My ‘I don’t List…

I recently wrote a blog “The juggle (and real life struggle) of a working triathlete mum.” I read over it a number of times before I actually posted it as one of my worries was making sure it didn’t sound like I was ‘boasting’, or that ‘I had it all together’, and had this working, training mum thing down pat. Because that’s not how I wanted it to sound and it’s definitely not the message I was trying to get across.

Being a triathlete and a working mum myself, I did have other mothers asking me how I fit everything in though, how I managed to have the motivation to get up and train, to head out the door on less than optimal sleep. And even WHY?! Some people seemed in awe, others maybe looked on questioning… But I wanted to share the journey to show that yeah – it is tough, and it does require a lot of juggling, but if you want it to work, you CAN make it work. BUT that’s not to say that I have it all together. Or that I do everything. Far from it.

And an article I read this week reiterated what I was trying to get across. It was about a women who shared her ‘I don’t list’. And it really resonated with me.

“Are you watching your alcohol intake, your carb intake, your sugar intake? Are you intermittent fasting? Are you totally Keto? Are you cooking from scratch every evening with only organic, paleo, dairy-free, meat-free, grain-free produce ethically-sourced from a plastic-free farmers’ market?

Are you monitoring your kids’ screen time, while staying off your phone, while miraculously staying abreast of local and international issues so you can lead your well-tended friendship group in intelligent discussions….?

I didn’t think so. I told you, you’re not doing enough.“…..

“…..I can see that what women really need to hear is not how other women “do it all”, so that we can mimic their to-do lists and add more and more to our cracking plates. No. We need to hear what other women aren’t doing. Because we all have an ‘I Don’t’ List. And every one will be different.…”Read the full article here…

SO – I thought, along with my recent article of what I WAS doing to juggle training, working and family life, I’d now also share what I’m not doing – MY I don’t list…

  • I don’t always call or texts friends back (sorry!) 
  • I don’t do mobility and activation prior to all my sessions. Even though I encourage all my athletes to. 
  • I don’t give my daughter the recommended amount of tummy time every day. 
  • I don’t work enough ‘on’ my business as much as I do ‘in’ my business. 
  • I don’t meditate, even though I know the health benefits
  • I don’t brush my hair every day. Realistically only twice a week! 🤭
  • I don’t know the names of every child care worker at my sons day care. Even though these women give their love and attention to my son every week. 
  • I don’t always get through my days to do list, or stick to my planned schedule. 
  • I don’t put my phone down before bed. I know the science… but I still don’t.
  • I don’t remember all my friends birthdays – even when facebook reminds me! 
  • I don’t always put my baby down when she’s tired. Or wake her when she ‘should’ be awake. I keep her out longer than recommended. And let her cry when I’m too busy to deal. (go ahead & judge!) 😉
  • I don’t keep a budget, or know where all our money is being spent.
  • I don’t market myself or my business like I know I ‘should’ or ‘could’.
  • I don’t follow a training program.
  • I don’t always eat organic, or sugar free, or dairy free….
  • I don’t read as much as I would like.
  • I don’t have a five year plan. I never have. It’s just not me.
  • I don’t empty the bins, I jam those dam things until they are overflowing! (ask my hubby!)

Despite all these things that I don’t do – do you know what? I am ok with it. Sure I could try and ‘do’ more, ‘be’ more – but at what expense? I am ok with not having everything all together all the time. With not doing everything. With not putting that pressure on myself. And I don’t feel guilty one bit. Nor should you. Despite all the things I don’t do, what I do do is understand that stuff happens. Life happens. And there is more to every day than all those little things put together.

Sometimes all I do is enough in the day just to keep the household ticking over.  Sometimes it’s about picking your battles. Of choosing what makes you feel like you are winning in that day or in that moment, and letting go of everything else.

Sure. I could be working more, I could be spending time and money on marketing to grow my business, I could be stuck to a schedule and not deviate from it, I could put the phone down and get an extra 30min of sleep, I could be saving more…

But at the moment, that means I would be working more when I want to share more precious moments with my children, I would spending time on tasks that don’t add value in that moment, I would be so stuck in my routine that I couldn’t say ‘yes’ to a new adventure…..

