Monday, September 13, 2010

Degani Kinglake Ride 2010

After weeks of riding in the rain it was such a relief to see just a few clouds in the sky on Sunday for this event. Only a few weeks ago on our 'course reccy' we could see nothing at all as Kinglake was shrouded in fog and - at times - heavy rain as I struggled through 72k. This day I'd cover an extra 40k+ (115k in total) on a tour from Whittlesea through Kinglake to Glenburn, Flowerdale and return.

The event (it is not a race), now in its third year, is over what could be described as a stunningly picturesque course through some of the foothills near Melbourne. Not two years ago, on Black Saturday 7 February 2009, it was a different situation and much of this area was devastated by bushfires. In the exact area of the ride 120 people died and over 1200 homes were burned. So the ride has become a part tribute-part fundraiser for people in the area too.

Amazingly, as you ride through there now, with fields of verdant green and trees sprouting new growth it is hard to imagine what it must have been like at that time, such is nature's regenerative power.

We got underway, in a field of a few thousand, at just after 7.30am and headed off for the first 30k of rolling terrain through Yan Yean (where there's a cool water reservoir - so that's where they keep it!!), Arthurs Creek, Cottles Bridge and St Andrews. You can see from the pic below that this section is on narrow country roads - really beautiful.

It is just out of St Andrews that the 'real work' of the day begins with a climb that is just over 7k long. Thankfully it is relatively 'shallow' and so it is no big deal to just pop into a small gear and spin your way to the top. It's also a chance to take in some of the scenery (the fires mean less trees so you can see more!). What is scary, though, is just how fast some people can ride UP a hill. I mean, crikey, the least they could do is actually LOOK like they were struggling a bit!!

And so by 9.30am the hardest obstacle had been conquered and I was sitting back enjoying a brief coffee stop before heading down the hill to Glenburn. This part of the trip was a blast as the road for 20k is straight down, mostly gently at around 1.4%, and you can cruise along as I did at about 37kph.

But as Isaac Newton might say, "what goes down must go up" and so the next 12k from Glenburn along 'Break O'Day Rd' (how quaint) is about the same gradient but heading skywards. By this time I was starting to feel a little tired and my riding buddies were nowhere to be seen so it was just as well that the views here too were magnificent. Through Flowerdale and to Hazeldene, a slight wind now at our backs, it was time to begin the slow ascent back up the "other side" of the Kinglake hill.

This climb hits 6% for about 2k which felt really hard cause we were all tired, but which in reality is not so bad for not so long. Another 1k at about half this gradient and by 100k you are back at the 'top' - this time near Kinglake West. After a short flat section it is time for fun as the road slopes downwards for the final 10k into the finish. It was a real buzz reaching a speed of 69.8kph without doing anything more than dropping low on the handlebars.

I cruised around to the finish in just under 4.5hours feeling tired but exhilarated. Of course my friends had long since finished (they didn't stop for coffee) but were kind enough to wait for me. Which was just as well as I didn't fancy a long ride home on the bike!

Thanks to my mate Dave for once again being chief team car driver and getting us there and back!

Next stop - Around the Bay In a Day!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

City to Surf 2010

A friend of mine remarked today that my blog posts are now coming a long time after the events about which they are written. He is right. Maybe my fingers have been tired recently or something, I'm not sure. I certainly am amazed by folks who can write multiple posts every week for years. 

A few weeks ago was the City to Surf fun run in Sydney which I competed in for the 23rd straight year. But this was the first time I had travelled to the harbour city with my whole family in tow. So it was part holiday-part race (with the emphasis on the holiday bit).

My training in the lead up had not been strong but was ok. After the half marathon I knew I'd be good for the 65-70 minutes this race would take me and so I decided to take along my iPhone and shoot some video from "inside" the race.

Race morning dawned beautiful - as it seems to most years. Cool and crisp without a cloud in the sky. The race now starts at 8.30am (for many years it was 10am) so it means you'll be finished long before it gets anything like warm. Perfect running conditions.

I positioned myself near the front and was running within a few seconds of the gun, crossing the line shortly thereafter. The race itself was a lot of fun, a real cruise around the course. I felt relaxed and in control the whole way, even up the hills. Of course, stopping (for professional purposes only) probably helped somewhat and my time of a tick under 68mins reflects the comfortable pace.

