Tales from a bicycle seat

Triathlon ScienceTriathlon cycling must be the second of the three Shakespeare witches – gnarled, ugly and capable of doing wicked things to your legs. Perhaps it’s because I feel like one of those ladies when I get off the bike – drooling, hunched, and capable of nothing faster than a painful shuffle.

The cycle leg in a triathlon comes after the swim, and before the run, so it serves as a sort of no-mans land, where you try to drink and eat as much as you can to set you up for the last bit, the run. The fact that you have to be able to do this at 30 km an hour while dodging other cyclists, abandoned water bottles and spectators’ dogs just adds another layer of entertainment. Despite this, I quite enjoy the cycle – I mean, you get to sit down, how good is that? Getting sufficiently fit for such a thing – and the event I’m aiming for, a half-ironman, has a 90km cycle – takes a little while. I confess to being a nervous bicycle rider these days, so a fair amount of training time happens on the stationary trainer in the garden shed, just so I don’t have to deal with disintegrating roads and jostle with Christchurch motorists. Strange then, I used to fearlessly cycle around London as a younger man, but maybe this is wisdom coming from my advancing years.

The Complete Guide to StretchingIf you’re on a similar journey to my own, I would point you towards two books mentioned in an earlier blog, Triathlon Science by Joe Friel, and Triathlon For Masters And Beyond by Ian Stokell. They both have good sections devoted to cycling fitness; there are other titles as well that cover much the same ground. As an – ahem – older person, I have to say that stretching is also an important thing, for me anyway. I find that I don’t need to stretch before I start exercising – people, I exercise slow! But if I don’t stretch afterwards, on the following day I feel like I’ve run a marathon. If you find you have the same issues, I can recommend a read of Anatomy, Stretching and Training for Cyclists, edited by Lisa Purcell, and also The Complete Guide to Stretching by Christopher Norris. No doubt a yoga class would help, if only I had the time.

If you need some general reading around cycling and how to do it better, the library provides access to a range of magazines about cycling specific magazines in print and electronic form. You’ll need a valid library card and a password/PIN to access the electronic ones.  You can also find more cycling resources on our cycling page.

For more about Colin’s triathlon endeavours and some reading suggestions, check out our other triathlon blog posts.

Ten mile championship of New Zealand, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0057
Ten mile championship of New Zealand, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0057

A fish in the swim of the world

Book cover of a fish in the swim of the worldFirst, I have to salute Ben Brown, who wrote a book with the title I shamelessly stole for the title of this blog post. I don’t have his talent for words, but I do love that title, and I did want to write about the aspect of Triathlon that probably puts off a lot of people, and causes fear and trembling even among those who can do it to some degree. No, not the lycra, but the swimming.

I confess that while I’m an average swimmer, it’s not my favourite thing. There’s a significant amount of self-persuasion that has to go on to get me out of bed early enough to have an hour in the pool before work. As I see it, improving your swimming can be divided into endurance and technique. The event I’m aiming for has a 1.9 km swim, so good technique has a significant part to play in the condition in which you arrive at the first transition. Being entirely self-coached, I rely firstly on YouTube tutorials for the visual, and on library print and electronic resources for the swimming drills.

A further complication with swimming, in the South Island climate we enjoy, is the need to wear a wetsuit. Getting into a wetsuit isn’t too bad, especially as you usually have a bit of time available if you’re putting it on before the event starts.Getting out of a wetsuit, however, is a whole different skill set – in fact, I would say it should be a whole separate discipline, recognised as one of the four events in a triathlon (which would then become a quadrathon, but never mind).

Book cover of Open Water SwimmingSupposing that swimming itself isn’t too challenging, for the longer events there is then the prospect of open-water swimming to contend with. In this part of the world that usually means sea swimming. Quite apart from the fact that you can’t just stand up if you get tired, for me anyway there’s always the uncomfortable feeling that I’m not alone in the water. Not being able to see the bottom means that there could be all sorts of toothy creatures around, just looking for a snack. Wearing a black wetsuit means you look quite like a seal from underneath, and what’s a shark’s favourite meal? I may have to attack my black wetsuit with some white paint. I think I may take a zebra as inspiration – after all, when was the last time you heard of a zebra getting eaten by a shark? I guess being apprehensive is something you just have to get used to, but if anyone has any advice on this, I’d love to hear it.

