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’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,
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!
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!
Coach Rich says he is a bit of a bad influence when it comes to setting the bar with races. And he’s right. Watching my work friend Dave Kalinowski and Richard do Ultraman had certainly lit a tiny little fire in me deep down, and I knew I would love to do Ultraman, but I would never have suggested it. Partly because it seemed laughable. And partly because I just couldn’t get my head around running a double marathon. Also because I would never have put my hand up for a goal I wasn’t sure I could achieve!
So, when I sat down after my first IM and said “You see my data. What should I do next?” and Richard said, “Have you ever thought about doing Ultraman?” it was probably like throwing accelerant on that little ember! I muttered about the double marathon and he assured me that he knew I could do this race. Yes – he is undoubtedly a bad influence. But without that influence I would have missed out on an amazing and life changing race that must surely have been the athletic highlight of my life!
I thought about doing a traditional race report, but nobody needs to hear the blow by blow about how much I swore when I found I had no gears on day 2, or how I nearly threw up my gel at the 70km mark of the run, so this is more about the things that I think were critical to success in the event and the ways in which it changed me.
So now I just need to realise that it is done. It wasn’t just another big long training weekend (where Steve Foster helped me down the stairs onto the boardwalk at the end – OMG major fan moment!) but the real thing. I achieved what I set out to do. I am an Ultraman. It’s just taking a really long time to sink in. I quietly went back to swim squad this morning, and when I poked my head up at the end of my first 100m the whole squad was clapping because Codie (Grimsey) had told them what I had done. Embarrassing! Nup – still hasn’t sunk in! 😊
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.
ULTRA TRAIL 100 RACE REPORT
I don’t even know where to begin, it was huge, it was amazing, I have been on a high for days! I can’t believe that I felt on top of the world all day? Thanks to my brilliant coach Richard, my wonderful husband Viv and our gorgeous kids, I ran 100 km and can truly say I enjoyed every minute. I wasn’t racing, I didn’t look at my garmin for pace or heart rate, I enjoyed stopping and having something to eat at the check points (CP’s), I appreciated the views and stunning scenery. I ran when I wanted to and walked when I wanted to, it didn’t matter. I felt oddly relaxed from the moment I crossed the start line. I didn’t know how to run 100km, but I believed that I could so I just ran by feel?
Start to Narrowneck CP1 (11.4km)
I hadn’t slept well during the night, I was nervously excited and couldn’t wait to get out there. We haven’t been to the Blue Mountains before and had done only a few short walks to Echo point, Three Sisters and explored the Scenic World boardwalk and rides the previous days. The views and weather had been picture perfect.
I made myself eat a bowl of porridge as I dressed in warm layers. My eldest daughter had already braided my hair back the night before ready for the head lamp I would wear later today. My running pack was ready with the mandatory gear and I had premade my litre of lolly water that I had decided to carry. That had been a light bulb moment of realisation that I only needed the capacity to carry 2 litres of fluid.
Our accommodation was in a great position close to a UTA bus stop and the travel to the start line was hassle free. The wait to my start group time in zone 3 seemed to take an eternity! I ate a banana, had numerous toilet visits and at the last moment stripped down to my shorts & T, armwarmers and gloves.
I have been so excited about doing the UTA 100 since Richard and I stalked the internet in February and managed to get a start position in the sold out event. Since then it has been a huge trail running learning curve for me.
Heal to toe shoe drop, what’s that? Is it important? Trail shoes/road shoes…….difference?
Poles, are they useful? How do you use them? Is there a pole etiquette?
Running back pack/vest….fit, size, volume?
Running in the dark……Head torch? How many lumens?
I have run through countless spider webs, been covered in leeches, seen snakes, wild pigs and cassowary’s in training, had some spectacular falls, become entangled in metres of “wait-a-while” and gotten myself slightly lost on numerous occasions.
Finally my wave at the UTA 100 started at 6.56am.
People set off very fast but I had already decided to jog out as it went straight into uphill anyway. I made my way around the first 5-6km without accidently ending up on the 50km route, gave Viv a big happy smooch and headed down into the trails.
It went down, down, down and was particularly rough through the land slide section. I remember hoping we didn’t have to navigate anything like this at night as I clambered over rocks and logs, wishing my legs were a bit longer. The trail was narrow and I happily trotted along in the queue of people not fussing about pace. The Golden Stairs didn’t trouble me at all. My legs were fresh and the day still felt relatively cool to me having trained in Cairns. I was surprised to find myself already at CP1.
My plan was to stop at every CP and have a good drink of water and something to eat.
Narrowneck CP1 to Dunphy’s Camp CP2 (31.6km)
By this section I had realised there was no chance I was going to get lost today! There was pink flagging tape everywhere and prominent crosses on incorrect routes at each junction.
I took in the gorgeous views and chatted to people around me. Before long we came to the Tarros ladders. There was no queue because they were directing everyone via Duncan’s Pass. There was a lady stuck on the ladder and the volunteers weren’t sure how long it would take to get her down? Duncan’s Pass is a very interesting detour! I was very happy that I still had my gloves on as I used the thick knotted ropes to help me almost abseil down the trail. It is supposed to be only 300m longer than going down the ladders but I’m guessing it takes a lot longer as coming into CP2 I overtook a lot of the same people I had been in front of before the ladders?
