Port of Tauranga Half 2016

Just a regular training day, right?

Paweł ChalacisPaweł Chalacis

In preparation for Challenge Wanaka and Ironman New Zealand I decided to race one of the bigger local half IM events - Port of Tauranga with a simple plan - go hard on the bike, control the pace on the run for the first few km and don’t worry about anything else. Well, it worked!

Since this was a purely training race, my preparation was adequate: basically none. I did some FTP work on the bike and two runs (hill reps being one of them), so it’s safe to say that I was definitely fatigued on Saturday morning. Good, that was the plan after all.

Then came the Friday and truly terrible weather - whole day of raining with some heavy wind. I decided not to leave my bike in the transition overnight as I had no means to protect the drivetrain. That meant I had to drop the bike by 4:30 am on Saturday morning. It also got me a bit worried about the conditions on the bike and I got a “plan B” in my mind - ride easy and try to run 1:40. That plan was not needed as it turned out.

Anyway, Saturday came and the weather calmed down a lot. Yep, there was still heavy wind, but the sky was clear with no indication of impending rain. Exactly what I needed. I ate my oats with banana, dropped the bike very early (unnecessary, as they allowed bikes to be dropped even after 5am) and slowly started organising my transition zone.

The second part of the video is in Polish, but the first minute is just the footage from the race.


I did a short warmup in the water, completely without the “race vibe” - yet another day, just a different location. The swim was boring - I think that’s the best word I can describe it. No current, a few waves here and there, but seriously, boring. I must be honest, I’ve been slacking with my swimming a lot and because of that it’s completely unpredictable. I can swim 33 or 38 minutes with no difference in my effort, therefore I had no expectations at all, I just wanted to do it and jump on the bike. 

Surprisingly I swam decently - 34 minutes. That’s when I got into the actual racing mode. Quick transition and I was on the bike. Flying.


There are a few bumps on the road when you leave the transition area and I lost my water bottle (first time in my life, also the first time I used XLab Gorilla cages - coincidence? ;)). Not an issue, however, as I had another bottle on my handlebars. I got into the rhythm pretty quickly and rode to the power - above 230 watts was the plan. It’s a 2 lap course, flat as a pancake there and back (total elevation gain of 118 meters over 90km). 

Now - when you do 230 watts and keep 42 km/h average you know what it means - tail wind. It also means that on the way back it won’t be that fun. It’s really visible on the graph - green is the speed, pink is the power. 

I kept to the plan for the first 70 km but then faded a little bit on the way back. I don’t know if it was just my limit or lack of taper, but the last hour did hurt more that it should have. Nevertheless I finished with normalised power of 232 watts - 10 watts more than in Taupo a few weeks ago. 

As for the body - my lower back didn’t hurt at all, but my shoulders gave up a bit. Nothing too crazy, just uncomfortable. Some strength work should fix that problem. 

I could work on my variability index a little as well. 1.03 on a flat course is not huge, but could be improved.

I finished the bike in 2 hours and 27 minutes - my fastest half IM bike so far.

Nutrition wise - I used Clif blocks only, ate 5 servings (about 150g of carbs).

Bike data - http://tpks.ws/MHSNk


When I ran out of T2 my watch showed around 3 hours and 7 minutes. Quick calculation and I figured out that I needed to run every km below 5:30 min in order to get under 5 hours total. 

I wanted to keep about 5:00 - 5:05 pace for the first lap and then see what would happen. It worked well for the first 6 km (first 2 km being a bit too fast), but then the course goes around the Mount on the gravel trail with many small hills - not ideal for keeping the pace. It seems that cycling hard actually makes you tired - surprise surprise - and 5:05 became 5:25 pretty quickly. On the second lap I lost the will to race a bit - I wanted to do sub 5 hour total time and I did just enough.

I took my time on aid stations, taking water and coke only. That strategy has been working for me recently and I plan to stick to it for Ironman as well.

My run was a bit slow - 1 hour and 50 minutes, but I’m not too disappointed with that. What got me worried a bit is my fatigued running form. Thanks to my partner Jenni, who was cheering and recording me every time I was close, I could look at myself from the side and I’m telling you, it wasn’t a good looking run. What’s more worrying is that I usually can tell when my form is getting bad, but this time it escaped me completely. I already know the prescription for that - more drills and long runs.

Run data - http://tpks.ws/uGXyv

Rest of the day was pretty standard - good food, prize giving and a little more good food.


Overall I’m really happy with that non-race race. Another PB, quite strong on the bike and it has shown a few weaknesses that I need to address before Challenge Wanaka - more swimming, upper body strength work and fixing my fatigued running form. Easy, right?

Meanwhile I will have an easier week in preparation for next week’s training camp.

On a side note - I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers end up their posts with a signature sentence, like Tim Ford’s “Remember to TRI” (read his blog btw, quite a good one!). What about “TRI it on plants”?