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By T:Zero Head Coach Emma Quinn with guest Dr Kellie Pritchard-Peschek
For many of us, we have an overdrive personality that sees us combine family, work, triathlon racing and training all into a finely balanced week. Many of us feel with the time we have available to train in order to prepare for our “A” goal needs to be focused on hard training in the pool, on the bike and pounding the pavement and we have an undeniable trait to neglect rest and recovery and shiver at the sight of a rest day or week in our training plan (sound familiar to anyone)? During my four years of study at the University of Queensland, my focus was on Exercise Science and physiology, the science behind the body and how it responds and adapts to heavy training loads. During these years it became quite clear that there is so much more to rest and recovery in a well-periodised training plan than simply “a day off”, the benefits that occur both physiologically and psychologically are undoubtable steps taken towards making a stronger and more successful athlete. An analogy was once said to me from a former coach, as I too am guilty (not so much anymore) of neglecting the rest days- as an athlete in my mid 20’s who thought I was invincible and the only way to out-perform my competitors was to train hard, every day, every week, every month till I eventually got sick or had a niggling injury. I was told to think about training as a sponge in water, when we integrate periods of rest and recovery (be this active or passive- this we’ll go into more depth a little later) this sponge soaks up all the water and expands. The nitty gritty behind this rather odd analogy was that when we take time off to recover after hard days or week training and effectively integrate effective rest and recovery techniques our body has the time to adapt, make physiological modifications and “soak up” the hard work.
During my final year of study, I had the pleasure (or pain) of conducting an Honours research project working with some of the academic staff within the Exercise Science facility. One member of the teaching team who I always looked up to as an academic and as an athlete was Kellie Pritchard-Peschek (now DoctorJ ). I remember Kellie having a strong passion for her own personal athletic success representing Australia at Long Course Triathlon as well as Duathlon as well as a passion for educating others on the importance and the science behind training philosophies. Whilst we became good friends during my studies life took us on very different paths in the years that followed, after spending time at the QAS Kellie then went on to work with the Swiss national swim team at their headquarters in Switzerland (yep my path drew the short straw haha). However despite these few years achieving different goals I have always stayed in touch and as life would have it Kellie has now returned to Brisbane to focus on her own business and I had the pleasure to catch up with her earlier this week and discuss the science behind recovery. My hope is that this blog will deliver a little insight into why rest, recovery and implementing periods of less intense training (easy weeks or active recovery days) is so vitally important in order to enhance and optimize one’s athletic performance. No matter what your goal, training age or level is, the training principle of recovery should be held with as much importance as base/endurance, speed/power and taper.
Firstly, let’s start by getting to know Kellie a little better and what she has done in her career so far, before we then jump into some key questions that I sat down with Kellie to discuss.
About Me - Dr Kellie Pritchard-Peschek Director/Owner of DrKellieRose Performance Science:
I’ll get it out there early – I’m a self-confessed sports addict, major science nerd, and a lover of triathlons and boxing. When I sadly realized at quite a young age that I wasn’t up to scratch to ever become a pro, I decided the next best thing was to work in elite sport. I’m now running my own performance consultancy business, DrKellieRose Performance Science, in which I’m providing sport science coaching and support to triathletes, endurance athletes, and sports organizations around the world, in the private and third sector. A job I absolutely adore, as I'm really passionate about performance sustainability, and enhancing the health of athletes through a holistic approach that's individualised, and meets the athletes' specific needs from a training, performance and lifestyle perspective. Prior to starting my own business, I worked for over 10 years as a sport scientist in the Australian and Swiss national sports institutes with world, Olympic, Commonwealth and European champions from endurance sports, through the last 3 Olympic cycles.
Why are integrated periods of rest and recovery so important for triathletes (especially age group athletes)?
This is a really great point to bring up Emma, as I think recovery is often an underestimated factor of the overall training program, possibly because it’s not something an athlete can always see the immediate results of. For this reason, the importance of recovery is often brushed off as unimportant, particularly when time is scarce. However, recovery is extremely important for age groupers in particular, as it’s not only the exercise training that they’re recovering from, it’s the mental and physical aspects of working full-time, managing a family, and other life commitments, as well as training 10-12 sessions per week – that takes a toll!
Recovery essentially has a two-pronged effect: first, it allows for the physiological and neurological recovery of your systems, muscles and mind; and second, it acts as a counterbalance to all the training volume that you do, with the rest period helping to prevent mal-adaptations such as overreaching and overtraining states, and preserves immune function. It also manages training load and helps you to avoid injury. By allowing some periods of recovery during your weekly training, you’re allowing your system to adapt to the training stimuli and volume that’s already been completed, and regain a level of homeostasis, so that it is in an optimal state to take on and adapt to the next load of training stimuli. And this is on a weekly basis; factoring in a 1-2 week break after a major race or at the end of the season will have the same beneficial effect, only amplified.
What occurs to the body during periods of rest and recovery (following strenuous training loads)?
The answer is – lots! The process of recovery from exercise is multifaceted, affecting many physiological systems, structures and pathways, from the muscles to the brain. Recovery also depends on the type of sport, and the intensity and duration of the exercise, with the more intense exercise causing more damage.
Physiologically, the purpose of recovery is to manage muscle damage and reduce inflammation, in an attempt to decrease DOMS, which is the feeling of muscle soreness, and fatigue. A couple of the immediate recovery processes that can be aided with recovery strategies include the removal of waste products from the muscle, like lactate and fuel metabolites; and minimizing the influx of inflammatory markers and swelling to the damaged muscle.
If we look at recovery from a broader perspective, the short rest periods between two training sessions usually don’t allow sufficient time for full recovery, meaning that we are generally in an under-recovered state during the course of our training week. This is often referred to as a state of overload, and is actually the purpose of the training program. So at regular intervals, it’s really important that we give our bodies extra time to fully repair damaged muscle, and eliminate soreness and fatigue from the heavy training, so that it is ready to perform the next block of training feeling rested, healthy and free of injuries. Adaptation is a key factor here, which I mentioned before. Adaptation is the rebuilding process that occurs during the rest period following a period of overload. Let me explain. When our bodies are exposed to all these training stimuli during our hill rides, sprint runs, and strength swims, we are eliciting changes to the muscle and the cardio-respiratory (and other) systems. We do this every day, multiple times. But for our bodies to get stronger, faster and fitter, we need to allow it time to make these structural changes in response to the training stimuli, so that it regenerates and rebuilds our bodies into a stronger state. And that’s how we see improvements in our abilities. So, without this downtime, our body essentially remains in the same damaged, fatigued, stressed state, and usually any subsequent training is performed poorly without any positive adaptations. And if this continues for a period of time, you’ll be placing yourself at greater risk of illness, injury and overreaching and overtraining states.
What methods have been shown to be most effective in terms of aiding recovery?
When it comes to recovery methods, its horses for courses to ensure you elicit the best responses. So depending on the type of recovery you need, for example repairing muscle damage or reducing soreness, there will be different methods.
If your goal is to manage muscle damage, then cold water immersion, contrast water therapy and whole-body cryotherapy techniques are the most effective. Practical applications of these include making your own ice bath, by simply filling your home bathtub – or a wheelie bin! - with bags of ice and water, or immersing yourself in a cold river, ocean or lake for the muscles affected. Around 11-15 degrees for 5-10 minutes should do the trick. With contrast water therapy, alternate a hot-cold shower, with 30-60s hot and 30-60s cold, 3-5 times, always finishing on cold. Cryotherapy is a little harder to do, as it will require going to a special facility to use their machine.
If you want to reduce muscle soreness, then the most effective method is massage. Good news, right? Now we feel justified for our weekly treatments! Compression garments are the next best, along with the cold water immersion. Active recovery immediately after exercise is also helpful, as is the contrast water therapy to a lesser degree. And for reducing fatigue, massage combined with stretching works well.
Those strategies are well supported by research. However, new techniques, like the Normatec boots, electro-stimulation devices, and heat therapies are becoming more popular as a way to reduce muscle soreness.
