THE T:ZERO BLOG
Free advice, content and media for all. It's our way of giving back to the tri community who have given so much to us. Enjoy!
Wow – and just like that 2019 is done and dusted!
I hope you’ve all had a great festive season. I’ve been on my off-season since Ironman Cozumel and have really enjoyed the time away from structured training. I’ve been keeping the body moving with some light enjoyable exercise. It’s been nice having more time to catch up with friends and family over the break and do things that I wouldn’t usually do while in training like going to a couple of live music gigs. Off-season is now over though and I’m slowly getting back into consistent training. Getting back into training this year hasn’t been an easy feat. I’m not struggling so much with motivation but more so… (GETTING OLDER haha) now some of you may laugh at me saying this as I’m only 28 years old BUT I feel like my body is trying to tell me I’m getting older haha. I don’t remember feeling so many aches and pains in so many places! I’ve noticed the more I eat well, maintain consistent sleep patterns, wear supportive shoes at work, try to keep on top of massage and rolling the aches and pains go away and it’s easier to get going (hope those tips help you too if you’re feeling like getting started again has left you on struggle street).
It’s been GREAT to have a break and all but I’m ready now to start thinking about and working towards my next goal. Yay! So I would like to share with you what that focus is going to be.
My coach and I sat down to discuss my goals for the up and coming year, recently. As many of you know I have come from a strength background (powerlifting), which has mostly given me an advantage on the bike leg. But Ironman triathlon isn’t all about how big your power file is on the bike but mainly how well you can execute the run after arriving into T2. It’s been apparent in long course racing that I arrive into T2 usually at the top of the female amateur race or at least near the top. And it’s always my run where I am trying to not give too much time away and/or where I get overtaken.
Seeing as my run is letting me down quite a lot we have made a decision to focus on building my run volume over the first third of the year. I’m excited to spend more time running and working my way up to some pretty solid run volume (for me), we’ll aim at trying to build up towards 100km’s of running per week dependant on how my body reacts and adjusts over the block. Obviously, there is a chance of injury here so I have to be 100% aware of my body and communicate with my coach when anything feels out of place so we can move progressively forward.
I would like to take 20 minutes off my marathon time. I really enjoy the challenges of Ironman training and working towards trying to be the best athlete that I can be so I will try and provide myself every opportunity to do so while trying to balance “life.” I’d like to try and execute a marathon that I’m happy with in my home town at Ironman Cairns.
After Ironman Cairns we plan to bring back in higher bike and swim volumes in the lead up to the Ironman World Champs 2020.
I can’t wait to share how the run progress goes over the next few months.
Thanks for reading along
Chat to any group of runners or triathletes and you are sure to uncover some stories about how tendon injuries have interrupted training sessions, derailed race plans or made life generally miserable. We triathletes and multisport athletes are always up for a challenge though so lets plough through this tendon game!
As discussed in my previous post tendons are living tissues. Tendons, are, in fact the attachments of our muscles to our bones. As with any living tissues there is turnover of the cells that make up our tendon tissues and therefore tendons can adapt or maladapt according to the balance of training load and recovery.
Undoubtedly, the most common tendon injuries encountered in the triathlon world are lower limb injuries related to impact loads such as running – full body weight with a large impact factor, repeated hundreds or thousands of times on a run.
The tendons such as the achilles, the high hamstring up in the gluteal region, the patellar tendon at the knee and the peroneals in the outside of the lower leg are the most common sites for tendon related pain.
The jury is still out as to what causes tendon pain, but the most accepted theory right now is that the pain comes from biochemicals that sensitise nerve endings in the tissues in and around the tendons.
But…GREAT news here! The link between actual pathology on imaging and pain is a less likely explanation to pain – even if there is “pathology” on imaging, it doesn’t have to explain your pain or even dictate your outcome.
What to do if you have tendon pain? Well, whilst tendons can be a pain in the butt, or ankle or knee for that matter… you can -
Ah yes, and then lets go back to our exciting triathlon/ multisport world. The juicy stuff – what can I do with my actual swim/ bike/run to potentially help in this tendon game you ask?
Some great ideas to think about are:
As with any progression toward a great race day performance, tackling tendon issues can require a lot of patience and persistence. Luckily these are qualities that are innate to our triathlete and multisport population!!!
So, in the spirit of the determined athlete - climb that mountain, as, in most cases, you are in charge of your own tendon destiny (insert grand theatrical music)!!
Next up, bones and bone health – I’m excited about this one - I think we are going to have an osteoblast, and it will be kinda humerus…ha ha,. Until next time!
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Coach Scotty - Sunshine Coast, Qld
“Successful athletes see the big picture and have a long-term approach to their training and goals. They also generally possess a growth mindset. Rather than seeing setbacks as failures and obstacles as a potential risk, they see them as an opportunity to learn and develop.”
T:Zero co-founder, Director of Coaching and resident qualified nutritionist Coach Scotty has been “officially” involved in triathlon and endurance sports for over 15 years and “unofficially” running his entire life. Making his debut via sprint triathlons in Hervey Bay in the early 000’s, he subsequently discovered his real love for the sport existed after 7+ hours of anything endurance related … aka “when the fun begins!”.
Scotty’s favourite race was Ironman New Zealand 2014 - a day where everything fell into place and he learned how deep he could go and still come out smiling! His favourite leg is the bike, because, as he says, it took him “forever” to get any good at it.
As a coach/dad/pseudo dad, Scotty derives his greatest pride from seeing an athlete achieve their goal - especially when he’s able to be there and see it happen in person. An experience, he says, that is second-to-none.
While he has some big, scary goals for 2020, at the moment, Scotty’s training purely for the love of it, and is motivated daily by the search for new boundaries and facing his fears. He cross trains with some yoga, Brazilian Ju Juitsu, chasing his kids, mountain biking and surfing. Outside the normal swim/bike/run, he dabbles in gardening, home schooling his kids, bee keeping, reading and listening to podcasts.
In lots of ways, Scotty is not your typical triathlete. In his own words, he’s more “laid back than most” and he says that while his process is still “methodical and precise”, he has chosen to do this sport and at the end of the day, “whilst I love it, it doesn’t define me”. His endurance goal for 2020 is to get out there, have as much fun as possible and race something scary and new!
Since becoming a T:Zero coach, what is the one new belief, behaviour, habit formed or skill honed that has most impacted your coaching performance?
As I become more experienced and my skillset has developed in all areas, I think the most valuable thing to come with the experience is the ability to zoom out (when required) and not get too caught up in the weeds. Educating athletes to be able to see things this way, from a global, long term perspective, is key to kicking over those big goals. Let the coach deal with the weeds and get down to the business of nailing the process ;-)
Have you ever had an apparent training or race day “failure” that has set you up for later success?
So many. Huge one for me was Kona 2014 and learning (in hindsight) all about the effects of outside mental stress leading into a big race. In order to nail an A race at that level, stress levels on all fronts need to be nice and low leading in, in order to firstly make it there in one piece and then be fresh enough to have a great performance.
Best piece of advice for someone starting out in the sport? Or best advice you’ve received?
For those starting out: be patient, be consistent and don’t be in too much of a hurry to go straight to full Ironman distance. Play around for a while in the shorter distances and get some decent skin in the game. It takes many years to build true endurance fitness, so be prepared to think in two year blocks as opposed to two months.
Do you have any tips for athletes struggling to find some motivation or who may have temporarily lost focus?
Take a break. If the motivation is not there and you can’t see the big picture, then either you’re heavily fatigued and in need of a rest, or you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. For the most part, motivation will ebb and flow, but you shouldn’t have to be constantly searching for it … the love of it all should be dragging your backside out the door each day. Otherwise, don’t forget the big picture … not every session needs to be all fancy and motivating. The big picture tells us that the real results come from putting together the big blocks of training, rather than the odd magic session.
What is your favourite thing about being a T:Zero coach?
I like when I get to share in the journey of ticking off big goals with an athlete, the same goes for sharing our coaching team’s experiences in training and racing. The joy in the lightbulb moments and breakthroughs is awesome. And sharing it means I get to vicariously relive all these experiences over and over. As well as this, I am constantly having my thoughts and perspectives shaped and challenged by the team environment, effectively making me a more well-rounded coach.
And one more for good measure (and a big head) …
Why do you love being part of the T:Zero Multisport team?
Helping athletes and other coaches to achieve their goals is what it’s all about. I got into coaching because I am drawn to helping others and sharing my knowledge, and the more you help, the more you receive in return. I get so much out of working with athletes and coaches. And I’m a not-so-closet nerd… so the technical side of coaching is always fun too.
At the start of the month I headed over to the other side of the country for Ironman WA and Ironman 70.3 WA. It was a massive weekend and a race that didn’t finish for me until our last T:Zero athlete crossed the finish line in 16 hours, but it was 100% worth every minute. Here are the top 5 take aways from that weekend:
1. Take a bow, Busselton
This was my 7th trip to Busso, and while it is an incredible location, often there is some caveat to the weather. Despite some heavy winds as late as the day before the race, Sunday came and it was a sight for sore eyes. Breathless, glass like conditions out on the water made for some fast swimming, a light breeze (if you wanted to call that) on the bike and moderate temps throughout the run, not only made for fast times but really enjoyable conditions for the athletes. More please Busso!
2. Exercising your strength when the course is consistent
When the course is so as flat as it is at Busso, whether it is for the Ironman or the 70.3, it forces you to play to your strengths. We saw 4 T:Zero athletes reach their AG podiums (3 taking their spot to the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii next year) and while not one of them had it all their own way the entire day, they all pushed the limits with their strengths and benefited greatly from it. We had Andrew Perry clock the top 3 fastest bike splits in all age groups, and Brett Dunstan arrive into T2 leading his age group. We also had Jac Crofton, who was patient on the bike to arrive into T2 just making it inside the top 10, to unleash her strength on the marathon to get on the podium! Pays to play to your strengths!
3. The Flies
They are still there. People walking around on the Sunday with nets covering their entire head, making every single person jealous. Though truth be told, after the first few hours of swatting close to your face every 12-15seconds you really forget you are doing it. Oh Busso.
4. The T:Zero Family is everything to us
We caught up with some of the T:Zero athletes the day before the race at a local café. It was such a wonderful time to meet these incredible humans, listen to their story, wish them the best for the impending date with destiny and share the common bond of being part of this wonderful community that is T:Zero. We had athletes around table from Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast – such a cool experience to be a part of.
5. When you trust the process, amazing things can happen on debut
There isn’t much greater satisfaction in guiding an athlete to their first Ironman. Coach Stu Hill had that very task with his athlete Jade Pavitt. She was nervous in the days leading into the race, but was a pillar of strength and inspiration throughout the race. Not only did she break 13hours but it was the smile she had from ear to ear seemingly all day. Speaking with Coach Stu about Jade’s prep – and he struggled to find a way to explain how committed she was to the process. “She came to me in a moon boot and a history of multiple injuries. To see her race the way she did – goodness I was so excited. Her prep was so measured. She had a family of four kids, has a lot of balls in the air, but she got on with the job, never complained and committed to the goal. I am so so happy for her”.
