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Into the swing of things…

2016 has rolled around quickly, I cant believe it’s already mid-March, with the Ironman season in full swing!

A very quick recap on 2015: it started out well, with an early season podium at Challenge Wanaka, followed by my 2nd Ironman win, at Ironman Australia and rounded off mid-year with another podium at Ironman Cairns. I wrapped up these 3 big races with a mid-year break, and following that struggled to get going again! A few niggles delayed the return to racing in the second half of the year, I managed to do 2x 70.3’s but was not firing on all cylinders and then rounded off the year with an unfortunately timed sickness forced DNF at Taupo 70.3. I stayed at home in NZ for Christmas with the intentions of racing one of my favourites (home town + my first ever triathlon): the Tauranga Half Ironman at the start of Jan, but I think attempting to race Taupo 70.3 with the flu took it’s toll and I wound up fatigued and sick for a while after and then of course my old friend: sciatica reared it’s ugly head! So Christmas time actually ended up being a forced break and a holiday with family and friends! I did some no pressure long rides and easy swim sessions and that was about it for the month of December! It was actually awesome to be able to relax over Christmas for the first time in many years and enjoy time with my families, especially my favourite (and only) little niece, Meika!

Papamoa Beach

SO onto 2016, I returned back to Australia feeling a little worried about my next planned race- Ironman New Zealand, as time was quickly rolling around and I found myself 7 weeks out with no time to waste! Training was quickly into full swing and surprisingly I started responding and picked my fitness back up quickly. In hindsight I think the forced Christmas break did me wonders!

And suddenly it was time to race! First up, an iconic Australian race, that I’ve heard so much about but never raced- the Huskisson Triathlon! What an awesome event and one that I’m going to try and put on my calendar in years to come….great location and an awesome and challenging course. I came 3rd with a solid and consistent race behind Mel H and Radka, so it was a good sign leading into IMNZ 2 weeks later.

IMNZ….my 9th Ironman distance race and 2nd time racing at IMNZ. Words cannot describe how much I love Taupo, I think just being home in NZ itself I love, but Taupo is such a beautiful and relaxing place, especially with the flawless weather we were given for race week!

Lake Taupo 3

Race morning- we couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions, the lake was a millpond, just like a big swimming pool! I lost the feet I wanted and swum the 3.8km solo which wasn’t ideal, but at least it was an easy swim in terms of sighting and knowing where to go.

As ridiculous as this sounds- this was my first IM race, racing with a plan! I usually just race by doing a swim/bike/run! I’ve recently had a power meter installed and started with a new coach- bike guru Ryan Williams, who provided me with a plan of power numbers and run pacing to stick by! The result…I let the faster girls go by on the bike, where I’d usually try to go with them and I didn’t chase and try to close gaps to the front girls, I just focussed solely on my race and rode my numbers and it was the most consistent I’ve felt on the bike in an IM race. Kudos to Ryno! It was a quick day as 5 of us went under the previous bike course record, which now belongs to uber biker Lucy, those front girls were literally motoring!

IMNZ bike

Onto the run and again I had a pacing plan, BUT my Garmin wasn’t picking up, so I just ran by feel. I floated through the first half feeling fine and in control and then the gut issues started! I’ve never before (in racing) suffered anything as such, stabbing pain, bloating, on the verge of vomiting upon taking anything in. I know it’s an Ironman and it would be unusual to get through a race without any issues, so I just took it on board and was forced to a slower pace and even had to break my no walk policy on a few occasions in an attempt to rid the stomach cramps. So the last 21km’s was pretty uncomfortable and I ran it all on plain water , BUT I still ran a PB of 4 minutes quicker, so it wasn’t all bad! And then crossed the finish line in a PB ironman time, so all in all a positive day! My PB time was only good enough for 6th place, the girls ahead of me all had incredible days and it was awesome to race such a high quality field!

IMNZ Run 2

Thanks must go out to my awesome team of supporters: SCODY (love my extremely comfy and awesome custom kit); Asics; Hammer nutrition; Ryno/3D bike fit; ROKA wetsuits; Rudy Project; Compu trainer and M5 management.

And of course the gathering of family and friends that made the trip especially to watch me race….Mum & Dad; Clay; Sherree; JB, Mardi & Meika; Matt, Kelsey & Charlie; Gav & Hannah; Robbie & Jess, Pip & Craig and Tina, and all of my old training buddies from all over NZ who were out on course racing/supporting/cheering! 🙂

Ironman Australia!!

Ironman Australia was an event I targeted this year for a few reasons…..

