New Zealand – Perfect Place for Ironman Training

It is all my mother-in-law’s fault. She lives near Port Macquarie Australia, home of Ironman Australia and every year she sends me newspaper clippings of the race with the note ‘when are you going to race here?’.  Since I am starting a new job in Sydney Australia on 1 April, and the race is the Sunday before I start, I felt I no longer had any valid excuse (lack of training notwithstanding). So I plonked down my money and now have to do the blasted race—swim 3.8 km, bike 180 km and run 42 km. This is one of those good news, bad news races. The good news is that I will be doing my training for the race in New Zealand at the top end of the South Island which, as you will see from the photos that follow, is stunningly beautiful.

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The bad news is that I got back to New Zealand on February 9 so I have about 4.5 weeks to get up to race fitness, before starting my taper. At least I’m not starting from nothing as I’ve a quite good base fitness. I’m OK with the running—that is what I was able to do the most of on my recent five week trip. Swimming is always a worry, as is the bike to a lesser degree. Ironman races are lost on the bike: you need to have sufficient fitness to get a good time while saving enough juice for your legs to do the marathon. No biking for five weeks has lost most of my bike race fitness.

I pulled out my Endurance Nation 20 week training program and worked backwards from the race.  So I’m all set, now I just need to get in the number of hours, without injuring myself.

I don’t have any excuse for not being motivated to train since it is late summer and, as I mentioned earlier, where we live in New Zealand it is just beautiful—both weather and scenery wise. The shot below from Google Earth shows where our cottage is and I’m doing most of my training.

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Many of my friends in the USA are suffering with winter training on treadmills and stationary trainers (Washington D.C. has had the worst snow storm for decades). Eat your hearts out when you see the photos below of where I’m training …

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This is 2.5 km from my home on my running and bike warm up route.

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The top of Takaka hill heading into Golden Bay. It’s is an 800 m climb from sea level with some very steep sections. Excellent for blowing out the lungs and the downhill ride is a hoot—as you can see from the following photo. Lots of curves :-)

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We have a cottage near the ocean at the end of the valley so the 90 km ride from home is a convenient way to commute.

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Yes, that is a bilingual German sign. Golden Bay is extremely popular with German tourists so they need to remind them which side of the road to drive on. That is the only downside to training here: the potential for being clipped by a camper van.

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But, to mitigate this potential they have installed warning lights for cyclists on State Highway 60 (you can see it lit further up the road). You push the button and a flashing light of a bicycle is displayed. Pretty cool, but at Appleby Bridge near our house it is automated (even cooler).

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Among the dangers for cyclists are penguins crossing. Just joking – they only cross the road here in July to nest so I’m too early in the season.

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The roads in Golden Bay are great for training. From our cottage in Pohara to Collingwood is 35 km with rolling terrain. Then you have a further 25 km of flat roads next to the ocean to ‘Farewell Spit’ where NZ ends. Great for doing a functional threshold power test (234 watts if you are wondering).

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Golden Bay lookout, just west of the thriving metropolis of Takaka. Directly across the bay behind me is our cottage.

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All the toys. When I do open water swims my wife Lis accompanies me in her kayak (no surprise which is hers: the colourful one).

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This is at Tata Beach, which normally is much more tranquil (see following photos). The picture at the beginning of the blog shows Tata Beach from the hill above. About 800 m to the islands behind me so 2 trips return is not far below the distance for the Ironman swim. Water is much warmer in February than any other time.

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The beach has a series of buoys which are great for practicing sighting.

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Of course I have to keep my speed down to only 5 knots (in my dreams!).

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One advantage to having Lis accompany me in her kayak is rest stops … On one swim we saw a pod of four Orca whales with a baby hunting seals. Lis observed that the combination of my swim technique and wet suit made me look a lot like an Orca so I should assume the position above next time and she will paddle me in. I said that I’ve not heard of an open water swimmer being taken by a whale—sharks yes, whales no—and besides, I wear Orca triathlon shorts so surely they would recognize me as one of their own. She couldn’t quite see my logic …

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Open water swimming lets you see some amazing sights—like the gannet colony on the back side of Tata Island.

On my running route. 21 km return with some killer hills—but views to die for.

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This is the main hill with a 1.5 km run to the top—and of course a 1.5 km run down the other side :-) The following photos are the views. Easy to get distracted. I’ve started to keep a bottle of water in the bushes at the top of the hill which is my reward—and gives me an excuse for a short break. Otherwise, it can be up to 21 km without a drink which is a bit much on a summer’s day!

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One must also have recovery days …

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So as you can see, no excuses for not training. Time to put on my shoes and try out some hills. These 4.5 weeks are going to pass all too quickly…

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One response to “New Zealand – Perfect Place for Ironman Training

  1. Those are some incredibly beautiful pictures. What a beautiful part of the world to train in. I live in the Pacific NW and we have decent scenery here as well but not quite like those pics!

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