Monday, 9 November 2015

Pressure Cooker

"The athlete becomes great not when she breaks a world record and wins a medal. That's when the world recognises her, but in reality the event is just evidence of her greatness. 
The athlete achieved greatness months, perhaps years, earlier, when she decided to run the extra mile, swim the extra lap or perform just one more jump... 
Results are not the attainment of greatness, but simply confirmation of it. You become great long before the results show it. It happens in an instant, the moment you choose to do the things you need to do to be great."

I am surrounded by freaks.

I'm not sure who said the above quote but it is a quote I will be keeping close to my heart over the next 26 days. Thanks Eszter for showing me this. 

The industry I work in is full over over-achievers and perfectionists so it's naturally a high pressure environment to perform incredibly well in everything you do. 
What we often forget, though, is that we are not normal. We are the 10% of the population who choose to push their bodies to their physical limits. My close friends are people who run 100km a week, who compete at world level in triathlon, and who choose to do (and teach) group fitness workouts that make them vomit in their mouths at little. We are freaks. 

This process has been incredibly humbling for me. I've spent this journey trying to inspire myself to do things I never thought I could do. I have been so focussed on the physical aspect of training and reaching this pinnacle of greatness my friends can achieve, that I didn't notice the inspiration I had instilled in others just by being me. 

Perfection isn't greatness. Greatness is self-recognition, self-belief, self-confidence and self-love.

This kitten looks as terrified of the water as I was

Love is when friends threaten to drag you to the start line

A week ago I was in tears, a little depressed and ready to actually quit. I hadn't trained properly in 3 weeks because the thought of training stressed me out so much I couldn't get off the couch. Knowing I wasn't going to reach the 6 hour goal I had set was soul destroying. I hadn't put in the work I should have so maybe I should just do it next year instead. I hadn't stuck to my programme and wasn't meeting my end of the bargain with my coach. I thought I should take the pressure off myself and focus on my new job instead, give myself some time to look after my health and do the things I love. I didn't want to force myself through another training session I would hate.
Explaining this to some of my friends was the worst (or maybe the best) thing I could have attempted. Let's just say they didn't take it so well.
After a quick hug and the usual cliche consoling words, I was quickly informed that I was completing this challenge even if they had to drag me to Napier and throw me in the ocean. Who cares if it takes me all day, if Larna could do it with one cycling shoe, then I could do it too. 

About an hour after I threw up my cereal

I actually enjoyed the swim

So, I did the quarter. I enjoyed it. I hit my goal time. I survived. 
I'm now excited for the half. I hate it when other people are right. And yes I am a dick for not believing in myself. 

Huge thanks to Les Mills Extreme for the transport and sponsorship to get up to Napier. Cheers Courtney for lending me your non-chafing and pretty pink tri-suit which totally DID have magic powers. Thanks to JC, Rich, Matt and Zoe for the high-fives, hugs and laughter. Thank you to my friends and family for your support and motivational messages. And lastly, thanks to IronMaori for putting on an amazingly supportive and well organised event that allowed me to face my fears and realise my own greatness. 

Bring on 5th December!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A State of Trance

I'm currently annoying my neighbours with loud trance music.

Mindset is huge when it comes to endurance sport. It's probably one of the most important aspects of training. It needs to be trained alongside the physical.

Lately, my mindset has been anything but positive when it's come to my training. I joke about how hard my sessions are and how I've pushed through and conquered big hill runs and fought headwinds and a bruised vagina on my bike, what I haven't covered is the negative self talk, the excuses, the countless missed sessions and the tears of failure.

So here I am, the night before a race, listening to uplifting trance music to bring me out of my own negative trance.

The truth is this is harder than I thought it would be.

I knew I would be pushing my body. I knew my fitness would be challenged. I knew it would take a lot of my time. 

What I didn't realise it that it would take so much of my time away from my family and friends. I didn't realise how much I would regret letting my FOMO win out to choose night out and a hangover over getting out with my riding group. I didn't realise it would be so expensive to eat so much and feel so shit when I didn't eat enough. I didn't realise how lonely 3 hour solo training sessions were.

