Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blood, sweat and.... blisters

Everyone knows we're softies at heart (we're not ironmen and women yet!). So it must follow that our bodies need a bit of toughening up. 

Well we're working on the latter, but you'll see from these pics that the former's still true.
This is the bit where we chronicle the things that happen to our bodies. Well, the things that we can show on the internet. Trust us, you don't want to see what happens after a long run or day on the bike!

Simi's mid-swim complaints of "My wetsuit's rubbing on my neck" were rewarded with a take-home prize. Ewwww!
Simi's toe pointing out the chipped fingernail.
Bluebottle? Jellyfish? Giant Squid? Great White?
Who knows - they're all our friends in the open water swims!

We got quite used to soft sand running along Bondi Beach, so I didn't realise that Manly's sand wouldn't be so kind. Blisters on every toe.

I hate you Manly!
Random toe kicking up a fuss.

This is really stupid. Yes it's triathlon related but only just. We had just finished the Port Macquarie Half Ironman (Oct 2010) so we were stuffed. We walked our bikes and gear back to the apartment and somehow I stubbed my toe on the bike tyre. Then.... when packing the bike into its box I dropped the box onto my toe. Then..... checking in at the airport I happened to drag the whole kit across my toe.
Long run. Easy fixed. (Feet up).
Outta here!

The big question:

What does a pygmy whale have to do with a triathlon?

Not much, I hear you ponder. Imagine a cold, windy and bleak day at the beach (Brighton). You want for nothing else except to curl up in bed with a good book - only your training schedule reminds you that you need to do an ocean swim. Bugger.

You put your wetsuit on ( we need to train with it because it's compulsory at NZ) and wander to the beach, scanning the surf to try and find a reason not to go in. Then we spotted a crowd by the water. Wandering over, we find that a pygmy whale was being rescued after washing itself up to shore. The rescuers looked at us with pleading eyes, we being the only ones suitably attired for the chilly conditions (apart from the whale, sorry Moby).

We jumped in and relieved the crew. Then when the zoo vet came they decided poor Moby had had enough of thrashing himself against the rocks so we lifted him into the van where I had to hold his tail down while they tried in vain to find a vein to euthanase him. In the syringe went, until Moby thought he'd had enough of that too so he thrashed about and I ended up with the same syringe in my finger. The vet said "oh, you'll need some antibiotics for Seal Finger."

We didn't wait for an explanation - nothing more could surprise us that morning.

"Seal Finger" from Moby the Pygmy whale

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fuel for the body; delight for the soul

You gotta eat, right? Right!!!

In your day-to-day life the average person burns about 1,200-1,600 calories. During an Ironman race the average competitor burns about 10,000 calories, and up to about the same amount during training sessions each week leading up to the event. 

So we gotta eat!!! This is honestly one of the best things about doing this. Eating with impunity. Load on the carbs, bring on the protein - or in other words, gimme lots of pasta, heaps of fish and steak and chips and pizza (ok, maybe not recommended by the best in the game, but try stop us!). For some reason we crave vanilla milkshakes post workout too... but I digress.

Food - or 'fuel', or 'nutrition' - is something that we kind of have to plan carefully. Not because we're being nerdy about it - but because we need LOTS of it, as you'll see. 

Simi taking delivery of a box full of Powerbar gel shots - little jubey things with stacks of carbs that you chew on during long rides. Otherwise we'd probably fall off our bikes after 6 hours.

Powdered sports drink (2kg bags). This is what we'll be supplied with on course during the event (thankfully already mixed!) so we're getting used to it now. Don't worry, this will only last a few weeks!

Carbs for a 7hr ride. Getting very much over flavours like "apple burst" and "verlicious vanilla".

We filled these bottles for both of us for the 7hr ride, but each of us drank the equivalent of more than what's here on the table (8-9lts).

Another delivery. All the goodies for our cycle...

Ok, so this isn't really compulsory fuel, but if you know me you'll know that coffee is absolutely essentially part of my day - no, my life! This is THE best coffee in South Australia, from Cibo's. I steal some time here on Saturday morning's with the paper when Simi's doing her rounds at the hospital just around the corner.

Protein! Absolutely necessary for muscle recovery, post-workout. They reckon you should consume food in as close to its natural state as possible.... not kidding!

Wedges, salt & pepper squid, and vanilla milkshake after the Canberra Half Ironman in December. It was about 3pm and I'm sure we were fast asleep about 30mins after this photo was taken.

Pasta so good you it doubles as lipstick....

