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Whale Watching, 3rd March
Wed, 04 Mar 2009 00:04:40 +0000
Thanks for yesterday's messages. Today's whale watching was great (if a little queezy on the open water!!!). First we bobbed out to the trench where the whales feed, saw three Sperm Whales doing their thing which was pretty impressive in itself. But they then took us over to a pod of Dusky Dolphins so we could watch them playing about (I've just uploaded it, it does work but there isn't a preview picture yet)...

Tue, 03 Mar 2009 05:52:18 +0000
A quick update while I have a good internet hook-up.

We arrived in NZ after a 11 hour flight LHR > LAX then 13 hours LAX to AKL. We hung around Auckland for a couple of hours then on another plane for 90 minutes down to Queenstown on the South Island. After about 35 hours of horrible air-con airport/airplane air Queenstown felt like heaven. It was sunny, 15 degrees with a really refreshing cool breezing. Last year Michele had problems with hear ears adjusting to the pressure changes and it caused a lot of pain when descending into Queenstown, this year thankfully everything went well and we'd arrived without drama.

We came back to Queenstown as a starting point as we were here last year so we know where everything is, can stock up on bits and bobs and get grounded quickly. Unfortunately the hotel we used last year was booked so we'd used another with no view of the lake. But we'd had a view last year and can remember what it looks like! Just one day at Queenstown this time so a go on JetBoat and a visit to Arrowtown (where they filmed escape to the ford in LOTR) and we were done and ready to roll on, luckily with minimal jet-lag.

Day two and we had to get ourselves across to Lake Manapouri and catch the ferry over to Wilmot Pass. While sitting on the lawn waiting for the ferry we knew the next 24hrs would be a challenge as the people were really loud!. Across the lake, over Wilmot Pass and onto the Doubtful Sound. We had a 20 hour cruise up the sound ahead of us with an over night stay at one of the fjords quiet spots. They offered the choice of a sea kayak or a guided tour in one of the life boats at one point. We chose the life boats as we'd not kayak'd before. It was great, we had the ships 'nature expert' as a guide and he took us right up Crooked Arm (a branch of the fjord) where we had bottle nose dolphins barge the boat to get a look at us. Later we were allowed into the water where I spent an amazing half hour swimming about. Certainly one of the most amazing places I've swam.

Next day we darted down to Bluff (the southern most bit of the south island) to catch the ferry over to Stewart Island. They kept warning us how rough the crossing could be but we thought "how bad can it be". Well it's feckin awful. The boat captain said it's be choppy as we left the harbour and I thought the boat was going to go over. Michele lasted 20 minutes and me 40 but we both filled half a dozen sick bags during the hour trip. On getting to Oban we were driven to our place and went to bed.

Next day more drama, it was bloody freezing. We laid in bed talking and mist was coming our of our mouth! I phoned the land-lady (as I thought she was) and she said she'd turn the heating on. We popped out expecting the room to be warm on our return but it was still cold. I called at the land-lady's house to be greeted by a new person, she said the heating was broken and she'd look into it. Heating came on an hour later but the hot water had gone. Knocked again and land-lady (which still wasn't the actual land-landy but another stand in) said it's either heat or hot water, not both. We checked out immediately and found another place that was great.

Next day was a tour of Ulva Island, if the cold the day before hadn't tested us then this would. Eight degrees, strong antarctic winds, peeing rain and a days tour around a small island looking for birds. It as a brilliant tour, the woman leading us knew a great deal and we got to see a load of wildlife but I was a bit to cold for comfort. Totally my fault as we'd packed for summer - doh! Thoroughly recommend the trip to Ulva (I'll add URL's for these trips when I write up for real and add pics).

Next day we had the choice of a ferry trip back to the mainland or a flight. We chose the flight of course and that went really well, got back to the car feeling good, put the car's heating on high and set off for our next stop. About two hours east and we'd got to the Catlins. We were given the keys to our home for the next three nights and first thoughts were "no TV, no mobile signal, no internet - ARRRRRR". But it quickly became apparent the modern world wasn't needed here. Our hosts, Mary and Fergus took care of us by providing all meals, trips, warm clothing for the trips and information you can't get from the welcome leaflets they give out everywhere else. Fergus took us to Podcarp and Birch forests, to penguin and seal colonies, deserted beaches and a load of really brilliant places. Truly amazing.

