Monday, 24 August 2015

WTS Stockholm


"As an athlete and you can ask any top athlete, if you start doubting yourself, you have already lost the race" Usain Bolt

Sitting on the plane home from Stockholm, I read that quote above in an article about Bolt winning the 100m final by 0.01 seconds. When you put yourself on the start line, hundredths of thoughts run through your head and doubt is one of them. Have I done enough? But this session didn’t go well? What if I take this corner too fast? The list goes on.. I thought doubt and nerves would be playing on my mind because of being sick in hospital a few weeks ago. I remember getting the email confirming my start for Stockholm when I was in a hospital bed and from that moment on, I was determined to get myself in working order. Surprisingly, I was the most relaxed I have ever been standing on a WTS start line. I had a clear focus and didn’t put pressure on myself for things I thought I missed out on. I knew what I had to do to put myself in the race from the start with key processes in every discipline and I was determined to execute them.

This is my third year racing in Stockholm on the hard and challenging course but it is actually my favourite course on the circuit. I feel like I know the course well now and things that used to scare me, I wonder why I worked myself up on them so much. The water was warm for once and 19.5 was border line wetsuit for us. The water was super choppy and it was a long way to the first buoy. I knew by the time we turned the first buoy, the swim would have sorted itself out. I dove in and got in a good position straight away. It was the gentlest swim I have been in all year
and it was a good change. We turned the first buoy and I could see a gap starting to be created infront of me. I was just off the back of the group ahead of me. I started bridging up with a girl beside me and I could feel no one on my feet. That was going to be the make or break moment. I dove back in and saw no one on the pontoon behind us. I was in about 10th place, I kept this position for the remainder of the swim and wanted to get myself in a good position for T1.

Running into transition, as always; you have to be desperate in your approach. I got my wetsuit stuck on my timing chip and I struggled to get it off. I started to have a few seconds of panic before I got it off but those few seconds cost me. I was last out of T1 and about 10m off the girls in front of me that jumped on their bikes. Unfortunately, I never got on and I was riding two laps in no man’s land. I was frustrated and annoyed because I lost my over a minute advantage out of the swim to the other girls. Two athletes, Nicola Spirig and Hanna Philippin came past me like a steam train and they should have been my magic carpet. I really struggled after a lap to stay with them and I was now joining the chase group behind. Like most times in chase group, you see about 5 athletes the whole ride. At that point, I was more frustrated because I knew my race was up the road and we were not gaining anytime.

From previous years, the run course in Stockholm is tough after a hard bike and like all races, the people that can back end their run the best, are the ones that come out on top. Having being sick, I haven’t had the opportunity to do a lot of quality sessions but I tried to focus on myself and what I knew I was capable of doing. A lot of girls went out hard in the first 2.5km and by the second lap I was running past people. I knew we were not going to catch anyone from the front group so I had to focus on moving my way through my group. By the start of the last lap, I was in the position I finished up in. For me, my run is something I have been searching for all year and I think it is finally progressing for me with a lot specific work in the gym.

Finishing up 22nd is okay but makes me hungry for under 23 world championships in a few weeks time. This race was good practice putting processes together. I wanted better and the opportunity was there but a little error cost me my race up the road. It is my last WTS for the year and I am grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to the best in the world this year after not racing all of last year. This year has been not as easy as what I thought it would be fitting back into the WTS circuit and has showed me how quickly the dynamics of racing can change. As a young athlete, 2015 has been another eye opener and quality experiences at the highest level of racing. I am determined to come back in 2016 better and move myself up the rankings. It is now back to Vitoria for my final 3 weeks of hard work in Europe.


Friday, 24 July 2015

the week it was...

Sometimes life throws things at you. No reason to explain it but asks you to deal with it the best way humanly possible.How are you going to get over this bump in the road?  Leading into Hamburg I was feeling unwell and took it pretty easy. I had three days where I felt revitalised and thought maybe I would be going into WTS Hamburg feeling refreshed.  Unfortunately, my body felt otherwise. Two days before the race, I was throwing up and the thought of food made me feel even sicker.  I lined up on Saturday afternoon, put my game face on and wanted to do the best race I could under the circumstances. I dove into the water and my body felt so weak. Coming out of the water 40 seconds back, doesn’t reflect at all how I have been swimming over the past few weeks. My arms had nothing to give and neither did my legs when I wanted to accelerate out of the saddle. I hate to DNF but on Saturday, my body had nothing to give and at the world stage, you cannot be off your game because you are just going to get swallowed up.

