Crazy last run

Yesterday afternoon I tried the Wonder Woman costume Speedy Reidy and I are wearing for the Run Like Crazy Marathon and after party at Honey Bar.

I tried both versions, the complete costume for the after party first. KKB kindly pointed out that I need to wear red briefs over my tights to get the required coverage. Damn cheap tights!

I then put on the version for the half marathon, including the red cape, and realised:
  • I hadn't done a practice run in it
  • I had meant to do a short run this afternoon, but then got distracted by a glass of red wine.

Half and/or Half Arsed

I've done it. I've relegated myself to the half at the Run Like Crazy Half Marathon.

It wasn't an easy decision. I'm not the kind of person or athlete that takes the easy way out. But, given I'm also not the kind of person or athlete that can just punch out a marathon, I know it's the right thing to do. It's simple. I haven't done the training I need.

Had I fronted up for the marathon, it would have been a half arsed effort at best. But copping out into the half marathon feels half arsed too.

Worst run ever

This Saturday's run was hard. It hurt when I started. It hurt when I finished. I don't remember much of it that didn't hurt along the way.

It wasn't the longest run I'd ever done. I ran a route I'd run many times before, so I hadn't misjudged the terrain. I had my trusty Garmin 310XT, so I didn't overestimate the distance. It was hot on Saturday, which of course didn't help.

I was ever hopeful after last weekend's run with Speedy Reidy, but the same bliss was not to be.

Two hours of insanity

Those of you who live in Brisbane know it was raining on Sunday morning. Not lightly, either.

I'd arranged to meet Speedy Reidy at the Powerhouse at 7.30 to accompany her on the last 15ks of her 35k long run. When my phone went off just after 5am I went downstairs to check it, correctly thinking it would be Speedy Reidy. I incorrectly predicted the contents of the message - 'Am running. See you at the powerhouse, AP.'

I went back up and announced to KKB, "this is going to be two hours of insanity".

...with a little help from my friends

Since my last blog post I've:
  • taken supplements
  • had a birthday, and received a post card and present from Speedy Reidy
  • got a public hurry up from Tyno Myte via my Facebook page
  • entered Challenge Cairns
  • had the first of what's bound to be many pep talks for Challenge Cairns, from Coach Andy
  • commenced a course of anti-biotics
  • taken supplements

Supplements, anyone?

The Athletic Powerhouse is desperate.

She's taking everything she can get her hands on.

Recommendations from friends, fellow athletes, even work colleagues all lead to another trip to the pharmacy or health food store, and another fifty bucks later, another herb, mineral or wonder drug to pop down the hatch.

I can't seem to kick this cold and I need to. It's only seven weeks till the Run Like Crazy marathon, and the longest run I've done is 24ks. It's not enough.

I heart riding my bike

So it turns out that 24ks really was too much last weekend, compression socks or not.

Perhaps it was the combination of a 24k run on Saturday; a mega-early start on Sunday to officiate at Noosa Triathlon; and a massive Melbourne Cup Day? Either way by Wednesday morning I was back to square one in fighting off my cold.

By Friday I was climbing the walls after no training for nearly a week, so I rugged up and ventured out for a walk. I followed it up with another walk on Saturday, hoping that Sunday would dawn with a little less phlegm. Not quite ready to run, but there would be no walking for me. On Sunday, it was time to ride.

It ain't fashion...

The Athletic Powerhouse is not known for her love of fashion. Case in point - I'm writing this on Melbourne Cup morning, and I don't have any shoes to match the frock I wanted to wear. I have a secret fear that if Trinny and Susannah do a series in Australia, my friends will dob me in for a makeover.

But I digress.

On my long run this weekend, I debuted my CEP compression socks, which are designed to "maximise power, boost energy, and speed recovery time". They aren't the kind of garment you buy for their looks, but I've got the hot pink ones. So do they count for fashion?

France Retrospective: July 16, Mont Ventoux

After saying goodbye to Morzine, and to Hayden, Sue and the kids, we drove a long day to Carpetras for an overnight stay to ride Mont Ventoux. Located smack back in the middle of Provence, a wine growing region, Carpentras is not where you'd expect to find a mountain like Ventoux, but I think that is part of its mystique - its bleak, treeless shape protrudes from the flat countryside around it like a pimple in the middle of your forehead.

Of course, Ventoux is one of the legendary climbs of the Tour de France, with names such as Eddy Merckx and Marco Pantani being some of the big names to have won a stage finish on top of Ventoux.

While I certainly didn't have ambitions of climbing like those guys, I was looking forward to experiencing this legendary mountain for myself.

Blown away

The wind on Saturday was overwhelming. So much so that I bailed after just a few Ks, running back to my car with my tail between my legs. I don't think I've ever felt like I would be blown off my feet before, but this weekend, it happened.

I'd run from Kingsford Smith Drive along past Newstead Park and into Teneriffe. When I turned back I knew the morning was a write off. I decided to stop along the way and smell the roses, so to speak. It's in doing this that I was truly blown away.

Here comes the sun

The sunshine is back in Brisbane. In a fashion. The light filters down through a veil of cloud cover; sometimes brightly, and other times, less so. So, maybe the description at best, is that at least it isn't raining. For now.

It meant I could do my hill repeats dry yesterday. Not so for my long run last weekend, which I started in the rain, and finished in the rain.

