Ironman Race Day: the run

25 03 2017

It was great to be off the bike.

Whilst I wasn’t feeling too bad in the body, it was still seven hours predominantly in the same position. So the change of posture and muscles being used was welcome relief.

As I headed out of transition, my coach and a couple of supporters were directly ahead of the exit path. As I ran straight towards them I waved to ensure they saw me. Their positivity made me feel great.

They were just as chuffed as I was to see me running.

Well, I say I was running. It was more like jogging. But it was all forward momentum and that’s the only thing you need to achieve when it comes to the Ironman marathon.

It may sound obnoxious or arrogant to say I set off on my first ever marathon knowing it wasn’t if, but when I was going to finish. Even if I had to walk most of it, I was confident I had enough time to do that. As long as the body held out.

Just as I started on that first lap, I saw the women’s pro race winner, Jocelyn McCauley, heading towards the red carpet. I’d made it onto the run course with the pros (although they were several hours ahead of me!). It was a surprise not to see Meredith Kessler out front but great to have a new winner too.

Heading out onto Lake Terrace, I was passing other runners heading back towards the turn or finish point, depending on the number of wristbands they’d collected along the way. I remember feeling a bit dismayed at the sheer number of people who were heading to the finish already. Just like McCauley.

I was only just starting. Was I really that slow?

But I gave myself a bit of a slap. Did it even matter? Of course it bloody well didn’t. I was out on the Ironman run. I was doing it.

I was going to be an Ironman. Of that I was sure.

The sun was strong, even at 4pm, making that first lap pretty warm. My race plan was exactly what I’d practiced in training. At a minimum I’d have walk breaks for 1 minute every 15 minutes. In addition, I’d walk all of the aid stations to eat and drink.

By this stage I was totally over sweet. All that’s available on the bike is sugary in the form of gels, energy bars and even Perpetuem. The most savoury thing were bananas. Which is why my emergency PB sarnie on the bike was the bomb!

But come the first run aid station, I wanted salt. Luckily there’s more choice at this stage and a big bowl of pretzels loomed in front of me. I grabbed a handful and washed them down with a big gob full of water to soften them and make them easier to eat.

Along the entire 14km lap there’s supporters lining the streets cheering your every step. Thousands of people you’ll never know are literally cheering your name and willing you to get ever closer to that red carpet.

It’s like a new brand of nutrition. Their excitement and energy feeds you and you want to do it for them as much as yourself. The crowds are thronging at the far end of the run around the residential Wharewaka area creating a party-like atmosphere. It’s here that you pick up each of your lap wristbands to identify you’ve done each of the three laps.

Heading back towards town I knew I’d pass a bunch of our squad supporters on the waterside walkway where they’d rented a bach. They’d also teased us that they’d created a sign for each of us. I was desperate to see them to see what they’d done.

They hadn’t lied.

It was so easy to spot their house due to the line of home made painted signs lining the path! I was prepared for some piss taking but my sign was one of genuine encouragement.

The cheering squad was also out in force, spurring me on, one step at a time.

I’d deliberately turned off the auto lap function on my Garmin. This function beeps every km to show you how quickly you did it. I didn’t want to look at my watch 42 times. I just wanted to concentrate on getting to the next aid station. I’ve had this function on for the two half ironmans I’ve done and I find it distracts you and can make you stressed as, usually, your pace begins to slow as the race goes on.

I’m quite pleased to say I didn’t obsess about my pace or time at all during the day. I barely looked at my watch. It was truly a day that was ruled by my head and my body. And my heart. And not by any data.

It was truly refreshing.

At each aid station I just took what I feel like. Mostly sticking to crisps (chippies) and water or Nuun, with a Clif Shot Blok thrown in for good measure. Just like on the bike, there’s a special needs bag available as a contingency. All I’d put in here was a Wiggle gel (which I much prefer to the Clif ones on course) , some Panadol (purely preventative) and a No Doz. I’d used these caffeine tablets in training on the bike, and I’d taken one on course on the day. But I’d never used it on a run.