After the race I joined my family for a trip to Manly on the ferry and a walk around the Sydney Opera House. Lots of fun!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Run Melbourne, one year on

A year ago when I ran in this event it was at the end of my first week of dedicated marathon training. That day I hit a time of 1:43 which felt a bit harder than I thought it would (coming off a 1:33 half a month earlier). This year I had no significant level of training behind me and the race was not run as part of any plan. At best it would be a run to how I felt and I hoped for something around the same 1:43 (or less).

On this day the ride into the start at Fed Square was into a block headwind and, not wanting to push really hard just before a race, it meant that by the time I was making my way to the line the race had actually begun (little did I know!).

When I arrived at the line I sure found out (!) and so off I went in pursuit of my start group who, as far as I could figure out, were 2-3 minutes up the road. And whilst I wasn't really worried about my official time I was a bit bummed that I had missed the chance to run with all the folks I'd been run training with each Tuesday night for the last couple of months.

I went through 5k in 23.45min feeling quite good. Obviously I had started to pass lots of people which was kind of motivating even though I wasn't really racing them. And at 5.5k there is a u-turn on the course so I began to see lots of people I knew coming back the opposite way. And by 7.5k I had caught up with one of them so we decided to run together.

This really helped to pass the k's since we just chatted our way around the course. I went through 10k in 47.45min so was on target for a time of around 1:41 or so. Halfway on this two-lap course went by in 53min even.

The course itself is quite picturesque covering parts of the city near Federation Square, most of the Tan Track around the Botanic Gardens, Rod Laver Arena [home of the Aus Open tennis] and the Melbourne Cricket Ground [home of cricket and AFL]. It is flat(-ish) with just enough up-and-down to give you some variety. Over the three years the organisers here have done a great job to build the event up into a must-do on the winter calendar. They also offer 10k and 5k distances for the less endurance-minded folks and kids.

Down towards the business end of the event and I went through 15k in 1:11.45hrs so was still covering the ground at a very even pace. But this 5k had been a bit harder with the first signs of fatigue creeping in. And so where previously I'd been chatting with my friend I now found myself quiet (to her relief?) and focussing on the run.

Through 16k and I was yo-yo'ing off the back a bit and having to work hard to get back on even terms. The (very) slightly uphill through to 17k at the Morrell Bridge was the last straw for me and the aid station at the bridge had me stopping to soak up some refreshment and see if I could re-energise myself for the run home.

It sort-kinda worked (?) which is to say I ran most of the way thereafter, but stopped a couple of times for a drink or to shoot some video on my iPhone (an excuse to stop).  20k was covered in 1:39.30hrs so I had slowed by over 3mins in 5k and when I crossed the finish line (nearer to 21.5k) in 1:47.00hrs I was glad just to have finished.

A faster race than the Sri Chinmoy event a few weeks prior - and no blisters this time - but nothing to write home about. And by the time I rode home - another 45 mins - I was well and truly stuffed!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Some days you're the hammer, some days you're the nail"

Lance Armstrong said these words after completing Stage 3 of this year's Tour de France - comparing himself to the nail on that day. I know how he felt! Last Sunday I went down to Como Landing on the Yarra River to take part in one of my favourite half marathon courses.

My running recently has been ok. Not any great volume but enough solid 12-14k sessions to give me confidence going into this race. I hoped to run around 1.40 or so, but would have been happy with 1.45. But long before I got anywhere near the race venue I realised this was unlikely. On my Saturday morning bike ride and again on Sunday as I rode to the race venue I felt quite sluggish with no zip whatsoever. I wasn't terribly fussed though, as this was more just a catered training run over a fun course than a race, so I would just take it as it came.

The course here is a simple three 7k laps of a path that runs along the Yarra River. It is basically flat with a few small rises near bridges and the like. It was a cool morning (then again, it is winter) but not super old and no wind or rain so pretty much ideal.

I began the race running quite well and cruised easily through 6k @4.49m/k pace so on target for a time of around 1.42. Unfortunately by that time a blister had started to form under the arch of my right foot and over the next 4k it got progressively worse to the point of not being able to run (well, not effectively).

