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!
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!
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 😉
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:
Focus, determination & mental strength - Morgan Millington's incredible ironman journey to kona qualification
I think it’s safe to say my journey is incredibly similar to many who have ventured down the Ironman path. It began with a crack at a bucket list item goal of completing a triathlon to catching the ‘bug’ and suddenly an entire day of exercise is the ‘norm’.
The main reason to give an Ironman a go was to learn what it’s all about, to see if my partner Luke and I were those foolish folks that enjoyed an entire day of absolute punishment. Turns out we are, 3 down and no doubt soon to be planning the next one.
Safe to say it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Ironman number one, two or three. But what is an Ironman journey without a few rough days at sea? What do we take out of each time is experience, lessons and fun that we won’t forget. I am writing to share my experiences and maybe you are bordering on entering an Ironman for the first time or after years of experience you really relate to the ride we have been on.
In our eyes the first step when looking to do an Ironman is to engage a coach from an Ironman background, by chance I happened to meet another triathlon ‘freak’ Steve who hooked us up with Rich. It’s been a few years now and we are so stoked to call him our coach as well as be a part of the culture and crew that is T-Zero. Rich might have other things to say about coaching us, it’s never an easy task to coach a couple who request to be nearly joint at the hip but are of different abilities, for us, it works and he makes it work.
We chose Ironman Australia as our first stop. The first one was all about getting our bodies used to the miles that come with the long distance. That wasn’t without its hiccups, Ironman training is never an easy ask with full time work as many I am sure, can relate. The main obstacle that was thrown my way was Achilles Tendonitis greeting me with 4 weeks until the race. After some serious down time for the 4 weeks I had reached a point where the medical advice was positive enough for me to line up on race day.
Race day was a new experience, there was that sense of complete unknown ahead of us, and on top of that I had in the back of my mind how on earth will I get through this, four weeks of no weight bearing running (subbed in some water running) I have to run a marathon. That little back of the mind voice had to be silenced. The mindset was so important that day, my mind turned to the previous six months and the training I went through, I found confidence in that and kept positive.
As the race went on I was perfectly positioned on the bike and was rolling back into town with about 8km left, only to hear something go terribly wrong, I look back to find an entire de-railer hanging, while I was prepared for all things flat tyres and chains off, can’t say I travelled the course with a spare de-railer! Eight kilometres from home it was time to get my hiking boots on. I kept strong, it was just a hurdle, one I had to jump over and keep moving. Lucky as I was on my walk the mechanic turned up and 20 minutes later I found myself on a fixie bike and 7km of hills. What happened was completely out of my control, what I could do, nothing but accept and find a way to make the best out of a bad situation. I was there for the experience and accepted this was part of the experience. I managed to pull off a really strong run, with my Achilles issue I was stoked, I knew I could do it. The overall result was unexpectedly close to punching a ticket to the ultimate Ironman World Champs at Kona with the 20 or so minutes on the side of the road with a mechanical being the difference. That certainly wasn’t within my control and knowing that left me comfortable with where I was with my ability and gave me drive to continue the Ironman journey.
What next was always going to be on the cards, it was an incredible experience and we were ready to improve.
Ironman Texas was the decision. We caught the bug but wanted to expand our horizons outside Asia Pacific. The build was near on perfect and our goal for the race was to better ourselves in the sport we chose, this is important for me especially, Rich has taught me, the goal is the best out of myself on the day, my square metre, my race, my goals and that will lead me to do what I deserve. This lead to a solid day out for me but not what I knew was my full potential. An opportunity for a Kona spot a whisker away, a mere 2 minutes over 9 hours 30, but because that wasn’t my end goal it was easy enough to accept. That Kona spot would come when I have my best day and the external uncontrollable fall my way. I took my learnings and spent the next 12 months finding that continuous improvement and enjoying the adventure.
Next back on home soil we decided we were all in for Ironman Cairns, our own personal goals were set. We were all in, as mad as our friends and family thought we were this was ‘fun’. It was all going to plan until….
Four weeks before the race in the best form I had ever been in, 28km into my 32km run I tripped over, I am a clumsy person and it wasn’t rare for the odd trip over but this one was different, it was at pace and getting up something didn’t feel ‘right’. Turns out I fractured my elbow. The next 4 weeks was a mind battle but as the coach said, there was no time for a pity party race was on and we would get through it. At the time I wanted a pity party, but looking back he was setting me up for success. There was no time for me to be upset or stress over what was happening, it happened and I couldn’t take it back, we get on with it and remind ourselves what this is all about, our goal to get the best out of ourselves and to enjoy the process whatever is thrown our way.