I didn't realise I could stand in my own way so staunchly.

The truth always hurts

This is by far the hardest post to write. It's a pretty raw topic for me over which I've shed many a tear and fought hard to stave them off when my peers have tried to open my eyes to it.
So here is my open and honest truth about how my training has been over the last three weeks. It's been full of excuses and justifications about what food I put in my mouth and what training I choose to skip. It's been full of self doubt, and reasons of why I couldn't perform at my best that day, why I had to walk that hill or take a rest just for a few minutes. It's involved absolutely no swimming and a lot of naps. 
I've let work take priority when it didn't need to (overtime to avoid training), small niggles irritate me more than they normally would, and allowed a weather app to decide if it's a good idea to go outside.

It stops here.

New goals:

I am going to finish this process
I am going to complete every training session no matter how long it takes me
I am not going to struggle with my negative voice. It does not control me
I am going to get to every start line I've committed to
I am going to inspire ME

This post was a little solemn so here's a kitten to bring back the smiles.
He likes racing too.

Thanks Emma and Larna for your brutal honesty this week, and Scotty for your unconditional support.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Book of Horrors

Chapter 1. Back in the Pool

It helps having a training buddy to drag me to the pool. Yes this battle is still ongoing but after being told that every triathlete hates swimming I felt that excuse was no longer valid. Last week Larna and I moped our wedgied tog covered asses to the pool and smashed out a decent 1km swim. I felt pretty good being back in the water and I may have enjoyed pushing myself in this session.

What happened next was terrifying.

I had a great meal and was doing really well with my nutrition. Oh, no wait, AFTER that.

Chapter 2. The Spins

Wednesday morning I woke up suddenly at 4am with my room spinning out of control. Ever had that feeling when you've had a few too many wines and when you lie down you stop moving but the world doesn't? Well it was like that but without the fun of the wine. 
After a morning of falling over and walking into things (more than usual) I went to the doctor. BPPV was my diagnosis. 

BPPV. Sounds like an STD. It's not.

2 days spent in bed meant I missed my RPM classes (big sad face) and couldn't train. Friday I was back into it but after a run with Larna figured out things weren't as simple as this easy diagnosis. I went to see Fiona at Proactive and she untwisted my neck giving me back a bit of stability. Thanks to her and Maddie I'm getting back on track.

Darren from Cafe Refuel was the light of my dark week with his present to help out my training. 
A whooooole lotta sugar! And some Replace supplements.

Chapter 3. Discipline

After a rubbish week of training, getting back into my weekend big sessions was not an easy feat. Wellington put on its finest weather display of hail, wind and horizontal rain and bed seemed like a better idea than going outside.

Here's how my weekend panned out.

I manned the f*ck up and I trained. I did 90 mins on my bike on my trainer in my lounge and I ran for 80mins in the rain and blistering cold wind. I hated every second of it. 

But I did it.

Realising that running in the rain and wind wasn't my idea of fun, I turned to the treadmill for a hills session a few days later. Courtney and I ran and laughed, we laughed and ran. We pushed the incline, we tested our speed. And while she yelled motivational quotes to push the last few strides, I hung over a rubbish bin trying not to lose my breakfast. 

Chapter 4. Work, Work and More Work

Here's where I lost it. The plot thickens. 
With just 10.5 weeks to go, close out week hit. This is the last week of a sales month where stress levels get high, the pressure is on and long story short, I worked my ass off. My training suffered. 
Something pretty huge that came of this week was that I got the courage to admit to Emma when I'd missed a session. Or 2... It means I'm not lumped with training I can't handle the following week. It means she can adjust things for me so I don't put myself at risk of injury, or burn out.

I also hit my budget, which means I can at least now buy a wetsuit!

Chapter 5. The Soul Destroying Session

With sales month over and celebration hangover faded, I felt it was time to readjust my priorities. There's nothing like a long hilly run to heighten your awareness of 2 shit weeks of training. 
Again, having a training buddy was crucial to getting through this session. Larna (my training saviour) and I spent our Sunday afternoon battling "spew mountain" followed by another 12km of whinging, quitting and tears. That was just me. Larns was amazing. 
This is a session I will look back to. An important page in my training book of horrors. It contains moments that I will look back to when race day becomes too much. Moments that hurt, that seemed too hard to get through, moments that I did get through, moments that didn't kill me. 