Firstly it’s kind of my home away from home race- now living and training just out of Sydney, Port Macquarie is just a few short hours away. These days, most races involve packing the bike into the bike box, flying and hoping that the bike arrives undamaged, and then unpacking at the other end and/or dealing with any issues arisen from the awesome baggage handlers who look after our bikes oh so well! So being able to drive to Port (as boring as the drive is!) and take away the stress of flying with my precious cargo was such a treat!

Secondly I was side-lined last year watching friends racing and saw just how electric the atmosphere is, the crowd support and club spirit is truly amazing and creates such a pumped up atmosphere for those racing! And of course it’s always great fun to be out racing with those that you train day in, day out with, so training with some of the PIS guys from Penrith- it was awesome to be out on the same race course as them, and have the non-racing PIS fans dressed in their crazy costumes and screaming endless cheers of support throughout the day!

PIS supporters IMOz

Race week presented with torrential rain and extreme winds and the anticipation for the upcoming race day was building, with the unknown as to whether the crazy weather would continue and if the full race would go ahead. I trialled a small test ride the day before and left our apartment on Observatory Hill heading outbound on the bike course and came around the corner that descends slightly before Windmill Hill. The descend is fully exposed and as I came into the hill a huge crosswind caught me and blew me into the middle of the road; for the life of me I could not steer my bike back to the left side of the road. Slightly petrified I U-turned and rode back to the apartment, achieving all of a 2 minute ride and heightening my fears for the next day!

Thankfully race morning was calm and the race was all go!

The swim was a deep water start for the pros, and due to the storms the water was a lovely brown/murky colour that tasted not so nice! There were a few branch/tree/plant obstacles to negotiate along the way, as well as the weir which is crossed out and inbound. Despite the mucky water, it was calm and flat and relatively easy to navigate. I came out of the water in a tad over 53mins, a swim PB for me, so off to a very happy start!

Ironman Oz 2

The bike course was one I was looking forward to, with the tough terrain of undulations and rough road surface. I felt really good and relaxed heading out on the bike! Despite the calm conditions, my experience heading down towards Windmill Hill from the day before made me ride this section very tentatively, hanging on for dear life! After a send off from the PIS crew heading up and over Windmill Hill it was full steam ahead for the next few hours.

At the far turnaround on lap 1 I noticed a familiar sound of my rear brakes starting to rub. I say familiar, as it has happened before, and a problem that I had thought was sorted for this race; however unfortunately because of the bad weather leading in, I didn’t undertake any test rides with my race wheels on (aside from the 2min scare the s*#@ out of myself ride the day prior). As the ride proceeded, so did the brake rubbage, but there was nothing I was able to do about it, and I was still progressing forward at a reasonable pace so I just kept plugging away. I was still able to enjoy the ride and my proud moment was being able to block the issue out of my mind and not let it get me stressed and affect my morale for the rest of the race. I made it back to T2, in 4th spot. My legs were pretty stung and I took my sweet time in T2 contemplating the marathon to come.

IM Aus bike

Onto the run I eased in gradually, waiting for my run legs to appear. They never seemed to come to the party, so I used what legs I had on the day and kept on ticking off stride after stride, lap after lap. Once again the atmosphere of this race is so awesome, the line up of club tents + supporters, seeing friends both racing and supporting multiple times, having Clay out there and seeing him every lap (minus one where he decided he was allowed a break to grab a beer and burger at the pub :)) is always a sense of relief for some reason. Having Amanda from SOAS scooting from point to point yelling funny remarks to pick me up was great and Stef from Witsup is always good value to see out on course doing awesome work for us girls!

IM Aus run

Finally after ticking off the fourth lap and picking up my final lap band about 1km from the finish, I could start to relax and celebrate with the crowd on the final stretch home! A win is something I had dreamt of for this day, and to actually get to run down the finish line in first place and grab that banner was freaking awesome!

IM Aus finishIM Aus finish chute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s always inspiring watching the finishers in the later parts of the night coming across the line, all of the emotions and looks of achievement are so moving! One special moment was having an athlete I coached- Belinda completing her first Ironman…. unfortunately I missed her at the finish line by 1 minute- she absolutely smashed the day and superseded my expectations- so proud of her!

A special thanks to my super supporter hubby Clay- his endless support and encouragement has been paramount to my training and racing and it’s so awesome to see that my racing has become his passion. Thanks to friends Podsey, Neil and Elaine for making the trip to be there with us as well!

Huge thanks to Team PIS for making the best support party and training buddies in the lead up to the race!

