Thursday, 25 August 2016

August Monthly Report

A relatively short stay, leaving Vitoria Gasteiz, I was happy with the hard work that was done over the past two months. This year has given me a great foundation and base to build and maintain upon. I went into every session with a different attitude this year, wanting to leave every session with positives and processes that can build upon for the next session. If your mind wasn’t truly focussed on the session ahead of you, you were going to get left behind. I think this year more than ever, I took benefit of training with some of the best girls in the world and tried to work together with them so that we got the most out of each other.

My first race was London Triathlon. I knew having a good swim was going to be key to having a good race here. The funniest part of the race was as soon as we got out of the water we had to strip off our wetsuit and put it in a garbage bag. We then had to run about 400m with it over our shoulder up stairs into the transition area. A classic Natalie move, I slipped over on the wet carpet coming into transition. I had to hustle but I got into a small break with 3 other girls on the bike. The ride was very solid with 3 super strong girls pushing the pace for the 40km. The first 5km running hurt but I built back and was fighting for 3rd. But with about 500m to go, a girl from the second group surged past both of us and I had sprint my way into 4th place.

After London, we headed to our new home for the next 2 weeks. I have been currently settled in a small countryside town of Loughborough, about 2 hours north of London. Loughborough is known for the best sporting facilities within the UK, that is based around the university here. I have been lucky enough to have a glimpse at what the university has to offer with a few sessions on the track and the use of the gym. Apart from the university, the riding has been awesome and the trails are endless. A big thank you to Gav, Luke, Adam and Alison, who have let us join in to all the group sessions and experience training here in Loughborough.

I had one week to recover before heading to Liverpool for the triathlon there. Unfortunately, I picked up something along the way and the whole week I was battling with a head cold and no voice. I didn’t know how my body would response to racing again. The swim was a deep water start with 70 girls on the start line. Just saying, that sounds like a fight about to happen. I got pushed around for the first 200m or so and then had to bridge myself back up to the front 3 girls ahead of me. Exiting the water, I was just alittle too far back off the front two girls and I got left in no mans land as the other group was 30 seconds behind us. The ride was honestly just a fight for a good position with the narrow turns and corners. Surprisingly, I actually felt really good running and just had to battle through a tight chest for the 5km. I ended up having a sprint finish and finished 5th.

The past two weeks have been fairly busy getting back into the swing of things for my next race in Karlovy Vary this weekend in the Czech Republic. I have never raced here before so the days leading up the race will be a good chance to get my bearings and suss out the course.

Finally to end a stacked August, I am excited to announce that I have qualified for World Championships in Cozumel in September and become part of my first elite team. This will be my 5th time representing the green and gold at a World Championships. After a rocky start to the year with injury, it would be awesome to put the final pieces of the puzzle together to finish the ITU season on a high!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

WTS Stockholm

Heading back to Stockholm for the 4th time, I was motivated to put the preparation we had done behind the scenes into a performance on race day. Training like always has been hard but I have been seeing everyday as a chance to progress. I knew the course and I was excited to see the few technical changes that have been made this year. Having self confidence in the process was going to be vital for me to have a good performance. Before I left Vitoria Gasteiz, I wrote down 5 quotes that meant something to me leading on the theme of confidence. One of them was "one important key to success is self confidence. An important key to self confidence is preparation".



Standing on the pontoon, listening to the heartbeat music play, I looked out and the water looked like a chaos . The under current pushing the water one way and the gusty wind creating massive chop and waves on top. I never really think about my start position. I think about swimming as fast as I can, to get clear water as soon as possible. Having a high stroke rate really suited this type of conditions and I was tucked in nicely in 4/5 around the first buoy. After the first lap, 6 of us had a gap from the rest of the field. Diving back in, the chop made it really hard to hold feet. I was probably too comfortable and I lost contact coming back into the pontoon. That 5/6 seconds was going to put me in a really awkward position especially with some strong cyclists infront of me. Unfortunately it was just too far. I was putting on my helmet as they were going out. I feel strong swimming but this shows there is a chance to become stronger which is an exciting prospect.

For most of the first lap, I was riding with one other girl, before being caught by the next small group behind us. The new parts of the course gave us less cobble stones but more narrow and technical sections. I had to be smart with who I followed as every corner we were out of our saddle sprinting and some girls couldn’t get back on. I never thought I was going to get dropped but some parts were definitely full gas especially when we caught the 3 girls in front. If there is something I want to work on for Hamburg is to be aggressive in my position within the group. At some points I was a little too far back within the group. One benefit of the new course is that it allows you to see a lot of times where everyone is placed. Coming off the bike, the 14 of us had a decent gap on the next chase group and I knew that if I could run a solid 10 km I would have my best WTS result in a long time.

