THE T:ZERO BLOG
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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!
If you think that a half ironman is out of reach - I am proof that it is not and that anyone can do it!
I'm 34, married with two children, 6 and 4 and I work as a Clinical Nurse working both 12hr and 8hr shift work. This can make fitting training into my work/life balance difficult at times but it is not impossible!
At school I was always playing sport and made state teams for rowing and waterpolo - anything in or on water came naturally to me but land sports was another story.
My exercise journey began a little under 4 years ago, 6 months after my 2nd child was born, when I was feeling a little lost and stressed with 2 children under 2. My sister-in-law who is a keen runner convinced me into trying a parkrun which I attempted pushing my son in the pram. I literally had to stop after 500m as I couldn't run any further - I was so embarrassed but I didn’t let it beat me and a hunger grew to improve on my fitness.
A few months later a friend was organising a team triathlon for Mooloolaba and I put my hand up for the swim. The atmosphere from that day sparked something in me and although at that stage I had only just recently run 5k without stopping and I didn't own a bike I signed myself up to an Olympic distance Mooloolaba tri the following year.
So I got a bike and now had everything I needed - all the gear with no idea! Over the next year managed to complete 10k bridge to Brisbane, a QLD tri series sprint distance triathlon and as much training based off the guidance of Google. I managed to complete that tri with my family at the finish line and again I knew I wanted more...
I kept ticking off events and goals including 2 half marathons, 2 more OD tris and lost 20kg. One day at work I received an email that said "Congratulations for registering for the Sunshine Coast 70.3"... My husband had signed me up as I had been talking about a half Ironman but was not sure I had firstly the ability but secondly the time to train. His belief in me and the support he gave to me to reach my goals became my "why" and I realised that was all I needed.
This is where super Coach Steve and T:Zero came in! Steve has always been so supportive and adaptable in working my training in and around my shift work and family. His calm, informative and humorous responses to my 101 questions about everything triathlon has been priceless which I am so appreciative of.
With a slow build from February Steve put me in the perfect position to not only smash some huge Pbs along the way but to be race ready both physically and mentally.
Race day came around so quickly and having my husband, dad and sister-in-law at the start line calmed my nerves and let me focus on what was ahead. The swim being my most favoured, I just wanted to get in and get started. The plan was to go out hard for the first 300m, find some feet to stick to and steady the pace to a 7/10 to save some energy. The water was a dream and I remember thinking I was actually enjoying myself. I kept to the race plan and managed to steadily keep overtaking swimmers which was good for the confidence and came out of the water feeling great.
In transition the wetsuit dance was a bit of a struggle but did my best and was out on the bike and up that first hill with not much of a worry. I heard over the loud speakers while in transition the elites were at the 20k turnaround and into a bit of a head wind so kept that in the back of my mind.
The first 20k I was flying! The thoughts of making it in well under expected time was exhilarating. I kept Steve's advice in mind to monitor effort and not to go out too hard too fast. At 20k turn around my exhilaration was rudely interrupted with head winds which cut 10k/hr off my speed - this hurt both physically and mentally but I kept pushing. Seeing the T:zero tent and my family at 45k helped with the focus going back out for lap 2. The plan was to step up the effort from 50k which was attempted but failed at 70k when I hit a wall. I managed to count down the k's and just get it done.
My family, and in particular my kids, were all waiting at my bike rack in transition yelling words of encouragement which restored my energy as I got the runners on. I had never been so happy to be off for a run.
I felt good for the first 5k and then started to feel the heat. I had skipped some initial drink stations but then decided to stick to the race plan of walking the drink stops and refuel (Coaches do know best I guess!) At 10k the hill hurt but was able to keep pushing with the atmosphere from the crowd. At 15k I knew I was going to finish but just needed to keep reminding myself of some wise words "Don't give up....EVER", I think I chanted this in my mind for the 16th km. I came around a corner at 17k and had lost the battle mentally and had made my mind up to walk... there was my sister-in-law waiting to cheer me on. She then ran along the footpath for the next km to keep me going. She didn't know at the time but I was balling my eyes out (thank God for sunnies) as it was just what I needed - a reminder of the support I had from so many to not give up.
The last 3k hurt which now seems like a blur but I remember feeling disappointed in myself for not feeling as strong as I had been in training. I didn't want to let my family or Steve down.
Nothing will beat crossing that line seeing my family and particularly my husband - my emotions couldn't be contained. I couldn't believe I did it and it still brings a smile to my face thinking about it.
Needless to say, I have signed up again for 2020 with new goals in mind and can't wait for the blood, sweat and tears along the way.