Providing you have the courage for open water swims, check out these long distance swimming books. Have fun out there!

For more about Colin’s triathlon endeavours and some reading suggestions, check out our other triathlon blog posts.

Running on empty

Book cover of You are an ironmanIt’s now less than 12 months before I have a go at my first middle distance triathlon, the Half Ironman. That in itself is a worrying thought, but at least it’s 11 months away, and not 11 weeks – now that would be a cause for concern. Who decided that a half ironman was middle distance? I bet it doesn’t feel like middle distance when you’re out there, half way through the run with 10 kilometres still to go. Yes, I know that a full ironman is considered long distance, but really – middle distance? It sounds as unglamorous as “middle age”.

Anyway, there are no shortage of triathlon training books on the library shelves, should you need some guidance. I have to say I do dip into them occasionally, if only to discover the things I’m doing wrong with my own self-led training. I have tried to do the group exercise thing with swimming and running, just to see if it helped, but I found myself daunted by the prowess of the other group members, and so didn’t continue with that idea. Training by yourself isn’t for everyone, I agree, but it beats having to make friendly conversation – have you tried that when you’re out of breath? It’s all to do with the psychology, and if you wanted to work on your sports psychology, the library – naturally – has that covered.

Cover of 80/20 runningIf you would like a bit of help with your own running activities, you could try this book – 80/20 Running. The subtitle is “Run Stronger And Race Faster By Training Slower”. Anything that involves running slowly would have to be right up my street. Can I also recommend the American edition of Runner’s World magazine, not only because of the excellent content, but because of their endpiece article every month, written by John Bingham, aka ‘the Penguin’, who is an unrepentant advocate of slow running. For a comprehensive look at the whole subject of running and how to do it right, there’s Running Science. Just don’t take it too seriously – it’s supposed to be fun, after all.

For more about Colin’s triathlon endeavours and some reading suggestions, check out our other triathlon blog posts.

 

Now to get hot and sweaty!

You have probably noticed that the weather gods have decided to let us have some warm weather at last. Naturally this turns a person’s thoughts to what they can be doing outside, be it gardening, sailing, tramping, or even firing up the barbie and opening a few cold ones as evening falls. Naturally the library has all that covered, but that’s not what we’re here for today.

Cover of Triathlon for Masters and BeyondMy personal train of thought veers towards the sweaty at this time of year – yes, I’m talking about triathlon. I’m talking about the original form of triathlon – swim, bike and run – rather than that strange hybrid: kayak, bike and run. I guess not everyone likes the swim, and I confess I don’t either, but part of the appeal must be getting out of your comfort zone, surely?

Learning another sport can be a challenge, but learning those new techniques and building up those specific muscles can be enjoyable, and you’re never too old to keep learning, right? Well, that’s what I tell myself, anyway, and there may even be a grain of truth in it. And there’s always that strange thrill of buying yourself some new sport specific gear, and let’s be honest, looking the part is half the fun.

I’ve long had a fascination with the Ironman distance races – and who wouldn’t after watching this sort of thing on Youtube.

Alas, what with working full time and having a family, I don’t think I could dedicate the time needed to survive that sort of event (and to be honest, paying the entry fee for that type of event is pretty painful if you’re on a librarian’s wage).

However, I do think I could train for a Half Ironman event, so this is the first post about that. The Half Ironman is the fastest growing distance in the triathlon world, being a little longer than ‘sprint’ or Olympic distance events, and thereby possibly more suited to older people like myself who don’t have the speed that the shorter distance events demand. A Half Ironman is a 1.9km swim, a 90 km bike ride and a 21 km run, not impossible but still a distance to be respected.

The event I have my eye on is in Ashburton, on 7th November 2015, at the marvellous Lake Hood. Yes, it’s a long time away, but that gives me time to get my poor ageing body used to all that exercise. So, you’re very welcome to come along for the ride on this one, literally if you feel the urge, and figuratively even if you don’t.

Cover of Triathlon ScienceWorking in a library as I do, I naturally had to see what resources were available to help me on my way. I’m of an age now where I qualify as a ‘Master’ athlete, so a title like Triathlon for Masters and Beyond was an obvious start. There’s also the excellent and comprehensive Triathlon Science by Joe Friel, and Triathlon by Steve Trew.