It was potentially a fatal error to try this out on race day, breaking the number one rule.

A few kms down the road, just before reaching our supporter house again, a debilitating stabbing cramp stopped me in my tracks. Just like it had at the end of my first half ironman.

At the time I didn’t know what had caused it. But I knew I would have to allow myself time to recover. This meant walking more because it hurt too much to run too much. I knew I’d have to deal with it.

But that’s a big part of what Ironman is.

For most people it’s not always about a time, but it’s about dealing with whatever the day throws at you and moving on.

It’s about finishing.

As I made the turnaround in town to start my last lap, I knew that the next time I’d see that piece of road, I wouldn’t be turning round. I’d be heading for the finish chute.

There was only 14 and a bit kms between me and Mike Reilly saying those famous words.

The last lap is a bit of a blur really. Well, the whole damn run is to be fair!

To cope with the cramp, I stuck to water and very little food. I may have down the odd small glass of Coke to give me some energy to make it round.

There was a super friendly volunteer at Rainbow Point and on the second lap he’d made some encouraging comment about going and getting him the next coloured wristband! He made me smile with his enthusiasm and I felt special for that fleeting moment. The fact that he probably used the same line on virtually every runner was irrelevant to me at that moment.

On this last lap he feigned dismay as he spotted the two wristbands and knew I was heading for my third, and final one. “Oh no, you’re leaving me!” he cried out. Boy did he do an amazing job of making you feel great when you really needed it!

At the aid station at the far end, I got handed a glow stick. I’d barely noticed the fading light and didn’t realise just how dark it was going to be by the time I finished.

Then I rounded the corner and ran through the lane for my last wristband. I remember feeling ecstatic at getting that furry piece of fabric wrapped around my wrist. I had just over 6kms left. And most of it was downhill.

On my way back towards town, strangers were staring hard in the dark to see how many wristbands I’d collected. You could see they wanted to say the right thing as there’s nothing worse than telling someone they’re nearly done when they’ve got another lap to do.

When they made out I had all three, the elation on their faces, and in their voices, almost matched mine. I will admit to having to choke back a few tears along the way.

Then suddenly, the lights of Taupo beckoned. They were within reach. My watch had shown a “low battery” warning and I wasn’t sure if it would make it to the finish line. You know the phrase…

Garmin data or it didn’t happen.

So I prayed it survived.

My pace quickened as I counted down the kms. I was playing leap frog with another girl who was taking more walk breaks than me but running faster when she did. As we approached the town centre, I seemed to break away from her and create some distance. Without anyone ahead of me, I was hoping to have the finish chute to myself.

Yes, that’s a little bit selfish!

As I headed towards the finish line, I had no idea what my total time was. With the conditions being as challenging as they were, I’d barely looked at my watch all day. It was great because it meant I wasn’t putting pressure on myself, and I also wasn’t playing any mind games.

Before the day, I’d said I’d be happy with anything under 14 hours. I’d tried to work out my timings while I was running, and I had a very rough idea, but it was all about the finish. not the time. So when I entered the finish chute and saw 13:50 up there, I was stoked!

I’d instructed hubby where to stand so I could give him a huge hug before I crossed the line. I wanted to share it with him and the time didn’t matter. He held me longer than I expected as the girl I’d been leap frogging entered the finish chute. He also wanted me to have the finish line to myself.

When she was far enough in front he let go and I headed down that red carpet.

Then she stopped at her supporters for some high fives before pulling out straight in front of me again. So much for having the finish line to myself!

I’d remembered a conversation the previous year about listening out for the song that’s playing as you finish. It was a great reminder to be mindful in those last few moments. Jamiroquai “A Little L” was playing and will now forever be known as my Ironman song.

Then I heard my name being called. One of our bestest squad supporters was right by the finish line.

To show her my appreciation, I ran over and gave her the biggest high five. It was a great moment and was captured perfectly by the event photographers.