So if you think that a half ironman is out of reach - I am proof that it is not and that anyone can do it!
For anyone thinking about starting triathlon or taking on a challenge within the sport already, I hope this blog encourages you to go for it, believe in yourself, and live to your full potential.
I am a 22-year-old living in Canberra and I have recently entered the world of triathlon. I joined a novice triathlon program with the Bilby’s triathlon club in October 2018. At the time, I was spending 99% of my time at the university library, working two-three days per week in a law firm and had not long returned from an overseas trip. I was ready to try something new, (having come from a background in tennis and hockey), to challenge myself, and to meet people outside my usual social group. I had a road bike which I bought second hand, (and had used only for travel to and from uni), and that was all I needed (aside from caffeine), to sign up for my first ever triathlon!
I remember my first triathlon so clearly. It was in Canberra and (shock horror) it was so windy and cold for November. The swim was almost wetsuit compulsory! I was signed up to the novice distance, which was a 200m swim, 12km bike and 2km run. I remember watching some of the Olympic distance athletes beforehand and thinking ‘how on earth do their butts not get sore after 40km of riding!?’ It was such a fun day and I ended winning my age group! I guess you can say this was the start of an amazing 12 months to come.
After competing in a few novice races and then the Sprint distance at Husky Triathlon Festival (February 2019), my next goal was the Olympic distance. I decided to race the Port Stephens Olympic in May 2019. I enjoyed the longer distance, as it gave me more time to settle into the race and find my groove. Once I had completed the Olympic distance, I set my sights on the 70.3, however, I knew that I didn’t have the knowledge or expertise to self-coach. I was also still studying full-time and working, so I didn’t really have the time to think about setting a training plan! In June 2019 I joined the T: Zero team under the guidance of coach Andrew (Andy) Perry. I said I wanted to complete my first 70.3 by the end of 2019 and soon enough I was signed up for the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in September 2019 (giving me roughly 12 weeks training time). It was a short amount of time to train for such a huge step-up in distance. But I knew the time wouldn’t be a limiting factor if I was consistent with my training. Fortunately, I was also surrounded by supportive people, and Andy had no doubts about me being able to finish the race which was really empowering. I also really loved the fact that it was going to be a challenge, and probably not going to be easy!
The toughest part of the preparation for the 70.3 was training in the Canberra winter. There was one morning where it was -2 degrees and my toes went a dangerously blue colour (even with my shoe covers!). On social media I would see people training in warmer parts of Australia, commenting that they finally cracked out the arm warmers. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here defrosting my toes in the bathtub! I soon made use of the indoor trainer a lot more. I’m a sucker for routine, so it helped that I could fit my sessions in around work, uni and social life. Some weeks were obviously harder than others, and there were mornings where I really didn’t want to get out of bed. But it’s amazing how much you’re capable of when you really want to achieve something. I had a goal that I so badly wanted to achieve and that in itself was really motivating.
September crept up quicker than ever and soon enough it was race day! What a beautiful day for a half ironman! The swim was my favourite leg of the day. I felt comfortable in the water, I could easily block out the surroundings and really get in the zone. Out of the water and onto the bike was a slightly different story. It was a tough leg, especially in the wind. The bike is still something I’m getting used to, having no experience in cycling until I started triathlon. Despite this, it was still more enjoyable than I thought it would be! It was pretty warm by the time I started running (a lot warmer than what I’m used to anyway). This made for a challenging run, but by this point, I knew I was going to finish. The run is where the body starts to really struggle, both physically and mentally. After exerting yourself for several hours, the last thing you want to do is run a half marathon! But I knew this is what I had trained to do, and I trusted the process. Physical fitness aside, the run is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. What got me through the run and the race in general, was having a positive mindset, being patient and staying in the moment. It was the absolute best feeling to get to the finish!
Post-race, I’m still trying to process everything. It is such an amazing gift to be able to swim, bike and run and it is truly incredible what you can achieve when you truly set your mind to it. Signing up to my first triathlon less than 12 months ago was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Equally rewarding was joining the T:Zero team, who are an amazing bunch of athletes that I am proud to be apart of. Pursuing my sporting goals on top of a busy lifestyle is something I’ve really struggled with in the last couple of years. It’s really great to be a part of a team that understands and works around ‘life.’ I chose T:Zero because of their positive energy and dedication to helping people from all walks of life to pursue their dreams. If you’re thinking about taking up triathlon, or chasing a huge goal, surround yourself with people who empower you to be a better you, go for it, and don’t look back.
