So it’s been a few weeks since Ironman South Africa 2018. Yes, I am an Ironman. I must say that I have been so de-motivated to get back into the swing of things and back to training that I almost can’t even remember doing the race!
So in an effort to get some mojo back, here’s a little about my race journey:
April 15th 2018 marked my second Full Ironman race. What a fabulous day it was indeed! My race weekend started out like every other event:
We got to PE on the Friday; went straight to registration and strolled through the expo (trying not to buy unnecessary crap). We then checked into our B&B, unpacked our bags and washed the bikes. We do always make an effort to stay a block or so away from the race venue as things get very loud and there’s too much excitement.
everyone headed their separate ways to prepare in their own head spaces. Time to put up the legs; have a good meal and an early night.
Sunday…the alarm was set for 4am. The time between that alarm going off and the starting canon is my absolute worst! I hate that feeling of anticipation. As always on race day I had to force down my breakfast. The loo visits were regular until we left at 5am to get to transition. Everything was organised and ready (thanks to my obsessive compulsive disorder) and I exited transition in search of my teammates. I bid my hubby good luck and he went off to find his spot on the start-line right behind the pros. Thank goodness I found Lucie and the team. I always have a little cry before we head down to the beach, a big day of racing lay ahead and I can just never seem to keep it in.
Now let me put this into perspective for you guys: NO, I am not a swimmer; NO, I am not a cyclist and HELL NO, I am not a runner. I was never an athlete but I was always an active person. I played netball throughout my school career and danced from the age of 3. I started triathlon at the age of 27 having never (EVER) done any swimming in my life! I literally started in the pool doing 25mtrs and stopping for 5 minutes to catch my breath.
I walked onto the beach with a few of my teammates, I dread standing there alone so I always ensure my friends are nearby! Having someone next to you just helps with the nerves…
When we finally hit the water every butterfly that was wreaking havoc in my stomach flew away and I was instantly in a comfortable place. The water was magical that day and I loved every single stroke through the waves. I am so happy with my 1hr09 swim (even though I ended up swimming 4,4km instead of 3,8)! This was an improvement of over 10 minutes from the previous years race.
The part of the race I struggle with the most is the run. 42.2kms is not an easy feat when you are 7 hours into your race. I started happily at 5:30m/km for the first 10kms and then the pawpaw hit the fan. No matter how much you tell yourself that you are going to push through and ignore the pain in your legs… when you’re out there on the day everything falls apart and the agony just sets in. I dropped my pace to about 6m/km and tried to hold that – walking the aid stations- but this too didn’t last. I ended up finishing my marathon in a time of 4hr30 at an average pace of 6:30m/km.
I end off my little write-up with a huge gratitude going out to my loving husband who understands and supports my every effort of self-improvement. He is an athlete on another level and I appreciate that he tolerates the “not so very fast” version of me. Thanks to my most amazing family who always make an effort to come to the events and support, not only me, but every Trifactri member! To my teammates and training buddies, obviously this would be a very lonely and boring journey without every single one of you! Coach, you continue to inspire me every time I see you. Your constant faith in me is unmeasurable and I am forever grateful to you for your support and guidance!
YES, I AM… A TRIATHLETE AND HELL YES, I AM… AN IRONMAN!
I have had 2 months to have my entire Kona experience run through my mind over and over again. Before I continue I want to define 'experience'. Think about going on a night out to a fancy restaurant - the 'experience' would be everything from arrival, greeting, décor, music, waiter attitude & competence, food, drink etc. Lets be honest - you don't go out only because you hungry!
That's what I want to write about here - my Kona EXPERIENCE. I have told most people in conversation that ask what was Kona like, that the experience was awesome but the race wasn't all I had dreamed it would be. Don't get me wrong - it was memorable for so many reasons. So why was the overall experience so great and the race less so?
