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!
I was able to enjoy some time off training at the end of the year and have started the year easing into it again with some light volume and have gradually built each week. I wanted to have been running more by now but have had to ease off the running over the last 4 weeks due to a niggle in my knee. Thanks to a friend who reminded me of the saying “If we listen to our body when it whispers, we won’t have to listen when it screams.” Although, it’s frustrating being limited by the duration, intensity and amount of running training, I know I have plenty of time up my sleeve to get fit and sharpen up my run before being able to race this year. Once I am confident that my body is good to go again we will focus more on steadily building my run volume over the first half of the year.
Apart from the niggle that’s been puttingthe brakes on my run training, I’ve enjoyed riding my bike with mates. I’ve even had a couple of goes at trying to stay on my partner’s (Damien Collins) wheel on some long rides through the Sunshine Coast hinterland. I still have lots of work to do to be able to keep up with him but I have been enjoying the challenge and it’s great to see him riding so strong early on in the year. I’ve also loved being back at the Nambour swim squad a couple of times a week.
This month’s blog I thought I would write about tips on how to qualify for Kona as an age group athlete. The qualifying process takes lots of hard work and heart so I have come up with a few tips that should be able to give any age group athlete an advantage on their quest for Kona.
1. Talk to your close circle of people
It isn’t going to be an easy feat so you will need as much help as you can get. Before setting out a plan on what race to qualify at etc. you will need to talk to your loved ones and propose to them why you want to go on this journey. If you can get their approval and support it will make the next 12-24 month (or sometimes years) journey much easier. Come up with a plan together and work out where you want to try and qualify. You will be a team from that point forward. Ironman training is demanding when you’re in the thick of it, especially, while working full-time. It’s nice to have a couple of people who are looking out for you and can pick up the slack around the home when you need to catch up on “ironman related activities that are not training” such as; naps, bike maintenance, stretching, eating or going to body maintenance appointments. Let your friends know the reason that can’t make a special event and 9 times out of 10 they will understand. Your loved ones will be affected by your decision to go on this journey so make sure you take the time to listen to any concerns that the may have.
2. Hire a coach that will work around your lifestyle
Good coaches have experience and knowledge in specifically building your training up safely to get you ready for your chosen event. Training can be difficult enough so I don’t see the point in wasting further mental energy on planning your sessions. I am motivated by being accountable to someone and having feedback on certain sessions. It’s even better if you can hire a coach who will plan your training around your lifestyle. There’s no point in paying for a coach if you can only fit in a few of their training sessions around your busy schedule. Success in Ironman is based on consistency and this is what you want to aim for with your coach. You will need to map out your approach to qualifying with your coach and come up with some process-orientated goals. I believe you will be 100% more prepared physically and mentally on race day knowing that a professional in the field has planned the work for you.
3. Pick a race that suits you
If you’re thinking of qualifying for Kona you should know your strengths and weaknesses within the 3 disciplines by now. You want to reduce as many “unknowns” on race-day and select a course that is suited to your strengths. Look at what time of year you want to race and research each Ironman course around that time and select the one that BEST suits you. I find other athlete race reports/blogs to be VERY helpful here as well as the course description on the Ironman website in regards to race conditions. Know your strengths e.g. are you like me and have NO swim background as a child? Possibly, you need a salt-water and wetsuit swim rather than a lake swim so everyone spends less time in the water which will decrease the gap between you and the faster swimmers. Do you suit flat or hilly bike courses? Would you rather race in the heat? You don’t want to be adding any extra stress on race day by throwing in conditions that you know are playing your weaker cards.
4. Race at a regional champs
Age group racing has become so competitive these days and most Ironman races offer 40 qualifying slots which guarantees only one Kona slot per age group. The age groups with the highest percentage of competitors will be allocated the leftover slots and may end up with 2-4 in the densest age groups. At regional champs, there are usually 75 allocated Kona slots so therefore you almost double your chance of qualifying for a slot and double the chance that it might roll down to you. Yes, usually your competition increases at a regional championship but you have to remember that Ironman is a long day and anything is possible if you keep believing and focusing on your race.
5. Ask yourself if you really want to do this
Ironman training is hard. There are lots of fun and rewarding moments along the way but there’s also a lot of times that you will question why you’re doing it. You need to know YOUR why so that you stay disciplined and consistent in getting the work done. Develop a no-excuse policy because no one will do the work for you.
6. Recovery is key
Yes the work needs to be done but keep in mind you still need to be realistic in terms of your recovery and listening to your body. We’ve all stayed up late to finish off a session or set our alarms to some un-holy hour to get the session in before a big day of work. Sometimes we have no option but if our bodies aren’t recovering properly we won’t be getting the benefits from training and will increase our chance of burn-out or injury.
7. Surround yourself with positive people
There are going to be people in your life who are inhibited by fear that will judge you and tell you all the reasons why this is a stupid idea and why you can’t do it. They will be the first ones to say, “I told you so” when you come across your first deviation from the original plan due to injury or any other obstacles. While Ironman is mostly about being consistent in training, you will get so much more out of yourself if you’re in a positive frame of mind. You won’t have much spare time anyway so make sure you spend it with the people who make you feel refreshed after spending time with, make you laugh and celebrate the small things along the journey.
