Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Being Grateful

 “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

This past 2 weeks I have done little but contemplate . I am feeling more refreshed and comfortable.Not quite out of the haze of being tired of training .But with the season coming to a close other than the Busselton Half , there isn't much to prepare for.

Time for a rest and  refocusing .At the same time despite the setbacks of last year and the difficulty of balancing everything I want to do .I do have much to be grateful. I realized despite the disappointments of the past year , there are many who have taken the same road and with more adversity and come out of it .

It is the road less traveled that makes for the interesting journey.

And a long the way we learn from others and we admire the many who fill our life be it briefly . I am constantly in awe of these not so average individuals . That's what I enjoy about endurance events , the people I meet  make it special. This trail of thinking I know populates my blog . It is more acute when one life is snuffed out at its prime. Whilst I did not know Winston Koh , I knew many who he had touched .He was an ultra athlete , Ironman and adventurer .He was a teacher ,a Professor of economics , a dancer a photographer , a husband , a father and by all accounts a good man.

Sad as it is , he died in a diving trip , doing what he loved.

And for that , and the many others I have come to know I am indeed thankful. A University of California (Berkley ) research study suggest :

 researchers at the University of California-Berkeley report mounting scientific evidence that thankfulness also has concrete health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, stronger disease immunity and fewer symptoms of depression.

I can easily wallow in self pity of ineptitude but everyday ,  surely there is much to be thankful.

On a Beautiful Sunday morning with the swell  of the sea and the cold morning air , I swam with friends , my only exercise for the week , but it was a joy to feel that environment . I hated swimming when I first started triathlons .I wasn't good at it and it was hard.Fear of the cold clammy water  gripped me with fear . I  can't say I love it now but I have learned to feel more relaxed and comfortable in the water.

I have much to be thankful.The wonderful environment and city I am in. The space and the physical ability to do what I love.

This past week , with no real training , I have had a chance to reflect more . The family has got a new addition , a family pet . Her name is Molly and she has occupied centre stage.

Again gratitude features in the simplest of acts.Animals have no apprehensions .They give unreservedly and they love unreservedly. The sense of gratitude when they see you each day and their enthusiasm shines through. Walk in their paws and we will learn that a simple life is all the  pleasure that we should desire . Be grateful for small blessings.

And as the Sunday progressed , I spent a few great hours in Kings Park at the wreath Laying ceremony commemorating Greece Independence Day. The sun was shining , people smiling and a small community gathered to honour fallen soldiers of wars past . Indeed much to be grateful .

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Two weeks post Ironman New Zealand. I have been surprised by how quickly I recovered.Within 2 days I was feeling pretty comfortable and walking reasonably well. i did very little in the week and had a good ride on Sunday to Coogee Beach for the Jetty to jetty swim . Les and I took off from city beach and North Coasters passed us at Fremantle and so i got an easy ride down to Coogee.the swim was very comfortable be it slow for me as I swam the 1500m in 30.13 seconds. but I did not go hard and managed to draft behind swimmers .The ride back was tougher and and slight rise was harder on the legs . i plan to take it easy and easy back into some activity.

It is back to the drawing board in respect to planning for the next 7 months . But the half Ironman in may is probably not on the cards and a strength work out.

What lessons have I learnt : I am border line OCD  , learning to rest and recover are crucial, far too many endurance athletes have injuries and develop chronic  fatigue . With 10 Ironman's under the belt and if I am to see another 10 , learning to rest and recover and to be intelligent with my time has been the hardest lesson to learn.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ironman New Zealand Race Report 2013 Part 2

The plan to be executed was easy .Get from the start to the finish .Time was not an issue as I was really not in any real condition to be aiming for a time.I was actually not really fit and was carrying about 10kgs more than I wanted to be.

Whilst experienced enough to know what I was doing , by Friday evening as I rested in my unit , I was increasingly becoming anxious and worried . I wasn't able to sleep and actually didn't really manage much sleep at all.  I was getting really  anxious about the race and my lack of preparation. Even a few nightmares. Not ideal but the reality .

Race morning and I was up at 4.30 am and walking to transition by 5am .I got into the Transition area and sorted out my gel and nutrition and water on the bike and checked my bike. I then got my wetsuit on and by 6am I was ready .I hung around with Enrico Varella (15 time Ironman) and then we walked to the swim start.

The water on the lake was like a millpond .It was great conditions and whilst nervous I felt a lot better . At 6.45am the Pros went off. It was a deep water start. At 7am the age groupers were off. 1400 athletes in the water as Mike Reilly said it is a sight to behold. I quickly tried to get into a  rhythm and manage to draft off  somebody. It was an out and back course and for the journey out I had the buoys just on my left (they were supposed to be on the right) but it meant I was keeping pretty straight. I was out of the water in about 1.23 hr. Not my best but better than Busselton last year and that with very little swim training and my bursitis so I was pleased.  Having said that it is not an excuse as I know enough athletes who talk about what would have been. I genuinely was happy with the swim and know I will be able to build on that.

