as I have entered another Half Ironman in Auckland on March 18th and there is no time to waste!

20.01.13 The run of the Auckland Half Ironman 70:3

I quickly put on my Vibram's, take off my bike helmet, replace my gels and put on my hat.  I leave transition in 1 minute and 53 seconds and begin my run of the Auckland course.  I am not feeling great at this stage but I wasn't feeling great in Tauranga initially and that all changed after I got into my rhythm in the run.  I had my new Garmin watch on in this race and had set it up so that it was able to time my swim, transition, bike, transition and finally my run.  I had used it for the bike to view average speed however had not had much of a chance to look at it apart from that during the race.  I knew that for the run though I would want to use a few of the features including the pace per km and the heart rate function.  I had to make up some time that I had lost from the swim and the bike so wanted to push hard on the run.  Whilst I am not feeling great, I look down to see that I am doing 4:45 minutes/km pace.  That is fast for me and I am then motivated to push that little bit harder.  After 1km I see that the pace has now dropped down to 4:38.  I am flying in this first section and if I am going this fast for the rest of the race then I should have a good run.  I run past the crowds and Quay Street and they continue the enthusiasm I have experienced on the bike with their support.  I have run this run course many times before.  When I come up to Auckland for business, this is the same course I normally take and so I know that it is not a hard course but it is a question of how hard I can push.  With my current pace it could be a good run but only time will tell.  I come to a rise in the road before it drops away to a flat section and continues on parallel to the ocean.  I look down at my pace and it has now come back up to over 4 minutes 50 per kilometer.  

I am just not feeling it today I decide.  I don't know if it is due to this being my second race in as many weeks or the fact that my cold has reduced my energy levels.  Nonetheless I continue on.  I look down at my pace and it is now over 5 minutes per kilometer.  I am starting to fade and am only around 5km into the run leg.  I know where the turnaround is and focus on my stride length as well as my arm rotation to try to increase my pace but nothing is working.  I am glad to reach the turnaround and start heading back into town.  I am not sure what it is about heading back, maybe the fact that you can see the city, who knows, but it certainly make the run more enjoyable and feel a lot shorter than 6km.  I am back in town and again go past the supporters as I snake my way around the waterfront eventually into the back streets near the transition area.  Again I see Victoria and Lachlan.  I give them a smile as run past but I am not smiling about anything.  I make my way to the finish line where the turnaround is for the second lap.  It is heart breaking to see the finish but know you have another 11km before you will be able to cross over it.  I again see my support crew and tell them I will see them in an hour, this is going to be a slow run.

I begin the second lap and just feel like crap.  I am running and honestly thinking about pulling out of this race.  My body has had enough and I just don't think I can handle the monotonous 11km run that is ahead of me.  I somehow manage to keep going.  I am slowing down at every drink station by now and taking on a sip of water with the remaining water being poured over my head.  I grab a coke in the middle of transition and drink as much as I can before grabbing two more waters and take another sip and pouring the remaining contents over my head.    I can now see the turnaround which means I have 5.5km to go.  I hit the turnaround and start heading home.  I literally have nothing left and my pace has now slipped out to around 6 minutes per kilometer.  I don't care about time anymore, I just want to finish.  People around me are starting to go down also.  There are people walking, collapsed or just running through the pain.  I am glad that I am not the only one that is finding this race to be tough!  I come over the top of the rise before dropping down on the flat with the finish in site.  I am now running along Quay Street.  The crowds are not as boisterous as before and have started to thin out.  I am counting down the kilometers now.

According to my calculations I have around 1km to go.  I push on and start the dreaded snaking through the waterfront.  I have around 300 metres to go but something does not feel right.  I am nowhere near the finish so how can that be.  I come to the realisation that my watch must be wrong and I have longer to go than anticipated.  I hit the 21.1km mark and I must be at least 1km from the finish.  This demotivates me even more but I keep going.  I round the last snaking part of the course and run past the back streets of the finish.  Victoria and Lachlan are not in their spot so I am hoping they are near the finish.  I run the final straight stretch and then start to make my way to the finish line.  I hit the carpet and make my way to the finishing chute.  I see Victoria and Lachlan and give them a wave.  I turn the corner and there is the finish.  I run up the finish and hear my name called as I cross the line in 5:43.  The run has taken over 2:05 hours and I am exhausted.  I stumble after crossing the line before receiving my medal and heading into the recovery area for some rehydration and food.  I have pushed through the pain barrier and am now a dual Half Ironman.

Below is the run leg of the Auckland Half Ironman 70:3

Ironman Auckland 70:3 by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details

Friday, 25 January 2013

20.01.13 The Bike Leg

As I enter transition I am feeling quite good.  I have my wetsuit half off my body and begin to step out of the rest of it as I put on my bike shoes and helmet and stuff my chia seed mix in my back with a couple of gels.  The helmet is on, I un-rack my bike and run to the end of transition, I am away in 2 minutes and 26 seconds.  The start of the bike is through the streets of Auckland over cobble stones and tram tracks before heading along a bypass road parallel to the ocean and onto the bus lane that leads over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.  It is quite surreal that we are riding over the harbour bridge.  The climb is steep but not to bad.  I hit the top and start the descent down to the other side.  My speed picks up and I am traveling at 58km/h as I descend the bridge.  The next part of the ride is through the new bus lanes into the North Shore.  Before I know it we are off the bus lanes and into the residential area of    Windsor Park and Rosedale.

The support throughout the start of the ride has been amazing.  The Fulton Hogan boys that have been in charge of closing the roads are cheering you on but it is support from the local residents that blows me away.  As we are going through the residential area, there are crowds of people lining the streets.  Not only that, they have lined the numerous roundabouts that we are going through with BBQ at the centre and an amazing party atmosphere.  It is taking my mind off the fact that we are constantly turning left and right through the undulating streets which is preventing you getting into any consistent rhythm. I am looking at how far I have gone and I am at around 30km.  I am starting to wonder when we will be heading back to town as I am over the constant turning through streets.  I turn a corner and find myself back on the bus lane heading back into town.  It is now raining, not heavy but enough to be annoying as it hits you in the face.  It is not long until I am heading back over the bridge.  The legs are tired now and the hill climb over the top of the bridge seems a lot harder than before.  As is cross over the crest of the bridge, I now hit my 58km/h speeds again.

After the bridge we are heading back into town and I begin to notice the huge amount of volunteers that are cautioning us as we twist and turn through the slippery streets of Auckland.  For the first time I see Victoria, Lachlan and a couple of friends (thanks for coming Morgan and Mike).  I go past them as I come to some tight turning corners.  The volunteers are telling us to slow down as another rider with a full disk wheel goes flying past me.  I know that the turn coming up has tram tracks across it as I see him lean into the corner and the back wheel loses traction.  Somehow, and I still don't know how, he holds the bike upright.  As I follow him into the next right hand turn, he takes it a little more cautiously. We then hit the straight of Quay Street and begin our first lap of Tamaki Drive on our way to Mission Bay.  Again there is huge crowd support and I soon get into my rhythm as push on at around 40km/h.  There is a definite tail wind so I know that I will be heading back into a head wind on my way back.  I know this road well as it twist around the coast of Auckland and it is not long before I am at the turnaround.  As predicted there is a headwind and it is a hard slog back to town.  I look at my average speed for the race and it is below 30km/h.  It has definitely been a hard ride with the twist and turning of the roads on the North Shore but I felt I had made good time on the flat sections, obviously not.  At present I am going to do over a 3 hour bike ride which is around 10 minutes slower than Tauranga and I thought that this would be a fast course!