If you have a tablet or e-book reader, you could also download Trew’s book (you’ll need a password or PIN number added to your library card to be able to download e-books; if you don’t have one already, speak to your friendly local librarian or call us). Don’t be put off by the mention of tactics in that title – most new triathletes are focused on enjoying the experience, not racing.

For my part, the running is already underway – I’m a regular recreational runner anyway, so I know what I’m doing with that. The swimming and the cycling is another matter! More on those in subsequent posts.

Are you a beginning triathlete? Is getting fit one of your goals? Do leave a comment if so, it would be great to see how many people are starting this same journey.

Nirvana on a bike – long distance cycling

Cover of CyclosportiveYou did know there was an around the world bicycle race on at the moment, didn’t you? No, I thought not, unless you happen to be one of those strange people who like long distance endurance events, and even  then you probably stick to multisport events that finish in approximately the same week as they started. However, cycling around the world – and doing it as a competition with others – must stand as unique in the slightly sweaty annals of willing self torture.

My dears, lets not get started on what the chafing must be like. Have I piqued your curiosity? You can read all about it and follow the riders on www.worldcyclerace.com, where the remaining riders struggle through deserts and across the tundra, pursued by bears, no doubt. And mosquitos the size of bears.

And the reward for all this effort? Well, there isn’t one, apart from an impressive rash, really big mosquito bites and some blisters in places you wouldn’t want to show your mother. There were 4 starters this year, as compared to 11 last year; 1 has already been disqualified for using a taxi, leaving the rest to battle it out between themselves. The disqualified entrant is still out there cycling, determined to finish the event anyway.

Fancy having a go yourself? Well, there must be worse ways to shake off your midlife crisis. Ok, maybe not. This race is an annual event, so the 2015 race still has vacancies, and you can start from Auckland if you like. Browse our books on cycling training and explore Kiwi Radonneurs – Long distance cycling in New Zealand.

Cover of Get on your bikeAppetite whetted? Well, that’s great, because if you can’t make it for the next around the world race, how about the upcoming TransAmerica event in June (you just have to cycle across North America for that one, but it’s a different event from the RAAM – Race Across America- which also entails cycling across the USA, and also in June, but using a different route). If you would like a bit of Euroculture with your chafing, there’s also the Transcontinental race across Europe, starting from London and ending in Istanbul in August. This one adds another level of challenge in that the cyclists have to be entirely unsupported, which means if they can’t carry it on the bike, it doesn’t go.

New Zealand isn’t entirely out of the loop with endurance cycle races – some time ago (2001) there was an end to end event, the Mizone Endurazone Bluff to Cape Reinga 2001 Challenge, chronicled by Christchurch’s own John Hellemans in his book The Misery of Staying Upright. Alas we don’t have such an event here any more, but there are opportunities for long distance rides at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, which offers 320km, 640km and 1280km distances, should the ‘standard’ distance of 160km not be enough for you.

My dears, think of the chafing!

Mexican Day of the dead

Like it or loathe it, Halloween is upon us once more. The journey of that old pagan tradition linked to the Northern hemisphere’s autumn festival of Samhain to its current 2 dollar shop plastic kitsch in this country (and others, to be fair) must be a tangled one. If lollies weren’t involved, would children still bother to dress up and go door to door? For a European perspective, you could try Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, which will tell you far more than you thought you wanted to know about European pre-Christian mythology.

TCover of The Day of the deadhe idea of a celebration that includes dead family and friends doesn’t have to be morbid or a spooky one, as Halloween pretends to be. My favourite has to be the Mexican Day Of The Dead, which actually covers 3 days , from 31st October to 2nd November, and is celebrated with food, drink and remembering those who have passed away. Has to be better than Christmas Day with the in-laws, surely

Fendalton Library is having a Dia De Los Muertos display, from Friday 1st November, courtesy of Christchurch’s vibrant Mexican community; why not drop and have a look if you’re in the area? The library does have a book dedicated exclusively to El Dia De Los Muertos, if you wanted to find out more.

Since we’re heading into the festive season, why not check out the library resources on festivals.