Thursday, 29 December 2016

Questioning the WHY

2016 is almost over but it feels like it has been 2 years of drama, changes, and new experiences rolled into one. Reading my last blog post which was several months ago, it is crazy to think that my horrible bike crash was actually this year as life has taken different directions since then. I am so grateful to not have lasting injuries from this crash, just some small scars that fade day by day.

After pouring all my energy into recovering from my foot injury and bike crash to get back to the start line for New Plymouth WC and the Gold Coast WTS, I came to a bit of a roadblock. Post Gold Coast I knew I didn't have the performance I needed to be in contention for Rio. With being out of racing action I knew I wouldn't have enough points to get on the start line for Yokohoma, the final Olympic selection race. The time came to decide on my next move and during a heart to heart with my coach and my parents, and many tears shed I decided I wanted to a break from full time triathlon. In admitting this it also brought a sense of relief. The last few years and especially the previous four months had started to bring more lows than highs. For the last four years I hadn't questioned WHY, or my motivation to get out of bed at 6am to swim 5km, or get up at 6am on Sunday while everyone else is sleeping in to bike 100km. A lot of people would say to me oh your living the dream! It didn't feel like a dream when you were walking around in a moon boot or had stitches in your face! Overall I was mentally and physically exhausted and not enjoying something which had brought me so pleasure and enjoyment in the past. It was time for a new focus and a break from triathlon.

I started work soon after and enjoyed the new focus, being in a routine and a positive work environment as part of a team, interacting with a wide range of personalities. Out of work I was only exercising for fun; no training peaks, no planned training just slowly building my running up post injury, fun swims in the ocean, social rides, and improving my skills on my new mountain bike! I enjoyed more social time, trips away, friends weddings I could attend, sleep ins on Sundays. To some I was probably exercising a lot but for me it was 50% less than what I had been doing. By the end of July after three months of enjoying the new balance in my life I was in a good place. I still wasn't chopping at the bit to be competitive or need to race but I felt I had more motivation and had come to a few realisations. With disappointments, injuries, pressure of full time triathlon I was looking too much at results and not the journey I was on. The WHY of doing triathlon of what gets me to spend hours training was ultimately because I loved it, it challenged me both mentally, physically, the like minded people I meet and to inspire others.

Soon I found myself entering a few events and over August to September I did 3 half marathons, enjoying being back in the race environment. I was really happy to go into the events trusting that my injury had healed and I was healthy. As running was my weakest discipline I focused on this, starting with running coach, Paul Hamblyn in September. I also decided I was ready for to get back into triathlon training albeit with a new focus, the half ironman distance. I decided the home of triathlon in NZ, Taupo was a great place to start. Watching friends compete there in the Ironman and half ironman the town just buzzes and its such a beautiful location to race. First thing I needed was a Time Trial bike! Thanks to PRV for hooking up with my beautiful black beauty machine, the Cervelo P2!

8th Mixed Team at Rembau
Before spending too much time on this new bike, I flew to Malaysia to compete in something completely different; a multisport race! This involved mountain biking, trail running, kayaking, tubing, team biathlon and mystery tests! The 1st day took 7.5hrs and the next day 4.5hrs, it was tough, very hot and fun!.  I had a few weeks to recover then I competed in my first triathlon since April, the Tinman Triathlon at the Mount. It was the first time I had raced this event and my first on my new TT bike! I went in with no expectations, I was just pumped to be injury free and racing again! I felt strong most of the race until fading in the last 4km, and finished in 3rd. Most of all I enjoyed the race atmosphere, and testing the mind and body.

Post race with winner Meredith Kessler
Taupo 70.3 rolled around quickly, I was nervous but overall felt really calm and excited to race my first half ironman! I had a great swim sitting on multiple Taupo Ironman winner Meredith Kessler's feet, and with my ITU experience was out onto the bike 1st! It was a totally different style of racing, going from drafting in a group of 10-20 girls to a solo 90km! At times I was wondering if I was actually in a race I couldn't see anyone!! My lack of TT preparation showed towards the end, with my back and neck stiff and getting passed by 2 girls just prior to transition. I hopped off in 7th place wondering how I was going to run a half marathon, my legs felt extremely dead! I took the first 10km conservatively and started to feel much better prior to the turnaround at transition. I was given some info that I was catching girls in front so it sparked me up to pick up the pace and see if I could move up a few places, In the next 3km I passed 3 girls and found myself in 4th! After picking up the pace, at about 16km I started to feel quite average and was just praying my body would hold together. Grabbing any fuel I could in the last aid stations and with the support of people cheering in the last few kms I managed to hold my position and cross the line in 4th! I was completely spent at the end but ecstatic to finish my first half and in the top 5!! After racing in countries all over the world it was awesome to be able to race well at home in front of family and friends!

What I learnt from this type of racing is that it is not over until it is over! In ITU athletes races can be decided from a slow T1 or bad swim, however in 70,3 there is a lot more time to make up places, and nutrition, pacing play a bigger role. I look forward to experiencing more of this distance in the future as it has refreshed my mind to focus on further challenging my WHY. I am excited to see how far I can challenge myself with distance, how I can improve, and to enjoy racing events I haven't been able to do. Also to show others even if you have been knocked down several times you can keep trying or try something different. Next up I am racing the POT Half, an event I've wanted to do for several years after being part of a team for the last 5 years. After this I don't have any set triathlon races, I have some different races planned but I'm excited to see what 2017 will bring and for fresh challenges! Hope everyone else has a great end to 2016 and are set to aim for new challenges and goals in 2017!!!


Leaving 2016 behind and jumping in 2017!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

When Life hits a few Speed bumps

After the 2015 season I was looking forward to a great 2016 with lots of exciting things happening but I never considered injuries and crashes to be part of the plan. A lot has happened so far in 2016 and it's not something that I'm jumping with joy to put in to words and share on my blog!!