Thank you to SOAS racing for designing the best looking and most comfy kits, of course matchy matchy to the bike! 🙂

Thanks to Hammer nutrition for keeping me sufficiently fuelled for all of my training and of course during the race, I still love my trusty Perp!

Thank you to Asics and Atmosphere Fitness for the ongoing support.

Finally thanks to Darrell Nash from Nashyspix photography and Stef from Witsup for capturing the day!

 

Flashback to 2014

It has been quite some time since my last blog update, and this time I come back as a recent Ironman winner of Ironman Australia!

I’m going to break this into 2 posts- firstly a quick recap of the time that has lapsed and next my Ironman Australia experience! It is easy to fade away when the going gets tough as per my 2014 year. So zooming back a touch, after a successful start to the year of 2014, I found myself struggling to move forward after Ironman New Zealand with injury issues and decided to take a back-step from training to allow the body time to chill and recover, and focus on my career as a physiotherapist, and to learn a new speciality. I took on a role with a great company, Procare and invested the remainder of 2014 into this sector of my life. Towards the end of 2014 the opportunity arose to return to professional racing and with the support of my new employer I was able to create the perfect work/life/triathlon balance and begin working part-time from home which allowed me to invest the necessary time into slowly and steadily preparing the body to get back onto the racing scene! The Beautiful Mount Maunganui!

2015 started out with a beloved and meaningful race, the Tauranga half ironman, which doubles as the New Zealand long course champ’s. Held at the beginning of January in my hometown, beautiful Mount Maunganui, it was my first ever half ironman triathlon and one I try to return to on an annual basis. Living in Australia, Clay and I always head back for Christmas with the families, so it’s a great excuse to extend the trip by a couple of weeks to include this one on the calendar. General fitness was there, but race fitness was by no means with me, however I decided to give this one a crack anyhow! Not my flashest of races, but I came away with 2nd place behind the always impressive Gina Crawford, and kick started the year on the right foot.

It actually took a little extra time to recover from, as racing when not race fit is hard and takes it’s toll! Once the body allowed it was back to work for the next goal- Challenge Wanaka, a race I have had my eye on for a few years, but timing wise has just never worked out. Clay and I had our honeymoon in Wanaka/Queenstown back in 2009, and we just fell in love with this place. The entire South Island of New Zealand is magical, but Wanaka is truly something else, just breath takingly beautiful, a view I could never tire of. So, what better place than to race an ironman!

Wanaka BikeI was looked after by an amazing homestay couple, Glenda and Lionel, who treated me like a queen, Lionel’s cooking skills are second to none! Race day presented us with a perfect Wanaka day- calm, crystal clear waters with the gorgeous mountain backdrop, what a sight!

Swimming in Lake Wanaka was a great start to the day, getting glimpses of the sun rising beyond the mountains, taking sips of the fresh mountain water as we swum through it in the Lake, and swimming a PB IM swim, I was off to a happy start!

The ride is tough, the roads are quite dense and there are a decent amount of hills, but once again the fact that we are racing in such a stunning place helps to take most of the hurt away. I had a reasonably good ride, a pretty good representation of where my fitness levels were at and came off the bike in 3rd spot.

The run is 2 loops alongside Lake Wanaka and the Clutha River, predominantly off road and is relatively slow going, as a lot of the surface is gravel- so loose underfoot, and there is a nasty hill about 3/4 way into each loop coming back through the suburbs. It was very hard to resist the temptation of taking a detour and diving into the sparkling waters, but I managed to stay focussed and on course and enjoy the marathon. Positions stayed the same and I came across the line in 3rd once again behind Gina in 1st and Laura Siddall in 2nd….which ended up being an all SOAS podium!

The Challenge finish line was great fun, as the kids who raced well at the kids tri the previous day await the top finishers and run the final stretch with them, so it was cool crossing the finish line with a little entourage!

After my time in Wanaka, it was up to the North Island to see my family, attend a good friends wedding and have a bit of R&R and soak up more of the awesome Kiwi summer! Then once again, back to Oz and back to work for Ironman Australia!

Wanaka SOAS PodiumWanaka Run 5Wanaka Run 1

This entry was posted on May 8, 2015. 1 Comment

Back to Racing!

After a long injury hiatus that had me away from the race course for over a year, it is so nice to be back!! Even though the races themselves haven’t been entirely smooth sailing, it is just great to be back out there doing what I love! This weekend marked the completion of my 4th Ironman, back to the roots of where I begun Ironman racing in Busselton.

