Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Jon Blais - The Blazeman

va.le to a true inspiration , roll accross the line next

va.le Blazeman

A true hero and inspiration to all triathletes and fellow athletes passed away from Lou Gehrigs Disease on the weekend his tribute can be found here
Watch the video for yourself and reflect next time you are having a tough workout

The Most Brutal Track Session to date

Now if you have run track, you always hear the complaints of the boredom of running endless loops getting nowhere and ending up where you started of course that is all true, but running track with a coach telling you to go faster when you have nothing left in your legs is another story.

I enjoy running track for some bizarre reason I actually like it, I still try to figure out why but there is something about endless loops that appeal to my warped sense of trying to get fit in a rapidly aging body.

yesterday was brutal though and somehow we had to run 3 x 3000m, 7 and half laps of pushing to the limit. My best km split was 4 minutes 40 seconds and so I can reflect that I am getting faster but it hurts if only I can transform these times to my next race then I will be very happy

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Saturday Breakdowns

Heart Rate and Speed Read Outs from - Transition Training

Tr (a) ing for Transitions.

Now anyone who entered or watched a triathlon has seen and heard about the fifth discipline of triathlon – Transition.

The experts and pros make it look so simple and effortless taking seconds as the move from one discipline to the next, for us new triathlete’s a better comparison is “like watching paint dry” , or in other words women can buy shoes faster than I could transition in my first efforts.

The next triathlon is in Tel Aviv in three weeks and training today in the mountains involved two brick sessions ride hard for an hour, transition and then run hard for 25 minutes. Have a five minute drink break then ride two hard loops with aggressive drafting , transition and then run harder for ten minutes.

Now a key thing to remember is that in our tri group is that out of the sixty odd who turned up for training today, I was the only member of our smaller sub group of twenty who are focusing on the Tel Aviv Race who does not speak Hebrew and the coach stood around and gave a lengthy 5 minutes of explanation in Hebrew of what we were to do. My briefing was 10 seconds so I thought I missing out on the finer points, which became all to evident when I finished the first bike and to be asked why my running shoes were not around as we were doing transition training, I pointed out as I walked back to my car that no one told me that we were doing transitions.

Anyway all worked out great and no doubt my transitions will be faster and tighter in the Tel Aviv Triathlon.

Not to pretty a sight and a good reason to keep shaving my legs

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tri'ng yet again

Apologies for the lack of postings but been having enough trouble finding time to train amongst all the grief and troubles going on down here in the Middle East , and computer access is not a major thing sitting on dusty hilltops in war zones.

But enough of that rubbish lets focus on the things that make us better as people and things we enjoy rather than images that fleet past us.

Now you would think that having done a Half Ironman in 6:33:00 that the coach would cut me some slack but within days it was back to track work etc.

The reason was last Friday was another triathlon , for those who are fortunate to live in countries were it seems that there is a tri athlon or running race every weekend to choose from, it aint that way here . With summer beating down we do not race basically from mid june till Sept so most events are stacked in May

Last Friday was my first Olympic distance race - 1500m swim , 40 km bike ride and 10 km run

Well having only ever done one triathlon before this was yet another eye opener , as the swim was in the sea , the bike was 5 loops of the same circuit with drafting allowed and the run was 4 loops out and back.

I finished in a PB time , well it was always going to be a PB as it was my first olympic distance, to be greeted by the head coach of our group saying , not well done but "You need to work harder" and my coach saying my running "sucked" and I have to work on running not like a marathoner but a fast runner. Not exactly words of encouragement and congratulations but words that have made me train and work harder.

Hey I am going to get this swim freestyle under my belt four , I even swam in training last Monday in open water freestyle. My biking aim is to learn to push harder and man do i pump my arms harder now.

Another Olympic distance in a few weeeks in Tel Aviv .

But the next big and real challenge is that i want to do an Ironman next year, hey it will only take 14 hours to do and nine months to train for

Monday, May 07, 2007

The day I became a HALF IRONMAN

Sea of Galilee
Jordan Valley

Before we get to the facts the figures and the stories behind my first triathlon lets take a step back and examine some very rational facts, which may explain why I am not a rational person.