At the end of the day, sleep, nutrition and hydration remain the key ingredients to a solid recovery protocol, which are simple and can be done after each and every training session. Restore muscle glycogen, the muscle’s fuel; rebuild muscle with protein; repair systems with vitamins and minerals; and replace lost fluid to get back to a hydrated state.
Thank you Kellie so much for your time and for making it possible for me to sit down and write an informative piece which can be passed on to our athletes! I hope that everyone can take something positive away after ready this and make the most of those easier days :).
Happy training and racing team and I hope the plans are well under way with yourself and your coaches to nail the 2018/2019 season, it’s going to be epic.
Until next time,
Want to know more about Head Coach Em Quinn? Click here!
By Head Coach Scotty Farrell
“Without a struggle, there can be no progress” – Frederick Douglass
It’s talked about regularly – in order to achieve that next level result, you have to be prepared to endure a good sold smattering of cold hard suffering on race day. But how many of you are prepared to ‘suffer’ just a little more than the rest, on a daily basis? How much are you really prepared to sacrifice in order to put yourself in a position to even attempt to reach the outer limits of what is possible? Do you take the easy option? Are you doing the mundane, extra little things, that makes the difference between a successful and mediocre performance?
These are big, somewhat deep questions – but honest questions nonetheless and questions that for those of you who want to go next level, need to be asking yourself on an almost daily basis. Stick a post it note on your mirror – “have you suffered a little today?”
The word suffer can mean a few different things depending on what angle you’re coming from, so let me explain what I mean when I say suffer, for the purpose of this article at least. Firstly, keep it in the context of triathlon and your life bubble, and relate it directly to your ultimate goal (ultimate goals – this is a whole other blog, but for now, let’s just go out on a limb and suggest that for most of us, this means putting together a truly honest, grit filled performance that you can step away from and smile with pride. Not so much a number on the clock, but a performance worthy of a deep, intrinsic smile and maybe a few tears of guts and heart). I digress (sorry, I’m a tangent master at the best of times – mum called me a day dreamer). Back to suffer and its definition.
The Oxford dictionary defines the word suffer as “To experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant).” Let’s define suffer for our bubble as ‘putting yourself in situations you’d rather not be in and enduring it for want of facing fears and improving your weaknesses’ – much the same as the dictionary, but with a slight twist, geared at performance.
If you’re still with me and you’re willing to endure a few more tangents (possibly suffer a little), I will attempt to share with you, my thoughts and opinion on what it takes to suffer on a daily basis and take yourself closer to living your potential.
How to suffer 101
It’s a broad and subjective term is ‘suffer’. We can define it in a few different ways. But ultimately, it’s the collective ability to consistently put yourself in positions where you feel discomfort and work towards being a better person/athlete. You don’t have to be a navy seal and put yourself through hell week every day of your life, but if you want to take your performance to the next level, then you have to be willing to suffer, every day, period – even just a little.
Want to know more about Head Coach Scotty Farrell? Click here!
CAIRNS 2018 RACE REPORT
WOW! WHAT A DAY – LUCKY NUMBER 9
SWIM 58:32 – BIKE 4:55:21 – RUN 3:19:45 – TOTAL 9:19:18
T1 3:42 – T2 – 1:56
Overall 36th (including pros) – 16th Age Grouper – 5th in 35-39 Category.
After having a pretty good day setting a new PB in Port, it was to be another short 5 week turnaround to Cairns. Nothing that was new to me, as I’ve done both of these races for the past three years. The day after Port Mac, Rich had me back moving again with a short Swim / Bike / Run on the program. The next day the same, but a bit longer. Seems daft, but it works. By the following Saturday I felt a million bucks, my body was ready to rip in, and the mind was strong to now focus on getting a full head of steam up as we go into Cairns.
The biggest challenge for me between these two races is that it is my busiest time of year at work. Years ago I made a promise to myself, and my boss at that time, that I would never let IM affect my work, and my passion for what I do for a brand that I love, and I still stand by that. Another promise I made was, to my best ability, try and limit the impact the training has on my beautiful family. Yeah I might miss a couple of binge sessions, or the start of a team dinner or two because I need to head for a swim or run once the day is done, but neither my good work colleagues or my family ever question my commitment to what I do, and are always full of support. The time disappears between these two races extremely quickly because of this busy period!
So the body was recovered, the niggles that I had before Port seemed a distant memory, and I was firing. I was swimming consistent pace, my bike was strong as ever, but my running was peaking as I headed towards Cairns. I had a couple of real key runs in between the two races that really put my mind in a place where I believed I could achieve whatever I set my mind to (within reason of course). As always, it is a bit of a mental battle to keep dragging your arse out of bed as winter joins us, but if you haven’t realised as yet, I’m a pretty determined little shit!
I had some real good chats with Rich in the couple of weeks pre-race, and it was decided that with the data that I had put together in this lead up, we would do a straight run rather than the run/walk that I did at Port. I was happy with this! Race week was here, and I was off to another conference for a couple of days, home on Tuesday night, to be on the plane to Cairns on Wednesday morning. As you probably know, I work up there in the expo from Wed – Sat, which isn’t the ideal prep obviously, but once again, nothing I’m not used to.
Rich called Friday night to discuss the plan. He had taken on board some of my comments and presented me with a plan that I was super confident of nailing! Previously, I’ve got the plan and tried to convince myself that it was achievable, a “I reckon I can do that” mentality. Not this time. This plan was perfect for me, and my head space during a race. It was to be more power on the bike than previous, faster pace on the run than previous, but it was the right way around for me! Put a few in the bank early, and FKN hold on!
Here’s how the day unfolded.
No stress getting to the race start. The long walk down to transition from the carpark as per normal, got my bike sorted and chilled out with Mandi and Carl from work until it was time to get my shit together. I was a little more nervous than normal, but pumped!
SWIM – 58:32 – 1:32/100m avg - 9th in the age group
I took the same approach as always, into the cage early to get towards the front of the rolling start, however, I did go for a short warm up swim as time allowed. This gave me a bit more confidence that the water wasn’t quite as horrible as previous years. Before we blinked, the pros were away and we are being released into the water. The heart rate sky rocketed as I punched through the swell on the way to the first turn buoy. Not a nice feeling at all. But I just knew that once I turn that first can, we will get settled. From there it seemed to take forever to get to the far end of the course; the orange cans just seemed to keep appearing in the distance before I finally reached the next pink turn can. It was another tough little section heading back out into the swell, but then seemed like a quick trip home once we made that turn. I found a few sets of feet during the swim for a bit of help, but for most part I was in my own space. Once the HR settled down, I was pretty comfortable and felt strong! I came out of the water feeling that I hadn’t spent too many cookies.
T1 was smooth, there were only a couple of volunteers in there again, as per last year, so no help. I had decided to carry my shoes to my bike rather than running in them as I was close to the transition exit, and the transition is quite long. I also took note of the guys that I came into T1 with, and a couple were recognisable as being in my category. Onto the bike feeling good.
BIKE – 4:55:21 – 36.24k/hr avg – 12th in the age group
The bike plan this time round was heavy, but I was very confident in getting it done. I was to ride 255 – 260 watts for the first 40k (which would take me to PD) and catch as many athletes as I could, geeing them up on the way past to come with. And then settle in to 240 – 245 watts for the remainder of the ride. To hopefully end up in T2 with a 240W avg, ready to run.
To put this into perspective, I averaged 208W in last year’s ride, so quite an increase.
I felt good onto the bike, and picked up Duncan who I knew from a previous race, he is a very strong athlete and he came with me, sitting his distance. Some hot heads took off past me heading out of town. Before too long I’d picked them back up and had a decent train behind me going into Port Douglas the first time, with a 39k/hr odd average (many thanks to the tail wind). The lead changed a few times, but it seemed that once they came around me, it was time to relax and back off, and put me in a bad position, so I’d make my way around them again. I wanted to race my own race and stick to my plan, but it definitely helps if you have others in similar performance to pace off. I was feeling strong and pushing my power into the headwind on the way back to the turnaround for the second trip to PD, taking stock of how many riders were ahead of me. Outside of the pros there were only one or two trains of five or six riders.