Lets start with the race. First and foremost, with my injury it was going to be almost impossible to break the magical 10 hour mark. I had carried the injury for nearly 4 months in the build up to Kona. And so it proved - a 4:24 marathon was not going to be good enough and the bike was probably 8-10 minutes slower than I had planned. Then lets look at the transition times: over 8 minutes spent in transition? People told me that the transition times tend to be slow in Kona due to the distances, but the winner, Patrick Lange, managed just over 4 minutes so surely I shouldn't be double? My overall time certainly wasn't double his: Patrick finished 1st overall in 8:01:40 and I finished in 10:48:08. Statistics and more statistics. I don't know what it is about analysing stats post race? Maybe in some way I try to find answers to what happened on the day or maybe I think that the next race will be better if I understand everything about what happened in this race. Yes, ofcourse statistics help with analysis and finding ways to improve, but at my level and my age every IronMan I enter will have its own challenges and will probably not be comparable to the previous ones. As they say in the classics: "IronMan guarantees nothing" and in Kona this is more true than most IronMan destinations. The combination of the heat, humidity, wind and just the fact that it is World Champs and the most dreamt about race in the world to participate in, all add up to make this a very unpredictable race. Kona is simply like no other - I reckon every athlete puts more pressure on themselves in this race than any other. That's what World Champs should be - a physical and mental test.
So what do I really believe 'went wrong'? As I mentioned right upfront, it is now 2 months later and hindsight is always easy. Injury apart, I do believe my body did not fire like it should have on the day - I am talking here mainly about on the bike. My swim was pretty good - cutting under the hour mark by 2 minutes was where I wanted to be to get my day off to a good start. In fact it felt like a pretty easy swim. I got into a great rhythm early on - that was after my goggles got knocked off once and then filled up with water another 2 times forcing me to stop and adjust. Patience was something many people preach for this race - its a long day - and a lot can happen.
Considering I was doing pretty much no running and only cycling and swimming and still averaging over 14 hours per week, should mean that those 2 disciplines should have been super strong. In all honesty I believe I was tired. What? The medical professionals I have seen since my return: sports doctor, physiotherapist & biokineticist all said that the injuries and ailments are the result of longer term effects of not looking after my body through proper recovery, sleep, massage, not enough supplementary training and basically just pounding away at the same three disciplines for hours and hours and hours. I am my own worst enemy - I treated this race more seriously than any other and with that came crammed in hours of training where ever possible. In my mind I constantly felt that the more I do the better I would perform. There are so many things I have learned and with my 20 years in the sport should have applied. One of the most obvious is "quality over quantity". Easy to say now - I was caught up in preparing for Kona World Champs - the ultimate race on that mythical Island of Hawaii. There is nothing like it.
Family, work, sleep and training - trying to balance those when you are preparing for Kona are nearly impossible. The 'training' part outweighs everything else - not even a question - just ask my family! I believe I was mentally and physically tired. Not the tired you feel after having one night of bad sleep, but the tiredness of constantly not letting your mind and body recover the way it should. Day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out and in fact even year in and year out will eventually lead to tiredness. I am not making excuses at all and I believe most Age Groupers find themselves in these situations if they have competed for any length of time. That is just what we do, because we love the sport and we love competing, both against ourselves and against others. Those that know me well, will know I am not hugely gifted but my work ethic and discipline is probably higher than most. It has got me far and will hopefully still get me further. Kona 2017 is history and I was part of it and have the medal to prove it - no one can EVER take that away from me. It was amazing and I have incredibly vivid memories of many minute moments from that day. They will be with me always.
Now for the 'experience'. For 2 weeks of my life I lived & trained like a pro. I certainly found myself feeling like one many times while on the BIG Island. How could I ever dream of more? I was on cloud 9, I loved it, I will remember it, I will cherish it and most importantly I will be forever grateful and thankful to my family for letting me live this experience. You can't not feel special when you are on an island with over 2000 of the very best long distance triathletes in the world. Every single person is in the shape of their lives and you feel the energy & adrenalin everywhere. 2 spectacular memories are swimming next to the then IronMan world champ, Jan Frodeno, in the training pool and exchanging a few words. The same Jan Frodeno I found myself cycling behind along the Queen K highway at a 'safe distance' so as not to disturb him, for nearly 40 kilometres. As we where approaching Kailua-Kona, I passed him on an uphill stretch and he turned to me and said with a smile: "keep that power for race day". I would be able to go back to the exact spot on that incline where he said those words to me. That's how special that moment was. Then there was my 'roomie' Richard Lawrie. What an awesome guy and superb athlete. It was great sharing the entire 2 weeks with him and just having someone around to shoot the breeze with.
