27 April 2009

Winter cross-training plan

With my race season (aka the Xterra) behind me I've had to quickly come up with a new training plan for the next few months as the longer I stay inactive the harder it seems to get back into a training schedule.

So here's the plan;

Its time to dust of the Exercycle which hasn't really been used for a year or so. Minimum two workouts a week. - 45 - 60 minutes

A weekly bike ride on the road - 60 - 90 minutes.

I will also be re-introducing myself to the swimming pool for one or two swim session a week - will alternate IE swim Mon, Fri, Wed, Mon etc etc).

I haven't swam in the last year so it will take a bit if building up to a decent workout. Will build this up to 30-40 minutes over the next month.

Swimming remains one of the most efficient forms of fitness training I know of and even one or two sessions a week combined with the biking I should remain in okay condition.

Still no date in mind for returning to running and with winter nearly here I'm in no rush. I still feel that my heel isn't right and would just play up again after 20 - 30 minutes of running. It still aches even now when I put my running shoes on either for a long walk or just mucking around playing soccer with the boys at the park.

I continue to stretch when I can, though I have not been as disciplined about this as I could be. It's not the most exciting way to pass the time is it?

With any luck time will heal these little niggles and while I continue to swim and bike to maintain some fitness. I'll perhaps pencil in the spring to commence some running again.

I've enjoyed the challenge of mountain biking this summer and I'll hopefully continue with this next summer also. Hopefully though it will be in addition to some running races also as at the end of the day I think I'm a runner at heart. It's running that I still desperately want to be able to do again. More on that later.

Have a good week.


23 April 2009


Here's a snippet of a conversation with my five year old son when I was explaining about our upcoming trip to Rotorua,

Me: "Are you looking forward to going to Rotorua for the weekend?"

Sam: "Aww not Rotorua again, that place STINKS ...."

Photo mcaretaker
Rotorua is very much a tourist town. It's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, certainly one of the most visited in the North Island. It's so touristy here in fact that we kiwis affectionately refer to the town as Rotovegas. It's a little Las Vegas only without the Casinos.

Sam wasn't being rude about the town when he said it stinks... as it literally does stink at times, due to the sulphur gases which are around. It's okay though its pretty harmless and you get used to the smell after a while. Rotorua, home to about 70,000 residents, is built on a geothermal area and dotted throughout the town and surrounding countryside there are hot pools of steaming boiling water seeping up through the earth, together with boiling mud pools and geysers.

As well as the geothermal attractions there's loads of activities to keep everyone entertained and that's part of the reason that so many kiwis also love to visit.

During our stay there last weekend, we stayed at the Heritage Hotel right beside the Whakarewarewa thermal village. The hotel kindly upgraded us to a third (top) floor room which had lovely views of the village and its steaming hot pools and then across to the Whakarewarewa forest. A highlight of the stay at the hotel was the geothermally heated outdoor pool. We certainly spent a good amount lounging in and around pool and the spa also came in very handy after my race.

Rotorua has some interesting colonial style architecture around the town.

This building now houses the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. In its day it was an internationally renowned bath house and spa.

No trip to Rotorua is complete without a trip up the Skyline Gondola. Not only is there the view from the top to marvel at but the luge rides down the hill offer more excitement. This year was the first year that Jack, 7, has been old enough to ride the luge by himself and he had a great time. We had three rides and with each one he gained in confidence and picked up more speed.

Sam on the other hand was with me and for some reason did not want to go fast at all. That most most unusual for Sam as he is usually the adventurous one.

Its doing stuff like the that makes the Xterra festival such a fun weekend. I get to race over challenging and scenic terrain and when the racing has finished, there lots fun things to enjoy with the rest of the family.


19 April 2009

Disappointing effort at Xterra

The placing tells a disappointing story.

40th of 46 in the open men category or 86th of 111 men overall.

Setting up pre race.

I was reasonably confident going into the race, a 26 km Mountain Bike Race through the famed Whakarewarewa Forest, at Rotorua and was being raced as part Xterra festival. I hadn't done a huge amount of mileage on the bike in training, but in recent weeks and had increased my distances. I no illusions of posting a stunning result but I did think I could post a respectable result.

The one area that I was light on was actual off road training in true mountain bike trails. Only two rides in the last two months, one of around 20 km. I wasn't too concerned at this as I thought I has coped reasonably well on that ride. I was more concerned with spending ample time on the bike and riding some hills once a week to build strength hill climbing.

The race started near the shore of Rotorua's Blue Lake and we were straight away climbing back up the hill by road for perhaps a mile before heading into the forest. I placed my self near the back of the field at the start and settled into an easy pace for the first mile, feeling pretty comfortable going up the hill (again I did most of my training in road).


We entered the forest and the track was now a rough and rocky but flat 4wd track. Though wary of the loose surface I was able to maintain my position through this section of the trail.

It was not long before we came to our first climb of the day. This hill was one of those demoralising hills that never seemed to end. Aptly named Hill Road, it snaked its way skywards, twisting and turning, as all the while you hoped that just around the next corner it would be over.

Ahead of me other riders were already walking their bikes a sure sign that others were too feeling some pain. Subconsciously I think I must have taken that as a sign that it was alright to do the same, as before long I too found myself walking up the hill. Thinking back now I must have only been climbing for minutes and it frustrates me that I gave in so early, perhaps only ten minutes into the race, and lacked the fight to continue riding up this hill.