Then I heard it. Mike Reilly’s infamous tones. “Annalie Brown. Wellington. You’re an Ironman Annalie. Yes sir.”

There’s no taking that title away from me now.

My official time is 13 hours 51 minutes and 14 seconds. But I don’t really care.

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I’m an Ironman. And that’s all that counts.

(And I’ve got the Garmin data to prove it).

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Countdown to Ironman: 1 week to go

28 02 2017

Taper time

Everyone reacts differently when it comes to the taper. There’s those who get ill (it happened to me in the taper to my first half), those who’ll experience doubts, those who get emotional, those who just want to sleep, and those who relish the reduced structure and intensity.

I definitely fell into the last camp for most of the first week of taper.

Training has been going well. I’ve exceeded my expectations in many areas. I haven’t struggled through the bulk. And I’ve had an awesome training buddy to help keep me honest.

That always helps!

I felt on top of the world.

I headed out for my final big swim. It was scheduled for the Saturday, along with a decent ride and run off the bike. But I had other plans for the afternoon, so I went out on a glorious Friday evening in the harbour.

I was on my own, so a little nervous. But the good weather meant the beach was busy and the water was occupied with a number of vessels – both man powered and diesel.

I headed out to make my way towards the lighthouse and then I knew I’d have to do at least a couple of laps of the fountain to get close to my 4km goal. I took very few breaks. Being on my own meant I could go at my own pace and really simulate a race situation.

Minus the 1200-odd other swimmers starting at the same time.

After my second lap of the fountain I checked my watch and I’d made 3.8kms. That made it my longest swim in the open water. The swim back into shore added almost another 100m to the total, making just shy of 3.9kms.

And the pace was comparable to what I’d swum in the Taupo 70.3 back in December. It made me so happy and cemented the earlier confidence I’d been feeling. I was stoked. It made me so happy.

I deserved an ice cream after that!

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When I got home I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I was feeling so proud, yet had no one to share it with. My husband was away for the weekend. I wasn’t training with my buddies on Saturday morning.

But it was more than that.

A couple of months ago I committed to raising money for the Cancer Society to give my Ironman more purpose. To make it more than just about a medal. And a towel.

Last week, one of my best friends at school lost her battle with cancer. It threw me a little bit. I hadn’t seen her for many years, but we’d been in touch. She was a wonderful person who I shared many of my formative years with.

It makes 4th March more meaningful.

Andrea. This one’s for you.





Ironman is a selfish sport

27 01 2017

There’s no getting away from it. Doing an Ironman is selfish.

For most people there’s no other reason to do it apart from self-fulfilment and gratification.

There are also some inspirational athletes who are doing it to overcome adversity. Or to stick two fingers up at fate or destiny that have put obstacles in their way at one point.

I’m definitely in the former camp. There’s no real barriers that I’m trying to overcome. Only the mental ones in my own head.

Training for an Ironman you have to be completely selfish because it’s basically all about you and you absolutely NEED to get the training done or risk those fateful letters that no one wants to see.

DNF.

It’s selfish because you spend a lot of money. There’s a constant stream of nutrition, clothing, toys, accommodation, training programmes and camps, accessories, bike repairs and the entry fee itself.

Your training robs you of time with family and friends, it eats into your social life and your sleep.

So I’m trying to make it not so selfish.

I want to make this count.

I want to raise money for a worthy cause.

So I’m fundraising for the Cancer Society.

Everybody knows somebody who’s been affected by cancer. Personally, I lost my dear grandfather to it. One of my best friends from university lost her battle at the grand old age of 42. The wife of another university friend is a survivor. But another friend from school is about to lose hers. Also at 42.

What I’m doing is a small gesture in the grand scheme of things. But as Tesco says, every little helps.

And on the day, when things get tough out there, I can remind myself of who I’m doing it for. And how, all things considered, I haven’t got it that tough at all. I chose to do this. And I can make that choice. Others aren’t so lucky.