Fact #1 I have never competed in a triathlon, I have never even been too or watched a triathlon, I had no idea what happens in a transition area or what to take or how to set up my transition gear.

Fact #2 Most sane and sensible new triathletes start with a short race like a Sprint
Or Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, and 10km run)

Fact #3 The Half Ironman distances are as follows
1900m swim (Prior to last Monday I had never swum that far)
90km Bike (Never ever ridden that far previous best 75km with lots of stops, done in a group with lots of drafting)
21.1km Run (Half Marathon) Last time I did a long distance run I DNF’d due to heat and cramps and have not run this distance on a road since January)

Ok so we have established I am not the smartest triathlete to be, but I have great friends to train and travel with that have inspired me to this point and I will be forever indebted to Margaret, Andrea and Michael for introducing me to a new sport that I am sure will dominate my life for the years to come.

Now I had planned to just to the Olympic distance up until a week ago, a nice introduction to Triathlon, and I had done all distances previously. But for all those who know me, know one thing I do have a competitive streak, which for good or bad is part of me. So after the training day we had up on the Galilee a couple of week’s prior, with Andrea and Margaret with our training group we had all decided to sign up for the Olympic, well then Margaret gets talked into to doing the half Ironman as it is the only Half in Israel, and thusly if Margaret was going to do the Half then I was as well, even though I had not gone any of the distances, apart from the run.

The four of us drove up to the race on Friday, it is less than two hours away but on race day we were scheduled to start the race at 5:30 am, which meant getting up at 3:30am to eat and get to the race start.

The night before we all got together for a somewhat bizarre and nervous pre race meal, which naturally involved walking around the streets of Tiberius on the eve of Shabbat trying to find a restaurant that was open and served pasta for a pre race carbo load. Now anyone who has ever gone out with friends in a state of nervousness will know that you will walk around in circles trying to find what you want, so instead of walking into the first restaurant you spend an hour on your feet not resting walking past the same three restaurants in search of something as simple as a bowl of pasta. The trouble in Tiberius was that being Shabbat eve the only restaurants open seemed to be Lebanese that served meat and fish or fish and meat. Finally we managed to find one restaurant that had some bad pasta on the menu.

Frustrated but at least happy to have found some pasta we ate and headed back to the hotel to put the final touches to our nutrition plans making peanut butter and jelly wholewheat pitas and the funny touch of writing our race numbers on our arms.

Sleep well trying to get to sleep at 8:30pm is not the easiest especially when your nerves are wire tight and you know that ou have to get up at 3:30. Of course you are tenser about sleeping in and missing the start than you are are about getting a good nights sleep.

The alarm went off after what seemed to be the longest night with no sleep and immediately you eat and have a coffee and hope that nature will take its course in the next five minutes as going to the toilet is as important as not forgetting your kit at this hour of the morning.

Arriving at the race start we got our bikes together pumped up the tires to race pressure hoping in the dark that we would not get a puncture, even though twice in the past two weeks we actually have got together for practice sessions in changing flat tires, yes we trained to repair flat tires, it makes sense to anyone who has done a triathlon and yet seems dumb to anyone who has not. The difference can be ten minutes in being able to repair a tire quickly.

So in the dark we checked in through the safety check and headed for the transition area to unpack and prepare, even though I had never done this before it was fairly straightforward laying out what you need for the bike and run legs.


Dawn was just breaking as we lined up, the sun barely above the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee was as dark and dim as a scene from a Lord of the Rings movie. My nerves were stretched but at the same time I knew that since I was starting at the back to avoid the kicking and punching of the front swimmers in the washing machine in front. Naturally the start had been moved to 5:45 instead of 5:30am, but it mattered little as I tried to make out the buoys in the distance that we had to swim around. 1900m is easy to write and does not seem a long distance especially when you are used too or in my case having swum only once in my life five days before. But in the open water of the Sea of Galilee there is no black line on the floor and the water is just greenish, you can see your arms in front of you and that is about it.