Morzine: The Depart

The update from the Depart is all about the pictures. Wall to wall cyclists, everyone you can imagine.

Each member of the Lampre team accepted a prize for being the leading team on the tour, before the stars came out to the delight of the cycling fans, crammed shoulder to shoulder, jostling for position.

Beware the tour Skoda Yeti!

When I ran around Morzine on my first day in town, I wasn't quite sure how I'd find somewhere to do a VO2 session on the bike. It all seemed rather hilly.

I'd been on the lookout all week, and finally settled on the perfect stretch of road for a VO2 MAX session. I'd ridden it on my big ride on Saturday, and scoped it out on the way down to Lake Geneva. A nice long flat stretch, with enough straight to be able to turn safely.

So I felt fully prepared for a good session when I set out this morning. Little did I know that the Tour de France Publicity Caravan, not the impossible terrain, would be my downfall.

Viva la tour town - Morzine

There is something special about a tour town.

When we arrived in Morzine on Thursday afternoon, it was alive with downhill mountainbikers. They rode around the streets all armoured up (but without their helmets... go figure...). Some of the local businesses had strung yellow cloth from their balconies and doors, but apart from that it seemed a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Tour de France.

Not for long, though, as the town transformed before the Avoriaz 'arrivee' on Sunday.

Morzine-Avoriaz: TDF Stage 8 Aussie Gold

After persevering with french commentary on TV for a week, at last, the tour was in town.

I don't know about anyone else, but I could hardly contain my excitement. I couldn't wait to get on my bike and ride the climb before the tour passed through.

And although we were hesitant to dwell on it too much, for fear of jinxing him, we were keenly aware that Cadel Evans was well placed to take the yellow jersey from unlikely tour leader Sylvain Chavanel. He was only 1:25 behind, with thirty seconds on the next best notable contender, Andy Schleck.

It was going to be a good day.

I wouldn't get out of bed for that... oh, wait....

The morning after my wayward brick session, we drove to Lake Geneva where I planned to finish off my brick with a run along the waterfront. I knew I probably wouldn't get the whole 18ks I was supposed to do in, after all, it was tour day. We had limited time for running, there was riding to do.

I hitched a lift with Vennessa, and on the way she lamented that how her plan to complete the Run Like Crazy marathon with me was fading fast, and told me the story of how she came to the realisation that she might need to reset her goal to something more achievable.

The wayward brick

The schedule for my last big brick session was 130ks on the bike and an 18k run. Although my program had been designed to get all the hard work done before I left home, I was looking forward to chalking up another long day in preparation for what is always a long day.

Things went a bit wayward though, through my own grand plans, advice from a friendly local, and a turn in the weather.

Exploring a new town

We got to Morzine after a long day in the car. First order of business - a long run of course!

It wasn't an ideal time to tackle a long run. It was stinking hot and I'd been sitting in the van all day in transit from La Grave. We'd driven the long way to see for ourselves what the Tour riders had in store on Col de la Madeleine a few days later. Let's just say it was frightening enough in a car.

So, armed with a map of our new home town and my phrase book in case of emergency, I set off in search of 24ks of semi flat terrain. It turned out to be an ideal way to explore.

Another day, another country

We rode in to Italy today, climbing up Col Sastrierre form Cesana on the French / Italian border.

Tour trivia - Lance Armstrong won here in 1999. Needless to say, the Athletic Powerhouse's ascent of Sestriere was a little different. There were no crowds lining the mountain pass, it was a bright sunny day, I hadn't been riding for five hours before tackling the climb... oh and I probably took twice as long!

Of course we sought out a pizza slice and a proper Italian coffee at the top but were ill equipped to order it - we hadn't learned any Italian in preparation for our trip, only basic French! Lucky for us, "pizza" and "espresso" are fairly universal.

In the swim

So I knew there'd be some differences in training in another country, but I was looking forward to pretending I was an elite athlete, finalising my preparation for an international Ironman race at altitude.

Apart from the obvious difference of riding on the right hand side of the road, the pool at Alpe d'Huez was my first such experience.

Alpe d'Huez redemption

After my VO2 session on the bike this morning it was time to finish off what I'd started on Friday with a climb up the Alpe.

The last time I'd ridden Alpe d'Huez I'd only done half the job in my failed attempt at the Alpe d'Huez triathlon. Last time, it was blisteringly hot. The heat radiated off the rock walls at the bottom of the climb. This time, the cooler mid-morning held the promise of a much more pleasant experience.

Flat out

I found a great location for my run speedwork today.

We'd been hunting for a flat since we arrived in La Grave. Short of going down to Bourg d'Oisan, the next best thing was a little road we found down by the river. Not a bad view, hey?

Well, as it turns out, looks aren't everything.

The Cols of Alpe D'Huez

I had some unfinished business on the Cols of the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon course. I've never admitted it here on the Triathlete Chronicles, but this is the only race I've failed to finish. I was pulled from the bike course by a Frenchman who purported not to speak English and bundled into the sag wagon.

Adding insult to injury, although I promised to write a Chronicle about my experience, I failed at that as well. In many ways, this is understandable. But it's regrettable, because I look back on that experience with a range of emotions. Mostly, I feel the vulnerability, sadness, and shame of failure. But there are also glimmers of defiance and desperation that often accompanies the persistence I hoped to show.

Being back at the Alpe, I'm reliving it like it's yesterday.