The lead up to Busso had gone reasonably well, a few little niggly issues along the way, but nothing compared to the injury woes of the past year thankfully! Routine is a big thing for me, I build confidence from ticking all the boxes, doing the miles, doing the sessions day in and day out. Having moved from the Sunshine Coast to West Sydney mid year, my biggest obstacle was where to train and who to train with. Luckily I came across the PIS boys from Penrith, some of who were headed to Kona and some of who were doing Busso. I am so thankful to these guys letting me tag along on their weekend sessions, they have been incredible riding buddies and have taken me around some painful but awesome routes!

I was also super lucky that my husband Clay met Oli from Cheeky Velo in Sydney, right when we were looking at buying a new bike. My one and only ever bike, that I’ve had since starting triathlon- my Cervelo P2 was starting to see its final days, so I was on the look out for a replacement. I’ve loved my P2 to bits, so really wanted to stay on Cervelo, and we stumbled across Oli (who owns Cheeky Velo, which stocks Cervelo!) at the perfect time! Oli took us under his wing and helped out with my new bike, of which I am ever so grateful for! The guys in store at Cheeky Velo Randwick have been incredible to deal with, in getting it set up and dialled in to perfection.

New Bike!!!

New Bike!!!

So, onto the races!! My first planned race back was Mandurah 70.3. I flew over a few days early and stayed with my bro-in-law in Perth.We headed down to Mandurah the day before the race- a beautiful spot just South of Perth. Super eager and excited to race, I started out with a good swim, however my race was short lived, with a blown tyre 500m out of transition. I had opted not to carry a spare, as I decided to take my chances that getting a flat on a brand new tyre would be pretty slim…….

Onwards and upwards to the next one, which was Challenge Forster 2 weeks later. Just a few hours drive up the coast from Sydney, I had my parents and husband in tow. Unfortunately the weather gods weren’t kindest to us, and we were hit with a massive thunderstorm the day before the race, which was then set to ease the next morning and re-appear in the afternoon, just in time for the 1pm race start. Sure enough ten mins before the gun went off, the storm started rolling our way, which made for a wet and windy, yet fun half IM ahead! The race went reasonably well, aside from a brake pad rubbing which consumed most of my attention on the bike, but otherwise a good solid day before the big one in two weeks. It was fun racing alongside Rebecca Hoschke who stormed ahead for the win and Annabel Luxford.

Busso time!!! This seemed to roll around rather quickly! I guess I hadn’t had much down time to think about it too much, I was working as a physio until mid October, when I decided to break from work for the summer to focus on racing. I then spent 3 weeks in the Sunshine Coast on a training camp, then was straight across to WA for Mandurah and from there time ticked away, and before I knew it I was back on the plane to WA for Busso! I arrived in Busselton on Wednesday, and aside from a few little sessions, spent my time hibernating indoors watching DVDs. Its hard being in such a beautiful location and not being able to get out and explore, but I learnt the hard way in Germany last year pre Roth, that sightseeing in the days before an Ironman is not the wisest thing to do.

Race morning I was feeling excited and relaxed! I love the Busselton swim- being able to swim around the jetty, even though it seems like such a long way when you’re out there. The first part of the swim was going good, Lisa was out front as expected, but I was on the feet of the next group of girls, which I was happy about….until I realised that whoever I was behind had started to drop off, and by that point it was too late to bridge back on no matter how hard I tried! I kept around 50m or so behind to the far turn buoys, which is where my next mishap occurred! I wasn’t aware that we had to go on the outside of the final marker buoy before the far turn buoy. I saw the girls ahead do a sharp right turn out towards it, to go on the outside of it, and I started to do the same, but then I thought- I’m sure in the briefing we had to keep them all on our right then round the final turn buoy on our left. So I decided to change tack and keep on the inside of it and head straight up to the last buoy. Sure enough, once past it a boat came by and turned me back! Argh! By the time I got back and around that buoy the next group of girls were there, and the group ahead we’re well gone!

Kate and I pre start, Photo cred: firstoffthebike.

Kate and I pre start, Photo cred: firstoffthebike.

I was pretty fired up with myself for missing that buoy, that I put the hammer down on the bike straight away. I would normally build into a ride, but I just wanted to ride hard because I was angry, and so I did! It felt comfortable, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable for 180kms! I made it through 90kms pushing hard, and then it started to catch up on me! At the same time as my legs fell off, the winds picked up a few notches and my Di2 shifter for the rear derailleur had worked its way loose and come undone, (own error from not screwing it on tight enough after travel) so I had to stop and collect all the nuts and screws, then hold it in place so I didn’t tension the wires and so I could change gears. Hence the second half of the ride went pretty quickly from smiling and waving at my friends and family and having the time of my life, to a grimace and wanting to get the heck off this bike! Finally I made it into T2, knowing I’d lost a chunk of time from my pacing error to the front 3 girls, who all rode phenomenally.