I had a quick stop at special needs to grab my bottles of nutrition, and then had to track back down these riders, which didn’t take long. I was back in contact at Rex’s lookout, and before too long back to the front. I could see that a couple of the guys were starting to struggle on the hills, so knew that they would drop off at some point. Back into Port Douglas the second time and I was still bang on the plan. Coming out of town, I was back on the front and pushing my power, still feeling good, limiting any highs or lows by keeping a cool head. About 10k out of town I took a look over my shoulder on a long straight to see no one behind as far as I could see. I guess they are gooooooone! Sticking to the plan, I just kept ticking off the k’s picking up a rider here or there and spitting them out. J I had a young guy come past me who was riding strong, so I went with. This was a blessing, as he was riding really consistently and keeping me honest on the power. I sat back off him the whole way back to town, never going to the front (I didn’t owe him anything). We were punching into a solid headwind in certain parts of the trip home, but it was bearable. There were a couple of occasions that I questioned if I was going to have legs for the marathon, but I just kept telling myself that “today is your day”. Throw it all out there! One of my challenges I’d set myself was to ride under 5hrs, and I knew that if I nailed the plan I’d achieve that, so that kept me interested as I got closer and closer to town looking at the numbers.
Back to town and into T2 feeling good knowing that I had belted the bike! A 7 minute PB on this course.
THE RUN – 3:19:46 – 4:45 pace/km – 6th in the age group.
Another smooth transition and out onto the run feeling really good. The plan for the day…. the first 5k at 4:30 – 4:35 pace… the next 5k easing off to 4:45 pace, and then I had 32k to hold onto 4:45 pace. Which is a reverse of my previous plans where I would go out conservative, and attempt to get faster each lap. I was actually having to pull myself back in the first couple of k, as I was on 4:20 pace, comfortably. Good problem to have I guess. The first lap went pretty quick, and I was feeling good. There was some awesome support on and off the course which made things a little easier to deal with. Mandi spent most of the race down in a dead part of the course where you double back on yourself, which was a massive help to me on the day. Not only to see her smiling face, but to be able to concentrate on what she had to tell me in regards to splits, how far to the guy in front, and what was going on behind me, also messages from Rich… and some wise words of her own of course. I had the RTC crew hanging out of the RSL on each pass, the TZero crew giving me updates in town of positioning and messages from Rich who was back home in front of the computer… probably more nervous than me. I even had random people telling me my position. They know how to pump a guy’s tyres up!
I knew that Nathan Sandford from Cairns was only about five minutes behind me, and Duncan not far behind him. Both these lads can run, so I knew I was in for a race today, especially with me coming off the bike in 9th position. I had plenty of work to do to hold on to this placing, let alone pull some of the guys back that were in front. But knew all the same that it was mine to take, and mine to lose!
I will say here again that Kona wasn’t the be all to end all leading into this race, Rich has instilled in me that this result will come when it will, and that I just need to focus on having my best day, getting to the finish line as fast as possible, and have no regrets of leaving anything out on course. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when he would say to me.
But wholly shit it came into my head space when I got to the second lap of the run! Haha. I was now in 7th position, knowing that there were 7 slots to Kona in Cairns last year, and a few more spots were on offer this year across the categories, I needed to hang in there.
After taking off out of T2 on the first lap, nailing the first 5k at 4:31 pace, the next 5 at 4:41 pace, I was a little bit ahead of the plan and feeling really strong. This is where the top three inches comes into play, the mental strength to battle from the 10k mark through to the 10k to go mark is what makes the difference between a good race, and a great race. It was time to hold on to a 4:45 pace for the next two laps. The big message from Rich pre-race in this marathon was, if you’re going to actually die by running the next k at 4:45 pace, stop. If you’re not going to die, run 4:45 pace. Fair enough.
I’ve done it enough times now to know the mental games that you have to play with yourself to keep ticking off the k’s. “we only have to run out to this deadshit part of the course one more time” “just get back into town and use the crowd” “Mandi is just up here, get there”. You’ve got to have your triggers, and turn negatives into positives.
I was nailing my nutrition all day, and the stomach was reciprocating well, along with my muscles. The second lap is a bloody battle, but even when I felt like I was struggling, I was still holding onto my pace, which keeps the mind strong. I had conversations with Mandi as I passed, around the guys behind me, and that I felt like they were catching me. The message back was, don’t worry about what’s going on behind you, concentrate on sticking to the plan, and you will catch the guys in front. After news early in the race that these guys behind were close, and the guys in front were 4 plus minutes ahead, it was all about holding on to what I had, staying consistent on my plan, and what will be, will be.
I was getting word through the back end of the second lap, and the start of the third that I was now in 5th place, and the excitement was growing after battling through that middle 20k, whilst still holding my pace. The reality of running a sub 3:20 marathon was real, and the new mind games start with 10k to go, to get to that finish line as fast as possible, ticking the k’s off one by one. The message came from Rich as I came back through town. “you are on a treadmill, stay there!” The other word was that the guys behind were fading further back, and 4th place was only just ahead of me. Wholly shit…. Where’s third, I want to catch that rooster! Haha.
Knowing that I was in this position, and that it was mine if I wanted it, I was asking myself the question of “how bad do you want it”? “DO YOU WANT IT”??? Turns out that I wanted it pretty bad. I hadn’t cramped all day, but with 8k to go, my hammy showed signs. I gave it a big NOT TODAY BROTHER, threw in a crampfix, and found a spot where I didn’t aggravate the little bugger!
Back passed Mandi for my final run out to the last turn around, in fourth position. Hearing those beautiful words “see you at the finish line baby” was music to my ears. I received word on the way back to town that I was now in 4th place, with 5th place only 20 seconds behind me, but that’s ok, I just need to get to the finish line as fast as I can.
I started talking to myself again to get home. “Enjoy this last six k, you are going to remember this run home, this race, for the rest of your life”. “This is the day you achieved the pinnacle of this sport”. “Head up high, and take it in, enjoy the crowd’s attention, and know that Mandi is waiting for you at the finish chute”. This will go down as my most memorable, knowing that I had ticked every box possible on the day, and that I had achieved what seemed like an impossible reality only a couple of years ago. Sub 10 was a goal back then, and now I’ve hit a 9:19, the sixteenth fastest age group athlete on the day, and I’d left nothing to chance with roll down. Wholly shit! I’m still battling to get my head around the achievement. The finish line was a relief to see, and the emotion was hard to hold back! Mandi was so excited, SO GOOD! “you did it babe, you’re going to Kona” she said to me! WOW! The pace for the last 32k was 4:48 pace, which left me with a 4:45 pace overall! Nailed the plan!
I was a little crook after the race, but I got a magic pill from the medical tent to settle my guts, and I was good to go. Bit of recovery, some food, and into the VIP tent to watch the finish line… with a couple of cheeky ciders! All whilst answering some of the 1000 messages I had on my phone from my awesome support network.
Fair to say that I didn’t sleep much on race night, it could have been the copious amounts of caffeine in my body, or the thought of what tomorrow brings for me, but either way, I was lying there at 1am with possum eyes.
Bit of an extension to this report…..
I can’t not talk about Monday, WORLD CHAMPS ROLL DOWN TIME.
I’ve really enjoyed attending the roll down in the past, even well before I was ever in the mix. There’s so many good stories, and achievements come out of it, with people reaching this incredible milestone in their journey… some in their first effort, some 15 IM’s down the road. It was quite a surreal feeling walking over there with Mandi knowing that I had secured my spot with my 5th placing, and I didn’t need a roll down to be heading to Kona. I’ve grown a great long standing friendship with the Voice of IM Pete Murray, and over the last fourteen years of being involved in events with ASICS, he has seen the path that I’ve been on. He knows the battles I’ve faced of getting to this position, having been to Kona twice himself. It would be a special time today for the both of us, as he gets to call me up on stage to receive my slot to Kona. He didn’t disappoint. It took forever to get to my age group however, but once there, he called the four names out that beat me on the day, and none of them were there. Pete did a quick mic check to see if it was on, and then led into his announcement for myself. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as he told a bit about my story “MR ASICS” as he calls me, and I bounced up onto stage for an embrace with the big marn!