I tried swapping my socks over between my feet, thinking that maybe a spot on them was rubbing, but to no avail. These were "old" socks and "old" shoes so there was no real reason why this should have happened. But it did and, with little to gain from this race, I considered just completing the second lap (14k) and pulling out.

But it is very hard to do that and so after the second lap I went over to the first aid guys and got a big band-aid to stick on my foot. It helped for one km (!) and I ran much better, but it was soon back to misery and I shuffled around the balance of the final lap to complete the course.

I finished this run in 1.53 (plus stoppage time of 3 further minutes) so a far slower run than I had imagined. Not to worry, it was great to get out and do another 21k run and it was a positive that I did not pull out of the race.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Melburn Roobaix - The Hell of the Northcote!

Where would you see a woman wearing jeans, a fat bloke in a suit and a guy on a unicycle all in the same event? Only one place: the Melburn Roobaix. This is what I call an event for people riding bikes rather a bike event. It is certainly no race though there are lots of fast folks. It is like Woodstock on two wheels and takes in a selection of Melbourne's cobblestone laneways as it winds its way through the suburbs towards a finish at the Brunswick velodrome 30k or so later.

Because of increasing numbers the start of the fifth annual event was switched away from the middle of the city and with entries capped at 400 the actual location was not announced until two days before. Unfortunately the locals of Hawthorn had their peaceful daytime at the park interrupted for an hour or so by the gathering masses. Upon registering you are given a musette containing the event map and list of checkpoints. It is your job to navigate a route between the checkpoints gathering answers to the questions posed at each one - a kind of quiz on two wheels.

You can see from the map that it is a rather circuitous route although as the organisers say on the course details "You could ride straight to the pub and await the raffle if you choose. Wouldn't be much of a story to tell the grandkids though." Which kinda sums it up!

Progress through the first few checkpoints was chaotic to say the least as the "mob" was yet to disperse and traffic jams ensued. There was also a fair bit of dodging the Sunday afternoon traffic through some busy streets which added to the fun!

I took the unorthodox decision to ride with my camera draped around my neck which meant I took more pics but also lived in fear that one slip on some wet cobbles would send me and my camera to the hospital. (Thankfully we both survived intact!)

The course included not only "normal" roads and cobblestone lanes but also gravel tracks and unmade "goat tracks" through the scrub. It is this complete lack of formality and normal-ness that makes this ride so attractive.

Through halfway or so we stopped for a coffee before beginning the final sections of the course.

We recreated that great scene from Grease where they race down along the drains (only we didn't have any hot chicks in tight yellow pants waving us off at the start) before tackling the main climb of the day up the "Koppenburg" (or something just like it). At the top we were greeted by some nice Red Bull girls handing out cans of the stuff. (Maybe they should have been down by the drains?)

The event finishes with a lap of the Brunswick velodrome before retiring to the pub for a few beers and the sharing of tall stories.

My favourite quotes from the day included the guy to whom I had said "thanks" for letting us ride on his cobblestone lane. His response: "You can keep it if you like." And to the young woman who, when a phalanx of riders were waiting for a break in traffic, had the bright idea to ride up to some nearby pedestrian lights and activate them. Her comment "That's why girls come on these rides!" Touche!

See all my pics from the event on Flickr.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Doing It In A Group Can Be Fun

Before the start of the Run Melbourne training group session

I had forgotten what it is like to run with other people. Not in the racing sense which I continue to do frequently, but for training. In all of last year when I did more running than ever before - it was all by myself. Essentially this was so that I could run each and every session according to my plan and pace rather than some group pace.

I used to run with other folks - in fact this used to be 90% of my running - but apart from being less structured it was also in a time "BK" (before kids) when I could run when I wanted to. Now it is just different!

So what a change to hook up with the training groups for the Run Melbourne event in July. It was my first run in over three weeks too as I have been suffering from (yet another) nasty chest infection. [For the record, I am TOTALLY OVER getting sick.] But I ventured down to Federation Square on Tuesday night this week to join the crowd of about 300 people taking part in various sessions and speeds over 6-12k. Of course I decided to do the longest (12k) and fastest (5m/k) session on offer - completely ignoring the fact that whilst the "c.2009 Paul" would cruise through this without raising a sweat, the "c.2010 Paul" might find it a bit harder!