I am heading back into town and am now hitting the 60km mark of the bike.  My back was aching slightly at around the 40km mark and now is really hurting but on this race I remembered the Voltarin gel as I was getting ready.  I am not sure if it is working or not but I am glad that I at least put it on.  I was in agony in Tauranga at this point.  I am feeling OK now but I am looking forward to the end of the ride at this stage.  I again see my support crew as I head to the turnaround in town and begin my second lap of the race.  There is a tailwind again but my legs are tired.  I am trying to push through it as I see that my average speed is now above 30km/h, at least the ride will be 3 hours or less if I maintain this speed.  I again hit the turnaround at Mission Bay and start heading back into a headwind.  My average speed is dropping and I am pushing as hard as I can but just not feeling it today.  There is 10km to go and I cannot wait for it to end.  After around 15 minutes I have made it back to the city.  I do half a lap on the bike in the city before heading back for transition.  About 500 metres from transition I pull my feet out of my bike shoes and ride on the top of them.  I hit the dismount line for the bike and run my bike into transition.  My legs feel like jelly but it feels good to be off the bike.  I run the length of transition back to my area and rack my bike.  The ride has taken me 7 minutes more than Tauranga which is not much considering the fact that I am definitely hurting more today than I was in Tauranga.

Below is the graph of my bike.

ironman Auckland 70:3 by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details

20.01.13 The Swim

As I walked from transition to the swim start I was slightly excited about the upcoming swim.  The conditions looked really good, the weather looked good and I was feeling confident.  The swim start 'holding area' was on one side of the Maritime Museum hidden from the crowd whilst the actual swim start was on the other side.  We all knew our wave start positions, I was the next wave after the male and female pro's.  I was standing there knowing we had at least 10 minutes before we got in the water and there were people already fully suited up in the morning Auckland heat.  At the last possible moment I asked a fellow swimmer to zip me up and before I knew it we where being led through a gap in the building to the swim start.  We went underneath a mini tunnel and could hear the crowds on the other side.  It sounds ridiculous but it was like Gladiators just about to go into battle.  We came through to the other side and could now see and hear the crowds of people before we made our way to a small jetty and began jumping into the Auckland Harbour.

We had around 5 minutes to warm up before the start.  Not a great warm up as I like to swim for around 10 minutes as a minimum to get the wetsuit in the correct position and my heart rate up so I am not starting with a cold engine.  This is not going to be the case in this race.  Before I know it we are at the start line waiting for the whistle to go.  I am visualising the course in my head from all the times that I have reviewed it on the website when the whistle goes off.  The sprint is on but the field is defiantly smaller and more spread out compared to Tauranga and it is a good sprint.  I am heading towards the first buoy and feeling quite good.   I know the first buoy is around 300 metres away according to my calculations and I get into my rhythm quickly.  Before I know it I am at the fist buoy and turning for the second which is a good 400 metres away.  My goggles have been tightened so as not to have the same leaking incident that I had in Tauranga and I am feeling good.  I feel a pulling sensation on my head and in no time at all my swim cap has come off my head and is floating behind me.  I carry on a little pissed off that I have lost my cap as it was a good one.  I am nearly at the second buoy and still feeling good.  I round the second buoy and head towards the third buoy.  There are two distinct groups from what I can see and I am leading the second group.  We hit the third buoy and begin to make our way to the fourth buoy when the leaders of the age group behind start to pass us.  The fourth buoy is passed fairly quickly and we are heading back under the bridge we crossed to get to the swim start and the last buoy before transition.  I am heading towards the bridge but it doesn't seem to be getting any closer.  I keep looking up and eventually I pass beneath it.  I see the last buoy which is around 40 metres from the finish.  I round the buoy and head into shore.  I swim for around 30 metres before I hit the stairs and I am on my feet running up stairs from the ocean to the transition area.

Below is the link to my swim:

ironman Auckland 70:3 by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details

Thursday, 24 January 2013

20.01.13 Race Day

I wake up on Sunday morning to the alarm going off next to me.  It is 4:40am and I have had a good sleep care of the Mercure Auckland.  I turn off the alarm and head out to the lounge room to make my breakfast whilst Victoria and Lachlan stay asleep.  I perform the same routine as two weeks ago as I prepare to make my way down to the Auckland Waterfront for my second Half Ironman in two weeks.  The first thing I do is collect my Ironman tattoos from the table and make my way into the bathroom.  I read the instructions and before too long I have a semi permanent tattoo of the number 146 on my arm and my age group on my right calve.  I cover myself in sun cream to hopefully ensure that this time I do not get burnt.  I then start the job of fueling myself ready for the race in 1hour and 30 minutes time.  No porridge this time as we are in a hotel room and it is too hard however weetbix, hot milk and honey is on the cards.  After finishing my breakfast it is time to get dressed in my clothes that I have laid out the night prior.  Before long, it is time to collect the rest of my gear, put my drink bottles from the fridge into my bag and leave to go and get ready.  I kiss Victoria goodbye and walk out the door grabbing my bike pump as I leave.

As I reach the Auckland streets at 5:40am I start to see what was causing some of the noise I could hear  from my room earlier in the morning.  There are people all around town in all states of intoxication and me walking to the waterfront in lycra with a bag full of gear.  Let me just say that it was frustrating knowing that you were about to work your ass off for the next 5.5 hours and there were people still making their way home from Danny Doolans from the night before!  As I am walking towards the race start I don't see any other athletes and begin to panic.  It is around 5:50am, surely there should be more people heading to the race start.  I head around the corner and begin to see people carrying bags as big as mine with bike pumps in their hand.  Before I know it I am nearing the footbridge that we will be swimming under in around 40 minutes time.  I enter transition and start to prepare my transition area ready for the race.  After completing a race 2 weeks before and races in the past you start to learn how to set yourself up and today's setup was no different to two weeks ago, in fact it was identical.

It is around 6:10 by now and I start to put on my wetsuit.  I have to ensure I have everything for the swim, everything for my transitions and everything else that I brought with me is going back into my bag which will be handed into the bag drop inside the convention centre.  The last thing I do is put half a tub of vaseline on my neck to stop a rash from my wetsuit before walking out of transition to the bag drop and then make my way to the swim start.

Friday, 18 January 2013

19.01.13 Pre race preparation

1 Day to go

I can't believe that the Auckland Half Ironman is tomorrow.  It has come around so quickly and it does not feel like two weeks since the Tauranga Half Ironman.  A lot has happened since that race however not much training.  After my Tauranga race I was back in the pool on the Tuesday and felt really good.  My intention was to then do a light run later in the week followed by a mountain bike ride and long run on the weekend and then a couple of light runs in the week leading u to the race.  I got as far as the swim and then work took over...  No problem I thought to myself.  I can still do my weekend exercise.  So the mountain bike took place and 3 minutes from home ended up in disaster with me ending up in A&E and my arm with two stitches and several deep grazes over my legs and hands.  Since then nothing has been done in the form of training and to top things off, I have come down with a bad head cold.  All the plans in the world would not have prepared me for a cut up arm and a cold but I have tried my best to get over both.  I have had dressing changes and done the whole 'hang your arm out of the shower routine' to ensure that it stays dry.  To be fair, the healing of my leg and hand has been amazing due to this care and the great dressings that I was given.  I was told by the nurse that the dressings were used for burn victims and promote the skin to heal.  Well I can confirm that they certainly do that.  The forearm where I have my stitches and deep graze feels like it has healed and the dressing has neared the end of its life however I just need it to get though the swim and whatever happens to it then does not bother me.

The cold has been may biggest issue.  Swimming with a blocked nose as well as feeling crap for the bike and run was not something I was looking forward to.  In fact on Thursday, I did think about pulling out as I was feeling that bad.  All week I have been trying all manner of remedies to make sure that I was feeling at least 90% come race day.  I am beginning to feel like a lemon based on the amunt of homemade lemon and honey drinks i have had over the last week!  One thing i have been careful to ensure is that i was doing it naturally rather than the usual cold and flu tablets i would normally take.  I wanted to beat the cold not just hide the symptoms.  On Tuesday I was told about liquid echinacea from a friend (thank you Georgina).  The stuff tastes horrible but I was hedging my bets on it working.  As mentioned on Thursday I was feeling that bad that I did contemplate pulling out however by Friday the nose had started to clear, the runny nose was minimal and the headache had all but disappeared.  Today, I class myself to be at 95%.  The body feels good but still a little congested in the head.  Hopefully by tomorrow the percentage will have increased slightly.  The last drop of echinacea was drunk today at 4pm so it is all down to my body now.