Eventually the 4wd track linked with a single dirt track but the climb continued onwards and upwards through the Redwoods, via a series of switchbacks. I managed to get back on the bike temporarily through this section but still fatigued from the walk up the hill I was in no shape to push the pace and was again walking before I reached the top. I enjoyed the chance to regain my breath while negotiating the tight and technical downhill section that followed.

Photo by Rengber
The terrain of the Whakarewarewa forest, with its huge hill climbs and long challenging downhills, is so different to what we have at Woodhill in Auckland which though also forested is much more gently rolling terrain with small climbs and downhills and all on a nice sandy base.

Once on the flat again I soon caught two speedsters who had zoomed past me on the downhill. The flat soon gave may to another hill and the two in front were soon walking. Being a single track and still in no mood to try a passing manoeuvre I also elected to walk it.

Before long the single track linked with a 4wd track again. Straight away I was on my bike and from that point I didn't look back. I rode strongly all the way to the top of this climb, picking up a few other riders as I went. Over the other side and it was another enjoyable downhill which soon gave way to a fast section of flat quite open trail.

As I reached the shores of the Green Lake, I knew now I could push on to the finish and I and continued to make good time along this flat and open section of forestry road. I then successfully negotiated the final climb over the hill back to the southern end of the Blue Lake after which it was all downhill to the finish at the northern end of the lake.

My finish time was 2:08:50 which placed me 86th of 111 men overall or 40th of 46 in my division of men under 40.

Finished at last.

Looking back on why I ran out of puff going up Hill Road, clearly a lack of hill training is a factor and also terrain specific training. Two off road rides in the preceding two months was not enough preparation. I'm also afraid that I just lacked sufficient mental toughness to keep going. I will learn from that and next time I'm in a similar position I'll be challenging myself to carry on.

I'm not sure where to from here just yet. There's no more Mountain Biking events around locally over the winter so that might be getting a bit of a rest. I need to come up with something quick though as know I must stay active.

On a more positive note it was a great weekend away with the family. Michelle enjoyed taking in the racing at the Lake and the boys enjoyed the kids playground and other activities the organiser had set up for them. More on what else we got up to next time.


07 April 2009

Abebe Bikila - The Barefoot Runner

I've been doing a bit more reading these days. I've been busing to and from work for about a year now (thanks to the astronomical fuel prices last year and a flash new bus way beside the the motorway which means we can just fly past all the other traffic). This gives me 45 minutes or so of spare time each way so I thought I could make good use of that time by doing some more reading.

I picked up a book titled "Barefoot Runner: The Life of Marathon Champion Abebe Bikila" from our local library which tells the story of the legendary Ethiopian distance runner Abebe Bikila. For those that don't know the name, Bikila was the first African to win an Olympic medal when he won the Marathon at Rome in 1960. Not only did Bikila win in world record time of 2:15:17 but he raced barefoot due to his inability to find a fitting shoe in the Olympic village prior to the race. Running barefoot was not new to Bikila having grown up running barefoot in the Ethiopian highlands.

Bikila's hero status was further enhanced when became the first athlete (and only second ever) to successfully ever defend his Olympic Marathon title when he won in Tokyo, four years later in a time of 2:12:12. The remarkable thing about this race was that he was able to win merely six weeks after undergoing an appendix operation.

Bikila almost went on to complete what would have been an even more remarkable hat trick of Olympic Marathon victories in Mexico in 1968. Sadly he withdrew with a knee injury at about the 17 km mark, while leading the race. In a nice touch his long time friend and mentor Mamo Wolde went on to win Gold that day thus continuing that Ethiopia's stranglehold on the Olympic Marathon.

Tragically Bikila was paralysed in a car accident in 1969 and was confined to a wheel chair until he died in 1973.

The book goes to some lengths to also cover Bikila's relationship with his coach, Onni Niskanen originally from Sweden, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, as well as political tensions, coup attempts, civil unrest and the disorder leading to the Emperors downfall in 1969.

I was slightly amusing when reading the reviews on Amazon. It seems that the author may have used a fair degree of poetic license to describe many of the events that took place, but never the less if nothing else the book gives a good account of Bikila's two Olympic Golds and his attempted third.

Bikila undoubtedly paved the way for the many talented African runners that would follow in his footsteps.


04 April 2009


I'm fortunate that my work enables me to get to travel to some of the New Zealand's most scenic towns and this week I had the pleasure of spending a few days in beautiful Queenstown, nestled amongst the mountains in New Zealand's South Island.

Here's a few snaps I took.

A beautiful looking Lake Whakatipu and mountain backdrop. It's still autumn here and we've had no winter snow storms yet, but in winter these mountain peaks will be covered with the white fluffy stuff.

There's plenty to do here from ...

Jet boating and ...

Bungy jumping for the thrill seekers, through to ...

just cruising the lake on the on the 98 year old steamer, SS Earnslaw for those keen on a slower pace of life.

I also made it to the southern most point on New Zealand's South Island, Bluff.

In biking news, I've finally entered the Xterra Mountain Bike race in Rotorua which is taking place in two weeks. After 9 or 10 days of no training due to my South Island trip and then straining my back mid week, I have a bit of catching up to do. Still plenty of time though to get some good training rides in.


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