Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I survived!
Here is my report of the day...

Jean phoned me about 5 mins before my alarm, just over 3 hours before race - 3:20am. I had slept surprisingly well. Breakfast of bread, honey, coffee, a little fruit and a teeny bit of cereal/milk. Walked the 1 mile to the start area with wetsuit and swim gear, and made a final check of the bike (always a worry but no burst tubes or anything). Got into the water 15 mins before the start just to get the wetsuit sitting properly and turn the arms over. As the siren went I avoided the mad panic by staying towards the back and easing myself in for a nice relaxing swim. I had heard so much about Nice and the crazy swim start and how there is no room for most of the race. It wasnt like that for me at all - I was swimming for 5 minutes before I even touched anyone. Came out after the 3.8k in 1:15 feeling warmed up but not tired at all.

I had a plan to go very easy on the bike. This was my first Ironman, and there were over 2000 meters of climbing, not to mention a Marathon afterwards in 30+ degrees Celcius and no shade, so I wanted to be conservative. A cray amount of people passed me in the first hour. I was seriously starting to doubt my plan, but I stuck to it. Eventually I started passing a handful, than more than were passing, and by the end I had caught most of those that passed. In retrospect, I possibly could have pushed a tad harder on the hills and still not overcooked myself. Time for the Bike was 6:37.

Started the run like the bike - nice and slow. I did avail of the nice cooling showers on the course, but this was a double edged sword - I had to stop twice to wring out my soaking socks in the rirst 10k (I stopped caring after that!) The run was 4 laps of Nice promenade. Hot hot hot. No shade at all. No real breeze. Lots of great encouragement from random spectators. But by lap 4, you realise why people don't like a 4 lap course format. It's really very tough mentally My plan was always to walk every aid station, and I started at the first even though it was within 1 k. I took in a couple of gels early on, as well as some banana. Later I just did water, some coke and some Powerade. I think this worked well. I was able to run the whole course. I had read in a few places that you should expect at least two bad periods in an Ironman - usually on the run. At about 18k I had my first - nothing serious, just felt a bit off - slowed very slightly for a k, and felt ok again.
At about 32k I felt pretty tired - I was starting to run out of gas slowly but surely, but the finish was close so I just dug in and kept going. Very pleased with the run, as I'm usually being overtaken by lots of people during a triathlon run, and although my time of 4:21 may not be the fastest I still passed about 300. It's a case of slowing down less!  Crossing the finish line was a huge relief. Overall time was 12:27 - which is pretty much my ideal scenario time.

Felt fine till I sat down - then the sun and the noise and the oncoming nausea got to me and I had to dive to the floor, where I actually felt fine again lying on my back. Nice girl gave me a foil blanket too. Managed to drag myself to Massage table after 45 mins, more resting and a lovely gentle massage, which left me well enough to pick up my bike and gear and head back to the hotel.

So that's it - my first Ironman and I'm extremely pleased. Felt like I had a good plan and stuck to it, everything came together pretty well, and I'm already recovering surprisingly quickly.

Rank: 256 of 571
Overall Rank: 1082 of 2469

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Tapering v acclimatisation

I can't believe a week has gone by already. When I arrived In Biot at Sean Doherty's place (thanks again Sean!) a week seemed like a really long time, especially as I was planning on doing a whole lot of nothing. But it's gone by in a flash.
Being weighed down with 40kg of luggage isn't something I tend to do very often, so I had little option but to take one of Nice's overpriced taxis from the airport to Biot/Sophia anapolis, which is apparently the silicon valley of Nice. Well, I could (maybe should) have rented a car for the week).

The apartment is really nice, complete with a large balcony perfect for some stretching and gazing into the distance. And there is a pool, which means I can keep my feel for the water.
Luckily, considering it's a bit away from any town, and I didn't get a car, there is a Casino supermarche right next door, so I have everything I need. Somehow on day one I missed said supermarket and cycled to a big Carrefour which had everything but I just didn't feel comfortable leaving the bike outside while shopping. Incidentally, I was wondering why I confusingly saw signs for Carrefour everytime I hit a roundabout - seems "Carrefour" is roundabout in French. Never knew that before.

Arriving during euro 2012 was also a big bonus, with games to look forward to most nights.

On my second day I went for a Recee of some of the Bike course - including the short 12% climb at the 20k mark, as well as the first few k of the 20k climb later on. The initial part of the ride was a bit busy and uninspiring, but once I got out onto the small roads and into the hills, I could see why this is considered to be the prettiest Ironman courses around. Though also one of the toughest.

