Wednesday, 30 November 2016

It’s not about perfect. Its about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day that’s when transformation happens. That’s how change happens!


Arriving back from Noosa, I reset my mind into 27 days of hard work before 70.3 Western Sydney. I sat down with my computer with training peaks infront of me and put in everything I knew I had to do, to be best prepared for race day. Having already been on my TT for the last month, I didn’t have to change my training around too much. I was excited and motivated to dip my toes back into the long distance triathlon scene with it being something that I wish to pursue more regularly in the near future.

To break up the month of training, I headed to Hamilton Island for the first time as an ambassador for the triathlon and ocean swim. I decided not to taper as I wanted to go in fatigued under a week of training stress. It was definitely pain in paradise as I never expected the course to be so hilly. It’s such an iconic race with riding on the airport runaway a standout feature. The smaller race atmosphere makes it a great community event and I was happy to take the win. Next day, I backed up and won the 2km ocean swim. Thanks to Stephen Jackson for a great weekend and looking after us so well at the event and with other things to do on the island. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to go back next year!

Three weeks of hard training went by so fast! I was happy with how diligently I kept to my weekly training plan and I got under my belt 3 weeks of consistent training. I have perfect training grounds at home with a 30km stretch of road one way with one set of traffic lights, gravel trails to do my long tempo runs on and my awesome sponsor Aquafit gym where I swim and do my gym program. I train the best when I am happy and home is somewhere that does that.

More than ever this year, I don’t get that nervous, sick feeling before a race anymore.

Somehow I have worked out how to calm myself and stand on the start line with confidence. Another 4am start to the day, swim warm up at 5.40 and a start time of 6.18, I was ready to give my last race of the year a good crack. I lead out of the 1.9km swim with Annabel on my feet with a 2 min gap over the next two people. The course is fairly flat and fast and I knew what to expect having ridden it the previous week. I sat on the front for the first half of the first lap controlling the pace. A slower pro male overtook us both and that was the last time I saw both of them. I rode by myself for the rest of the 90km on the two lap course. I tried to just focus on myself and what I needed I do. If anything could change with 70.3 racing, I think women need a bigger time gap between them and the pro males. It means we are racing are our race and they can race theirs.

I came into T2 roughly 4 mins 20 down in 2nd place. I headed out into the unknown for the next 21km. The cloud cover started to rise and every step was getting hotter. My first 12km was exactly the way I wanted to run. My tempo runs have been progressing better than I ever thought and I knew I could run a good pace. By the middle 15km or so, I was trying to get as much ice as I could down my suit and I started to hit a little wall. I probably should have taken in another gel. I got passed into 3rd place and I just wanted to keep ticking away, because the race isnt over till its over. I ended up being 40 seconds down on 2nd place. I gave it everything I had and that’s all you can do when you line up on the start line.

Looking back on my second crack at a 70.3, I have learnt so much already about the training, nutrition and mental mindset you need to have to be successful at this distance. Sometimes I forget that someone like Annabel has a good 10 years more experience than me and it’s a exciting prospect to get stronger and smarter as I get older. Its been a great past two months of racing with a 2nd at Nepean, 2nd at Noosa, 1st Hamilton Island and a 3rd at Western Sydney 70.3. They do say practice makes perfect and my champagne spraying has definitely improved since Noosa! I knew what my goals were over the past two months and I put 100 percent intent into achieving them. Thank you to everyone that supported me this year, now its time to rest the body and mind before a big 2017!

Thank you to Witsup and Delly Carr for the photos!



Thursday, 3 November 2016

Two weekends. Two races. Two second places

October is a month I really look forward to with two consecutive weekends of hard racing at home in Australia! I was feeling good leading up to Nepean and Noosa. I had a month of consistent sessions and I could see improvement every week especially in my running speed. This time of year I can train when I want and you certainly appreciate the skill involved in coaching when you are under your own guidance. I put old fashioned pen to paper to detail my training weeks and then set about ticking off each session.

The morning of the Nepean was absolutely freezing. I had gloves, tights and headwear on just to keep warm and I was still shaking. It was a wetsuit swim for the first time in the 6 years that I have competed and I was glad of the added protection. The women’s field was pretty small and I lead out with five of us exiting the water together. I was a little disappointed with the swim based on how well I have been swimming but the cold was definitely a factor. In the first stages of the ride I took my position on the front. After about 5km Ashleigh Gentle and Nicky Samuels attacked around me; I was still frozen solid and just couldn’t go with them. Nine degree average with crosswinds and being wet is not very ideal. I just kept riding consistently and with about 5km to go, I could see I was closing fast onto Nicky. I came into T2 one minute behind Ashleigh and with no time gaps to anyone else in the race. I wanted to give it a good crack and if I had the opportunity to back it off, I would, to save some gas for Noosa next weekend. I felt strong running and stamped a solid 2nd place finish.

The week between the two races was all about listening to my body. You aren’t going to get any fitter between the two weekends so, it was just about maintaining. I actually think I was pretty lucky that Nepean was cool because that’s one less thing my body had to recover from. I took the first few days fairly easy and added some speed later in the week. No new sessions, just lowering the amount of efforts I was doing.