Tuesday January 19th 2016: I completed a Terrific Tuesday of training; 90 minute swim (hitting target times), 8 x 1km reps (first real speed session and my best splits at this time of the season compared to prior seasons), hard bike 2.5hr session with criterium and hill reps. I felt smashed by the end but so strong throughout and knew I was coming into good form, and ready to get stuck into speed work. 

Saturday 23rd January 2016: I finished a run early because of a slight discomfort and ache in my left mid-foot continued, and by the afternoon my foot felt stiff and sore to walk on (cue mild panic).

Monday 25th - Thursday 28th January 2016: A series of physio, sports doctor appointments and an MRI to identify what I was dealing with. Prognosis; a stress reaction in my navicular bone. Not worst case scenario which would be a stress fracture but not far from it. It did however feel like the worst timing with not long until the final Olympic selection races. There was the time to throw my toys, cry, get angry and then get over it and focus on my recovery. While this included three weeks in a moon boot, I could still swim and bike to my heart's content. I focused on this positive, I could still keep my fitness, three week's wasn't that long and I could aqua jog in the meantime. At least I wouldn't be in a cast for eight weeks so it was lucky I caught it before it progressed to a stress fracture. It did mean I had to pull out of my first two planned races, Kinloch and Takapuna. These fixtures have been the start to my season for the last four seasons, so was weird to miss out on them. In the bigger picture the aim was to be peaking for Gold Coast and Yokohama World Triathlon Series in April and May. 

Wednesday 10th February 2016: Two weeks on from the prognosis and everything was tracking along well, I was doing a big volume of cycling and swimming. It was amazing how less fatigued I was without running in my program and could do lots of quality swimming and cycling. 

Thursday 11th February 2016: A day I wouldn't wish on anyone! Around 10.30 am while midway through a 2 hour cycle with a group of five other cyclists, I hit a speed bump (quite literally) - while cycling down a hill at around 50km/hr. Due to a combination of a dip in the road and me changing handlebar position I skyrocketed through the air and dived into the pavement. This happened before I could really register it, I just remembered flying and then a searing pain in my face. The scariest thing was the amount of blood I was expelling (lots of blood vessels in your face = a lot of blood). Usually one of my first reactions would be to get up quickly and access how I was feeling. I knew this was no ordinary crash however and a lot of thoughts were swirling in my head (what have I done?, am I losing too much blood? I think I need to go to hospital?). Luckily I had a great team (thanks Barbara Watson) around me who jumped into action (stopping traffic, laying me in recovery position, checking my pulse, putting a blanket on me) and a kind lady from a nearby house who ran out with towels and blankets. The thirty minute wait for the ambulance seemed like forever and at times my face was so sore I thought I might pass out. All the mental training for races does come in handy in these situations as I found ways to deal with the pain. The ambulance ride after being pumped with morphine, the time spent in hospital and recovering feels like a bad dream when you have recovered but something I will never forget.
Why we wear helmets!

I've broken bones, crashed before, had shock wave therapy, needles, but nothing comes close to having local aesthetic in open wounds on your face. Confirmation from head CT and X-rays luckily showed no internal damage and the main impact from the crash was the lacerations in my face and possible damage to a small nerve near my lip. I was in surgery for an hour and half as a plastic surgeon sewed these lacerations together. I was pretty out of it the next few days from the general anesthetic and the painkillers I was on. After two days I was ready to leave the hospital and the next week was slow going. There were lots of doubts in my head (will I want to cycle, can I swim/cycle with these wounds). I looked like a walking accident with my moon boot, and my stitches which meant I preferred to stay indoors. It's amazing the little things you focus on - able to shower by myself, cook a meal and the first twenty minute walk to the beach and back. I bounced back well though, and 36 hours after my stitches were out I was on the windtrainer! I wasn't able to swim yet, and couldn't run so go figure the one thing that caused this I could do!! Two weeks later the wounds were sufficiently healed to go back in the water. To say I was nervous on my first outdoor cycle would be an understatement but I knew it was a case of persevering and I would get my confidence back.

Thursday 17th March 2016: Five weeks on from the crash and I'm back in full training. I've done 100 km cycles, a couple of ocean swim races and feel fit and healthy. I've been progressively loading my foot on the alter gravity treadmill (a machine which lowers your body weight using air pressure). I'm disappointed not to be able to race this weekend at the Gisborne Oceania Triathlon Championships, as I would have loved to improve on my 4th place at Oceania Champs last year and also the surf swim! I'm excited to return to racing in a few weeks at New Plymouth World Cup, a sprint distance which will be a good tester of where I am at. Following that I plan to be toeing the line at Gold Coast and Yokohama World Triathlon Series. Yokohama is the last qualifying race for the Rio Olympics and while it's not been the ideal build up, I will be giving it my best shot.
Back running on the Alter G 
I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who sent lovely messages, flowers, visited me and supported me through the tough days post the crash. I felt really overwhelmed by the support of amazing friends and those in the triathlon community. Thanks to my coach, Stephen Farrell for the confidence in me to get back training, my sponsors for continued support; Blue Seventy, Fit For Fun, Triathlete's Corner, PRV, Cervelo, and the team at Sports Lab for looking after me. The biggest thanks goes to my parents, sorry for giving you one heal of a shock and scaring my Mum especially, more than myself. Thanks for being there every step of the way and looking after me.

Barely getting off the ground from the first speed bump (foot injury) before being knocked down again with the crash has been the toughest challenge so far of my triathlon career but one I feel I have faced head on. You learn a lot more about yourself when facing these challenges and how resilient you can be. An appropriate quote to finish with is "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up". 

Thanks for reading


Love starting the day here:)