Training for an Ironman is draining let alone doing one, and sometimes you don't quite get the mix right. Even a tried and tested routine that you have always followed may not be the answer this time round. Listening to your body and paying to it's signals is essential, as is keeping your thought pattern and mindset in check.. Which I was about to learn!
It's hard to say what has caused my recent slip in health. I trained well for Ironman Melbourne, but was it too much for my body given what it had been through over the past 6 months? Last year I copped quite a bit of illness, we did return to living in a cooler climate and that can have an impact initially. However, a couple of bouts of gastro, a flu and then a virus at the start of 2013 my immune obviously wan't that strong or was it? Also my recovery from Ironman events is usually very fast, I can usually race again 6 weeks later given I have prepared well for the first. But this time was different.. One week later I was still pretty smashed, I had gone to the well on race day so I assumed that I had just tapped myself out of energy. I managed a few rides, a couple of swims and approaching week 2 an easy run. It started with a sore neck, headaches, then an ear ache, and from there it went down hill..
A couple weeks post Ironman it was my turn to support, Russ had entered Xterra Angelsea. It was his first triathlon, an off road one at that as he wouldn't have done it any other way, and I was excited to support him! I ran from point to point taking photos, encouraging him like he does for me. Except the whole day I had an excrutiating ear ache! It didn't make sense I hadn't been huge amounts of swimming, so I assumed I was getting a cold or something as I had headaches during the week. Funny because initally I thought the headaches were linked to something else, my monthly cycle which happens to be getting worse the older I get! I felt really good running everywhere, so getting sick didn't really sit with me. I didn't feel ill, actually I felt pretty fit and awesome!
Awaking on Monday, there it was.. My glands had gone up on the right side of my throat, just under my ear. Ahhhh it all makes sense now. The earache, headaches.. So assumed yep, I have a cold/flu thing brewing! The other odd thing that came up was a rash on my jaw which resembled more like cystic acne, as it was so sore. It was actually throbbing and sore to touch. We drove home from Angelsea and I went to work. Come 3pm and I was feeling worse, spoke to my boss, told him the story and showed him my glands and rash. By 5pm I had the shakes, I was freezing and trying to find a way to stay warm. Hot bath should do it! I sat in the bath for ages, topping up the hot water as it cooled. Russ got after 6pm and I was in bed and going down hill. So Tuesday morning after waking up drenched in sweat, I was convinced I had the flu and took myself to the doctors. I actually felt a little better in the morning, but I soon learnt that, that particular feeling just came in waves and I was actually quite ill. The Doctor confirmed that I had Shingles. Shingles! I thought, how the hell did I get Shingles! I knew I had pushed my body, but not any more than usual. This time I had done a really good job on myself!
It's been just under 3 weeks since I got sick, the illness and recovery has been slow. However, when I speak to most people they are amazed at how quick I am recovering. I have managed an indoor cycling ride and two swims this week! Apparently Shingles can take a long time however, I'm not that sort of person and if I can find a way to turn it around quick I will! I went to see Adam my Chinese Medicine guy, he gave me some great herbs to purge the virus out of my system, I cleaned my eating even more so and I also went to see my Reiki healer and everything else spiritual guru Neil :-) Neil has been instrumental in my life for many years, I missed him when I moved to Brisbane as I couldn't receive regular healings or guidance. My belief system and mindset wandered off track a little over the past couple of years, it was no doubt the cause of all my illness over the past 12 months. The body can not be at ease, when the mind is at dis ease. Ironic it spells disease huh?! I still have a lot to work on, I still haven't quite mastered the race mindset I need to put a solid performance together however, I do feel I'm getting a little closer. People who know me quite well would know that I'm an extremely passionate, driven, positive person...but along with that has been a tremendous amount of pressure that I have put on myself. Not just in racing, but in life. Practicing flow is my new mantra, placing more emphasis on love and enjoyment, and taking away forced actions and stress is the goal. Our health is a reflection of how we treat ourselves spiritually and physically. When we come from a place of love, our body and mind is in balance.