Trust the process – it is an incredible journey.
That is the wrap from Ironman WA and Ironman 70.3 WA – Well done to everyone who raced – looking forward to a full line up of races in 2020!
By Head Coach Scotty Farrell.
Jack Johnson wrote a song about Bruce Lee. He changed the word ‘Bruce’ to ‘everyone’. But essentially, the song (called ‘Inaudible Melodies’) was all about how Bruce Lee was moving too fast for the speed of the camera shutters at the time. Imagine being that well practiced the camera couldn’t keep up? Do you think Bruce Lee started out at lightning speed? Or do you think that lightning speed came from years upon years of laying the foundations and building some slick neural patterns ?My guess is the latter.
What’s your point Farrell? I hear you saying.
Well... one of, if not the biggest things I see with athletes is this want to operate in the grey zone. Too fast to be easy, and too slow to be hard. A no mans land if you will, probably where you’ll find yourself during a marathon or Ironman - which is perfect for race day... training, not so much. The hard thing for us athletes, and coaches, is finding that zone of optimal easy endurance. Given, the majority of our training across the years is spent here (~80%), it’s important we get it right, right?
So, how do we nail it and make sure we are operating at a truly easy endurance effort, and not pushing that little bit too far into the grey zone?Without diving into a full blown lecture on ventilatory and lactate thresholds, let’s just say there are two important markers for endurance athletes, VT1/LT1 and VT2/LT2. The first one (your aerobic threshold) is what we want to stay under for the majority of our training and the second (lactate threshold) is a top end marker to base your interval and high intensity work around, and a handy marker to set training zones from. Without going into a science lab, coaches will get you doing some basic field tests/ time trials or analyse race data to determine these markers and set your zones. But there is a pretty easy way to monitor things for yourself and make sure you’re going easy enough, that also correlates really well with the above threshold markers.
The ‘talk test’. As simple as it sounds, if you can maintain a steady conversation whilst training (obviously not in the pool), you are on the money. If you find that you can’t hold a convo whilst ticking along, then you’re probably smoking things out a little bit too hot, and need to cool the jets and slow down until you get things under control. Another way I measure things myself is simply to try breathing through my nose... if I can, I’m zeroed in, if not, I pull on the reigns. I can’t underestimate the value of keeping things easy and ensuring you are training at the right intensity for your easy endurance training.
Time and time again, we say it, the research says it, and yet we still see the want to half wheel things. Dial it back, cool your jets and save some biscuits for when you really need them. Like race day or your high intensity focused sessions.
Try it and see 😉
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Injury time outs ARGH! They seem to pervade the sport of triathlon, ruining race plans, creating DNS’s and sending the consistency of training into a complete shambles! As an athlete when the pain subsides, you are just itching to get back in the game…..
Or imagine another scenario - you have just returned from a glorious offseason of beach time on a tropical island, sipping drinks from cocktail glasses with small umbrellas …. And now with renewed enthusiasm you return back to training….
Or perhaps you are new to the sport, or new to one of the three disciplines of swim bike or run, and ready to tackle your training plan and first race. For example a long time competitive swimmer, moving into triathlons ….
So what do all these scenarios have in common? Apart from likely being periods of high enthusiasm for training, they also represent prime periods for injury risk of the musculoskeletal kind…. the kind of injuries that, as a physio in my former life, had athletes knocking on the door and kept me suitably employed!
So, whilst this blog may not be your first choice read if you are in offseason lounging beside the pool, it is my intention that there are some useful gems that you will glean from your time investment here and it will help you avoid ending up in injury rehab or DNS land.
So please read on - this is TISSUE ADAPTATION 101. Whilst most of us have a decent understanding of improving cardiovascular fitness, often less thought is given to how your tissues, i.e muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones adapt throughout your training and racing cycles.
It is quite often the case that your cardio fitness (also known as a central adaptation) improves well ahead of your biomechanical (or peripheral) adaptations and your tissues just can’t keep up. Hello niggles or worse, hello injury.
What muscles, ligaments, tendons and bone have in common are they are LIVING tissues with a cellular makeup that changes and adapts to stress. The concept of stress and adaptation of tissues is not unlike the concept applied to cardiovascular fitness. For your living tissues to adapt, they must have an appropriate stimulus and then appropriate time to adapt.
Tissues can adapt in both a negative or positive direction. Too little stress and tissues can weaken, resulting in a lower tolerance to stress. For example after a period of detraining or injury, because of the reduced load, there is often a reduced tolerance to physical stress of the tissues.
At the other end of the spectrum, even with some fairly hefty training and resilience in the bank, there is often a breaking point. An upper limit so to speak for athletes - based on their genetic make up or biomechanics/ the way they move. Although this is a topic for another day, never fear, what you think is your upper limit may not necessarily be so and there may be steps you can take to extend this!
So, armed with some introductory knowledge on tissue adaptation, where to from here? For now, the message is that positive adaptations in your tissues are forged through appropriate amounts of training stimulus with appropriate periods of recovery.
Be patient with the plan set by your coach, and train with a measured sense of progression - your living tissues of muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments will thank you.
The reward for your consistency and patience is more glorious runs with friends, ocean swims with mates and bike rides along country roads. Awesome!
Next up, I will delve into the first of our living tissues, our tendons. Well, not because they are first on any priority scale but I know of a few high hammy and Achilles tendons having a party out there… and if you know a few runners or triathletes you probably do too!!
---- Click here to learn more about qualified physio Coach Heidi ----
I’m home now from my 2019 “A Race.” I am so stoked with my race that I thought it would be a good idea for this month’s post to be my Ironman Cozumel race report. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, I made a few mistakes throughout the day but I’m happy to take onboard a few lessons for future racing. I am super happy to come away with an overall time PB, swim PB and Bike PB. I am excited to share with you how my day went over in Cozumel.
I woke up after a really good night of sleep in our little villa and started the morning off with oats for breakfast and a coffee. I felt calm and focused while ticking everything off my pre-race checklist. 5:00 am rolled around pretty quickly and so it was time to leave the villa to pick up the rest of the T:Zero crew (TB, Robbie, Murph, Loz and Crackers) and head to transition 1. We piled into the 8-seater van, then Damo drove us to Chankanaab Beach for T1 check. We agreed on a quick stop, “get in, do your business and meet back at the van.” No one had any major issues with their T1 set up so we were on our way to find the swim start nice and early. Luckily, we were a couple of cars behind a huge Ironman bus so we followed it which took us right to the start of the swim. Although, Damo and a couple of the guys may or may not have had to sweet talk a security officer working on the boom-gate to let us into the Marina. A quick goodbye to Damo then we made ourselves familiar with where we’d need to line up for the rolling start, then we made our way back to the marina for some time to chill.
We found a nice quiet spot right next to a multimillion-dollar boat parked in crystal clear water, which had a huge barracuda swimming off the back. This was a good spot to do some final stretching. I played over in my mind what I’d like the day to look like, I then ate some Clif Bar, put on one last body glide and carefully placed the swim skin on (big shout out to my friend, Jody, for sending me her swim skin - thank you). All of a sudden it was time to drop the morning bags off, have one last toilet stop and head to the swim start. I enjoyed starting the day off surrounded by a group of larrikins, I’ve never laughed so much before a race. We watched the Male Pro and Female Pro races start and then we seeded ourselves into the rolling start. Before I knew it, we’d all said good luck to each other and the group of age group athletes were quickly moving forward through a makeshift doorway and out onto a skinny, light blue, slippery pontoon. I somehow ended up on the rear side of the pontoon so I was trying my hardest not to accidently fall in on the wrong side. Ha-ha. I saw Robbie make a B-line for the very right-hand side and enter the water with a powerful dive so I followed his lead, although I didn’t look as graceful entering the water. Go time!
Swim – 52:37
I took it pretty easy for the first 300m as I couldn’t do a proper warm up. Then a pair of feet came swimming past me which looked to be going at the perfect speed for me to jump on their feet. We swam to the very right of the group which is perfect for me as I breathe on my left. It was quite choppy for the first half of the swim but the water was still clear enough to be able to see the feet in front of me. I stayed with this athletes feet for a couple of kilometers until we got to a section where we had to work our way through a few athletes, this varied our speed and I remember touching his feet for the first time all morning about 4 times in a row. Oops! He did not like that! I got kicked so aggressively (although, I didn’t end up with a black eye like two of my team mates – it was brutal out there) and then sprinted off. I could still see him so I spent the next 500m lengthening my stroke feeling strong to try and jump back on his feet but he seemed to always stay at that illusive 20m ahead until he all of a sudden disappeared.
In the last kilometer I couldn’t really find any suitable feet to sit on so I found a rhythm and was happy swimming by myself. I knew that this swim was always going to be fast with current assistance but I couldn’t believe when I hit turn buoy. Where did the time go? I got to the ladder and tried to pull myself up but my legs went to jelly and I fell back into the water. Ha ha. Up I went on the second attempt. I hit lap on my watch and realised why I swam so fast, the course was about 300m short. Transition went so smoothly apart from nearly missing the female change tent, I ran to where my bike was racked, grabbed it and started heading towards the mount line, thinking, “gee that went a little too smoothly, I hope I didn’t forget anything...”
Bike – 5:01.57
Successful flying mount for the first time using my new Bont cycling shoes and Speed Play pedals which were all clipped in ready for a fast transition. Hmm, so you know how I was saying how comfortable my swim skin from Jody was and how quick my transition felt? Yeah, well, about 1-2km I slid my hand along the outside of my thigh on the way to grab some nutrition out of my rear drink bottle and as soon as my hand hit my outer thigh I realized I still had the swim skin on. I made a quick decision to get off my bike completely, take the swim skin off and stuff it down the front of my tri kit. I didn’t want to throw the swim skin away so it came along for the first lap with me.
The bike lap was made up of 3 x 60km loops. I experienced head winds and slight cross winds on the far side of the island but then on the other side of the island just after going through town there was a hooking tail wind. During the first lap, things seemed to be going to plan, I was approximately pushing the power I needed to, hydrating and eating well and I’d even managed to find a group to legally ride with. At the start of the second lap, I remember thinking how much fun I was having and how fast I was going but the heat really started to pick up this lap and I had to stay focused on nutrition, dodging athletes who were starting their first lap, and hydrating properly.
Halfway through the second lap I made a decision not to stop to collect my special needs because it would have meant losing the group I was with while riding through the head winds (which at 12 meters drafting makes a difference) so I’d decided to drink the on-course hydration/nutrition for the second half of the bike leg. Each time I drank a bottle of the on-course nutrition I would throw up a really pretty pink coloured vomit over my tri bars and top tube. None the less, I was still happy I’d made the decision to stick with the group and knew I had to get calories in so I really focused on consistently eating whatever Clif Bars and Bloks I had left on my bike. Just before coming into town at the end of the second lap, I freewheeled around a corner and at the same time I hit a hole and bumps in the road which threw my chain off. My chain managed to get stuck between my frame and power meter magnet and then it also came off my jockey wheels and locked up between the jockey wheel and its housing. I pulled off into a safe spot, got off the bike, stayed as calm as possible and after a few attempts I managed to get everything running smoothly again.