First half of the ride, in my happier state! Photo cred: Firstoffthebike.

First half of the ride, in my happier state! Photo cred: Firstoffthebike.

Unfortunately I left my running legs out on the first half of the bike course too, so the marathon was a bit of a grind! However I DID have fun! The Busso course is awesome for support and spectators, being 4 laps there are people almost everywhere! There are a few hotspots of groups to look forward to, and I had heaps of training buddies from my PIS crew and the Sunny Coast out on course, so was uber fun being out there with them! Amongst the hurt I was thankful that I was actually out there racing this year, instead of stuck at home injured, and that I made it to the end (which is always an accomplishment in itself) of Ironman number 4 as the 4th Pro Female!

Photo cred: Firstoffthebike

Photo cred: Firstoffthebike

Huge congrats to the podium girls Liz (who had an incredible run), Mareen and Lisa who had a stellar race after time away from the IM distance! Thanks to Ironman AsiaPac for putting on another successful event, I love Busso, and plan to be back yet again, hopefully next year!

THANK YOU to my super supporters who make the world of difference being on the sidelines: Hubby Clay, Bro-in-law Lee and fiancé Carla for being there in Busso, and other family and friends for dedicating your day to the computer to track online!

THANK YOU to my training buddies- AV (who had a ripper day and got his Kona spot), Brunty and the rest of the PIS crew, and the Sunny Coast boys.

THANK YOU to Oli, Adam and Joe at Cheeky Velo for helping me with my new bicycle, of which I love dearly!

THANK YOU to Ryan at Retul bike fit in Penrith, for setting me up in a great position.

THANK YOU to SOAS Racing, Hammer Nutrition, Blue Seventy, Asics, Compu trainer and Cobb Cycling for your ongoing support and amazing gear!

Thanks also to the First off the Bike guys for letting me use a few of their photos!

My 2013 season has come to an end, but the 2014 season is starting VERY soon, on Jan 4th to be exact!

Michelle 🙂

Our 1 day of exploring post race, included pristine beaches and amazing wineries!

Our 1 day of exploring post race, included pristine beaches and amazing wineries!

Update Time!

My blog site is in dire need of an update! I’ve thought many times over the past months about getting on to this, however I have had zero downtime and I haven’t had a lot of news to report! The year has panned out much to the opposite of how I had originally planned! In the wonderful world of triathlon and endurance sports, so much can be thrown at us which causes us to change tack and re-plan! My year, has very much been about planning and re-planning again and again!

So, after a rough few months at the end of last year, with lower back and sciatic nerve issues, I finally managed to put that behind me, and delved into an amazing block of training at the start of the year in Noosa. Training went brilliantly and my fitness came back much quicker than expected after a few months off, that I decided to fast forward my return to racing, and signed up for Ironman South Africa! So come April, off I jetted and wound up in Port Elizabeth to be taken care of by my incredible homestay family Andre and Ursula! The area was beautiful, and I felt extremely lucky to be there, ready and super excited to race!

photo (5) Race day started out with an amazing sunrise over the ocean as we dived in. I had a good swim, for me, managed to stay in the second main pack, and was swimming easy, conserving energy.

The bike went well, for the first 30km or so, I was feeling great, until I started vomiting, unable to hold any fluid or nutrition. I did the best I could to tackle the rest of the bike course running on empty! Disappointed but ready to put it behind me, I was keen on storming through a great marathon! However the effects of no nutrition and being dehydrated meant I wasn’t in a good state to run! Still unable to get anything to stay down, I got through the first 10kms, then made the decision to pull the pin. With a big season “planned” ahead I didn’t want to drive myself into the ground and jeopardise my upcoming races. I don’t know why I was sick during the race, I was feeling great leading up to it, I’m wondering if either I swallowed too much ocean water, or if being away from my normal routine with changes in diet in the week beforehand…..

So, I returned to Australia, disappointed, yet eager to get back into training for my upcoming Busselton and Cairns races. A couple of weeks back into training, more hurdles were thrown my way, this time an Achilles tear, that I developed during a hard run. At the time, I was still hopeful I would make the start lines of my races, however healing took its time and had me off running for 8 weeks!