Race day came, the arm, while it had not fully healed, I had the tick of approval from medical professionals that it was ok to give the race a crack. Swimming training had been non-existent, running was short and sweet and a nagging hip was sending a few signals to me, but it was on.
Talking to Rich pre-race, mentally it was all about the path I chose to take was going to lead to either success or disappointment. The easy path was “tough race, tough conditions, I have a fractured arm, everyone will understand when I pull the pin” or “get on with it, pain is temporary and my arm is strong enough to get through this”. The day wasn’t without its twists and turns, the swim was a long way but I created my own path and stayed away from others, last thing my arm needed was to end up in a washing machine situation. The ride was amazing, that coastal road are just so beautiful the whole way and the run was full of on course support. Essentially throughout the day the path I chose allowed me to get on with the job. In this circumstance the mind helped the body achieve.
That resulted in my body giving me all it could on the day, 2nd in my Age Group and 3rd overall female age grouper and the big island. What a dream!
Things have since taken a twist, that sore hip, was a little more than just a sore hip. One week later I had an MRI which has resulted in finding out I have a bone stress injury. Us triathletes really know how to push the boundaries with our bodies, unfortunately in this case the body has told me to pull back.
The Ironman ride continues, what path it takes, not sure right now, crutches and couch time are my current situation. The plan is let the body heal properly re-set and go again.
Each time we learn more about the sport of triathlon, specifically Ironman, and the drive is there to strive for more, by more I don’t necessarily mean more training, or higher placings in my age group, or faster times. It’s about getting the process right through the entire journey, finding the perfect balance and most importantly have fun while doing it!
CAIRNS 2018 RACE REPORT
WOW! WHAT A DAY – LUCKY NUMBER 9
SWIM 58:32 – BIKE 4:55:21 – RUN 3:19:45 – TOTAL 9:19:18
T1 3:42 – T2 – 1:56
Overall 36th (including pros) – 16th Age Grouper – 5th in 35-39 Category.
After having a pretty good day setting a new PB in Port, it was to be another short 5 week turnaround to Cairns. Nothing that was new to me, as I’ve done both of these races for the past three years. The day after Port Mac, Rich had me back moving again with a short Swim / Bike / Run on the program. The next day the same, but a bit longer. Seems daft, but it works. By the following Saturday I felt a million bucks, my body was ready to rip in, and the mind was strong to now focus on getting a full head of steam up as we go into Cairns.
The biggest challenge for me between these two races is that it is my busiest time of year at work. Years ago I made a promise to myself, and my boss at that time, that I would never let IM affect my work, and my passion for what I do for a brand that I love, and I still stand by that. Another promise I made was, to my best ability, try and limit the impact the training has on my beautiful family. Yeah I might miss a couple of binge sessions, or the start of a team dinner or two because I need to head for a swim or run once the day is done, but neither my good work colleagues or my family ever question my commitment to what I do, and are always full of support. The time disappears between these two races extremely quickly because of this busy period!
So the body was recovered, the niggles that I had before Port seemed a distant memory, and I was firing. I was swimming consistent pace, my bike was strong as ever, but my running was peaking as I headed towards Cairns. I had a couple of real key runs in between the two races that really put my mind in a place where I believed I could achieve whatever I set my mind to (within reason of course). As always, it is a bit of a mental battle to keep dragging your arse out of bed as winter joins us, but if you haven’t realised as yet, I’m a pretty determined little shit!
I had some real good chats with Rich in the couple of weeks pre-race, and it was decided that with the data that I had put together in this lead up, we would do a straight run rather than the run/walk that I did at Port. I was happy with this! Race week was here, and I was off to another conference for a couple of days, home on Tuesday night, to be on the plane to Cairns on Wednesday morning. As you probably know, I work up there in the expo from Wed – Sat, which isn’t the ideal prep obviously, but once again, nothing I’m not used to.
Rich called Friday night to discuss the plan. He had taken on board some of my comments and presented me with a plan that I was super confident of nailing! Previously, I’ve got the plan and tried to convince myself that it was achievable, a “I reckon I can do that” mentality. Not this time. This plan was perfect for me, and my head space during a race. It was to be more power on the bike than previous, faster pace on the run than previous, but it was the right way around for me! Put a few in the bank early, and FKN hold on!
Here’s how the day unfolded.
