Adapt.Improvise.Overcome. Boulder, Colorado

My favourite part of the race would have to be at the end when the medical volunteers flopped me into the arms of mum and Asta and the first thing Mum said to me was, “ You stupid girl why do you do this to yourself.”

There are two things my dad taught me:

  1. Always be optimistic
  2. Never ever give up

Two weeks before I left for U.S.A I had a cold that wouldn’t go away. I ate raw garlic and did everything else Dr. Google told me to do and it still wouldn’t go away naturally. I gave in and a few days before we were set to fly out I went to the doc and she said it’s a pretty bad chest and sinus infection how have you been managing to train. She gave me a two-week course of anti-biotics, which would take me to 3 days before race day. Not ideal. However, I spent the following few days with the mindset that not being able to breathe out of my nose is the perfect way to build up to a race at 5,000 feet.

The Boulder Reservoir lake was like a menopausal woman all week, one minute she was cold then later in the afternoon had shot up by 8 degrees, one day we were all banned from going near her because her bacteria levels were too high. With this is mind we wouldn’t know if it was a wetsuit swim till the morning of the race. Wearing a wetsuit makes you more buoyant and faster and easier to pop back up when you get karate chopped in the back by people that swim over you. At 5:30am I was the first pro into transition. One of the officials walked up to me and said it was going to be a non-wetsuit swim. In return I gave him the death look. Swimming not being my strong point I wasn’t thrilled by this information but I always have a plan for every situation in any race and at the end of the day its same for everyone.

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I can’t really describe the feeling at the start line of racing as a professional. The team of people that got me to the start line slowly fade into the distance and I realise its all up to me now. What you got, what you gonna do, as my swim coach would say are you going to be a lion or a mouse. Part of me is absolutely shitting myself the other part of me is like every other girl here wants to take something that I have earned away from me, am I going to let that happen. No way in hell. All these thoughts, the pressure, the racing heart this is what I live for.

 

I felt pretty good in the swim and came out of the water in 12th place out of the 22 pros. Not bad considering I only learnt to swim six years ago. My first 40km on the bike I did a 1:07 and was holding back making every effort not to go above the power window coach Andrew Mackay set out. I was having such a good time and so fired up I didn’t drink…In 35 degree heat at altitude probably not the best decision I have made in my life. At approximately 1hr 44 min 32 seconds the real pain came. This is the pain no amount of training can prepare you for. You think about this pain all week, you know its coming and when it hits your like ahh you’re here $)!^&#@ ^&(#$@r. I didn’t have long left on the bike and I was forever optimistic as soon as I started running I would become the Kenyan marathon runner I visualised and glide all the way to the finish line.

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Turns out I became the Kenyan elephant. The first 1km of the run was probably one of the most painful experiences of my life. My right quad out of nowhere had locked up completely and it felt like I had a prosthetic leg on and was swinging it round in an attempt to run properly. I saw 2 girls ahead of me I was aiming to pass them as soon as my leg loosened. The pain of my quad soon disappeared as I was now competing with the sun and the altitude. The best way to explain what that run felt like is like running in a sauna and breathing through a straw. Mid way through the first lap I started counting my steps. As soon as I start counting in my head I know at my end. And I still had 15km to go. When I saw Asta at half way and she yelled ‘come on pip’ and I gave the look ‘ please throw a rock at me so this can all be over,’ she yelled again… ‘Just finish the race.’

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I had to dig deep…really deep to get that finish line. Once I crossed it I flopped into the arms of the medics. They kept saying we are taking you to the medical tent and I kept saying no.1. Because I didn’t know if my travel insurance covered this event. No 2. Because it would mean I would have to walk/be dragged up a small hill and I felt like I had done enough exercise. Mum and Asta dragged me to a tree and Charlotte took photos. But my pulse was too slow and I could feel myself slowly fading out of consciousness so I gave in, they got a wheelchair and wheeled me off to the tent.

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I am alive. Currently on a diet of pizza and cupcakes. Body is burnt to a crisp, craving a massage from Natalia at Bodyneed. This race was Win or Learn. I definitely learnt a lot. I know I can finish a half ironman on 200mls of water… I know I definitely don’t want to race again on only 200mls of water. I know one day I can beat these girls, and I believe one day I will.

 

 

Why not making the Olympics…was the best thing that happened to me.

Eight years ago I remember the exact room I sat in with New Zealand Soccer Coaches telling me I wouldn’t be going to Beijing 2008. At the time I was devastated and had a big cry with interment breaks of eating chocolate and lollies. It was a weird feeling, I knew I was down but I definitely wasn’t out.

I chose triathlon because I figured it was an individual sport, if I got the results no one could tell me I wasn’t good enough. When I started the sport the goal was always to get to the Olympics…ideally Rio 2016. That is not happening this year; and I’m definitely not touching chocolate or lollies because I am upset about it.