Today it was all about getting into town and checking into the hotel and registering.  We arrived about lunch time and checked into the Mercure Hotel.  They upgraded me to a suite so a thank you card will be going to the GM next week.  We went down to the Viaduct Event Centre and there were people everywhere.  I registered without hassle, watched a video on the rules of the race and race day bike in transition.  For the second time, I have been near the pros.  Putting Chloe the 10 year old Cannondale near these bikes is like turning up to a Porsche convention in your Camry...  Anyway, the bike was racked and we headed out to do the final shopping in readiness for our early start tomorrow.  Dinner was had in Vue restaurant where the chef did a Chicken Carbonarra for me and was appreciated.  It is now time to head to bed.  Enjoy watching the race from your bed tomorrow on line.  Just go to and you will hopefully get your updates there.  My athlete number is 146. Have a great sleep and I will catch up when I am a dual half ironmaner.

Friday, 11 January 2013

12.01.13 Picking your lines

8 Days to go

I woke up to the alarm sounding this morning at 6:30am and although I wanted to get out early so that I could get back home and enjoy the day with my family I hit the snooze button.  For around 30 minutes I lay there trying to motivate myself to get out of bed.  I succumbed to the alarm re-sounding every 10 minutes and rolled over to turn it off.  Whilst rolling over I felt a pinch in my neck and a shooting pain.  Great, I had just pulled a muscle in my neck and was now going for a bike ride, what else could go wrong!!

I drove to Makara Mountain Bike Park.  An awesome Mountain bike park that has been built by volunteers and local supporters.  There are some amazing tracks and the view once you get 412 metres above see level on the top of Makara Peak is sensational.  I was planning to take my normal route all the way to the top which includes a lot of undulating tracks, some downhill and then a technical climb.  I got the bike out of the car and started to get ready.  It was weird going back on the Mountain bike but I was looking forward to it.  I only packed a small bag that had a little bit of food in it, my wallet, car keys and phone.  Normally when I do this ride I am preparing for an adventure race and carry a full pack but not today.  I put on my bike shoes, locked the car and jumped on the bike.  Instantly I remembered the pleasure of riding a full suspension bike with 3 chain rings at the front.  Very different to my road bike.  I started on the track up to the top and realised that I had left my bike gloves in the car.  Not good as if I was to come off I would chew up my hands (based on previous experience) so would have to be careful.

I was riding along and could not believe how fast I was climbing my way to the top.  When I first started doing this ride, it took over 1.5 hours to get to the top.  When I was training for my adventure race in April, it had taken me just on an hour.  I was moving quickly and before I knew it I was 3/4 of the way to the top within 31 minutes.  I had the technical climb to go which would take no more than 15-20 minutes so was anticipating reaching the top in 45 minutes!!  I continued on the technical part of the track and made it to the top.  As I reached the top I saw they had completed some renovations at the top so that you can ride right up to the lookout.  I reached the top in 47 minutes.  A new record that showed my bike fitness has improved dramatically and also showed that on the right equipment, record times were possible.  I sat down to admire the view and pulled out some slice from my bag.  I wanted to do a short run after the ride and was feeling so good that I packed up the slice and decided to get down straight away, do my short run and be home ASAP.

I would be taking a track I found only last year down to the bottom.  It was not extremely technical but it was good fun as it swept back and forth down the mountain and gave you a good ride down.  I was feeling very comfortable as I made my way down being careful on some of the more technical sections.  The importance of picking your lines cannot be stressed enough on a Mountain Bike.  You are always setting up for the current corner and the corner in front ensuring that you are in the right position through the apex.  I was nearing the end of the track and coming into a flat section.  Ahead I could see that the track narrowed and fell away to the left into some trees.  I was staying right but a rock knocked me off line.  I was traveling at around 14km an hour on rocky terrain when I felt my front wheel fall off the track on the left and slingshot me forward straight onto the ground...I had crashed!!!

I was lying on the ground in shock and at first nothing seemed to hurt.  Then the pain started returning to my knee, hand and elbow.  I was screaming out loud, "No, No No.  Not a week before my race".  I got up and assessed the damage.  Yes the bike was fine.  I looked down at my knee and it was badly grazed and cut but no other damage had taken place.  I looked at the palm of my right hand.  It was badly cut and grazed and stinging like nothing else.  My right forearm was also very sore but I was able to move everything so nothing was broken.  I could see a small hole in my arm warmer which pissed me off as I had owned these arm warmers for ages and I loved them.  I decided to look at my arm when I got down to the bottom.  I uncomfortably rode the last 3 minutes of the ride cautiously holding the handlebar in my right hand due to the chunks of skin that were hanging off.  I make it down to the bottom and get off the bike.  I take stock of what has just happened but am feeling okay.  I contemplated going for a run but decide to have a look at my arm first.  I pull back the arm warmer and too my shock I see that a rock has dug into my arm removing a large chunk and I can see muscle.  I take another look to assess how bad it is and decide that the run is off and I will need to head to hospital for some stitches.  All I can think about is, will it have healed in a week and what will wifey say?

I pack the bike away and jump in the car.  I call Victoria's mobile and no answer.  I call home and she answers.
"Good morning I say.  Have you had a shower yet?"
"No," she answers.
"Can you please have one?"
"Because I have had a crash and I think I need you to take me to hospital".
"I will be home in 15 minutes and I will see you then".

I drive home and when I get there I quickly pack the bike away and head up to see her.  She asks how I am and for me to show her my arm.  I show her and it disgusts her.  I jump in the shower and wash the dried blood away from my body.  I pull out my loofah brush and put some soap on it and begin scrubbing my knees to remove any dirt.  The pain is excruciating but it has to be done.  I do the same on my hand it hurts even more.  I scrub my elbow however I am careful to not touch the deep chunk that is missing.  I wash it out with water and it looks deeper than first thought.  I get out of the shower, fill up the sink with some warm water and add some Dettol.  I then get a cotton pad and begin to soak my knee, hand and elbow in Dettol.  It stings but it is not too bad.  I quickly get dressed and then we are in the car on the way to Accident and Emergency centre.

We arrive and I walk in and speak to reception.  There are not many people there which hopefully means that the wait will not be long.  We have decided to come here rather than the hospital where I know the wait will be a long one.  I ask the receptionist if they do stitching here.  She looks at me and asks what I mean and I show her my arm.  She gives me a form to fill in and tells me to take a seat.  I am seen by the nurse fairly quickly and she asks me what happened.  I tell her that I have come off my Mountain bike and grazed my knee, hand and there is a gash missing from my arm.  She takes a look and asks when I last had a tetanus injection.  I don't recall and she tells me that she will have to give me one.  I am given the injection and then take a seat whilst I wait for the Doctor to see me.

My name is called a short time later and I go and see the Doctor.  Again he asks what has happened and I explain to him.  He takes a looks at my arm and says that he thinks he may have to cut the flap of skin off and stitch my arm or potentially use the flap of skin to fill the hole.  I explain that I would prefer the flap of skin to be used as in the shower it looked quite thick.  We decide that under anesthetic we will take a look and decide the best way forward.  I explain to him that no matter what I need the best option that will promote healing as in a week I have a Half Ironman.  We go into another room and I am laid down.  I am given an anesthetic shot straight in the gash and soon the wound is numb.  After a bit of cleaning and cutting of dead skin, the doctor decides to use the flap to help heal the wound.  He sews up one half of the gash with two stitches and decides to put steri strips on the other side.  He does not want to put too many stitches in the wound as he does not want the flap to die.  The wound is covered with a sterile bandage and sterile bandages are put on my knee and hand.  I am given a course of antibiotics to take for the next week and sent home.

