Race recap: Wellington Marathon

2 07 2018

“I’m really glad we didn’t have to race yesterday” said nobody at the Wellington Marathon in 2018.

While Saturday 30th June was lovely, with sun, high cloud and little wind – a fresh winters day that can be quite common in the capital – Wellington treated us to the worst of her winter weather on Sunday 1st July.

We all knew the forecast was pants, but we remained ever hopeful that the Met Service modellers had made a small error – as they are occasionally known to do.

The forecast did have me fretting about my outfit though. I knew I needed a jacket but whether to go with long sleeves or a vest? t-shirt with arm warmers or a long sleeved top? Full length tights or capris?

Decisions, decisions.

When my alarm went off at 5.30am and I strained to hear for the wind. I couldn’t hear any. Unusual when it’s a northerly as we’re right in the firing line. But as I got up and started getting ready, the familiar sound of something more than a stiff breeze started to build.

The expected fierce winds and rain turned up bang on time, rather than fashionably late.

I got to the start at the Westpac Stadium in plenty of time to drop my bag off and caught up with other walkers and runners crazy enough to be heading out into the elements with me.

As we walked out to the race briefing at the start line, it appeared the weather might have given us a bit of respite – at least for the early part. As the briefing started the organisers joked about our wait for the starting siren to be “the longest 12 minutes of your life”.

If only he knew.

Start line

With about 10 minutes to go the heavens opened again. Those of us not bothered about maintaining our starting position at the front of the pack ducked under the stadium entrance hoarding for some cover until we were called forward for the start.

It was here I was wondering if I’d end up regretting my wardrobe choice of t-shirt, vest and arm warmers.


I think the starter took pity on us as his countdown from 10 speeded up towards the end. And that was it. We were off.

With more than a gentle helping hand from the Northerly that had set in for the morning.

The rain was quite heavy at times and I wondered if my sodden gloves would ever dry out, or whether my hands would be reduced to prunes inside them.

The course is generally pancake flat, heading south around the bays before heading west towards Miramar peninsula. Whilst the Northerly continued to build, the meandering coves helped shelter us at times for a little bit of respite.

In one such moment I struck up some chat with a guy who was jogging along at the same pace. He’d worked out that we would be in the worst of it for approximately 4.5kms and have the best of the wind behind us for 4kms. I don’t know how he calculated that but it didn’t seem quite right so I left him to his musings.

Heading up the Eastern side of the peninsula the headwind had its moments but nothing was too brisk. Upon rounding Point Halswell we got a feeling for what faced us on the way back, as the tailwind almost lifted you off your feet.

While it was welcome, those of us who know Wellington figured the way back would not be as fun.

We carried on to Scorching Bay (the scene of many a triathlon I’ve done in the past) where some hardy supporters and volunteers greeted us, gifting us a red wristband to prove we’d been there.

Then started a mini ‘out and back’ to the start of the peninsula and back to Scorching Bay for the final turn.

The expected headwind on approach to a couple of corners on the western side did not disappoint. It wasn’t enough to bring you to a walk, but certainly enough to slow you right down.

Luckily these were relatively short-lived and we were heading back down the eastern edge with the wind behind us again – although you wouldn’t have guessed it. It felt like there was nothing.

A cheeky high five with my buddy who was walking it was a real mood lifter. Anyone committed to being out there for that long and in those conditions was either mentally strong or insane. But it was such a boost to see her with a smile on her face.

After the aid station at Shelly Bay I decided a pit stop was in order. All was fine until I tried restoring my soaking wet running tights to their ‘on’ position. Have you ever tried to put wet lycra on when you’re wet as well? It doesn’t go well.

Especially in a portaloo.

Anyway, back to the game. I hadn’t prepped any particular nutrition plan so had to make sure I had either a gel or Shot Blok at least every 40 mins. I don’t even know if I managed that.

I mostly managed to stick to my usual 9 min run/1 min walk ratio. Apart from leading up to our second turn on the out and back.