Travel hopefully

There are many quotes about travel, but one of my favourites is by Robert Louis Stevenson:

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."

It pays to travel hopefully. After all, a lot can go wrong when you've got a cab ride, a flight, an adjoining flight, a cab ride, a car hire, and a 800k drive to get to your destination.

There is a lot ahead for the Athletic Powerhouse. There are physical challenges that require mental toughness. I didn't expect that the very act of travelling to prepare me for what's ahead but as it turns out, I've arrived more hopeful than I imagined.

Ready to roll

The time has come. I'm sitting at the airport, looking forlornly at the Triathlete Chronicles, shaking my head at the irony of it. The more I train, the more I have to blog about. Sadly, the more I train, the less time I have to actually blog.

This last couple of weeks, I've done some of my best and worst training sessions, of this program, and perhaps ever. I've constructed perfect blog posts out there on the road, none of which have made their way to their rightful home.

This is how VO2 goes

The goal of a VO2 session is... well I'm not quite sure what the goal of the session is. That's why I have a coach.
How it goes, is that you go flat out for a specified time. Then recover for a specified time. Then go flat out for a specified time, then recover, and repeat for the desired effect.

There are many theories on what the optimal intervals are. Actually, I don't really know, but my coach told me there was. He also told me that the intervals he gave me were the magic numbers, according to research. But I don't really know. That's why I have a coach.

What I do know is how a VO2 interval session goes.

Something goes in there... it comes out different

KKB and I planned a trip to Lennox Head this weekend, so I did my open water swim in an unfamiliar location, Lake Ainsworth. We'd stopped off at Byron Bay to find that the surf was larger than I'd like, and the pool closed for the winter.

When we checked in to our apartment we asked about the safety of swimming in Lake Ainsworth. He was forthcoming with a detailed explanation of how the water is therapeutic because of the abundance of Tea Trees in the area.

And that's how it started.

Not happy, (but then there was) Jan!

Another record training run this morning, 26Kms, leaving from home and ending up at work.

It was a long time to be out there. I'd woken up with a bit of a sore throat and a sniffle, and even though part of the run took in the bike path along Coronation Drive, I was failing dismally in the popularity stakes. It isn't often I run or ride along there without seeing someone I know. When I got to the 20K mark, my chances were further diminished when I was diverted to the footpath of Coronation Drive, away from the cyclists, who are able to continue along beside the river.

Something had to turn this around, didn't it?

$5 for a can of Coke, but no free Tshirt.

Today was the last day of my recovery week. I've let my body "recover" by running the best part of a half marathon on Wednesday, and completing the equivalent of a Half Ironman today.

I know, followers of the Athletic Powerhouse, that you will share my disenchantment that no free Tshirts were forthcoming at the end of these efforts, the way there would be at the end of the real thing. I hope, though, that you will enjoy the story of how I happily parted with with $5 in exchange for a can of Coke.

All kinds of states

The picture's fairly explanatory really. I rode to New South Wales today. (Just from the Gold Coast. Not from Brisbane.)

Even so, it was another long day. Training was an open water swim followed by a 130k ride... topped and tailed by an hour's drive.

Geographically, I may only have covered two states, but emotionally, I was in all kinds of states.

Mother, woman, lady or girl?

It's Mothers Day today. Andy had a big day planned for me. 150Ks on the bike, including Mt Nebo, with a short run to follow. It would be the first training day where morning lapses into afternoon before you know it.

Halfway up Mt Nebo a fellow cyclist came up behind me, puffing as much as I was, and as she passed, slowly, she wished me a happy Mothers Day. I wished her the same, then asked her if she was a mother. She said she was, paused, then asked if I was. When I said I wasn't, she said cheerily, "Well, happy Mothers Day anyway".

This chance encounter, and an off hand remark, provided some food for thought as I ticked through some Ks in a very long day.

Fear and procrastination

I know, this doesn't sound like the title of a very positive post. But hear me out.

My experience this morning might just show that they are the ultimate motivators: Fear of failure and procrastinating past the point of no return.

Forced recovery

I've been on forced recovery this week... otherwise known as the 'common cold'!

Physically, I think I'm on the mend. Mentally and emotionally, I keep thinking about the 120k ride I should have done on Sunday, and the 22k run I should have done on Wednesday.

Paying it forward

Befriending older gents is nothing new to the Athletic Powerhouse. I've previously documented on the Triathlete Chronicles how Lake Tinaroo local Bob provided me with ridiculous amounts of outside assistance at my first Half Ironman, and the way an unnamed Belgian man coached me through my ascent of Col du Galibier.

This morning I had the opportunity to pay it forward to a 50 year old woman I encountered trail running at Bunyaville state forest.

Even superheroes have to shower

When you're training for an Ironman and working full time, you have to find ways to manage your time super effectively.

Most days, this means I shower at work, after either training from work or on the way to work, or going straight to work after training. OK, so a shower isn't glamorous, or perhaps even remotely interesting. But it's one of the ways the Athletic Powerhouse comes into her own.

Lost in navigation

Good Friday today so to earn the Humpty Dumpty egg KKB gave me I launched with gusto into the trail run that was set as a bit of a change to my regular Friday water run.

My coach is at home off road, but me not so much. Still, I had a map, on which I'd highlighted the route I was to take. I was running less than 10ks from the City at Mt Coot-tha so not much could go wrong.