I get home and the pain is bearable.  My right arm from the Tetanus shot is starting to ache a little and my right hand is killing me.  I chill out for a little before having some lunch and relaxing for the rest of the afternoon.  I am hoping to go for a run tomorrow at some point but will have to wait and see how I am feeling.  I can only hope now that the dressings do their job and my wounds heal in time for next week.  Only time will tell...

Below is a picture of my injuries and a link to the ride this morning at Makara Peak.

Makara Ride by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details

Thursday, 10 January 2013

11.01.13 Preparing for Race day

9 Days to go

Unbelievably time has flown by and in 9 days time I will again be racing in the Auckland Half Ironman.  I have been looking forward to this one though.  Tauranga was a nerve racking experience because it was my first one and I just had no idea of how I would go but Auckland is one race that I will hopefully enjoy.  I know that bar any issues I will finish the race.  I know what is now required of my body in the swim, bike and run but best of all I know the course that I will be riding and running on and am familiar with the terrain so know when to push just that little bit harder.  I decided to go online as I had not even looked at the Auckland requirements for the race yet and make sure that I was going to meet the pre entry requirements.  In looking at the site, I found a link to the Auckland Ironman Youtube Video (click link).  I thought it was a brilliant video and gives you a great overview of what I will be seeing on Sunday morning.

Not much has taken place since my race last Saturday.  Of course I did my swim session on Tuesday however since then the first week back at work has stopped anything further.  It is probably a good thing but I will be doing some reasonable weekend training.  The bike is still up in Auckland so tomorrow I am jumping on the Mountain bike and heading up Makara peak.  It has been a long time since I have been on a Mountain bike however the climb to Makara is a great leg work out and will be a good work out but not a ridiculously hard one leaving plenty left for next Sunday.  It gives me a chance to give my Garmin watch another work out so I am looking forward to seeing how it will go and the data that I will get from it.  Until then, it is time for an early night ready for my ride tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

07.01.13 Kilbirnie 2KM Swim

As mentioned in my previous post there is another Half Ironman in what is now 12 days time so it was back in the pool this morning.  When the alarm went off at 5:00am all I wanted to do was turn it off and go back to bed.  I don't need to get up surely!!  I put the snooze button on and 10 minutes later the alarm goes off again.  It is time to get up.  I slide out of bed and get changed before heading downstairs.  I don't feel like much to eat which is not a good start as I always eat before swimming but I am not going to do a hard session.  I jump in the car and head to the pool. When I get there the car park is not exceptionally busy and I wonder how many people are still away.  I enter the pool and start getting changed and realise that no one from my squad is around especially my coach.  I stand there and come to the conclusion that everyone is still on Holidays and I have read the calendar incorrectly.  I move my stuff and jump in the Medium fast lane, right next to a guy that used to be in my squad and the winner of my Age Group in Tauranga.

I am keen to test out my new watch.  It has a swimming function on it that apparently can tell how many laps you have done as well as measure your stroke rate.  I have watched a video on it when I was researching the watch and could not believe it so this morning I was going to put it through it's paces.  I set the watch to a 25 metre pool and dove in.  I decided to do a quick warm up and test to see what happened.  I turned at the 25 metre mark and looked down at my watch whilst completing the turn to see it had measured 25 metres.  I started heading back down the pool and began another turn again whilst looking at my watch to see it said 50 metres.  It was amazing as it was also calculating my stroke count as well.  I continued on completing laps, counting them in my head and occasionally looking at my watch to see that it was counting correctly and it was.  Before I knew it I had completed 300 metres and was feeling sensational.  Right there and then I decided to keep going and do a 2km swim.  I was not wanting to go fast,  I just wanted to roll the arms over.  I was not flying today but I most certainly was feeling energized and very comfortable.  I was not focussed on time just completing 2km.

I was getting near the end and looked down at my watch to see that I was going to complete the 2km in 35 minutes and 50 seconds, a very similar time to what I had completed in my race in Tauranga.  Yes I was pushing off walls but I was also not wearing a wetsuit and had a strong current pulling me towards buoys.  I was happy with the time and very surprised with how I felt.  I had taken today off from work as I wanted to spend time with my family after coming back to Wellington.  I grabbed a coffee from the pool and headed back home for a relaxing day.  Attached is the link to my swim session this morning.  Now I have a watch that works I will be able to put more links on so that you can see my progress towards the Auckland Half Ironman on the 20th.

07.01.13 Kilbirnie 2KM Swim by IronmanBarefoot at Garmin Connect - Details

Monday, 7 January 2013

06.01.13 The Morning After

As I crossed the finish line a sense of relief hit me.  I was pleased that I had finished the race but the fact that it was all over and what you had achieved took a little longer to hit me.  As you cross the finish line they call your number and name out and you feel proud.  A medal was placed around my neck and there were some chairs that you could sit down on whilst you rehydrated and got yourself together.  I sat there for a couple of minutes contemplating what I had just achieved and a smile came across my face.  I made my way to the recovery tent and immediately drank two cups of Leppin.  I started to feel a little light headed and sick.  I needed to eat something so grabbed a banana and tried to munch it down but my mouth felt dry.  I didn't want to eat anything or drink anything and to be honest I was feeling like crap.  I heard my name and turned around and outside the tent was Victoria and Lachlan.  I saw them, walked towards them and my sense of achievement took over.  I gave them a massive hug and then turned around to see Olivier had just crossed the line.  I gave him a big congratulatory hug and we headed back in the tent for some more fluid and food.  Eventually I headed out of the tent to my family and gave them all a big hug.  They were asking how I was feeling and to be honest my body was okay apart from my legs.  They were starting to tense up and I needed to stretch.

I stopped what I was doing and headed down to the cool ocean that I had been in earlier in the day.  I walked out to the ocean and stood there whilst the cool water did it's job on my muscles in my legs.  I met a girl out there and we started talking.  She was from Wellington as well and she asked how I had gone.  I told her and she said, "well done".  I asked how she went and she said she did not finish and she pulled out on the second lap of the run.  I could not believe that.  Who would pull out with only 11km to go!  I got out of the sea and had to walk up a bank.  I could hardly lift my legs and a spectator offered me assistance to get up the 0.5 metre bank which I declined.  I made it back to my family and we happened to be standing next to the massage tent.  I decided to treat myself and pay $20 for a 20 minute massage.  I hobbled into the massage tent, had my massage and paid my money, best $20 I had spent in a while.  My legs seemed to feel a lot better but by the time I swung them over the table and stood on them, they seemed to be in an even worse state.  I hobbled out of the tent and back to my family.

We were able to get bikes out of transition now and so I hobbled to transition with my wife and collected my gear.  I picked up my wetsuit, goggles, bike helmet, towel and then realised that my ear plugs were long gone.  I wheeled my bike out of transition and gave it to my wife who was going to ride it back to the apartment whilst I got driven home.

There was a mini expo happening at the time and Olivier had purchased a brand new Garmin watch that normally retailed for around $540 however at the expo they were only $450.  I was over my Polar watch and decided that I was going to treat myself.  My mum came with me and as we walked towards the stand, she declared that she wanted to buy it for my May!!  I accepted her offer and we purchased the watch.  We drove home and I struggled up the stairs to the apartment.  Two rolls were made for lunch for me and whilst I was considering the fact that I would not be able to eat two rolls, I was already consuming the second one.  After lunch it was straight down to the pool whereby I jumped in the hot tub,  soaked and then jumped in the cool pool water.  I repeated this around 6 times and whilst I was down there I met two guys who had competed in the race as well.  One guy had completed it in around 4 hours 50 and the other had completed it in just over 5 hours 30 minutes.  We started talking about the conditions and from what I gathered from these seasoned racers, this was normal for Tauranga.

After a quick shower it was off to the Awards presentation to see the Age group athletes get their medals as well as various people recognised for their efforts including the oldest competitor of 83 years!!  After a quick bite to eat it was off to bed before packing up the car and heading home.  The journey to the Tauranga Half Ironman has been an amazing experience for me and one I will never forget.  What a place to do your first Half Ironman!  I have learnt a lot from this journey and will certainly be applying what I have learnt for future races.