I know on that start line and the majority of start lines I am probably the only athlete that still works full time. The general consensus is a training full time athlete has an advantage. I don’t believe this. Say a race comes down to a sprint finish; both athletes at there tip of exhaustion. Who wants it more? The athlete that gets to have naps all day, all the working athlete that wakes at 4:30am managers 52 key accounts and 3 staff and then knocks out a hard interval session at night.

Not making the Olympics has taught me how to really fight for what I want. A fight I can’t imagine would be there if I had been given a spot to Beijing 2008. Triathlon has helped me persevere through some of the toughest moments of my life. It is more than a sport its about being at your very end, then finding that extra bit of energy to push further than you have ever imagined. Triathlon is a team sport, it takes a nation of people to back you up to help you keep pushing.

The best thing about not making it as far as you wanted to in one sport makes you one million times more hungrier to make it in another. I am now 3 weeks away from my debut as a professional athlete for Ironman 70.3 racing and my desire to compete has never been stronger.

Life is good. I have a great family, great friends, great job and a mildly obese dog. I have a team of incredible coaches, sponsors and training partners that have helped me get to that start line in the best shape possible. In Colorado it will be Win or Learn. Either way I am standing on that start line believing you can have anything you want if you want it badly enough.

Sunshine Coast 70.3: First Race as a Professional

I am 100% an all or nothing person. The idea of not committing to be the best at something doesn’t sit with me at all. I would rather take a massive risk than play it safe any day. I will never be ok with losing, in fact every loss is cemented in my brain and motivates me to keep competing. Racing as a professional is like starting my triathlon career all over again; I have to start from the bottom and work my way up.

When I got the nod from New Zealand Triathlon to race professional I screamed, threw my laptop and did a few shimmies. Then I got serious and thought my first race as a pro is going to be where I know the best gluten free pancakes are on earth are: the Sunshine Coast.

Six years ago when I started triathlon the goal was to always get on a pro start line. I love triathlon and love being competitive. I knew racing against 25 of the top athletes in the sport would be a challenge; but you only live once so why not.

I didn’t have the perfect build up to the race. I have an ongoing back injury that limits my cycling. For two months I was only able to ride once or twice a week depending on how it was feeling that week. I think if you ask any triathlete on the start line if they faced a setback they would have a story for you. Caroline Steffan the winner of the race had a broken rib. I love the quote “You have to win twice on your worst day,” because that’s exactly what you have to be capable of doing if you want to be a world champion.

Not having the cycling legs I would have wanted I focused on other areas I could make improvement in. The USA Women’s soccer team had a goal throughout their winning World Cup campaign to improve by 0.01% in 10 areas everyday. I took this approach and focused on the controllables. A key area for me was to get to my race weight. This starts 6 weeks from race day and involves a weekly phone call to my nutritionist Tracey Wheeler. Every week we would tweak and trial different carbs/fats/protein ratios to find the perfect mix. I got to my race weight and felt strong and ran my fastest half marathon at 1:32.

We are trialling a new swim program at the moment. Only 3 months in I definitely didn’t expect a miracle in the 1.9km swim. The swim was mainly about keeping a positive mind frame and focusing on technique cues. The beauty about racing pro is there were only 25 of us; so besides the initial push and shove it’s quite a good swimming experience. Racing, as an age grouper and touching the wrinkly old men’s feet can be really quite gross.

I jumped onto my bike and went to turn my computer on and the button came flying off. It’s funny in all the weeks building up and all the bumps and flights it has survived it decided to pop off at a crucial moment and when I was riding on amazingly smooth road. I felt good in the first 50km it was the last 40km I lost my legs and my back started to go.

As an athlete you do really live for these moments. Everything is against you but somehow you have to find a way to keep going. That’s when you remember the 4:30am starts; the days you were to tired but still did it; the moments when you really wanted chocolate and you resisted. To get through I started by counting road signs having more sips of water, having gels keeping my brain focused on processes and technique cues. Even though at one point I think I told myself I was never doing triathlon again; as soon as I start running my mind frame shifts completely.

I loved the run, my legs felt strong. Every km I felt better and better. I’m still very green when it comes to knowing what I’m capable of pushing when I’m racing in a 4hour 49minute race.

The best moment is always the red carpet at the end. Having my family and friends at the finish line hug me despite the whooshed bogeys and gels stuck to my face. There really is nothing that will make you run faster than having a bunch of Italians screaming at you.

Screaming Italians

My first race as a professional I had no outcomes in mind just pure focus on the process. I have two weeks of relaxed life; only a few hours a day training and I’m allowed to eat whatever my heart desires. Then it’s back into it prepping for the New Zealand race season.

Box of Chocolates

The past few weeks life has been like a gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, paleo box of chocolates..I’ve won races, I’ve been bed ridden with a back injury for a week;  I went a bit mental and started trying to have real conversations with my dog Monty…then I’ve won races again, then all of a sudden I’ve become extremely emotional can’t stop crying every time I watch an inspirational movie ( Paul Potts movie One Chance = beautiful)..but now I can see the light and the past few months are coming together.