Top of Mt Victoria. The smiles are fake. We ran another 10km after this. BOOM!

Next race day is Sunday 4th October with another Scorching Duathlon. It's gonna be a good test of how much fitness I've held onto over these past challenging weeks. Course: 8km run/36km cycle/4km run. Goal: 2hrs30 and no injuries.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Learning From Every Mistake

Races are just training sessions you pay to do.

To take the pressure out of race situations, I've been using them as training sessions. The big day is a mere 12 weeks away so these little races are just an excuse to put my training into action, push myself a little harder than normal and practice nutrition.

There are many reasons you practice things before the big event. Here's a few things I've tried and tested - what works and what doesn't.

Eat at least 2 hours before racing/training
I actually mastered this one a few months ago after the need to sprint to the nearest toilet to relieve a "code brown" 3km into a run. Running causes things to move. Always eat early, and always have a pitstop BEFORE the race starts.

Oats for breakfast
Oats are easy to measure out, easy to stomach, easy to digest and don't sit heavily in my stomach. They're slow release carbohydrates and don't leave me feeling lethargic. You know what doesn't fit that criteria? The banana and almond milk smoothie I left in the bush just after Waione Street Bridge at the 20km mark of the Pelorus Trust Half Marathon. 

Wear clothing that won't chafe
Previous blogs would suggest I should have learned this lesson months ago too. Thanks to the amazing team at Lululemon, I didn't need to stress about this one. These amazing girls kitted me out with shorts, a sports bra and a lightweight singlet perfect for race day. Check me out! The machine next to me is Emma (my coach, race buddy and idol).

Chafe free outfit thanks to Lululemon Athletica Wellington
Hydrate before, during and after
This one I thought I had down pat. Drink when thirsty. Yeah, not quite that simple. 
Playing catch up on thirst isn't the way to go about it. I started the race with some minor dehydration which meant I felt the need to stop at every drink station and top up my already stagnant smoothie with even more liquid. Lesson here is drink plenty the night before, include electrolytes. Drink enough to top up with breakfast (about 500ml) and pace it throughout the race. 

Use food/gels that your stomach can handle
Rule number one. Don't try new things on race day. Especially gels. Gels are basically made from pure sugar and provide a fast carbohydrate top up when fuel is needed. Because they are so rich, always consume them with fluid as they can sometimes cause gastric upset (thats the most PC way I could describe it). They can make me very gassy, or worse. 
Gu gels for me so far have been great. So naturally, I took a Balance gel with me in the half marathon, without water. Tasted great. Let's leave it there. 

Wear Sunscreen
My tan in the above photo is from a bottle. I am naturally a translucent white. Why I didn't wear sunscreen during this beautifully sunny day, I don't know. 

Be aware that race pace is often faster than training pace
I found myself getting frustrated when I couldn't hold my pace under 6min/km in the later stages of the race. I was tired and struggling more the harder I pushed to hold it. It was in a "f*ck this" moment when I slowed to a walking pace that I realised I had been training at around 6.20min/km. Of course my body was going to be struggling! I gave myself a few more steps to slow my heart rate and stretch my calves before I picked my run back up to a 6.10min/km pace and sat there happily, praising my body for what it was going through. 

Have a support crew waiting at the finish line
The last km of this race was agony. My stomach was churning, my calves burning and I felt I had nothing left. Until I saw my Personal Trainer pointing a camera at me. Suddenly I smiled, lifted my feet a little higher, increased my stride and ran the last 500m with Scotty on my heels. His last min encouragement, telling me I still looked strong, was enough to push me over the finish line in 2.09.54. Thanks Scotty!
It's a PB and all things considered I'm pretty happy with the time. 

Approaching the finish line

Monday, 7 September 2015

On Your Marks, Get Set...NO WAIT! I'm not ready.

I have a mental battle with myself before every training session.