I’d lost a bit of time to that group so I made the decision to try and ride back up to them, in hindsight, I should have known that this would come back to bite me, especially with already losing nutrition and the day had really started to warm up. After about 10-15km of chasing, I started to cramp really bad. Each time I would cramp I’d have to back right off the pedals, rinse my mouth with Crampfix and eat more calories and the cramp would be relieved and I’d find my groove again. I would go to over-take someone and then I would suffer from a cramp again, I looked like a real jack*ss on the last lap, overtaking people and then slowing right down after making a pass because the sniper was out and he was after my right adductor. I remember hitting lap with 20km to and thinking if I ride no slower than 32.5km/hour I’ll into T2 with a sub 5 hour bike split. I enjoyed having this as a carrot to keep me moving forward. I got to the 180km mark in 4 hours and 58 minutes but I didn’t realise the bike course was a couple of kilometers long. So anyway, I rolled into T2 licking my wounds and a little anxious about the run but at the same time I was really looking forward to using different muscle groups.
Run – 3:51.31
Transition felt like a hot sauna. I sat down to put my shoes on and my adductor locked up a couple more times. I rinsed my mouth out with some CrampFix and then didn’t see any cramps again until the final 10km of the marathon. Coming out of T2 I had a 19 minute lead on 2nd place and realized that I wasn’t feeling great and that the heat was pretty gnarly. I saw Damo at the start of the run and he let me know that it was a super-hot day, I wasn’t going to set any marathon records but if I wasn’t smart I’d be walking the final lap of the run. He advised me to pick a comfortable pace I could hold onto, keep eating and to stay cool. The marathon was made up of 3 loops as well. The first lap I found a pace that felt comfortable and like I could hold that pace all day.
Each aid station I able to chuck ice and cold water over me to bring my core temperature down thanks to the awesome race volunteers. I was eating Clif Bloks every 2km until I got to the 12km mark were I realized that somewhere along the way my second packet had accidentally dropped out of my sports bra. I sort of started to panic a little, very briefly, then I came up with the solution to drink coke and sports drink at each aid station. Once again, the volunteers were great and I didn’t miss a cup.
I got to 16-18km and just felt like I wasn’t getting enough calories in and that I was drinking too much liquid so I tried one of the on-course gels. It was weird and made my stomach feel weird so I avoided them and stuck to coke only until I got to the 22km mark where my special needs bag was waiting for me with 2 more packets of Sodium Clif Bloks and a few more CrampFix sachets. I felt instant relief and was feeling confident that I’d make it to the finish without walking. Second place had put 3 minutes into me in the first lap and then another 3 minutes again on the second lap so we seemed to be slowing at the same rate, even though she was running faster than me.
I started out on the 3rd lap trying to do some calculations. I ran past Damo who let me know that I could secure the win if I just kept moving forward, no plodding along and no walking. I left for my last lap feeling super determined to lock my pace in and not slow down. I also know that anything is possible in an Ironman so I was running pretty scared for that final lap with my head down incase 2nd place had a miraculous last 10km. I suffered from a cramp at the 30km mark, right before an aid station so I rinsed my mouth with a CrampFix, walked through the aid station grabbed two cups of coke and drenched myself in ice cold water, the cramp stopped and I was right to go again. This happened again at the 34km and 38km mark. It was relieving to know with a rinse of CrampFix and intake of more calories that my cramp would be temporarily relieved. I didn’t know where second place was so I didn’t waste any time down the finish chute. I was so relieved and happy when I reached that finish line simply because I knew I’d given it everything I had all day.
Post-race (Overall time – 9:51.46) - 1ST F25-29
I’d never been this sore after a race before, I was worse than after my first Ironman. I hopped into the ice bath in recovery and my calf locked up. It was sooo painful I let out a huge yell. None of the Mexican volunteers knew what to do (poor things) but another fellow athlete grabbed my foot and pulled my toes towards my shin which seemed to do the trick. It was a team effort to get me out of this baby pool. Ha ha. It was pretty funny trying to walk around, I waddled through recovery, found Damo waiting at the end. He let me know of my position which was pretty rad to find out that I’d won the F 25-29 AG and secured my spot to Kona 2020!
Damo put me in a taxi to get me home not long after I’d finished as I was shivering and in a lot of pain. I would have rather do another Ironman again with fresh legs than to have to bend my legs to get into a taxi after the race. Ha ha.
The next day I was so hungry when I woke up so I suggested to Damo that I ride into town and he meet me there so we could get Subway for breakfast. About 7 hours later he ended up with the start of some pretty severe salmonella. He stayed at home for presentations and roll down. After getting home, I realized he wasn’t getting any better that night. We decided to drive him to the nearest hospital at 11pm. The staff at the Cozumel General Hospital couldn’t have been more helpful and caring. We were super lucky to have Damo’s sister there who could speak fluent Spanish to the Doctors and Nursing staff. After spending the night in hospital and recovering the next day we were finally able to celebrate with a scuba dive and a few sunset drinks with new friends on our final day in Cozumel. I’m now looking forward to some down time before we start building for next year’s season.
Thank you to “Team Ash”
To set a goal, work towards it and then actually achieve it is a pretty surreal feeling. There is no way I would have been able to have the race that I did without the help from many. Here are just a few people that helped along the journey that I am incredibly grateful for:
My Coach, Richard Thompson – thank you for always believing in me, also, for your incredible balancing skills between the art and science of coaching. I am truly lucky to have you guiding me through this journey.
My swim coach - Coach Lise - Firstly, thanks for creating the best environment to train in! I am very grateful to be under your watchful eye in the pool, its pretty rad to think how far we’ve come in the last 2.5 years since I started swimming with you. Thanks for showing me how to believe in myself among many other things.
Race Day Support – Thank you to the Collins family (Brad, Cristina, Alana and Damo), Leanne & Richard Crack and Wil Delfin for coming all the way to Cozumel to support me. It was pretty special to see you on the sidelines.
My Cycling training buddies – Thank you to Erik Dodwell, Brendan Cooper (aka Coops) and Peter Westrup (aka Crabs) for riding with me over the last 6 months. I still look back at some of the rides we did and think that we’re slightly crazy. Haha! I always felt stronger and safer knowing I had you with me. I want to also say a big thank you to each of your families for allowing you to be out helping me which no doubt was taking up valuable family time. I am very grateful for you legends!
To my local school communities – Thank you to Chancellor State College, Beerwah State High School and EPC Relief Teaching for always supporting me and trying to work around my training schedule as best as possible. To all the lovely staff who I admire so much thank you for your support and kindness.
To my friends and family – I have missed birthdays (sorry Harry for your 18th) and many other important events or I’ve shown up after a long day of training and haven’t completely been there. I thank you for being patient and allowing me to do what I love. Looking forward to catching up over off season!
Innovation Podiatry – Thank you for keeping my body in one piece over the last 6 months, Ness. I feel so lucky to have found someone as passionate, knowledgeable and experienced as you are.
Andrew Duff at Sports and Spinal Physio– thanks for all your time and effort at the start of the season getting me injury free.
My parents and older bro – for always being up for a chat on the phone whether it was a call because I’d be feeling tired, down or anxious and I just needed to speak to you or simply just a phone call to share my day or week of training with you because I know you would listen. Thanks for always being there and for your support.
My supporters & Sponsors for making it possible to spend more hours training and less hours at work, thank you for everything you do:
My brother Jordan, kudos to you for living with two Ironman triathletes. Thank you for everything you do for us. I have treasured our time living together again.
Last but not least, my partner Damien Collins – thank you Damo for being my rock throughout this journey, picking up the slack around home when I couldn’t and always listening to me ramble on about my training. Love you heaps!
I look forward to sharing next year’s build with you towards my 2020 Ironman World Championship and 70.3 World Championship campaign.
Thanks for following along,
This weekend marks the 16th year of Ironman Western Australia. Held just south of Perth in the seaside town of Busselton (or “Busso” as it’s affectionately known) against the iconic backdrop of the town’s famous jetty (fun fact: the longest timber-piled pier in the southern hemisphere!), there are few Ironman races found in more idyllic locations. There are so many reasons this race should be on your bucket list if you haven’t ticked it off already, but here are our top five …
1. The town
Busselton itself is a picturesque little seaside town, of which its residents wholeheartedly embrace the Ironman event year after year. And what an appealing factor this is! Big enough to have everything you need, yet small enough to establish familiarity quickly and get around with ease, Busso is the kind of host-town that athletes dream of. Must-do’s include pre-race practice swims at the jetty foreshore in Geographe Bay, breakfast at The Goose and a coffee at Fat Duck Cycles & Espresso!
2. The swim
Prior to 2018, the swim course took athletes on a 3.8km jaunt around the jetty, however a “too-close-for-comfort” shark sighting during the 2017 event led race organisers to revise the course which is now 2-loops, closer to the shore. While the “cool factor” of the swim leg may have suffered a blow (and sharks aside), the swim is still hands-down one of the most stunning that athletes will ever experience. Crystal clear turquoise waters with views straight to the ocean floor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better. The new course also has the added benefit of more protection and more favourable conditions in the bay.
3. The bike + run course & conditions (generally…)
Ironman Cairns in December would 100% be a no-go. But Busselton in December? The weather conditions are generally perfection, if a little on the cool side. A wetsuit swim and mostly sunny but cool conditions on the bike and run will serve most athletes well, provided strong winds stay at bay. The race is renowned for being one of the flattest and fastest around, guaranteed to help foster a PB performance or two! The two-lap bike route along coastline and through bushland provides the perfect combination of distraction and protection, and the four-lap run course along the waterfront and through the crowds of support crew and friendly locals serves as both a source of motivation and a simple way to break the marathon down into four mentally-manageable stages.
4. The flies …
Okay, so this one is a bit tongue in cheek (and may prompt a smirk or two from those in the know who’ve been there before), but you won’t find a better motivator (or bigger annoyance) on the run leg than the thousands of incredibly persistent, sticky little flies that flock to Busso to lend their support to athletes on race day. While this kind of fly torture may not be appealing to everyone, their presence sure does serve to speed up even the slowest shuffle on Lap 4 of the run. Prepare yourself. You’ve been warned.
5. Its proximity to additional perks!
Wine tasting, anyone? When race day has been and gone and all is said and done, there’s nothing like celebrating all your hard efforts and months of training than with a few days of rest and relaxation in the Margaret River wine region. Busselton itself is a gem, but drive just 30 minutes south and you’ll find yourself in one of the world’s best wine regions too. Stay, play and unwind if you can find some time - and enjoy all the perks of a slower pace on the west side!
