"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.