Every excuse I could possibly come up with will tempt me back to bed. Tempt me to stay within the warmth and safety of my duvet. Urging me to nestle back into my pillow and "do it tomorrow instead".
Sometimes my head still wins, but more often than not I've dragged my lazy ass out of bed and am out the door before my head realises what's going on. 

Except for swimming. I still hate swimming. 

The sessions where I win the battle are always the best. 
This blog was started to remind me of my entire journey though, not just the best sessions. I write this to remind me that I've survived the worst moments too.

The moments where I look like this...

Can you guess what I wanted to say to the camera man?

About a month ago I was gearing up ready to race my first duathlon. Taupo had given a me a new excitement to race and I was nervous but excited to get stuck into race season.

A little dabble around Scorching Bay with a 2k run/12k cycle/2k run/12k cycle/2k run. Seemed pretty easy, but the night before stress got the better of me. On top of the bigger stresses came the stupid excuses. Where will I park? What if I can't get my bike in the car? What if I can't find the registration tent?
It's not often my coach (Emma) will tell someone not to race, but through the waves of insanity (which turned out to be a 2 day migraine) I managed to read the text telling me to rest. To take an easy week and reset. 

Turns out this was pretty amazing advice. Emma re-wrote my programme and eased me back into training. We built back to long runs and rides, and took the pressure out of the swims. The next race was a month away so we had time. I listened to stories of other clients who kept pushing through stressful weeks and burned out resulting in sickness and missing weeks of training. 

Yup, I listened! And it paid off.
I actually didn't have a choice. On top of everything, I put my back out that week as well.

I'm now comfortably running 18kms, riding for 3-4 hours, and can happily swim 1km. I'm even starting to nail the nutrition side of things and am feeling GOOD while training. 

Halfway through 16km run
Halfway through 18km run

Nailing post 80km ride nutrition with an iced chocolate

The biggest mental battle to date - Scorching Duathlon - Upper Hutt

10km run/40km cycle/5km run. Goal - 3 hours.
Reality: 3hrs 22 mins of hell.

After hiding in a bush from the mini hail storm I started my Garmin and off I ran into the sunshine towards Rimutaka Prison. Now when I write it down, it seems obvious it was going to be hell! 1km into the course came a rather steep hill, most of which I managed to run. Until the next part of the hill, and the uneven downhill terrain, and more up hill. Oh and the stairs. 
Heart pounding, legs burning and a few swear words muttered to the photographer slowing my breathing, I still managed to keep going and catch the back of the pack on the downhill and hold on back to transition. That was ONE loop, of two. FML.

There's a dark place your mind goes to when you're coming dead last in a race. 
The frustration carried into the ride where I finally got the chance to have a drink and get some fuel on board. No amount of Replace could have prepared me for the dread I felt when I saw Wallaceville hill 3km into my ride. 

Here's what I learned during the bike phase. 

  • When you're coming last in a race you're only competing with yourself. The race becomes about finishing and doing the best you can.
  • Quitting will not make you proud.
  • Chaffing sucks. Buy some chamois cream!
  • I wasn't actually last, there were 3 people behind me
  • When you catch the person who you thought was miles in front of you, the race is back on! Screw doing your best, just stay in front of this guy!

Last was the little 5km run. Easy. 30 mins and I am done. 


A combination of dehydration, not enough food and the posture I held on the bike caused my back to seize up again and I limped/walked most of the 2.5km loop before deciding to cross the finish line early. As much as I regret not fully completing the race, I think I made the right choice in not injuring myself further.
Thanks to Simon for bringing me food, giving me hugs and being an awesome race buddy!

Next race is a half marathon this Sunday. It doesn't involve hills and I'm quite excited. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


No, that's not a hashtag for a bad "Adult" movie. 

Last week I loaded my bike onto the back of a minivan and headed off to Taupo with my coach and another girl crazy enough to enter into endurance training by choice. 
Emma, Del and I spent the week surrounded by beautiful NZ scenery and tortured our bodies all in the name of IronMan training.

Wednesday was an early start for me with RPM in the morning and racing around to be packed and ready by lunch time. A slight delay in transport meant we arrived in Taupo close to 8pm. Del and Emma braved through their tiredness and headed to the pool while I blobbed on the couch and settled for a bit of MKR. The pool has been a bit of a battle for me lately, but more about that later.