To donate to this wonderful cause, please visit my fundraising page.

 

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I was finding it pretty tough during Ironman 70.3 Taupo in December. But I haven’t really got it tough at all

 





Race recap: Ironman 70.3 Taupo – the sequel

4 01 2017

This race recap is a bit of an epic. So I’ll start with a summary in case you only want the highlights.

I smashed it.

Although it’s never good to set yourself a time goal, I had one in my head. But I made sure I had tiered goals, just in case.

Goal 1: finish. Simple as that. And be happy with it because it’s still an amazing achievement.

Goal 2: beat last year’s time of 6 hours 18 minutes. A good bet because I’m stronger and better at the swim and bike. But anything can happen on race day so be prepared for things outside your control affecting your time.

Goal 3: go sub-6 hours. If all goes well, I believe this is achievable.

And achieve it I did. With room to spare.

5 hours 52 minutes. That’s a 26 minute PB.

In all honesty, I probably went a little too hard on the bike. This is where the biggest chunk of time is spent and is therefore your biggest chance of shaving minutes. I wanted to go under 3 hours so was gunning for this. I made it in 3 hours and 7 seconds!

That did mean the run was pretty hard and I had to dig deep to keep up the momentum, even as my pace slowed as the run wore on.

While I did take the biggest chunk of time off the bike (18 minutes), I’m happiest with my swim time. I took six minutes off that. While that doesn’t sound a lot, when you’re taking it off 44 minutes, as a percentage, it was the biggest gain.

Not only that, but the swim is much more about you. You can buy minutes on the bike leg. I’d bought a new bike. New race tyres to shave off a few more minutes. But the swim is you and your technique. And how well you handle open water swimming.

You know you did good when your coach yells at you, both at the swim exit AND three hours later on the run course, that you “killed it”. And then at that night’s BBQ, he asks if you cheated! LOL

I honestly don’t know where the speed came from. I’m a rubbish swimmer in the pool. But the wetsuit just streamlines my body position so much more, enabling me to focus on everything else, like my stroke length, head position and breathing. I wasn’t even drafting as I was on my own for long periods. So it was all me!

The run was a bit meh. My legs were pretty shot after the mammoth bike and all I could think about was working out what time I needed to do to finish sub-6h. I was trying to do the maths all the way round the course! Even though I slowed badly on the second lap, I still beat my previous run time with 2 hours 6 minutes, scraping 2 minutes off.

Despite the pain, as soon as the finish chute comes into sight, you get a buzz, you find an extra gear to finish strong. You want to look good for the finish line photo after all!

The medal and finisher towel, and the hug from hubby, makes all the pain worthwhile.

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The longer version!

In the days leading up to the race, even I got sick of hearing myself starting almost every sentence with “Last year…”

Truth is, it was hard not to draw comparisons, or on the experience I’d had in 2015.

I’d been here before. It wasn’t new to me. But I still must have been really annoying.

The 2015 race had gone so well for me I didn’t want to mess with the recipe (nothing new on race day, remember!).

But the only difference was I had the confidence that I’d done this before. This year I knew what my body could do. I knew could do this.

Race day dawned and there was a threat of rain and some wind on the bike course. The good news was the wind would give us a much needed push up the hill back into Taupo – which is unusual as it was the opposite direction to the prevailing wind.

That didn’t bother me. As long as the lake was flat for the swim. Luckily the wind direction was always going to mean calm waters.

After my tried and tested race breakfast of porridge, we set off for transition to do final preparations on the bikes. Mine was racked in a great place, right in line with the transition entry and exit gangways. I didn’t even need to remember which row I was in!

Once that was all sorted, we meandered down to the lakefront to meet with fellow squaddies and share some banter and camaraderie.

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Before we knew it, the squad was dwindling in size as the age wave starts began and people started wandering off to the starting “pen”.