I arrived in Noosa with some confidence from Nepean determined to leave a better impression this year. Last year, I made a dumb error and I went the wrong way. This year, I made sure I googled mapped everything and I made sure I knew and rode the right course. Thanks to Specialized Australia for the lovely Friday morning ride and coffee sit. Noosa has actually just become one of my favourite places to train and race. Waking up in the morning and just rolling out the door at 6am in a jersey and cycling knicks is utter bliss. At home I am surrounded by roadworks making
cycling that little bit more challenging while at Noosa there were endless bike shoulders on every road we went on. We were lucky enough to train a bit on the bike crit track and grass running track. We had a lovely Air B n B lady that was in a perfect location and lucky for us, she used to be a chef. She was so welcoming, supportive and made our pre-race environment a very relaxed setting.
I had a shocker start running into the water but I soon found good feet to follow. I put my head up after the first buoy and saw a gap starting to grow between Danielle and Nicky. I surged past Nicky and sat on Danielle feet for the rest of the swim. I could feel that we had a good gap as no one was taping on my feet. Swimming with her brought my confidence back and I felt fast. Unfortunately, I missed the wave she got in and I had to make up the 5 or so seconds running into transition. We were out before anyone else had run in.

I had no idea of time gaps and the first time I knew someone was behind me was when Nicky first took a turn going up Garmin hill. I was happy to be on the front as I know I am pushing as hard as I possibly can and I am making the race my own. The first time I roughly knew the gap to the rest of the field was at the end turn around point and I guessed the chase was about a minute or so down. I just kept ticking away and I had just less than a minute on Ashleigh going onto the run. I didn’t feel anywhere near was good as last weekend but I wanted to keep my cadence high, chest up and keep hydrated. At the turn around, I could see that Ash wasn’t very far behind me and I knew she was going to catch within the next km or so. Just past the 5km mark, Ash past me and I stayed focused on keeping strong til the finish. I couldn’t be happier with 2nd place and how I did everything I could to attack the race from the start.

The year isn’t over yet! I am now going to continue to maintain this end of season fitness leading into Hamilton Island Triathlon and my 2nd 70.3 race at Western Sydney later in the month. I am always excited for the unknown and giving these two new experiences a go!

Thank you to Witsup, Korupt Vision and Des Thureson for the photos!


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Home sweet home!

In the last week of my overseas trip for 2016, I jumped through six time zones to get back to my final destination - home. There was a lot of travel this year to places I have never trained or raced before but this year was probably the year I enjoyed the most out of the five years I have been away. Being happy training in the environment that you are in, I think reflects on performances mentally and your results at the end of the day.

World Championships in Cozumel was a great experience and I am very grateful to be the 42nd woman to represent Australia at a World Championships. Training in Florida was perfect to acclimatise to the weather conditions and to get some final hard sessions in for the year with the Wizards. Cozumel brought a lot of positives to take to the 2017 ITU season and prepare for a big two years leading to the Commonwealth Games. I have become confident in my swim and my ability to have processes in place to get me out near the front. By Cozumel, I learnt to back myself and my ability to be able to contribute in a bike pack and ride in smart positions. My running has been gradually progressing this year in the right direction after my foot injury but I know I still have plenty to work on to get up to the world’s best.

Since being home, it took me a week to start feeling like a normal human being. My body had no idea where I was in the world! Luckily my afternoon jetlag nap didn’t kick in and I got to watch my AFL team play in the Grand Final. I would love to one day head down to Melbourne and watch the AFL Grand Final at the MCG with 100000 fans. The Sydney Swans played very average but I am still a proud supporter. I am not sure about my Dad though who decided he might swap to Greater Western Sydney Giants after they lost because they are more local to us. Bad excuse!

This weekend I line up for my fifth Nepean Triathlon and next weekend my second Noosa Triathlon. Being back on a TT bike is actually a shock the first time you get on, as I always forget how much the wind blows you around. To my luck, it has been non stop windy since I have got home. With the winds being sometimes gale force, I have become best friends with my trainer and also gained a training partner in my dog. I actually don’t mind the trainer. It lets me get some consistency in power and a quality session without dealing with cars and magpies. My neighbour has started calling me garage girl.

Racing is the best sort of training. Over the past two weekends, I have headed out to Penrith to participate in two club races with the Hills Triathlon Club and Panthers Triathlon Club. After a solid week of training, it was good to race on a fatigued body and race against the guys. Being able to do some smaller races on the TT bike, has given me time to execute the processes that I need to put into place on race day over the next few weeks. Thanks to Ryan at 3D Bike Fit for getting me dialled up and in the most comfortable bike fit I have ever had – it is definitely essential with any new bike.

The 2016 season is nearly over and before I know it, the hard work will start again for 2017. For now it’s about getting the last out of my end of season fitness and keeping on top of the little things before a big last 6 weeks of racing!


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.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Unknown- Challenge Melbourne

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!