Just prior to our turn is the half marathon turn. It was in full swing when we got there. I got swallowed up by a large group who were hanging on to the 1h 45min pacer, when I suddenly heard a familiar voice ask me something (it was along the lines of was I having fun or going well? something like that – but my post-race brain can’t compute exactly).

One of my old squad buddies ran past with ease and I only just had enough time to answer something vaguely positive before he was already out of earshot.

At some point between the half marathon turn and the marathon one, my walk reminder sounded but I didn’t even notice. Consumed by all the other bodies around me I was merely concentrating on reaching the second turn and not taking out any other runner in the turning process.

Second armband acquired. One more to go.

The start of the third leg was still busy, as more half runners swarmed by. But after passing their turn again, it was back to the fairly isolated run back up the western side.

Rain came and went. I think I stopped noticing after a while.

But the wind didn’t stop. In fact it was just increasing – seems those pesky weathermen got it right for once.

Another Mary Poppins-like moment came as we once again rounded Point Halswell and got a little assistance back towards Scorching Bay. Here we picked up our third and final wristband – white this time – at about the 25km mark. It was now time to head for home.

Having had only 7 weeks to properly train, I was a little undercooked going into the race. I’d run no further than 25kms so I knew that I was getting into new territory. It’s also about this point in Ironman that I suffer from major stomach issues, so I’m not normally running as much after this point!

My hamstrings, glutes and, occasionally, my hip flexors, all complained at various times once I’d gone past 26kms. It was like they were telling me off for not doing enough training.

And this was also the point where the crazy wind was blowing either rain or sea spray – I daren’t look up to even check – into your face like a thousand pins per second. I knew that rounding Point Halswell again would only mean temporary respite. We’d have that wind on the way back to the finish line.

Maintaining my 9/1 run/walk meant there was a lot of ‘leap frogging’ as I overtook people on my runs and occasionally they’d overtake me while I walked. I’m sure most people don’t realise that it’s a deliberate strategy but there’s a ton of research that shows how much benefit it has in endurance runs. I live by it now on all my long runs, even in training.

This leap frogging happened with several different groups, and while it was tempting to try and stay with them – like my former, highly competitive self would have tried – I tried to focus on my own race and executing my own plan. I wasn’t racing them after all.

Just me. That’s the only person I was racing.

I let a couple of women go – I’d stayed with them a while but after one walk break they’d just left me so I didn’t try to catch up. It would have probably done more damage than good.

I saw Nikki again after she’d made the second turn and she cheered me on to the finish.

As I neared the end of the peninsula, a couple of brave and hardy supporters were sitting by the roadside and they said some really encouraging things. I love that about doing epic endurance events. Complete strangers get right behind you, knowing that you’re doing something pretty damn hard.

Thank you to all the supporters and volunteers out in the stink weather yesterday.

As I reached the supporters, my walk alarm sounded so I thanked them and then said “break time” to explain my walking. The response was “get ready for that wind round the corner”.


Like I needed reminding.

I turned into Cobham Drive and there it was. A massive crosswind. I dreaded to think what that would feel like when we turned into it. It was bad enough being blown sideways. And I’d only just passed a sign saying 9kms to go. It was going to be a long haul.

I hated those signs counting down the kms to go. With a passion.

As I turned into Evans Bay Parade I faced the wind head on.

The brutal 40+kph winds on that final stretch dampened a few spirits but it also gave those of us left out there something in common. A desire to make sure we won. The weather wasn’t going to stop us.

At various points the wind was so strong I did have to walk, out of necessity rather than planned. I knew that trying to maintain a run would probably soak up more energy than was really necessary.

While I hadn’t tried to set a time goal, I had some wishes. I expected to finish in 4h 20 – 4h 30. I’d been right on target to best this time, but the combo of wind, rain and a little fatigue, especially in those last 9kms, made sure I wasn’t going to.

I didn’t want to dwell on the time too much though. Whatever happened, it was going to be a marathon PB. But then I didn’t bike 180kms beforehand. So I had no excuses.