I really needed this jolt to make some changes. Not just the mindset as I have mentioned, but also some physical changes. One of them is my current working conditions. As most would know making a living as a professional triathlete can be challenging andit can also take time for results to show. Many are still working day jobs and balancing racing, as I am too. However, there needs to be change, it's great having the cash flow and all but having the necessary time to train, rest and enjoy life is just as important too. I have always predominantly worked part-time but I have had stints of full time employment, it's clearly evident to me that I can't do both. It really is just too much, so this year I will be reducing myself to a few days per week. I also want to bring myself into alignment with my passion, being in an evironment that doesn't reflect who you are or what you love can have a huge impact on your energy and health. This is true for me and I am putting steps in place to move towards what I love, rather than doing what has appeared to have been a necessity. I intend to move into a coaching/guidance role as I reduce my work hours, I will also balance this with my training for long distance triathlon and continue to pursue the goals I have set as a professional triathlete. I believe we all have the ability to truly make change in our lives and pursue what we love :-)
It's not very often that you get an Ironman race in your hometown! Convenient...yes, less financial stress...yes, knowing the couse...yes, getting sleep in my own bed...YES!, race day hurting any less...NO!
This race was very different for me. I usually travel interstate or overseas to race, so the week leading up to the race didn't feel like the usual Ironman preparation or experience. I worked right up until the Friday before the race, why? Cause I need the $$$! However, I did manage to take off early and register for the event and start to get myself organised for race day.
We had some wild weather predicted for race day and we were already experiencing some of this a few days out. To think that only a week ago we had 3 weeks of hot sunny weather above 30 degrees everyday! The conditions across the bay were blustery and the Melbourne locals knew exactly what we were in for! There is a joke about Melbourne weather, that we experience '4 seasons in one day'.. Or the other, just wait a minute and the weather will change again! So it was no surprise the weather gods were dishing up some of Melbourne's finest weather and it was enough to send most into a panick. Even the Registration and Expo tent had to shut down on the Thursday prior to event because it was going to be blown away! :-) ahhhh Melbourne you got a love it!
The professional athlete race briefing is held the day before an event as is bike and gear bag check in.. Transition for Ironman Melbourne is down in Frankston approx 20km from my place in Bayside Melbourne. So I took myself and my steed down to Franga (local name for the town of Frankston...other than Frankganistan) for the days activities! Bike check-in was cool! This was a big event, Ironman Melbourne is also known as the Asia Pacific Championship race so the field was stacked with top professionals. First of the Bike a website dedicated to triathlon was at race check-in and snapping photos of the professional's bikes before they were racked. So my Specialized Shiv looking hot with Zipp Vuka aerobars and Zipp Firecrest wheels got it's happy snap taken.
I was actually quite nervous about this race until I went to the briefing. I have been to many race briefings and also over the past few years professional race briefings.. Now usually these are pretty quick, 30 minutes or so and a reasonable number of competitors. But this race was stacked!! There were approximately 80 professionals racing and 27 of those were females.. I sat down and as I looked around I was surrounded by multiiple Ironman champions, World Champions and that point I realised I was lining up against the very best in the world in Ironman triathlon. Due to the numbers, the many questions and concerns about the race the briefing went a lot longer than usual. We were advised that the swim could be shortened and there would be a change to the start times. At this point as I listened and watched all the other pros raise questions, my nerves just disappeared! It was at that point that I realised that these guys were under a lot of pressure and I didn't really need to put any pressure on myself but just enjoy the day.
Race morning came aroundly quickly and the weather gods delivered their finest! Seriously windy, choppy swell and cool conditions. Due to the water conditions the race organisers decided to shorten the swim, so this isn't really a good scenario for me being a swimmer however, I was thankful that they were giving us a swim! The unfortnate part was the gap back to the main field after the pro women started. It was only 5 mins, which meant the faster moving age group men would be close to the weaker swimming female pros.. It's definitely something race organisers need to review, every race needs the same set of rules for swim starts and also drafting rules. More on that later.
Exiting the swim in my new Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit
So my swim start was good, actually really good thanks to my surf lifesaving background! I was out lifting my legs through the break, then I panicked a little realising I was in front, but then it was only matter of seconds and the fast swimming chicks were all together. I had my new Blue Seventy wetsuit on, and it felt great! I headed out around the pier and tried to maintain my position. I found the feet of Caroline Steffen and Bree Wee, not bad feet to be on so they became my target around the swim. While going around the boys was choppy, the return to shore provided good runs of swell and I tried to make the most of them. I came out close to the faster swimming girls and at least 5 of us were in the change tent getting ready for the bike. I chose to put my bike shoes on in transition and run to my bike, I had my road shoes as I feel they give much better support than a tri shoe and also it's what I'm most use to.. I ran to my bike and to the mounting line, quickly clicked in and rode out of Frankston! It was definitely a great choice as I watched other girls fumbling to get their feet into their shoes that were attached to their bike. I hit Eastlink where the bike leg was being held and set out on my day.