On Sunday I rode down to Antibes, a very pretty town that I hadn't really seen on my trip here last year. The old part of the town is really quaint, and I love the old defensive wall surrounding it.  It's definitely somewhere I wouldn't mind spending more time soaking up the sun, eating at some of the many restaurants and enjoying a beer or three,  but for now my focus is on Sunday's Ironman, so no such indulgences.

Monday saw another bit of a course Recee, and my last "long" ride before the big day.
Sean's place isn't that far from the start of that aformentioned 20k climb, so I decided to do a little more of it - up to the beautiful village of Gourdon - self proclaimed as one of the prettiest villages in France (they're not wrong). It was a hot day, so doubled as a good heat acclimatisation workout.

It's been a bit tricky balancing the tapering and acclimatisation - one calls for shorter and shorter workouts as the race approaches, the other for a minimum of 100 minutes a day in the heat exercising at a moderate level. Hopefully I'm managing to get the balance right

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Nice flight

Well the time has arrived. I'm sitting in Melbourne airport waiting to board the flight to Dubai and onto Nice. On the other side of the world, Ironman awaits. No hassles with checkin - had 1.5kg to spare of the 30 that Emirates give, which was all my triathlon stuff basically - normal clothes are relegated to nice to have but not that necessary, and even with super light packing and jamming heavy stuff like adapters into my coat pockets, I was still tight on the 7kg limit (this laptop takes a good chunk of that!)
And yes - that is a pic of me writing this very post - cool - but kinda sad - in equal measures :)

My back has been playing up since the Whittlesea challenge and it's still not quite right, so we will see how it is after 14 hours to Dubai and another 7 to Nice. Seems like all the little niggles that have been keeping hiding have come out once they knew it was time to really piss me off-  in the last 3 months I've been fine, but in the last 10 days I've had the back pain, hamstring tightness (first right, then left), sore Achilles (both, on one night - magically gone the next day) and calf cramps today on an easy swim. It seems like my body doesn't like this tapering stuff.

At least I managed to stretch out a bit on the Dubai layover :)

Monday, 4 June 2012


This weekend I completed in my last long ride before Nice - the Whittlesea challenge - one of the challenge series events run by Cycling Victoria.  
Thankfully we had really good weather - if it was one day later we would have been looking at this:

Instead we had a foggy morning clearing to a cool but lovely sunny day, perfect cycling weather so long as you have enough layers on (5 for me) to keep out the wind. I wasn't planning on doing this ride initially, being so close to IM, but Michael pulled out, deciding probably wisely to rest his shoulder more after his accident in the last ride.  So Nadia and I headed to Whitlesea shortly after 6:30 Sunday morning.
This time we actually made the start and left in a bunch somewhere towards the back.

The first hill wasn't long coming, within 5k we were climbing towards Kinglake West for several uninterrupted ks of gradual to steep ascending. Near the top I pulled over to wait for Nadia and take in the countryside and watch the other cyclists labouring up the hill - interesting to see the mix of smiles and grimaces that long climbs  bring out.

After the first rest stop where we filled up on bananas and yummy cake, we decided to split on the next long climb. This one was tougher and included a fair bit of double digit gradients, but felt good nonetheless. It was really pretty countryside to cycle in, especially around Flowerdale, and I decided I'd definitely come back to ride this section again. Towards the end, the clouds came in and I decided to push hard for home in case the expected rain arrived (it never did).  I probably pushed a bit too hard, cause when I got to the finish my back was pretty badly locked up and I took advantage of the free apres-ride massage offered, as well as gobbling down some gumbo while waiting fro Nadia to arrive - she made it without walking any of the hills, which is more than a lot of folk.

Today I saw the Physio about the back and some hamstring issues I had been having - turns out they are related and I need to tilt down my saddle a bit as well as try to adopt a more "butt out" stance to stop straining the back (and hamstrings). Thankfully the back feels likes its getting back to normal, as with three weeks to Nice I can't really afford any injuries at this stage.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Baw Baw Challenge

On Sunday, Mikey, Michael, Nadia and I took part in the Baw Baw Challenge - which turned out to be a bigger challenge than expected for Michael. We got to the start line late, and were behind the rest of the field from the start, but with Michael setting a blistering pace and blocking the wind we were soon catching people. It was a lot of flat (and a bit boring) riding initially, but we finally hit a few hills before the first cake stop. Just before this saw some beautiful scenery with views over a large dam with mist breaking in an idilic rural panorama.