No stress getting to the race start. The long walk down to transition from the carpark as per normal, got my bike sorted and chilled out with Mandi and Carl from work until it was time to get my shit together. I was a little more nervous than normal, but pumped!
SWIM – 58:32 – 1:32/100m avg - 9th in the age group
I took the same approach as always, into the cage early to get towards the front of the rolling start, however, I did go for a short warm up swim as time allowed. This gave me a bit more confidence that the water wasn’t quite as horrible as previous years. Before we blinked, the pros were away and we are being released into the water. The heart rate sky rocketed as I punched through the swell on the way to the first turn buoy. Not a nice feeling at all. But I just knew that once I turn that first can, we will get settled. From there it seemed to take forever to get to the far end of the course; the orange cans just seemed to keep appearing in the distance before I finally reached the next pink turn can. It was another tough little section heading back out into the swell, but then seemed like a quick trip home once we made that turn. I found a few sets of feet during the swim for a bit of help, but for most part I was in my own space. Once the HR settled down, I was pretty comfortable and felt strong! I came out of the water feeling that I hadn’t spent too many cookies.
T1 was smooth, there were only a couple of volunteers in there again, as per last year, so no help. I had decided to carry my shoes to my bike rather than running in them as I was close to the transition exit, and the transition is quite long. I also took note of the guys that I came into T1 with, and a couple were recognisable as being in my category. Onto the bike feeling good.
BIKE – 4:55:21 – 36.24k/hr avg – 12th in the age group
The bike plan this time round was heavy, but I was very confident in getting it done. I was to ride 255 – 260 watts for the first 40k (which would take me to PD) and catch as many athletes as I could, geeing them up on the way past to come with. And then settle in to 240 – 245 watts for the remainder of the ride. To hopefully end up in T2 with a 240W avg, ready to run.
To put this into perspective, I averaged 208W in last year’s ride, so quite an increase.
I felt good onto the bike, and picked up Duncan who I knew from a previous race, he is a very strong athlete and he came with me, sitting his distance. Some hot heads took off past me heading out of town. Before too long I’d picked them back up and had a decent train behind me going into Port Douglas the first time, with a 39k/hr odd average (many thanks to the tail wind). The lead changed a few times, but it seemed that once they came around me, it was time to relax and back off, and put me in a bad position, so I’d make my way around them again. I wanted to race my own race and stick to my plan, but it definitely helps if you have others in similar performance to pace off. I was feeling strong and pushing my power into the headwind on the way back to the turnaround for the second trip to PD, taking stock of how many riders were ahead of me. Outside of the pros there were only one or two trains of five or six riders.
I had a quick stop at special needs to grab my bottles of nutrition, and then had to track back down these riders, which didn’t take long. I was back in contact at Rex’s lookout, and before too long back to the front. I could see that a couple of the guys were starting to struggle on the hills, so knew that they would drop off at some point. Back into Port Douglas the second time and I was still bang on the plan. Coming out of town, I was back on the front and pushing my power, still feeling good, limiting any highs or lows by keeping a cool head. About 10k out of town I took a look over my shoulder on a long straight to see no one behind as far as I could see. I guess they are gooooooone! Sticking to the plan, I just kept ticking off the k’s picking up a rider here or there and spitting them out. J I had a young guy come past me who was riding strong, so I went with. This was a blessing, as he was riding really consistently and keeping me honest on the power. I sat back off him the whole way back to town, never going to the front (I didn’t owe him anything). We were punching into a solid headwind in certain parts of the trip home, but it was bearable. There were a couple of occasions that I questioned if I was going to have legs for the marathon, but I just kept telling myself that “today is your day”. Throw it all out there! One of my challenges I’d set myself was to ride under 5hrs, and I knew that if I nailed the plan I’d achieve that, so that kept me interested as I got closer and closer to town looking at the numbers.
Back to town and into T2 feeling good knowing that I had belted the bike! A 7 minute PB on this course.
THE RUN – 3:19:46 – 4:45 pace/km – 6th in the age group.
Another smooth transition and out onto the run feeling really good. The plan for the day…. the first 5k at 4:30 – 4:35 pace… the next 5k easing off to 4:45 pace, and then I had 32k to hold onto 4:45 pace. Which is a reverse of my previous plans where I would go out conservative, and attempt to get faster each lap. I was actually having to pull myself back in the first couple of k, as I was on 4:20 pace, comfortably. Good problem to have I guess. The first lap went pretty quick, and I was feeling good. There was some awesome support on and off the course which made things a little easier to deal with. Mandi spent most of the race down in a dead part of the course where you double back on yourself, which was a massive help to me on the day. Not only to see her smiling face, but to be able to concentrate on what she had to tell me in regards to splits, how far to the guy in front, and what was going on behind me, also messages from Rich… and some wise words of her own of course. I had the RTC crew hanging out of the RSL on each pass, the TZero crew giving me updates in town of positioning and messages from Rich who was back home in front of the computer… probably more nervous than me. I even had random people telling me my position. They know how to pump a guy’s tyres up!