Good luck to all our awesome T:Zero athletes racing this weekend - Australia’s last Ironman event of the year! And athletes don’t forget to catch up with Coach Rich and the rest of the crew for pre-race coffee and chats at Fat Duck Cycles & Espresso on November 30 at 8am!
With Head Coach Em Quinn
As a coach of any sporting code, the job requires a close relationship to be formed with an individual athlete and the guidance and goal setting process to help the individual achieve what he/she is seeking. Daily my role as a Head Coach within T:Zero Multisport has me continually working closely with my athletes by providing them with periodised, structured and diverse training plans to help them see the desired goal or outcome. I sit in the office for 3 days per week (plus often some nights when big racing weeks roll around) sifting through training plans, programming and making my way through emails all in the pursuit to bring out the very best in those I help.
Recently an athlete of mine ticked off her second “A” race for the 2019 year. It was a cracker, one of those days where things just come together across all three disciplines and the stars align, one of those rare days which we often only stumble across every now and again, but when we do, they are ever so sweet. Following this race and some planned active recovery weeks (those whom I coach will know I am a big fan of some active recovery sessions and unplugging a little post big events) I received an email from this athlete which outlined her next set of 2019/2020 triathlon goals. I opened the email with excitement as I get such a buzz from seeing what athletes set out to achieve within the sport but also within themselves. The first line of the email read “so….I know I will never be a champion in this sport or a podium contender BUT here are my goals and thoughts for the year ahead”. At the time, I continued reading the email, I got motivated and excited by the A, B and C goals that the athlete had in mind and replied with a lose agenda and of course scheduling a meeting where we can sit down and discuss the ins and outs of what it will take to get to where the athlete intended to be. However, that night, as I sat awake for several hours (the nightly grind with a newborn) I thought to myself, what does this world “champion” even mean? On the surface, some may say in the context of triathlon that a “champion” are those elite professionals, those who swim, bike and run for a day job and those who are successful enough to make a living from this all-consuming sport that we all seem to love so much. Others may say to a mate “you champion” for gaining world championship selection, for hitting a new personal best or for simply finishing an endurance event that once may have been a pipeline dream.
As a coach, of many athletes of varying abilities, goals and physical limits, I sat awake that night thinking of a way I could define “champion”. For me, I feel the definition is far more a mental one than a physical one. Of course, the fast 5km, the new PB’s, the World Championship Qualifications or the multiple Ironman finishes are impressive achievements and I am the first to feel immense satisfaction and pride when an athlete and I achieve one of these accolades, but do I feel these assets are individual qualities which define a person, the answer is no. For me the word “champion” means much more than results on paper or medals hanging in the garage. I think that an athlete who has a “champion mindset” is just as much of an achiever as those who swim, bike and run their way to the top level of this sport. By this, I mean, those individuals who strive to better themselves day in and day out, those who give 110% in training and in racing, even when at times it may seem like an impossible task. Those who seek to tackle the impossible and take each training session as an opportunity not only to better their physiological capacities but also to gain an insight and a continued love into the sport of triathlon. I, personally get just as much motivation and enthusiasm to create a plan for an athlete who is driven, process as well as performance orientated and brings with them a growth mindset (by this I mean viewing a setback or a weaker result as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a failure). If you portray all of these qualities and have a genuine passion for the sport, then I believe that is a much more meaningful definition of a “champion” than simply a pen to paper result, which may appear on the surface like a success.
With the start of a new decade only a matter of weeks away, I ask you to question your mindset as you plan and set you goals for the season ahead. Seek the very best in yourself and strive to develop a love and genuine passion for the sport. Promise to be the best you can be, to learn, grown and develop as the highs and lows of the season occur (and they both will occur – prepare for them), I have no doubt that if you employ these tiny increments of positive mindset applications into your daily training, you’ll have an unbeatable season and without a doubt, enjoy the journey a lot more.
I cannot wait for 2020 and I am so excited by the goals and plans ahead for my team and the T:Zero Multisport crew. If you are striving for that next level in your performance (as an athlete and as a person) or simply feel as though your performance has plateaued, or that your love and passion for the sport has dwindled, then I challenge you take a step back and question your mindset, you never know where it could take you.
Until next time,
Head Coach T:Zero Multisport
Click here to find out more about what makes Em Quinn a champion coach!
Leading into a race, especially race week, can be fairly stressful. With travel, accommodation, check in times for the race, remembering to eat & drink, plus, ya know, all that nervous energy and thoughts around the race… the list can get on the large side of things. And if that race happens to be an ‘A Race’ that you have been training all year for, little things can sometimes become big things. Pre race nerves/excitement are completely normal, and part of the journey, plus it shows you care right? There’s a line somewhere in there though, and if we cross that line and the stress of it all becomes a bit much, then this can most definitely take the edge off laying down the performance you are capable of, and deserve.
We know that stress comes in many forms. The usual stressors we generally consider might be:
We’re human, we stress about stuff, and we need a certain amount of it to grow, learn, adapt etc. But during race week, we should be aiming for less manic and more Fonzie (millennials might want to open Google here). Not necessarily all zen like or anything, but if there’s one week where we have enough to ponder without sweating the stuff we have complete control over, it’s race week.
In a nutshell, the more decisions you have to make, especially during race week, the higher the stress levels and the less your chances are of having that top shelf performance you are searching for. The less decisions and therefore lower levels of stress onboard, the more you are able to relax, bank the brain biscuits, and cruise through to race day. You’re going to smile a heap more and enjoy the whole experience just that little bit more too. And…. the clincher, you’re going to increase your chances of keeping the tank of stress hormones full, to be used when you really need them most… making on the spot, basic and complex decisions during the race.
What are some things one could do to help keep the amount of decisions being made and subsequent stress levels at bay during race week you ask? Great question… let’s dive in.
Get uber organised - capital U… Uber:
Thinking ahead and getting stuff sorted as early as you can is down right performance enhancing.
Do your research:
Like researching the local cuisine if you’re heading overseas, perhaps a little homework about the local area will help too, Google is a great friend for this.
The actual race: this goes without saying really, but read and re-read the course description, ask your coach about it, learn the particulars about the terrain, the surface, the weather etc. With my background in Outdoor rec/guiding, planning for the worst is a bit of a debbie downer way to approach some things, but when it comes to being prepared mentally for what might happen, if you know all this stuff well in advance, it won’t be such a blow to the system because the decisions have already been made in your head.
Other stuff like visas, currency, culture/customs, spare gear etc. The list goes on.
To sum it up. Race week is something we should hit feeling ready in all areas, especially in terms of the things within our control. Arrive at your race feeling fresh, organised, and happy, with all the big decisions you have within your realm of control, doneski.
Arrive at your A Race, with the goal of enjoying the experience, and giving yourself every opportunity you possibly can of having the best possible performance on race day - physically, and mentally. Of course, training for ultra distance events where there are many hours/days/nights out there in the elements and a bunch of technical aspects to it as well, things are going to happen, it’s a given. But if you’ve arrived and had an enjoyable, low stress, low decision making week leading in, the decisions you make while you’re deep into your race, will happen faster and with greater accuracy. Decision fatigue is real… save the brain biscuits for race day ;-)
Now, the most important decision I will make today... should I have Nana Betty’s tomato relish or the mango chutney on my poached eggs? My brain hurts ;-)
#tzeromultisport #savethebrainbiscuits #decisionsdecisions #nanabettywins
CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HEAD COACH SCOTTY FARRELL
FORM goggles – a new technology in the swim market and one that truly hit the ground running at Kona this year. Triathletes are known for their eagerness to embrace new technology and these goggles created such a buzz in Kona that they were sold out before the scheduled expo end!
So many OMG moments as athletes tested them for the first time! Quite a few pros and the FORM staff tested them out open water swimming in the bay.
What are they?
Essentially goggles with an LED display within the goggle to give real time feedback on a whole variety of data that may be important to you such as:
Distance per stroke
Yes - you can see what you want to see on the screen inside the goggle!
I mulled over the decision to buy these. At $150 USD a pair even on a discount, it is an expensive set of goggles that are under warranty for a year and require replacement once they are done.
But if you consider in triathlon, your spend on coaching, bikes, wearable technology, race entries and running gear, it is a very small investment for potential benefits. Cost benefit analysis pre purchase got the big tick and along with having the innate personality of an experimenter/ nerd, I dived in a bought a pair.
The goggles come in a very sturdy case and getting the inside scoop from the FORM staff themselves, these goggles are meant to be treated with the same care as a pair of glasses. The case comes with various nosepiece attachments from XS to XL and I found the best comfort with the small option.
Nosebridge attached, I was ready to test out. But first I needed to charge the goggles first! Charging is super easy with the included charger that is magnetized to attach to the charging ports on the outside of the goggle with a USB attachment at the other end.
Next up, I needed to download the FORM goggles app. So a little bit of technology required before my first swim! After downloading this, I followed the in-app instructions to set up my profile and sync with the goggles. There is also an option for the LED screen to be on the left or right side.
The goggles have two buttons on the screen side that allow navigation of options after you turn them on. There is a split screen so the chosen options of data from the app were displayed . You can decide on your options before you start but the goggles will also continue to collect data that is not displayed like distance, calories and splits.
When I was ready to swim, I needed to confirm some options by pressing the buttons on the goggle:
25 or 50 m pool
Drills, lap or interval swim
I pressed start then I swam my workout just like normal – except that I could actually see how fast I was swimming in real time and without ever looking at the pace clock!
After the workout, I kept the goggles turned on, resynced my goggles to the app and then I was able to pull up the stats from my swim. Great! I ended up with some very useable data and also had the option to upload this to Training Peaks – a brilliant option for both athlete and coach!
I know from chatting in Kona to the FORM staff, that there is also an option now to attach a Polar HR attachment so you can receive HR data whilst you are swimming. I think this would also be useful in helping to track training stress via HR in addition to pace. Possible analysis here could include looking at HR to pace metrics and decoupling in steady state swims.
The display is actually quite clear in the pool. It wasn’t particularly sunny when I tested – but there is a brightness option that can be changed. But even though they were successfully used in OWS in Kona, these goggles have been designed as pool goggles. A specific OWS pair is under development.
As for the potential for “LED depression” from always having that data in front of you, I found it actually quite easy to move back and forward between reading the screen or not. This just requires a slight change of focus. The data is there when you need it and you can “leave it be” until you need it/ want it.
There is a different view from these goggles than from my regular OWS goggles. Less peripheral vision here in the FORM goggles but theoretically unless you were actually allowed to race in these in the pool, you won’t miss it as the lane’s black line is clearly in sight!
As for potential effectiveness of use, these are a pretty handy tool to have in your swimming arsenal. Whilst I would not personally use these in every session, I could use them for any set where I wanted to be consistently on target times – aerobic intervals, speedwork, or key workouts leading into races.
Also these are great for technique work and seeing the impact of technique changes on pace. CSS swim tests would no longer require someone to time you and you could also test to see the impact of SR changes on pace.
On the data analysis side, there is enough meaningful data recorded to analyse how well you executed your swim and where improvements could be made – split times, SWOLF scores, SR and overall distance.
