It’s been over 2 weeks since I raced Kellogs Nutri Grain Ironman New Zealand. I’ve spent the past week back in Australia and Sydney and Melbourne, catching up with friends and contacts and generally continuing to chase summer. It’s been manic but it’s been awesome. Visiting friends, my favourite places, body surfing with the gang at Bondi, drinking far too much Aussie coffee and catching up with even more friends and fab people. I even managed a day of fun filled swim bike run filming with Witsup in Melbourne! I’m now back in New Zealand and Christchurch where I’m starting to ramp back into training but still keeping things quite fluid and flexible, before I really get stuck into the next part of the journey. I’m pretty excited.
It’s hard to fathom my last two races. It all seems a bit of a blur now to be honest. Time moves on pretty quickly. Trying to process the races, the experiences, analyse my performances, my successes, the learning. Giving myself time to be proud of what I have achieved yet certainly not resting on this. I’m hungry for more and there’s more to come, there’s a huge amount of work to be done. But it’s exciting!
I think I was possible in denial until the cannon fired and then reality hit.
For the two weeks between Wanaka and Taupo I’d lived in a little bubble. I stayed in Wanaka for an extra week before travelling to Taupo, which was great for keeping to my little bubble of denial and naivety about the second race I was heading into. I also kept completely process focused. I had a lot of people asking me
“How are you feeling?”
“How have you pulled up?”
“How have you recovered?”
My answer to this, I don’t know. I didn’t know how I was meant to feel. I wouldn’t know until race day came around and the cannon fired.
To be honest I didn’t really want to think about it too much either. I just had to trust and stick to the process and go with what my body gave me each day. Smile, enjoy it, and immerse myself in the journey. I had complete trust in the plan from Matt Dixon my coach and the guidance from Paul Buick. So I honestly ignored all these feelings and thoughts and lived day to day with my training and recovery and preparation. Matt and Paul did a fantastic job at giving me time to recover but keeping the body in gear with the ability to ramp when needed. None of us knew how I’d respond, react or recover, but I had full trust in Matt and Paul and their instincts and the plan.
My plan for Wanaka was Trust Blind. For Taupo this evolved…
TRUST BLIND FREEDOM
TRUST in my abilities
Be BLIND to everyone else
Have the FREEDOM to race, give myself permission to race freely with no pressure or expectations…
Taupo was going to be a complete unknown. We therefore went into it with this approach and no expectations. That didn’t mean when I stood on the start line I wouldn’t be giving it a shot. I would be there to race for sure, not just a spectator. Wanaka was behind me and my eyes were firmly on the day ahead.
Race morning was almost perfect in terms of conditions. I’d prepared for anything as Taupo has had a pretty rocky few years weather wise with winds, rain and surf on the lake, but we were greeted with a glistening flat lake and perhaps just a wisp of wind. This would mean a fast swim. However I stuck to my plan and staying focused on my race ensuring I got the best start I could.
We started just 45sec behind the Pro Men and so soon I was moving through the back markers of the male field. I was aware I had another Pro Woman on my feet but was focused on moving forward working off the swimmers ahead and by 700m to go or so, I had managed to close up to Michelle Bremer.
Again no real idea of the time I swam till I ran under the T1 exit arch with my bike and saw 59mins. With a long 500m run from the swim to T1, I registered that it was another solid swim. Banked. Again loving my new Roka wetsuit! That was then the last I thought of the swim. My transition was pretty agricultural from the swim to bike in the change tent…definitely need to practice this (sit on the ground not a chair when having your wetsuit pulled off, or just do it yourself as it may be easier). This meant that Michelle and Lucy Gossage (who’d been just behind me out the water) shot through and onto their bikes whilst I was literally still sat on my arse! So I had lost ground to them before even jumping on the bike.
For Taupo, I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to ride a Specialized S-works. Thanks to the good folk at Specialized Australia/New Zealand for this opportunity. Paul did an amazing job of building the bike in no time at all. The first time I rode the bike was the Tuesday before the race and as a credit to Paul’s skills, it needed no adjustments at all. As soon as I got on it just felt so great.
The first lap was a little misty and foggy as we headed out to Reparoa turnaround. The bike course was two laps out and back. It took me a while to really get going, probably until the 25-30km mark. I managed to work back up to Bremer and Gossage (although Lucy’s flat probably helped here). For the rest of the lap I played cat and mouse with Lucy as we moved through the field taking time back on the leaders up the road and by the start of the second lap I found myself in 3rd place.