Not even the weather.

Onwards I plodded. Ticking off each of those damn countdown signs as I went. After Point Jerningham, the wind eased a little. But navigating the twists and turns of the return path around the waterfront, I was more scared of tripping than anything else.

Finally, back out onto the road, the rain set in for the last 1.5kms.

One of the women I’d been leap frogging earlier, but who’d got away from me, now loomed ahead of me again. This time I was determined she wouldn’t get away.

As we neared the ramp that took us up to the finish line (yes that’s right. You have to run UP A RAMP. After 42kms!) I caught her and passed her.

I knew my walk break alarm was about to sound but I also knew the ramp was ahead, so I decided to use that as my break. As I did, another marathoner overtook me. We’d been leap frogging the last 8kms. He decided to walk the second half of the ramp, so I jogged it.

Heading towards the finish I was directed down the middle chute. I heard footsteps gaining and normally I can find a little extra at the finish. I’d found all I had though and the runner I’d just overtaken on the ramp surged home ahead of me. Meh. I didn’t really care.

Soaked to the skin I crossed the line, got my medal and then staggered into the stadium.

I can legit call myself a marathoner now. While I’ve done the distance in Ironman, I didn’t feel it counted until I’d done one on its own. So there we go. Another one ticked off.

Would I do another marathon? Maybe. But I’d aim to do one where the weather was more guaranteed. Like the Gold Coast maybe?!

But I think I’d rather do Ironman



Judging a book by its cover

28 06 2018

I was really interested, saddened and concerned about some of the comments Sera Lilly received following a media interview about chasing her dream of being a personal trainer. Sera received a lot of hate and trolling (that was thankfully removed from the accompanying Herald Facebook post) saying that, as a larger lady, she shouldn’t be a personal trainer.

There was no inference, there were blatant statements about how could she inspire and motivate people to train and lose weight if she didn’t “look good” herself.

No comments were made about her ability to develop fitness programmes that will help a client achieve their specific goals. Or whether her personality is one that immediately puts people at ease and gets them moving.

The judgements were all about her appearance.

I looked at myself. I’m a group fitness instructor – not a personal trainer – but I’m still expected to inspire people. Motivate them to get stronger, fitter and healthier. Does my physical appearance do that? Or could it hinder it?

Do people want to be coached and inspired by ripped/skinny trainers, or by people who look a lot like they do themselves? Can we inspire people to get fitter/stronger/healthier when we don’t always look like we say “pass” to a packet of chippies?

Take me. I’m not built small. I’m from solid Manchester/Lancashire stock made for tough conditions.

And I love food. During Wellington on a Plate last year I achieved a personal best of eating 23 burgers during a 17-day festival. Yes some days I ate two. And it would have been 24 if Carrello’s hadn’t sold out of their dessert burger on the last day.

This makes losing/maintaining weight tricky.

You may have heard the phrases “abs are 20% made in the gym and 80% in the kitchen”, or “you can’t outrun a bad diet”. I am those phrases personified. I’ve done two Ironmans – surely all of that training (up to 18 hours a week at peak) would automatically mean I shed kgs? Erm, well I weighed in for Ironman this year at 75kgs. Standing at 169cms, my BMI (which BTW I don’t subscribe to as a measure) was 26.3. Firmly in the overweight category. After my long training rides all my body seems to want is a bowl of fries. Nothing else.

So does that impact the way my class participants feel about me? Do I lose credibility because of how I look? Or is HOW I do things enough to motivate people because I’m “real”?

That’s a genuine question!


Me in the foreground


In the middle this time








Sera’s experience proves that our society hasn’t moved on from thinking that skinny = healthy or fit. But I’ve been able to compare some of those metrics first hand and being lighter/thinner doesn’t necessarily point to being “better”. But does it cloud perceptions? Would I be a better instructor if I lost some weight?

Obviously not. I’m the same person underneath with the same personality and the same skills. My size has no bearing on my ability to do the job. But do I lose “customers” because of looks alone?