As you can see from the map, it is a bit of Tour of Melbourne which takes in many of the inner city sights and parks. It is lovely at night ... and would be equally so in the daytime when you might be able to see a bit better! The guys taking the group ran at a pace which felt much harder than 5m/k and my suspicion is they were taking a pace inclusive of stops. In any case, it was much more difficult than I would have expected this pace to be for me!

As our group of about 20 circled around the place we regularly crossed paths with others doing different distances. It was really cool seeing so many people out and about.

Three days later and my legs are still a little sore from this run. But gosh it feels good to once again be out on the road! And I have rediscovered what fun it can be to run with others.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Great Train Race 2010

After last year's abysmal showing (by the train - not me) it was kind of inevitable that old Puffing Billy would this year show what she was capable of and rip out a fast one. But crikey, 51.49mins for the 13.2km journey up and down some big hills. That seems hardly fair!

Not that it mattered to me. I was glad just to be there having a go. No aspirations (delusions?) of grandeur as this time I set out to have a fun run in the countryside and shoot some video before returning on the train with Brooke (Miss 5y.o.) who had looked forward to this for a long time - like since last year's race.

It was another perfect day weather wise for the race - about 10deg.C. with no wind or rain in sight. (We've had a few of these in a row now so we'll be due for another shocker soon!)

The race begins with the runners heading in one direction and the train driver in the other as we begin our respective journeys. After about 1.5k of solid downhill the first "meeting" occurs as runners go under the famous Trestle Bridge and you get your first sense of whether you or the train are having a good day. Normally at this point I see the train either just in front or just behind me. This time it had gone ... completely. The driver was obviously on a mission.

From here it is uphill through to the lovely hillside town of Selby before turning right down a narrow winding tree-lined road (lane?) for the next few k's. This section of the course is just magnificent running country and I love it.

Then it gets hard. Really hard. First is a steep uphill that goes on for 2km and this is almost immediately followed by one of the nastiest downhill sections you will ever run. Then a short up and down hill followed by another 2km of uphill. This is not an easy course! My blog post from last year has a graphic of the hills.

But this year all of that stuff was pretty easy really. I ran quite slowly (for me) and enjoyed it immensely. Normally where I am ready to puke (or worse) I was this time running along enjoying the scenery, the crowd and the free boiled lollies being handed out by some kids along the route. (I guess no one told them that runners find it hard to eat that stuff during a race!)

It was only when I was in the last kilometre that I heard and saw the second train (which is the designated one for the ladies to race against) so I sped up a little to make sure I at least beat *something* on the day.

My final time of about 1:12hrs was very modest and some 12-minutes slower than last year. But I felt great and have recovered beautifully. It was a great day - especially for my eldest daughter Brooke who got to ride the train and eat some cinnamon doughnuts when we got back to the car.

Thanks as always to my wonderful spouse Fiona who trundled everyone around the place to ensure we all had fun. We'd never be able to do it without her!

Here is my video of the race. Enjoy!

For the record, only 64 people beat the train this year. I was not one of them.

PS - I should mention that on the morning of the race I did my lower back in completely. You know, one of those "oh my god I cannot move" moments. I shouldn't have raced. But who wants to disappoint a five year-old who has her heart set on riding the train?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Good Pain at Last

I don't pretend that my injury management attempt over the last month has been anything more sophisticated than "let's not run and see if it gets better" but with only one week till a hard, hilly race at Puffing Billy I thought it best to at least go for a run of reasonable length to see how my body is coming along.

To say it has been frustrating and even getting me down a little is not the half of it. But it is the kind of nefarious (definition here!) injury that I know from experience is almost impossible to accurately track down the case of and treat. In fact, the only similar thing I can recall is something which ailed me about a decade ago and which made running and cycling all but impossible. Which is to say it is lower back pain leading to an inability to stride properly (or at all when it is bad). Aargh! To bad - I am going to run anyway.

So run I did. All 15km's of it at Princes Park for the Sri Chinmoy event last Sunday. Which was a good idea and a bad one all at the same time.