As the saying goes, ‘opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’ When you take on a big challenge, believe in yourself, and put in the work, you can excel in all aspects of your life. You will be amazed at just how much you’re capable of!
It was an incredible weekend of racing at this year’s Sunshine Coast IRONMAN 70.3. A picturesque morning greeted the athletes with the Mooloolaba Bay offering flatter swim conditions than your local swimming pool. We saw two Kiwi professional athletes take the line honours with hundreds of athletes following them with their own awesome story to tell!
Head Coach Richard Thompson has been heavily involved with IRONMAN racing for almost two decades! Here, he shares his hot takes from the SC70.3 in 2019…
1. 70.3 World Championships close by means stronger competition
When it was announced last October that Taupo in New Zealand would play host to the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, hundreds of athletes in the southern hemisphere collectively gave a quiet fist pump and put that at the top of their list of goals. While every year the 70.3 worlds travels across the globe, it does not yet have the history or prestige as Kona does whereby athletes will want to race at that event regardless of the location. So it is common sense that when it comes close to Australia, you go all in to the process to try and qualify.
Sunshine Coast 70.3 was the regions first qualifying race for the 2020 70.3 World Championships and the age groupers knew it. With a combination of a a large contingent of experienced athletes racing, together with everyone's eagerness to get that coveted world champs slot, there was little room to move at the roll down ceremony for all those wanting to head to the North Island of New Zealand in November 2020.
We are proud to see that three of the T:Zero family accepted their spots on the weekend to race at the 2020 70.3 World Championships, a number that will no doubt grow as the next nine months ensues. But, knowing how competitive this Country is in triathlon, don’t expect a spot at the worlds to magically land in your lap. Train with purpose, believe and give yourself every opportunity to reach that goal.
2. A team is stronger than a group of individuals
It was amazing to see over 30 athletes representing T:Zero over the weekend. The athletes, together with the nine of our 12 coaches came together on Saturday morning to share a coffee and a local café, have a chat, take home some awesome products from our supporters (Ener-C and Zen Spray) and generally be motivated to perform when the sun came up the next day.
The overall feeling within the team was just incredible. And the old adage that a team is greater than the sum of its parts was no truer than what was shown on the weekend. Although we are a worldwide coaching group, and although the athletes live all over, the sense of community and belonging was really evident on Saturday and particularly Sunday with everyone encouraging each other to push their limits and live their potential. It also helps that everyone was decked out in some epic new T:Zero pink socks!
3. The role of weather for athletes and spectators
Weather. It is a fickle beast. As a coach on the side lines, it was magic on Sunday. A little breezy but the sun was out and it was a beautiful temperature. It all in all made for a great morning on the side line (compare this to the torrential conditions 12 months prior).
For the athletes, however, the conditions play a much more specific role. The perfect swim conditions lent itself to very fast swim times - example being that the lead swimmers came out in 22mins. The course was true in terms of distance, so it was nice to see that for once, mother nature took it easy for the athletes in the swim (we just need her to come back in June up in Cairns, for once).
The wind on the bike, however, proved to be strong. While not devastatingly difficult or dangerous, it was just enough to make the second lap of the bike a fair bit slower back into the side and head winds. On a global scale, this meant slower bike times for everyone– from the pros to the weekend warriors. So while you may have trained your backside off over the winter, the bike split may not be as impressive as you would have liked. Tip your hat, or your aero helmet as the case may be, to the winds for that. Then the run came and went, the winds weren’t as strong at the beach as they were out on the motorway, and with the temperature being fairly mild to slightly warm – it was near perfect run conditions.
So what I am getting at here? Don't be disheartened if your overall times are a little off. The conditions (and therefore the speed) of the bike is always the biggest contributing factor to the ebbs and flows of your overall time.
Nonetheless, I feel that the conditions on Sunday were incredible for athlete and spectator a like.
4. Drafting is always a problem, but what is the solution?
Ah drafting. It doesn’t go away. When I started racing 70.3s back in 2003 (where you had to qualify for Ironman Australia through a half ironman like you would for Kona), there would only be 600-800 athletes racing at once. We would go off as age groups, over the course of a 60-90mins and there just didn’t seem to be any drafting issues on the road.
Coach Scotty was up on the Maroochy Bridge and witnessed the congestion first hand. I feel for the athletes out there. I assume 99% of them want the ability to race their own race at a true 12m. Unfortunately, with only 22km of road in one direction and dealing with 1500+ athletes racing, the inevitable will happen. Again, not the athletes’ fault at all.