I headed back to Vitoria and wanted to get everything sorted out with my health so I could start training properly again. I went to the hospital with the hope I would get some antibiotics and I could go home. I had some tests done that showed some inflammation in my pancreas and the enzymes levels were a lot higher than normal. The pancreas is an organ in the body that is responsible for the digestion of food especially the digestion of protein . It also is responsible for making the hormone insulin which helps control blood sugar levels in the body.  After blood tests, x ray , ultrasound,  they wanted to make sure, it wasn’t a ulcer in my stomach causing the problem. This meant I had to go on a drip and stay in hospital to keep monitored.

Wednesday night I had an endoscopy where they knocked me out and inserted a thin tube down my throat into my stomach to see if there was any problems. All I remember was the nurse telling me I would feel an inch in my arm from the anaesthesia  and a hour later I wake up to Shania Twain playing on the radio. They found nothing in my stomach which was a positive and it was back to sorting out my pancreas. With all these tests for my stomach and pancreas, I have not been allowed to eat or drink at all or starved for 12 hour periods which have nearly killed me! I had to let my pancreas calm down, without the process of digesting food, this was also a reason why I wasn’t allowed to eat. After my endoscopy, I was put on a liquid diet. Dinner was a bowl of chicken stock, breakfast was a cup of tea and juice and I couldn’t wait for some proper food.  I have been soaking up the food I have been allowed like soup and tea. I felt terrible setting off the massive alarm, with the nurse running in just to ask for a tea.

I get a little bored in here but I have decided to call it my palace. My room is quiet big and I have a big window I can open up and soak up the fresh air from outside whilst I read or just listen to music. I do some glute exercises and have my daily stretch , just to move out of my bed. We had a crazy storm the first night so I had prime position to watch from my window. The same guy comes in and wheels me around in a wheel chair or moves my bed to different rooms. There is only so much Masterchef I can watch especially being on verge of starvation but I always had company, when the young nurse also enjoyed my choice of shows. The English of the staff is very good but goggle translator has helped us out this week in getting the important things communicated.  We have been having trouble all week with the blood pressure machine. My heart rate is too low that the machine couldn’t pick up anything under 40. We finally got a special machine in and found out my heart rate was 35 sitting up in a chair. I would love to know what it is when I am fully relaxed! To everyone that has visited me so far this week in hospital and brought me gifts, I appreciate it so much and the chats! It has been the best part of my days so far and I love the company to make my days go alittle faster.

I was allowed to go home on Friday with some special doctor’s orders to help me get better and maintain my health. I walked straight out the door, looked up at the sky and soaked in the fresh air. It felt so good to walk outside. I rode myself to the hospital on Tuesday and it was actually nice to ride myself back home.  I was straight onto our dietician Greg Cox, to help me choose the right diet to help the inflammation stay down and get me back to working order.  Thanks IƱigo Mujika for helping me get the treatment I need so quick here in Vitoria. Now to get better and stronger for the remaindered of the season!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Life is a game of inches!

                                 Photo by Etienne Van Rensburg

From parking your car and nearly missing that pole with your rear view mirror to missing out on that sprint finish by 0.01 seconds, life is a game of inches.  I have learnt over the past month the importance of that inch. The knowledge of every small detail is like a passport you can take anywhere in the world. Just like baking a cake, if you don’t follow the recipe and take a short cut, the likelihood of the cake turning out is a hit and miss.

After my first race in Europe, London WTS, I had some solid weeks of training building up some consistency, confidence and warming (literally) back into Vitoria Gasteiz.  Summer has arrived for us or otherwise known as a “heatwave “ for the Europeans. You get into a routine of what you do on each day every week and like they say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It is always nice being back in a group environment with always someone to train with, work with on your good and bad days.

A made a small trip via the train, to Barcelona, to race the Garmin Barcelona Triathlon. I have never been to Barcelona before, except the airport, so I was excited to race and have a look around post race. The race was different from normal races as the girls and guys started together which meant you can draft off the boys throughout the race. My first Olympic distance in ages, I enjoyed the hurt after a hard week of training leading in. It was a fun course that kept me motivated to work all day and ended up 2nd. Thank you to Javi Theilacker for inviting me to be part of such a great and well organised event.