Getting a high five from Brooke

It was a good idea as it gave me some confidence that perhaps I could run without being hobbled by injury. It wasn't 100% but certainly after the first couple of k's it didn't seem to be a big deal. Importantly, I was not suffering the symptoms I have previously either during the run or after it - so very happy with that. Maybe my back struck a deal with my legs that only one of them would hurt at any one time because just as I was thinking how good it was to be pain-free(ish) my legs really started to feel the strain of not running for four weeks.

The 15k course is three 5k laps - the same course that I covered back in July for 30k. This time round my objective (hope?) was to run around 5min/km at a steady pace for the whole race. And so whilst it got a "bit hard" in the second half as my lack of condition begun to tell I was pretty happy to run laps in 25.27/25.45/25.34 for a total of 1:16.46hrs.

A couple of days later and my quads are sore and hammys tight but there is no hint of the injury I have been suffering nor are my calves sore (another weak point for me). I expect to come right later in the week and hope to run once more before the Great Train Race on Sunday.

At last, good pain!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kids are Amazing

Children never cease to amaze me - and none more so than mine (who I guess I see more often)! On Friday we went along to a Good Friday Children's Hospital Appeal fun day. It was lots of fun with kids and adults everywhere. My 5 year old, Brooke, did the normal stuff like face painting and seeing the Dora the Explorer show. Then she shocked me.

"I want to go on that" she said, pointing to the 10m high rock climbing wall. "Sure" I said, not sure that she'd actually go through with it once she realised what it was about. Oh me of little faith. She was itching to get on it and was clearly younger than the other kids having a go. But, strapped in, off she went. Up and up and up ...

Brooke on the rock climbing wall
It took her a while, as you'd expect, as she tried to work out the best way to scale the heights. She was quite happy looking down and talking to us and showed no fear (unlike her mum who think a step ladder is too high to climb from terra firma). The guy running the thing said "gee, she's determined" which is only the half of it!

In the end she got almost to the top before fatigue set in and she had to return to earth - a little sad not to have made the top but very happy with what she'd done. Amazing stuff!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm glad that's over

It hasn't been an especially memorable triathlon season for me this year. My first race had the swim cancelled; I was ho-hum in the second; dodged jellyfish in my third outing; hung out with corporate types in race four; and finished the season on Sunday by doing only the run leg in a team event.

Nothing to write home about in that lot so, as I say, I am glad that season is over.

PB and Roger

This race I did with my mate Roger who, these days, inhabits the tail end of triathlon fields with myself! He was also the inspiration behind my marathon race effort last year (goal #4 was to beat his best time of 3:24). He was keen to do the swim and bike, letting me finish with the run. I was happy to let him do the swim - especially as there had been a number of sightings of a blue shark in knee deep water in our bay this week. My favourite quote from the shark expert was "The blue shark should not be approached, if it is sick then its behaviour will be affected and unpredictable." All the more reason for me to stay on dry land. As fate turned out there was no shark and NO JELLYFISH either.

While Roger headed out onto the 20km bike leg I went for a lap of the 5km run course as a warm up. I took it nice and easy, trying to relax (I was still sick from last week) and stretch out this damnation back/hamstring injury. (Not sure what it is but after six weeks I think I should go see someone about it. Duh!) Windy conditions made it anything but a stroll along the beach.

So I returned to transition after my warm up and waited till Roger returned. Soon enough I was out on my real 5km run. This started off ok as I motored down to the turnaround - not fast, but feeling good and passing lots of people. On the return it went pear-shaped and I watched people who looked to be going pretty slowly in front of me pull away. It felt awful. I ran about 23.40min which was a full two-minutes slower than I had run in the race on the same course back in November. I have clearly lost a fair bit of form in that time.

Oh well. We had fun. And I got a few bags of lollies for my daughters!

I am rather looking forward to dealing with my injury and getting on with a good running season ahead!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Run for the Kids

As has become almost customary for me in recent times I fell sick again in the week leading into this race. A niggle sore throat all week feel deeply into a chesty cough and loss of voice (almost) the day before the race. So once again I was faced with the dilemma of what to do on race day when you are less than 100% well.

And since I was doing this race only because it is a fund raiser for our local Children's Hospital I decided to just go out and have a very easy jog around the 14.4km course and ... shoot a video.