I knew that Nathan Sandford from Cairns was only about five minutes behind me, and Duncan not far behind him. Both these lads can run, so I knew I was in for a race today, especially with me coming off the bike in 9th position. I had plenty of work to do to hold on to this placing, let alone pull some of the guys back that were in front. But knew all the same that it was mine to take, and mine to lose!
I will say here again that Kona wasn’t the be all to end all leading into this race, Rich has instilled in me that this result will come when it will, and that I just need to focus on having my best day, getting to the finish line as fast as possible, and have no regrets of leaving anything out on course. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when he would say to me.
But wholly shit it came into my head space when I got to the second lap of the run! Haha. I was now in 7th position, knowing that there were 7 slots to Kona in Cairns last year, and a few more spots were on offer this year across the categories, I needed to hang in there.
After taking off out of T2 on the first lap, nailing the first 5k at 4:31 pace, the next 5 at 4:41 pace, I was a little bit ahead of the plan and feeling really strong. This is where the top three inches comes into play, the mental strength to battle from the 10k mark through to the 10k to go mark is what makes the difference between a good race, and a great race. It was time to hold on to a 4:45 pace for the next two laps. The big message from Rich pre-race in this marathon was, if you’re going to actually die by running the next k at 4:45 pace, stop. If you’re not going to die, run 4:45 pace. Fair enough.
I’ve done it enough times now to know the mental games that you have to play with yourself to keep ticking off the k’s. “we only have to run out to this deadshit part of the course one more time” “just get back into town and use the crowd” “Mandi is just up here, get there”. You’ve got to have your triggers, and turn negatives into positives.
I was nailing my nutrition all day, and the stomach was reciprocating well, along with my muscles. The second lap is a bloody battle, but even when I felt like I was struggling, I was still holding onto my pace, which keeps the mind strong. I had conversations with Mandi as I passed, around the guys behind me, and that I felt like they were catching me. The message back was, don’t worry about what’s going on behind you, concentrate on sticking to the plan, and you will catch the guys in front. After news early in the race that these guys behind were close, and the guys in front were 4 plus minutes ahead, it was all about holding on to what I had, staying consistent on my plan, and what will be, will be.
I was getting word through the back end of the second lap, and the start of the third that I was now in 5th place, and the excitement was growing after battling through that middle 20k, whilst still holding my pace. The reality of running a sub 3:20 marathon was real, and the new mind games start with 10k to go, to get to that finish line as fast as possible, ticking the k’s off one by one. The message came from Rich as I came back through town. “you are on a treadmill, stay there!” The other word was that the guys behind were fading further back, and 4th place was only just ahead of me. Wholly shit…. Where’s third, I want to catch that rooster! Haha.
Knowing that I was in this position, and that it was mine if I wanted it, I was asking myself the question of “how bad do you want it”? “DO YOU WANT IT”??? Turns out that I wanted it pretty bad. I hadn’t cramped all day, but with 8k to go, my hammy showed signs. I gave it a big NOT TODAY BROTHER, threw in a crampfix, and found a spot where I didn’t aggravate the little bugger!
Back passed Mandi for my final run out to the last turn around, in fourth position. Hearing those beautiful words “see you at the finish line baby” was music to my ears. I received word on the way back to town that I was now in 4th place, with 5th place only 20 seconds behind me, but that’s ok, I just need to get to the finish line as fast as I can.
I started talking to myself again to get home. “Enjoy this last six k, you are going to remember this run home, this race, for the rest of your life”. “This is the day you achieved the pinnacle of this sport”. “Head up high, and take it in, enjoy the crowd’s attention, and know that Mandi is waiting for you at the finish chute”. This will go down as my most memorable, knowing that I had ticked every box possible on the day, and that I had achieved what seemed like an impossible reality only a couple of years ago. Sub 10 was a goal back then, and now I’ve hit a 9:19, the sixteenth fastest age group athlete on the day, and I’d left nothing to chance with roll down. Wholly shit! I’m still battling to get my head around the achievement. The finish line was a relief to see, and the emotion was hard to hold back! Mandi was so excited, SO GOOD! “you did it babe, you’re going to Kona” she said to me! WOW! The pace for the last 32k was 4:48 pace, which left me with a 4:45 pace overall! Nailed the plan!