Swim Start From triathlete Magazine Delly Carr

As I got onto the carpet snaking its way up to T1 I struggled to get my wetsuit top half off but once I managed it I was able to run up the hill and get to T1 and the change tent.It was get the wetsuit off with a volunteer stripper and my top on and socks and bike shoes and I was out .I had a transition of about10 minutes with the run up the Hill ...sounds long but I didn't doddle. The record was an athlete at T2 who took 45 minutes .

Once on the bike , it was my strategy to just focus on the ride and nothing else.I immediately started eating and drinking every few minutes.It was cool and I had my arm warmers on . I tried to settle down and just build a decent pace .The first lap I did conservatively and it was pretty much downhill on the 2 lap out and back course with a few climbs. The ride back was tougher with a slight gradient and a few rollings hills. I did it in about 3.15 and I was hoping I could manage this for the next lap but unfortunately it got harder and my legs just were not as strong. I just struggled and got passed  a lot. On the last 45 kms I got off for a toilet stop and cramped badly.The legs were really screaming at this point. The one good point was my nutrition was pretty much on track .It was basic but I had no major gut issues just a bit of bloating .I had a lot of fluids and at least 4-5 litres of water plain or mixed with Gatorade concentrate into my aero bottle. The one issue was my feet were hurting on the soles . By the time I got into T2 it was about 7.12 hrs and I knew the run was going to be a struggle.

Delly Carr's Picture in triathlete magazines website ...Watching the Cows watching the atheletes

Finisher Pix
Another Hill Triathlete magazine Delly Carr

As I entered the run course , Meredith Kessler was finishing hers . The first 14 km were manageable but I was feeling weaker and weaker .On my second lap , I was struggling especially as I knew I had 28 kms to go.  The run course reminded me of the Lanzarote run course (accept that the  Lanzarote run was flat). This time I was walking lots more and the undulating run course made it very tempting to walk up the hill. The far end of the course was a lot quieter and that is when it was hard especially in the dark. On my last lap it was getting dusk and I was trying to shuffle more than walk and running 1 or 2km before walking through an aid station. I thanked all the volunteers and supporters. I walked part of the way with a fellow athlete Jimmy from Singapore.

On the run Pic from Finisher Pic

It was a night of many first.It was the first time I had a glow stick , my longest Ironman result by a country mile and my slowest bike and run times. Whilst the course wasn't easy , it wasn't the toughest. I just had no strength. If anything it confirmed my fears that I was really not in the physical or mental state to Race but whilst I don't regret the decision , it was tough and not the ideal way to go about racing an ironman. But it has given me some hope that I can but continue to try to improve. I will need to have a break from training mentally and just focus on my weight and build my core.

I crossed the line at 15.03.More relief than joy. I hurt everywhere and I was tired. I lost about 2.5kgs in fluid.

I got my bike and gear back after a recovery massage and some food. I had an awful metallic taste in my mouth and could not really eat much. I was really tired and slept like a log .The next morning I had an easy spin and breakfast at McDonald's  overlooking the Lake .

It was then packing up and lunch with Enrico at his unit and he invited me to drinks at the Cystic Fibrosis Tent .Enrico had raised money for the charity and it was going to a good cause of helping New Zealanders with the therapies they needed to survive longer. We then headed to the awards night which was always spectacular . There were some fast results and Bevan's and Meredith's speeches were very heart felt . They talked about the great race and the support from many who helped them get to the line and to get the results.

At the Awards Dinner with Enrico

Ironman New Zealand 2013 Champion Bevan Doherty

I saw Bevan the next morning as he was on the same flight to Auckland. I congratulated him and got a quick picture before he headed to the international terminal for his flight back to Santa Cruz.

What can I do better ? Simply don't race when I am not ready .Other wise it will be a long build and core strength and strength work for the next few months as I look towards  IM Busselton 2013  in December.

On the flight home  , Courtney Ogden was a few rows in front of me and whilst I didn't say hallo , he was equally inspiring with a 8.30 plus result. I bought  the latest edition of Time magazine to read the main piece which was a long detailed piece on  Oscar Pistorious titled “Man, Superman, Gunman”  by Matt Rudnitsky.Whilst really irrelevant to Ironman racing I did come across one of the key inspirations for Oscar was his mother and her determination he fight his disabilities. She wrote a letter to him ...

Sheila, a devout Christian, wrote a letter to her son before the operation with a message he could digest when he was older.

'The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last,' she said.

'The real loser is the person who sits on the side. The person who does not even try to compete.'

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That summed up the week for me . I felt bad I hadn't trained as hard and I wasn't as fit and I was just mentally unprepared but at the end I am glad I did race . I feel privileged to have been able to have got out and swum and biked and run. For the many out there on the run course in the dark there are many stories and sacrifices and pain endured .It was a privileged to have been part of the experience and to share that experience. If anything there is a uniting force of love of the sport , the mutual respect and that many don't have the same opportunities or through their disabilities struggle to finish .For that it is better to have tried and  crossed the line last.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ironman New Zealand 2013 ..How not to execute an Ironman Race.PART 1

Lake Taupo ...Ironman New Zealand

Finish (picture from Marathon pix)

What sums up the experience of this last Ironman journey is Relief at completing the race despite the 15 hour time.