Most of you will not know this but the Tauranga Half Ironman is not my only Ironman event this year.  Believe it or not, I am racing in a Half Ironman in 15 days time.  The Auckland Half Ironman is on the 20th January and I was given a comp entry for it.  I initially turned it down as it was too close to Tauranga but I have done so much training, it would have been a waste not to use the entry so here we go.  Due to this on Tuesday morning I will be back in the pool and by Friday I will be going for a long run to work before a longer run on Sunday.  So the good news is the blogs will continue until at least March when there is one more Auckland Half Ironman with my name written on all over it!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

05.01.13 Tauranga Half Ironman Run Leg

As I racked my bike and took off my helmet a sense of relief hit me.  I was finally off the bike and now it was down to me and my body alone.  There were no wetsuits, goggles, currents, aerodynamic helmets or expensive bikes.  It was me and my Vibram's for the next 21.1km and that was it.  I slipped on one foot at a time and surprisingly it went on with relevant ease.  I made a quick adjustment for my toes before putting on the second shoe.  I grabbed my hat and my gels and my homemade gel bottle before heading out to the run exit.  Only problem was, I had no idea where it was.  I asked a volunteer in transition who told me where to go and I was away.  Initially the legs felt very tight which was matching my back but as I ran out of transition and around 200 metres down the road, everything loosened up.  I always go for a run after a ride, even though it may only be for 1km just to get my body prepared for a run after a bike leg.  This preparation had paid off as I was feeling good and the run had not even started.  As I started the run I ran past my mum and partner and waved.  At the end of the street was a turn to the right and the first drink station for the run.  I did not feel like anything at this stage and continued on but saw my wife and son which gave me a boost.  I waved to them as I continued on.  Once I had rounded the bend it was as straight run parallel to the beach for around 4km. It was hot, the road was scorching and I was tired but I was in a good rhythm already and feeling good.

My feet felt like they did on any other run in the Vibram's, absolutely fantastic!  I was beginning to pass people.  Something I never felt that I would be doing on a run.  Once on the straight road, I was starting to see the faces of people who where ahead of me that had already hit the turnaround further down the road and were heading back along the road to finish their first lap.  There were faces of pain on most of them, nobody seemed to be enjoying the run however I felt different to that.  I was enjoying the run so much so that I picked up the pace.  It was good seeing the other people coming back at you as you finally got a chance to see if there was anyone that you knew that you could give some encouragement too.  I could not see anyone I knew but in terms of encouragement I was getting plenty from the crowds lining the streets.  You have your name underneath your race number so that people know your name and to hear random strangers yelling "Go Nathan" is a little weird but encouraging nonetheless.  As I was running I saw a mates wife and daughter sitting on the road and said hello to them as I walked past.  They cheered me on and I think I said something like it hurts.

I came over a slight rise and could see a flag in the distance.  Based on my time I knew that it would be the turnaround point for the run before I doubled back on the same course.  I was still feeling comfortable, still passing people and still feeling good.  I decided to have one of my GU gels as I knew I would be coming up to an aid station to wash it down.  I came to the aid station and grabbed two cups of water.  I had a sip from one and poured the other over my head.  At the end of the aid station was a cup of coke which I drank/spilt as I kept running.  I was running to the turnaround flag now and rounded it before beginning my run back the way I had just come.  I again came to the same aid station that I had just been too and this time grabbed a Leppin drink as well as a cup of water that I poured over my head.  I began my run back knowing I had around 4km of straight road followed by a run around Mount Maunganui which would be around 3km and then I would be doing it all again for the second lap.

I could not believe how good I was feeling on the run.  My feet were not hurting, my legs were feeling good and my rhythm was good.  The other day I went for a run and got into a circular motion with my arms which maintained a good pace.  I focussed on this circular motion with my arms and again my pace picked up.  I came up to the spot where Olivier's wife and daughter were sitting and they cheered me on as I carried on up the road.  I was now starting to see people suffer.  Some people where already on their second lap and some people were less than 4km into their run.  There was all types of faces coming my way.  I continued to overtake people and again was feeling good.  I came to another aid station and took 2 cups of water, a sip from one and then poured both over my head whilst I grabbed a flat coke cup and tried to drink the contents as I continued to run.  I was now beginning to feel the heat and would use the aid stations to ensure that I was constantly pouring water over my head and drinking a sip of coke or Leppin as well.  I was now going to be running around the Mount and had no idea what I was in for.

There is an undulating dirt track that goes around the whole of Mount Maunganui and that was the course.  I was still feeling really good especially running on the flats and up the slight incline sections of the track.  I was not as comfortable running down the hills though.  This is something I have noticed several times when running down hill in Vibram's.  If there is one place that you will be slow when running with them on, it will be the down hill's.  I would catch people on the flat or up hills but they would catch up to me on the downhill.  Even so, I was pulling away from people and continuing my journey to the end of the first lap.  The track seemed to go on for ages. Every time you went around a bend you were hoping that you were on the other side but it kept on going on for what seemed forever. Eventually I came around and could see the cruise ship that was parked near the start/finish line and new I was close to the turnaround point.  I continued up a slope before coming down to the main road and running the straight to the turnaround point.  I say my wife and son and mum and her partner and gave them a wave as I continued down the straight.  Mixed emotion hit me though as there was the finish line and I was being ushered to it, I had to tell them that I needed to do a second lap and I was sent around the witches hats and back onto the course.  Again I got to see my family and continued up the road to the drink aid station.

Again I grabbed two cups of water and took a sip and poured them over my head.  I grabbed a cup of coke, took a big sip and continued on.  I continued on down the straight road again constantly seeing people on their last lap and the desperation in their faces, I hoped that I didn't look like that.  My right foot was starting to hurt a little just underneath my little toe but nothing major.  I came up to the point where Olivier's wife and daughter were and they cheered me on.  I said to them "it hurts" as I ran past.  It was starting to hurt a little now.  The legs were feeling really good but the feet was hurting and the energy levels were starting to go.  I could see the turnaround flag now and knew I had 7km to go and the race was over.  I turned around and starting running back to Mount Maunganui for the last time.  As I was about 2km from the turnaround I saw Olivier running towards me.  We saw each other for the first time in the race, said hello and gave each other a high five.  I was now coming up to the point of where his family was and for the last time they cheered me on as I went past them.  I opened a GU and finished it.  I knew I had one aid station to go before rounding the Mount and would take a sip of water to wash the GU down.  I hit the aid station and a runner was next to me, we both went for the water and missed.  There was no time to stop and turnaround so I kept on running with a throat full of GU.  'Who cares', I said to myself.   I have 3km to go and I am sure that I can do that without a drink.  My arms were pumping now.  My body was screaming for me to slow down but I just concentrated on the arm rotation and the legs followed.

My right foot was now quite sore almost a type of cramp rather than a blister or rubbing.  It hurt mostly on the downhills and I was just about to go through the undulating part of the course.  I started on the dirt track and my lap of Mount Maunganui.  Again the track seemed to go on forever.  Eventually the most amazing sight appeared.  The cruise ship that was parked near the finish line, I could see it.  I only had maybe 1km to go.  The start finish straight appeared, the road to the finish straight appeared and eventually the hill that led down to the road that led to the finish straight appeared.  There was one last aid station here which I ran past.  My arms were flying now.  I saw my mum and partner and waved to them as they cheered me on and then I saw the finish.  As I ran towards the finishing shute I made sure to enjoy the ambiance.  I was not going to win my age group, far from it, and was not breaking any records so why sprint.  I have often been told to enjoy the atmosphere as you run towards the finish line and I made sure I did.  I was still running at a good pace but acknowledging the crowd that was screaming my name.  I ran towards the line and saw my wife and son as they yelled "Go Daddy".  I crossed the line, my arms raised and it was over.  I had completed the run in 1 hour 54 minutes 50 seconds.  Total time for the race was 5 hours 25 minutes.  I had achieved my goal of 5 hours 30 minutes and completed my first Half Ironman in a pair of Vibram's.

