I was fortunate to have a break from cycling in my basement and hotel rooms in Armenia and Georgia by spending much of February in New Zealand where it is summer. My wife and I have a summer house in Golden Bay, an idyllic spot located in the north-west corner of the South Island. A perfect place for relaxing, and of course training.
It was a somewhat marathon journey to get there: Urumqi-Beijing-Hong Kong-Auckland-Nelson and then a 2 hour drive to Pohara. As you can see from the map below, New Zealand basically ends in Golden Bay. Our summer house is in Pohara at the top end of the yellow line marking the route from Nelson, the nearest main city.
Here are some photo of Golden Bay taken from the top of Takaka hill. You will see that it is very appropriately named.
Lis had been here for several weeks, working at a Bed & Breakfast in Nelson as a volunteer. She met me at the airport but unfortunately my bag did not make the flight so we had to chill out for 1.5 h until it arrived. We couldn’t leave and get it shipped to us since it contained my Powertap hub and we had arranged to drop it off at the home of the owner of a local bike shop who was going to build a wheel for it. Far easier than travelling with a full wheel.
We live some 300 m up a hill from the beach in Pohara. Lis was originally considering a place nearer the ocean but she changed her mind after the 2004 Tsunami in Asia. This is the view from our bedroom window – quite an idyllic place.
Lis with some of the fresh apples from our trees.
The following photos give you an idea of what this place is like for training. Beats any form of indoor training by a mile!
If I head down to the beach and then west, it is relatively flat for 10 km until the thriving metropolis of Takaka. Perfect for running speed work. If I instead head east, I have rolling hills, with a steep 6% climb for 1.5 km. I use this both for running and for interval cycle training. It’s a good hill for running and a great warmup for the interval training. Once I get to the other side there is some 4 km of relatively flat road with little traffic.
In fact, the absence of traffic is one of the best things about training here. The most common vehicle seems to be a camper van on its way to/from Abel Tasman national park, or locals who tend to drive very slowly – it’s a relaxed place to be. So different to Washington D.C. where the bike path is busier. The photos below are typical of what I encounter when training.
For a better challenge I have Takaka hill, which separates Golden Bay from the rest of the world. It’s a hoot to ride – at least going down – as it is a series of curves with steep grades. Of course to take advantage of that you need to get to the top, which brings to mind Lance Armstrong’s great quote: “Pain is temporary; giving up is forever”. With a 7% grade for 10 km on the Takaka side, it is a good workout – easier grades but longer from the Motueka side. The profile below is from the day when I cycled 110 km to Nelson.
I have been following my Endurance Nation training plan fairly well since I got here and it is just so nice to be training outdoors instead of on my trainer and treadmill. The plan doesn’t include long rides like Takaka hill, but it is just so wonderful to be out here that I’m making the most of it – as you can see from the training duration chart below. Guess when I arrived in NZ! Besides, after here I’ve two weeks without my bike when I go up to Asia.
I am also doing a variation of the training plan to account for the fact that I’m running the Boston Marathon in two months. I’ve swapped out one shorter run for the weekly long run. What is really good is that the Endurance Nation philosophy of running less means running more matches the philosophy behind the Runners World ‘Smart Coach’ training plan which I used for Boston last year. This has three runs a week, with one for speed work, one long run, and one recovery run. This fits in well with the Endurance Nation off season plan so I have been able to keep up the biking.
In spite of the irregular training that I’ve had due to my January travel, I’ve seen good improvements with my cycling fitness as a result of the Endurance Nation plan. The chart below shows how when I started the off season I was mid-range for a Category 5 cyclist and I’ve now improved to Category 4. My functional threshold power has gone from 200 W to 245 W.
The only down side to the training is that my recurring foot/ankle injury has come back again. This was caused in 1997 when I twisted my ankle running in India. It is frustratingly unpredictable: I can go for a long time without problem and then suddenly it is back. It started late January and I don’t know what I did wrong. It is very frustrating as I can go for a 2 h run at a good pace, but then the next two days I can hardly walk.
Fortunately I have found the world’s best physical therapist Art Sansone but unfortunately he is in Washington D.C. I found that there was a local physical therapist so Art sent some cryptic instructions for her:
- mob the cuboid (P->D) on the calcaneus b/c the cuboid drops and causes pain along the peroneals and posterior tib
- then mob the talocalcaneal joint (via CST- calcaneus usually locked in inversion)
- then balance the talus with the navicular (rotation and in the frontal plane)
- that usually allows for an easier mob (A->P) of the talus on the tib/fib (crural space)
- then work on the soft tissue of the peroneals, ant tib, calf muscles (and post tib… but gentle, not too deep)
Erica understood the instructions and after two treatments the foot is much more mobile. Was able to do my 19 km run without any problems so hopefully it will hang in there as I build up to the 32 km preparing for the race.
Of course it is not all training. We have had bush walks, visits to the beach, the local cafes and cinema, but most importantly lots of relaxation. Bought a house as well – Lis’ future Bed & Breakfast.
I have just under one week to go here then a few days in Auckland before Manila and China for 10 days. That means that my cycling fitness will regress, but I need to focus on the running more given my goal of a sub 3:30 for Boston. Not sure if I will make it, but I will give it a go. At least my time here in New Zealand has given me a very welcome break from the tedium of winter training in North America – and even better, the stresses of work. I can highly recommend Golden Bay as a training and relaxation venue!