My trusty Garmin. I hope.

My run Ks are starting to build and today after a recovery week last week, I was back up to 18Ks.

I ran a fairly flat run along the river this morning towards New Farm Park, familiar territory that I frequented a lot during last year's marathon training. As always I ran with my trusty Garmin. These days it's the only way I know how far I've run.

I don't remember feeling especially good this morning, or fast. But my Garmin tells me otherwise.

Like deja vu

I am tired, emotional, and physically bereft. Today's ride took in two of south-east Queensland's best climbs, and was long, lonely and hilly.

It was my longest day in the saddle to date in my current training program; the first of more to come this time around. It felt reminiscent of the first long training ride I did for my first Ironman, a ride which my friends and I still look back on with pain, pride, and disbelief.

My first Ironman predates this blog, and I haven't spent much time tripping down memory lane. This story deserves to be told though, because it has become pivotal in forming not only my training mindset, but also my friendships with Annie and Jill (my fellow "Ironmoles"). It's one of our favourite war stories.

A lesson in history... and the value of hurting

I stayed on the Moreton Bay Cycleway this morning to complete my ride with a high cadence. This is a recurring training session designed to build balance and strength on the bike by providing some instability.

I was approaching home when I started making ground on an older gent who was pedaling along at a decent pace. I thought twice about making the pass, because my session today wasn't about speed, and I always feel discouraged when someone I've passed gets me back. Given I was focusing on skill rather than speed, I thought it likely.

What I hadn't counted on was the conversation he sparked up with me when he did pass me back, and the food for thought he provided.

Commuting is fun!

Yes, I know. Mostly, commuting isn't fun. If you drive, it's peak hour traffic and idiots switching lanes all over the shop. If you catch the bus or train, there's the too-loud-iPod guy, the loud talker on the mobile phone, or someone who's just so weird you can't look at them straight.

Today I'd planned ahead and my weekly long run served as my commute to work.

Discovering Mt Coot-tha

I know, I know. I'm always banging on about how I did something new or different, and how great it was, and how I shouldn't have been worried about it after all.

I won't put you through that same old story again. But I will write about my discovery of Mt Coot-tha.

To set the scene - I've been a cyclist in Brisbane for eight years or so and for most of those years I lived a maximum of five kilometres from the base of Mt Coot-tha. Although I've often ridden up the front, I hadn't, until this morning, ever been up the back. Many of my friends, including KKB, find it incomprehensible that I've never ridden up the back. So much so that it's almost become a joke around the posse.

It might be surprising to some of you that I tackled this 'first' by myself. When I was driving there, knowing I was riding alone, I considered many options that would get me out of this predicament. But I knew there was no way out, so I parked at Toowong and set off.

Across the overpass (another first), up the bottom bit past the Mt Coot-tha Gardens and Planetarium then on around past Slaughter Falls to the start of the climb. I don't know why I was surprised, but I was both surprised and delighted to be all of a sudden surrounded by many fellow cyclists, all toiling away up one of Brisbane's favourite training locations.

What I thought would be a lonely, onerous training session was, yes, physically demanding, but beyond that, a real buzz. Particularly after weeks being holed up at home on the home trainer due to rain.

An excellent discovery. And I'll be back. Next week in fact. And I may never ride up the front again.

Amazing, or not?

Out on Mt Gravatt this morning for some reps. On my first trip up the hill I passed a woman running. I smiled at her on the way back down, and when I passed again on the second lap, she called out to me,

"You guys are amazing!"

I returned the compliment, calling out to her that I thought SHE was the amazing one. I have never even contemplated running up Mt Gravatt and can't imagine doing so. (Hope my coach doesn't read this and get some ideas...)

Thinking about it now though, I'm sure both of us really just felt that we were going about our business. Running, cycling, or even walking up any mountain, even if it is only a 2K suburban climb, may not be what most people do in a morning before work. But whether it's heroic enough to be considered "amazing"... I'm not sure. Any thoughts?

At the time, I gladly took the compliment, and without even thinking about it, offered the same encouragement in return. The support from this stranger helped keep me motivated and focused. It felt good. (Maybe even amazing.)

The Unknown

My long runs are getting longer. Today when I set out on my 14k out and back, I had no idea that I'd end up at West Chermside! It seemed like a long way from home. (But I guess it was only 7ks...)

Even so, I got that feeling of accomplishment that you often get when you train somewhere new. Maybe it's something to do with overcoming the unknown?

When I got to the Prince Charles Hospital, that feeling grew. When I was a little kid, we'd always pass by on Webster Road when we came to Brisbane. My family would always remind me it was "my" hospital. I was too young to remember, but the Prince Charles Hospital is where I had my heart surgery as a toddler. I vaguely remember getting a day off school for a check up years later, but it's not something I even think off all that often.

From time to time people ask me what happened to my back. Sometimes I try to tell them that the scar is the result of a shark bite. (It's never really worked, unfortunately!) But there's been the odd occasion where, if the question is asked with a sense of urgency, or a tone of shock or surprise, it startles me. I forget about the scar and wonder what's happened that I should be worried about.

Even though I'm not all that aware of it, from time to time I think about what I've come through, and how lucky I am to be alive, let alone to train the way I do. 

Yes, sometimes the unknown can spur you on to a new level.