So know, that everyone has an ‘I don’t list’. They may not share it, but know that no one is perfect. And that’s ok. Because today – and tomorrow. I don’t.

What’s on your ‘I Don’t’ list? 

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Sarah qualified for the Ironman World Champs in her first Ironman attempt at Ironman Melbourne 2013 (also achieving a podium place in the same race), going on to compete in Kona that same year. Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.

The juggle (and real life struggle) of a working triathlete mum

Wow. It is hard to look back and believe how much my life, work and training has changed in the past 2.5years. Rewind to December 2016 (yes that seems AGES ago!) and I was standing on the podium of a Half Ironman. Then, just a few short months later I learnt I was expecting my first child. For someone who has always been very personally driven, fiercely independent, loved the flexibility to train as long as I liked, work as much as needed and sleep in whenever I chose to, I knew this was going to be a big adjustment. And adjustment it was! You can read about how I first managed this here.

Press the fast forward button and all of a sudden I have 2 children under two, I am now married (yes we managed to do this between #1 and #2), am also running my own coaching business, AND back into training myself. Phew, even I feel exhausted just writing that!

‘Ohhh 2 children under 2 – you will have your hands full!’ so many people would say to me when they found out about #2. And yep, they were right. But for me, it feels like just the right amount of full – you get very handy at wrangling a toddler in one arm, while carrying a newborn in the other. 😉

BUT – what does ‘life’ REALLY look like? It’s easy to share a glimpse of it on social media – the cute pics and vids of kids doing gorgeous and hilarious things, the snapshots that we choose to share, but as we all know, social media only shows a very small portion of what our day to day lives REALLY look like. Not the nitty gritty, the juggling act, the broken sleep, the tag teaming, or the days of exhaustion but at the same time the sense of accomplishment. You soon learn where your best windows are for working, training, resting and sleeping, and get good at having patience in getting out the door, in taking each day as it comes, and knowing that your well laid out plans may just go out the window. But that you wouldn’t change it for the world. 🙂

So this is what I wanted to share – more than just the snapshots and cute pictures,. Not to say ‘go me’, but more to say – go mums! I didn’t know many young triathlete mums before I was one myself, apart from a select few, it was like mums took a good 3-5years away from triathlon as they raised a young family, and it wasn’t until say kindergarten or school age that they thought about returning to the sport.

So now being a triathlete and a working mum myself, I have other mothers asking me how I fit everything in, how I manage to have the motivation to get up and train, to head out the door on less than optimal sleep. And even WHY?! Some people seem in awe, others look on questioning… But I wanted to share the journey to show that yeah – it is tough, and it does require a lot of juggling, but if you want it to work, you CAN make it work.

My first ride back:

My first ride back on the road post #2 (Edie) was certainly a mission to say the least. Long gone are the days of simply setting the alarm and waking when it goes off, it now requires military precision. As they say ‘where there’s a will there’s a way!‘ Soooo. To get myself out the door for my first road ride 2 months post-partum, this is what it took:

10pm last night feed + express extra milk for the morning 🥛 
10:40pm in bed asleep
3.30am bubs wakes for a feed
4.15am back into bed
5.30am alarm goes off, get myself dressed/ready
5.45am express extra milk for hubby
6.15am wake up bubs for a quick feed 
6.30am bike in the car and drive to meet others
6.55am finally on the bike! 😁🙌🏻 (and it rained on us mind you, but I did not care one bit!)

So despite having broken sleep, despite having to get up in the middle of the night to feed, despite the logistics of having to express – all this just to get out on the road, I still view this as totally worth it! And worth it is was! Especially after being ‘confined’ to an indoor trainer for the past ~6months leading into her birth and recovering post.

SO – if you feel it’s worth it, then know that it IS possible. It may not be easy, and you may spend more time prepping than actually training, but if you have a goal, if it’s something you really want to do – for you! then do it – only you can put a value on what it means to you. What kept me going in the early days was reminding myself that it won’t always be like this, it won’t always be so time consuming. And it’s not. It does get easier.