Lucy was having a stonking ride and unfortunately for me I lost her on one section of the course that I didn’t ride particularly well and she was away. But I still pushed on with no thought of the marathon, just getting the best out of myself on the bike with the terrain. I was having fun.
Into T2 and I found I was 4mins off the lead. When I started to run I felt like a “donkey dipped in cement” and it did then cross my mind that maybe the double hadn’t been such a good idea after all. But with sticking to the process and my protocols, I found rhythm and started to move well. This was from 2-10km and I found I was pulling Lucy back in, moving into 2nd place at around 7km mark. Lucy is an incredible runner so it did briefly enter my mind that I’d just overtaken a 3hr marathon runner, when the fastest time I’d ever ran was 3.20. However my plan was to not hold back and go with it. Trust. Blind. Freedom.
Around 10km I started to become agricultural again. I lost rhythm and was starting to feel a little average. Lucy passed me and I knew it would be a long haul home. I struggled to find rhythm for the next 18km through to 28km, losing more ground and dropping back into 4th just after half way when Carrie Lester passed me and moved into that podium spot. The last lap I did seem to find some rhythm again but again too little too late unfortunately to gain back the time and distance on the women ahead.
4th was where I finished in 9:09:08
Sorry…say that again? I did what time? Sub 9:10! Bullsh*t! I ran what time? Sub 3:15hrs?
I really didn’t know what time I’d done. I never do to be honest. I felt pretty average in the run so had refused to look at my watch as I thought I was running so slowly. This is definitely a learning for next time that perception and reality is different and actually I was on for a 3:10-3:15. My previous best was 3:19. This is also experience and learning. I still feel very new to the sport and distance and I’m still building the experience and confidence in different situations. It was a good take way from the race.
Also I hadn’t realized that I would come in sub 9:10. It really hadn’t occurred to me. Would it have helped me through my agricultural phase if I’d known? Could I have pushed and dug more? Who knows…shoulda….woulda…coulda! Hindsight is a valuable tool!
What did happen was that I took away a huge amount of learning and belief.
I think I’ve learn more in my last two races, Challenge Wanaka then Ironman Taupo, than I did in all of the races last year. An amazing experience to race two iron distance events back to back. Could I have done better at Taupo if I hadn’t raced Wanaka? Yes quite possibly. But also, it wouldn’t have opened up a door and opportunity off the learning and experience I gained at Wanaka.
This last two weeks, I’ve been itching to get back into training and the routine, living off the endorphins that sport gives me, but I know I need to make the most of the last couple of days of a more relaxed and flexible schedule. Giving my body, but I actually think more importantly my mind time to switch off and re charge.
I feel a completely different athlete to the one that I was when I raced in 2015.
I am proud of my two performances, stepping up and mixing it with some of the best athletes in the world. There were some very positives steps forward, BUT there was even more learning and experienced gained.
It’s time to re focus, build on this and keep moving forward. Put my head down again, and immerse myself again in the journey and process, strap in and enjoy the ride.
It really was a fantastic race to be part off. A huge congratulations to Meredith Kessler for smashing her own course record and putting down her 5th win in Taupo. Apparently MBK stays in the same motel room each time she visits and her hubby Aaron always catches a rainbow trout as a good luck omen. I’ve just booked out the whole motel and asked for all the trout to be killed in preparation for next year! 😉 In all seriously it was a class performance by MBK.
Congrats also to Lucy Gossage and Carrie Lester. I loved mixing it up with Lucy on the bike and Carrie put in a great run to deserve and claim that last spot on the podium.
As I mentioned in my Wanaka report, Paul Buick has had a massive part of my results the past few weeks and also the races before Christmas. It’s an absolutely honour and privileged to have the opportunity to work with Paul and I’m looking forward to more work and development with Paul on the bike. It truly was a team performance, with Paul and Matt Dixon preparing me for these events. I had full trust in them both, from the training plan and to riding a new bike on race day. It has taken a year or more to find our feet and build the bond, and I’m definitely not saying we are there yet, but it’s been an pretty good 6months or so with this team!
Thank you to the brands I am honoured to represent every day as I train and race, who support me throughout the year with awesome kit and products.