Clem7 Tunnel Run: once in a lifetime

Every city, once in a while, offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to its citizens. Brisbane offered that today. The Clem7 under river tunnel is just weeks away from opening to traffic so this morning we took the only chance we'll get to run the return journey of just over 10ks. It was a fun run to benefit the Royal Childrens' Hospital Working Wonders charity in Brisbane.

The event wasn't without its disappointments. The website promoted it as "approximately 10km long, and is an Athletics Australia Certified Accurate Course Distance". So, although it was accurately measured and certified, the actual distance wasn't published anywhere (that I could find anyway). Given that the race was 95% underground, it wasn't possible to track it personally via GPS technology.

I can live with that. I stopped and took photos along the way anyway, so actual time and distance weren't all that important.

What was more important, and became increasingly so as the race continued, was water. There were four aid stations set up and promoted for the event but by the time I got to the first one at 2k - there was no water left. The runners preceding me cleaned out the other water stations as well. OK, we were underground. It wasn't sunny, but the humidity down there was oppressive. It wasn't good enough. Before too long I found myself staring at those who'd had the foresight to bring their own hydration with nothing but unbridled envy.

The run had started at the Bowen Hills entrance and headed immediately down hill, for at least a kilometre. After that, there was an uphill before it seemed to level out a bit while we were actually passing under the river and the Gabba area.

Before too long - there was light at the end of the tunnel! We ran a small way in the sunshine before heading back down underground.

I decided I'd taken enough photos so for the return journey I concentrated on picking up the pace and maintaining it. I'm not sure whether I succeeded, but I did let myself really stride out on the downhills. Like other experiences in longer events, by this stage a lot of the people around me were walking so even when the uphill started again, I kept passing others.

Luckily, despite the extra exertion, I got to the finish line still feeling remarkably strong. It was a tough final kilometre - all uphill - and there were casualties. People had suffered without adequate supplies at the aid stations. I spotted a few getting medical attention in the final stretch to the line.

All I really wanted by this stage was water, but I happily accepted a commemorative finisher medal from the volunteers (although KKB walked straight past without realising that's what they were handing out).

Despite the serious shortcoming of the lack of hydration for the masses, I'm glad I experienced the Clem7 from a perspective I'll never be able to again.

Coast to Coast - more than most...

This morning my coach ran with me for the 5ks to the turnaround for my 10k run, during which we chatted mainly about his latest adventure at the Speights Coast to Coast in New Zealand.

Andy has been an unofficial mentor throughout my Ironman journey and I always love hearing about his races. He's always a step or two ahead of me (and in this case I think he's gone somewhere that I'll never go). It ain't called coast to coast for nothing - you literally run, ride, run, ride, kayak, and run from one side of New Zealand to the other. I know, NZ isn't THAT big a place - 243kms across in fact - but still... It's huge.

For Andy, the experience had been a good one overall, but I think he feels he has unfinished business, as inclement weather gave the organisers little choice but to alter the traditional route quite substantially. A lot less paddling, a lot more riding. He said it ended up being kind of an Ironman in reverse - 35k mountain trail run, 140k bike, 20k paddle. There was, though a 3k run and 55k bike tacked on the front.

As I finished my session and drove out of the uni, I saw Bryn, on his beloved bike Jake the Snake. Bryn had also taken on the Coast to Coast, carrying an injury that he thought might count him out. The course changes didn't alter the fact that he would have to battle to finish.

He told me he valued his the finishers medal from this race more than any other, because he'd had no choice but to slog it out. He'd made one of the course cutoffs by only 45 minutes, something that's all too familiar to the Athletic Powerhouse, but not to an actual powerhouse like Bryn.

Before I knew what I was saying, I welcomed him to the club. I hope he didn't take it the wrong way; after all - it wasn't about me. At all. But at that moment, I felt like Bryn had perhaps had a race experience similar to some of the ones I've had - wondering whether I'd make the cutoffs, and in some cases, whether I'd make it even at all!

I've often pondered whether others who compete at a different level to me could ever understand that I'm grateful for this experience. After all, if all I wanted was a bit of exercise, I could take a more routine approach and start a netball team with my friends. But that wouldn't give me the chance to really test myself; to challenge what's 'normal'; and to prove to myself that anything is possible.

On hearing about my friends' experiences at Coast to Coast, I'm convinced that this kind of sentiment is a personal thing. Andy and Bryn did the same race on the same day. But they had vastly different experiences, and will look back on that day with different impressions.

Even so, on some level, endurance athletes of all abilities seem to have some kind of common ground. Although our war stories are our own to reflect on and, if we choose, to share, somehow they all add to our shared experience. Whether you came first or came last; whether you set a personal best or limped home. It all adds to who we are, as individuals and in some way, as a community.

My friends both had to deal with challenging conditions, an unexpected course change, and of course, kilometres of river, trail and road. They are both Coast to Coast finishers, and although to some it's just what we do - to most, it's more than what's possible.

Head AND Heart

The Athletic Powerhouse has just started training with heart rate zones.

My coach has analysed the results from my maximum heart rate test to identify target heart rate zones for different sessions. So far I've had heart rates set for long sessions - so the heart rate required is E1. This heart rate isn't too full on - just enough to start puffing a bit and feel like you're actually exercising. It's going OK.

I know it won't always be like this. Just wait for the post about how my heart nearly beat out of my chest when when I start sprint sessions...