Then it was our turn. As you can see from the photo, there were a few of us in my wave (fluoro green caps) so we had plenty of company. I wasn’t feeling any nerves, probably because I put no pressure on myself in the swim and I just want to finish it. Without putting that pressure on myself, I find I can keep myself pretty calm.

The Swim

I had a plan.

I wanted to swim smoothly, focus on my stroke and head position, and maintain breathing every three strokes. If I felt I needed to breathe more often, I would know I was going too hard and to slow down. I also wanted to catch some drafts if possible as this was something I felt I benefitted from heavily last year.

The first bits went very much to plan. I paced myself well so that I could keep my breathing regular. And my stroke felt long and strong. But I was on my own for so much of the race, I might as well have been the only one in the water.

I occupied my thoughts with working out what time the clock would say if I exited the water in the same time as last year. I was convinced that, without catching any drafts, I wouldn’t have gained much on my 2015 pace.

When I sighted, I felt I was also straying quite wide so figured I was going to end up swimming a longer distance too. I would have been happy to come out in an equal time and I knew that meant the clock would say 7.24am.

As I turned towards shore, the clock was illuminated above the exit timing gantry and made for a great sighting target. I followed my plan to the letter to make sure my hands touched the bottom twice before I stood up. I was desperate to see the time, but knew that if I stood up too early I’d be wading through water that was too deep.

When I got up and focused on the time, I was pretty astounded to see 7.18am on the clock and knew straight away what that meant.

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On the 400m trot along the carpet towards transition I encountered my cheering squad (hubby and friends) and then my coach and non-competing squad mates. Coach had said he was going to remind me to celebrate the end of the swim (after I forgot last year!), but just seeing them made me raise my hands and punch the air!

Transition was fairly straight forward and before long I was wheeling my bike out to the mount line to get going on the longest and loneliest portion of the race.

It also turns out I must have swum straighter than last year as I swam less distance!

The Bike

Because Lake Taupo is a beautiful freshwater lake, drinking during the swim is never a problem. The triathlons that take place around Wellington always involve a harbour swim so you don’t want to be swallowing gob fulls of salt! You typically do though, which means you’re desperate for some water when you hit the bike.

So it’s very refreshing to not feel that you desperately need to reach for your water bottle the minute you’re on the bike.

Hitting the lakefront on the way out of town, I could feel the light rain and see the roads were wet. I wondered if we’d get hit with a downpour and have to ride slower, or if we’d get away with it.

There’s always a photographer on this section, so I like to give them a smile and wave, and two thumbs up. After all, if I’m on the bike, that means I survived the swim right?

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Hitting the first hill out towards Reporoa, I was passed by Ange, one of my squad mates in my age wave. The great thing about our squad is we’re totally supportive of each other and want to see everyone do well. So there’s no animosity, only encouragement.

For about the first 20kms, Ange and I played “leap frog” as the varying terrain was a leveller. I even commented on it once as I passed her! But then the awesome Ange found her stride and took off, leaving me in her wake.

The rain didn’t materialise so it was a pretty pleasant ride and we weren’t hampered by the need to slow down for cornering in the wet.

As I mentioned earlier though, I was expecting a bit of a headwind on the way out to Reporoa. It was definitely noticeable. Not by Wellington standards of course! But still enough to lower your kph a little.

Because I wanted a 3 hour bike, I was gunning for Reporoa in 1h 30. Although the course changed from last year and added a little dog leg on the way out, I didn’t know if that meant the town was exactly half way or not.

I got there a little over my hoped for time. So the mind games started playing a little. Would I get any benefit at all from the wind going back? Would that “heartbreak hill” (again, not by Wellington standards) slow me down? What would I have left in my legs at the end?

As it happened, the wind certainly did have an effect. My bike splits between the way out and back showed around 3kph difference. Doesn’t sound a lot does it? But trust me. It’s huge.

I didn’t know this at the time though, and all I could focus on was my total time elapsed and how far I had left to go, working backwards to that desired 3 hour finish.