But a meal is most definitely not a meal (especially pasta) without fat-cut sourdough bread with fat-spreaded butter. Layer upon layer of the stuff.

Doing the packed lunch - for the week. This thing has turned us into time-chasing creatures. Set a record last week....

This could almost go caption-less. A meal at Bill and Toni's on Stanley St is absolute bliss: freebie bread (and butter) and cordial. Bottomless. And when you add this to Sydney's most bellissimo lasagna.... Mmmmmm!

Ok, definitely digressing but can't go past the sausage sandwich at the weekly Sunday Bondi markets.

Our mates in the pantry. We don't discriminate.

Carb loading before my first Half Ironman, at Yepoon, QLD in Aug. Yum!

Simi loading up the on-board sambo's for the next day's race. That's a mountain of carbs right there.

If you ever get to Adelaide, and have your bike with you, head straight for MacLaren Vale near the hills. Stop off at the idyllically located Info centre in the middle of the vineyards and take your caffeine, carbs and protein amongst the vines before moving on - or turning back.

Need I say more. Supporting the local beef industry.

Hmmm, not sure about this one. Budget healthy eating a.k.a. when you're in the mood for nothing special???

Ahhhh! Something special! Even if it's travelled across the globe to get here. We're offsetting the carbon by cycling..... does that count?

This is here as a warning. Don't ever order the laksa from Sydney airport unless you forgot your veggie oil and need to buy in bulk. If you need any other SYD or ADL do's or don't's, just ask us because we're in the know!

Ok so this one's marginal. Not really necessary for the pro athlete, BUT we WERE in training for the half marathon and we felt it WAS necessary to perform our civic duty and find Australia's best meat pie. We're still on the case.....

Hmmm, how does this fit in.....
How can it NOT fit in!!!
This is Gusto's, Bondi's heartbeat and the best coffee and veggie brekky roll in town, best served take-away even if you have it there. Also best if you're dripping saltwater from the sea onto your toasted banana bread.....

The last word!

25km run before brekky, before work

Ok so our training schedule is hotting up, and in addition to our long rides that fill up most of our weekends the 'long run' is starting to fight for space - both in our day and in our heads.

The long run is feared by a lot of triathletes. On the bike you can steal a rest here and there as you shoot down the other side of a hill, or cool off in the breeze (if you're lucky) as you sail through the ks at higher speeds, or enjoy a social chit chat as you ride in a club group then chew the fat over a latte at a nearby cafe. But the run is more static: your pace doesn't change as much (ie boring for some); you don't move so fast; and quite often it's lonelier because you slot it in around work, regular club riding sessions and other fun things like cleaning the house or whatever floats your boat when it comes to procrastinating!

The run is also the last portion of the race itself (if you don't include pigging out after crossing the finish line!) and I guess there's an element of fear: you know you're going to be hurting by this stage, and if you carry that fear over into your training then you'll fear the run sessions as well. Training's all about eliminating any barrier to getting your butt over that finish line and enjoying it as much as possible.

What's a long run? On race day the marathon will take us at least 4hrs. While we wouldn't run a weekly marathon to train for this we need to teach our bodies to run for long periods of time and how to consume the nutrition that we pump down our throats via energy bars, gels, electrolyte fluids and the odd fly that we swallow.

Today I did my scheduled 2hr 15min run, getting up at 4:45am to be out the door by 5. It was beautiful. Quiet - except for the last of revellers heading home from a Bondi bar after last drinks, and the humming of garbage trucks as they moved up and down back streets. The sun wasn't up yet but it wasn't far away.

As I climbed Military Rd at the northern end of Bondi I tried not to focus on the fact I'd just completed 3min 17secs of the heady 135mins that were ahead of me. "I'm going to enjoy this" I told myself, and promised that I would believe thee words as well.

Running down into Watsons Bay (so steep it almost hurts to run down the hill) I saw a huuuge cruiseship negotiate the Heads and enter the Harbour, wondering whether the guests on board had been woken up to experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of coming into the world's most beautiful harbour, which I was now running around. Yep, I'm definitely lucky to be able to experience this - especially at a time (5:30am) when most people were still slumbering away.

Made my way up the loooong Hopetoun Ave to the top of the City to Surf's Heartbreak Hill, then descended down the Hill to turn around at the bottom and attack it on my way back home. Only 1hr to go.

By now the sun was up as I made my way up the steep hill by the Gap. What a privilege to see the start of a new day break over the sea's horizon. A couple of people out walking their dogs, I couldn't resit a chirpy "Hello" or "Good morning!" as I pounded past them, my singlet now completely soaked as sweat poured off me in sheets.