Even though I've never trained by heart rate before, I am welcoming the change. I'm excited to see what difference it might make. But apart from that, I like the idea of having something to occupy my mind out on the road. I've always done this with other funny little things, like calculating what time it will be when I reach my turnaround point, watching the time to make sure I eat and drink at the right times, trying to keep track of how long each K is taking. (All much easier since I got my Garmin!)

So, some more structure and more science... using the head AND the heart.

... and beyond

Sunday's ride was up Mt Nebo. I was a little apprehensive. Believe it or not, I've never ridden all the way up Mt Nebo before. My only other attempt was a couple of years ago. I tagged along with KKB and his posse on one of my first rides back after a break from training.

(I know. What was I thinking?)

Unsurprisingly, it ended in tears, with me heading back down the hill after making it all but a few ks from the top. I was determined that this time would be different. I knew I was fitter. There was really no excuse.

We headed out through The Gap and started up the climb. At McAfee's Lookout a couple of the team turned back, but Megan and I continued on. (Megan had no excuse either. Her boyfriend had put a 27 tooth cluster on especially.)

Neither of us really took in the scenery, but we definitely appreciated being out in the bush instead of on suburban streets. I pointed out the exact spot I'd stopped last time, opposite a driveway on a bit of a gradient. It really was only about 4ks from the Cafe.

We got to the top in good time - we beat the boys who'd gone off-road via South Boundary Road. We didn't wait long, just replenished quickly and turned for home. The descent was nice - though there is a fair share of ups on the way down. We battled through the suburbs back to Park Road.

Although I didn't get up quite the Ks that I thought I might, it felt good to this time go beyond where I'd previously given up.

It's not being unfaithful... is it?

So, I've got this bike, right. He's even got a name. (Lance.) He's a lovely sparkly gold, with matching gold tyres. He fits me perfectly, like we were meant to be together. We've had plenty of wonderful adventures together - three Ironman races, and an odyssey through the French Alps.

But just lately, I've noticed another bike. I first saw him in a bike shop in Adelaide, and although I've tried, I haven't been able to stop thinking about him.

I've browsed online, customising the componentry, accessories, and paint job. (If you like bikes and have some time to kill check out Trek's Project One.)

I don't know whether it's the lure of the shiny purple paint; or perhaps the fantasy of a slimmer (lighter), younger model. Maybe I'm just I'm thinking about the pain and regret that sometimes accompanies looking back and wondering about the one that got away...

I have pondered on my decision. I've talked about it at length. Even people who can't imagine spending this amount of money on a bike have encouraged me to stop thinking about it, and just do it.

So, tomorrow I'm going to see Marty at Planet Cycles to get a fit up, and hopefully, do a deal. I've bought all my bikes off Marty. You can't get more faithful than that, can you.

What a difference ten years makes...

I did a Max HR test today. At 194, it means I'm theoretically 11 years younger than the 220 minus your age equation predicts.

I'm excited about training a little more scientifically than in the past, but of course also a bit apprehensive. What if my body just can't do what's expected of it? Then again... part of me thinks that that's whole idea. Most likely my body CAN do things that I don't realise yet.

Ironically, the things I ask of my body now, as a triathlete, are things I would never have dreamed were possible ten years ago.

Yep, there's a lot to look forward to.

"What would Jens do?"

Monday marks the beginning of my official training program for Ironman Regensburg with new coach Andy Stewart. I know he'll expect a lot from me, but I feel ready for the challenge - physically and mentally.

I've enlisted German pro cyclist Jens Voigt to motivate me when things get tough. I'll admit that the inspiration came from some devoted Jens fans at the Tour Down Under, who had printed up shirts with "WHAT WOULD JENS DO?" I've decided that when things get hard to get out of bed in the morning, or during training, this is what I'll ask myself.

The answer of course is straightforward. Jens would train, he would hurt, he would accept the suffering that comes from hours on the bike. And would probably ask for more. If you need to see how tough Jens Voigt is, take a look at this crash in the Tour de France last year; and his video response to all his well wishers on YouTube.

Of course, Jens doesn't know that he's my motivator, but if he did, I'm guessing he'd accept the position with equal parts of humility and humour.

And so it begins. I hope you'll share my journey to Ironman number four.

TDU - Stage 5 Snapper Pt to Willunga

The vibe of a stage start is awesome. Spectators have the opportunity to get up close to the cyclists, so the excitement is quite palpable. We were rewarded for our early start with a couple of great shots of Lance, George, Jens, and of David MacKenzie interviewing some of the Aussies for the live SBS coverage - Michael Rogers and Robbie McEwen.

The tour passed through the coastal village of Snapper Point twice more, but while most of the locals stayed put to soak up the atmosphere of the tour coming to their town, we make an escape to Wilunga Hill - after all that's where the race-winning escape may well come to pass.

I made my way to the top of the hill to an even more electric atmosphere. The top of the hill was packed with cycling fans. On the first pass there was a substantial breakaway with the young guns from Garmin and UniSA again making themselves known.

Somewhere on the second lap, things changed. It was exciting to see Cadel Evans lead the first breakaway up the climb for the last lap before the finish. What would happen next? HTC Columbia were still working hard to protect Andre's jersey...