Heading out to start the bike leg
Upon reaching Eastlink I brought up quite a lot sea water, I didn't remember drinking a whole of water in the swim however, I must have had a fair bit! I thought great, that's out now so I concentrate on the ride. Unfortunately not was not the end of it for some time. The wind on Eastlink was gusty, we had a head cross wind just to make things interesting! It was pretty tough going out and it was long before some of the faster moving age group men moved through the field. I was holding a reasonable position and was comfortable riding on my own. The usual pro female drafting offenders started to come through, I'm amazed at times how some of these girls seem to get it away with it.. I try not to let it get to me as I decided to switch from short course to long course many years ago as I didn't like drafting! Well nothing prepared me for what came next, I decided to take a look bike as there were more and more people coming past in large packs. Then there was atleast a pack of 100 riders approaching the tunnel bringing many female pros through with it.. It was unbelievable and so dangerous! Going through the tunnel I wanted to stay upright, so I sat up and accelerated up out of the tunnel. I got clear pretty quickly....obviously the peleton couldn't climb and after the turn around I managed to find clear road. From that point I was pretty much riding solo. The few girls that were around me seemed to drop away and I even caught a couple on the second lap. The whole time I was riding strong, but comfortable. The problem I had was keeping in nutrition. Each time I consume a gel or water, 30 seconds to a minute later I would project it right out again. I vomited the whole 5 hours on the bike! I knew what this meant, I had little to no fuel inside me and I had to run a marathon. I tried not to let it deter me, as I was feeling pretty good :-) I had a good ride in 5 hours 7 minutes, and was in good place going into the run.
I started off ok going in to the run, legs were moving okay, a little heavy to start with but I know this is normal and that they would come good after 5km or so.. Unfortunately they didn't spring into action like I know they can, I kept telling myself that your legs in the past have taken some time to get going and this may be the case today. Hang in there, efficient steps, get nutrition in and keep moving forward! I was putting my Shotz gels which I love, they work really well but I knew I had not kept my nutrition in on the bike. Which I have to say is the first time in 20 years that I have puked for so long! As I was approaching Mordialloc along the road one of my training partners passed me, he looked strong and running well. I encouraged him to go for it wishing that I had the legs to go with him too! I knew from that point that this was going to be a survival run, a long one at that. Approaching Parkdale along the beach path I had nice surprise where my Mum was standing. I tried not to cry as I ran past, I was quite emotional knowing that I was struggling, I actually stopped for few seconds, gave her hug and kept running along. At Mentone, I was running with Bree Wee, she was also having a tough day and was making a dash to the porta potty! At least I had that bit under control, but legs were screaming and energy low. At this point I wasn't so sure it was good knowing what was ahead, I know every corner, every landmark on that run course! I live in Bayside Melbourne, so I run along the path often and I knew exactly how far I had to go! I saw many friends who were out cheering as I was running along, that was keeping me going and then finally I saw Russ at 30km around Sandringham.
Running to the finish...teeth gritting! haha!
I yelled where have you been?? I had been hurting for so long and at times that I had been hoping to see him earlier. He was on his mountain bike watching, so he was able to ride up to certain points along the course and keep me going. When I got Brighton I started to get some of my efficiency back in my stride and I was pulling back some of the other girls who had passed me earlier. My cadence improved and I passed a couple of girls, then just before the finish at approx 2km to go I saw a fellow competitor of mine Elly Franks just ahead. Russ encouraged me to go for it and leave nothing in the tank, which is funny given I was having an average run and back in 20th place. But part of me knew he was right, I am racing after all right?! So I picked it up and gave it what I had. As I ran past Elly she surged, I thought oh no! Heck now I'm going to have to sprint to the finish! I stayed next to Elly keeping pace and I didn't slow down, she pulled back and I kept running straight to the finish. Sprinting for 19th place after having such a bad run is funny! But also kind of satisfying as I knew deep down I had given it everything I had.
Overall I was really happy with my day at Ironman Melbourne. I lined up to race some of the best female pros in the world, I gave it everything I had even though I didn't have the perfect day with my run. It would have been nice to show myself, family and sponsors all the hard work I had done on my run, but now that will have to wait until the next race. I knew my swim was on, my bike surprisingly was back and with my fastest bike split 5hrs 7mins, so I had some really good feedback from my day.
Congratulations to everybody who raced on such a tough day! Thank you to Russ, my family, friends and sponsors for your support. Looking forward to an exciting 2013!