Coming down Military Road back into Bondi I knew the instant I saw the beach that I'd run straight for it and dive into the cool waves that were forming in evenly spaced sets, a nice volley of dark clouds building out at sea that formed a surreal backdrop to the hive of activity that was happening on the beachfront - with runners, dogwalkers, bootcampers and paddlers all getting their morning fix.

Usually I'd enter the morning water gingerly, but my tired muscles were craving the refreshing tonic that was a combination of chilly water and weightlessness. As I floated for a few minutes on my back as the waves slid underneath me, looking back towards the pavillion I couldn't help but think smugly to myself that I'd found the perfect way to start the day.

Weighing myself when I got back home I realised I'd just lost 2kg in fluids and was starting to feel peckish. Time for a reward (food!) then off to work.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Riding with Lance: Livestrong!

Being in Adelaide has its opportunities - despite what you may have heard (just kidding guys!).
The Tour Down Under has hit town, bringing with it all manner of teams, their colours and personalities.

I tell you what - with the 6 stages covering several hundreds of kilometers up and over the Adelaide Hills and surrounds - you need a big BIG personality to survive and win in this sport.

2011 route map

Just take a look at the elevation profile of these rides:
Click to enlarge
Anyway, even though the Tour didn't start til Sunday 16 Jan we were lucky enough on Friday 14th to hear that Lance Armstrong via Twitter had announced a group ride starting at Glenelg for the following morning - all in support of the Queensland floods. He kicked off the support by donating $50,000 and the idea was to mobilise a couple of thousand punters to join the ride in solidarity and also raise funds.

With Simi tied up with her hospital rounds we got our 50k morning cycle out of the way then I popped along to Glenelg to find the group. See if you can find Wally:


4,000 or so riders turned out and after a few words from Lance, we all set off - yes I was close enough to touch him:

Some of Lance's words that I caught on video:

And set off we did!! I had no idea of the route but whenever I stole sneaky peeks at my speedo we were doing a constant 43-45kmh and we weren't looking like turning around any time soon.

At one stage I was riding next to Stuart O'Grady and thought I was having an out-of-body experience, but it was short lived as I watched him dive off to the right, mount the kerb and fly (on his bike) along a footpath to catch up to Lance & Co at the front. Gone.

All in all we covered about 40km and by the time I got back I was exhausted, reduce to one syllable words if I could manage more than a grunt! The only disappointment was that I didn't see anyone collecting funds for the flood appeal, so hopefully everyone went home and did their bit.

No matter what you make of L.A, he is still able to inspire others and make you realise you can always aim higher.

More info of the ride:

"I'm only happy when it raaaaiiins"

"I'm only happy when it raaaiins". If you were walking along the drenched Bondi Beach this evening during the torrential downpour, you would've likely passed a guy drenched from head to toe - but whistling this tune and smiling with his eyes at the same time.

I'd rushed home with enough time to fit in a routine 1hr swim followed by 1hr run. Diving in, the water was a beautiful 22 deg. and I set out on my target of 3km, marking my times every 6th lap.

Although still a sunny afternoon, the Icebergs complex bathed the pool in a nice shadow. Eventually I made my way over to the outside lane (no other swimmers) which was right by the sea. Nice and windy, causing a bit of chop on the water (makes for a less boring swim!). As I turned each lap I noticed the dark storm front coming in from the sea. Contrasted beautifully with the way the houses across at Ben Buckler were all lit up in evening sun.

Before I knew it the rain was coming down in sheets - and that's because I didn't know it! Because it all looked the same underwater where I was spending most of my eye-time. Such a liberating feeling, to be out in the downpour but loving it - especially when I only had 300m left and I was feeling strong.

I clicked off the 3ks at 58:55, giving me the much needed confidence I'll be able to do race distance 3.8ks in under 2hrs. I sprang out of the pool, sauntered up to my running gear (now wet through and through from the rain), put it all on and walked out of the bergs.

I was whistling away, the warm ground under my bare feet barely cooled by the rain. But what I can't understand is this: why on earth did the tune pop into my head? It was absolutely fitting, but I'd not searched it out...
I was probably the only bloke walking along the near empty beach during the downpour, whistling and smiling away. What a joy. What a way to spend a wet evening.

Now I'll sleep like a pig.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The 'how?'

We can train for an ironman and still have all the time in the world to go out, chill on the beach, stay up late and sleep in. Life's a beach, really.