CP2: Bakery bun and banana
Dunphy’s Camp CP2 to Six Foot Track CP3 (46km)
I enjoyed the climb up Ironpot mountain, it was very similar to a lot of the trails I had done at home and Ironpot ridge was worth the climb. On pre-reading the somewhat complicated written directions I had wondered why they sent you on this narrow, exposed out and back section? It’s simple, the experience is magical. I rock hopped over granite ledges feeling like I was on top of the world with the most spectacular backdrop and aboriginal music beats. It wasn’t the first time that I wished I ‘d brought my son’s go-pro to capture the moving moments and I locked the experience away in my memory.
Then it was time to go down again, I randomly thought as I precariously slipped and slid down the mountain that I wouldn’t be to bad at this trail running if only I could run downhill!
The last part of this section had a lot of runnable terrain and I jogged along easily, mentally registering the distance sign meant that I had run a marathon so CP3 must be getting closer.
A few hundred metres out of CP3 we were stopped for our mandatory gear check. The phone was easy but my thermals were stuffed deep in the back pocket so I had to take my pack off and ran into CP3 with it only half on.
This was the first checkpoint where crew was allowed and it was so nice to see the kids and my hubby. The kids had been acting as spotters and had seen me up at the gear check then ran down with me. There were lots of people and music playing. Here I refilled my lolly water and collected my poles.
As I didn’t know the course at all and it was too long to remember, I had asked Viv to bring the elevation map to the CP’s so I could see what was coming up. I had decided to run the course CP to CP so it didn’t become too overwhelming.
CP3: It was around midday so I had lunch.
Vegemite sandwich and mandarin
Six foot track to Katoomba Aquatic Centre CP4 (57.3km)
This section is mostly uphill so I had my poles out from the start. I ran and hiked, ran and hiked up Nellies Glen which then became the Six Foot track stairs. More Stairs! I like going uphill and I love using my poles. I don’t think I always run as fast with them but they conserve my leg energy. It didn’t actually take long to get to CP4. My right ITB was tightening slightly but it had just climbed up a lot of elevation and odd stairs.
I had planned to put on warmer clothes and even completely change at CP4 but it was only 2pm so we decided to reassess at CP5.
CP4: Dark chocolate sesame snaps
Katoomba Aquatic Centre to Water point (69.4km) to Queen Victoria Hospital CP5 (78.4km)
I enjoyed this part of the run as it passed through several of the places we had visited in the previous days. It was only mid-afternoon so lots of people were out on the tracks but everyone yelled out “runner coming” to alert people and it was very easy to pass through. Leura forest was a beautiful section, I thought I might use my poles again up Leura Cascades but managed the stairs fine without them. Up and down, Up and down. I loved hearing the bells from the volunteers as we reached the top of a climb. I had a drink of water at Fairmont Resort and started munching on little pieces of my Clif bar as I set off towards Wentworth falls. Here I enjoyed the stepping stones across the falls and watched the sun start to slowly descend in the sky. It was 5pm and I was hoping to get to CP5 before I needed a head torch.
As soon as I hit the bitumen I picked up my pace, cars were tooting and people cheering as they drove to and from CP5. I arrived just as darkness engulfed the CP and my hands started to get cold.
At CP5 we refilled my lolly water for the last time. On went the fleece, gloves, hand warmers, head buff, head lamp and high visibility vest. I was starting to get a bit tired but was still feeling great.
Queen Victoria Hospital CP5 to 100KM FINISH LINE
Viv moved me on out of CP5 before I could get too comfortable. I jogged down from the hospital for many kilometres to Jamieson creek before the uphill started again. There wasn’t a lot of people on this section with me but my headlamp gave me a comforting circle of light and the reflective flagging tape was easily visible. I felt strangely at home in the dark. Richard had made me do so many hours of hill repeats in the dark that I’m sure he could hear me cursing him from Cairns but apparently there was method to the madness 😊
I had a drink at the 90km Aid Station and knew I was now on the last climb. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of people vomiting on the way up. I stopped several times to see if I could help but soon learnt to leave them be.
As I entered Leura forest I started passing 50km people and seeing 100km people going in the opposite direction. I heard one person say to his friend that they must do a U-turn soon. I didn’t want to tell them it was a 30km U-turn!
I saw a sign that said 3km to go, then 2km to go, then I was at the bottom of Furber steps. Apparently there is 951 of these haphazard long steps, wide steps, short steps, inconsistent steps, laddered steps to get to the finish line. I knew from my Trinity beach stair training that it took me approximately 20 minutes to climb 1000 normal stairs. My garmin said I had been out on the track for around 13 and a half hours. Wow, I could get a silver buckle here but it was going to be close!
Ok, head lets love these stairs and the legs will follow, I’m sure that’s what one of the pro’s said on the panel on Friday night. I didn’t really know where the top was but suddenly I was on the board walk and there was my crazy crew cheering me to break the 14 hour mark. It was so exciting I forgot to turn my head torch off for the finishing photo. We all ran down the final stretch and under the UTA banner. Someone announced my name, I did a final gear check (rain coat & bandage I think?) and I was given my silver buckle.
I was so excited, I couldn’t stop jumping up and down. I had just run 100km! One Hundred kilometres, that is awesome!.
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!