Starting the run, my legs were like jelly. The hill on each lap and the sprinting out of each corner had taken its toll. I have been working hard on getting my nutrition right on the bike to maximise my run performance. The first lap felt like a mission but as the run went on I could get my cadence up and work on moving forward. By the last lap, I could see the faster runners coming from the group behind and I knew I had to work harder if I wanted to stay where I was. Crossing the line in 15th is a good stepping stone back to where I want to be. Having some time off with my stress reaction in my foot has put me back a little run wise but this only means there is plenty of room to keep improving. It’s a fast turn around but I am motivated to show more improvement in 2 weeks time in Hamburg WTS!

Photos by Etienne Van Rensburg/ Specialized Triathlon

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Resilience, patience and persistence

Over the past two months, three words have been the key to getting me back on track. Getting through an injury is not only physical recovery but mental healing as well. Resilience is something that I see as being really important as bouncing back from some downtime can either be positive or negative. I tried and looked at my injury as a time I got to focus on other elements of triathlon rather than running and gain strength in those areas. I am not going to lie, it’s hard. Being in an elite environment on a day to day basis, you have to put all on focus into yourself and plan how you will build back and learn from your mistakes, rather than worrying about what others are doing around you. A constant reminder for myself was a quote "remind yourself that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing!".

Leaving Australia, I headed straight to Paris and spent a week with my French team in Poissy, just outside of Paris. I had never been there before and I was excited to spend time in a different part of the world. That week was pretty easy leading into Dunkerque French GP with some cruisey rides in the country side, some tempo running in the forest and some quality swim km’s with the club. I have been pretty patient with my return to running and I used the elliptical as an important part of my return. My first race back in nearly 3 months, I had no idea what to expect but I had confidence in the processes that I wanted to achieve. I lead out of the water and we had a good group of girls working together on the bike to gain a big advantage before the run. My run was no where near where it could be but I was so happy to finish 10th, with no pain, a full race complete and lots of positives to take away. Thanks Poissy for having me for the week and 1st for our team was a way to finish the week on a high.

I am now back in Vitoria Gasteiz, where I have now been settling back in for the past few weeks. The riding here, we really do take for granted! So much to choose from and more importantly the cars are very friendly towards us. It’s been good building my training up and I even got to experience my first double run day in a very long time! At the moment, we are training hard towards WTS Leeds this weekend. Last weekend, I did my first German Bundesliga race for my Team TV Lemgo Triathlon. As soon as we stood on the start line, the rain started to pour down. I lead out of the swim with 5 other girls but no one really wanted to work on the bike. Possibly the most dangerous ride I have done with all the water on the road. I feel like I ran well for the week we had leading into the race and I am excited to get back on the WTS circuit this weekend.

I can see that persistence pays off and that I am on the return to my best form. Training is a rollercoaster but I am enjoying the ups and the downs. I am looking forward to getting some consistency back and some quality work done here in Vitoria Gazteiz in my lead up to my next few races after Leeds.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. -Arnold Schwarzenegger



 It has taken me a long time to write this. I actually wrote a blog about a month ago then deleted it. I didn’t want questions because I didn’t have the answers. I wanted to focus on what I needed to do to get better without the influences and drama from people around me. No one understands your body and yourself better than you. You have to look at all these challenges that we face as an athlete as an important part of a learning curve to becoming the best in the world.

After doing my first half ironman, I jumped straight back into training with my normal group down in Wollongong getting ready for WTS Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi was a race I was looking forward to for a while because I knew if I did the basics right, I would be back up in the game where I should be. I found a new confidence in my training and I really think this helped me focus on what I needed to do this year. I was swimming some of the best times consistently in training and what was once hard was becoming easier. I was feeling stronger on the bike and liked feeling that I could finally contribute to a session rather than just hanging on. Running probably took the longest to change gear back to some speed work but I was enjoying putting processes in place and seeing improvements every week.

After flying to Abu Dhabi, during the week leading into the race, my foot started to get more average by the day. Unfortunately or lucky enough, I ended up getting two flats during the race and I had to DNF. I was meant to fly from Adu Dhabi to New Plymouth for a month of training before New Plymouth World Cup and hopefully achieve a WTS Gold Coast start but instead I stopped off at home for a MRI on my foot. I was really hoping for the best but I got diagnosed with a stress reaction in my third metatarsal. To be honest the timing of it hurt more than the injury itself.

I spent March at home focussing on recovery and rehab to get me back in working order as soon as possible. As I couldn’t do much else for the first two weeks or so, I jumped in the pool and pretty much doubled the amount of swimming I normally do. I went back to NSWIS and did weight work in the gym off my feet, upper body strengthening work and conditioning training. It is really important to maintain strength as it is amazing how quickly the body loses basic conditioning and it will put you a few steps ahead when you start back training fully. Within no time at all, I was on the bike inside and then out in the fresh air on the bike. I got poured on, during my second ride back and I was still smiling because being healthy and doing what I love was so much more important to me.

I am now back running and sweating it out on the elliptical trainer which I am actually really enjoying. It is just about taking it week by week and taking one step forward when the body is ready. It is always hard watching people race and I have missed a really important early part of 2016 but the year still has a long way to go! I am confident and ready to move forward.