In order to prepare our bodies (and maybe our minds more so!) we have to put them through the paces each week. Here's a typical week for us:
  • Monday: swim 2-3k after work
  • Tuesday: morning cycle with the BRAT club (Brett) or interval training (Simi), evening run after work
  • Wednesday: long run before work
  • Thursday: morning cycle with the BRATs or cycle to/from work
  • Friday: day off!
  • Saturday: 2.5hr cycle then 30min run straight after
  • Sunday: looooooong cycle (4-7hrs) then 30min ocean swim in the afternoon.
In between - and afterwards - there's the mandatory pig out, as much sleep as possible and the usual stuff like work and a bit of play.

As crazy as it sounds, it's been a real thrill getting fit and seeing improvement - to the point where we can face the upcoming ironman challenge without sooo much trepidation.

We wouldn't have it any other way either. Having a training plan that builds up every week (Simi will write about her coach!) also gives us the confidence that if we stick to the plan we'll be ok on the day. Confidence is so important.

So if you're looking for us during the week, chances are we'll be swimming, cycling or running!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 'who?'

Who does this??!!! Is it for the super fit, the super-genetically gifted? Are you born into it?

Nope. Regular Joe Blows and Sheila Smiths sign up and make up the field.

Ok, so there are pro's in this sport and each event usually has a wave start or separate group dedicated to the pro's. They start first and because they're so fast you never run into them on the course - until they lap you on the cycle or run legs. But it's not uncommon for them to offer some words of encouragement when they do ("Keep going, love, you get the same medal as we do" said one pro to Simi's sis-in-law Kirsty when she cracked the Australian IM last year).

So there's no real 'type' of person that makes a triathlete. We've seen people of all shapes and sizes, ages (up to 75!) and the number of women per event is growing.

At the Port Macquarie half ironman in October 2010 I kept passing and being passed by another guy on the bike leg - so we were fairly evenly paced. After a while of this I turned to him as I pulled alongside (not for too long because the roaming technical officials on the back of motorbikes awrd 5-min stop & go penalties for drafting and passing offences) and said "hey mate, what's your name - I think we're going to get to know each other over the next hour and a half".

Cliff from Coffs Harbour - hope you're doing well if you're reading this.

The 'why?'

Why do an Ironman? Why commit up to 20 hours a week to training, every week, mostly before work and on weekends? Why put your social life on the backburner? Why spend all the money to get there?

Ask any triathlete and the LAST reason they'll give you is "to win". Winning is not a driver of this sport. Tony Abbott recently summed it up at the Port Macquarie Half Ironman in October 2010 by saying "I'm not here to win. I'm not even here to compete. I'm here to participate".

Top candidates include:
  • getting fit (simming, cycling and running will do that!)
  • achieving a goal ("to finish" or "to do it in 13 hours" etc)
  • getting to race day and being around other like-minded people (so supportive and friendly)
  • being able to eat like a pig!!
  • beating your own results, getting better and better (most triathletes have top of the range Garmin or Polar bike/training computers which are worn like a watch and collect data ranging from speed to heartrate, to calorie burn rate etc. It's very easy to become a data junkie!).
  • being fitter at 52 than when you were 25 (for some)
  • crossing the line after a day out on the course and hearing Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) announce your name followed by the words "You are an Ironman!".

Once you start on your path towards Ironman - or any event - it's easy to forget why, as it becomes part of your life and you can't imagine not doing it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The 'what?'

Ironman-distance triathlon is an endurance event consisting of a 3.8km swim....

followed directly by a 180km cycle ...

then a marathon run of 42km...

- in other words gut-busting and social life depleting!

Competitors are given up to 17hrs to complete the race (usually 0700 to midnight), with the winners crossing the line in under 9hrs - depending on the location and the terrain and conditions on the day.

At last count there are about 24 official Ironman distance events around the world, from Texas to China, South Africa to Brazil, and the legendary world championships at Kona in Hawaii. Known for its enduring conditions (hot, dry and windy through the lava fields of the Hawaiian island) the event attracts the top competitors from all over the world who gain entry only by winning top spots at the 24 other events - or by lottery and even 4 slots via eBay where the minimum bid is $10,000 and winning slots go for up to $40,000 with proceeds going to charity. (

Any given event will attract competitors and their supporters from all around the world to participate in an event that was said to originate to determine who was fitter: the swimmer, the cyclist or the runner.

As you'll see from our experience, it's as much a test of willpower, determination and even stubbornness as you set out to achieve a goal.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011