I was a little crook after the race, but I got a magic pill from the medical tent to settle my guts, and I was good to go. Bit of recovery, some food, and into the VIP tent to watch the finish line… with a couple of cheeky ciders! All whilst answering some of the 1000 messages I had on my phone from my awesome support network.
Fair to say that I didn’t sleep much on race night, it could have been the copious amounts of caffeine in my body, or the thought of what tomorrow brings for me, but either way, I was lying there at 1am with possum eyes.
Bit of an extension to this report…..
I can’t not talk about Monday, WORLD CHAMPS ROLL DOWN TIME.
I’ve really enjoyed attending the roll down in the past, even well before I was ever in the mix. There’s so many good stories, and achievements come out of it, with people reaching this incredible milestone in their journey… some in their first effort, some 15 IM’s down the road. It was quite a surreal feeling walking over there with Mandi knowing that I had secured my spot with my 5th placing, and I didn’t need a roll down to be heading to Kona. I’ve grown a great long standing friendship with the Voice of IM Pete Murray, and over the last fourteen years of being involved in events with ASICS, he has seen the path that I’ve been on. He knows the battles I’ve faced of getting to this position, having been to Kona twice himself. It would be a special time today for the both of us, as he gets to call me up on stage to receive my slot to Kona. He didn’t disappoint. It took forever to get to my age group however, but once there, he called the four names out that beat me on the day, and none of them were there. Pete did a quick mic check to see if it was on, and then led into his announcement for myself. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as he told a bit about my story “MR ASICS” as he calls me, and I bounced up onto stage for an embrace with the big marn!
The support, and messages of congratulation that I have received since is out of control, thank you so much everyone.
I’m not going to get all soppy here and thank Mandi, the kids and Rich, as they know how I feel about them, and that I can never repay them for what they have aided, and allowed me to achieve.
Watch this space though, as I’m planning on putting together some words about my “journey” of sorts from the fat kid to Kona qualifier, and the coping mechanisms that we have introduced as a family to get to this point.
It’s nearly been two weeks, and I’ve been gently training since race day. Another week or so of cruising, and then back into it for the run to the big show!
For the last two seasons I have watched incredible ironman athletes run down the finish chute in Cairns. Wanting to be a part of the action, I signed up to compete in 2018. After watching my partner Larissa do an amazing job at Ironman Cairns 2017, I decided to ask her coach Em, if she would be willing help me reach my ironman goal. Seven months later it was race time, and thanks to Em’s preparation I was feeling excited and confident of making it down that chute.
This is by far my strongest leg of the race, I followed coach’s orders and got to the front of the swim start. After 200-300m I managed to find some clear water and get into a great rhythm. The plan was to swim strong but hold back given how long the day would be. I swam mostly alone until just after the turnaround, before swimming into a group of five. I stuck with this group until the end which was helpful considering it felt as though we were swimming against the current. Although, it wasn’t exactly a ‘free’ ride to the swim exit with this group, I had to put up with a few blows to the face, including losing my goggles at one point. Happy with my debut ironman swim, time of 56:55 and still feeling fresh.
My first experience of an ironman transition. Turns out it comes with a helpful volunteer and chairs – very luxurious compared to other T1 experiences. My plan was to wipe down my feet and face, before the usual socks, shoes, glasses, helmet routine and then apply sunscreen before jogging off to the bike. Spent a little too long fiddling with my bike shoes, but apart from that happy with my T1.
Having only started using power 6 weeks ago the race plan for the bike was something new to me. The plan was to ride at 70% for the first 90km and if feeling good, up to 75% for the final 90km. Apart from my heart rate monitor disconnecting itself from my watch at the start of the ride, the first 40km went according to plan. This was probably aided by the friendly tail wind all the way into Port Douglas.
At that stage, as I headed back from Port Douglas, my legs started to feel a little heavy - which had me worried given the 140km or so to ride. In hindsight it was probably just the fact that I was now riding into the wind. I had to really focus on my race plan during the next 10-15km, constantly reminding myself to avoid surges. Although with some great views along the course it wasn’t too difficult to forget about any struggles I was having. Eventually my legs got over their little tantrum, and by the time I was turning back to Port Douglas everything was on track once again.