Add to this the potential analysis of HR data and things become even better from a training prescription and analysis standpoint – I could envisage setting up training zones via lactate analysis, doing a block of training and having the pace/ HR data to track progress in fitness.
Overall a big thumbs up for the investment!
Click here to know more about Coach Heidi!
Now in its 37th year, the Noosa Triathlon Festival is the largest triathlon event in the world, and one of Australia’s most loved celebrations of all things multisport. Participation in the hero event itself is also virtually a rite of passage for budding triathletes everywhere and if you haven’t already, one to add to the bucket list!
Later this week, over 12,000 athletes will make the annual pilgrimage to the triathlon mecca of Noosa Heads. There’s something special about Noosa that attracts professional triathletes to train, live and race, and entices the masses to return year after year to participate in this iconic five-day festival. Here are the five reasons we’ve got a giant soft spot for one of Australia’s most iconic events …
1. The Atmosphere
It’s big, it’s bustling and it’s busy, but Noosa Triathlon Festival is one hell of a celebration. Sure, you’ll probably come across an ego or two (or more) throughout the weekend, but big heads aside, the atmosphere and festival vibe is nurtured and encouraged by the organisers and embraced by the local community and athletes alike.
Timing-wise, it couldn’t be more perfect. It’s November – it’s Noosa Tri and it’s basically Christmas holidays thereafter. Work is winding down and everyone’s in the mood for a party. And there aren’t many after-parties bigger or better than Noosa’s, with a perfect combination of seasoned Noosa Tri veterans, elite athletes, newbie individual debutants and happy-go-lucky team participants just keen to have a good time!
2. The Complementary Events
he Noosa Triathlon Festival is just that – a festival! We love a good celebration of all things multisport and the five-day festival showcases so many awesome events to perfectly complement Sunday’s main race.
Keen athletes can participate in variety of lead up events including the Noosa Run Swim Run, Breakfast Fun Run and the 1000m Ocean Swim. “Super Saturday” features the Noosa Superkidz Triathlon for all the aspiring junior triathletes and finishes off with the classic ASICS 5km Bolt and Australian Open Criterium races which are always fun to spectate.
A steady stream of other events and activities across the weekend ensures there’s not a dull moment to be had, no matter your interest or ability.
3. The Course
Even if large-scale races aren’t your thing, the one beauty about Noosa you’ll surely appreciate is the event planning and organisation. After more than 35 years running the event, its organisers execute with precision.
The race itself begins on Noosa Main Beach, which is generally calm and clear (breathe guys, last year was an anomaly!). No doubt veteran Noosa Tri athletes will be happy to wave those canal mud moustaches and monobrows of yesteryear goodbye!
The bike course is technically described as “undulating” but it’s generally flat (minus Garmin Hill, about 10km in) and traverses some beautiful hinterland scenery. If you’re fit enough, you should have a few spare breaths to appreciate the views.
A flat, one-lap out and back course through Noosa Sound, the run leg is a dream … provided you can get yourself onto it before the sun starts to heat things up! Crowd support is crucial here and there’s plenty of it, with spectators lining almost the entire distance. If you’ve been here before, you’ll have (not so) fond memories of that charming last-ditch detour through Dolphin Crescent we all love to hate. The only saving grace here are the friendly locals who voluntarily provide cooling services to struggling athletes via their garden hoses!
4. The Noosa Sport & Lifestyle Expo
No Noosa Tri Festival is complete without at least one decent wander through the impressive Sport & Lifestyle expo. It’s hard to avoid too, given registration is in the same location at Noosa Woods.
For triathlon nerds and gear buffs, a stroll through the exhibitor displays to chat to product reps, sample the latest nutritional supplements and potentially nab a bargain or two is a must. One of T:Zero’s major sponsors Clif Bar will again have a great set-up so be sure to stop by and say hi to their friendly crew.
5. The Destination
s far as local race locations go, there’s no doubt Noosa is an impressive destination. For athletes and their families, it provides endless options for food, activities and entertainment catering for a variety of interests. For most, local accommodations require minimum nights’ stay (generally 3-4) so taking a few extra days pre or post-race is a good idea if your circumstances permit. Whether you enjoy Hastings Street with its countless shopping and dining options or prefer to escape to the trails of the National Park, everything you need for a good time is within walking distance.
The location itself is also very spectator-friendly – on race day family and supporters can choose to find a space close to the finishing chute and soak up the excitement of the finish line, or avoid the hustle and bustle and instead opt for a shady spot along Noosa Parade and beyond (they are plentiful) guaranteeing a view of their athlete twice on both the ride and run legs, if they’re eagle-eyed enough!
Good luck to all our T:Zero athletes racing at Noosa this weekend, and remember to keep an eye out for Coach Scotty who will be handing out Clif Bars in the recovery area on Sunday with the Clif Crew!
Over the last three months I’ve been struggling with fatigue over the couple of days leading into my menstrual cycle or the first couple of days of my cycle. The purpose of ‘The Ash Hunter Diaries’ is for me to be open with you guys about my ups and downs along my journey towards Cozumel and my quest for Kona 2020. This has definitely been a low in my journey as it keeps interrupting the flow (pardon the pun) of my consistent training blocks... ugh! There’s nothing more frustrating than when training seems to be going on track and all of a sudden… BOOM! I’m floored for 1 or 2, or sometimes even 3 days with fatigue. Welcome to the world of being a female athlete.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve trained through this time of the month and have found some months affect me more than others and some don’t affect me at all. As of lately, though, I’ve noticed the affects three months in a row. I’ve always felt rather guilty or have beat myself up about not being able to achieve my target sessions during the pre-menstrual time of the month because I didn’t really understand what was going on inside my body. I hope that this blog helps other women who’ve experienced the same thing so they’re not be so hard on themselves when they can’t hit their targets during this time of the month. So let’s take a look at what happens to our hormones and the four different phases during the menstrual cycle and then we’ll take a look at a very simplified explanation on how and why our training is affected by our fluctuating hormones.
A quick summary – what is the menstrual cycle?
“The menstrual cycle starts with menses, when females are (unless they have become pregnant) bleeding and shedding the uterine lining. Menses is the start of the follicular phase, or “low hormone” phase, characterized by low luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone and slowly increasing levels of estrogens. This phase lasts for around the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle. Then around the "middle" of the cycle ovulation should occur, which is characterized by a spike in levels of estrogen and luteinizing hormone. This coincides with the release of the egg and is the time of the menstrual cycle when females can become pregnant. Ovulation is followed by the luteal phase and is the high-hormone phase of the menstrual cycle when both estrogen and progesterone levels are higher.” (Ihalainen, 2019)
According to author Dr Stacy Sims, when we start to get into the high hormonal phase (luteal phase / pre-menstrual phase) this is where oestrogen is inhibiting carbohydrate utilisation so therefore we can’t quite hit high intensities in training at this time. Increased oestrogen levels usually increases serotonin in the brain which causes some brain fog. The increase of progesterone increases the core temperature so we have less time to fatigue and less tolerance to heat. During the high hormonal phase we have less water in the blood so we become less efficient at getting blood to the working muscle tissue. Now that we know how our performance is slightly impeded we can use nutrition and recovery practises to overcome this.
Attempting to train when my hormones wreak havoc - slightly dramatic but keeping it real
The alarm goes off… my brain tells my body to get up, it doesn’t respond. With the sound of the alarm in the background, I feel like I’m looking at my body from above trying to wake it but it seems to be stuck in quicksand. I’m standing above my body shouting at it with motivational thoughts like, “you are ready,” “get up and slay that bike today, Ash” then I turn to negative comments to really try and get me out of bed, “you’re never going to achieve your best” or “get up, you’re being weak.” I end up having an internal battle and agree to reset the alarm for another 30 mins time. I roll over and regretfully still lay there achieving nothing because I am feeling so guilty for feeling like I’m giving in to fatigue and not being on my bike. One would think this would be a clear indicator that one needs to stay in bed. Hmmm.
Well, you see, we are endurance athletes and we’ve been trained to keep going without giving into tiredness and fatigue. Ok so I end up getting out of bed through shear guilt. I get onto my bike. Everything hurts more than usual, the spots on my saddle that usually take a few hours to get sore are there immediately, I feel short of breath, my heart rate is high, my attention span is low, where are my legs? They’ve gone! I can’t focus too long on one spot otherwise I feel like I will collapse onto the road into the foetal position and sleep there for the next 3 hours. Trying to be optimistic that I would ‘come good’ throughout the session I stayed out there 3 hours holding all of 100 watts NP (I usually sit at 135 watts for an easy warm up) which felt like a 7/8 RPE, I skipped my important backend intervals, went home and rested instead as I knew my body just didn’t feel right. I was able to train back to normal the next day. If you have ‘meat above your feet,’ (borrowing that saying from WITSUP – thanks) you may think I’m exaggerating here. Well, I’m not! I usually feel like this 1 or 2 days throughout each cycle. Life is a constant learning process and I’m just trying to work out my puzzle of the female physiology and endurance training.
Looking at fatigue
I wasn’t sure whether I was getting knocked out with these ‘fatigue days’ due to a lack of iron, dehydration, or that I hadn’t fuelled myself with enough calories a day or two before. I’d been to see a health professional about this topic to get my iron levels, blood count, B12, thyroid and a couple of other tests checked but they all came back within normal ranges. I make an extremely conscious effort to focus on hydration and have been seeing a dietitians to help with nutrient absorption and energy intake. But it keeps happening at the same time throughout my cycle each month.
Fatigue is very generalised but to me it feels like weakness, tiredness, decreased tolerance for heat training, increased heart rate, increased sensitivity, increased perception of effort and decreased mood. These symptoms seem to happen at any time throughout the luteal phase or start of menses. I could be training well and all of a sudden I hit a big wall (that seems to be built with solid bricks of emotions, sluggishness, discomfort and so much tiredness.) I then feel frustrated at myself for the interruption to my training block as I can only tolerate low –moderate intensity training and even missing a session or two due to needing the rest or not listening to my body (and also not telling my coach how I’m feeling because I just want to do the darn session… oops), pushing beyond what I should and then burying myself for a few days… doh!
After this happened for the third month in a row it’s becoming more obvious that my athletic performance can be impeded during this time of the month, maybe more so when my volume is higher. I’m pretty slow at working things out at times but I think I’m slowly starting to get it now.
I am calling this the quest to finding my menstrual cycle and exercise performance sweet spot.
Where to from here?
My coach has approached the topic with me recently, I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before but we are going to base my training block around my cycle. We’ll use the days where my hormones are back to being stable/low at the end of the follicular phase and during ovulation to build and hit those target sessions and then do active recovery during those days when my hormones rise up in the luteal phase and get close to menses. We have been using the FITR Woman app to track my cycle so far. I will continually play around with my nutrition and keep using trial and error to see how my body is fuelled best within each phase with the help of Stacy Sims research. Each one of us are different but I hope you’ve enjoyed a rather un-talked about topic and that it may bring awareness to this topic. I am excited to start using my female physiology to my advantage and get the most out of my training when I’m feeling strong! I look forward to being a happier athlete and not getting frustrated at myself for not being able to hit targets or complete sessions for reasons outside of my control…
Here’s a couple of interesting articles I found that will provide some more information on this topic which have links to evidence based research:
Until next time! Keep up the great work.