We piled back into the Tarago for the trip back to Adelaide and found live radio coverage on ABC Grandstand. The commentators were beside themselves that Cadel might get the stage... and the tension filled the Tarago too... in the end, Luis Leon Sanchez, who'd tucked into the breakaway with Cadel and Alejandro Valverde, stole the victory.

Back to the Tour Village for more cyclist spotting. I scored the jackpot, getting photos with Matt White and Jens Voigt... what great guys!

TDU - Stage 4 KOM at Fox Creek Road

The atmosphere had been so good on the hill climbs all week we decided to head out to the SKODA King of the Mountain climb at Fox Creek Road. KKB brought his bike - having already preempted Stage Six's Montefiore Hill, and ridden each of the three in the stages completed so far.

I'd borrowed a decent camera from a friend, so was keen to try my hand at getting some action shots up the hill, and was happy just to spectate today.

I chatted two Lance fans who were showing their allegiance by taunting him with StillerStrong headbands. They'd made a large Texas flag in the red and grey of Radio Shack and yellow and black of Livestrong.

Before too long, the caravan arrived with the freebies. Having found last year's TDU promo gear in my suitcase when I went to pack for this year's trip, I was determined to be selective, and was happy with a BMC water bottle.

Soon after, the riders came through, with Milram's Thomas Rohregger again breaking away to claim maximum points. Team BMC Columbia still dominated the peleton, protecting Andre Greipel's ochre jersey.

TDU - Stage 3 Unley to Stirling: high road or low road?

The boys set off on the low road today, following the Stage Three route from start to finish. I wasn't quite sure that I had 120ks in my legs so I chose the high road. After checking out the race start at Unley, I headed straight up the bike way to Stirling.

The start of the race had such a vibe, just like it had last year. Although there was slightly less Lance-mania this year, and fans huddled almost equally beside the Radio Shack van for Lance and the BMC van for Cadel. It was most congested up at the race start adjacent to the sign on board, so I gave that up and just wandered around, seeing what I could see and listening to the interviews with the cyclists.

Once they were away, it took me a little while to get through the detours in place before heading out onto Cross Road to find the bike way beside the freeway. Again, there were lots of cyclists with the same plan, so although I rode by myself I had plenty of company and despite my fairly general directions written down on a scrap of paper, had no real chance of getting lost. Mark had warned me that the ride was all up hill, but I wasn't that concerned - a 20k hill climb would be good training.

What I hadn't really counted on was the heat. The race started at 11pm, so by the time I got out of town it would have been close to 11.30. According to Weather Underground - it was close to 40 degrees at the time I was climbing the hill. No wonder my water bottles were overheating!

I stopped a few times, mainly when I saw a decent enough patch of shade to shelter under for a short moment. On one of the stops I checked my phone to see a message from Mark. The boys had arrived safely in Stirling. Keep on trucking Lyndell was just what I needed to keep me motivated.

I got there; but I'm not telling you what my average speed was!

Again we set up next to a feed zone to see the Uni SA soigneur handing out drink bottles like a pro.

The stage was one by Portugese champion Manuel Cardoso... with Cadel in the chase. Would this be a sign for the days to come? We hoped so.

At the end of the stage it was time for the descent back to Adelaide. I was passed by the Saxobank Team on the climb up out of Stirling, but started the descent proper with Team Milram... and managed to stay with them for longer than I expected! It was a real buzz to share the road with riders from Euskatel Euskadi, Rabobank, Liquigas and Francaise Des Jeux, among others.

TDU - Stage 2 Feed Zone at Kersbrook

We rode out along Gorge Road to the feed zone at Kersbrook. It was a nice ride, the same way we'd started out on the Mutual Community Challenge ride last year. There were some steeper bits that I'd forgotten about from last year, and some descents as well, meaning the ride home this afternoon wouldn't all be downhill.

We scoped out our plan of attack for when the peleton passed through - I opted to watch them pass through the feed zone this time. We had plenty of time before this happened though, so we headed back out of time to check out Checkers Hill.

The climb was very steep (20% in places according to KKB's Garmin), so I wasn't too disappointed with my decision to give it a miss. In fact I pulled off to the side of the road near a press photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald, and a local mechanic for the German based Millram team. The photographer had already snapped off some shots at the start at Gawler, the Jayco Sprint in Lyndoch, and from the King of the Mountain would make his way to the finish to cap off his day.

The mechanic also shared some knowledge about how the tour works. He was a local bloke who did some work with the Australian Institute of Sport in Adelaide. Many of the teams bring one of their regular mechanics on the road, but supplement them with suitably qualified locals. I guess this is how support staff get their breaks with the international teams.

I rode back into Kersbrook to await the arrival of the peleton. We were not positioned in an ideal spot to pick up any discarded musettes or bidons; but still enjoyed getting super close to the action.

Hundreds of cyclists were headed back to Adelaide, so it was a fantastic vibe with most taking the time for a chat along the way. We stopped in at the Tour Village to see what was happening - we weren't disappointed. Robbie McEwen was being interviewed by James Tobin for Channel Seven's Sunrise, and I got to see Cadel Evans' rainbow decalled BMC getting the once over with the team mechanic.

TDU - Stage 1 finish at Tanunda

Today we loaded the bikes into the van and headed up to ride the loop from Tanunda round to Mengler's Hill. A short ride up one of the regular climbs of the Tour Down Under.