The horn sounded and with a lump in my throat I plunged in and started my first triathlon. “I am a swimmer, I am a swimmer” stroke glide stroke “I am a swimmer” went through my mind and I began to relax and look around, the sun still not on the water but lighting the hills that make the Golan Heights that separate Israel from Syria taking on a magical glow, turning at the first buoy of the triangular course I could see the sun on the eastern coastline and I just focused on the next buoy to swim too. Now forget images of a bronzed Aussie in the mould of Ian Thorpe turning over freestyle in a relaxed manner, I breaststroke having never learnt to swim freestyle so all I could see where the leading and not so leading swimmers pulling away from me. I did not care or worry as my goal was to get through the swim without having burnt up to much energy when I knew I still had the bike and swim leg to go. In fact the key to a race of this length is the ability to pace yourself it is a long day at the office.

Now I am not going to downplay my breaststroke because like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady actually had me catch up with the slower free style swimmers, and I actually tried to draft behind a slow free styler but to be honest did not seem to make the slightest difference except I was swimming in the bubbles of his feet.

The shore and finish eventually came and my feet touched the rocks after 59 minutes 45 seconds and looking around Margaret was next to me so we laughed and shuffle ran up to the transition area surrounded by fast little 10 year olds competing in the children’s race. My heart rate for the swim was avg 103 max 110, which was spot on easy relaxed and energy to burn.

Transition #1 Swim to Bike

By the time Margaret and I got to the transition area the first thing we noticed was how few bikes remained the rest of the people doing the Half Ironman seemed to be long gone. I focused dried my feet put on the bike shoes quickly ate a banana grabbed my helmet and headed out to the mounting zone. You cannot just get on your bike and ride all areas in the transition are controlled and ruled by officials with the power to disqualify you on the spot. Transition time incl run from water 9 minutes.

Leg #2 THE BIKE – 90 km’s

Hey two laps of a 45 km loop seem easy to say in conversation. But it is a bloody long way and the reality was that I actually expected to take close to four hours to complete this leg. Remember I have never ever ridden 90km before in my life. 75km’s in a group with drafting yes, alone with no drafting was a daunting prospect.

Again the key to my strategy was to pace myself, remain in low gears and maintain a high cadence so that my thighs and quad muscles would have the energy to run the half marathon.

To make myself feel good in the first few km’s all those little kids who had raced past me running out of the water I blasted past them on the bike, ok it does not mean much being able to out cycle an 11 year old but in my mental state of trying to maximize every positive these were small victories.
After 5 km the kids turned and all of a sudden I was alone, no one in front of me and for the next 15 km’s I rode alone pushing as hard as I dared. I had calculated that to do well on the bike I had to eat and drink smartly as nutrition is often referred to as the fourth leg of a triathlon.

Riding alone on an empty highway seemed strange, tucking into my bento box (food box) on the bike I nibbled on cut up dates and kept sipping water and sports drink. Suddenly ahead of me a bike streaked past heading back in the opposite direction. The leaders were on the return of the first lap, these guys were motoring and seemed to fly past, but then again I was comfortably pushing along trying to maintain 30 kmh., Which I did quite successfully for the entire time on the bike.

I did the first half of the loop in 47 minutes and turning back grabbed a bottle of water and took a gel for energy. I was going to save my peanut butter pita bread for the second lap as a reward.

It was so strange to be alone on the road as I passed the few riders who were behind me it felt good to not be at the back but then again I really did not care. Since no matter what time I did it was going to be a personal best time.

One of the good aspects of loop courses is that you see and pass your friends and it was great to see Margaret and Michael on the course, both seemed to be as focused as me.

The second leg of the first loop saw the traffic jam of the sprint and Olympic distance riders now on the course and mentally it felt great to crank up and pass other riders, with my energy levels high and heart rate below 140. In fact over the entire bike section my heart rate was an average 122 with a max at 140 beats per minute.

The second half of the first loops I did in 44:52 and settled back in to start munching on my peanut butter pita. Note to self here do not wrap so well in plastic wrap not easy to undo one handed at 3o kmh. The leaders raced past me going the other way and I just focused on keeping my head together and maintaining a good cadence to save my legs the third section I did in 49:36, within two minutes of the first one heading back now I passed Margaret and we shouted encouragement and shared a smile in less than an hour I would be off the bike and running. My god my bum and crotch were getting numb by now.

Hang on up ahead another rider, yes another rider after 65km’s I actually past another rider doing the Half Ironman. Hey after 2:45 minutes I actually overtook another rider.
Heading into the final two km’s I dropped the gearing to low and gently try to change the muscles the run awaited.

