Grant Harding: Ironman Life #27

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Following last week's Ironmaori, noted Hawke's Bay triathlon coach Ken Maclaren yelled out to me that my column should read: "Did Ironmaori. It was hot. I'm knackered."

In my overheated state, I wondered if he was trying to tell me something. That my decision to take on the Peak Trail Blazer, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and the Ironmaori on consecutive weekends was not a wise course of action.

Well, after the Kelloggs Nutri-Grain Taupo Half-Ironman on Saturday, Ken's "hot" and "knackered" would have been spot on.

I was horizontal for much of the afternoon, couldn't muster the energy to drive home for the Hawke's Bay Today Xmas function, and slept the sleep of the dead. I didn't do so much as a dish for Janet, which might have been why she suggested March would be a good time to start on some of my other project ideas.

My schedule had caught up with me. Not to mention the over-long swim, a tough bike, and a grinding run - 6 hours, 18 minutes and 7 seconds of continuous exercise to be exact. 372nd out of 595 starters, 38 who failed to finish, for the statistically minded.

The 2km swim started at 6.30am with Lake Taupo just above 14C, and an early morning southerly wind causing a chop to head towards shore.

Afterwards I learned that 15 or more people were pulled from the water. Many others I spoke to complained of the difficult conditions.

Personally, I wasn't looking for excuses for my 54 minutes and 18 seconds in the water. I swam without rhythm and therefore power, and dreadfully crooked.

At one point an official boat stopped me and pointed me towards the correct buoy. I was swimming towards competitors who had finished the first straight, and turned for home. That meant I had swum against the chop for a considerable distance.

The conditions were irrelevant. My swimming technique was the issue.

A poor start puts one on the back foot.

After the gnarly run from the lake front to the domain, the transition to the 90km cycle felt shambolic.

Once out on the road, all I could think about was making up time. 10km had gone by before the heart rate settled and a rhythm was found. Ultimately I was pleased to average in excess of 29km/h for a time of 3 hours six minutes and 58 seconds, with the 45km back to town challenging because of the chop-causing head wind.

The 21.1km run was pure survival - 2 hours seven minutes and 25 seconds of survival. Again I was pleased - thrilled to share the run-in with my daughter, Sam.

Sure I wished that I had the speed of Napier chemist James Dever, who powered past in the opposite direction. But running the whole distance will have to suffice as a positive for now.

While I could probably do with a coach to order my thoughts, I am now using a programme Hawke's Bay Multisport Club (HBMSC) member Shane Harrison wrote for this year's Ironman New Zealand. I absolve Shane of all responsibility however, as I'm not sure if he would approve of everything I do.

His is a 13-week post-Ironmaori programme, and Week 1 was, in theory, "recovery" - 4.1km of swimming, 100km of cycling and 20km of running. Taupo knocked over most of that, although the kick-in-the-pants provided by Saturday meant there was no lack of motivation for a 1.1km swim yesterday to finish the week. No problems with rhythm or power.

The experience of 2010 informs me that I still have time to improve. The next 11 weeks will tell the story. The hard work is ahead, starting this week with 5.2km swimming/200km cycling/42km running. Do the work or suffer on the day has to be the guiding mantra.

How to end this week? At the Taupo prizegiving David Youngquest, who is doing Ironman, encouraged me to go for five-in-a-row. So the Olympic distance event (1500m swim/40km cycle/10km run) at the HBMSC Shed 2 series next Sunday is looking good.

Who knows what these last few weekends will have achieved? Only time will tell. But you have to try things, put yourself out there, to improve, to enjoy life even.

I'm hopeful that at the completion of Ironman on March 2 the likes of Ken Maclaren will yell out: "Did Ironman. It was hot. Harding, you improved on 2010."

In association with Hawke's Bay Today

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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