The answer is: I don’t know. Unlike a PT I don’t have consistent measures of how many clients I have. I mean we do record class numbers, but when classes are free (vs paying for a PT) there are more variables at play as to whether someone turns up or not.

For me, if the person knows what they’re doing, and they have the skills to do the job, and if they have the personality to make it fun (or at least a bit less painful!) then does it matter what they look like? For someone who’s on the larger side, just starting out on a fitness journey, maybe they might be more comfortable working with a professional who’s a little more like them? After all, they might find a ripped 20-year-old a little intimidating.

Ultimately it’s horses for courses. Everyone’s fitness destination, and their journey to get there, is going to be different. But no one has the right to judge who helps you along the way.



So. What’s next?

14 06 2018

This is a question I’ve been asked. A lot.

I mean, most people can’t get their heads around doing an Ironman. Hell I couldn’t two years ago. But when you’ve done one (or two) people seem interested to know what the next goal is. Automatically assuming that you’ll have something else to fixate on and fill up all the available time you’ve got now you’re not training as much.

Or they assume that you’ll be pushing yourself on to something even more crazy.

I remember after my first Ironman someone asked me if I’d do another and thought I was crazy when I said yes. “But you’ve done one now – isn’t that enough?”

It often isn’t.

And that’s not to say that we want to do even more crazy things, but that having a goal is something that motivates us. Even if that goal might be to shave a few seconds off your Parkrun PB. Or maybe it’s to focus on strength training to improve your muscular endurance. Or drop a kg or two.

Without a goal, training becomes as and when. Unstructured and, usually, falls by the wayside. So even if you’re not gunning for another Ironman, having something to focus on becomes a way of life.

So what WAS next for me?

When I *just* used to run, half marathon was my favourite distance. I never dreamed about running a marathon because I thought the training would be too much.

How little did I know!

I’ve never run a marathon without completing a 3.8km swim and 180km bike ride first. But having done that twice – and in quite respectful times too – I’d been contemplating a standalone marathon.

The only marathon in Wellington happens in deepest midwinter. I started to toy with this as a potential goal.

Plus sides:

  • it’s local
  • the course is flat as a pancake
  • most importantly there’s bling. And a chance to win some awesome spot prizes.

Down sides:

  • it’s in the middle of winter
  • it costs $80 to enter (when you can run these roads for free any day of the year).

In the end the decision was made a little easier. A friend won two entries to the race so I said I’d join her.

So that’s what’s next.

Training for one discipline has been easier, and harder. There has obviously been less volume, but there’s also been less variety. Without the cross training of other disciplines, one can be monotonous.

However without the need to train for other disciplines, my running has felt stronger as my legs aren’t as fatigued.

When people learn I’m training for the marathon, the question of time often comes up – what am I aiming for?

A medal.

Not gold, silver or bronze. Just one that shows I’ve completed it. The time isn’t important. To me success is simply crossing the finish line.

Preferably in one piece.

Obviously I would hope that it’s a PB for this distance. After all, the lack of a small swim and short bike beforehand might have some impact on my speed. But the weather in Wellington in July is not known for being kind to runners. So as long as I just get to the end that’s all that counts.

But once the marathon is over, then what?

IM rego

Countdown to Ironman: Race week

8 03 2017

This is my third Ironman event in Taupo and I love the buzz of arriving.

The swim course buoys are laid out. The lamppost banners are up. Ironman is everywhere.

I remember arriving in Taupo last year when I volunteered at Ironman and looking at those swim buoys. The image daunted me.

“I can never swim that far” I said. In awe of every one of my squad mates who was attempting the event the next day.

How different a year makes. It didn’t daunt me. It excited me!


I got to Taupo on Wednesday lunchtime. There was a 30 minute run on the plan and I had a massage booked at 3pm. So I got the run out of the way and then headed to my night’s accommodation to check in and get a shower before my massage – which was bliss! Just what I needed after a five-hour car drive.