My final leg took 47:39 for a total bike time of 3 hours 10 minutes and 11 seconds, given that I had hoped for four hours having never done the distance I jumped off the bike at the marshalling area and felt my legs go to jelly with the first step I took, oh dear ….

Transition #2 Bike to Run

Now I wish I could say that my legs felt fantastic, when in fact they felt like two rubber bands for those first twenty steps and by the time I got my bike back into the transition rack, the rider that I had passed had also entered the transition and was off like greased lightning. Taking a minute longer than I wanted I changed shoes and grabbed a drink before hobbling off, but with each tentative step my legs did come back.

Leg #3 – THE RUN

I have run the half marathon distance many times in races and in training so of all the disciplines of the day, this was the one that I felt good going into. I had fueled well and drank plenty so I thought that dehydration was not going to be a factor. Little did I realize how much fluid I was going to need and the Gastro problems that awaited me?

My first km’s were done in a respectable 5:29, 5:27 and 5:24 which are by all factors respectable times and though I felt slow my watch did show I was moving well. It was becoming a mental game and my mantra was “ I am a runner” and through the whole run over the next two hours never did the dreaded left side of the brain ever take full control. Sure it tried but it was the heat that was becoming the critical factor, the run again was a double loop and on the first leg there were runners from the other distances on the course so at no times was there empty path ahead of me.

The path was a brutal fully exposed no shade footpath of hard concrete alongside the hwy south and it was a matter of trying not to look at the signs and distance markers on this first loop as all I could focus on was the thought of on the next loop I will be counting down rather than counting up.

One great thing on the loop system was that I was to see Mike, Margaret and Andrea and we could high five each other, well low five actually but somehow this simple act helped bond us and mentally gave me a great lift to know that all of us were going through the same and yet we took the time to help each other by the simple act of slapping hands as we took another step towards the end.

The first loop was highlighted by the fact that when I got to the Half Ironman check point the volunteer upon seeing my number approach dashed back to the table and grabbed my special need bottle that had been dropped off earlier in the morning, I declined knowing that on the second loop this would be a great mental boost for me. Lets face it since when is purple Gatorade a mental advantage but it was to be.

I knew that up to this point my fluid intake had been good, as I actually had to stop and go to the toilet, ok more than you need to know, but it showed that I was drinking enough to this point.

The run back to the turn around point was tough and the sun and the heat was physically taking its toll, I tried not to look up but simply concentrate on my mantra and keeping my legs moving in what seemed like the slowest shuffle, my km splits were down to 5:50 and 6:00 sometimes longer as I walked through all drink stations taking two cups of water, one to drink one to pour on myself to try and cool down my head.

On the second leg of the run loop my best km split was to be 5:56 minutes per km and after picking up my purple Gatorade and downing yet another gel I walked with another competitor for two minutes as we tried to psyche each other up to run, we did eventually but after 100 m he stopped and I continued pushing as best I could.

I realized that water I had been getting on the run had been coming out of these portable water tanks and that the volunteers had been tipping them up to get the last of the water out, mentally this just started to make me think and sure enough I started to cramp in the stomach.

I needed more water and as bad as I felt I knew that this was crunch time I had less than five km’s to go and as I passed Margaret for the last time I tried to smile but inside I was hurting real bad but did not want to show it. Andrea had finished her Olympic distance and as an act of true friendship came back down the course to find Margaret and me and as I passed her she offered me water from a bottle she was carrying. I really at this point was mentally beyond my zone and thanking her just continued I was so bloody close that I could not figure out why these last km’s were taking so long, my km time were blowing out to 6:30 to 7:30. But I was moving, my legs felt like jelly for a few hundred yards and as I walked they loosened and I wobbled but mentally pulling myself I got back into a run as slow as it was.

Then I heard the best sound of any event you enter the announcer at the end on the loud speaker reached me and down inside I knew that I had made it just another 500m and it would be all over.

There is always a part of you that wants it to be over, but at the same time the journey has taken you through so much and made you realize what it takes that you somehow do not want it to end the journey has made you a better person and the end seems not fair. You want the feeling to never end because you understand what it takes and what you have been through.