As bubs grows and settle into their routines, you will claw back some of your time (and sleep!) and heading out the door wont feel like as much as a mission as it is in the beginning – you get better at the juggling act!

What my work / life / family dynamic looks like

What ones family dynamics looks like plays a BIG part in how you will manage your work, training (and sanity!) 😉 And keep in mind that everyone’s child/children are different. And each individual child of yours may also be different too. I can already see differences in my little ones already. They both have similar relaxed natures, my eldest inquisitive, yet slightly cautious, adventurous, but mostly knows his boundaries, he doesn’t like things out of place, has little patience, but at the same time is a determined little soul with the biggest sweetest and kindest heart and LOVES being outdoors. My youngest is already showing signs of being chilled and observant, patient and relaxed, and luckily for me (us) they were (are) both very good sleepers from the onset. Once they grew past the ‘newborn’ stage ~around 4mths, they learnt to (mostly) sleep through the night. So apart from developmental stages/ages where everything (literally!) goes out the window, I honestly couldn’t ask for better little people to fill our spaces. 🙂

BUT – if this is not you, know I hear you and I feel you. I know what sleep deprivation looks and feels like – we all go through it in the early stages, BUT turning that into months (and for some years!) is tough for anyone to manage and work around, so know your means and know your boundaries based on your own circumstances. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you / your bubs and your family are just not quite there yet.

Everyone’s personal situations will also be different. In our household, hubby works full time, I work part time from home and at the same time we are also both athletes training for our own individual sports and our own individual goals. I have my youngest Edie at home with me full time while working around her, and our little man Mills spends 2 days in day care and a day with his Pa. This gives me just enough relief to knuckle down with work while Edie is content or asleep.

But it is the training front that is actually the biggest juggle. Someone commented to me one day – ‘oh it must be easy being able to work from home and train when you want‘. Ummmm, no! (just a tip, never say to a working mum it must be easy, no matter the context – you will loose every time!) 😉

Early in the piece when bubs are newborns they sleep. alot. But they also feed. alot. Each of you are finding your feet and what routine works for you and your fam. When they sleep, you want to rest, or do the washing, or prep dinner….. It’s not like you have instant or infinite time to smack out a training session. Far from it. How many times I have thought – awesome, I’ve got an hour window to jump on the trainer while she’s asleep – and 15min into the session she wakes! But instead of getting frustrated, you just work around it. Sometimes your little ones need you more than other times. Just like work sometimes needs or asks more of you and you have to shift in that direction. I see motherhood as the same. It is and will be forever evolving, and will additionally change if you have outside help, if you are breast feeding, if you are working… there are so many variables.

So I just wanted to share that insight so you got a bit of a gauge of what our family dynamics looked like first – as mothers we are the first to compare ourselves to others. I didn’t write this for others to compare to, or to feel they have to strive for, but simply to document and share while hopefully allowing other (tri) athlete mums know that it is possible to raise a young family, to be a working mum while also training for triathlons (or what ever sport / activity / fitness you choose!) That yes – it is possible to put yourself first during times of the day / week and that you don’t have to feel guilty about that at all.

My working / training week

It’s certainly not perfect, and some days I can train more than others, and others I don’t get in what I had planned, but as a whole, we seem to have a pretty good balance and understanding of each others needs and what it takes to get everything done, while maintaining a happy family life. 🙂

A few people have asked whether I’m following a program. Apart from squad swimming where I have been joining Jamie Edwards and his crew from JET Coaching, no. I’m not following a program, and I train mainly solo. I have an idea in my head of what I want to achieve in a particular session / certain week, but I am flexible with it. This could mean that I may have a hill rep run planned but if my body is asking for a longer slower endurance run, then I’ll give it that. But I follow my own general coaching principles, methods and planning in my training. I’ve also been using myself as a bit of a guinea pig. I’ll test out a particular swim, bike and/or run set to see what it feels like, and use it with some of my athletes that I feel it can work for. So if you follow me on strava…. 😉


6 months post partum now, and for the last couple of months, this is what my ‘regular’ week can look like:

Monday’s and Wednesday mornings are my swim mornings – so swimming twice a week. These are probably the biggest challenges to get to at the moment. It means an early wake up to feed little miss, before I then get changed and head out the door to swim squad. Get on pool deck and do some mobility and activation work, before jumping in and then getting out to rush home to swap with hubby so he can get ready to head to work.
Should I be including an extra swim in- sure, I should/could/would, but right now, I find the balance of 2 swims enough, especially when sometimes two swims turns into only 1 swim for what ever reason. So two swims it is, and I’m just being realistic about my race goals around the swim based on how my swim progresses around this. But at the moment, after a few months back in the pool I’m just starting to feel swim fit again. Whoop!