In the midst of this, I had to re-assess and re-plan my season goals. I had planned on heading to the States after Cairns, but made the tough decision to call it a season before it had really started, and stay in Australia for some rest and recovery. I have been very lucky over the past 18months, to be able to train in the best places, with amazing people, which has meant spending bulk periods away from my husband, Clay. Therefore my decision to stay in Australia had ups and downs. Big ups, to actually be able to live with my hubby!, financially easier for us, as I ended up returning to working as a physiotherapist, and of course downs of not being able to train and race as I would’ve liked. I took 2 months off training, as during my low back issues at the end of 2012, I kept a full on training load of swimming countless hours, easy spins and gym sessions. This time I decided a clean break and downtime would be best to let the body and mind rest and recover! This coincided with returning to full time work + Sydney winter, so it was nice to have some sleep ins, spend some time away with family and good friends who have been neglected in the past because of a busy training/racing routine. Come July, I returned to some easy, non structured training, for 6 weeks, where I spent most of my time cycling indoor on my compu-trainer. I must extend a huge Thank You to Phil, Chuck and Sherri at racermate/ compu-trainer…….I had my compu-trainer stolen in the post en route from America as it was left there in storage at the end of my season last year. Thankfully the team at compu-trainer came to the rescue and helped me out with a new replacement, which is so appreciated as it is the best cycling training tool!

Mid August I started a scheduled training routine in prep for the upcoming Australia/NZ season. I’m feeling revitalised, ready and excited to train! I’m super excited about the upcoming race season, I have picked some old favourites, as well as some races I haven’t done before!

I have toed the line in one race already, the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in which I decided to do the swim-bike only, as I had a hamstring tendon issue, that needed a couple of weeks off running. It was such a great feeling to be on the start line again, and awesome to be (half) racing in the Sunny Coast, as I have spent periods of time living and training there, so it feels like my second home.

Next up is Port Macquarie 70.3 in 3 weeks time! Woohooo!

Once again a massive Thanks to compu-trainer, as well as Asics, Hammer nutrition, Blue 70, and SOAS racing, and of course my husband Clay for your ongoing support!

Michelle 🙂

Adaptability!

SO much time has passed since my last blog, it’s hard to know where to start and what to tell!

I think I’ll base my blog around one important word I have learnt a lot about over the last 7 months that I have been MIA…..”ADAPTABILITY

Last year, my first year racing as a “full time pro” was exciting, fun and amazing……I was welcomed into an incredible training squad coached by the amazing Siri Lindley and therefore based myself with her and the team in Santa Monica! It was a brilliant year, with some good races, some not so good, some awesome training miles logged, some great experiences had and lessons learnt, some great places travelled to and some awesome friends made all around the world. Being a newbie pro I wanted to do as much as I could, including maximal training and racing, and although I spaced time between races reasonably well to allow enough time for recovery between big races, I had intentions of racing non-stop throughout the year right the way into the 2013 season to fit in US races and races at home in NZ and Australia once the US season ended. My last race ended up being IM NYC….in August….Yes 7 whole months ago…..when I was managing a lower back injury, which blew out of control shortly after the race. I had planned to do the Cozumel 70.3 before returning home to race the Australia/NZ season, and at that point when I had a plan, the plan stuck. So off to Cozumel I went, and after a lot of travel to Cozumel my back wasn’t happy, however the plan was to race…and race I did, well tried! I somehow got through the swim, then managed to get a whole 6km’s into the ride, when the pain intensified in my back and started shooting down my leg along the sciatic nerve, with complete loss of strength/power and had me in tears, and after another stubborn 13kms on the bike, I was eventually side-lined on the roadside.

Feeling completely bummed about the DNF and in a lot of pain, I marked the end of the US season, but I had an exciting action packed NZ/Australia season right around the corner…..right? A few days later I was back in Australia, and my planned races were looming! I was seeing physical therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, getting scans, Xrays, the works, trying to get my back situation under control ASAP! However by this point I was beyond “managing the injury” and into the stage of having to take time….a lot of time off and undergo a lengthy rehab process to unwind all of the damage I had done.

Sitting here now, several months later, feeling older and wiser, I can see how important it is to be “Adaptable” with ourselves and within our sport. Day in and day out we are putting immense strain on our bodies with training and racing, and we need to be appreciative of what our body is doing and not take it for granted. Taking care of ourselves with adequate rest and recovery, supplementary training (stretch, strength, rolling….). Adapting sessions if necessary, taking added rest days where needed depending on injury/niggles/body fatigue, and importantly listening to our bodies and re-adjusting our “A plan” if needed.