05.01.13 Tauranga Half Ironman Bike Leg

I mount the bike and start my bike leg.  As I am switching up the gears, I make sure to avoid people who have attached their shoes to their bikes and are trying to put their feet in whilst riding along.  As mentioned, I put my bike shoes on in transition.  The pro's and lots of other people put them on as they are riding.  I am just not used to it and would rather do it the safe and reliable way rather than a way that I have not trained for.  I start peddling along and to my pleasure the speedometer is working on the bike.  I am sitting on around 30km/hour and I have not even entered the main part of the course.  As I round the course and begin the long straight ride to the end of Papamoa beach, I am aware of a breeze blowing into my face.  It does not seem to be to much of an issue and my speed is okay sitting at around 30-33km/h. I know that the first bottle exchange is at the main turnaround at Papamoa beach and is 20km away before heading inland and then returning along much of the same course creating a 45km loop.  I am feeling quite good and now start preparing myself for around 3 hours of cycling.

I had a basic nutritional plan laid out for myself and again in hindsight will make sure that this is better laid out for future races.  I had ensured that I had enough food for the race just not worked out when I was going to have it.  There is one thing I know for sure and that is that I need to eat enough solids on the bike as I will not be wanting them on the run.  I need to make sure that I eat even when I don't want to which will hopefully stop me from hitting the wall later in the race.  I decide that at the 15km mark, once I am settled into the bike, I will have a slice of my homemade bar.  I will wash it down with my Gatorade however I will not finish the bottle in time for the 20km bottle drop so there is no point in sculling it to do so as I will potentially over hydrate and make myself sick.  At that turnaround point I know there will be Leppin gels so I will take one and then settle down until the 30km mark when I will again have more bar, drink and potentially one of my own gels.  I will then keep hydrating until the 66km mark exchange a bottle at the bottle exchange and then finish a third piece of bar as well as another Leppin gel with the focus on taking one of my own GU gels 10km out to give me a shot of energy before the run.

I am surprised to see that in no time at all I am at the 20km turnaround and bottle exchange.  I have had less than half of my gatorade in my first bottle and there is nothing to exchange.  I grab a Leppin gel from a volunteer, tear it open and suck it down.  I follow that with a good sip of Gatorade and then do a sharp turn left before heading further out to Papamoa Beach on another road.  I turn at a roundabout before heading to the final turnaround before heading back to the Start/Finish line to complete lap 1.  As I am riding along I see a guy laying on the pavement surrounded by people with a bloodied nose and looking a little worse for wear.  I don't see his bike and am unsure if he is even dressed like a competitor but he has certainly either fallen over or been hit by something.  It is not the only misfortune that I have seen on the ride.  Just as I was starting the bike leg there was a competitor changing his tyre, it had either been flat from the start of the race or he had punctured in the first 100 metres.  Several other people had punctured in the first 30km also.  Maybe the good karma of me helping that guy with his wetsuit was starting to pay off.  As soon as I started heading back to Mount Maunganui, I could feel the tail wind.  I looked down to see my speedo showing me sitting on 41km/h.  I was feeling great at this stage and having this tail wind push me along was only making it better.  Based on my out lap as well as what I was sitting on now, there was a chance that I could do a 2 hour 30 or 2 hour 40 ride.  That would put me well under my 5 hour 30 minute goal as long as the run held up okay.  I was flying along, careful not to find myself stuck in behind someone and found to be drafting.  There are strict drafting rules in triathlon and I was ensuring that I was adhering to them.  Even with no drafting, I was still getting up to speeds of 43km/h.

Eventually after 45km I was back in town.  It is a good feeling when you start heading back into town and the crowds are cheering you on even though they have no idea who you are.  I came around a long sweeping corner and into a long straight that had the main turnaround.  Along the straight I saw my mum and her partner and waved hello to them as I hit the turnaround and began my second lap of the course.  Almost as soon as I turned around I could feel the headwind hitting me.  It seemed to be a lot stronger than before or was that just my legs now aching.  No, it was definitely the headwind.  My speed was just scraping over 25km/hour and it was hurting.  How the hell was I going to do this for another 45km.  I checked my average speed and saw that it was around the 33km mark for the first 45km.  I knew this meant that I was sitting on around a 2 hour 40 minute ride and needed to make sure that my average speed in the second half did not drop too low otherwise it would be a 3 hour ride.  I knew that at the bottle drop turnaround at around the 66km mark that I would head back along the course for a little bit of relief before again heading into the headwind so it would not be until around the 75km mark that I would be cycling with a direct tailwind.  I basically had 30km of cycling into a headwind, I was going to have to deal with it and I was going to have to maintain a reasonable average speed.

I hit around the 55km mark and I was in agony.  My lower back was killing me and I was over the headwind.  Nothing I did seemed to relieve the pressure and pain out of my back.  I was stretching probably every 5km by standing upright on my peddles trying to loosen my back but the relief was only for a short time and nothing would relieve the pain.  I did want to put some Voltaren gel on my lower back prior to the race as I had a feeling this would be an issue and I had forgotten.  A mental note was made for the next one that Voltaren gel is heavily applied.  Even though I was struggling on this leg of the ride I managed to shove down my throat another piece of my homemade bar.  No matter what I had to eat and there was no way I wanted to go into the run hungry.

I have mentioned in a couple of blogs that I am glad I trained in windy Wellington because I had no idea what the weather was going to be like on race day.  Well, the wind training had paid off because although it was bad it was not the worst headwind I had ever ridden in.  I must admit that at around this time I was thinking to myself that I was not going to finish this ride, I was in too much pain.  I was now counting down kilometres.  6 kilometres to go until the bottle drop...5 kilometres to go...4 kilometres to go.  Finally I could see the bottle drop area.  I drank the last of my Gatorade, threw my empty pump bottle somewhere near the bottle drop bin and came around the turnaround.  I quickly grabbed a Leppin drink bottle and grabbed a Leppin gel as I knew I needed to replace a lot of energy that I had just used up.  Into a sweeping left hander before another left hander and then back into the headwind heading to the back of the course.  I could now see the right hand turn down to a roundabout that took you along a straight and then there would be one more hard turn right at a roundabout into a straight with a final turnaround before heading back home.  I again had a tailwind and was heading home.  Speeds were now sitting at around 39-40km/hour.  My back was still killing me but at least I was going fast.

With 20km to go I thought back to the days when I used to do the Gatorade sprint series in Melbourne.  The distances were usually a 500m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.  I thought back to those 20km rides and how it used to take me around 30-36 minutes depending on conditions.  I came back to reality and realised that I had around 30 minutes of pain left in this bike leg, my back was hurting but I was going to finish it.  I shoved the last bit of bar in my face and looked down to see 10km to go.  I began my preparations for the run.  Firstly I downed one of my highly concentrated GU gels to give me instant energy in the last 10km and set me up for a good start to the run.  Next I drank around 300mls of my Gatorade.  I wanted it to digest before going on the run so might as well have it now.  I had 8km to go, I could see Mount Maunganui and I was nearly home.  5km to go and I had another stretch of my back.  As I went around a sweeping left hand turn I fully stretched my legs and quads nearly cramping in my right leg.  2km to go and I was starting to see the crowds and saw my wife and son and waved to them as they yelled, "Go Frosty and Go Daddy".  I had one more sip of my Gatorade and then with 1km to go I started to undo my bike shoes and put my foot on top of the shoes ready to dismount the bike. With 400m to go I saw my mum and partner and gave them a wave before hitting the bike dismount area and jumping off my bike.  I pushed it into transition and put it on the racks.  My Ironman race was 21.1km and 2 hours from finishing and my dream of doing it in Vibram's was just starting. The bike was finished in 2 hours 50 and 30 seconds with transition taking 2 minutes and 6 seconds.