I hit “heartbreak hill” and just kept the power on. I knew the motorsport park that (sort of) signals the end of the climb, was after a left hand bend. I remember approaching one left hander thinking to myself that this couldn’t be the one as I’d got there so quickly.

But it was. I’d barely noticed the 10kms of climbing.

As I drew closer to town I was flying as much, and as safely as I could down the hills. I knew the course had changed from last year and the turn off the main road was one road later. It’s always your responsibility to know the course.

Only the guy in front of me didn’t as he slowed to take the turn we’d taken previously. And the marshall stood on the junction wasn’t doing a great job at directing him either.

Penned in by cones, I couldn’t easily go past the slowing rider, slamming on the brakes until he almost pulled into the closed road. I yelled “KEEP GOING” as I sailed past him (eventually) and took the turn at the next road.

All the way towards the bike finish I kept telling myself to remember to hit the lap button on my Garmin to make sure I got an accurate bike and transition time. When I got there I noticed I was just under 3 hours – but forgot that I’d started it about 30 seconds late when I set off. I think I can disregard those extra 7 seconds though. To all intents and purposes, I did it in 3 hours.

The Run

The short run with your bike into transition can often help to loosen the legs up for the last phase. The goal of triathlon is to be able to run strongly off the bike, so the faster you can get your running muscles warmed up, the better your run will be.

My plan had been to try and maintain a slow pace at first, building up to steady pace on both laps of the run. Last year I’d gone on feel and run a bit too fast on the first lap, slowing down badly on the second.

A couple of kms in I felt like I was running comfortably but took a glance at my pace. I was running about 20 seconds per km faster than I wanted to. I thought to myself “I must slow down – I won’t be able to keep this up”.

I honestly thought I was slowing myself down but my watch kept saying the same time. Then the hills came. They’re not big, but on tired legs they’re energy sapping. I managed to keep running up the second one to the 5km turn, knowing there was a fair bit of downhill to come.

My focus was just on keeping going. At each aid station I walked (which is always my plan) and took on board water and electrolyte drinks mostly. I grabbed a banana at one point when I felt hungry, and then grabbed a gel for extra energy.

At the end of the lap there’s a big, steep climb into transition and I knew I’d probably have to walk it. My legs were heavy and if I wanted to finish in a decent(ish) time, I knew that walking the hills was going to have to be my survival strategy.

Heading out on the second lap I did not feel the same as last year. Whereas I’d had plenty in the tank in 2015 and was happy to head out for lap 2, this time around I was already feeling sore and wanted it to be over.

As I was heading back to the lakefront, just 11kms in, coach yelled out “what would you say to your gym class?” referring to my part-time job as a group fitness instructor. I tried desperately to think about what I’d say to them – but I’m usually asking them to push towards the finish in a much shorter timeframe! I’m not willing them on for another 10km run when they’ve already done one. On top of the 1.9km swim and 90km bike!

Feeling the need for constant energy boosts, but not wanting gels, I started drinking flat coke at the aid stations. It may sound weird, but it’s a well used drink to give your muscles that extra oomph. I’d never used it before (I know, I know, nothing new on race day! But desperate times and all that). I soon learned that I needed to wash it down with water afterwards as I was left feeling very thirsty if I drank nothing after it.

The hill up to the last turn for home felt like a big old slog this time. I jogged up it as far as I could, but succumbed to the walk pretty quickly. I wasn’t going to be tempted by the Red Bull though!! Even if it is diluted.

At the following aid station there’s a photographer taking photos as you exit. You can see the marked difference in my body language between laps one and two as I struggled to get going after the walk the second time around.

I’m not smiling in any of my run photos to be honest, which I think goes to show how hard it was.