Thursday's plan was a 90km ride out to Reporoa and back to Taupo. Having just ridden 100km 4 days prior, one can imagine (and even read about) the thoughts going through my mind before this ride. I was a little nervous, but at least this time I knew I could handle it. This route is the same one used in the Taupo IronMan series, so doing one lap was the course for the half IronMan. 

While scoffing our breakfast we sat down with Emma and went through our nutrition for the ride - how many carbs we needed to consume while training in order to fuel our bodies to get through the ride (and apparently a run afterwards. FML). 
Essentially, you need 1.0-1.5g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per hour of work. I weigh just under 60kg (I actually don't know, somewhere around 57kg I think) and assumed I would be training for around 4 hours.

I needed to consume a minimum of 240g of carbohydrate while riding. 
That's 8 bananas. Or 20 Weetbix. Or 8 peanut butter sandwiches. 
All of which would be quite hard to carry on a bike. 

Instead we broke this down to 2 One Square Meal bars and 3 drink bottles filled with Replace (Horley's version of Powerade). 
It was at this point that I realised that the 1 1/2 OSM bars and 2 bottles of electrolytes (not containing sugar) that I consumed on my Martinborough ride was a little short of what I should have eaten. Just 140g short. Oops.

So, off we went, carb loaded and ready for some sunshine. 
The ride out was awesome. It was perfect weather, no wind and a warm sun to keep us smiling. We arrived in around 1hr 50. 
Emma and Del took off ahead of me for the ride home, I had a quick stretch and jumped back on for a fast ride home. It was at this turn around in Reporoa that I realised the cruisy ride out was a result of a very slight down hill road the WHOLE way. So the return ride meant an uphill slog for approx 35km. FML.
Then the wind started. Not just any wind. A head wind which progressively worsened over the next 2 1/2 hours that it took me to slog it home. 
Those 2 1/2 hours involved a lot of swearing, tears, one full sit down tantrum on the side of the road and a poorly blown snot rocket which landed across the side of my face. 

The ride profile. It looks flat, but that is a very slight bastard of a hill; Speed profile; Team Giant

After arriving home, exhausted and out of tears, Emma "encouraged" me to put on my running shoes and go for a run. 10 mins. Arrrrrrgh!!!
I did 12 mins. BOOM! 1st brick session DONE!

Friday was a much needed rest day. After hanging out with my awesome cousin and her kiddies for the morning, I fell asleep on the couch in front of trashy day time TV for majority of the afternoon. 
Two extras also joined us Friday evening, Mike and one of my besties/fellow-endurance-training-crazy-person, Nicole. After registering for our race the next day, off to the pool we went. 
I tried everything I could to get out of that swim. Lately I have developed a hateful relationship with the pool and will avoid it at all costs. I strongly dislike being bad at things. Swimming is one of those things. 
After the hard word from the coach and with Nicole offering to help coach me for this swim session I begrudgingly put on my togs and hopped in the car.
Nicole coached me through a few drills to help with my technique and made the session a lot more tolerable and focused than it otherwise would have been. I may have enjoyed it. Don't tell anyone. 

Proof that I got into the pool. I swam too. Strava has proof. 

Saturday was race day. This was actually the whole point of our trip. Emma, Del and Mike all ran the half marathon while Nicole and I busted out the 10km race. Because this is MY blog I am only going to mention MY awesome results. Just quietly though, Nicole absolutely smashed this race because she is amazing. 

Pre race #selfie
I finished the race in 56.09mins. Not a PB but running a slightly hilly course on fatigued legs was a tough effort and I'm pretty proud of it. I also finished 15th (out of 40) in my age group.

I paid for these photos. Don't zoom in on my face, it's not pretty.
This race was followed by a trip to De Bretts thermal pools and a beer.
Awesome trip and I'm excited to get in another before the big events!

Huge thanks to Emma and Nicole for all your motivation and support and of course to Del for our transport and amazing apartment! Let's do it again!

Check out #3chicksdotaupo on Instagram for more pics