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.

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