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By the 18km mark I was really starting to struggle but knew I was approaching the last aid station and then it was the home stretch. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

As every km ticked by, my pace seemed to be slowing further and although I wanted to beat my run time from last year (after all, I’d beaten all my other times) I wasn’t sure I’d have it in me. I was doing the calculations and trying to summon up a bit more from deep down somewhere to just get the job done. After all, if I wanted to get my sub-6h time, I didn’t need to beat my run time. I knew I’d bought enough leeway with the swim and bike to give me a little cushion.

But that’s not like competitive me…

So onwards I pushed.

I passed the crowd of squad mates with about 1km to go and they all cheered and said hugely encouraging things. I can’t even remember what they said but I do remember trying to raise my hands above my head and not having the energy. That’s how the run had sapped energy from my whole body.

That final hill up to transition loomed and I knew I wanted to finish strong. But I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to. My legs were like lead. I had to walk. There was nothing that could have got me up that hill any faster. Then stepping onto the grass, I knew this was it. The last 100m or so. That famed red carpet emblazoned with the MDOT logo beckoned.

It was by no means a sprint, but I managed to pick up the pace and pass a guy in the finish chute. That felt good! It also meant I wouldn’t be sharing my finisher photo with anyone else.

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The cheers from the crowds as I powered down that carpet gave me the final push and I managed to raise my arms this time. I’d done it.

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As I crossed the line a volunteer draped a towel around me, placed my all-important medal around my neck, and walked me off to the side. I wasn’t quite sure how I managed to stay standing, but I did. And I even took off my own timing chip.

Hubby barged his way through the crowds to give me a huge, and very welcome hug, telling me he believed I’d got under 6. I already knew.

I knew what my times were. I’d been calculating and pushing for times all along.

I knew I’d beaten my run time from last year on top of the huge gains in the swim and bike.

It had been painful. But it was worth it.

And now for the next challenge.

Ironman.

 





What a difference a year makes

18 09 2016

This time last year I was up in Taupo for my first ever half ironman camp. I was a complete novice with so much to learn. A camp virgin.

I had such a great time, and learnt so much, that I had no hesitation at signing up to go again.

Only this time I wasn’t so green. I had the benefit of a year’s worth of experience, multiple duathlons and triathlons.

And the small matter of a half ironman under my belt.

Reflecting back on where I was last year, the most significant change has been in my swimming. Camp last year was a bit of a turning point for me as I realised I really needed to work extra hard there. Rather than letting it defeat me and walking away from my goals, it made me more determined to get better.

This year I was moved up a lane. And I kept up.

And there were no tears.

I swim almost 1 minute faster per 100m than I did this time last year. That’s significant. I certainly wouldn’t have got here without the boss. But I also think I deserve a huge pat on the back (even if I do say so myself).

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It’s all well and good knowing your weaknesses. But if you don’t do anything about them, they’ll stay weak.

I could have got by in the half ironman without focusing on my swim technique. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to get better at it and have some comfort and confidence in my finish time.

But at this year’s camp I learnt you can’t always expect to hit pace or time goals in an outdoor event.

I knew I was fitter, stronger and faster on the bike. One of my squad mates even commented on how much stronger I looked on the bike now. That has just come from consistent training – either on the road, indoor trainer or spin class. At camp I had two bike activities I could use to benchmark my improvements.

Or could I?

One of the most fun things we do is to time ourselves going full pelt around Taupo Motorsport Park. We have the track to ourselves. It’s a full on 3.5km sprint. And I had a time from last year to beat. Only this time I had an extra year of experience in the saddle.

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And I have a new bike. A flashier, faster one.

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But last year, we didn’t have the same wind. My God that wind!

So whilst I could confidently strut into Camp 2016 in the knowledge that I’m (probably) a better cyclist, my lap times don’t reflect that. I was a little bit gutted.

I’d been convinced that I’d smash last year’s time with ease. Create my own little PB. But when you round a corner and are pretty much stopped in your tracks by a headwind that feels like you’ve ridden into a sandpit, you might as well give up on any time goals.

And that’s exactly what could happen on race day.