It was all about recovery post race and getting another week of training in before heading to my first French Grand Prix of 2015 with my new team, Poissy Triathlon. I felt very welcomed and excited to be racing for a team, I always thought so highly of. Like most French races, it is about coming out alive out of the swim and even more so with Dunkerque with the first buoy being 100m or so away. I got nailed to start with, fists and legs all over the place but moved my way quickly on the back straight to the end of the front group. We rode the 5 lap bike course as a group of 18 trying to maintain the pace at the front to stay away from the group behind.  I felt strong that day running and I think I found some glimpses of my running legs.  I finished up in 9th place and 1st overall for our team. I can’t wait to race in Enbrum!  I look at French races as valuable opportunities to race the best in world and maybe sometimes surprise myself.

Last weekend I was looking forward to racing my Holten European Cup and seeing where my training was at over an Olympic distance. This course suits small break away groups and that was what I wanted from the start. We found out on it was getting changed from an Olympic to a sprint due to the heat. This changed the whole dynamic of the race and to be honest I was pretty annoyed over the change. I have raced plenty of races in heat and being athletes you have to adapt to whatever the uncontrollables are. We ended up starting at 7.30pm at night and after sitting around all day, it was a terrible time to start.

 I had a great swim and for the first time in ages, I felt comfortable swimming hard. We started with a group of 8 girls for the first 9km back into town. Before the first hill, the group behind us had just caught on and everyone was getting antsy as per usual. Climbing up the first hill, I thought I was in a good position at the front in the middle of the group. That changed pretty quickly. One of the American girls lost control taking a drink and I saw bikes and people crash in front of me. I had no where to go but on the road with more bikes and people on top of me. I looked down at my elbow with blood all over it, checked my bike and thought what the heck, get back on your bike. By the time I got back up, it was all over. I wanted to finish the race and catch as many girls as I could on the run. Finishing, I was still in abit of shock of everything that happened. I got a stitch to my elbow about 5 mins post race with no local to numb the pain and honestly, I just felt more faint. It’s pretty disappointing as I was looking  for a good performance there.

Now it is about getting the body back into working order for Hamburg WTS in a week and a half time.  I had three days out of the water with my stitch which nearly killed me as I love swimming! I am just grateful that I didn’t land about 1cm closer to my elbow bone otherwise I could be writing to you from Australia. Life is a game of inches sometimes cm’s. Move onto the next one…


Monday, 1 June 2015

London WTS

London- reminds me alittle bit of home! After arriving in Vitoria Gasteiz a week ago, it gave me a chance to settle back in and get some quality sessions in post travel. This year for me has been the hardest to say goodbye to home and fit back into Vitoria after spending a year at home last year after my surgery. After the Gold Coast, I started second guessing myself a lot about my place in the sport. Having a good month worth of training in Wollongong and a few small races to get some confidence back into my training and racing has helped me a lot. Pre race was good to see bits and pieces of London like Buckingham Palace and ride on the course in Hyde park where we got stopped by a horses practicing for the Queen’s birthday long weekend. Last time I was in London was for World Championships in 2013. I was pretty disappointed with my result, so I was excited to come back and give it a crack.

Race day started late in the afternoon on Sunday and I find myself getting antsy about having so much time on my hands. I warmed up on my Sportcrafters rollers which are perfect for travelling with and for cities where it is hard to ride in. It was quite cold outside so I decided not to get into the water and do some dry land exercises instead. I walked onto the pontoon quite late along the line. Big gaps were left and right of Gwen so I thought bingo, thank you very much. I didn't have that great of an initial sprint but surprisingly enough I didn’t really get touched the whole swim. A nice change! I took over quite a few people along the back straight but just couldn't make up the time I lost to start with. Exiting the water just off the front group is definitely some big motivation to work hard and focus on my front end speed in training.

To start with we had a good group all working together on the bike but as soon as the group behind us caught, everyone just sat up and some people I didn't see again the whole ride. The ride was pretty dodgey with a lot of girls, some below par skills and wind blowing us across the road. I made sure I followed good wheels and stayed near the front to keep out of trouble. The ride was pretty steady and there was only a few times where the pace was getting pushed. By the end of the last lap, we finally were making up some time on the front group. As most people wish and being in that situation myself, being in that front 7 is always ideal. Coming off the bike, I knew it would be chaos coming into T2 so I wanted to be in and out quick smart.

 I actually had a good T2 but those first few steps my feet hit the ground like blocks of cement. They didn't really warm up till the second lap of the run. The pace on the run was on from the get go with plenty of fast runners in our group. I needed to back myself and the sessions I have done over the past month. The run was probably the best and strongest I have felt all year which are big steps in the right direction in my run form. Ending up 26th is nothing special but some positives to take and build on over the European season.

Time now to head back to Vitoria!