Not long after the stop however, things took a turn for the worse. Michael was pushing on downhill pretty fast, and shortly after a turn hit a hard to spot pothole and went flying through the air and landed on his helmet (praise the helmet rule!). Even with helmet, he had a very nasty cut and bad concussion, luckily the ambulance was right behind (literally) at the time, so first aid was quickly on hand. Mikey and I waited for Nadia to let her know what happened, and I ended up helping a scottish guy with a puncture, so by the time I got back cycling, I think I was pretty much last. From here on the ride turned into a bit of a survival fest - there was a lot more climbing than the profile suggests, and, after the accident, each decent seemed to be more menacing than the last. By the time I caught Mikey with 5k to go, I was pretty much spent. As is his custom, he vowed to never do one of these rides again. Nadia's day was long and boring, confined to the SAG wagon with Michaels bike.

We visited Michael in the hospital later,  luckily cat scans revealed nothing too serious, but he has a shoulder injury which is going to put his Ironman training back a lot (at least the swim). Not a great day all in all.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Alpine Raid

A while back, Jean signed me up to complete the 250k Alpine Raid as a present.
I thought, given that we get two days to do it, and folks do do it in one, how hard could it be?
The answer, hard. Very hard.
About 4500 meters climbing over 250k is pretty tough, but the raid feels harder cause a lot of the "flat" sections are actually mini little killer climbs or rollers that don't quite let you roll.
This is especially true of the stretch between Hotham and Omeo, which is the second part of day two. It seemed to defy the profile completely (which made it look downhill) and go on forever. Or maybe we were just more tired than we thought after the climb up mount Hotham.
This was my first serious climb in yonks, and I actually found it really nice and not too tough.
The weather was loverly, the traffic not too bad, and the relaxed start to the day that Audax gives you in this event was all very pleasant. The climb itself is long - 30k+, but only really steep in a couple of bits. I had been warned that the finish seems to take forever, but knowing the distance on my GPS, I knew not to get too excited.
For those interested, this site goes into the climb in a lot.

Day two started off easily enough, and had some of the quietest and most peaceful cycling imaginable along the Omeo highway towards falls creek turn off. It was another beautiful day, and I was feeling none the worst after yesterdays exertions, including several beers to aid recovery. Eventually we came to a stop at the turnoff to the well named WTF corner - the start to the climb up the back of falls. It might not look it in the pic, but there are several 15% pitches in the first few kays to really make you suffer. It was one of the tougher climbs I've done - only the Thailand climbs and maybe Hautacam had sustained pitches this steep. Though after half way, the going gets a lot easier, and I was still waiting for the final tough bit when I realised I was coming into falls creek, our lunch stop, and the start of some serious downhill.
Michael and I met up with Sally and Simon, who were doing a 130k 1 day ride to Hotham and back, so we descended more or less together, and up our final climb, Tawonga gap - not the hardest climb but after what went before, and in 37 degrees, it felt a lot like Alpe D'huez last summer, all over again!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Around the bay

Sunday for the first time I took part in Melbourne's biggest annual cycling event - Around the bay in a day.
It was definitely something I wanted to experience, but I think now that I've done it, I won't be rushing back.
The main thing that puts me off is the lack of road closures. It's pretty much as normal, other than the fact that we get one lane on the west gate bridge. So a lot of the ride is stop start, which really breaks your rhythm.
That, and the messy ferry setup (too few boats, too many passengers), a handful of idiot motorists (and a few stupid cyclists) and far too many punctures (I didn't get any, but Coops and Steve got several - not helped by locals laying thumb tacks and nails) took the edge off what could be a great day.
I still enjoyed it (a lot in parts) but I think for the money (and effort) there are better ways to spend a day.
Ride wise, it's pretty flat - the nicest part of the ride I normally do - along the coast to Dromana - is skipped, presumably cause of Vic Roads reluctance to offer to close this section. The stretch along the motorway from Geelong is definitely forgettable, though at least we had a nice tail wind (and no lights, so we could bet a bit of speed up). It was nice to roll into the finish, knowing you had completed a large geographical circle on your own steam (well, with the ferry's help). And the ride over the bridge was cool, though it's just a shame this is about the only time cyclists can experience it. I think of San Francisco, when you can walk or cycle across the Golden Gate almost all the time. Oh well, maybe one day?

Garmin details:

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Highlands by bike

Day 1: Chiang Mai to Pai.