The 2 weeks started with a looooong trip half way around the globe to get to the BIG Island. Everyone has to do that - from the eventual winner to the athlete that drags him or herself across the finish line just before the 17 hour cut off. That is all part of it and that is what makes it special - you know you are going through what everyone else is. The arrival, the pick up from the airport and unpacking in your temporary home. Building the bike and going for that first 'test' ride along Queen K Highway and seeing the black lava fields for the first time in hot and humid conditions. All of it is simply amazing. Heading down into Kailua, Kona and doing the grocery shopping , training, going for a mandatory cappuccino, training some more and then having a relaxing afternoon on the couch is what I believe pros would do. The best part is, I did it - for two solid weeks. I even managed to fit in what a tourist would do - go and see the live volcanoes. Seeing molten rock ooze from the earth close up is certainly a once in a lifetime experience. Maybe the pros wouldn't have done that - risk getting injured while walking across the razor sharp lava fields to get to the eventual live flowing lava. If that is what separates the pros from the age groupers, then I can live with that.
The registration, the opening ceremony, the Expo, The official Iron Man store (which needs to be visited a number of times to make sure you have all the memorabilia and presents for back home) the parade of nations, the check-in, the race, the Banquet of Champions, the 'day after' stroll down Ali'i Drive with much discomfort, packing everything up and getting on the plane back home - all of it is part of the EXPERIENCE and it is unforgettable. That is one of the reasons why I am writing this after 2 months - just to refresh the memories and make sure I can read this in a month or year from now and reminisce! Isn't that why we do these things - to be able to say - been there, done that! Some of the 'been there's' will be more memorable than others but at the end of the day they make up the journey!
I am going to make the shock assumption that most hard-working triathletes know how to eat a balanced and supportive diet to reward the hard training that their bodies agree to.
But just in case here is a reminder:
A well thought out nutrient dense diet is imperative if you want to go long and hard for a long time without injury, illness or burn-out 😊 All the various vitamins, minerals, plant and food based antioxidants, amino acids from protein, fatty acids, resistant starches from specific carbohydrate foods, prebiotics and compounds with long names that research keeps identifying in natural foods are important for our health and for the cells, organs, brain, muscles, tendons and ligaments, tissues and even our gut microbiome to function optionally. Food is not only fuel but also provides the structural and supportive ingredients to allow the body to operate, recover, and repair from daily life and training. Don’t forget salts and water; these are very important also.
Nutritious food also aids hormone balance, immune system function, and the correct balance of bugs in our guts (these form our first line of defence against bacterial, yeast and viral infections and they also are involved in the digestive process, making some vitamins and neurotransmitters, and gut healing substances called short chain fatty acids; wow!).
This diet that we call balanced looks like a diet based on mostly plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds; with some wholegrains such as oats and rice for example, along with a moderate amount of protein from animal, fish, eggs, and dairy foods. We need all of these foods for various reasons and in varying proportions depending on the work that we ask our bodies to do and our unique and individual constitutions.
No one diet is perfect, and this can make the journey rather confusing in how we find the optimal for us. However, for most of us a fad diet, an extreme diet, or a diet eliminating a major food group is rarely needed. The first rule is to choose natural and un- to minimally processed foods with the least amount of chemicals, additives, preservatives and sweeteners added. Yes, your body works hard but no this doesn’t mean that you can just eat anything as a response because we need more than calories. Junk food is mostly empty calories and is lacking in goodness; furthermore, it comes packaged with other stuff that we just don’t need.
Many athletes make the next step an extreme but what if you focused on improving your diet by making choices directed by quality, source/location and ethics and perhaps upgrading your cooking or fermenting skills.
Our bodies have this amazing thing called HUNGER to tell us when it needs food and sometimes this directs what foods we desire (i.e. cravings for meat or fat or carbs), and SATIETY which is fullness, and this tells us when to stop. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot about what the body needs. This intuitive system works best if you avoid processed foods, junk choices, eating without taking the time to allow the digestive system to operate correctly and excess stress; all of which interfere with this intuitive signalling system. At the end of the day survival is what matters and nothing screams chocolate bar and cake better than eating on the go and emotional stress.
So here are my 12 rules of Christmas
1. Make a choice
What you decide now about what is going to happen over Christmas is exactly what you will get. You don’t have to eat more junk, you don’t have to eat all the chocolates, you don’t have to become a couch potato, you don’t have to gain weight, and you don’t have to drink in excess. Decide now what is going to happen and base your decisions on this.
