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
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.
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.
Over December and January I decided to discover the unknown. I have never done a half ironman before but I was excited to give the challenge a go. With the decision to stay home and not go to Falls Creek this year, it gave me something to train for whilst being at home. I gradually started to build up the km’s on the bike to more specific TT efforts and longer tempo runs. Every week was a similar session so I got plenty of consistency to see how I was improving. I also added 3 days a week of gym at NSWIS into my program which has helped me build a lot of strength.
Challenge Melbourne came around a lot faster than I ever thought as I felt like yesterday I was counting down the days till I could taper. I was feeling good and had confidence in the training that I had been doing. I took the week leading in quite easy with a small Aquathon race on Australia Day. The thing that hurt me the most was probably the 4am start on race morning. The weather was perfect for us as predicted storms had blown over. The 6.15am start turned into 6.30am as it was so dark, no one could see the buoys.The swim was a good tempo for the 1.9km and I lead out of the swim with Annabel and Ellie on my feet.
The wind starting picking up and the three of us started the 3 laps of 30km together. I had a solid nutrition plan from our AIS dietician, Greg Cox who called the bike a rolling buffet. I knew I had to listen to my body and take in nutrition at the right stages of the bike. Within the first lap, Annabel had a mechanical so it was just Ellie and I for the next 75km. On the second lap, I
dropped my water bottle which at first I freaked out alittle but then I just tried to focus on the task ahead. The ride was solid and very consistent with the power and cadence I have been training at. The wind started to pick up even more and by the last lap heading back to transition, I started to feel like the elastic band break in the last 5km. Within that 5km, Ellie gained 30 seconds on me coming into transition.
A lot of people have told me don't go too hard in the first few kms. The run was 3 laps of 7 kms. Out on the winding trails and then back on the concrete path. It didn't make it fast but at least it kept it interesting. I have been doing a lot of run/walks so I knew if I needed to walk the aid station I could. The middle lap was probably the slowest for me and I just tried to keep form and focus on the process. The last 3.5 km, I probably felt the best and tapped out my way to the finish. 4 hours and 15 mins later, I finished up with a 2nd in my debut half.
I have learnt a lot about mental toughness over the past 2 months and what it takes to change distance. It's been a real positive experience for me and one that I will take plenty of experience and learning from. Thank you to everyone that helped me out with advice or equipment to get me to the start line with the best knowledge and equipment possible. Thanks to Sydney City Cycles for the final tune up pre race and Ryan from 3D bike fit for getting me the best fit possible. Also thank you to Stef Hanson from Witsup for all the pictures in my report! It's now back to ITU racing with my next one being Abu Dubai WTS in March!