Lining up on the start line this year at the Ironman World Championship in 2019 was a pretty incredible experience. Although I had competed at this event on three occasions prior to this one, this year it was very different for two reasons.
Reflecting back on this, on race morning, I was acutely aware of the incredible density of human emotion packed into a very small area – the age group corrals before the swim start. If the tension and emotion could have been jammed into a bottle of start line champagne and then the cork popped, the spray would have easily covered the Big Island of Hawaii. Highly intense to say the very least.
From my own perspective, I sailed through race week with no hint of nerves or worry. The lead in to Kona is a busy week with expos, events and athlete catch ups – and lots of positive energy. Come race morning, it was a different story – and I had felt it before. That feeling of something being on the line, the slow creep of nausea at body marking, a rapid heartbeat and sweaty palms.
It was a classic sympathetic nervous system response – fight or flight. Was I reacting because I was in danger? Definitely not. It was just a triathlon, after all. When it came down to the nuts and bolts of what was happening, all it meant was that I cared about what was going to unfold. And if I interpreted it as a good sign, a positive sign – I could manage that response without it derailing my race.
There were 2000 athletes in those corrals experiencing some form of pre-race emotions before the start line that day. Emotions that had the potential to contribute positively or negatively to their day on course. I witnessed it. There were athletes in those corrals in tears, athletes sitting on the ground shaking, nervous overflowing chatter, those laughing, smiling, jumping up and down and those with blank stares. It was an interesting sight.
I am no psychologist. But as a coach and an athlete, I reckon those individual prerace emotions were highly likely to be linked to a number of factors.
All those factors feeding all that emotion - tightly crammed into a very small space. Super intense.
With the Aussie season in full swing, athletes in our neck of the woods are about to find themselves in similar situations at their own races. Pre-race emotions running rampant at race start lines. As an athlete, how do you prepare for this part of your race?
A great first step is to chat to your coach and work out the factors that are feeding your start line emotions. Work on those – confidence, preparation, belief, expectations, positivity and support to be in the best possible headspace leading into your event. Predict how you might feel and how you will manage your pre-race emotions. Practice your strategies before race day.
In my opinion, just like the emotions on the start line, the effective strategies to manage prerace emotions and that fight or flight response can be highly individual. Deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and self -talk can all be used in the heat of the prerace circus. I am certain sports psychologists have more strategies to share.
In essence though, there is tremendous benefit in exploring and find a strategy that works for you. Being prepared for your race both physically and mentally is part of the ticket to a great race experience.
The next step is practice. Placing yourself in similar situations in training can help your practice your strategies – being mindful to create similar emotions around training races, unfamiliar or challenging workouts and training camps. Outside of training, visualisation of your start line with all of its sensory input can help create your pre race emotions and give you some experience at managing them.
So what was my strategy?
Lets go back to that Kona start line corral and the emotional overload of the athletes jammed inside it. How did I manage myself? Deep breathing works for me – big intentional diaphragmatic breaths to switch off that sympathetic response. It’s a common strategy, it is my go-to strategy, I have practiced it, and I know it works for me. So that is what I did.
Once my heart rate settled and the nausea dissipated, things then got rather fun keeping that right combination of anticipation and excitement in check.
Finding friends, laughing and chatting, jumping in front of the ironman paparazzi for photos. Hugging random strangers. All purposeful strategies in the “this is my A race of the year” start line corral. Totally odd behavior for me in real life. But whatever works on race day, hey!
Have fun exploring and finding your pre race strategy. Get after it!
I had the pleasure of heading to Kona for a whirlwind trip over the weekend just gone. As you would have seen it was a cracking weekend for everyone over there. The T:Zero athletes all had a great days racing around the lava fields and racing in the extreme elements, and I got to be there and soak up the atmosphere from pre race, right through to midnight at the finish line. Here’s some things that came into my mind as I was present across the day and weekend. Not all tips are entirely pertinent to Kona, maybe more so racing Ironman events in general, but they come to the forefront of my mind after the weekend that was… so we’ll run with it.
Control the controllables:
What are ‘the controllables’? Things within your realm of control :-)
The flip side of controlling the controllables is not worrying about the things you can’t control… we have no power over what mother nature is going to do, whether or not there will be a random piece of glass on the road causing a puncture, or what other athletes are doing. So… just don’t. Control you and your space and leave the worrying and comparing out of it.
Heat acclimation - coach Heidi wrote a splendid (said with posh English accent...would you like some tea darling? Oh yes, splendid thank you) article a few weeks back outlining some unreal strategies and the benefits for racing in hot weather. With summer on the horizon, do some heat acclimation work. This is another thing you can control and at least try… it’s only going to help. Crazy not to I think.
Wear light clothing and think about keeping cool - the amount of people I saw wearing full black kits and dark colours was astounding. I know we’re talking about minutia here, but wouldn’t wearing black or dark colours attract more sun? Perhaps lighter colours, even if only for the benefits of placebo, work, then why not go lighter in colour, especially above the waist.
We love to work with growth mindset athletes - no matter what your experience, no matter your ability, we genuinely believe you can qualify for this great race. We know it because we help make this happen every year! If you would like to qualify for Kona, we would love to hear from you! Click here to start the conversation - no obligations!
When it comes to Ironman, it doesn’t get any better than the World Championship. Held every year on the Big Island of Hawaii in Kailua-Kona, it is, quite simply, the pinnacle of our sport.
As we speak, athletes from all over the world have started to descend on the Island and in a few short days, they will take on an incredibly challenging course that pushes wannabe world champions to the brink of their physical and mental ability year after year. We’re getting tingles just thinking about it!
There are so many reasons why triathletes everywhere continue to put themselves through their Ironman paces every year in the hope of cracking a spot at the biggest dance of all. Here are five reasons we can’t get enough of the Ironman World Championship …
1. “The Vibe”
In the immortal words of Dennis Denuto*, it’s just the vibe. This one is hard to explain but trust us, when it comes to Ironman mecca, there’s no competition. As soon as you step foot in the town of Kona, there’s no denying the fact it is the epicentre of endurance sport for that one week. This is the world championship - the day of days - where every athlete (from professionals to 17-hour specialists) arrives tapered and ready to race what is likely the biggest, most significant event in their athletic life.
An incredible calibre of athletes from all over the world roam the town by foot or bike, at the absolute peak of their fitness, many of whom are preparing themselves to fulfil a lifelong dream. Professionals and age-group world champion contenders aside, there are also Legacy Program athletes and Ironman Global Ambassador athletes who are represented - people who have achieved or overcome incredible health or other personal feats to participate and live their own potential on race day. Witnessing these athletes cross the finish line and the moments that precede and ensue often rivals and surpasses even the most impressive professional performances.
The Big Island. From the Mountains to the Lava Fields, the pristine ocean and everything in between, there’s nothing quite like it and no way to replicate that extraordinarily special feeling that fills you from head to toe as soon as you step off the plane. And how could there be? After all, it is the spiritual home of Ironman.
2. Location, Location, Location
From the moment you land at the airport which is flanked by lava fields, you know you’re somewhere special. Kona really is quintessential Hawaii. And there’s no place on earth like the Big Island. Rent a car for the day and you can drive the Island, passing through no less than four of the five major climate zones that exist on our planet. It is truly one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world.
It’s also a relatively handy flight from Australia, all worldwide destinations considered, which may be one of the reasons our country is so healthily represented at the Ironman event each year. The locals for the most part are incredibly welcoming and wholeheartedly embrace race week which is no doubt a key contributing factor to its enduring success.
In terms of all your race-related requirements, everything is centrally located, so although a hire car is handy if you’re hauling a bike(s) and other equipment, it’s not a deal-breaker provided your accommodation is close to town. Should you choose the car-less path however, just a word of warning - the free shuttle bus and its incredibly loose schedule certainly sing from the Island Time hymn sheet!
3. The Course
Picturesque location aside, this Ironman course is a unique beast. Nothing gives you all the feels quite like a conch shell and cannon fire do, signalling the start of the race. Athletes set off on the swim leg in ridiculously warm (no wetsuit) water, often escorted along the way by dolphins, turtles and a myriad of other marine life clearly visible in the pristine waters of Kailua Bay.
The ride is generally fast and fun, but the hills, the heat and the trade winds still need to be battled and managed. Finally, the ultimate test for athletes is the lumpy and insanely hot run, including an extended stint in an infamous section called the “Energy Lab” – notorious for siphoning energy from athletes, rather than providing them with any.
Whether you’re a professional, age-group contender or just out there to make it under 17-hours, on race day all athletes are equal, each one battling the same course and conditions as the next. Being the World Championship, spectators and supporters abound, but they’re mostly concentrated closer to town which is understandable. After all, spectating in the middle of a lava field doesn’t seem all that appealing!
4. The Expo
For spectators and supporters, a trip to the epic expo during race week is essential. And to be fair, even as a nervous athlete with the best intentions to keep unnecessary “noise” to a minimum, it’s probably still unavoidable. With two decent setups spanning a road, sponsor freebies and bargains abound and with a steady stream of professional athletes turning up throughout race week for signings, product promotions and interviews, the expo is heaven for tri-gear nerds and groupies alike. If you do indulge in any pre-race purchases however, just remember to avoid committing the cardinal sin of christening them on race day!
5. The Extras
When all is said and done and race day has been and gone (or for a few treats in between), nothing beats the iced coffees of Lava Java and ice-cream sandwiches of Huggos on the Rocks, flanked by a cocktail or two at sunset. If you’re taking travel notes, these are essential stops. And an acai bowl from Basik Acai (the Kilauea is our recommendation) is the breakfast of (world) champions!
For a break from your food coma, or for non-triathlon related activities, options abound. Swimming with manta rays and spinner dolphins, or indulging in a spot of snorkelling in various locations around the Island should tick a few boxes. A Kona Coffee tour or trip to Kona Brewing Company also come highly recommended. And no visit to the Big Island is complete without stopping in to Volcanoes National Park.
With so many athletes arriving a week or two early for pre-race acclimatisation, the post-race exodus is generally swift so if you’re keen to holiday after the big day, stay a while longer on the Island and enjoy everything this little town has to offer, once its Ironman hosting duties have concluded for another year.
While few of us have managed to reach the “holy grail” of Ironman this year, we can still watch with bated breath on October 13 (Australian time) and cheer on our T:Zero athletes with gusto. In all honesty, it's virtually impossible not to be moved and motivated by this incredible event.
* Do yourself a favour and download “The Castle” for essential wind trainer viewing 😉
If you think that a half ironman is out of reach - I am proof that it is not and that anyone can do it!