The following morning called for a short swim and bike. Wanting to get it out of the way before the first-timers seminar that was listed in the athlete guide at 9am, our trusty crew gathered at the yacht club at 7am. Nothing like practicing a race day start.

The lake was perfect. Oh how we hoped for this on race day.


We got the swim and bike done easily and then all headed into the Great Lake Centre for the seminar. And we waited. And waited. While all the time the regular rolling race briefing played on the screen. We even asked a few people who said it was on. It soon became obvious it wasn’t and the contradicting information on the website, which showed the seminar on the next day, was actually right.

It left us plenty of time to wander round the expo though and my training buddy and I managed to get some twinning done! Buying the same cycle tops (well, they were only $20!).


We then went different ways as some wanted to register early while I wanted to wait a little longer. I still had to check out of last night’s accommodation and check in to my home for the next few days.

After lunch, and a chat with those who had already checked in, I headed over to the registration tent to get that ticked off. There was still a large queue but I joined it anyway.


After what seemed like an age and crawling forwards ever-so-slowly, I was finally called forward and asked my name. This was it. I was signing in for Ironman.

It all gets really real when that athlete wristband gets taped around your arm.


The lovely volunteer at check in asked where in the UK I was from. When I told, she replied, as many Brits do, with “Manchestoh” in a faux-Manc accent. I had a giggle as it was so unexpected and out of context in NZ.

As I left to go and get weighed (yes, weighed – I’m coming to that), a voice behind was calling “excuse me!” I looked round convinced it wasn’t aimed at me, but a bearded chap was looking right at me and starting to talk.

I walked over and he asked if he’d heard right and that I was from Manchester. Yes, I replied. So of course, he then asked where. “Middleton” I said. “Really? I’m from Oldham!”

If you don’t know it, they are neighbouring towns and I was actually born in Oldham. Not only that, he was from the town that sits between Middleton and Oldham.

Small world.

The weigh in is part of the health and safety process as you also get weighed immediately after the finish line. This is to ensure that you’re not severely dehydrated, which can happen if you get things wrong, and extreme weight loss is a key sign. I hadn’t weighed myself in months, but I knew I wasn’t light. I was still a bit disappointed at the numbers, but I put it to the back of my mind. It was purely a benchmark for Saturday night.

The rest of the day was pretty chilled and we went to the athlete welcome function. A pretty simple affair but helped with the build up.

Friday saw our final “tune up” swim (in another perfect lake)/bike/run and coffee done. Some went off to the first timers seminar. I decided not to. Not being arrogant, but I didn’t think I could learn or know any more about the event. I’d volunteered last year so seen it all. I wasn’t feeling nervous so didn’t need help with that. I was in the zone!

A restful day followed with some hot pools, lunch, hubby arriving and setting up by bike. I wanted to change my tyres from training to race tyres. My carbon race wheels are difficult to get tyres off, and even my male friend couldn’t do it! Eventually I got there though and just prayed for no punctures on race day. I’ve had a couple in training so was wondering if I’d used them all up.

Then it was down to transition to rack the bike. Are house was so close to town that we could walk down. I was given my personal volunteer transition “tour guide” to show me the ropes. But again, because I’d volunteered last year, I knew how it worked. The one thing I wanted to do was walk through the transition entry gantry so I could see which row by bags would be on and work out a “sighting point” to make it easy to aim for.

Bike racked. Transition bags dropped. Timing chip in hand. All that was left to do was have dinner and relax.

And hope for a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow was game day.

Countdown to Ironman: 1 week to go

28 02 2017

Taper time

Everyone reacts differently when it comes to the taper. There’s those who get ill (it happened to me in the taper to my first half), those who’ll experience doubts, those who get emotional, those who just want to sleep, and those who relish the reduced structure and intensity.

I definitely fell into the last camp for most of the first week of taper.

Training has been going well. I’ve exceeded my expectations in many areas. I haven’t struggled through the bulk. And I’ve had an awesome training buddy to help keep me honest.

That always helps!

I felt on top of the world.