The support, and messages of congratulation that I have received since is out of control, thank you so much everyone.
I’m not going to get all soppy here and thank Mandi, the kids and Rich, as they know how I feel about them, and that I can never repay them for what they have aided, and allowed me to achieve.
Watch this space though, as I’m planning on putting together some words about my “journey” of sorts from the fat kid to Kona qualifier, and the coping mechanisms that we have introduced as a family to get to this point.
It’s nearly been two weeks, and I’ve been gently training since race day. Another week or so of cruising, and then back into it for the run to the big show!
For the last two seasons I have watched incredible ironman athletes run down the finish chute in Cairns. Wanting to be a part of the action, I signed up to compete in 2018. After watching my partner Larissa do an amazing job at Ironman Cairns 2017, I decided to ask her coach Em, if she would be willing help me reach my ironman goal. Seven months later it was race time, and thanks to Em’s preparation I was feeling excited and confident of making it down that chute.
This is by far my strongest leg of the race, I followed coach’s orders and got to the front of the swim start. After 200-300m I managed to find some clear water and get into a great rhythm. The plan was to swim strong but hold back given how long the day would be. I swam mostly alone until just after the turnaround, before swimming into a group of five. I stuck with this group until the end which was helpful considering it felt as though we were swimming against the current. Although, it wasn’t exactly a ‘free’ ride to the swim exit with this group, I had to put up with a few blows to the face, including losing my goggles at one point. Happy with my debut ironman swim, time of 56:55 and still feeling fresh.
My first experience of an ironman transition. Turns out it comes with a helpful volunteer and chairs – very luxurious compared to other T1 experiences. My plan was to wipe down my feet and face, before the usual socks, shoes, glasses, helmet routine and then apply sunscreen before jogging off to the bike. Spent a little too long fiddling with my bike shoes, but apart from that happy with my T1.
Having only started using power 6 weeks ago the race plan for the bike was something new to me. The plan was to ride at 70% for the first 90km and if feeling good, up to 75% for the final 90km. Apart from my heart rate monitor disconnecting itself from my watch at the start of the ride, the first 40km went according to plan. This was probably aided by the friendly tail wind all the way into Port Douglas.
At that stage, as I headed back from Port Douglas, my legs started to feel a little heavy - which had me worried given the 140km or so to ride. In hindsight it was probably just the fact that I was now riding into the wind. I had to really focus on my race plan during the next 10-15km, constantly reminding myself to avoid surges. Although with some great views along the course it wasn’t too difficult to forget about any struggles I was having. Eventually my legs got over their little tantrum, and by the time I was turning back to Port Douglas everything was on track once again.
I followed the plan for the rest of the race, as expected there was an unwelcoming headwind for the final 20km. The reward for getting that final 20km done was the ride through the crowds along the esplanade, a great feeling. After the race I realised my average power was lower than I had hoped, in some cases by upwards of 10%. Perhaps my inexperience riding to power, especially over this type of terrain had contributed to the low numbers. In any case I was delighted with my time of 5:26 on the bike. There is no way I would have been able to pull that off six months ago, but there is definitely room for improvement.
I once again enjoyed the novelty of the chairs and volunteers. They even put sunscreen on my neck while I changed socks – incredible! Off to the run.
My plan was to run/walk the marathon at between 4:45 and 5min/km - 14 minutes on, 1 off. The idea was to stick closer to 4:45 for the first half marathon. The first 10km went to plan, everything was feeling good and even the weather was perfect. My stomach then really started to get sick of gels and chews. On my next walk break I couldn’t stomach another chew and skipped it, thinking I was better off not feeling sick.
At the beginning of the second lap, I tried to continue with my plan and get back on the gels. My body didn’t approve, and my stomach problems got worse. Skipping my nutrition then caught up with me and I felt zapped of energy, becoming light headed with very heavy legs. At this point I decided to slow right down and see if I could recover – rather than continue and have to be sick. So, I walked until I felt I could try to run. I couldn’t get back to my planned pace, rarely dropping below 6 min/km when I was running. A few aid stations went by before I decided to try and take on different foods. Over the next few stations I had some banana, watermelon, coke, and even found a cookie. To cool down I also started using ice and pouring it down my trisuit. Eventually something started working, I was able to run for longer periods of time and the pace started increasing. For the last 10km I felt back to normal and was able to maintain between 4:50 and 5:10 min/km, although I continued to walk the aid stations.
In the end I was proud of myself for turning around what looked like a potentially long run leg. I finished with a run of 4:11, much slower than planned but much better than it was looking at one point. It goes without saying but running down the finish chute was a great feeling.
Delighted with my first Ironman race, I can’t wait to pick my next one and have another go. Huge thanks to my Coach, Em, who not only prepared me for the race but was a brilliant supporter on course - as I’m sure all T:Zero athletes would have experienced.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR
SWIM 55:49 – BIKE 5:08:13 – RUN 3:24:05 – TOTAL 9:32:31
T1 – 3:14 T2 – 1:10
30th Overall (including pros) – 19th Age Grouper – 6th in 35-39 Category.
After a great year in 2017, substantially ticking my sub 10hr goal in both Port Mac (9:41:00) and Cairns (9:40:20), I sat down with my Coach Richard and looked to what the plan would be for 2018….. his words…. “I’m going to turn you into a machine on the bike”….. Okkkkkayyy.
Many hill reps of Mt Mee proceeded, on the TT bars, along with a lot of low cadence / high power strength work, and it paid dividends come race day. Whilst maintaining a strong swim program, the bike became even more of a focus as I battled through a calf tear post Cairns last year, and also a hip flexor issue that troubled my running for months. It could however have been a blessing in disguise, as it definitely slowed me down from peaking too early. Rich is amazing at working through these situations, making adjustments to the program to build the strength back up, and reintroduce me to where I need to be.
This build was different to the last, different sessions on the bike, and a lot of run / walking sessions to manage the above said injuries. This continued right through the build, and we introduced the run walk into my racing at the Tweed Coast Enduro. I did a walk run there…. And albeit that I wasn’t overly fit at that point…. I proceeded to record my fastest half marathon off the bike. There’s definitely merit to it, and if it’s good enough for Jan Frodeno, I’m all in.
Training continued to build, as did my confidence and strength that I can go faster than last year. A thought never crossed my mind that this wasn’t possible. 90% of my training was solo again this season, with my training buddies training for other crazy adventures. But this didn’t bother me as I’m still very motivated to chase goals, and I genuinely think this is where my physical and mental strength comes from. There’s no one to hide behind on race day!
My body came good in the lead up to taper, with the niggles subsiding. My pre-race cold came the week before race week this year, which was better than last year when it hit me on the drive down to Port… so I was in a real good place health wise which had me excited!
It’s a busy time in the lead up to race day once you are down there, and it’s a battle to stay off your feet. After completing 7 IM’s now though, the process almost becomes a bit easy, which keeps any potential nerves at ease. I’m never nervous for the race, or if I have done enough work, I’m only ever nervous about what the day will bring me, and how hard I can push myself to get the best result possible. Just get me in the water!
I was super excited that my coach was going to be sideline for this race to give me a razzle when I needed it, but due to unforeseen circumstances he had to make what is a pretty easy decision to not make the trip to Port. There was no question to this decision, and it didn’t weigh my confidence in getting the job done, as I knew that he would be pumping info through Mandi to me.
There was a lot of talk of Kona spots in the lead up, and that I deserve it etc…etc, but this was 100% not my focus leading into this race. My time will come. I genuinely just wanted to hit my race plan perfectly, and get to the finish line as fast as possible. If the result was good enough, and I deserved to head to the big island, I would grab it with open arms (probably cry like a little girl) and chase that finish line down!
This is how my day unfolded……..
I got into the stalls early and was about the sixth row from the front. I like being there… I feel I can belong with these fast feet even if some of them disappear very quickly from my sights. I felt I had a better swim than previous years, but the result was all but the same as last year (a whole seven seconds quicker J) I held some good feet, navigated the course really well to hit the 3800m perfectly on my gps, and entered T1 really comfortable. The swim plan played over in my head while I was in the water, and I stuck to the prescribed effort levels. No idea of the time as I left the water, but was confident it was in the ball park.