05.01.13 Tauranga Half Ironman Swim

I am standing in the shallow water with the rest of the age group athletes pondering how I am going to complete this swim course.  I am quite nervous about it as I have panicked in the past during the swim.  There is nothing worse than people clambering over the top of you in deep water, your heart racing already as you are sprinting for position and you trying to suck in air as you feel like you are about to drown.  As I am standing there waiting to start swimming to the start line I see a guy standing in front of me with his wetsuit unzipped.  I go up to him and tap him on his shoulder and tell him that he is unzipped, would he like me to zip him up.  He feels his back, realises he is undone and I zip him up with a thank you.  A good deed done by myself that will hopefully be returned in some way later in the day.  We swim towards the swim start and as we are treading water all I hear is 30 seconds to go. Right, where is that first buoy.  20 seconds to go.  My goggles don't feel right as I adjust them.  10 seconds to go.  Here we go.  The hooter sounds and we are off.  It is a mad rush of arms, feet, legs, heads and whitewater.  I am heading to the first buoy and I have lost it already.  I have no idea where it is and am now following the athletes in front of me and the whitewater.  It is around 300m to the first buoy and before I know it I am around 3/4 of the way there when I start to see that I am heading towards an anchored boat.  I am trying to swim to the left of the boat and the anchor but I quickly realise there is a huge current that is pulling me towards the right and completely off course.  I brush past the anchor rope, see the buoy and a landmark, line them up and make a concerted effort to swim to the left of where I want to go.  It feels like I am swimming sideways but eventually I make it to the buoy before turning and heading back towards the beach for the next buoy.  I am swimming across the current now so it is a little easier and before I know it I am at the second buoy.  The third buoy is completely parallel to the beach and back at the start finish line before you have to head out of the water, run around a barrier and head back into the water.  Due to me being parallel to the beach, I find it easier to stay straight although I am now swimming against the current.  As I am so close to the shore,  it is not as bad and before I know it I am at the 3rd buoy.

It is a quick swim directly into the beach with some dolphin diving before I am standing and running up the beach and around the barrier before heading back into the water.  The fourth buoy is easy to spot and close to shore and I have already lined up the 5th buoy with a landmark behind it and am now conscious of the current.  As soon as I hit the 4th buoy the current hits me again and again I feel like I am swimming sideways.  The 5th buoy is 500m away and will take me around 8 minutes to get too although time disappears during the swim and you have no idea how you are going as you don't have time to stop and check it out.  I am staying on course and feel that I am around 250m away when my goggle around my left eye starts to leak in sea water.  I forget about it and keep swimming but another 50m goes by and it is filling up to the point where it is becoming an annoyance.  I quickly stop swimming, turn on my back and face the oncoming athletes as I adjust my goggles.  Something I have practiced many times when we have performed this exercise in the pool.  I start swimming again and around 20 metres later, the water again starts to seep in.  Again I turn on my back adjust my goggles, move my swim cap in case that is the cause and continue to swim.  The water leaks in again and I make the decision that something is wrong and no amount of adjusting is going to fix it so I am going to have to put up with it.

I can now see the 5th buoy but it is to the left of me.  Not where I want it to be when the current is dragging me to the right.  I quickly readjust and head for the buoy but the pull of the current is incredible.  I am literally 1 metre away from it and cannot get around it as I am getting pulled in the other direction as well as trying to avoid athletes who are heading directly for the buoy.  I kick with all my might and somehow get around and then am sling shotted around the other side.  I must admit at one point I did not think that I would make it around and that I may have to miss the buoy but there was no way I was going to get disqualified for that so I am glad I made it around.  Once I have hit that 5th buoy I begin my lineup for the 6th buoy however the only problem is that the sun is rising over the top of it and it is impossible to see.  My swim coach has always talked about the importance of knowing the course so that you can line up buoys in your mind rather than relying on being able to see them in the race and I wish that I had taken his advice.  As far as I am concerned I am swimming blind for the next 250m somewhere towards the beach.  I pick up tree on the shore line and line myself up with it.  If I can't see the buoy, at least I will be swimming straight.  I can see the whitewater of other swimmers and they are about 20 metres away from me.  I am a little pissed off as I know that I have lost time in this section of the swim.  Eventually I see the buoy and get around it before heading parallel along the beach to the final buoy.  Again I stay close to the beach as the current will not be as strong and swim the final 500m to the 6th buoy.

The legs are kicking hard now and I am sprinting, pushing my cadence of my arms as I know they will not be needed for the rest of the day. I round the 6th buoy, swimming a little before standing up and running up the beach out of the water.  I hear the cheers from my wife and mum "Go Frosty", they say as I run up some wooden stairs into the transition area.  As I am running I pull down the zip of my wetsuit, pull my arms out and have it hanging down halfway down my body.  As I take out my earplugs, I try to stuff them inside my swim cap and with my goggles.  I find out later that I missed my cap and they are now in a rubbish bin somewhere in Tauranga.  I round the start of transition and head towards my bike.  I have already unzipped my wetsuit most of the way, now it is a question of pulling it off my legs.  I pull my left leg partially out first and then my right.  My right will not come out and it is due to the timing band that is strapped to my right leg that is restricting the wetsuit from 'slipping' off.  I pull my right foot out and nearly cramp in my right quad before easily pulling out my left leg from the suit.  I quickly put on my bike shoes, put on my race belt, fill my back pockets up with gels and my chia gel mix and then put on my helmet.  I have brought my bike gloves with me and put them on also. These take a bit of time as my hands are wet and in hindsight I should not have worn them and probably won't wear them again for future races.  I quickly put on my helmet, take my bike of the rack and run past the mounting area before beginning my bike ride.  The swim has taken me 35 minutes and 39 seconds, transition has taken 2 minutes and 32 seconds and I am on the bike.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

05.01.13 Tauranga Half Ironman Pre Race

First order of business is to go into transition and check the condition of your bike before you do anything.  The last time I saw my bike was around 3pm the day before and with the heat of the day plus bad luck, anything could have happened.  In fact during the race briefing the night prior it was announced that one bike tyre had already blown up and would need to be changed.  Thank God all was well with my bike.  A quick pump of the tyre's to bring them up to pressure and then I started adding the relevant bits and pieces needed for the race.  First to go on was the speedometer that had been purchased a couple of days prior.  My polar watch has basically given up over the last month and there was no way that I wanted to be in the race and not knowing how fast I would be going.  I had my cadence sensor still working but that was about all that was left.  It meant that I would have to watch my cadence on my polar watch and my speed on my speedometer but it was better than nothing.  I also packed my 'Bento Box' which is a bag that straps to your top tube on your frame and allows you to easily pull out food and gels whilst in the aero position without having to reach behind you and pull them out of your pockets on your top.  Victoria had made a homemade recipe bar that included every possible nut as well as chocolate chips, cranberry and chia seeds.

I laid down my towel as well as the gear that would be required in the order that I would require it.  I would be coming out of the swim and would need to stand on the towel before drying my feet so that I could put on my bike shoes.  Underneath my bike shoes was my race belt with my racing number.  Underneath my shoes in case it blew away in the wind that was blowing.  No race number, no race so I did not want to lose that.  Also underneath my shoes were some gels that I did not want to carry into the swim and my own personal gel made up of chia seeds, lime juice cordial and water.  Above that was my Vibram's and underneath them was my hat, more gels and another small water bottle holding my homemade gel.  I then put my drink bottles on my bike made up of a strong mix of gatorade.  I had to go to a dairy the night before and buy two pump bottles.  The race had a bottle exchange which meant that if you were carrying a bottle and had drunk the contents, when you hit the bottle exchange which was located at the 22km mark and the 66km mark, you could hand over your drink bottle and get a new one in return filled with a Leppin solution.  If you have a nice drink bottle the last thing you want to do is hand that over, so a $3 Pump bottle in exchange for a brand new re-usable one sounded like a good deal.  Once I was happy with my set up and I had checked, re-checked and checked again; I made my way out of transition.