I won two 10km races in the Auckland Run Series. I bet all the girls and the boys which I haven’t done since I stopped growing at about 6 years old.  These were training races for me which basically means I have a pep talk to my legs in the car and say, “look I understand your tired but I would really appreciate it if you would show up today…and if you do I will give you a treat.” We then discuss the treat and come to an agreement and then I hope they fulfil there part of the deal when the gun goes off.  Sometimes they show up and sometimes they definitely don’t. Besides using bribery and manipulation on my legs; the training I have been doing in the past few months has also helped. Teaching myself about pace control has been a biggie. My old mentality was run as hard as you can and when your body dies find a way to deal with it. This means a 400m sprint off in front of the crowds, as soon as all family friends are out of view its… holy shitake mushroom now just try and finish without coming to a crawl. I won race one in 39.48 and race two in mud and rain in 39.41.

Racing the North Island Duathlon Champs was a last minute decision between my coach and I. The email for the 5km run, 20km bike and 2.5km run popped up I sent it on to him and then me and Muz are on the phone working this into the plan. I did a quick ‘girl’ check of my bike on Saturday presuming if it looks pretty it must be working. I got to the race Sunday morning and the bike mechanic told me my front brake was broken. This is fine who needs brakes anyway. Whenever things go wrong before a race I always think about Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington; she was known for getting diarrhoea in the clear blue waters of Kona pre race. Nothing can be as bad as that surely.

The first 5km was pretty rough in this heavy wet sand combination. I was a bit rusty in transition and managed to drop my helmet. Telling my body to ‘stop bend over grab helmet’ was extremely challenging and would be safe to assume people thought I had vodka in my drink bottle instead of coconut water. I wasn’t extremely confident on the bike as I have just come back from a back injury and hadn’t had a solid cycling training block. However, I thought f$#k it I’m racing World Champs in two weeks lets see what I can do. I got to the final lap and no one had passed me, I thought I had one lap to go then I saw someone behind me devait off into the transition lane. Which meant I had already completed the 6.75 laps, so I decided to cross country over some heavy bobbly grass (this is never a great feeling no matter how thick your bike shorts are) and back track into transition. On to the last 2.5km run jumping off the bike I always feel like Bambi. I have to keep looking down to make sure my legs are actually moving it feels like trying to move two cement blocks. I was in the lead and all I had to do was run 2.5km and I would win my first duathlon. I have been at the back of these races for years dreaming of a time where I would be in the lead; no matter how tired I was there was no way in hell I was going to let anyone pass me. I won and it feels pretty dam good. Mum asked me if I won any prize money and I said if by prize money you mean a 1970s medal with two people running on it then yes.

I leave for Vancouver on Friday, then head to Edmonton on Tuesday for the Olympic Distance World Champs on Monday the 1st of September. Mum has been given the nod for racing Facebook updates so don’t be surprised if she posts a picture of a foot or a hand bag.

When my dad died two years ago I always thought there would be no one who would believe in me as much as him. I worried that without him to support me I would never be able to live my dream to compete with the New Zealand fern on my chest again. I cannot thank everyone enough for the support over the past few months it is truly humbling to have such a supportive bunch of people in my life. Thank you everyone for your donations and messages I appreciate it more than you can ever imagine. My coach Murray Healey, Megan and Jeremy from Little Bird, Stacey from Balance Sports Nutrition, Karen and the team from Bodyneed, Mark Quinn injury counsellor and strength and conditioning coach, Ryan from Aqualine, Dave Thomas and Jeremy Ritson for keeping me employed at GSK ..THANK YOU TIMES ONE MILLION.  A special thank you to Asta Lee for putting up with my tiredness, grumpiness and for doing my massive pile of washing everyday.

Now lets go kick some serious arse in Canada. Love and appreciate you all like XO.

10km 39:48

 

Nutrition with Tracey Wheeler from Bodyneed

I went to see Tracey 8 weeks ago in order to knock off 2kgs so I would be hitting Edmonton at my race weight. Trying to lose weight while still having enough energy to train is a very fine line. However, we both agreed having enough energy to train well was more important. Tracey has been absolutely brilliant and I never felt hungry yet still lost the 2kgs I needed too. She looked at my training program, evaluated my current diet and made small tweaks that have made the world of difference. Nutritionists are not like doctors where you can expect to go in once and be fixed. Like anything its a learning process. Tracey recognised I had type A athlete behaviour wanting everything to be perfect and anxious if it wasn’t. She is also extremely black and white. I confessed I went out for dinner and had a good old meat fest and she said…Pip, cut that s$%t no more eating out till after your race. Even though you think your eating semi healthily you have no idea what they are putting in your food. Unless of course your eating at Little Bird where everything is clean. As I am coming into my taper, I’m not training as much so only using carbs when they are needed. Where ever you are in the world Tracey can help via Skype or meet up with her in Auckland.

Stalk her on facebook

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Or email her

traceynaturally@gmail.com