Were there things I could’ve done earlier in the year to prevent this injury from happening? Yes! If I had of cancelled my trip to Cozumel and focussed on rehabbing my injury earlier could’ve I salvaged the rest of my season? Yes! But at that point I was excited and eager to be racing, and stupidly nothing was going to stop me……

So, on a more positive note, the injury finally settled around Christmas time with some much needed R+R, and I have started 2013 on a fresh page, with a more adaptable outlook!! I’ve just spent a brilliant 2 months in Noosa with my wonderful coach and training buddies. My plan wasn’t to race a full Ironman until mid year, however training has gone well and the injury has stayed away, so I have adapted my plan to race an Ironman sooner!! Bring on South Africa in 2 weeks!!!

5 weeks…….2 Ironmans, 3 Countries and 4 States.

It’s been a while since my last blog…..yes I have been slack! The last couple of months have been consumed with training, racing and travelling. I now finally have a bit of downtime, so its blog time! Here’s the lowdown on the past few months…….

At the start of July Clay and I jetted off to Germany, for a race I had heard so much about and was so excited to be going to……Challenge Roth! We were greeted by an amazing host family…..Reiny and Stilla, who treated us like family (they even hosted Clay a German Birthday party!), it was great to live in a German household for the week!

Challenge Roth truely lived up to my expectations! The whole town gets into the triatlon spirit, the race organisers are amazing, helpful, wonderful people who put on a truely unique triathlon experience! Out riding the course in the few days before the race, I understood how this race is renowned to be fast….super smooth roads, and although some hills, there are also some nice flat parts where you can get down into the bars and knuckle it out! Excitement for this race was growing day by day, and by the time race day rolled around I was eager to get going! I woke up feeling tired and heavy legged but didn’t think too much of it!

Transition area was buzzing with excited and nervous athletes and thousands of spectators. A beautiful day was appearing from the darkness, and soon it was start time! The swim is in a narrow canal, an out and back course. I have begun to take pro wave starts for granted, and had forgotten how brutal mass starts are! It was only a couple of hundred people in our start but being in a narrow canal, the first few hundred meters involved lots of elbows, being dunked, swum over top of  and pulled from behind. But once we started to spread out I was able to get into a normal stroke and breathing rhythm! So I now have a re-appreciation for the usual pro starts of 30-50 of us! I exited the water in 55mins, happy and off to a good start!

Roth pre race

Unfortunately that was about as good as it got! The fatigued, heavy legs that I felt that morning on getting up were there again on the bike. I kept positive and told myself I would perk up and feel better, I would, I would…….but at the 100km mark I came to the realization that it was just not my day. The tired, heavy legs remained with me all 180kms! That aside the course itself was AMAZING!!! Riding through beautiful German villages with streets lined with thousands of spectators, cow bells galore, music blasting, “bier gartens” lining the streets, and of course the famous Solarberg hill! WOW, that was totally out of this world! Riding up through a sea of people, who gradually part ways to allow a 2 foot space to ride through, was incredible! The atmosphere was truely amazing! However, with the body not co-operating too well I was on the countdown from km 100, k by k to the finish (its not good when you start counting down mid race!) Despite having a sub optimal ride I remained positive for the marathon ahead.

The run course is a very beautiful course that runs mostly alongside a canal on a dense gravel surface, so it’s not as brutal on the legs as on road running. As per the bike, the legs were still feeling heavy and tired, so I just ticked off the miles as best I could, and enjoyed the atmosphere and running through the cute towns! I crossed the line in 15th place, in a time of 9hr38mins, and I couldn’t help but be disappointed with my performance. On one hand I tried telling myself that 9hr38mins is pretty good for my second ever IM, but on the other hand I knew I had a much better performance in me.

The days following the race, my mind pondered and pondered as to why I felt so low during the race, and suddenly a light went off in my mind as to what went on……

  • Firstly we (Clay and I) flew from LA to Germany just 5 days pre race, which I thought would’ve been enough time to adjust, and although day by day I was feeling better, I still awoke on race day feeling slightly nauseated and out of it. So Lesson 1: allow more time when travelling long haul to races!
  • Second we spent the four days that we had pre race exploring Germany! Each day we were out for the full day walking around the towns, villages and castles, and by the end of the day we got home and were exhausted. Looking back now, it was a stupid thing to be doing in the days leading into an IM race, but I think we were both so excited to be in Europe! Anyway Lesson 2: The rest and taper week is called rest and taper for that exact reason! Do you taper training….and rest! Simple!