But the finish line was there and as I crossed I realized that I had done it I was a Half Ironman. Hang on does this mean I want to be an Ironman. At this point I truly do not know but to push yourself to a new limit is such an emotional high that inside you want more.

My time 6 hours 33 minutes the seconds really do not matter, what mattered was that all of us had taken a challenge and we had all won.

Margaret got a trophy for second place in her age group and packing up the cars tired and exhausted beyond anything I have ever done before.

I felt an elation and endorphin high, today I had with friends done better than my best, we all had.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Arbaim Ve Schome

Ok whats with the title of the blog today?

Well in my poor translation of hebrew it is actually "Forty Eight" and hence my bitrhday, funny thing is that i do not feel 48.

Two days out from the Jordan Valley Half Ironman and in reality today was the last of the training taper days , a 45 minute run (should of done 48) made up of 3 repeats 10 min Easy 5 Minute Race Pace . We have a sandstorm of sorts here at the moment and the temperature was above 30 degrees C at 6 am when I ran

Getting my stuff together for tomorrow, looks like an expedition rather than a simple race of Swim Bike Run

Reminder to self , at dinner tonight PLENTY OF WATER

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Three Days Out

So I had planned as my first Triathlon to do an Olmypic distance race , surely a 1500m swim in open water, followed by 40 km on the bike and a 10 km run would be enough for my first Tri, hell I do not even know what happens in those Transition areas having never done a "transition".
Well no for some reason I have decided that I will be doing the "Half Ironman" 1900m swim, 90 km bike ride and then run a half marathon , why ?.
Because there is only one Half ironman a year here in Israel and so the left side of the brain has for some reason over ridden all common sense and I have entered it.
Feeling positive about the day, as my goal is not time orientated and just to finish with a smile is all I want.
Have been tapering and concentrating on nutrition this week along with the other great pondering of the event do I wear an old wetsuit , this morning at six am I was downstairs in the pool, and almost drowned on my first lap swimming in a wetsuit, as stupid as that sounds. I thought my time over 1000m was better than yesterday when I swam in my trisuit, but was a minute slower however I was warmer . So this is a question that will no doubt irk me to I actually get in the water Saturday. What to wear ? wetsuit or tri suit ... Erring on the side of the tri suit only at the moment
Followed the swim with a good run , easy 4.5 km loop around the suburb in 22:52 Heart rate did not get above 137 and best km split was 5:12.
Tomorrow I have a 45 minute run which i will do at easy pace and race pace over three intervals

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A new PB and only in Israel

Now readers of my blogs know that I have an affinity with the drivers of Israel. And last Saturday yet another story about life on the roads here took the unbelieveable to yet new "only in Israel" But lets get back to the issue of me running a new Personal Best for 10km.
Personal Bests meaning very little to anyone but yourself, of course people go "oh great" and "well done" but it is the inner self that knows you have gone faster than ever before over a set distance and perhaps all those early morning hours spent running by yourself pushing a little bit harder does in fact pay off.
For the last year I have been running with demons as one might say and not running my own race, more so in my mind than in my body, last Saturday I was focused and decided that this was a day for me to go. My best km split was 4 minutes 11 seconds and the slowest was a respectable 5 minutes 10 seconds on the uphill at the 7 km mark.
When they gave me the tacky medal at the end, for the first time in a long time it meant something to me because I really felt lke I had earnt it.
Now as runners we know that part of the race entry fee is for the police to co-ordinate road closures to ensure that the locals do not line us up like a bowling alley and aim for a strike. So after the race at around 9:50 I got back into the car and tried to drive out back home, only to be stopped in a line at a police barrier blocking the road. Now you do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the police had been told to close the raod till 10:00, but oh no the five other cars around me seemed intent on screaming at the Policeman that they should be let out, these are the same runners who not half an hour ago had wanted the security of a safe road as we ran past other Israeli drivers shouting at Police road blocks that they had a god given right to drive on the road even if it was full of runners.

The Policeman just looked at his watch and shrugged as the departing runners vented their frustrations at the same person who not long ago doing the same thing had given us all safety.
I just laughed and sure enough at 10:01 the road opened up , only in Israel.