Mr Spielberg I am not but here is the story of my race ... [warning: it goes for 10 minutes]


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On the Road Again

After what seems like an eternity I finally managed to eke out a decent long run on the weekend. After struggling my way through a bunch of 12k runs I decided to give a 20k+ run a whirl. This one would start at my place and work down through to the beach at about 7k then follow the shore for a rolling 13k or thereabouts. All sounds easy!!

Thankfully the temperature on Sunday was more conducive to good running at around 20C, but the humidity had staked a claim at 80-90% so it was decidedly unpleasant given our normally low-humidity climate.

I didn't really expect to make it the whole way in great shape and so when it started to get really hard at around 15k I was not surprised. This pic was taken at about that point and shows I was starting to feel the pinch somewhat.

I kinda stumbled my way from here to the finish where my wife and kids picked me up and we went for some muffins and coffee!!! So pleased to have this one under my belt. (I also know I must be getting back into the swing since I have developed another sore throat since the run!)

You can see in the pic I had my headphones in. They were attached to my iPhone as I wanted to try a few new things:

1. Compare the distance logged on the iPhone (Map My Run app) to my beloved Garmin 310XT. Result: they were similar - Garmin recording a more accurate track.
2. For the iPhone app, try out the voice updates after every km. Result: this one drove me mad after about 3k's.
3. Listen to a few podcasts while out for a run. I copied this idea from Ana-Maria (Running and Living). Result: loved it! Listened to an interview with Bill Rodgers and later Tom Warren, both off The Competitors Radio Show. Will definitely do this again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

6 Things You May Not Know About Me

This post responds to a challenge on a fellow runner's blog (Running & Living) to share a few things that readers may not know about me. Hmmmmm.

1. As a child I lived in three different houses in the one street - and it's not that big a street!. As an adult I have lived in two different houses on the one block (after we demolished and rebuilt). I suspect I may have issues with moving very far?

2. I work as an IT Manager but have degrees in Commerce (Accounting and Business Law) and Early Childhood Education. Life takes some interesting turns. Go figure!

3. I have several fetishes - donuts and maps being right up near the top, with technology-toys and bikes being not far behind. As I look in front of me I can also see way too many sports books sitting on my bookshelf too.

4. I keep a hold of far too much old stuff for no particular reason other than maybe one day I might use it. I think I have inherited that from my dad whom we call Noah because he has two of everything. Our garage has not housed a car for a few years now. At least 10 bikes call it home.

5. I have completed 5 marathons, 8 Ironman triathlons and hundreds of other fun runs, triathlons, swims and cycling events in an athletic career spanning 23-years. My longest 'streak' in this lot is 22 consecutive years of doing the Sydney City to Surf fun run.

6. Having my two kids - Brooke and Keira - brings me infinitely more pride and happiness than everything in point #5. My two year old used her mum's iPhone to post a photo of herself on facebook last week. No help at all. Just by herself. She was so proud. We were gobsmacked!

So, what are six things people wouldn't know about you???

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Corporate Triathlon 2010

Over 5000 corporate types took part in the annual triathlon here in Melbourne today and I took my place among them, pulling on my Telstra shirt with a couple of colleagues, Kylie and Derek, over the 400m swim/10km cycle/4km run course.

5000 bikes in the transition area

The weather was decidedly ordinary for the last day of summer with a cool, windy 17 deg's (62F) persisting for the morning. With so many bikes to get into the compound the organiser gets you to do it the day before so race morning is rather sedate with not much to do except get ready to race. Which in my case means sit back for a couple of hours until it is my turn to go.

The format for the event is each member of the team completes the whole race before passing a timing band to the next team member who does the whole race and the third person does the same before crossing the finish line. Our team set out with modest goals - enjoy the day, don't get injured ... and do whatever it takes to beat the other teams from our company!

Paul, Kylie and Derek before the race

The first team member starts as part of a designated "wave" of about 100 leaving on 2-minute intervals. We were off 28 minutes so had plenty of time to get nervous before getting underway. Suffice to say after two hours I was more than ready to get started.

Of course (!) by the time I began it was 10am and the wind had really picked up; bringing with it a large chop on the ocean and some ugly waves too. Regular readers of my blog will know my last race ended in ignominy with an untimely ride in the boat after a jellyfish-encounter. You can imagine my horror when I read a few days back about nasty bluebottle jellyfish being spotted close to Melbourne (they normally are 'up north' in warmer waters). I was less than impressed.