My guide Marcus is going to take me around northern Thailand's challenging cycling loop, which should act as good sharpening for the forthcoming Etape in the Alps.

Apparently day one is one of the easy days, but it's still really tough.
Partly from the hot humid weather (bit of a shock after Melbourne winter)
the distances and elevation gains, but mostly from the pretty savage gradient changes that the roads here throw up constantly. There are very few flat sections, and more than a few 10-15% climbs in the first, easy, day.
What's the rest of it going to be like?! Though having driven this way on a moped before, I really don’t have any excuses.
Marcus took a couple of detours from the main road to avoid some of the traffic, and to throw in a little more rural scenery, which really made the trip.
Apart from one steep climb when the sun was beating down, I felt pretty good and arrived in Pai just nicely tired, and ready for a cold beer, some food and a massage.

Day 2 - Pai to Mae Hong Son.

Not long out of Pai began a long, long climb with several more savage sections.
Yesterday the rain held off mostly till the last 30 mins, but today we got a little soaking in the first 30.
When we made it to the top of the climb all we could see were clouds, and the rain was getting pretty heavy, so we considered putting the bikes in the van for the descent. Luckily the weather changed and we got a lovely view from the top, followed by a long and challenging technical descent with more than a few hairpins. Definitely not somewhere to let the brakes off.
Apart from the main climb, there were many, many smaller ones, mostly with the usual steep gradients to test the legs and lungs. My neck was pretty stiff from all the concentration on the descents, so I got the Masseur to concentrate on it, but she was a little over eager and I think it's far more sore now from the bruising than before.

Day 3 - Mae Hong Son - Mae Sariang.

Today is the 'flat' day, if you can call it that - still over 2000 meters climbing, and 165k to boot. I guess undulating might be a better word, but it's certainly full of lovely, varied scenery, and the relative flatness allowed us to let off the brakes a fair bit on the descents, with some pretty fun sections. We also passed some more cute local villages, and at one place where we stopped to refill water, were invited in to share some Tea and cooked banana breakfast, which was cool.
After 6 and a half hours in the saddle, I was pretty much spent that evening, and only had enough energy to wash the bike and eat, before hitting the sack.

Day 4 - Mae Sariang - Chom Thong

Clothes cleaned and dry-ish, we headed out of town and began climbing for almost 20k. It wasnt actually that steep, and normally I reckon it would have been an easy enough day, but I was absolutely knackered. Three long tough days had taken their toll, and my body was starting to rebel. I think Marcus was only slighly better off, and I didn't argue when he suggested going really slowly. About 2/3 of the way up, we hit a section of mud covered road,
reminiscent of the scenes in the Giro thought the Strada Biancha. We had to stop several times as the mud was caking up under the forks and stopping the wheels turning. After the climb, we had another 50k of undulating road - though thankfully not as steep as previous days.

Still, I really struggled to get going, my heart rate refusing to go much above 150. At this point we stopped at a little village for lunch, and we met up with two guys that were joining for part of the trip. thankfully from there we enjoyed a fantastic long fun descent which seemed to energise me a bit, and help me make it to Chom Thong.

Day 5 - Chom Thong to Doi Inthanon

After four hard days, today is the really hard one! A tough climb up to Thailand’s highest mountain, at 2565 meters. Not only is it long, but it’s really steep. Marcus has us forewarned that the last 10k are particularly brutal, 5k at 15% gradient and the last 5k only easing in parts. We rolled out of town at a leisurely pace, and the first part of the climb wasn’t too bad – though I was struggling to keep up with the others a bit. After a short break with 16k to go to refill water and take on a little fuel, the really painful stuff started. I think having done the other days prepared me somewhat, so I wasn’t shocked by the steepness. On the other hand, I was also pretty tired. At one stage I turned a corner into the wind and the gradient ramped up even more – I think maybe 20%, and I was very close to getting off the bike. But I managed to trundle on (at one stage at 4kph – walking speed, just!) and somehow made it to the top, which was shrouded in mist. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done!

Definitely earned a beer or three tonight to celebrate.
Despite the pain, the tour was great - Marcus and co are super friendly and run a very professional operation. I might check out one of the easier itineraries next time though. I reckon after this, myself, Ben and Jarrod (who are also doing the Etape) will find the alps easy!

Monday, 13 June 2011

On the road again

After almost two years of no overseas travel - something of a record - I've left Australias's shores for a few weeks of cycling and catchup with the family. Normally when I travel, I travel as light as possible. So it's something of a shock to be laboured with the Elephant (Jean's name for my Evoc bike bag, with my Cervelo inside).