I got through here very smoothly, pretty much spot on to last year time wise, but I put my cycling shoes on prior to heading to the bike this time round as I was using cycling shoes rather than my tri shoes. My transitions are very simple really. Quick wipe of the feet, socks on, shoes on and put the helmet on as I head to the bike.
I hit the bike full of confidence and ready to fire. The plan. 230W for the first 60k, 240W for the next 60, and 250 – 260 for the last 60. The hills heading out of town punch the power up pretty quickly, but that wasn’t a surprise, and I felt really good. I rode solo out to the other end of the course, not passing, or being passed, and ended up with 250W for the first 60k, but was feeling very comfortable about that. That was where I ran into Scotty Farrell, one of our gun TZero Head coaches. This was a very big surprise to me, but I settled in with what would be my first real pace line all the way back to town. I pulled turns up front, and got passed when I needed to, dropping off the pace on occasion. But I seem to pull them back real quick when we hit the hills. We had one of the women’s pros tagging along as well, and everyone was holding their gaps which was great to see. We ended back in town together, I punched up Matthew Flinders no problems with my brother running alongside me like a mad man at the tour, he was just missing the pitch fork and devil ears! Haha.
I really didn’t want to lose these guys knowing that I had to stop at special needs for my other two bottles of nutrition…. So I put the pedal down a little and went off the front heading back out of town. My mate at the special needs was a gun and had my bottles out of the bag ready for me, so I barely paused. This was a bit detrimental, as I took off solo and the others were nowhere to be seen behind me. Oh well…. Back to the power plan.
I continued to feel very strong, and I really had no black spots on the bike all day, definitely my best day on the bike to date. The weather was the best it’s ever been in Port, top of 22 with a slight tail wind on the way home, which wasn’t really noticeable on the way out. I kept telling myself on the bike, that “Today was the day, let’s go for it”. I punched out to the other end of the course solo, and was picking up some of the heroes that had gone out too hard on the first lap. One stayed with me, and the third place pro female had reconnected. These two sat on me the whole way back to town… I wasn’t concerned however, we had a tail wind on the way home, and they were holding their gaps on me. So I was happy to ride to my numbers.
I ended up with a 260W avg for the first 60k and 250 for the last 120k. A little over the plan, but at no time did I feel out of my depth.
T2: A very smooth T2, shoes on, running belt on, and took hat, sunnies, nutrition with me to get sorted as I ran. Feeling good.
Like always, I have to continually pull myself back as I head out onto the run, as the legs just want to go. I know it’s a long day, that can be made a whole lot longer if you go too hard too early! I hit Mandi up for my swim and bike splits as I came out of transition so I knew where I was at… I actually thought I was faster on the bike than what she told me, but was still really happy knowing that I was 8 minutes ahead of last year. Time to focus on nailing this marathon.
As we had trained in the lead up to the race, Rich informed me the week prior that we would do a run / walk today, and I was totally cool with it! This was the plan:
Lap 1 – 4:45 pace – walking 30 seconds at every second aid station.
Lap 2 – 4:40 pace – walking 15 – 20 seconds at every second aid station.
Lap 3 – 4:35 pace – walking 10 – 15 seconds at every aid station.
Lap 4 – Open the gate and take it under 4:30 pace…… and only walk if I need to for 5 – 10 seconds.
Well I hit lap one comfortably, running 4:40 - 4:44 pace between stations, and the pace stayed here for lap 2 also, so well on track in hitting the plan at this point, and feeling good. Lap three is always where the battle starts, and the cramp monster was introduced to the game, and I was battling a bit to push the faster pace. My quads were locking up, and where my Achilles meets my calf would grab if I extended too hard. I’ve been here before. This came into play at about 25k, but was manageable. I was now into the short walks at each aid station, and was still able to make deals with the devil to continue to run at 4:40 – 4:45 pace to get to the next aid station, but not 4:35 unfortunately.
Last lap had finally arrived, and it was time to hit it, but I couldn’t find the next gear unfortunately. I was getting messages from Mandi, my brother, and Andrew Perry at different points of the course that the others ahead of me were slowing significantly, and that it was time to go! Believe me, my mind wanted to….. but my legs had other ideas, I was even cramping in my forearms for christ’s sake! The cramps pulled me up on the spot two or three times, having to massage and stretch them out. I threw in a couple of the hideous tasting cramp fix sachets in the final 10 – 15 ks which seemed to help. The fourth time up the hill was the first time I’ve ever walked up that hill…. Both my quads locked up as I turned left at the bottom of the hill and I had to stop. I walked to half way, and got running again.
I seemed to be able to pick the pace up again, collected my fourth band, and had about 8k to go. I ended up catching up with a young fella named “Scotty” on the brake wall who was getting a massive amount of support from guys on bikes, particularly out the back end of the course, so I worked hard to sit on his shoulder and feed off the enthusiasm he was receiving from his team mates, I’m sure one of them was Tommy Raudonikus. I also had Jason and Mandi running all over the place to give me messages, mainly that 5th place was only 40 seconds ahead of me. I did everything I could to go quicker, but I was just holding pace.
Things become so much easier as you get to start counting down from about 8k, and you start thinking about what you are about to achieve in running down that finish chute. It’s a surreal feeling that you can’t really put into words. I was chatting with my new mate Scotty as we both battled to get to the finish line as quick as possible, offering each other encouragement, to push him to the finish line, so he could drag me along! I ran strong to the finish, with my last 8k splits between 4:40 – 4:50.
I ended with a 4:51 average… exactly the same as last year when I ran the complete marathon straight (I will say that it was a 15 second marathon PB though… haha). Very interesting. If I hit the plan 100%, today would have seen me sub 3:20, but not to be unfortunately. I still look at this as an awesome result, especially working through the injuries I had in the build.
I’m 100% confident I did everything I could to get to the line as fast as possible on the day, and have no regrets. The tank was below empty at the finish line. I took my first trip ever to the medical tent, as I instantly started to throw up as I walked away from the finish arch, and was dizzy. All good though, they took all my vitals and gave me some magic little nausea pill, and I was like brand new. I was still cramping like a mofo, so I got a massage and made my way back into the recovery tent.
It’s six days post-race now, and I’ve gently trained every day except Friday, and I feel really good. I’m in a real good place, and will now shift my focus to Cairns IM in just a little over four weeks.
It would be remiss of me to not mention roll down on the Monday. For those that don’t know, this is where they award the places for the World Championships in Kona. Finishing 6th was my best age group result to date, and I knew that there would only be four spots in my age group. I barely slept on Sunday night, but that was probably more to do with the copious amounts of caffeine that I had taken in throughout the day. Long story short, it seemed that every age group in the lead up to mine was rolling down. (rolling down means that if someone doesn’t take the spot, it rolls down to the next person). However, the four spots in the 35-39 age group were graciously taken by the guys that beat me on the day. Good on them.
I’m in a good place, and am training well already. Four more weeks of focus through to Cairns, and I’ll throw it all on the line there again!
Can I go faster?
Sure I can!
Thanks must go to my amazing Coach Richard Thompson, you are a seriously amazing coach, and a good mate! Love ya like a brother!
Mandi, WOW! Your support continues to amaze me, and everyone around us, you are a truly amazing lady and I love you with every bit of my heart! My little support crew, CJ, Ryno & Natty… It always brings so much calm and joy to me every lap, knowing that I’m going to see your smiling faces! I only hope that you see this as me being a good role model as we continue this journey together, and all the sacrifices that are made are a benefit in the future.
Thanks to all the support on Course, Jase in particular who was chasing me all over the place on the bike, he was everywhere. And all the RTC and T:Zero support crew, thanks for making the trip down, Especially you Danno. It was great to have you there. And all the athletes on course, so good! Apologies if I didn’t respond on occasion.
That’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed my report!
It’s taper time, time to start getting fresh and prepping yourself for the big day ahead in a couple of weeks. It’s a time to reflect upon the work you have done, the sacrifices you and your loved ones have made for you to be where you are and to remember how lucky you are to be in a position to be doing an Ironman in the first place.