I headed out for my final big swim. It was scheduled for the Saturday, along with a decent ride and run off the bike. But I had other plans for the afternoon, so I went out on a glorious Friday evening in the harbour.

I was on my own, so a little nervous. But the good weather meant the beach was busy and the water was occupied with a number of vessels – both man powered and diesel.

I headed out to make my way towards the lighthouse and then I knew I’d have to do at least a couple of laps of the fountain to get close to my 4km goal. I took very few breaks. Being on my own meant I could go at my own pace and really simulate a race situation.

Minus the 1200-odd other swimmers starting at the same time.

After my second lap of the fountain I checked my watch and I’d made 3.8kms. That made it my longest swim in the open water. The swim back into shore added almost another 100m to the total, making just shy of 3.9kms.

And the pace was comparable to what I’d swum in the Taupo 70.3 back in December. It made me so happy and cemented the earlier confidence I’d been feeling. I was stoked. It made me so happy.

I deserved an ice cream after that!


When I got home I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I was feeling so proud, yet had no one to share it with. My husband was away for the weekend. I wasn’t training with my buddies on Saturday morning.

But it was more than that.

A couple of months ago I committed to raising money for the Cancer Society to give my Ironman more purpose. To make it more than just about a medal. And a towel.

Last week, one of my best friends at school lost her battle with cancer. It threw me a little bit. I hadn’t seen her for many years, but we’d been in touch. She was a wonderful person who I shared many of my formative years with.

It makes 4th March more meaningful.

Andrea. This one’s for you.

Countdown to Ironman: 2 weeks to go

21 02 2017

The hay is in the barn.

That’s it. The last big week of training is in the bag.

Coach emailed us all to tell us that we won’t get any fitter or faster now. It’s all about maintaining what we’ve already got.

And let’s face it, we’ve come such a long way. Literally and metaphorically.

The training plan featured one of our favourites – two runs in a day! The first one is an hour and hilly. I had an early flight to catch so I didn’t quite do the full hour, but I did some good elevation so I was happy with my 46 minutes.

The idea is to fatigue the legs and then get some recovery during the day before heading out for a longer endurance run. I guess the goal is to build stamina by running on fatigued legs. Because let’s face it. That’s gonna be happening on the day!

Summer had arrived in Wellington when I did the morning run, and then I did my evening run in Auckland as I was up there for work. It was sod’s law that when summer arrived in Wellington, I got drenched up north. It was bucketing down! But again. You don’t know what the day will be like, so you’ve got to go out in all weather.

I also used different shoes. I’ve been mostly training in Asics Cumulus, which I used for my morning run. A couple of weeks ago when I’d done the previous 2-run-day, they’d got drenched in the morning so I had to use my trusty pair of Hoka One One Clifton 3. Man, the endurance run felt good in those! Hoka shoes aren’t for everyone, but I love running in them. So I adopted the same approach for the second 2-run-day. And it had the same effect.

The week ended with another 180km ride, an opportunity to test out the nutrition plan again. But it also gave me the chance to try out my new race wheels, ready for the day. I only went out with the back one on as the front can be a bit more fickle in wind. My training buddy described my bike as a mullet – all party at the back! But I like the way the tyres match my bike!


My main source of nutrition is Perpetuem which has worked really well for me this season.

Given we’re out on course for so long, my preference is to use the nutrition available on course, mainly so I don’t have to carry it all. I’ve been using Clif Bars in training, which are handed out, so that’s another tick. But I don’t really like the Clif gels.

I recently put in an order with Wiggle so decided to get some of their gels. I used them in my first half ironman and the helped me overcome a poor nutrition decision on the day. So I knew they’d be good for me.

My plan was to alternate Perp, bars and gels, saving the gels for the latter part of the ride, and taking it all on my watch alarm every 10 minutes.

With my trusty training buddy, we headed out on a route taking us from Featherston to just beyond Eketahuna and back again. We had no idea what the elevation profile was as we were supposed to try and get similar to Taupo.

Heading out it felt like there was a bit of a headwind, but nothing shocking, just enough to keep us honest!