Our choices may vary based on our goals. For example, I don’t want to gain weight over Christmas, I do want to have a break from training, I will enjoy my food, but I won’t go mad. I have already decided this and my usual outcome from these decisions is I will be rested after Christmas, I will have enjoyed my food and I won’t have gained weight. Simple! Why? I don’t want to have to start over in January feeling rubbish about myself.
This is not fat, this is not increased inches, this is just a stored-up reserve for your next training session. I repeat over a few days this is NOT REAL WEIGHT BUT mostly stored glycogen and water weight. Done a few times over the festive season this is perfectly ok and an expected outcome. BUT; taking a prolonged break from training and over-doing the beers, pizza and left-over Christmas cake and pies will eventually mean that your body starts to deposit more fat in stores. Then you are in trouble. I don’t recommend that you weigh yourself if you are only easing up and letting loose for a few days. This is harmless and will be easily lost in a few hard back-to-it training sessions.
The good news is that excess protein when eaten in the short term tends to not impact weight significantly, excess carbohydrates tend to store as muscle glycogen and water, and excess fat, well sorry for you that stores as fat.
Make good choices; keeping calorie excess under control however is your safest guard against increasing weight but a few days of extra calories won’t do any harm (days not weeks!).
3. Consider intermittent low carb days.
If weight gain is a concern break your Christmas up with a few days of being a little stricter. Intermittent low carb eating has been shown to be successful for weight loss and/ or preventing weight gain and even more successful than daily calorie control. Choose two days in the festive period that are quiet and commitment free and reduce your carb intake while maintaining a high intake of protein, veggies and a moderate intake of healthy fats. This will keep you on track.
4. Use leverage.
If you are heading for a meal out, or want the slice of cake, or wish to indulge in a few beers then instead of going all-or-nothing have a think about the whole day and see where you can gain some leverage. For example, if you like dessert perhaps don’t have a starter, if you are having a meal out have a lighter lunch and breakfast (e.g. eggs and roasted tomatoes and avocado for breakfast and soup/ salad and some protein for lunch), if you have numerous nights out corporate entertaining don’t drink alcohol to avoid clocking up extra calories and make a protein and vegetable dominant meal choice such as steak and vegetables or fish and vegetables etc. You can make some clever choices and still enjoy yourself. OR you can just enjoy yourself and this is your decision.
5. NEVER starve and stuff yourself; or stuff and starve yourself… it doesn’t work, it isn’t healthy, and it leads to disordered eating patterns.
Avoid all or nothing mentality, and limit punishing yourself afterwards with restriction or over-exercise because this can lead to disordered eating and is negative to our self-esteem and is not considered a healthy relationship to either food or exercise.
6. Avoid mindless eating.
Eating in a state of unawareness will lead to over-indulgence and reduces our connection to the natural cues to feeling full it also makes it more likely that we suffer indigestion. Make it a goal to eat at the table or with company. Avoid eating on the run, in front of the TV or while scrolling through your phone. If you have a lot of commitments to travel, shopping and chores don’t let yourself get ravenous and instead bring healthy snacks with you such as dried fruit and nuts, health bars, fresh fruit, beef jerky, etc. Take a time out to eat them.
7. Emotional eating catches many of us at Christmas.
How many of you over-eat after a stressful day, when at family events, or after being around frenzied shoppers or manic co-workers?
Emotional stress is a major trigger for many of us to over-eat, binge eat or for some to under-eat. Stress also leads to drinking excess alcohol. Although most of us don’t have an issue creating harm; do be mindful of how life triggers reactive choices. Excess exercise is another one that can become a problematic coping skill.
I have observed that most of my clients aren’t aware just how much stress impacts their bodies and resultant food choices or how sensitive they are to feeling others’ emotions. Many of us have not made the link between a trigger A and the over-eating/ drinking/ angry training/ binge reaction B.
Stress and emotions are felt in the solar plexus which is located in the gut. We often reach for food to block out feelings and emotions; our signalling system jumps to ‘I feel hungry’ instead of I feel insert: overwhelmed, anxious, worried, burnt out, resentful, angry, excited, upset, hyped up, etc. Start to develop a practice of spending some quiet time when you arrive home before you eat. If you are out amongst people find a quiet space at a party, or do something to help to get you moving away from feeling self-conscious or anxious to ground yourself and tune into how you are feeling before you simply eat food to push down all the feelings and emotions.