So despite a disappointing race, I still had an amazing experience at Challenge Roth! It was a great race to do, and hopefully I will be able to head back next year to redeem myself! The following week after the race was spent exploring Southern Germany and Austria, both beautiful, amazing places! Then we jetted back to LA to get back to work for the next round….IM NYC, just 5 weeks after Roth!

I was a bit nervous with setting my race schedule including 2x ironmans 5 weeks apart, especially seeings these two ironmans would be number 2 and 3! I chose to do these races as they were both races I felt passionate about doing….Roth because I had heard great things about the race, and IM NYC simply because I love NYC! I visited NYC and spent 3 months there as a student 10 years ago and just fell in love with the city. So when I heard there was to be an IM race here, I didn’t hesitate in signing up for it. Coach Siri gave me the confidence in racing so close together, so long as I put more emphasis on recovery after Roth. So recovery it was for 2 weeks after Roth, followed by 2 weeks of training and another taper week into IM NYC.

We (again Clay and I) were lucky to be able to head over to the East Coast 10 days before IM NYC, and be hosted by our friend Kevin just North of the city in his lakeside cottage! So lesson 1 from Roth rectified…travel over and done with well in advance! The lakeside cottage was just perfect! Nice, quiet, relaxing and the lake right on our doorstep ideal for daily swimming. Clay was entertained by the 2 golden retrievers, and me by the Olympics on TV! After our week at the lake, we moved closer to the city, to our host family in New Jersey. Once again, amazing people who welcomed us into their home like family, and made our time in NYC for the IM so much easier!

Swim training buddies at the lake.

This was the inaugural event in NYC, and there was a lot more to think about logistically. We had to take a ferry ride to get to transition at 4am, and again another ferry ride from transition to the swim start. I actually found this really relaxing and a fun and unique way to start the day. We had amazing views out over the city skyline with the George Washington bridge in the background and the sun rising beyond. For me this was a big buzz!

Pre race ferry en route to transition

Pre race ferry en route to transition

My most anxious part of the morning was the swim start. After the ferry ride we were offloaded onto a barge 2.4miles up river from transition, where we were to dive around 4ft off and begin the swim. So there was no swim warm up, which made me a tad nervous and diving 4ft!!….I have never done a dive swim start in my life! And I was concerned about my goggles flying off my face as I hit the water or filling up. So standing on the start line, my nerves were all centered on the first 2seconds of the 9+hr race ahead! Anyhow, gun goes off, a tiny bit of hesitation, then dive, hit the water, goggles still on face, no water! Success! Now onto the actual swim itself! The swim was current assisted, which was a bonus! I exited the water in 45mins, so a 10min PB! I’ll take that! 🙂

Onto the bike, as we exit transition the hills begin! There’s a steepish climb straight away which is continued with a gradual climb for the next few miles out onto the highway where we do two out and back loops. I enjoyed the ride, it was tough, as it’s undulating, so either up or down most of the way, and of course there was a head wind heading back into town which gradually picked up as the day went on. I knew the run course was going to be the make or break of this race, so I ensured I didn’t go too crazy on the bike!  I had a pretty good ride, had a few cramping issues, and went through high and low points, but all in all I was relatively consistent through the ride.

The run……I had previewed the course and ran some of it the previous weekend, so knew exactly how tough it was going to be! The first 16miles to the beginning of the George Washington bridge is all hills! Literally! We start within the Palisades Park in New Jersey, and do two 7 miles loops going up and down, and up and down, then head out, or shall I say, head up towards the George Washington bridge to be faced with….stairs! to go up and down to get onto the bridge. It was hot and very humid, so the conditions combined with the hills made it super tough! I kept saying to myself get through the first 16miles then over the bridge where the rest is flat and ?easy along the New York side. Running over the GW bridge was awesome! Although faced with a head wind, it was so cool to look out upon NYC lining the river. Once over, the easy part never came! The legs were so fatigued from having to deal with so many hills that it just came to a matter of turning the legs over one by one and make it through the final 9 miles. I crossed the line in 6th, in a time of 9hr36mins, so much happier with this performance than the one 5weeks ago! This was by far the toughest and challenging course I have done, but it was a great location and the organizers did a brilliant job of making it all possible!

It was awesome to have coach Siri on the course and super supporter hubby Clay there. The volunteers along the way were all great, it was fun to have my friend Kristin hand me my swim-bike bag and homestay Jennifer helping me in the change tents.

So now a bit of downtime, where we are spending 2 weeks on the East coast. We’ve had the last week relaxing at Cape Cod with friends Dede and Dave and it’s been just great!

Beach time at Cape Cod!

Until next time!

Michelle 🙂

This entry was posted on August 19, 2012. 2 Comments