Our main hope was to achieve the 180kms target in 7 hours. At our recent training camp I’d managed 7 hours 13 and Christina had got just under 7. We knew it could be done.

And we rocked it!

After turning round at 90kms and 3 hours 26 minutes, we were on track. We knew the wind would be a little more behind us, but we weren’t quite sure how much climbing there would be. We’d had some rolling hills so we knew there would be some.

I also took a No Doz for the first time at the turnaround. Caffeine has a proven effect on performance so I wanted to see if it helped. I drink heaps of coffee so it wasn’t like I felt an instant rush or anything, but I felt strong and didn’t fade.

The nutrition plan seemed to be working. We were flying.

Just after we passed through Greytown there was a sign saying Featherston was only another 11kms to go. My husband then appeared. I’d texted earlier to ask him to bring a spare inner tube and CO2 gas as I’d used up mine within an hour of the start after riding over a piece of glass. We were almost done, but I appreciated the effort and it gave me a little more peace of mind.

He mentioned he thought we’d have been pretty much done by then. But I looked at my watch – we were at 6 hours and 2 minutes with 10kms left to go. That was bloody good going!

I finished in 6 hours 21 minutes riding time. Not including a couple of toilet and water stops. On the day there won’t be a need to stop for water as that will all be on course. But I don’t actually intend to pee on the bike! I know some do, but it’s not my thing! Plus stopping for toilet breaks will give me the chance to stretch a little.


We didn’t quite achieve the same elevation as we will at Ironman, but the terrain wasn’t dissimilar. So it was a pretty good simulation in all.

Even after a hefty week of training, the ride felt great. It was a huge confidence boost as we head into the taper.

Bring it on Ironman. I’m ready for you!

Stats this week

Swim distance: 5903m

Bike distance: 242kms

Run distance: 37.4kms

Total duration: 17 hours 16 minutes

Countdown to Ironman: 6 weeks to go

25 01 2017

Practice makes perfect.

Didn’t your mum always tell you that?

Nothing is truer in endurance triathlon.

I liken this sport to a jigsaw puzzle. You’re trying to create a complete picture that is your race. Only there are several different pieces that might fit into a particular space and you have to try a few, or maybe all of them, until you find the one that fits.

Those pieces are things like pacing, nutrition, processes, clothing, gear, and even things like when and where to apply Vaseline (so other members of my training squad told me).

And there’s no other way to figure this lot out than to practice. In a realistic situation.

Bring on Ironman training camp in Taupo.

This weekend saw us basically complete about 80-90% of the course – not on one day – we’ll save that pleasure for race day.

Normally the camp schedule sees you complete one Ironman distance (apart from the full run) on each day. So swim 3.8kms in the Lake on the Saturday, backed up with a shorter bike. Then complete the full 180km bike course on the Sunday, backed up with a short run off the bike to test the legs. Then a 3-hour run completes the torture, erm, I mean training!

But the 2017 NZ summer chucked in a weather bomb on the Sunday making the bike a bit of a gamble.

Not wanting to take that risk, Coach switched things around to have us completing the bike straight after the Saturday swim.

Personally I found it was incredibly useful to do this as it genuinely simulated race morning. So I got up, had the breakfast I’m thinking of having, and then got to have the first go at my race plan “jigsaw”.

The swim start is 7am in the beautiful lake. So that’s what we did. The plan was to complete the distance and then hop straight on the bike for the full course.

It was a beautiful morning out on Lake Taupo. The sun was just rising and the water was flat calm – conditions we’re hopeful for on the day itself. The swim was a bit trickier than it will be on the day as there were no course markers, making sighting, and therefore swimming straight, a bit harder. It also meant we had no idea when to turn around so we had to keep checking our watches.

As it happened I didn’t do a bad job and when I got back to the finish, I was only about 80m short of the full 3.8kms. And I was stoked with the time. It was at the faster end of my expectations, so with a mass swim start on the day, I should be able to easily replicate that, and possibly go even faster with a good draft.