In a perfect world, we remain completely zen about it all, cruise into the race with linear, cool as you like emotions intact and crush race day like it’s a walk in the park.
However, this is so far-fetched from what normally goes on. For most of us, we go into self-sabotage mode. We reflect on our training, but rather than focus on how much we have done, it’s about what we missed. We begin to doubt our strength and fitness and enter into a somewhat negative mindset which from where I sit, isn’t going to help things in both the lead up and on race day.
Whilst hindsight is a beautiful thing, let’s instead bring our focus to what lies ahead, what we can control and how we can set ourselves up for a kick arse taper.
Control the controllables: we say it time and time again. There are a few things you have control over. Such as the few listed below:
Embrace the butterflies:
You’re going to feel nervous leading into an Ironman, particularly if this is your first one. But rather than trying to suppress these feelings and be super positive all the time, embrace the nerves and butterflies – it means you care and it really is a part of why we do this amazing sport. If we didn’t get the butterflies, it wouldn’t scare us and then what’s the point right!?
So embrace all of the feelings that come your way and whilst it’s important to keep things positive and focus on what’s to come, remember that they’re all a big part of the journey to that finish line. It’s a rollercoaster is this Ironman thing, with big waves of emotions - the better you can navigate your way through it all and stay mostly positive, the better your experience will be.
Enjoy the experience:
As mentioned earlier, it’s a time to reflect and be grateful for everyone and everything in your life that has lead you to being able to be where you are today. It’s a privilege to do this sport, so get out there and enjoy the experience, soak up the atmosphere, the highs and the lows, embrace it all! You deserve to be there, but you are also very lucky to be who you are – adopt an attitude of gratitude!
Go forth and race well. Find your flow, race with grit and above all, embrace everything that comes your way both in taper and race day. It’s one hell of a journey you’ve been on to get there and such a very cool moment in time it will be when you’re smashing down that red carpet like a young Jane Fonda!
“Things work out best for those people who make the most of how things turn out” Coach John Wooden
Coach Scotty Farrell
Click here to find out more about Head Coach Scotty Farrell
ULTRA TRAIL 100 RACE REPORT
I don’t even know where to begin, it was huge, it was amazing, I have been on a high for days! I can’t believe that I felt on top of the world all day? Thanks to my brilliant coach Richard, my wonderful husband Viv and our gorgeous kids, I ran 100 km and can truly say I enjoyed every minute. I wasn’t racing, I didn’t look at my garmin for pace or heart rate, I enjoyed stopping and having something to eat at the check points (CP’s), I appreciated the views and stunning scenery. I ran when I wanted to and walked when I wanted to, it didn’t matter. I felt oddly relaxed from the moment I crossed the start line. I didn’t know how to run 100km, but I believed that I could so I just ran by feel?
Start to Narrowneck CP1 (11.4km)
I hadn’t slept well during the night, I was nervously excited and couldn’t wait to get out there. We haven’t been to the Blue Mountains before and had done only a few short walks to Echo point, Three Sisters and explored the Scenic World boardwalk and rides the previous days. The views and weather had been picture perfect.
I made myself eat a bowl of porridge as I dressed in warm layers. My eldest daughter had already braided my hair back the night before ready for the head lamp I would wear later today. My running pack was ready with the mandatory gear and I had premade my litre of lolly water that I had decided to carry. That had been a light bulb moment of realisation that I only needed the capacity to carry 2 litres of fluid.
Our accommodation was in a great position close to a UTA bus stop and the travel to the start line was hassle free. The wait to my start group time in zone 3 seemed to take an eternity! I ate a banana, had numerous toilet visits and at the last moment stripped down to my shorts & T, armwarmers and gloves.
I have been so excited about doing the UTA 100 since Richard and I stalked the internet in February and managed to get a start position in the sold out event. Since then it has been a huge trail running learning curve for me.
Heal to toe shoe drop, what’s that? Is it important? Trail shoes/road shoes…….difference?
Poles, are they useful? How do you use them? Is there a pole etiquette?
Running back pack/vest….fit, size, volume?
Running in the dark……Head torch? How many lumens?
I have run through countless spider webs, been covered in leeches, seen snakes, wild pigs and cassowary’s in training, had some spectacular falls, become entangled in metres of “wait-a-while” and gotten myself slightly lost on numerous occasions.
Finally my wave at the UTA 100 started at 6.56am.
People set off very fast but I had already decided to jog out as it went straight into uphill anyway. I made my way around the first 5-6km without accidently ending up on the 50km route, gave Viv a big happy smooch and headed down into the trails.
It went down, down, down and was particularly rough through the land slide section. I remember hoping we didn’t have to navigate anything like this at night as I clambered over rocks and logs, wishing my legs were a bit longer. The trail was narrow and I happily trotted along in the queue of people not fussing about pace. The Golden Stairs didn’t trouble me at all. My legs were fresh and the day still felt relatively cool to me having trained in Cairns. I was surprised to find myself already at CP1.
My plan was to stop at every CP and have a good drink of water and something to eat.
Narrowneck CP1 to Dunphy’s Camp CP2 (31.6km)
By this section I had realised there was no chance I was going to get lost today! There was pink flagging tape everywhere and prominent crosses on incorrect routes at each junction.
I took in the gorgeous views and chatted to people around me. Before long we came to the Tarros ladders. There was no queue because they were directing everyone via Duncan’s Pass. There was a lady stuck on the ladder and the volunteers weren’t sure how long it would take to get her down? Duncan’s Pass is a very interesting detour! I was very happy that I still had my gloves on as I used the thick knotted ropes to help me almost abseil down the trail. It is supposed to be only 300m longer than going down the ladders but I’m guessing it takes a lot longer as coming into CP2 I overtook a lot of the same people I had been in front of before the ladders?
CP2: Bakery bun and banana
Dunphy’s Camp CP2 to Six Foot Track CP3 (46km)
I enjoyed the climb up Ironpot mountain, it was very similar to a lot of the trails I had done at home and Ironpot ridge was worth the climb. On pre-reading the somewhat complicated written directions I had wondered why they sent you on this narrow, exposed out and back section? It’s simple, the experience is magical. I rock hopped over granite ledges feeling like I was on top of the world with the most spectacular backdrop and aboriginal music beats. It wasn’t the first time that I wished I ‘d brought my son’s go-pro to capture the moving moments and I locked the experience away in my memory.
Then it was time to go down again, I randomly thought as I precariously slipped and slid down the mountain that I wouldn’t be to bad at this trail running if only I could run downhill!
The last part of this section had a lot of runnable terrain and I jogged along easily, mentally registering the distance sign meant that I had run a marathon so CP3 must be getting closer.
A few hundred metres out of CP3 we were stopped for our mandatory gear check. The phone was easy but my thermals were stuffed deep in the back pocket so I had to take my pack off and ran into CP3 with it only half on.
This was the first checkpoint where crew was allowed and it was so nice to see the kids and my hubby. The kids had been acting as spotters and had seen me up at the gear check then ran down with me. There were lots of people and music playing. Here I refilled my lolly water and collected my poles.
As I didn’t know the course at all and it was too long to remember, I had asked Viv to bring the elevation map to the CP’s so I could see what was coming up. I had decided to run the course CP to CP so it didn’t become too overwhelming.
CP3: It was around midday so I had lunch.
Vegemite sandwich and mandarin
Six foot track to Katoomba Aquatic Centre CP4 (57.3km)
This section is mostly uphill so I had my poles out from the start. I ran and hiked, ran and hiked up Nellies Glen which then became the Six Foot track stairs. More Stairs! I like going uphill and I love using my poles. I don’t think I always run as fast with them but they conserve my leg energy. It didn’t actually take long to get to CP4. My right ITB was tightening slightly but it had just climbed up a lot of elevation and odd stairs.
I had planned to put on warmer clothes and even completely change at CP4 but it was only 2pm so we decided to reassess at CP5.