Good luck on your quest to Kona and/or happy training :)
Thanks for reading and I hope you find my tips helpful,
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
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,
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.
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.
I’m Ashleigh Hunter AKA Ash Hunter, a long course amateur athlete (currently in the F25-29 Age Group). I started this sport back in 2015 coming from a powerlifting and team sports (soccer & touch football) background. I went over to the Big Island of Hawaii to spectate the 2014 Ironman World Championships which is where I became inspired to start triathlon. How could I not gain inspiration through watching my partner, Damien Collins place 4th in his AG and Mirinda Carfrae take out 1st female?
I started with T:Zero Multisport in April of 2016. In the 3.5 years I’ve been coached by Richard Thompson we’ve been able to achieve some pretty cool things in this sport; AG Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion, Ironman Asia Pacific AG champion and 16th place in my AG at Kona. Looking forward, I’ve set a goal to have a crack at qualifying for the 2020 Ironman World Championships and then race to my potential back on the Big Island.
I have been asked to share my journey with you by posting a blog once a month. This makes me feel pretty uhhh… vulnerable but I am also really excited to be open with you and share some of the ups and downs of what’s to come. Even if it is just my Dad following along ha ha. So I thought my first blog post should be about why I have chosen Ironman Cozumel as my “A Race” for 2019.
Why I Chose Ironman Cozumel
Some of you are probably wondering why on Earth I would travel all the way to Mexico for an Ironman considering; I’m an age grouper, it’s such a long way to travel and Busselton Ironman is on at the same time on year… in my own country.
Well, here are my reasons for choosing to race abroad for the 2019 Ironman Cozumel
Race-cation / World Class Travel Destination
The biggest attraction for me, travelling ALL the way to Cozumel for an Ironman is being able to add on a small holiday after the race in a bucket list destination. Cozumel is a world premiere diving destination, with the second largest barrier reef in the world. Not too far from Cozumel are beautiful underwater caves (cenotes) that I plan on visiting after the race also. I grew up very close to the largest barrier reef in the world and have been scuba diving for the last 14 years now. I am pumped for a little holiday after the race to wind down the year with my partner, friends and family.
After sitting down with the coach back in April we looked at the ideal time for me to build up and be ready to race an Ironman again. It looked as though November-December would be the best time considering minor injuries and sickness that seemed to be hindering my prep at the start of the year. So looking at that time frame I had a few options to ponder on… Busselton, Malaysia, Arizona or Cozumel? Considering Busselton is in Australia it’s still quite a resourceful trip and it’s still about a 12 hour travel day so why not go somewhere I haven’t been before??? Malaysia looked to be a good option and then I heard about the MONKEYS on the bike course. Apparently they run out at people and you’re not allowed to get off your bike to help other competitors if they crash (because the monkeys will attack you)… I’ve already come off my bike during a race overseas so I didn’t think that would be a good option... been there done that. That left me with the choice of Arizona or Cozumel…. They are both so far away! Then I got word that 5 other training buddies were also racing Cozumel AND Damo (my partner) could potentially be racing there too so… DECISION MADE! Let’s go to Cozumel.
Travel with Friends and Family
After breaking the news to family that Kona isn’t on the cards for this year there was actually a lot of relief as we’ve been there a few times now, 3 times for Damo when he raced AG and once for me. There’s nothing better in life than to be surrounded by people who make you feel good. I am so excited to go on an awesome adventure with Damo, training buddies, Damo’s family and a couple of family friends who are coming over to support us. I really want to put in a good prep and perform well to do the family and friends proud who are travelling across the world to support us.
The course looks great for me, being a slower swimmer, it is a current assisted swim so the less time in the water, the better. The bike course includes 3 laps around the island which looks to be a flat fast course. I love nothing more than buckling into TT position on my trusty old steed and testing the mind in that last 60km of the Ironman bike. The run course is 3 flat loops also. This will be a massive booster as I’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the people who are special to me out on course as well as on the sidelines. It reminds me of my “why” to help get through those tough times during the marathon.
Increased Experience Racing in the Heat
As mentioned earlier I want to go back to the Ironman Hawaiian World Championships and this will be a great experience to practise racing an Ironman in the heat and humidity again. I will be taking in everything that the race and travel experience has to offer.
Thanks for reading my decisions behind choosing Ironman Cozumel as my “A race” for 2019. I am really excited for the rest of this preparation because we still have so much time to develop fitness and strength over the next 14 weeks! I’ve made a couple of lifestyle changes to allow myself a better opportunity to recover from training sessions and to have more time to focus on this prep. I can’t wait to share with you my journey over the next 14 weeks and beyond.
Thanks for reading! I can't wait to give you an insight into my little world each month!
Ash Hunter is sponsored by 17 Hour Triathlon Clothing, CLIF Bar, Brooks Running Australia & CrampFix and supported by T:Zero Multisport, Di's Fitness and Massage & Cyclezone Mooloolaba.
You can follow Ash's journey here:
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!