I am incredibly sensitive to others, now that I am aware of this I do simple things to keep myself grounded. For example, at a party I will go and hide in the loo for ten minutes and breathe deeply and relax my body to let go of tension, or when entertaining at home I will create a quiet space by getting busy doing something, if surrounded by insane happy hyped nieces and nephews I will remove myself for a breather, or if around family members for longer than I am able for I will simply excuse myself out for a run. If I am at a night out I tend to drive so that when I go from party hero to zero I have a fast get-out. These are just some tactics that work for me and have ended my feeling frazzled and emotionally burnt out. Its amazing to me that many of my friends think that I am extroverted and love a party and to talk; but the reality is that I am more introvert than extrovert; I just hide it well. So, if this is you, find some strategies that work for you and avoid throwing yourself into too much without an escape route. Break the Christmas shopping into smaller outings, give people your all but leave when its right for you, see people individually for simple one on one time rather than meeting everyone all at the same time or mix sport and social events so that you can burn off the stress adrenaline. Make your personality traits work for you!
Some tips to manage stress:
8. Smart choices can limit unintentional calories.
9. Use Christmas as an opportunity to explore new healthy recipes.
Google is a treasure trove for finding exciting vegetable side dishes, home-made soups, novel desserts that are tasty and more healthful, snacks that you can trial with a view to using as training fuel (e.g. protein bombs, health bars, fruit breads). Upgrade your cooking and baking skills and enjoy finding new healthier food options. Traditional recipes can be tweaked to make them healthier.
10. Keep up your daily activity levels even if it is not structured training.
Get out into the fresh air, do something fun and with friends, join a charity run or bike event, or get out and challenge yourself with something different. Our bodies feel good when they move, our appetite is better and well; it’s fun as much as a rest and change.
11. Stay healthy.
Some helpful immune supporting foods include all deep coloured vegetables and fruits (especially purple coloured, red and green), garlic, fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary and thyme, cinnamon, fresh turmeric, ground turmeric (best cooked with some fats and black pepper), soup made from fresh bone stock, ginger, mushrooms and fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt.
12. Alcohol – I am not going to ruin your fun:
When we drink we make stupid choices when it comes to our actions, our words and our food choices; a few drinks are also fun. When we drink we feel like super heroes for the evening and then feel like the walking dead the following day. You are a grown up; so I won’t nag on the obvious here. Have fun, but if you have fun many nights in a row it will cost your health, training, waist line and god only knows what else when it comes to your reputation. PS you cannot sweat alcohol out. The best solution to prevent a hangover is to hydrate well with some electrolytes in water, to take some milk thistle (carduus marianus) drops, and to have a small snack before you hit the sack and then to get a good night’s sleep.
Mostly, just enjoy Christmas. Life is too short, do what makes you happy.
Instead of the usual race report and because 2017 was very much a build year I thought I'd just share some learnings. These are in no particular order.
After 7 months off and a few failed starts due to lack of interest and health, I finally committed to putting a 12 week block together for Dublin 70.3. Lucie and I had planned to give serious racing a miss in 2017 but at the same time make sure we qualified for the 2 championships so that we could focus 2018 solely on Kona.
The first 3 weeks were hard but it wasn’t long before the body started to remember the routine. Consistency up to Dublin and then for another 5 weeks up to Italy was great. Averaging just under 15 hours and just over 10 sessions per week. Shortest week 8 hours after 70.3 Dublin, longest week 20 hours the week after that. As normal quality over quantity and just to add quality does not mean hard, fast sessions. Quality is focusing on the session, focusing on the form and making sure the benefits of the shorter sessions were optimal.
I was amazed how the body responded to the training, yes it wasn’t easy at first but after about 5 weeks I believe I was starting to build again on a base. At the end of the day I wasn’t in the same form at the end of the season as I was at the end of 2016 but I certainly wasn’t far off. The biggest factor is that I wasn’t mentally wrecked. So much so that I’m actually enjoying the start of the off season by playing around with a few things.
Why did nobody tell me? Why didn’t I listen.?
Everything in the last few months has been around recovery. After Kona last year I was mentally and physically drained. There had to be something I could change. I started working with sessions, moving them around, changing the start times, especially before long sessions. Weekends changed from starting at 7 to starting at around 10. It’s amazing what 3 hours more sleep can do for the body after a long week.
I tried to remove stresses, not always possible but adjusted sessions accordingly.