The “transition” was fairly swift and it was time to hit the road to Reporoa for the first of two loops.

I knew that this needed to be paced well. My legs were fresh and I felt good, but there’s a looooong way to go and I needed some reserves for the second lap. We had some company on course with two other training squads also out for a practice ride so there was some good banter and encouragement. It was great practice for when people pass you on the day and maintaining your own race and pace plan. It’s all too easy to be competitive against others, but they may have a different plan – and strengths – to you. So whether or not you think you shouldn’t let that person beat you, you have to let them go.

I got lots of practice at that.

I’d been hoping for a 7-hour-ish ride time, and at the half way point was bang on track at 3 hours 30 minutes. My husband had travelled up with the squad to provide some support, so when we got back into Taupo at the end of lap one, he was there as an “aid station” and also gave us some practice at thinking about our “special needs”.

During the actual race, at the start of the second lap you get a chance to pick up some additional items, or apply some things you may or may not have needed at the start. It’s kind of a contingency bag. So we had to think about what we might need in that on the day and left it with him.

Then it was back to Reporoa for lap 2.

We knew the wind was going to pick up as the day wore on, and that the direction would be favourable for a tailwind “home”. Which is good because that’s mostly uphill.

But where there’s a tailwind, there’s got to be a headwind too. And boy was there ever.

We’d faced a headwind in the same direction in the half. But you knew that we only had one lap to do. This time we’d already done 90kms and had to save some for the uphill, even with a tailwind, back.

And not only that. If we wanted to truly simulate race day, we had to be thinking that we still had a marathon to do at the end of it. So we still couldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be putting in too much power and leave something in reserve for that run.

We needed to have some serious words with ourselves to get through it! And the main thing was knowing that the tailwind was yet to come. But that mental toughness is something we need to prepare for the day and have strategies for coming out the other side.

Total bike time ended up at 7 hours 13 minutes. That headwind took its toll as the return leg was pretty much equal to the first time around.


With the big swim and bike behind us, that left Sunday as a recovery and race planning day. So an early morning relaxed swim and soak in the hot pools afforded us some much needed movement the next day. Although not many of us were enthusiastic about getting back in the bike saddle having spent several hours in it the day before. But Coach ran a short spin session on the indoor trainer to get the blood flowing again.

And then it was massage time. Oh hell, yes please!

With the extra, unanticipated recovery day in the middle, Monday’s long run was always going to be done on fresher legs than on the day. So this added the extra challenge of maintaining a pace that’s achievable when you’re tired, not running how you feel.


In the two half ironmans I’ve done. I’ve got off the bike and run way faster than planned because I felt alright, which resulted in rapid fade towards the end. So for this run, it was all about slow and steady. I was aiming for a pace between 6:40 and 7:00 per km, using a run/walk strategy. With an alarm set on my watch for every 15 minutes, I inserted walk breaks at that time. In addition to walking the “aid stations” laid out by my husband and Coach.


The key thing to this strategy is still to walk even when you feel you don’t need to, hence the alarm on the watch. It gives the body some recovery time which results in a better performance overall and delays fatigue.

In the scheduled three hours I completed one full lap and two thirds of the second lap, achieving 26kms at a pace of 6:54 per km. Just like the end of the bike on the Saturday, I didn’t treat the finish to this run as the finish I felt I could do. I maintained the same pace to the end, knowing that I’d have another 16kms to run on the day.


So the overall takeaways from the weekend were confidence and a few learnings. Confidence I can do the distance. And learnings to help me get there stronger.

Records this week

Longest swim/longest open water swim: 3722m

Longest ride (distance): 178kms

Longest ride (duration): 7 hours 13 minutes

Longest run (distance): 26kms

Longest run (duration): 2 hours 59 minutes

Training stats for the week

Swim: 6597m

Bike: 202km (plus one Group Ride class)

Run: 40.4kms

Total duration: 18 hours 20 minutes

(stats include Monday 23 Jan to cover training camp)