Race Rehearsal #2

Ironman Australia is just over two weeks away and my training plan called for a second race rehearsal. This was my final chance to test my nutrition plan and gear in a real race situation. We had decided to spend the weekend at our cottage in Golden Bay so on Friday I set out for a 180 km ride, over the Takaka hill, and then a 10 km run at the end of the ride.

The night before there were heavy showers so I left 90 minutes later than planned. I had learned the hard way that my Cervelo P3 bike does not like cornering on wet roads. I fuelled myself with two bottles of Cytomax Preformance energy drink, and then hit the road.

It was still early morning and brisk when I left, but by the time I reached Upper Moutere I was quite warm in the sun so I took off my jacket and leggings.  About 5 km later I regretted it as the clouds moved in and there was cold wind. More like riding in Auckland than the South Island!

The 800 m climb up Takaka hill is always a good workout. There was a fair amount of traffic since the weekend was coming up, including too many trucks for my liking. They always seemed to arrive at the most narrow, winding part of the road. About a third of the way up I got hit by a strong cold wind which was a surprise—normally the hill shelters us from such winds. When I reached the caves at the top I decided to put on my arm warmers which proved to be a good call.

Part way up the hill I heard a ‘clang’ from my chainring and looked down to see that the chain was not tracking correctly. I stopped as soon as I could and was dismayed to see that two of my five chainring bolts were missing, and two of the others were loose. I’ve no idea how this happened as the bike has many thousand of kilometres on it since the chainring was last worked on, but it was a problem nonetheless. I tightened them as best I could and prayed that they would hold for the 40 km or so until Takaka where I would see if the bike shop either had replacements or could move the remaining ones around so that at least the chain tracked correctly.

The descent to Golden Bay was great fun as usual, particularly as the traffic behind me proved to be banked up behind a truck so I had the road clear to myself except for one camper van. The biggest problem was the wind which about half way down was gusting very strongly.  I had visions of being blown off the hill—and that was a real possibility! It was great when I reached the bottom and the strong wind turned into a tailwind. I just flew along.

I got to Takaka and went to the bike shop and asked if they could do a quick fix on my chainring. The fellow said he had some old bolts and $3 later I was ready to run. While he was working on my bike I popped in and bought a paper as well as collected some break from the German bakery for my friend Anke who was coming over later in the day with my wife Lis. I left my pack at the bakery so that the next 90 km would not see me burdened with heavy German bread, as well as my running gear.

My plan was to head from Takaka west towards Collingwood and then towards Burnham, before turning back, collecting my pack, and then heading to our cottage in Pohara where, after my 180 km ride, I would do a 10 km run.

The wind was getting up and I was cycling towards it. After Collingwood it became a headwind and I was using the same power as travelling up Takaka hill, to travel the same speed, even though I was on a downward grade. After 5 km of this I decided it was madness to continue—although if I was training for the races in Kona Hawaii it would be great preparation.

The ride home saw me blown about in places and it was only on the final run towards Pohara was it a pure tailwind and I was flying. However, the hill and the wind had taken a lot out of me and my 6+ h ride had turned into a 7 h slog.

At our cottage I did a quick turnaround, putting on my running gear and leaving the newspapers in my pack. I ran down to the Penguin Cafe and told the waitress that I wanted a vegetarian pizza 50 minutes hence and, leaving my pack, I continued my run.

It was supposed to be at my race pace of 5:40 but it was so good to be off the bike that I decided to do it harder. I ran west through Pohara and then turned around, and ran through the port to the Abel Tasman lookout on the hill. By now I was feeling tired and I was pleased to get back to Pohara having done my run at a 4:38 pace. Grabbed some chocolate milk at the store (recovery drink of convenience) and then popped into the cafe for my delightful pizza which I ate while enjoying the newspaper. For once everything worked to plan.

After dinner I saw Anke entering the phone booth across the road so I said hello before treating myself to an ice cream. I phoned Lis who joined me for a walk on the beach which was bathed in the lovely evening light. So ended my second race rehearsal. Conclusions? Well, my bike needs some careful maintenance and I need to (i) drink two more litres on the bike and (ii) get some additional calories. The taper starts tomorrow and Ironman Australia here I come!

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