Then began our trip north, we drove around to Dunedin for lunch then on to Omaru where we B&B'd in a stone built Victorian house (rare in NZ). Next day we're off to Lake Tekapo which is up in the mountains for a night time guided tour of the skies. WTF we thought but they took us up onto Mount John which is 1000 metres above sea level and home to NZ's main observatory. There an astronomer stood us outside and used his green lazer to point at stars and constellations. The sky was clear and I'd never seen so many stars. The whole of the cosmos was there in front of us. We peeked through a couple of telescopes and saw Saturn and it's rings and many stars.

Next stop was at Akaroa, about an hour outside Christchurch and to be honest we were in need of a rest so we ate and slept a great deal. We popped into Christchurch to find Emma's Cookie store but had no luck. Our room had no net hookup so couldn't use the PC to help us.

That brings us to today, a four hour drive up to Kaikora where tomorrow we're booked on a 7:30am sailing to spot whales. The place we're in is totally awesome, a new build apartment block with all mod-cons and we're getting some Z'd in for the next leg of the journey - the North Island.

It's been a totally amazing trip once again. New Zealand is so cleansing for the soul it's hard to explain just how amazing it is. Replies...
Christmas is over (and other updates)
Fri, 09 Jan 2009 07:56:33 +0000
Can't say I enjoyed Christmas, it always seems to be a load of problems happening when you just want a quiet week. The cooker broke down on Christmas Day so we had to dig out the slow cookpot and have an evening meal, the hot tap on the bath stopped working, the brakes on the car played up (anti-locking keeps coming in when it shouldn't and letting the brakes off), family was mental, cat hurt it's shoulder and had to go to the vet and plenty of other niggles. Seemed to be a busy break from work.

Still haven't done any training, I don't seem to be finding any spare time now work has changed. I get to work at eight or so, get back at six or so and just want to sit down. Which is fine, I'd much rather it was that than doing very little all day but I can't see myself doing many/any races if it stays busy.

Five weeks until we leave for NZ, starting to think about what needs doing for that. Sorted out our permission slips to enter the USA last night. They have a new system where you have to fill out the Visa Waver Form online so they can check it before you travel. They both came back as Approved so no problems with that. I'm hoping the exchange rates improve a bit before we need to change up our money, it's costing us about an extra five hundred pounds

Anyway, better go. I have work to do! Replies...
Another update and chatter
Wed, 10 Dec 2008 20:00:38 +0000
Still feeling ill but been to busy to worry about it really. Replies...
Three week report!
Wed, 03 Dec 2008 13:57:59 +0000
It's almost three weeks since the last blog so a quick update.

After the Ballbuster I did three days of running, Saturday (Ballbuster day) I did five miles and it was hard work. Sunday I did the same route and it was easy. Excellent I thought, must have just been tired or something. On the Monday I did eight miles and felt crap, Tuesday I felt all bunged up and that's where I still am, at the bunged up stage. I've done no training since then and although I really want to I'm being sensible and resting up. I have the mother of all sore throats which is causing me problems with acid reflux at night and swallowing problems when eating/drinking. Hopefully it'll ease soon as it's not much fun. I would say with only nine weeks of training left until we jet off, it's pretty much certain I won't be racing IMNZ. Not to dissapointed about that, I can leave the bike at home and enjoy the holiday (I'll still take my running shoes and swim goggles).

For anyone who know's about plans at work, there has been some movement on that front and I'm 50% of the way to getting what I'm after. Can't say more than that as it's only 50% done but it's looking good so far, fingers crossed. It's mega busy at the moment! Replies...
Sun, 16 Nov 2008 18:48:59 +0000
It seems right to talk about the contingency plan now as last weeks training was awful. We spectated at the Ballbuster (which was great fun) and since then I've been feeling really tired and buggy. Did a couple of runs in the week but they were awful and it didn't go well at all.

When in the recovery tent in NZ last year I promised myself I'd not do another Ironman like that, if I wasn't totally up for it then I'd pull out. With last week's training it bought it home that there is a distinct possibility that training won't go how I want and I'll find myself toeing the start line with very below par fitness. It really is luck of the draw as to whether I catch a bug that knocks me for six for a week or more and there's not much I can do to avoid that other then the usual like avoiding shopping centres when they're packed etc.