It's actually pretty good, and fairly manouverable, but it does definitely change my travel style just a bit. I arrived in Bangkok on time, and was pleased to see the Elephant arrive safetly to the oversize baggage section.

After only a minor amount of confusion and waiting I found my Hotel guy and was whisked away to my pad for the night, The Kriss residence.
It's ok, basic, slightly souleless but clean, 10 mins drive from the airport and they have internet.
They also seem a bit obsessed with guests stealing/breaking the room contents.

I was met off the mornings short flight to Chiang Mai by Marcus from
Crouching Tiger cycling tours, my guides for the Thai highland tour.
It's a pretty challenging looking tour looping anti clockwise from Chiang Mai
through Pai, Mae Hong Son and several smaller Thai towns, before finishing with a climb up Thailand's highest mountain.
My diggs in Chiang Mai are really nice, and I was relieved to open up the Elephant and find all my bike parts intact. A few minutes later, and with the help of a local guy, who spotted me trying to put the pedals on the wrong way, the Cervelo was ready to roll. Nothing left but to sample some of the traditional local cuisine.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I'm back in KL again, after a wonderful week on the serendipitous island of Sri Lanka. I really had no idea what to expect - I was going simply on the basis that it was one of Air Asia's cheapest flights from KL, and I hadn't been before.
Arriving in the airport I had one of my regular blond moments on the start of these trips, walking out of the airport with a large wheelie suitcase, that a) wasnt mine and b) couldn't have been as the one I had was safely back in storage in KL. Anyway, a bit of sweet talking and I was let back in to swap bags by the helpful airline security.

The first thing you notice on leaving the airport is the number of well armed cops and soldiers everywhere, a reminder that the war has only just finished. My first stop was Negombo, a beach-side town that, although fine, would probably not be on many itineraries were it not for its proximity to the airport. There didn't seem a lot of tourists around at all, but it was fun wandering about, getting a feel for the country and watching the kids playing cricket in the fading beach light.

Next up was Kandy, Sri Lanka's second city a few hours inland by bumpy bus. While the bus station was a bit of a mess, the journey was good fun and finding suitable digs in Kandy pretty hassle free. I set myself up in the Olde Empire hotel to sample some of the faded colonial ambiance at rock bottom prices. It's amazing how quickly you adjust to hard beds and cold showers again!

Kandy was a nice manageable city built around a pretty artificial lake frequented by loads of birds including egrets, pelicans, ducks, cormorants and loads of small waders, as well as numerous locals strolling around and the odd tourist, only really noticeable in evidence at the Kandy Dance performances. It's also home of Temple of the Tooth, purported to hold a tooth from the Buddha himself. The temple itself is a pleasure to wander around in the dawn light, but gets thronged with worshipers pretty quickly.

Having sated any cultural urges, I made a beeline south for Hikaduwa, an erstwhile hippie beach resort that sounded a bit overdeveloped by now. However in reality, it was almost empty - it is low season - and still quite pretty, IMHO. I spent a couple of blissful days swimming, surfing and playing with turtles. And it was nice tasting the various Sri Lankan specialties, deviled fish curry being my favorite.

I also met my first real tourists, Tim and Sarah, an Aussie couple who had been sweethearts since sixteen (awww!) and had even been in the same playschool together! We also encountered Christopher, an American on a quest to avoid repaying his substantial student loan by endlessly studying all manner of nonsense in places like Finland and Romania, in between traveling on 5 euro a day (think lots of hitching and couch surfing).

Enough beaching, time for a bit of colonial culture and Galle, whose European influence is obvious in it's Fort and crumbling colonial Dutch buildings, many of which are well preserved. We ended up staying at the Fort Inn, a pretty nice place and run by the brother of a tuk tuk driver (seriously, he was his brother -what are the chances of that! - Sri Lanka is definitely a bit less scammy than India, or even Thailand, for that matter). It was a pleasure just wandering the streets, or the Fort walls, shared with hundreds of jolly local kids, courting couples and the Jumpers who dive precariously off the ramparts into a narrow shallow target below for a few dollars.

Regretting not giving myself longer, I was left with only enough time for a quick day trip to the very beautiful Unawatuna beach town just south of Galle, before I border the train north back to Negombo and one final sunset. The train was great fun - though a bit of a scrum to get a seat - and the combination of the clickety old carriages and friendly locals made the journey pass in no time at all.