If i thought I had reached rock bottom last year at Busselton , this was a new low in preparedness and execution totally from a lack of trying. I carried all the mental exhaustion of last year into this race. It was a plan than included everything I should not do . I had  not really done a lot but i still wanted to get to the start race. I had prepared myself for the fact that I was going to struggle and I just had to finish. It never is that easy and I failed to respect the distance and the toll it can and  does take on the body especially one not really prepared.

But my mind in its Machiavellian twist of logic convinced me that I was able to ride out the minor detail of preparation.

I did very little after Busselton but I just could not face rising at 5am and training 3 sometimes longer each day. I was also really off  any long rides. It was hot and I was 10kgs over weight. mentally i now know I was tired  from  the routine and the desire. What was really difficult was pulling away from a race I entered nearly a year ago.

Eight weeks to the race suddenly became a week. I managed my logistic well.i had booked accommodation with a month to go .Got a flight to Taupo and sorted out the packing of my bike .my bike and case weighed only 20kgs. I had everything else packed in a small suitcase. It was a pleasant enough flight to Auckland arriving at about 6am Auckland time a mere 5 hour difference. I then caught a 45minute flight to Taupo on the smallest commercial plane I have flown a NZ twin propeller Beech Aircraft holding 20 people. I met and chatted to Dave from Perth doing his 2nd Ironman after a 13 year break. (he did well with a 12.40 result)

There were others on the flight heading to Taupo to race. in all there were at least 20 from WA I believe . Including Courtney Ogden the only Australian Pro who came in 4th. The fastest female amateur on that day was  Kira Flanagan who was also from WA.( her time was 9.53)

I settled in to my hotel after 10 as I had to wait for the room to be available so I wondered around the town I was 10 minutes from the city center.Taupo is very much a laid back town of 20,000 people with the lake the main focal point .It is a town with one set of traffic lights. I got my bike set up and went for a ride .It was hilly but not hard. there was a bit of wind  as well but the weather was great .It was mainly in the 20s . I had a short swim on Wednesday and on Thursday went down to registration. I saw Courtney Ogden and Terrence Bozzone was also around I got a picture with him and an autograph. At registration I ran into Mal Hopkins fellow Exceed Triathlete and I was wearing my Rule 5 Exceed T-shirt which was HTFU and which 4 girls seem to know what rule 5 was and had a good laugh at my T shirt. had my wetsuit soaked in some bio detergent to prevent any contamination of the lake by Didymo Dave

Swim practice by the lake

Mal at Registration on 29 february 2013

Did a short run and swam in my wetsuit and did another swim with Enrico from Singapore without. The water was really quite pleasant . On Thursday evening we had the Carbo night at the Taupo Events centre just outside the Town. Same sort of food for a carbo loading WTC event but getting to hear from the Pros was always a thrill.There was Cameron Brown , Bevan Doherty and Meredith Kessler, last years winner in the rain shortened course.

They are all inspiring , unassuming and focused. Whilst I dread the hype , the marketing and the packaging of a WTC Ironman event . You do know what you are getting a slick professional product. What I yearn for is the close amateur friendly affair such races were only 10 years ago. But what is not plastic is the genuine sense of excitement and enthusiasm that exudes out of the event . You know what everyone has had to do to get there and the inspirational stories and the dedication of the athletes and their families.

The theme if there was one from the event organisers was family. It is true to a degree. Every where I travel , I meet people and there is a shared bond . It probably is like being a Freemason , we have a secret handshake ... a love for a sport ,probably a significantly greater enthusiasm than most in other sports given the hours that most put in ( I didn't this time round ).

The week before Ironman is a week to frolic in all things Triathlon. It is like a drug addict at a cocaine factory or a pig in s**t .I get to look at gear , merchandise( i didn't buy any as I just have too many ironman stuff anyway) talk and look at all the buff bodies and be a pro groupie. It isn't too many sports where you can actually talk to the professionals .

The 29th Ironman NZ race (the 15th in Taupo) was one which seems to be backed by everyone in the Town. 2000 volunteers , lots of friendly kiwis willing to help and on race day lots of crowd support on the run and bike course.

On Friday I checked in my gear and had done all my preparation.If anything , my routine was pretty straightforward after 9 attempts. I didn't quite bring enough Gatorade but I had about 70-75gms of carbohydrates per hour for the bike with 6 carbo shotz gels and dates and Gatorade with 2400mg of salt.

The plan to be executed was easy .Get from the start to the finish .time was not an issue as I was really not in any real condition to be aiming for a time.I was actually not really fit and was carrying about 10kgs more than I wanted to be.