Confessions of a Rookie Triathlete

I started this blog with the limited intention of using it as a way to let people who know me keep track of what I was up to. Since those early days I’ll admit I’ve got into the whole stats thing, it’s kind of cool. The fact people I’ve never met do on occasion read what I say is weird and addictive. Deep down I am attention seeking! Today though I’m using the blog to get something off my chest. Highlight a rookie error or two in a semi-public environment and force myself to deal with it properly. It’s not as heavy as it sounds.

The past week I have managed my diet like an idiot. No getting around it, it’s been unbelievably dumb and I’ve happily played along till today. There’s something wrong if you find yourself hitting the wall 20 minutes into the ride isn’t there? I’m spinning easy gears to warm-up, heading south along Burleigh beach and suddenly I’m empty. Not good! So I eat a muesli bar there and then. It’s not going to be enough. Fortunately for me there’s a servo just before you climb over the Burleigh Headlands. Only one thing to be done – 20 minutes into a ride and I’m stopping for coke and chocolate.

It was an interesting stop as immediately I was accosted by a very friendly, but also slightly nuts guy just about to leave. He was interested in how much a bike like mine costs these days. I was a little vague as at that point I was concerned this was pre-empting trying to steal it! Then he pointed out his bike an old hybrid with aerobars on in a very comfortable, but not very aero set-up. He commented on a passing cyclists deep rimmed wheels and how he enquired about those Zipps and how much they were. Then things went a little weirder. Somehow he worked out I’m British, must be the accent, so told me how he’d visited England. He wanted to do something with the queen, didn’t really catch what I think he just meant have a chat. Though apparently we should get rid of the monarchy for reasons relating to upcoming wars. As he started to get onto the topic of US military involvement around the world I made my move for the door.

Chocolate and coke did the trick. Incidentally I noticed that a Snickers bar and a 600ml bottle of coke is around 20-25% of the recommended daily calorie intake for men. With 2-for-1 offers on some of these things no wonder people are having weight issues. I figured if they gave me the speed bump to do the ride I’m planning then all is fine. A few minutes down the road and sure enough the sugars and caffeine were kicking in.

The plan for the ride was to ride up over Tomewin and drop down into the Tweed Valley, turning at Murwillumbah and back up through Tweed Heads and the Coast. Tomewin is a decent climb with a couple of tough sections in plus a lot of undulation. It kicks off with almost a kilometre at 14% at least you know you get the worst out of the way at first. I was getting there via Connection Road which is undulating and I figured would give me an idea of things to come. Signs were this wasn’t going to be the greatest ride of all times as when the road turned up things got hard. Whilst I’d figured I’d test my legs before I got to Tomewin I had no contingency plan so just kept going.

Lately I’ve developed a habit of hitting climbs hard and going at them. It’s a combination of riding with Aussies and time in New Zealand. Great for getting over rollers. Tomewin is about 9km from bottom to top, normally I can get away with hitting it hard as it’s not relentless climbing. By the end of the last steep section I was taking my time to consider the wisdom of this strategy when I knew I was stuffed! When the road gets steep it also turns to crap and it was a bit like being back in New Zealand. I was however determined to keep the pace on to the end! The cost was when I rolled over the top I was pretty much done.

So as I descended into the Tweed Valley apart from admiring the views and noting how different it’s starting to look as new crops are growing I had time to consider what had led up to today. Going back to calories and looking back over the past few days I figured I have been running a ridiculous deficit. I’ll save a full on discussion on disordered eating for another time. It’s not an eating disorder I’m just really good at going to extremes to achieve a goal. Having mentioned I wanted to drop some weight I’d gone about it a little too hard. I think I lasted as long as I did simply through having the break after Epic Camp. Freshness compensated for a low energy intake.

The signs have been there for a couple of days. Waking in the early hours feeling really hungry… Breakfast not doing much to solve that and needing more within an hour or two… Really it was obvious when I went for a morning swim and had to go through a pack of Seasame Snaps to last a 3K session! My other litany of mistakes involves allowing a persistent state of poor hydration this week. I woke this morning feeling as close to sick as I have in a while. I spent most of the night sleeping poorly as I was far too hot too. All not good.

Having established a likely cause of my problems and really not getting much out of the ride I decided to stop for coffee at Murwillumbah. There’s a nice cafe there and to be honest I have not had real coffee in 2 weeks! Seriously I have been surviving with one instant coffee every morning that can’t be good for me. The coffee isn’t up to the New Zealand standard and that’s been putting me off, it’s hard to go back. The coffee stop turned into a full on lunch stop with time to read the paper. Not the best training, but much needed I think.

I knew the forecast predicted rain in the afternoon so with darkening skies I figured it was time to turn home. I left things just a little too late with a seriously nasty looking front heading into the valley. My route home to the coast had clear skies in the distance, unfortunately the dark clouds were heading that way too. It wasn’t long before some rain hit and some strong winds. My legs weren’t feeling better despite the meal so I was limited to a fairly easy pace. As it was I remained at the edge of the rain front and never got really soaked. The weather did it’s best to encourage me to speed up with rumbles of thunder as I made the final climb. I didn’t quite beat the storms home. Just 20 minutes out and I finally get a proper soaking! At least it’s still pretty warm so you can manage with just a gilet.

Let’s end this confessional post here. Interestingly the power data from my ride suggests it wasn’t as poor as it felt. Though I suspect mostly it comes down to trying to blow myself up on the climbs. Clearly I have spent this week making some pretty dumb choices regarding food and drink. I’ve been excessive in my limitation of my calorie intake. Still no long term harm done at this point. Just have to correct things and balance it out over the next three weeks. It’s my final build up before Ironman Oz a last chance to work on fitness. No more rookie errors.