So here is the plan. I'll take the start in NZ whatever happens and do the swim. I'm actually looking forward to the swim, even if it's rough. But if things don't go well I'll hand in my chip in T1 and turn my attention to drinking huge bowls of coffee and supporting the TTers out there. Then maybe later in the day if I feel like it I'll kit up and go for a run. Obviously I want to do the whole race but I also wanted to write down my feelings about what happens if things go wrong. I really don't need to finish another IM really slowly to prove anything to myself and I could do without sitting out another four months of training because I've taken so much out of myself.

In the overall scheme of things last week hasn't really made any difference. All I've done is swop this week for last week, this week was supposed to be a recovery week which is what I did last week. Luckily, this week has begun well, I've done a couple of five mile runs and today I felt really good. Hopefully that's how things will stay. Replies...
Will Train For Pizza and Beer
Fri, 07 Nov 2008 17:59:27 +0000
This is the first week following the schedule set for the build up to IMNZ last year by Mr SwimSmooth. I figured it's probably the best schedule to follow as it's purpose built for me although I'm not being coached by Paul this time around (although he's a good egg and would no doubt answer any questions I had). So here we go, 18 weeks to go...

Saturday: 1hr 35min long run. Headed out to do 10 miles around the hills on the bridal paths but after about three miles things turned really muddy and I had to walk through much of it. It was absolutely peeing down and I was quite enjoying myself but thought I'd better head back to the roads and do some 'proper' running so that's what I did. Not sure how far I ran (as I'm not really worried about distance, heart rate or any of that kind of thing). Enjoyeyd this sessions a lot, felt good to be running for 90+ mins.

Sunday: 2hr 30min on the turbo. The session said to hold a constant rate (I forget what but it wasn't hard) but I watched the cycling and F1 while cycling so it wasn't a constant effort as I kept stopping when anything exciting happend. I was messing around with cadence as over on the TBB forum a chap from Powercranks said we need to find our ideal cycling efficiency zone by holding a constant power reading and reducing our cadence until we found the lowest HR figure for a given cadence. It was very interesting, I usually cycling at a cadence of 85 or so but found I could hold a cadence of 70 with a HR 10 beats lower. I'll have another play around with this next Sunday.

Monday: 1hr run. For some reason I set off at a sensible pace then after about 2 miles upped the pace to friggin mental. I have no idea why I did that but I can't hold that pace for long.

Tuesday: Day off.

Wednesday: Swim am, turbo pm. Hit the pool and 'warmed up' with a balls out 400m swim. Again, not sure why I did that but I do need to calm things down if I'm to avoid over doing it this time around. After that I did about another 1k concentrating on my stroke (taking things easier). For the turbo session it was 2 x 20 mins in Z3 which I did on the rollers and on the tribars. That was a laugh, trying to stay on the bike while on the tribars, very tricky balancing act. That's a good session and I finished with mojo fully topped up.

Thursday: Re-jigged the schedule so I could have another day off, feeling tired

Friday: Long swim. Did my mega-400m warm up again then put my ego back in the locker for a straight 2k swim. Felt really good swimming, easy-peasy. Not fast, took 50 mins to do 2.4k but that's OK, still 18 weeks to go. Enjoyed this session as well. I was supposed to turbo this evening but decided to reward myself with beer and pizza and an early night so I can get to the Ballbuster early.

It's been a great week, hope next week is as good. Replies...
1600 miles
Mon, 27 Oct 2008 15:10:43 +0000
Took a week off work last week and a week off training. Thought it'd be nice to have a break between the pre-training phase and the actual build up to the race. I was going to do lots of cycling during my week off work but figured complete rest and some trips away would be better. Might make things easier when spare time is eaten up with training.

So on Sunday (19th) we drove off to York. Peeing down all the way but I'd seen the weather forecast and it said it'd clear in the morning. Found a Travel Lodge to stay in, had some scoff and to bed. Next morning was still wet and windy but it did clear mid morning to leave a very nice day indeed. We parked at the National Railway Museum and popped in to have a look around. We're not train spotter type people but figured as we'd used their car park for the day we ought to pop in but really enjoyed it. Lots going on, moving engines in and out, renovating The Flying Scottsman which you can watch from an overhead gantry, plenty of railway furniture to look at... Spent a couple of hours looking around and could have spent a couple more really but had to continue on our way.

The Mallard, the fastest steam engine of them all. Clocked 126mph back in 1938...

Restoration of the Flying Scottsman...

Then it was a short walk around the corner and into the Minster. We like to pop into the cathedrals for a look around. They allow you up onto the roof but you have to climb 120 odd steps to get there and they're really steep spiral stairs. Bloody knackering!