Even though we were there hours before the race was scheduled to pass through, there were thousands of people already lining the climb, all ready to cheer on the many cyclists who'd made their way out to test themselves up the hill.

After regrouping at the top we were surprised to lose our way on the outskirts of Angaston, but we found our bearings thanks to a trusty sign post! Although we didn't end up following the tour route exactly, our timing was impeccable - we found ourselves on the outskirts of Tanunda as the peleton entered the town before heading out to climb the Hill.

HTC Columbia's Andre Greipel was victorious in the group sprint for the line, winning the right to pull on the distinctive Tour Down Under's ochre leader's jersey.

TDU - a day of chance encounters

A day that was to be largely devoted to chores turned out to be full of opportunities to enjoy the vibe of the Tour Down Under.

Unsurprisingly, we prioritised the trip to the bike shop to pick up CO2 canisters - and we're glad we did. In walked Lance to meet the store owner and sign a Trek with the signature Livestrong paint job.

A master of getting in and out of situations on his own schedule, there wasn't the opportunity for anything but a quick snap - he was in the store just a few minutes in total.

From the bike shop to the supermarket, where we spotted Team Radio Shack's soigneur stocking up on bananas, soy milk, mineral water, and ham and cheese. And then the Team Fuji Servetto with pies, Doritos, Oreos... and more bananas. Something told me that bananas were going to become increasingly scarce in Adelaide this week...

Back to the unit to put our bikes together and a quick test spin around the Stage Six criterium course. Had a few mechanical issues, so back to the bike shop for some repairs. Unfortunately - no brushes with fame this time.

TDU - Cancer Council Classic

We got to the team presentations to get a first look at Cadel in his rainbow jersey! We were not disappointed with our, as he was flanked by his new lieutenant, George Hincapie, who, looked just as impressive in his own US national champion's jersey.

SBS commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen interviewed some of the big names in the race, which included not only Cadel and George, but also Stuart O'Grady, Alejandro Valverde, Luis Leon Sanchez - not to mention Lance Armstrong.

While the Cancer Council Classic isn't officially a stage in the Tour Down Under, the teams are on show and it signals to Adelaide that the carnival has come to town. We found our spot on one of the straights and waited for our first glimpse of the peleton as it snaked its way down Bartels Road.

With primes up for grabs on laps 5, 10, 15 and 20 (of 30 laps in total), there was plenty of action off the front. Lance Armstrong did the right thing by the Cancer Council by putting in a show in a small breakaway with Oscar Pereiro and three others.

We heard from the commentary that he led the breakaway through the finish line almost every lap they were away - but we only got to see him lead the race once.

In the end, though, the new Team Sky were victorious with kiwi sprinter Greg Henderson. A great way for the new British team to debut on the Pro Tour.

Off Down Under

I know, I live "Down Under". But today I'm off to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under. Plenty to see and plenty of great rides.

For more regular updates, follow me on twitter. Hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to do photos as well... wish me luck with that...

What role a coach?

I've got a new coach on board to prepare me for Ironman Regensburg. I've enlisted the services of my friend Andy Stewart, who has started coaching recently, primarily for adventure racing.

Andy was one of the first in my old triathlon squad, Phoenix triathlon, to take the plunge at Ironman. He's since competed at Kona, and his next personal challenge is the Speights Coast to Coast in just a few weeks' time.

I thought long and hard about my coaching options for Regensburg.
Did I need a coach?  Yes
Should I join a squad?  Maybe
What did I want from a coach?  That's not such a straightforward answer.

First things first - I need someone to write me a program. I'm hopeless without a "To Do List". I definitely needed someone to set out for me the work I need to do to get through this race in the best possible way. But what else does a coach do for you? I haven't had a coach for the last couple of years, and I think I've lacked a couple of things.

Firstly, someone to push me. Although I've managed without a coach, I doubt I've trained or raced as well as I might have, if I'd just had someone to stretch me just that little more.

Secondly, someone to help me understand all the data I get from my new Garmin 310XT. What heart rate should I train at? Is that important? Should I just give all that up and go back to training on feel?

Thirdly, someone to be accountable to. It can be really easy to fob off that extra training session because you're a little bit tired. But what will Andy think if I do that now?

Lastly, I think there's an extra little intangible benefit in having a coach. Particularly for someone like me, who trains mostly by myself, knowing you've got a coach on your side gives you just a little something extra when things get tough.

Bring it on, Coach Andy.

It takes three weeks right... Pt2

So, I guess I have to report back on how my training regime fared since my last post, which was full of bravado and promises.

Did that bravado last the festive season? Yep, great. First week back at work? Not so good.

I don't know why. Most of my requirements for motivation were there:

Race locked in? Check
Healthy respect (or even fear) for the race in question? Check
Weather nice and warm? Check

But during the week, I just couldn't get anything going. At the end of each day when I drove home from work, I gazed enviously at the runners I saw going about their business. Yet it didn't cross my mind to lace on the shoes when I got home. Yes, I'm a habitual morning trainer... but even so!

Today though, I snapped out of it.

I'd had a few things to attend to and spent the day thinking about these rather than my training program. When KKB got home from his crazy long ride, I'd just gotten through my to do list. Although I knew I wouldn't have enough time to catch up on the long run I'd expected to get in that day, I decided that it was time to blow out some cobwebs.

I left behind my watch and my Garmin and just ran.

It felt good.

It left me reinvigorated and ready to go.