I thought I would update you on my latest half Ironman, Challenge Melbourne 2015. Partly because some of you have asked, partly because I feel it will be cathartic for me and mostly because I hope there are lessons here for us all. Yesterday was my toughest day at the office yet.
Race morning and the conditions were obviously not ideal, but I’m a big believer in controlling the controllables and at the start of the race, I felt relaxed and ready to go. I’ve just started experimenting with VESPA, Optimised Fat Metabolism (OFM), and took my pre-race serve 45 minutes out from race start as planned. More on this in the coming weeks.
I swam well in the chop, not a PB by any means, but I was comfortable and getting it done. This unfortunately didn’t last long and things started going south when I swallowed too much salt water and starting vomiting during the last 500m into shore. I felt alright considering and just took my time in T1, but I will say that I have no idea if I actually swam the course and wonder if SuperSprint will reconsider such a layout in future years. Here’s a little pic for those who don’t know the course. When I heard today that 90 people were pulled out of the water, I realised how challenging a day it really was!
As I started the bike leg I found I really had to dig to get the pace up. I thought it may have been the wind and with three laps ahead of me, I set a plan B of building into the 90km and hoped my stomach would settle at the same time. I was able to sip on electrolytes but found it really hard to keep anything down. I had a bottle of SuperStarch ready to go, and forced a few sips, but nothing was really working by this stage. By about half way I had to do everything not to completely mentally check out and just had to break the race up into 15km stretches and get it done. In hindsight it was partly my mind that got the better of me, and partly the work I’d put in to such an interrupted build. More on this in a minute. I took another VESPA as planned, which I was extremely grateful for as I knew by now I’d be getting through the race on minimal exogenous fuel. The positives were coming back into the Brighton turn to all the cheers, and racing with my superstar boyfriend who cruised passed me effortlessly at about 50km into the bike leg. At least I beat him in the swim 😉
Onto the run leg and this was always going to be the unknown. The short story is that I’ve had plantar fasciitis since I raced Honu in 2013, and an associated ankle injury since September 2014. Excuses aside, I just haven’t been able to run much at all, and my build consisted of time-off, treatment, rehab “running”, more treatment, Pilates, more treatment and just no improvement what-so-ever. It never really got worse, otherwise I would have selected not to run, but the reality is that my longest “run” leading into Challenge was 8km of 4/1 run/walk. Biggest lesson of the day: running 21km off the bike with minimal training is just not a good idea. After about two kilometres of feeling good, everything started to cease up. The irony is that the pain was far worse than the ankle/foot I had been managing for the entire build. I just obviously didn’t have the conditioning without the training and my TT bike has been contributing to some discomfort that I haven’t been able to correct no matter how many fits or how much cash I spend on changing it. Plan B became survival. As my foot wasn’t too bad and I assessed I wouldn’t cause more damaging by continuing, I just had to finish. And it was the longest half marathon of my life. My 4/1 run/walk became a shuffle, interspersed with lying on my back to try and stretch out my back/glutes/hips. I stomached a few sips of Freedom Fuel, aware that I had been out there for 5+ hours by now, but mostly just sipped water at each station and dug deep. Again, coming into Brighton was awesome as the cheers were phenomenal and there were so many kids to high five, but I really had to face my demons out the back of the course as the numbers dwindled and nothing I did would relieve my discomfort. But I’m very happy to say that I got it done. Finishing was the sweetest feeling, and I’m glad I forced a smile and got both feet off the found in the photo my amazing Coach Katee from Holistic Endurance snapped. I can at least say that injuries aside, I felt the best I ever have leading into a race and can thank Katee for her amazing skills as a Coach for contributing largely to this. Check out more about her coaching philosophy here.
It was so great to have all the support on the course and to see a handful of my athletes out there killing it was definitely the highlight of the day. A big thank you to everyone who called, sent text messages and emailed in the lead up too – it means the world to have your support. And of course, a huge thank you to all the volunteers – we couldn’t do it without you and everyone was so encouraging and downright awesome for the whole day.
Quote of the day goes to the legendary Pete Lever from TriSpecific: “The best races are the ones where everything is left out on the course and you have thrown the kitchen sink at it”.
I definitely need to remind myself of this today.
So what’s next for me?
Pre-Challenge I had already made the decision to take some time off and get in the gym and yesterday cemented that decision. It’s time to get strong, fix these injuries and spend some time getting fast in short course. I also have a number of big business projects that require more of my time, so taking some of the training load off needs to happen this year. I’ll be back, and I will get that elusive 5.30 one day, but for now I am accepting the fact that the foundation needs to be stronger first. Yesterday also showed me that I have some work to do on strengthening the mind, as although I finished, I definitely could have enjoyed myself and embraced the moment more yesterday. I’m also in the market for a new TT bike which is exciting, although I’m very happy being back on the road bike for some time now.
I’m happy being a spectator for now, as I love the sport to death and gain so much from watching you achieve your goals. I’ll be at Geelong 70.3 this coming weekend and playing WAG/chef for the next six weeks into Ironman Melbourne, as the boyfriend takes on the big dance for the first time. Someone needs to make all the Freedom Fuel and No Bake Energy Bars after all! See you out there team and keep sending through your successful races and natural fuelling strategies as we can all learn from the days that go to plan and the days that teach you not to give up.