I followed the plan for the rest of the race, as expected there was an unwelcoming headwind for the final 20km. The reward for getting that final 20km done was the ride through the crowds along the esplanade, a great feeling. After the race I realised my average power was lower than I had hoped, in some cases by upwards of 10%. Perhaps my inexperience riding to power, especially over this type of terrain had contributed to the low numbers. In any case I was delighted with my time of 5:26 on the bike. There is no way I would have been able to pull that off six months ago, but there is definitely room for improvement.
I once again enjoyed the novelty of the chairs and volunteers. They even put sunscreen on my neck while I changed socks – incredible! Off to the run.
My plan was to run/walk the marathon at between 4:45 and 5min/km - 14 minutes on, 1 off. The idea was to stick closer to 4:45 for the first half marathon. The first 10km went to plan, everything was feeling good and even the weather was perfect. My stomach then really started to get sick of gels and chews. On my next walk break I couldn’t stomach another chew and skipped it, thinking I was better off not feeling sick.
At the beginning of the second lap, I tried to continue with my plan and get back on the gels. My body didn’t approve, and my stomach problems got worse. Skipping my nutrition then caught up with me and I felt zapped of energy, becoming light headed with very heavy legs. At this point I decided to slow right down and see if I could recover – rather than continue and have to be sick. So, I walked until I felt I could try to run. I couldn’t get back to my planned pace, rarely dropping below 6 min/km when I was running. A few aid stations went by before I decided to try and take on different foods. Over the next few stations I had some banana, watermelon, coke, and even found a cookie. To cool down I also started using ice and pouring it down my trisuit. Eventually something started working, I was able to run for longer periods of time and the pace started increasing. For the last 10km I felt back to normal and was able to maintain between 4:50 and 5:10 min/km, although I continued to walk the aid stations.
In the end I was proud of myself for turning around what looked like a potentially long run leg. I finished with a run of 4:11, much slower than planned but much better than it was looking at one point. It goes without saying but running down the finish chute was a great feeling.
Delighted with my first Ironman race, I can’t wait to pick my next one and have another go. Huge thanks to my Coach, Em, who not only prepared me for the race but was a brilliant supporter on course - as I’m sure all T:Zero athletes would have experienced.
It’s taper time, time to start getting fresh and prepping yourself for the big day ahead in a couple of weeks. It’s a time to reflect upon the work you have done, the sacrifices you and your loved ones have made for you to be where you are and to remember how lucky you are to be in a position to be doing an Ironman in the first place.
In a perfect world, we remain completely zen about it all, cruise into the race with linear, cool as you like emotions intact and crush race day like it’s a walk in the park.
However, this is so far-fetched from what normally goes on. For most of us, we go into self-sabotage mode. We reflect on our training, but rather than focus on how much we have done, it’s about what we missed. We begin to doubt our strength and fitness and enter into a somewhat negative mindset which from where I sit, isn’t going to help things in both the lead up and on race day.
Whilst hindsight is a beautiful thing, let’s instead bring our focus to what lies ahead, what we can control and how we can set ourselves up for a kick arse taper.
Control the controllables: we say it time and time again. There are a few things you have control over. Such as the few listed below:
Embrace the butterflies:
You’re going to feel nervous leading into an Ironman, particularly if this is your first one. But rather than trying to suppress these feelings and be super positive all the time, embrace the nerves and butterflies – it means you care and it really is a part of why we do this amazing sport. If we didn’t get the butterflies, it wouldn’t scare us and then what’s the point right!?
So embrace all of the feelings that come your way and whilst it’s important to keep things positive and focus on what’s to come, remember that they’re all a big part of the journey to that finish line. It’s a rollercoaster is this Ironman thing, with big waves of emotions - the better you can navigate your way through it all and stay mostly positive, the better your experience will be.
Enjoy the experience:
As mentioned earlier, it’s a time to reflect and be grateful for everyone and everything in your life that has lead you to being able to be where you are today. It’s a privilege to do this sport, so get out there and enjoy the experience, soak up the atmosphere, the highs and the lows, embrace it all! You deserve to be there, but you are also very lucky to be who you are – adopt an attitude of gratitude!
Go forth and race well. Find your flow, race with grit and above all, embrace everything that comes your way both in taper and race day. It’s one hell of a journey you’ve been on to get there and such a very cool moment in time it will be when you’re smashing down that red carpet like a young Jane Fonda!
“Things work out best for those people who make the most of how things turn out” Coach John Wooden
Coach Scotty Farrell
Click here to find out more about Head Coach Scotty Farrell
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!