So the question has to be asked, what is Ironman doing about this? Is the answer a one loop bike, less athletes, a larger window of start times, more marshals? I don’t know, and I don’t envy the position that they are in, but it is a problem Ironman have brought on themselves. I just hope that there is much of a desire to fix it from the powers that be, as there is in the age group peloton.
5. Glorious PBs for those who believe
I read a blog article by a coach this week that basically said that qualifying for Kona is simply out of some peoples reach. I found this confronting given my background and how much I believe the human body can evolve over time to become much more efficient and faster.
I truly believe anyone can qualify for Kona, if that is something they want, and the drive is there. No matter of their ability, if the “why” is strong enough, the how will take care of itself. It becomes a question of 'when' not 'if'.
We had some incredible Personal Best performances on the weekend (despite the slower bike times aforementioned). A particular mention to one athlete who put down a near sub 5 hour performance representing a 45mins PB! This athlete is extremely dedicated to the cause, focusing on the weekly improvements, the daily grind, the 1%ers. They are incredibly focused and determined to see themselves improve as an athlete, as a person. It was so amazing to see them in their element on Sunday.
So, wherever you are on the journey of this amazing sport, don’t put yourself in a box or define yourself. You are far more powerful than you ever can imagine. Remove the doubt, distance yourself from people who doubt the journey and take it day by day.
Thank you Sunshine Coast for putting on a wonderful treat for us on the weekend...until next year.
As triathletes we’re pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to race in some amazing locations all over the world, but sometimes there’s no place like home. Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast race week is upon us and there’s no doubt we’ve got a soft-spot for this race. Here’s why …
1. It’s our “local” race … kinda
T:Zero delivers customised online training programs to athletes all over the world, and while we’re not bound to a specific location, a number of our coaches and athletes reside right here on the Sunny Coast. On race day itself, 9 of our 12 coaches will be representing - supporting, participating or both, and over 30 T:Zero athletes will be out in force competing too. We absolutely cannot wait to see everyone giving it their best and we all know there’s nothing like a bit of home-town support to motivate us up and over that final gruelling hill on the run!
2. The swim is pristine
With any luck Mooloolaba Beach will be as flat, fast and clear as it was for the Mooloolaba Triathlon Festival earlier this year! Even if it’s not quite as brilliant, there’s no denying the beauty of Mooloolaba Beach with its crystal clear water and mild temperatures pretty much year-round. With any luck, a few sneaky waves will be around to lend a hand, offering athletes a welcome boost back into shore. A rolling start to kick off the swim leg will also help to spread out the field, calm the chaos and relieve some nerves for those of us who are less confident in the water.
3. A fast, flat bike course - primed for a PB…
Beginning from transition on Beach Terrace in Mooloolaba, the bike course heads out onto the Sunshine Motorway which is largely smooth, flat and fast with a few minor undulations. Typically we find there’s a pretty good tail wind in one direction which is counter-balanced by a not-so-nice headwind so keep this in mind if you find yourself flying out of town! Disc wheels and aero helmets are often the weapons of choice for more seasoned campaigners but this course is just as easily crushed by athletes with confident aero positioning, considered pacing and the right attitude!
4. A run leg with a million dollar view
Let’s be honest, if one must run a half marathon, is there anywhere more picturesque to do so? The two-lap run course takes athletes along Mooloolaba Esplanade, which is always lined with an incredible number of enthusiastic spectators, over Alexandra Headland and out towards Cotton Tree. The return presents an enviable view along the shoreline which may be lost on you if you’re suffering, but is spectacular if you’re cruising! While the Alex Hill is long and the run can be hot with no real respite from the sun, the T:Zero team tent and cheer squad will be one (yes, the best) of many lighting the way to the finish line, providing all the motivation and thunderous support you need to bring it home!
5. It’s the perfect destination race for everyone!
Whether you’re local, semi-local or live a little further away, Sunshine Coast 70.3 serves as the perfect destination race for all athletes - singles, couples and families. There’s a huge selection of restaurants and accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets as well as a number of local attractions to keep any non-triathlon loving family members happy too. The location presents a perfect opportunity for athletes to add a few extra days either side of race weekend to kick back, relax and enjoy the rest of what Mooloolaba has to offer.
Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast will see T:Zero’s second biggest athlete representation and we’re so excited to embrace this weekend in the company of our awesome athletes, friends and supporters! We’ll even be bringing along our professional photographer and videographer to capture some of the day’s highlights so make sure you’re wearing your T:Zero gear and we can’t wait to see you all in the T:Zero team tent on race day!
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!