CP4: Dark chocolate sesame snaps
Katoomba Aquatic Centre to Water point (69.4km) to Queen Victoria Hospital CP5 (78.4km)
I enjoyed this part of the run as it passed through several of the places we had visited in the previous days. It was only mid-afternoon so lots of people were out on the tracks but everyone yelled out “runner coming” to alert people and it was very easy to pass through. Leura forest was a beautiful section, I thought I might use my poles again up Leura Cascades but managed the stairs fine without them. Up and down, Up and down. I loved hearing the bells from the volunteers as we reached the top of a climb. I had a drink of water at Fairmont Resort and started munching on little pieces of my Clif bar as I set off towards Wentworth falls. Here I enjoyed the stepping stones across the falls and watched the sun start to slowly descend in the sky. It was 5pm and I was hoping to get to CP5 before I needed a head torch.
As soon as I hit the bitumen I picked up my pace, cars were tooting and people cheering as they drove to and from CP5. I arrived just as darkness engulfed the CP and my hands started to get cold.
At CP5 we refilled my lolly water for the last time. On went the fleece, gloves, hand warmers, head buff, head lamp and high visibility vest. I was starting to get a bit tired but was still feeling great.
Queen Victoria Hospital CP5 to 100KM FINISH LINE
Viv moved me on out of CP5 before I could get too comfortable. I jogged down from the hospital for many kilometres to Jamieson creek before the uphill started again. There wasn’t a lot of people on this section with me but my headlamp gave me a comforting circle of light and the reflective flagging tape was easily visible. I felt strangely at home in the dark. Richard had made me do so many hours of hill repeats in the dark that I’m sure he could hear me cursing him from Cairns but apparently there was method to the madness 😊
I had a drink at the 90km Aid Station and knew I was now on the last climb. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of people vomiting on the way up. I stopped several times to see if I could help but soon learnt to leave them be.
As I entered Leura forest I started passing 50km people and seeing 100km people going in the opposite direction. I heard one person say to his friend that they must do a U-turn soon. I didn’t want to tell them it was a 30km U-turn!
I saw a sign that said 3km to go, then 2km to go, then I was at the bottom of Furber steps. Apparently there is 951 of these haphazard long steps, wide steps, short steps, inconsistent steps, laddered steps to get to the finish line. I knew from my Trinity beach stair training that it took me approximately 20 minutes to climb 1000 normal stairs. My garmin said I had been out on the track for around 13 and a half hours. Wow, I could get a silver buckle here but it was going to be close!
Ok, head lets love these stairs and the legs will follow, I’m sure that’s what one of the pro’s said on the panel on Friday night. I didn’t really know where the top was but suddenly I was on the board walk and there was my crazy crew cheering me to break the 14 hour mark. It was so exciting I forgot to turn my head torch off for the finishing photo. We all ran down the final stretch and under the UTA banner. Someone announced my name, I did a final gear check (rain coat & bandage I think?) and I was given my silver buckle.
I was so excited, I couldn’t stop jumping up and down. I had just run 100km! One Hundred kilometres, that is awesome!.
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Ultraman Australia welcome breakfast. There would have been a few hundred people in the room – which obviously included the 55 athletes taking part in the event and their support teams.
Race week, for any distance, is a stressful time. There is a lot on the line – a lot has been sacrificed. So hopefully bringing it back to what truly matters helps you when you are next homing in your goal race.
When I look around the room, I see 50 very determined athletes. Words are hard to describe the extraordinary feats you are all about to embark on over the next few days. You have all sacrificed so much to be here, physically, mentally, emotionally and no doubt you all have incredible goals, personal goals, that you are so focused on for this weekend.
Everything has been about the next 3 days. For months, if not the past year. It can be easy to get swept away and lose sight of what is important.
Because when I look closer at this room, I see not only 50 athletes, but I see the representatives of 50 amazing teams.
The crews, the coaches, the spouses, the families, the body maintence teams, the training buddies, the mechanics, the work colleagues, the shrinks. They all aren’t here but they are so crucial to each athlete getting to the start line and through this event.
At any part of today, or the proceeding 3 days you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, upset. Remember your team and be grateful. For everything. This is a massive team event and without each person playing their part, the machine wouldn’t work. So take time to be thankful, to be grateful.
There is an old saying that goes “The best view comes after the hardest climb”. But I have come to realize that true solace is found, not in the view, but in the difficulty of the climb itself. Those final 400m along the beach on Monday afternoon is amazing, but trust me, what you endure over the next 72 hours to get to the finish line is what its all about. Embrace every moment from now to your finish line..
Be grateful, be humble, be phenomenal.
Head Coach Richard Thompson
The rigors of long course endurance racing are such that you can’t just get out there with a bottle of water and hope for the best. There’s a very good reason why there are hundreds of sports supplements out there for you to sample and use.
Let’s dive right into my own race nutrition plan (and a little either side of race day) for Port Mac Ironman in a little over a week away. And while I’m at it, I’ll do my best to throw in a few why’s behind my madness methods (that are by no means mad BTW).
There’s the old school thoughts of carb loading… which I don’t prescribe to. Why? Because smashing down extra starchy carbs like pasta all week is going to lead to a feeling of bloat and heaviness, even some water retention and weight gain. With sensible eating and a big decrease in volume and intensity, there’s no real need to be overloading, your muscles will be well and truly ready.
My advice here: keep things simple. Go for quality (real food), stick to your normal routine and if anything you may even need to eat slightly less than normal due to your decreased training and subsequent appetite. Above all, get organised early in the week and sketch out a rough plan for the week. Race week is hectic enough without worrying about what you’re going to eat on a whim.
For me, and this starts at about 6 weeks out, I get a little stricter with my eating. Wholefoods become the sole focus of my eating (not that aren’t normally) and treats...not so much if any at all. Think of your body like a race car… the better and more nutrient dense the fuel… the better the performance.
What does this look like you ask? Here’s a rough example of what my week might look like (ideally).
Breakkie: scrambled eggs with spinach and avo washed down with a banana smoothie (banana, peanut butter, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, ice and milk of choice- for me- coconut milk).
Lunch: generally leftovers from the night before. Maybe a basic rice bowl (eg. rice, teriyaki chicken thighs, broccoli, carrots, capsicum)
Dinner: Kitchari- lentils/dhal with roasted veg. (basically it’s an indian/ayurvedic lentil and rice dish). I throw roasted potatoes and any other roast veg on top and squirt some lemon juice over it and voila… sooo good.
Thnacks: go to’s for me. Fruit (apples, mandarins, bananas… the usual), rice cakes with avo + lemon + pepper- so good, a boiled egg, a carrot with peanut butter. Something real food based.
Breakkie: Usually at race venue now so this can vary. But likely avo and eggs on sourdough with lemon. Keeping things simple.
Lunch: again simple Simon: a starchy carb dish perhaps like a potato bake or potato salad (homemade if possible so I know what’s in it).
Dinner: Burger time: a simple Grill’d chicken burger and a handful of sweet potatoe fries.
Thnacks: Bananas, rice cakes w avo or peanut butter.
Saturday (the day before the race):
Today I’m keeping things nice and simple (seems I like simple things). For my own and my competitors well being… I’m staying away from gas producing foods like onions and beans/lentils etc. And sticking to simple, wholefoods like spuds, rice and protein like eggs, and chicken. If you know some foods trigger gas or porr digestion then avoid these today perhaps.
Breakkie: Veggie omelette + small smoothie
Lunch: Rice bowl / fried rice (preferably homemade) or sushi
Dinner: Either a burger or stir fry with simple veg and egg noodles or rice.
Thnacks: banana, apple, rice cakes with avo or peanut butter (pics is my fav FYI)
During all of the above eating I’m also making sure I’m drinking a glass of water with meals and have a bottle of water and/or electrolytes with me at all times to make sure I’m drinking to thirst. It’s common to be out getting bikes sorted, registering, catching up with friends etc and leave yourself short on the hydration side of things. Prep a couple of bottles each morning and take em with you in a bag. Be mindful of not letting yourself get thirsty or short of food. It’s stressful enough without getting hangry.