I see so many people doing sessions back to back. How does the body recover, how do you have enough time to replace glycogen for the second session. My question is why stress the body unnecessarily.
I ate, more than I usually would have during sessions and I believe this gave me a head start on the recovery process. I’m not planning to run across a desert with little or no access to food for a day. I’m not trying to lose weight. I don’t need to “Fat Adapt”**, there will always be enough food on course or in my race bag. Just another stress I’m eliminating.
With social media, the web, coaches and competitors we are inundated with advice on a daily basis. I’ve never been one to chop and change, I think you need to give anything you decide to try at least 6 months before you know that it will benefit you. James Cunnama said it correctly, Triathlon is a relatively new sport and we are ALL still learning what actually works. 6 months with something new means slow progress but incremental gains nonetheless.
One of the pieces of advice that resonated with me this year was that of learning to pedal in a circle. Having not come from a cycling background and not delving too deep into the science for my first few years I certainly skipped a few fundamentals. Last year I purposely increased my cadence and although I’ve worked on a push / pull I never really understood it. So back to drawing board. In the end, it’s not pedaling in circles or squares but more pedaling in better circles or squares. Its total focus during a period or a session to maximise the smoothness of each. It’s to identify which works best on the surface and gradient. Up or down. Working with power on a trainer gives you an ideal environment to gauge power, heart rate and efficiency. One more piece of advice here is the feeling of the run off the bike. If you’ve distributed the workload evenly you should feel a lot fresher in the initial first few kilometers. Just be mindful of the feelings and note the session.
At the awards lunch in Italy, I sat opposite a finisher and we exchanged the fact that we’d both had good days. His next question was if it was my first race, I very proudly said it was my 11th. I reversed the question, as you do, he smiled and said it was his 76th. Right back to earth again.
There are so many amazing stories, so many awesome achievements by everyone that I’ve met along the way and all these just keep me pushing harder to see what else is possible.
**As a side note to my comment on fat adaptation. Andrea made a comment around this to troubleshoot the myth of low carb diets and fat adaption. “A well trained (experienced) endurance athlete eating a well balanced diet is already highly fat adapted as a function of their training (and experience). In that they will already be fuelling a high proportion of their endurance training from endogenous fats. Don’t feel a need to force that further as there is no need to be more fat adapted than this to function and perform optimally as an athlete. If healthy, if performing optimally and if you do not have metabolic issues nor gastrointestinal issues to necessitate trying to fat adapt further when it will probably cost high end intensity performances and worse still stress the body and possibly harm recovery.”
Packed and on my way
Then there is the horrible goodbyes at the airport – leaving those that I would want most by the side of the road and at the finish line – Sharon, Axel & Tyler. This time unfortunately that cannot happen. I know I will ‘see’ you there and that will spur me on 1 step at a time. You are my everything and I will never stop being thankful for this opportunity to live a dream from which I am certain will come a lifetime of memories. My angels, I know it is hard that daddy is away for over 2 weeks, but I will make you proud and bring back the biggest medal of my triathlon ‘career’!
Let the flights begin!
Family & Friends
The time and space Sharon, Axel & Tyler have given me to fulfil my triathlon dream cannot be expressed in words. I owe them so much! Sharon, you are the most incredible triathlon wife! I mean that in all the best ways. Your support and encouragement, often when I need it most, is simply incredible. You know me so well. To my dearest Axel and Tyler – you are part of the reason I do this – I hope to set an example and plant a seed somewhere about discipline, hard work, passion, enjoyment, exercise and just living life and making dreams come true. You are both so different and yet so special which gives me strength in different moments.
To my mom, who has set the example I talk about in the previous paragraph – thank you. You are amazing and your pride in your three boys inspires us to do what we all do with the best of our ability.
To all my friends and family that will be thinking of me over the next 2 weeks and especially race day – it is going to make the world of difference. Ask anyone who has competed in an Iron Man – there are very dark places that the body and mind can go to during the course of the day. I will be drawing strength from every fibre in my body. THANK YOU to all of you in advance.
D-Day is getting close
I cannot believe that just short of 11 months ago I qualified for Iron Man, Kona. I thought that was a big build up and a huge crescendo – it was. The build up to Kona however has been bigger than I could have imagined. Everyone who knows anything about triathlon cannot help themselves from giving advice, stories of experiences, words of encouragement and admiration, and just simply passing on strength and well wishes. It is an amazing thing to have experienced – and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be living this dream.