I'm 34, married with two children, 6 and 4 and I work as a Clinical Nurse working both 12hr and 8hr shift work. This can make fitting training into my work/life balance difficult at times but it is not impossible!
At school I was always playing sport and made state teams for rowing and waterpolo - anything in or on water came naturally to me but land sports was another story.
My exercise journey began a little under 4 years ago, 6 months after my 2nd child was born, when I was feeling a little lost and stressed with 2 children under 2. My sister-in-law who is a keen runner convinced me into trying a parkrun which I attempted pushing my son in the pram. I literally had to stop after 500m as I couldn't run any further - I was so embarrassed but I didn’t let it beat me and a hunger grew to improve on my fitness.
A few months later a friend was organising a team triathlon for Mooloolaba and I put my hand up for the swim. The atmosphere from that day sparked something in me and although at that stage I had only just recently run 5k without stopping and I didn't own a bike I signed myself up to an Olympic distance Mooloolaba tri the following year.
So I got a bike and now had everything I needed - all the gear with no idea! Over the next year managed to complete 10k bridge to Brisbane, a QLD tri series sprint distance triathlon and as much training based off the guidance of Google. I managed to complete that tri with my family at the finish line and again I knew I wanted more...
I kept ticking off events and goals including 2 half marathons, 2 more OD tris and lost 20kg. One day at work I received an email that said "Congratulations for registering for the Sunshine Coast 70.3"... My husband had signed me up as I had been talking about a half Ironman but was not sure I had firstly the ability but secondly the time to train. His belief in me and the support he gave to me to reach my goals became my "why" and I realised that was all I needed.
This is where super Coach Steve and T:Zero came in! Steve has always been so supportive and adaptable in working my training in and around my shift work and family. His calm, informative and humorous responses to my 101 questions about everything triathlon has been priceless which I am so appreciative of.
With a slow build from February Steve put me in the perfect position to not only smash some huge Pbs along the way but to be race ready both physically and mentally.
Race day came around so quickly and having my husband, dad and sister-in-law at the start line calmed my nerves and let me focus on what was ahead. The swim being my most favoured, I just wanted to get in and get started. The plan was to go out hard for the first 300m, find some feet to stick to and steady the pace to a 7/10 to save some energy. The water was a dream and I remember thinking I was actually enjoying myself. I kept to the race plan and managed to steadily keep overtaking swimmers which was good for the confidence and came out of the water feeling great.
In transition the wetsuit dance was a bit of a struggle but did my best and was out on the bike and up that first hill with not much of a worry. I heard over the loud speakers while in transition the elites were at the 20k turnaround and into a bit of a head wind so kept that in the back of my mind.
The first 20k I was flying! The thoughts of making it in well under expected time was exhilarating. I kept Steve's advice in mind to monitor effort and not to go out too hard too fast. At 20k turn around my exhilaration was rudely interrupted with head winds which cut 10k/hr off my speed - this hurt both physically and mentally but I kept pushing. Seeing the T:zero tent and my family at 45k helped with the focus going back out for lap 2. The plan was to step up the effort from 50k which was attempted but failed at 70k when I hit a wall. I managed to count down the k's and just get it done.
My family, and in particular my kids, were all waiting at my bike rack in transition yelling words of encouragement which restored my energy as I got the runners on. I had never been so happy to be off for a run.
I felt good for the first 5k and then started to feel the heat. I had skipped some initial drink stations but then decided to stick to the race plan of walking the drink stops and refuel (Coaches do know best I guess!) At 10k the hill hurt but was able to keep pushing with the atmosphere from the crowd. At 15k I knew I was going to finish but just needed to keep reminding myself of some wise words "Don't give up....EVER", I think I chanted this in my mind for the 16th km. I came around a corner at 17k and had lost the battle mentally and had made my mind up to walk... there was my sister-in-law waiting to cheer me on. She then ran along the footpath for the next km to keep me going. She didn't know at the time but I was balling my eyes out (thank God for sunnies) as it was just what I needed - a reminder of the support I had from so many to not give up.
The last 3k hurt which now seems like a blur but I remember feeling disappointed in myself for not feeling as strong as I had been in training. I didn't want to let my family or Steve down.
Nothing will beat crossing that line seeing my family and particularly my husband - my emotions couldn't be contained. I couldn't believe I did it and it still brings a smile to my face thinking about it.
Needless to say, I have signed up again for 2020 with new goals in mind and can't wait for the blood, sweat and tears along the way.
So if you think that a half ironman is out of reach - I am proof that it is not and that anyone can do it!
With summer races on the near horizon, its time to think heat training. It is not hard to picture athletes baking in the late morning heat at Noosa tri, melting in Malaysia or sweltering through the Energy Lab in Kona. Yes, it is inevitable that the temperature will rise and there will be an impact on how well you can perform.
How many triathletes throw up their hands in exasperation declaring they are no good in the heat?!
Whilst there will always be challenges performing in hot environments, fortunately with knowledge there is power. Power to take some steps to get better at getting hot. Power to get across Noosa finish line in one piece!
Time to get your nerd on! Thanks to scientists who study thermoregulation (the body’s temperature control), there is good evidence on how prepare and perform in hot environments. Nerdy thermoregulation discussions could include terms such as acclimation, acclimatization, specifics of hormonal responses and explanations of heat transfer via convection, conduction and radiation.
But science aside, the practical basics for us athletes are to understand the why and how of heat training.
Why do heat training? Essentially, heat training, when appropriately added to your training program, will help you perform better in hot environments. Some of the potential physiological benefits of heat training are:
- there is an increase in plasma volume, i.e more circulating blood – yes!
- a reduction in heart rate for a given workload (pace in running, power on the bike) – a good thing!
- sweating onset is earlier and sweat contains a reduced percentage of electrolytes – better cooling efficiency right there!
- Lower skin and core body temperature – hello greater room to heat up!
Like any training strategy, you could also consider the potential psychological benefits of heat training. With training is totally possible to change your mental approach to performing in the heat. With all those benefits who wouldn’t want to transform into someone who loves the heat!
But, before you head out for a run in the midday sun, upsides and downsides! Heat illness is a very real possibility with any heat training so exposure must be controlled and progressed. Know the warning signs of heat illness and seek medical advice should you have any concerns before starting any heat training.
Most athletes will heed to the warnings of heat illness way before they take themselves into the danger zone, but, as with anything, there are always outliers. Potential A type personality looking for maximum gain in the shortest timeframe possible? Don’t be that athlete!
How to heat train? Basically you can acclimatise (train in a hot environment) or acclimate(create conditions that expose you to heat). In essence, the important part is that you want to get hot. The stimulus for adaptation is the rise in core body temperature.
Now you don’t need to have access to a fancy heat chamber or spend weeks in Asia to achieve effective heat training benefits. There are lots of options. Heat is heat (when it comes to raising your core temperature). Options include:
- Wearing extra layers of clothing whilst training
- training indoors without a fan to cool you
- create your own heat chamber in a small room with heaters
- training in the heat of the day rather than the cool hours of early morning or evening
- hot baths, saunas or steam rooms as a workout or post workout.
The research suggests most benefits can be gained in 10 -14 consecutive days of heat training. Options are to introduce it up to 6 weeks out from race day (this will require some maintenance sessions in the intervening weeks) or schedule it in the final weeks before race day.
Keen to start sweating up a storm? Chat with your coach!
Like any new training stimulus, heat training needs to be considered as an extra stress in your training program. It requires planning. Extra attention to recovery is needed. Dosing the right amount of heat exposure is needed. Scheduling of key training sessions alongside heat training requires thought.
Now is the time to think about getting hot! Invest in thermoregulation science before your race and your brain and body with thank you on race day.
Here’s to a sweltering summer of racing ahead!
And to scoring that last age group wave start at Noosa Tri!
CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT COACH HEIDI SOWERBY
Before I get started on this month’s blog, “A week in the life of me – Ash Hunter,” here’s a small summary on my experience from Sunshine Coast 70.3 a couple of weeks ago.
Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast wasn’t intentionally on the cards this year as we were in the thick of Ironman training. BUT… 10 days out from the race I’d won an entry… Thank you to Multisport Mecca and Cyclezone for this!! How could I turn down an awesome opportunity to have a hit out and see where my current fitness lies? It was an absolutely stunning day, apart from a little wind on the bike course we had ideal conditions.
Swim was amazing with crystal clear water. I felt comfortable navigating my way around the swim course, then onto the bike where I came into T2 with my highest ever NP split for an Ironman 70.3. The run felt great for the first 8 km and then after the second Alex Hill I started to fall apart but I gave it all I had for that last lap. I was happy to be able to come home with a PB 70.3 time of 4.42:07 and 3rd place in F25-29 AG. I hadn’t given much thought whether I’d take a spot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships held in Taupo 2020, until after the race.
Over a quick lunch with my friend, Sarah and brother, Jordan I’d kind of made up my mind. I didn’t think there’d be 3 spots in my AG but I came to the decision that If there were 3 allocated spots then I would get the trusty old credit card out to pay for the entry + the 8% active fee ha ha. Waiting at the roll down ceremony I heard Pete Murray announce, “25-29 Female age group has 3 + 1 allocated spots” Whattttt???!!! I looked over to my bro, trying to contain my surprise and excitement. Although, I may need to work 2 jobs over the summer holidays to pay off that one! A super unexpected result and qualification but I’m looking forward to heading over to Taupo in November next year for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
A Week in the Life of Me – Ash Hunter
Have you ever wondered what a week looks like in the life of an Ironman athlete?
Let’s go behind the scenes and find out what’s involved during a typical week…
Also, if you’re tuning in for the first time, welcome to The Ash Hunter Diaries. I mentioned in my first entry that I’m going to be sharing my journey with you over the next 18 months in trying my best to qualify for the Ironman 2020 World Champs and then racing to my potential over on the Big Island. I mentioned something about “even if it’s just my Dad reading along…” well, turns out it’s more than just my Dad… Hi Mum, now I know you read these too… ;-) Ok, back on track with the diary entry… so you want to know what a week in the life of an Ironman athlete looks like.
If something isn’t working, change it!
In my last couple of Ironman preparations, I found that when I’d work full-time hours I’d be pushing boundaries and found I wouldn’t be able to get as much out of myself during training compared to when I’d work casual hours. Don’t get me wrong, working full-time and balancing Ironman training is achievable which involves less training stress and many early mornings waking up between 3-4am. Going forward in the lead up to Ironman Cozumel I want to put a focus on other aspects of Ironman training such as recovery, body maintenance and eating properly… Recovery is EVERYTHING! According to Budgett, (1998) being under-recovered over a longer period may not necessarily lead to overtraining, although it will lead to progressive fatigue and underperformance. Optimal performance is only achievable if athletes are able to balance training stress and adequate recovery (Kuippers, 1998). So I’ve made a couple of lifestyle changes to enable myself the time to recover adequately to avoid progressive fatigue and therefore underperformance. Until the end of November, I’ll only be available to work (supply teaching) 3 days per week during peak high volume build weeks. During recovery weeks I’ll make myself available for work 4-5 days per week depending on how I am feeling. I am lucky during the school year to be flexible like this with my work. I just need to let my faithful schools and supply teaching agency know what my availability is and I’ll find out the night before or the morning of when and where I’m working. So, with a couple of little lifestyle changes this is what my week will generally looks like until Ironman Cozumel.