There’s a couple of options here for a pre race meal. Basically, the closer you are eating to race start the smaller the meal should be. It’s a tough one… ideally you’d have a proper brekkie or meal no closer than 3-4 hours prior to race start so your body has time to move it out of the stomach but it’s still going to be making it’s way through for the usual 6-8 hours of digestion time.
My advice here: have something a bit smaller and then have snacks leading into race start. You don’t want to be hungry but you don’t want to have a belly and digestion system full of food either. The other option is to get up at midnight and have a bigger meal giving it plenty of time to pass through… but that’s not advisible in my opinion.
So, here’s what my brekkie pre race will likely be:
Pre race brekkie (roughly 2-3 hours pre race)
Sourdough toast x 1 with 1-2 eggs and avo- likely pre boiled eggs so I’m not cooking. Or a simple bircher muesli with banana (pre made the night before). Not a massive portion size… just enough. I’m going to keep a banana and energy bar with me to nibble on as I duck in and out of porta-loos and cues for racking bikes etc. Plus I’ll have a bottle of electrolytes to sip on as I’m getting ready.
Race time (finally- we can breathe now):
As I mentioned first up, you can’t get out there and expect your system to go all day and be putting nothing in there. Like any engine… it needs fuel. Now, the amount of energy going in you can get away with depends on a heap of variables which we won’t go into today. But for most of us, we need to be getting in a source of carbs in the vicinity of 40-70 grams per hour on the bike and 30-50 grams per hour on the run. We focus on carbs, as this is predominantly what your body fuels off during an Ironman. And carbs, as you may well know, come in many different forms for racing. From gels, bloks, chews, carb drinks, bars, fruit, sandwiches, spuds etc. The more liquid form the carbohydrate like a high carb drink solution, the easier the processing down below. The more wholefood in nature, the harder your system has to work to break it down. It’s for this reason, I tend to recommend more liquid form for race day. Keep in mind as well, this is something that you really should have been practicing for months leading into your big day.
Anyhoo, check what my race day will likely look like. And I say likely, because in all my races, I’ve had a couple that have gone exactly to plan. Especially once you’re off the bike.
Pre swim start
As I mentioned earlier, I’ll have with me a banana, some sort of snack/energy bar like a clif bar or muesli bar and a bottle of electrolytes to sip to thirst. I’ll make sure I’m nibbling on this and stop eating with 15 mins to race start to let things settle and get my zen on.
Swim swim swim…
As soon as I’m on the bike, I’m wanting to settle things down by getting outta town, finding my flow and maybe sipping some electrolyte to start with. Once settled, roughly 10-15mins in, my day of smorgasbord starts… roughly every 15-20 mins, I’m going to drip feed the fuel in. Little bits and more often. Why? Because it’s far more gentle on the stomach to be putting little bits in more often than one or two bigger lumps of energy every 40-60 mins and once you start your body on all the refined sugars you’ll be pumping in all day, you need to keep the fuel flowing or you’ll risk having a sugar crash… make sense!? (I hope so).
For me: the first two hours on the bike will be a mixture of a high carb solution fluid mix in my bottle and small bits of clif bar, maybe even a banana. In the next few hours I’m keeping everything in liquid form. Mainly from the bottle and I’ll have back up bloks and gels onboard in case I lose a bottle or get sick of the drink (it happens occasionally). I’m aiming for 60-70g of carbs per hour and I’ll hydrate to thirst based on the weather conditions. Because it’s Port, I anticipate it being a bit cooler 20-25 degrees celsius and no humidity so I won’t be over doing my hydration (just staying on top of it within reason).
Once on the run, for me it’s all about bloks, gels and coke. My carb intake decreases as my HR climbs so I’m aiming or 40-50g per hour mainly from bloks. I’ll have a blok every 15 mins and top up with a caffeinated gel every hour or so. Once I’m sick to death of gels and bloks, I’ll move to coke for the last part of the race… as late as I can hold out.
If I get any distress in my gut throughout the race, I back off the fluids for a bit, especially water and back my effort off as well, but keep moving forward. Then slowly ease back into it.
As much as you want to get stuck into all the treats… think about fuelling your body with as many nutrients as possible as well. Post race for me is still very healthy on the whole with my meals based around lots of veg and protein to rebuild all that damage from the day before. And keep eating and drinking well for a few days before you hang up the boots. And be nice to yourself, sleep as much as you can, eat well and catch up on all those little jobs you’ve been neglecting to get the big race done.
It’s important to remember and prep yourself, that rarely does everything go to plan during an Ironman, especially in regards to your nutrition. But going in without a plan is a sure fire way to leave one of those things you can control, to chance. So get on it if you haven’t.
Enjoy the ride, have fun and crush it!
Feel free to chuck any questions on the FB post in the collective too, I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can.
Head Coach Scotty Farrell is a qualified nutritionist and age group Ironman Champion - learn more about him here!
By Coach Lisa Spink
So we are all now well into the year, we have poured over endless race calendars, finally locked in our goals for 2018, paid the race entry fees, booked the flights and accommodation BUT now what!!?
Now it is time to put a plan in action.
If you really want to achieve your best you need a plan that is made for your lifestyle, your family, your work and well simply put - YOU. That is where TZero comes into its own – with fully individualized, custom programs with 24 / 7 access to your coach and you can be anywhere in the world.
Now you have a program and coach you can trust to support you in achieving your goals BUT the job is far from done. I like to say there are three A’s to “Living Your Potential” and here they are.
A – Attendance. Without doubt the key to success is training consistency. Looking at the current world ranking, stalking your competitors on social media, researching the wattage of the Tour De France winners or finding the latest and greatest gadgets to add to your racing kit can all seem important, but nothing is more important then getting the training done. I am not saying this is easy, endurance training is tough, it takes dedication, commitment and sheer determination – but for most of us that is what draws us to it. There will be times when you are smashed and the thought of that 5 km swim set, 6 hour ride or 2 hour run is just too much to handle - this is where the 5 minute motivation trick comes into play. When times are tough, instead of looking at the total session, thinking it is all too hard, ignoring the alarm, rolling over in bed and feeling guilty all day because you missed a session, just look at the first 5 minutes. Put your training gear on, get to your training venue and complete the first 5 minutes of the session. You will find once you get through the first 5 minutes more often then not the rest of the session will roll on and you will have gone from completely missing a session to attending and completing at least a large portion if not the whole session. Attendance equals consistency which equals results and every session sessions starts with the first 5 minutes.
A – Application. Whilst turning up is the first step towards success, it is really what you do when you get there that takes you to the next level. As TZero coaches we spend a lot of time on planning your season, your macrocycles, your training weeks and then right down to the durations and intensities of each set. As one of the head coaches commented to me, if an athlete is doing 10 sessions a week and does an extra 5 minutes each session, that is an extra 50 minutes per week of training, similarly if you cut sessions short. Adding or missing parts of sessions, increasing or decreasing prescribed intensities and changing the times / days of sessions can all dramatically affect the outcome of the training program… In a negative way! That’s why you have access to your TZero coach so they can make decisions on any changes that may need to be made for whatever reason. This not only applies to duration and intensity, it applies to skills and intentions. The greater you hold yourself accountable to performing skills during the sessions the greater your success. Application is all about performing each session as it is prescribed with the greatest amount of purpose possible.
A – Attitude. This is the game changer between the good and the great. Listen to yourself when you talk and you will get an insight into your attitude. What do you relate to?
I want to achieve X or I can achieve X?
I have do X session or I will do X session?
I was (insert excuse here ie sick / injured / the training program was wrong / had a mechanical / weather was bad, watch / computer / power meter didn’t work) so I could of gone faster / finished on the podium / got a qualifying slot or I did everything I could on race day and I will keep learning and getting better.
When you listen to the greatest athletes in the world, their attitude center’s around
I can ……………………..
I will ……………………..
I did ……………………..
You are in control of your own attitude – just like swimming, riding and running – keep training your attitude towards - I can…, I will… I did …….
Good luck to everyone in 2018 – “Live Your Potential”
Coach Lisa Spink is one of the best endurance coaches you have never heard of! With over 20 years experience and incredible stable of results, we are super proud to call her a T:Zero Multisport Coach.
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!