I have been to World Champs in the Olympic distance and Long distance and raced at Challenge Roth (voted many times over as the best triathlon in the world and probably most supported from a spectator number point of view), but still nothing compares to the attention one gets when telling a fellow triathlete you are training for Kona, Hawaii. It is only now that I am so close to actually doing to race that I realise how big it is and how people view this event.
I have promised myself that I am not going to let the occasion get the better of me – generally races don’t – I just get very excited and love the moment. I am however going to “chase my own best” – words from our own Chad le Clos.
Consistency in training
So I am on the road travelling for work for 2 days again and last night I went to bed feeling terrible that I had eaten too much and not trained. 2 days no training is going to destroy my race. NOT! For those of us that have ‘normal’ lives – actually fitting the triathlon part of the life in there probably makes us abnormal , but we have jobs and families and other responsibilities so having some forced days off is part of preparing for a race – even at 16 days out from the biggest race of my life – Ironman Kona.
Make no mistake – I am a firm believer in routine and training consistency. I generally train something every day of my life – its simply part of who I am. A lot can be said for consistency and I watched an interview with Jan Frodeno the other day and he also talked about consistency. Part of my strength in this sport is the fact that I have been going at it for 20 years now.
I read a paragraph recently: “What is the most important element of training?” Without a doubt consistent training is the most important aspect of athletic success and forward progress. Even a poorly designed or random training program will produce results if followed consistently and training occurs regularly. In my experience, the athletes that are still performing well into their 40s, 50s, and beyond all have one thing in common: they’ve trained consistently over the years and rarely gave up ground.”
I am in that group of athletes well into there 40’s and my coach, Lucie Zelenkova, certainly does not give me a ‘random training program’ – so I am going to stick to this recipe of success for now – despite the 2 days no training.
Inside or outside
So what do you prefer – swimming in the local gym pool or getting out to a lake, dam or the ocean? Admittedly the local gym pool is more accessible for most of us, unless you live right next to the ocean. Then there are the obvious differences like the water generally being cleaner in a pool and a black line directing you in the pool. I would still have to say, that if you can get over the fear of swimming in open water – it is a far better experience. If you are relatively swimming fit, the open water swim actually becomes therapeutic – I suppose there is something about being close to nature.
Most open water swims will have some form of natural beauty surrounding you and what can be better than to have the sun on your face every time you turn to take a breath. Ever tried swimming when it is raining – that adds a whole different perspective. If its a heavy Highveld thunderstorm, then it can get abit scary as the drops splashing off the water mean you can see only 2-3 metres ahead of you. However if its a light rain, it makes for an awesome experience. Today I swam 3.8km’s at Cradle Moon Game farm (previously Heia Safari), and it ended my weekend and training week perfectly.
Triathlon is about experiences – my goal is to race as many different races as possible as each race brings something different. Whether it’s the water, the bike course or the run course, every race can bring a new challenge or a never to be repeated experience.
Go out and enjoy what nature has to offer!
Not sure what your view is on preparation but I prefer to leave nothing to chance. Triathlon involves three sports and travelling literally to the other side of the globe requires some decent preparation. Not much needed for the swim as it certainly won’t be wetsuit legal, and the run doesn’t require that much either (the new Nike Air Pegasus were purchased at the beginning of the year already), but with the bike we all know it’s not that easy.
Not that Hawaii is a third world country where finding bike spares or buying nutrition or clothes would be difficult, but in my case nothing is ever easy to get as nothing is ‘normal’ – size 14 shoes, XL bike frame etc.
I have even managed to order a new nose piece all the way from Austria for my Red Bull racing glasses that have perished over the last couple of seasons. The list of what I still need to get is also growing – some Future Life cereal and the Woolworths fruit and nut bars are on the top of this list.
I have been told to pack very little in terms of clothes – literally a couple of pairs of shorts, two or three T-shirts and slops and maybe a track suit for the flight over and back. That leaves space for the edible items I mentioned above as they won’t be coming back with me. They say Hawaii is HOT, HUMID and most importantly casual – the casual part I like!! The rest is all the training and racing gear that I will need while I am there.
Apparently I need to leave plenty of room for all the Iron Man and promotional shirts and gear that I will be picking up at the famous expo. Can’t wait to experience all the Iron Man madness!!
Where Trifactri athletes get to tell their side of the Swim, Bike and Run