What it made me realise is that I can’t set my heart on a time goal because it could be pretty futile if events conspire against you. Race day last year was almost perfect for me. It’s quite possible I’ll never race in such perfect conditions again. So whilst I’ll have a goal for the 70.3 this year, at the end of the day, completing it is enough of an achievement that anyone should be happy with.

And that’s this year’s wake up call from camp. But I still loved it.





Your training doesn’t have to take a holiday just because you do

16 09 2016

Knowing that the training season is going to start gathering momentum towards Taupo Ironman 70.3, we decided to take a well-earned break from both forms of work!

A week in the sun at Port Douglas beckoned to get us away from the Wellington winter and allow us to chill out before the triathlon season kicks in.

 

My life usually revolves around my training programme, working out what I’m doing when and moving things if I need to. When you’re training for three disciplines, it’s not quite as easy as throwing on a pair of trainers and heading out the door for a run, so you become and expert scheduler!

 

But being on holiday meant I couldn’t be a slave to the plan.

 

For a start, we wouldn’t have our bikes with us. And while you could hire bikes at our destination, we thought that e-bikes may have been a bit of a cheat.

 

But I didn’t want to take a complete break that might mean losing some of the good work that had been done to build up a strong base fitness. I still wanted to be set up well for the upcoming season. So what could I do?

 

The easiest option is obviously to run. After all, it is just throwing on a pair of trainers.

 

You’re likely to be on unfamiliar territory, so the key thing is to map out a route that you’re going to take. And if you’re going out on your own, make sure you have a way of getting back, or contacting someone to get you back. The last thing you need is to be lost in some unknown place!

 

Think about the time of day you’ll train too. We were in tropical North Queensland so we knew the temperature and humidity would be well above what we were used to. So we planned for early morning runs before it got too hot and too humid.

 

But also be aware that those different conditions might mean it’s harder than normal. Although I was running on the flat, I wasn’t capable of the same pace I’d expect from myself at home, where it’s cooler.

 

The bonus was new scenery and terrain. The beach at Port Douglas is really firm, meaning you can easily run on it without the usual “sand fatigue”. While running the path that follows the main road allowed me to get my bearings for the town.

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Our hotel was also blessed with not one, but FOUR 30 metre swimming pools. We know they were 30 metres because we actually asked so we could get an accurate reading from our Garmins! I’m sure they thought we were a bit mad…

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This made it easy to get some swims in. After our first swim on day one we made a pact to try and swim every day. It gave us a great opportunity to build some swim fitness and get a better feel for the water. It’s amazing how consistency can help improve your swimming and I never really understood when people told me that. But on return from our holiday, my coach made a number of positive comments about improvements in my stroke.

And do you know what? I can feel it too.

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Because while my training didn’t take a holiday in terms of me taking a break, I GAVE myself a break. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to follow the plan. I didn’t force any time or pace goals. I went freestyle. I did what I felt like doing and just relaxed. And I got something out of it.

It’s taken me another step towards a bigger goal.





In my happy place

10 07 2016

You know when you’re somewhere, or with some specific people, or doing something in particular that feels so natural, it feels like there’s something missing when you’re not there?

That’s what my training squad is to me. I can’t describe how excited I was when my Training Peaks schedule was full once again (sad, I know). It was like my motivation was ignited.

It’s my triathlon family. So much more than friends. Amigos.

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This week was our first week back together as we started the winter base training squad. Like me, last year most of us only joined in at the half ironman squad in September.

We were mostly rookies. Virgins.

But this year we’re not. This year we’ve been there. Done that. And this year, we want a better t-shirt. Or a better finishing time. So we’re getting down to business earlier.

Our first squad ride proved that time may move on, but the friendships, and the jokes, don’t (cone up Jane!).

My four closest training buddies, my Amigos, were back in the saddle. New goals. New gear. Same old banter.

But behind the humour, there’s always some serious support for one another out there. We have each other’s backs. We’ll get each other through. And at the end of it, there’s always a smile. Even if it’s a slightly dodgy one.

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