Early indications on this swim were good, though, no jellyfish to be seen. That said, I was closing my eyes a fair bit so maybe they were there! The rough conditions played havoc with the field and I spent a lot of time dodging slower (petrified?) swimmers as they came to grips with the unpleasant water conditions. I exited the water in just over seven minutes. Woo! Hoo! Now for the fun bits.

Being such a large race the run through to transition is "elongated" to say the least. There is all of 800m worth of running from water exit to the start of the bike leg. Add a 300m run from the team handover point down to the water and another 300m+ in bike to run transition and you have 1.4km of running without even stepping onto the run course!

The bike leg at this race is always interesting. There are bikes - and people - of all sorts. Which, translated, means at any point along the course there is likely to be a rider of dubious athleticism and woeful bike skills blocking the road. Makes for a fun time if you are going head down on your tri bars at 40kph! Of course, back into the wind 40kph became 30kph and reality struck. Back into transition and onto the run.

After a week off with my latest crazy back ailment that renders me barely able to walk and definitely unable to run I was a bit nervous about the final leg. Needn't have worried, though. It did not bother me at all and I ran really well, recording 16.25min for 3.8km (4.19m/k).  Very pleased with that, the best I've had in ages.

Let's see how I pull up tomorrow!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marysville Lake Mountain Challenge Ride

On 7 February 2009 the worst bushfires ever seen in Victoria devastated this state, killing 173 people and wiping many towns (literally) off the map. The small town of Marysville was one of these and 34 people died here with almost every building and residence destroyed. In the time since, many sporting groups have played their part in trying to get things going again. Last weekend it was the turn of the cycling community with the Marysville Lake Mountain Challenge Ride.

I took part with a few friends as we covered 80km’s including the 20km climb up to the cross country ski location of Lake Mountain.

The day began with a two-hour car trip up to the start with much amusement to be had at some of the innovative directions coming from the vehicle’s GPS unit. Thankfully we were not relying on it for actual navigation! On the final approach into Marysville we were greeted with the sight of one of the steep hills we’d need to ride up later in the morning. Suffice to say this did not instil me with anything other than trepidation.

Walking to the start
Walking to the start - looks pretty green here!

Once in town it was pretty clear that although there were still a lot of green trees around (isn't nature amazing!) this was still only a shell of a town. Very few shops remained or had been rebuilt (including the famous lolly shop that was now operating from a shipping container). More disturbingly was the high number of "For Sale" signs beside vacant blocks of land. It will be a long time till this community recovers.

And so onto the ride. It was a beautiful morning, pleasantly warm and a light breeze. The first 15km through Buxton was all downhill and really easy as you'd expect and the following 11km was a gentle uphill - still very easy going. Then it was time for the left turn towards Marysville and "the hill" I had seen in the car earlier on. It was short, only 2km long, but at an average gradient of 9.6% including 0.5km@12.5% in the middle. OUCH! That woke me up. After that it was an easy descent back to Marysville to complete a 35km loop. The easy part was done.

Now for the climb up to Lake Mountain. I had never ridden this climb but knew it was hardest early on before getting easier further up. Hmmm, sounds straightforward enough, but it is a 20km+ climb so even easy is hard, and a 4.5% average grade will probably feel a whole lot worse near the top.

Well, "they" were not kidding about the early part being hard. The first 4km averaged 8.4% and included another 2km@9.6% (for the second time today!)

Lake Mountain toll gates
Lake Mountain toll gates - less than 10km to go!

After that it was much easier, getting more gentle higher up the climb and the final 9.5km after the toll gates were "only" at 3.6% (ho hum!) The scenery varied, from completely blackened tree trunks through to lush green regrowth. You definitely knew a big fire had passed through here recently but you also got a sense of how quickly regeneration could occur.

Reaching the top after a climb of just over 100-minutes it was time for some lunch, photos and a video.

I love descents and this one was no exception. There is something exhilarating about roaring down the side of a mountain at 50-60kph. And before long we were rolling back into Marysville and the finish.

Another great day, another great expedition!