The time was coming up to 5:50am and it was getting close to me needing to start getting into my wetsuit.  The funny thing about Ironman wetsuits is that it takes you around 5 minutes to put on and around 10 seconds to take off.  I met up with Victoria and my mum had a chat to them before deciding I needed to go to the loo one last time.  The only toilets were in transition and as per usual at most triathlon's there was a reasonable line for them.  After finally making it to the start of the queue and utilising the rest room facilities, I headed back out to see my mum and wife.  It was now around 6:10am and it was time to get suited up.  As previously mentioned the wetsuit takes around 5 minutes to put on.  The reason it takes so long is that it is a very snug fit.  Due to it being such a snug fit, you have to slide it on and pull it into position on your body without putting your fingers through it and putting a big rip in it.  I have seen people put on wetsuits using all different methods including hair conditioner, vaseline and nothing at all.  The best and most efficient way and the way I use is a simple plastic bag.  You put the bag over your foot and slide your foot through one leg and pull the wetsuit into position.  You then pull the bag out and repeat for the other leg and both arms.  Once this is done, you carefully pull the suit into position over the shoulders and then get a mate to zip you up.  Before zipping up though, I always cover my neck in vaseline.  I seem to get friction between my neck and the neck of my wetsuit which ends up with a sore on your neck that stings and looks like a hickey.  Vaseline stops this from happening and is probably the most important thing not to forget besides the chaffing cream.  Once my neck was smothered, it was time to zip up the wetsuit, give a final kiss to my mum and wife and put on the goggles and the swim cap and head into the water.  That first dip in the water is always a shock however the water was not too bad and before I knew it, water had entered my wetsuit and I began my warm up swim.  The conditions seemed okay for the swim.  The water was not too cold, the water was not choppy however I did notice that the buoys were located in and around moored boats.  Not only would you have to be looking for the buoy but you would also have to ensure you were looking that you would not swim directly into the path of a moored boat.  Before I knew it, it was time for me to head to the start line and watch the elite athletes begin their race knowing I had only 2 more minutes before I started my journey into the unknown.

05.01.13 Race Day

I remember reading somewhere in a Triathlon magazine that you need to make sure that you have a good nights sleep two nights before a race because no matter what, you will not have a good sleep the night before a race.  That certainly rang true for the sleep that I had prior to the race.  It didn't help that Lachlan also must have been nervous because he was waking up nearly every hour and despite me having my ear plugs in, it didn't help.  Before I knew it I was getting the tap on the shoulder that my 4:00am alarm was going off and it was time to get up.  I pressed the snooze button and slowly woke myself up before getting up at 4:10am and starting my preparations.  First things first, the sunscreen was applied.  There would be no other opportunity to put it on so it has to be put on now, making sure that all areas that are covered as after the swim I knew there was a chance that would be out in the sun for up to 5 hours.  Next was the chaffing cream.  Again, not many chances to apply this once you are out on the course...

I headed out to the lounge room for a big bowl of porridge and a slice of fruit bread before pulling on the racing suit, and a layer of clothes.  Before I knew it, it was 4:50am and it was time to get my pre-packed bags and jump in the car.  We made it to the course at around 5:10am and my final preparations for the race began.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

04.01.13 Blast from the past

10 hours to go

Well I managed to get some internet access so thought it relevant to post my last blog before I am in the water at 6:32 tomorrow morning with the rest of the other age group male athletes.  Today was meant to be a relaxing day but how can you relax when you are getting ready for the biggest race of your life.  The last minute things are being put into order including mixing your Gatorade in your bottles and ensuring you are well prepared with your nutrition plan.

So today started with me knowing that I had to take my bike down to registration and put it into transition.  Transition was open from 1pm to 5pm with a compulsory race briefing at 5:15pm.  The aim was to put the bike in transition earlier in the day and then chill for the afternoon before walking from the apartment to the the race briefing ready for 5:15pm.  At around 2:30pm I put the bike on the car and thanks to the parking fairies I was able to secure a park close to registration.  I registered, got my timing band checked and then put my inexpensive bike into transition next to some very expensive bikes.  The bike position was a good one, right next to the swim exit so easy to find and easy to remember where to run to.  I was tattooed with my race numbers before jumping back into the car and heading back to the apartment for that relaxing afternoon.

At about 3:30 whilst I was getting my gear ready for the race I had this dreaded thought that I had forgotten my race number belt.  A small thing but any little item that is left at this stage could be a major drama.  I could just pin the race number on me but the fact of the matter is, I didn't want to.  I have pinned them on in the past and you can quickly pull your wetsuit off, with your race number leaving 4 big holes in whatever it is pinned to.  I have a brand new racing suit that I was not too keen on doing this too so decided to do a bolt to the shops to find one.  After a quick google search I found a shoe shop in Tauranga which may be able to assist.  I jumped in the car and made it to the shop and found exactly what I was looking for, at the bargain price of $12.  $12 to save a $280 tri suit...priceless!!!

It was back to the apartment before heading off to the race briefing and getting there with 5 minutes to spare.  As we found our spots on the grass, I saw a group of guys chatting in front of me.  One of them was my mate Cameron whom I swim with.  I had a quick chat with him regarding the course and the weather forecast, saw his expensive helmet and sat back down with the family.  Whilst sitting there I was watching Lachlan playing with a strangers feet before looking up and seeing my old Triathlon Coach from Melbourne, Oscar Carlson.  Oscar was an awesome coach and the only reason I left him was to head over to Auckland with work.  It was amazing to see him.  This guy is over 70, doing a Half Ironman tomorrow and has a pacemaker!!  We have a brief catch up and he introduced me to his crew that he had brought over to compete.  It was weird to see him again but awesome to see him.  I hope to see him on the course sometime tomorrow as I will certainly be cheering him home.  Not long after that my mate Olivier came and sat down and we listened to all the ways that you could potentially be disqualified tomorrow.  I listened intently and then it was time to walk back home.

Once home it was straight into the final pack.  Pulling everything out of the bag at least 3 times visualising the transition and making sure that I do not forget anything for tomorrow morning.  You have to be careful as you have to pack for what you are going to take into transition including a pump to pump your tyres, your running shoes etc and you also have to pack for what you need for the swim including goggles, swim cap etc and then you have to pack what you will wear to the race and after the race as transition will not be open until later in the day.  The last thing you want is to forget to bring a second pair of shoes (especially on cold races) so that you have to leave your shoes in transition and then walk around in bare feet until the race has finished.  Anyway it as all packed now.  A large home-made spag bol dinner was had, plenty of fluids and now it is time for bed.  Tomorrow think of me at around 12pm. If all goes according to plan I will hopefully at the latest be crossing the finish line at this time.  Will give you an update later on but it is now time to see how these Vibram's go in their first Half Ironman.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

02.01.13 Gone Fishing!

3 days to go

Today was another relaxing day chilling and enjoying the break and lead up to the race.  This morning the weather gods were shining on us, the wind was down and we decided that it would be a nice day for a fish.  We grabbed the boat and headed out into the South Pacific Ocean for a couple of hours to see what was biting.  Lots of nibbles and the only legal catch of the day of a 29 cm snapper going to myself.

On return it was a relaxing day by the pool followed by the dreaded pack for the race.  It hit me tonight that the race really is happening in 3 days time.  I laid out all of my gear tonight similar to how I have done in the past for adventure races.  It was weird sitting there visualising myself completing each leg and packing what was required.  Would it be so cold that I would require an extra swim cap? Would I need socks for the bike leg? Would I need spare runners jut in case something happened to my Vibram's?  After a while the bag was packed and I am now officially beginning my journey to Tauranga tomorrow morning.  I am unsure of the Internet access when I get there so may be out of action but stay tuned for a full race debrief and Facebook updates until then.

See you on the other side of a barefoot Half Ironman...