Hawke's Bay Today deputy editor Grant Harding, who will be participating in Ironman New Zealand 2013, having completed the event in 2010 and gone to the start line this year only to be denied by the weather, shares his Ironman life.
Much has happened since my last Ironman column.
Another year has ticked by, and my body clock is now two weeks past 52.
Hawke's Bay Today has gone pedometer-mad thanks to the Step Up Seven Week Challenge in conjunction with Health Hawke's Bay. Nine teams featuring 63 individuals are locked in battle.
The first question one gets asked upon arrival at work these days is: "How many steps did you do?"
Our team captains have become zealots, and woe betide anyone who falls off the pace.
A mere 8000 steps from myself for one 24-hour period elicited curled lips, raised eyebrows, and barely controlled rage. And that was just production editor Linda Hall's reaction.
So I'm pleased to announce that the Editor's Predators took out the first week's honours - five free coffees per team member from Taste Cornucopia.
And, of course, Ironman training has continued, with a gradual step up in intensity. Only my swimming is behind schedule.
Next weekend I take on the 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, the following weekend the Ironmaori with my daughter, Ashley, followed by either the Taupo Half-Ironman a week later, or the Rotorua Half-Ironman, a fortnight later. It's the "harden-up" phase.
I was out of town for both the Ironmaori Quarter-Ironman (a shame because I was invited to fill-in as swimmer/runner for a team, and love the kaupapa of Heather and her organisation), and the Mitre 10 Mega Walk.
But I joined more than 600 others for the Peak Trail Blazer in Havelock North yesterday.
Naturally enough it was a tough climb from the local primary school to Te Mata Peak, and I had to walk a few hundred metres of the hillside.
The initial descent was technically challenging.
I got flummoxed by one rocky drop, got the toe of my shoe caught on another and almost went down face first, and later almost sprained my ankle and could feel the sole of one foot burning in new-this-week running shoes.
My finish however was strong (1hr 15min 34sec, 34th in a field of 141 solo runners).
Not as strong as some of the Bay's more exceptional athletes, seven of whom joined the Hall of Flames by beating one hour. Napier's Graham Bee clocked an astonishing record 50:53, with 2010 winner Ross Morrison and Ross McIntyre in second and third. Next was last year's winner Lucas Duross, Jon Clearwater, Amber Morrison, the first woman to dip under the 60-minute mark, and Matt Gummer.
Last year nobody went under an hour, while in 2010 five did including Kristian Day who recently won the inaugural Taniwha event, north of Taupo - contested over a mere 58km. My partner, Janet, came 10th and was still eating like a horse a week later. Why would anyone want to run 58km? Don't ask me!
On that note Helen Tobin contacted me following the Napier Pak'nSave half-marathon to give me the benefit of her wisdom, ahead of completing her 100th marathon in Feilding. Incredible!
While it's great to see the seniors doing so well, I have been equally impressed with the Bay's youngsters. I witnessed a fabulous day of racing at the Hawke's Bay Primary Schools Triathlon Championships earlier this month, where 488 athletes from 27 schools competed; and yesterday's Peak Trail Blazer was stacked with youngsters, some of whom took on the 12km challenge.
Other than a plethora of events, this time of year also has another regular feature which I came across when I decided to give the legs a break by running on the Park Island grass. All was going well until a magpie zoomed overhead and into a tree.
Having read about a group of magpies attacking workmen up north that week, I spent the next several hundred metres looking over my shoulder.
As a child I loved the magpie, but he was wooden and sat in the corner at Ranfurly Shield defences.
As a teenager I was sad when I saw 15 of the birds strung up on a fence on my way to Manawatu for a Ranfurly Shield challenge. But as a triathlete I have become paranoid about them after attacks on my cycling helmet in the Tukituki Valley on two separate occasions, and many other stalkings.
The "quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle" sound so brilliantly described in Denis Glover's poem, Magpies, now scares the living daylights out of me. So I'll steer clear of Park Island until the breeding season is done and dusted.
Despite getting three flat tyres this week (courtesy of a minute piece of glass discovered in my tyre by a helpful employee of Cranked Cycles), I am beginning to enjoy myself.
In fact the third flat tyre, 60km in to Saturday's ride, gave me a good laugh.
Riding with Ashley, I started to struggle to keep up. Was it the battle into the head wind down Swamp Rd with her drafting? No, it was a slow leak on the front tyre I discovered as my wheel became unstable around a corner.
I rode on to the next corner, then stopped.
Did my riding partner come back to see how I was? Not on your life, when she was having the best ride of her life. Good on her!
With 15 weeks to go until Ironman 2013, how am I feeling? Like a 52-year-old, of course!
Staples Rodway Cape Kidnappers Challenge
- 32km Individual/Teams Run/Walk event
- Team entries have closed; individual entries still available.