PS - my long run the day after this was not quite so much fun as my legs were still quite fatigued from the ride. Oh well, them's the breaks I guess.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A triathlon first ... in the worst way

I'm still here ... just. Hmmm, it's a bit easy to let one week stretch into two into a month and before you know it all notions of keeping a blog have gone out the window. When last I posted I had just completed the Pier to Pub swim. Crikey, that seems like half a lifetime ago! So what's been on since then.

Gatorade Triathlon, Sandringham - 10 January 2010
750m Swim, 20km Bike, 5km Run

I'll say a few things about this race.

1. After completing (and loving) the P2P swim the day before I wasn't really in the mood for another race the next day. I felt fine physically, just didn't have my head in the right spot. Never a good way to start.
2. I decided to race because you get a free copy of the daily paper (and my swim results would be in it!) and a bag of lollies (which my five year-old had asked me to give to her). Not great reasons, huh!
3. I hate jellyfish! Actually, hate is too weak a word. I really detest the disgusting little things. And I knew they'd be in the water and I wasn't really in the mood to deal with them.
4. In 22-years of triathlon I have never not finished an event. Until this one. When I started running into the head-sized jellyfish I decided to take the easy way back to shore. Thankfully the race director, a friend of mine, doesn't mind if you just wait it out till the last competitor from your group leaves the water and you can join back in. So in the results I "finished" but in my heart I know I DNF'd. Oh, the shame. You can understand why I have not posted in over a month.
5. Oh, the bike ride was average and my run ok.

So not much of a race and hence I was a bit over the idea of telling everyone about it. But hey, it's done now. So there!

After that race it was full-on into bike riding for the rest of January with a trip to Victoria's High Country and then a holiday in Adelaide watching the Tour Down Under.

I'll save that for the next post.

Cheers, PB :-)

PS - I think I've been seduced by this whole Boston Marathon thing again. I have started planning a trip there for the 2011 race (my qualification will get me entry to that one). But I cannot believe how expensive hotels are in Boston. Aaargh! So a bit more research to do yet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pier to Pub Swim

Today was my first athletic event of 2010 and is one of my all-time favourites - even though I am not all that keen a swimmer! It was the Pier to Pub swim in Lorne about two hours south-west of Melbourne. Over the years I have done this race about 7 or 8 times, but not since 2004.

It began about 30 years ago as an event for the local surf lifesavers, swimming from the pier (in the background of the photo) around the shoreline to their surf club, a distance of 1.2km. It has grown into the largest blue-water swim in the world (or so I am told) with over 4000 people taking part. This part of the coastline is along the Great Ocean Road, regularly rated as one of the top scenic drives in the world. The water is sparkling clear, the beach is fantastic, it is one fantastic event. (Coincidentally, this is also the start point for the Great Ocean Road Marathon which I am planning to do in May.)

Myself and two other guys who live in my street (yeah, friendly hood I live in!) were all doing the race today. Our road trip down the coast was punctuated by only one donut stop ... which was augmented in Lorne by an early lunch of, yes, another donut. Before we knew it we were in a hurry and had not really enough time to get up to the start line, get the wetsuit on, put gear into bag and into truck, wait in the marshalling area, swim 100m out to the start line and wait for the gun to go.

I put my wetsuit on and threw my gear bag into the bushes since my group were already at the start line ready to go! Bye-bye iPhone I thought until a guy offered to take my bag up to the truck for me (superstar!) I was still 50m or more from the start line when the gun went so had no chance of swimming a fast time. But at least I'd have clear water!

After getting my heart rate back down to normal levels I just started to pick off swimmers ahead of me whilst enjoying the cool water, pristine views and lovely day. It seems a long way, but less than 20-minutes later I am running up the beach and across the finish line. My friends followed soon after.

Miraculously my gear bag had made its way back to the start area and so before I knew it I was dressed again and ready to go. In so many ways this race is like doing a 5k after having run a marathon - it is over almost in the blink of an eye.

And after so many years of competing, I finally completed the "full" event this year, journeying across the road behind the surf club to the Lorne Hotel where an ice-cold beer was enjoyed by me and my swim buddies. Ahhh, perfection!

PS: On the way to to the car I picked up another donut just for good measure. Bewdiful.

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