Alarm goes off at 4:30 am, I’ll have a quick bite to eat (usually a Clif Bar) and make a coffee to sip on for the 38 minute drive to Nambour pool where I’ll start swim squad at 5:30am. My swim coach, Lisa is an absolute legend, she juggles stop watches, constantly gives feedback to athletes and also answers work phone calls for me to ensure I have work for the day. Thanks Lise! I’m usually out of the pool by 6:45-7:00am depending on where I’ll be working for the day. I’ll get ready for work and eat breakfast at the pool. Supply teaching usually consumes every second of your day requiring you to have eyes and ears EVERYWHERE and you’re either trying to put out metaphorical fires, work out what you need to do next and how you’re going to deliver the next task. So 8am-3pm tends to go by pretty quickly at work. By the time I hand in my paperwork at the end of the day and drive home it’s around 4pm where I’ll have an afternoon training session. I’m off the wind trainer or finished my run by 6:30pm and can cook dinner and prepare for Tuesday morning’s ride.
I’ll set the alarm for 5-6am, however, I listen to my body on Tuesdays as I generally have the day off work. If I need the extra sleep, I will happily take it! The morning is spent on the bike, I’ll head west to try and avoid as much traffic as possible.
Straight home for lunch where I’ll make a banana protein smoothie and some real food – eggs, sweet potato, spinach, avocado and mushrooms. Legs into the Normatec boots for an hour where I’ll focus on hydration and catch up on any emails or computer work. After recovery in the boots I’ll have a 20-30min nap followed by another meal. Between lunch and my afternoon training session I’ll either be booked into some kind of body maintenance appointment such as a massage with Di’s Massage & Fitness or an acupuncture and shockwave session with Vanessa Ng who is a Senior Podiatrist at Innovation Podiatry. If I don’t have any appointments, I’ll do some foam rolling and use the time to catch up on house work or grocery shopping as I don’t usually have any energy to do that stuff on the weekends. I’ll then get ready for my afternoon session which is a run and can range from 1 hour to 2 hours depending on the week of build. Home to make dinner and get ready for the next day (pack my lunch, get my training and work clothes ready for the morning.)
Wednesday – up at 5:45am for a core and range of motion session at home. I’ll have the phone ready to answer for a day of work. They usually call between 6:15am-7am if I’m not previously booked in and then I’ll find out where I’m off to for the day. I’ll need to be out of there by 7:30am to get to work on time. After work I’ll head home and quickly cook dinner so it’s ready when I get home from my swim. Swim squad is at 5:15pm to 6:45pm at Nambour pool. It’s usually only a handful of us on a Wednesday night. I get a lot out of our squad environment as everyone can have a laugh but when it comes time to doing the work everybody genuinely tries their best which lifts each other. Home around 7:30pm for dinner that I’d cooked earlier in the afternoon. Pack my bike and swim gear with a hearty breakfast for the next morning.
4:30am wakeup for swim, squad up at Nambour pool. Quick bite to eat, (oats soaked in water, honey and fruit with a couple dollops Greek yoghurt on top) change into my bike gear and head off for the rest of the morning my bike for hill repeats and some TT efforts. Pack everything back in the car, quickly drink a protein shake and head home for feed, sleep and put the legs into the recovery boots. Catch up on any emails, unpack the car, and get ready for the afternoon run session. This run session is my mid-week long run. Home to cook dinner and pack the car/bags for Friday morning swim and work.
Fridays are mostly an active recovery/rest day. Each week I usually alternate between a morning swim squad session at Nambour and an open water swim in Mooloolaba bay with the T:Zero crew. I pack my own breakfast but I love sitting down after Friday morning swim for a coffee with the gang! Off to work for the day and then I’ll use the afternoon to catch up with family after work and/or prepare for the big weekend ahead getting nutrition and training equipment ready. I like to have a big diner on a Friday night to prepare me for the weekend.
3am wakeups as of late, to be able to have a proper breakfast & coffee and get on the road to beat the traffic. I’m extremely lucky to live around some pretty awesome guys who love to ride and are bloody good on the bike too. No matter how early it is, there’s usually one of them there at least ready to start the ride with me, if not join me for the entire 4.5 - 6.5 hour ride. I’ll get home around mid-morning for a run off the bike with race pace efforts. Make a choc protein banana smoothie and a big healthy brunch. I’ll then crawl into my Normatec boots and stay there for an hour while napping. After an hour it’s time to head to the pool for a recovery swim. The hardest part is getting in the pool after the big morning but once I’m in, I actually really enjoy this 1.5-2km of active recovery and feel so much better.
Sunday is NO ALARM DAY! Sleep in, usually until 7am. Chuck the bike in the car for a long run-brick session. I like to drive up to Mudjimba for this session because my 1 hour bike before the run is a build ride and ends up around threshold at the end so I’ll head north to avoid the traffic. After the 1 hour ride I’ll chuck the bike in the back of the car where my run shoes and run nutrition is waiting (Clif bloks and Crampfix shot). I’ll then head on out for my long run anywhere between 20-34km depending on where we’re at with the build. I like to run up and over Maroochy Bridge and then follow the esplanade until it’s time to turn around. This route is great because there’s plenty of opportunity for drink taps when needed. Sunday afternoon I’ll take the pooch to the creek or dam and have the afternoon to relax before the next week starts. I try to get out of the house here and do something fun with people who put a smile on my face. In the afternoon it’s time to pack the work bag for the morning and prepare some meals for the week.
In the lead up to this race, I’ve backed off work a bit to be able to train smarter and rover better. I guess, I’m still trying to find a balance that works for me to be able to make a living and afford to travel to races while trying to be the best athlete and person I can be. Having a coach who understands my individual needs and goals is significant in improving my racing and training through safe and systematic training methods. I am very lucky to have Richard Thompson from T:Zero Multipsort, coaching and guiding me to achieve this balance. Every day is a day of learning and I’m excited to see what we can achieve by adding in more training, sleep and recovery to my week.
Thanks for reading along. :)
Budgett, R. (1998) Fatigue and Underperformance in athletes: The overtraining syndrome. British Journal of Sport and Medicine, 32. 107-110.
Kuipers, H. (1998) Training and overtraining: An Introduction. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 30(7): 1137-1139.
For anyone thinking about starting triathlon or taking on a challenge within the sport already, I hope this blog encourages you to go for it, believe in yourself, and live to your full potential.
I am a 22-year-old living in Canberra and I have recently entered the world of triathlon. I joined a novice triathlon program with the Bilby’s triathlon club in October 2018. At the time, I was spending 99% of my time at the university library, working two-three days per week in a law firm and had not long returned from an overseas trip. I was ready to try something new, (having come from a background in tennis and hockey), to challenge myself, and to meet people outside my usual social group. I had a road bike which I bought second hand, (and had used only for travel to and from uni), and that was all I needed (aside from caffeine), to sign up for my first ever triathlon!
I remember my first triathlon so clearly. It was in Canberra and (shock horror) it was so windy and cold for November. The swim was almost wetsuit compulsory! I was signed up to the novice distance, which was a 200m swim, 12km bike and 2km run. I remember watching some of the Olympic distance athletes beforehand and thinking ‘how on earth do their butts not get sore after 40km of riding!?’ It was such a fun day and I ended winning my age group! I guess you can say this was the start of an amazing 12 months to come.
After competing in a few novice races and then the Sprint distance at Husky Triathlon Festival (February 2019), my next goal was the Olympic distance. I decided to race the Port Stephens Olympic in May 2019. I enjoyed the longer distance, as it gave me more time to settle into the race and find my groove. Once I had completed the Olympic distance, I set my sights on the 70.3, however, I knew that I didn’t have the knowledge or expertise to self-coach. I was also still studying full-time and working, so I didn’t really have the time to think about setting a training plan! In June 2019 I joined the T: Zero team under the guidance of coach Andrew (Andy) Perry. I said I wanted to complete my first 70.3 by the end of 2019 and soon enough I was signed up for the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in September 2019 (giving me roughly 12 weeks training time). It was a short amount of time to train for such a huge step-up in distance. But I knew the time wouldn’t be a limiting factor if I was consistent with my training. Fortunately, I was also surrounded by supportive people, and Andy had no doubts about me being able to finish the race which was really empowering. I also really loved the fact that it was going to be a challenge, and probably not going to be easy!
The toughest part of the preparation for the 70.3 was training in the Canberra winter. There was one morning where it was -2 degrees and my toes went a dangerously blue colour (even with my shoe covers!). On social media I would see people training in warmer parts of Australia, commenting that they finally cracked out the arm warmers. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here defrosting my toes in the bathtub! I soon made use of the indoor trainer a lot more. I’m a sucker for routine, so it helped that I could fit my sessions in around work, uni and social life. Some weeks were obviously harder than others, and there were mornings where I really didn’t want to get out of bed. But it’s amazing how much you’re capable of when you really want to achieve something. I had a goal that I so badly wanted to achieve and that in itself was really motivating.
September crept up quicker than ever and soon enough it was race day! What a beautiful day for a half ironman! The swim was my favourite leg of the day. I felt comfortable in the water, I could easily block out the surroundings and really get in the zone. Out of the water and onto the bike was a slightly different story. It was a tough leg, especially in the wind. The bike is still something I’m getting used to, having no experience in cycling until I started triathlon. Despite this, it was still more enjoyable than I thought it would be! It was pretty warm by the time I started running (a lot warmer than what I’m used to anyway). This made for a challenging run, but by this point, I knew I was going to finish. The run is where the body starts to really struggle, both physically and mentally. After exerting yourself for several hours, the last thing you want to do is run a half marathon! But I knew this is what I had trained to do, and I trusted the process. Physical fitness aside, the run is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. What got me through the run and the race in general, was having a positive mindset, being patient and staying in the moment. It was the absolute best feeling to get to the finish!
Post-race, I’m still trying to process everything. It is such an amazing gift to be able to swim, bike and run and it is truly incredible what you can achieve when you truly set your mind to it. Signing up to my first triathlon less than 12 months ago was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Equally rewarding was joining the T:Zero team, who are an amazing bunch of athletes that I am proud to be apart of. Pursuing my sporting goals on top of a busy lifestyle is something I’ve really struggled with in the last couple of years. It’s really great to be a part of a team that understands and works around ‘life.’ I chose T:Zero because of their positive energy and dedication to helping people from all walks of life to pursue their dreams. If you’re thinking about taking up triathlon, or chasing a huge goal, surround yourself with people who empower you to be a better you, go for it, and don’t look back.
As the saying goes, ‘opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’ When you take on a big challenge, believe in yourself, and put in the work, you can excel in all aspects of your life. You will be amazed at just how much you’re capable of!
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!