Grant Harding: Country2Coast...to Ironman


All right. You can accuse me of being a company man.

But it's all in a good cause. Having missed out on completing a second Ironman in March, due to the cancellation of Ironman New Zealand 2012, it was a case of where to from here.

First there was the small matter of collecting from my wine sponsor, Mac of Advintage, who after a friendly reminder ("where's my wine, cuz? Send me a doz."), sent me two dozen of his finest Sauvignon Blanc - Murrays Barn and Maui. The Maui was the Trophy SB at the 2011 Marlborough Wine Awards, he said, although I have no idea what SB means. But it tasted damn good, so I suspect "Show's Best".

On one of the boxes was a note stating that I owed him "half an Ironman" - a reference to the fact that I and more than 1400 others only managed a half-Ironman in Taupo last month due to the horrendous weather the previous day.

Oh well, this year's IronMaori would take care of that.

Then I was running through Hastings one afternoon when a smart-arse (it's not often you get to call a cop that) on a bike yelled out somewhat sarcastically, or at least that's how I took it, "Grant Harding, you are an Ironman".

Maybe I was feeling sensitive after the events of early March, but I felt like giving him the finger.

My plan had been to go back to Ironman New Zealand in 2014.

Next year was off the radar - cost being the major issue.

But as the weeks rolled on, and the emails rolled in from Ironman New Zealand offering discounted registration, I began to think.

I had written 31 columns for the 2010 Ironman which were published in Hawke's Bay Today, and a similar amount for the 2012 Ironman published at www.hbtoday.co.nz.

So I wondered if Hawke's Bay Today valued them enough to sponsor my registration in exchange for almost a year's worth of columns.

Not one to die wondering I asked, and was pleased to get an answer in the affirmative.

The money was paid in advance, and on April 3 I took up the offer of preferential registration to be on the start line for Ironman New Zealand 2013.

Mac's lust for my wine-soaked blood would be quenched, I thought.

But not until the day it would seem.

During last week's tweet-the-editor session there he was with, "Is it true that Grant Harding's legs are so skinny he gets welfare handouts - due to no visible means of support?"

And then again, "He owes his sponsors half an ironman. Never trust a fit journalist."

Oh yes, and then again, "He should call it AlloyMan blog. You know - Ironman-lite (the ironman you do when you only do a half)."

If that wasn't bad enough, there was the reaction of my twins over breakfast one morning.

"Where did you come last time?"

"797th."

"Ha. 797th!", was then followed by sniggering and prolonged laughter, prompting Janet to add, "Yes he'll have to step up this year."

At least my employer's indulgence of my desire to keep living an Ironman life doesn't come with such tiresome, heard-it-all-before jibes.

To give the latter an immediate dividend I will participate in the Hawke's Bay Today Country2Coast 17km run this Sunday.

I found last year's run a challenge (1:33:11), and expect this year's to be equally tough.

Since the Ironman New Zealand debacle I have managed less than a dozen runs, and just a handful of swims and cycles.

A community event in just its second year it also features a 7km distance, and is a good place to start, with 45 weeks of hard work out in front from today.

An hour run on Saturday was good for confidence, except when a dog tied to a tree came flying at me.

Actually it is funny what you can come across on an hour run, including a man urinating in a bush just past the old bridge at Pandora.

Entering Ironman is the easy part - especially when someone else is paying! But it takes much mental energy to assess what has to be improved on, to formulate a training plan, and answer that most important question - why I am doing it?

The most crucial piece of preparation for this Ironman will be aligning the mental with the physical.

I had done enough physical training to swim far better than I did in Taupo last month, but mentally I wasn't even close to being in the zone.

In the Winner's Bible, neuroscientist Dr Kerry Spackman says in a canoeing analogy, "If our mental 'paddles' and our mental "rudders" aren't aligned in the same direction then no amount of effort and 'splashing' is going to allow us to achieve our Goals."

Damn straight. What he was saying was the outward surface of an athlete - what you can see and hear - is not always backed up by what is going on inside.

I also have to listen to my body - avoid injury. That cost me five weeks of running at a crucial time of my training late last year.

I have to be more organised - know what time I have available to reach my training goals and use it. I just didn't do enough overall.

I have to be selfish - stick to my plan.

And I have to compete in events throughout this year, and thereby learn.

The Country2Coast is my beginning, Ironman New Zealand 2013 is my end. I'll let you know what happens in between.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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