York Minster...

View from the (lead!) roof...

No time to waste here however and we popped out into the shopping area of York. Lots of narrow streets and markets. Great place to spend an afternoon.

A couple of days later we set off for Wales, same thing happened again, peeing down on the way but the forecast was for a great day the next day. Stopped at Llanelli for an overnight then drove the few miles across the Gower Peninsula to Rhossilli. What a great place.

Rhossilli Bay...

Worms Head...

Lots of rock pools and some weird geology going on...

Must be one of the most scenic car parks?

Had a good week off, can't say I'm well rested (I feel knackered) but had a good time exploring. It's not all good news though, car failed it's MOT this morning; no back brakes. Oops. Replies...
A slow week
Mon, 13 Oct 2008 10:37:26 +0100
Internet Explorer is crap. I lost my first entry so here's another...

Went to the print show on Tuesday, had a good look around and surprised at how much print equipment has moved on in the past 10 years (the last time I went to a show). Machines are more automated now but the operator still has control over what's going on, unlike on digital equipment (think big photocopier) where control is given over to the software. This is the main issue with where my job is going, as mentioned several weeks back, it could go one way or the other and I await the decision as to which way they go and to which way I go! Been waiting for quite a while now so I don't expect to find out anytime soon, they'll probably debate it until after Christmas. They like things to happen at the start of new quarters. Anyway, more on that when I know.

The drive to Birmingham (the show) and back is about 350 miles which knocked me out for Wednesday. Thursday I went swimming in the morning, doing about 1600m made up of 4 x 400m sets concentrating on keeping my stroke rate up, eliminating that dead 'glide' spot and getting properly rotated over so I use my back muscles. I'm sure things are improving in the pool and it all feels good. Enjoying my swims at the moment, it's my favourite session of the week! In the evening I went for a run, about an hour which I'm guessing is about 10k. That felt pretty good, it's an increase of about 2-3k on previous runs and the extra made no difference. My right heel was a bit sore the following morning so I'll monitor that. I expect a few niggles when the distances go up.

Friday I awoke feeling very snotty so decided not to go to the pool and didn't cycle in the evening. That turned out to be a good call as Saturday I felt pretty crappy. I lazed around all day, watched the IM in the evening/night and then lazed around all day Sunday. Today I feel a lot better but I'm having another clear day so no training today. Hopefully tomorrow will be fine and I'll get back to the pool in the morning. I do need to get in a decent week of training in the next three weeks as the 'real' training starts on Nov 1st. I can put that off for a week or two while I wait for things to come together but I'd rather not. I have a week off work in a couple of weeks time so hopefully I'll get in some decent cycling then which will kickstart things. I have a further two weeks holiday to take before the end of the year which I'll use when I need uninterrupted training time.

The plans for the holiday have been finalised and I'll send of a deposit cheque later today. Highlight of the trip for me is a cruise up Doubtful Sound a part of which we can get off the boat and swim with the dolphins. This is what's driving my swim mojo, I want to make the most of this time. I'll leave you with a picture of Doubtful Sound, South Island, New Zealand... Replies...
Five months to go...
Mon, 06 Oct 2008 10:24:23 +0100
If I include tonights turbo session (can't blog in the morning as I'm off to Birmingham to look at new kit, one of these Big Machine, ooooh!) I've done three swims, three bikes and two runs. Clocked about eight hours which is reasonable enough for the phase I'm in. In all the week went well with no problems other than slightly overdoing the beer on Friday night which wiped me out for Saturday.

Had a great run on Tuesday, the first time in a very long time I've run the whole of my hilly five mile route without stopping. It felt easy enough and a clear sign my running is getting better. Had three great swims, working on increasing my stroke rate and I'm feeling quicker in the water which is a good feeling. Not sure if I am actually quicker but I'm catching the lane regulars at a faster race so I'll assume I am. I'll get around to timing myself at some point (when I can find the stop watch).

Cycling isn't so good, struggling is the wrong word but it's not easy doing steady turbo sessions over an hour so I'll work on that in the next couple of weeks, see if I can get in three turbo's a week and set aside some decent time to the session rather than squeezing it in somewhere.

That's about it really, enjoying the swimming at the moment and generally feeling good about things. Another few weeks like this week and I'll be pleased and up for the 'real' training which starts November 1st. Replies...

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