Monday’s I will also try to include a strength and conditioning set at home during the day – mainly focused around functional movement, core stability etc, not heavy lifting, along with a walk to get the kids outside. And Wednesdays I attend a clinical pilates session after swimming. This has been fantastic returning post birth, but also a great way to learn how your body moves, it’s imbalances and working on correcting these. I highly recommend if you can fit into your training / week ! (Note this is FAR different to your standard group pilates classes)

Tuesdays have generally been brick days for me, a good way to get bang for your buck. Generally this will be in the afternoon when little miss is (hopefully) sleeping and I’ll time it for when hubby gets home to run off the bike OR I’ll run with her and the pram. 🙂 So a high intensity or strength based bike session, into an easy run off the bike. I might also include another short easy run first thing in the morning when hubby gets home from his ride and before he has to then head to work – if time / our schedules allow.

Thursdays for me have now moved into a double run day to up my run volume, but will shift back to a brick session day or separate bike and run sessions as the triathlon season comes closer. For me, I don’t run well in the mornings, I wake up stiff through my back so I find doing any quality of running in the morning tough. (Plus the winter mojo to run in the AM is severely lacking!) 😉 So instead, for these days I do an easy run loosener in the morning after hubby gets back from his morning ride, just running to feel, and then in the evening throwing in some quality such as hill strength/repeats or fartlek type session. (note this is generally my ONLY evening session) I’m not doing any speed / high intensity work in my runs at the moment, the volume seems to be working well and paces just gradually increasing based on my fitness gains from these, so I’m happy with my run progress after a slow and sluggish first few months. Patience here was definitely key!

Fridays I reserve as a ‘free’ day, or day of choice. If I feel like doing nothing, I don’t. If I feel like an easy spin, or a long walk, or some additional strength, I’ll do that. But I find it’s been great having a totally open day to do whatever I feel or whatever the day brings. Not to mention a sleep in! 😉

Weekends are where the juggle continues, with both myself and hubby working out plans on who’s riding when and where and with whom. It’s a compromise. And sucks if there is a day on the weekend when it’s terrible riding weather as it means one of us is spending time on the trainer! Given I do trainer work during the week, by the weekend I’m hanging to get on the road, so I can’t wait for more warmer and lighter days to come! So Saturdays I have generally been doing my long ride, and Sunday afternoons my long run. Long rides around ~2.5-3.5hours with slowly building run volume off the bike, and long runs now getting up around 1:15min. And each week just gradually building on the last and pulling back when I need the recovery.

When I’m training, I ensure I’m fully present. I’m focused, determined and driven to do that little bit better than last week. As you have now gathered, being a working triathlete and a mum, with a hubby who also trains, it really is a juggling act and you have to make the most of the time allowance you have. This often can mean he comes in from a session and I’m heading out for mine. A quick update on the kids as we pass each other. Some may wonder why we would choose to do this rather than just spending all our time with our little ones while they are so young, and all I can say is that we do it because we love it. It not only makes us feel good staying healthy and having goals to chase, we don’t think having kids should stop that. PLUS we can already see the influence this has on our eldest. He jumps on his bike inside all the time, he shows how he cleans it, will want to put his helmet on, even wants to put his water bottle on his bike – just to be like mum and dad. He hops on the floor and tries to do push ups, he ‘play’s with my roller, does squats and simply just loves being active with us. Children observe and learn so much, and without even teaching him, he’s understanding that being active is simply a part of life. And that there, makes my heart sing to know and see that – so why wouldn’t we want to train and chase after our our own goals?! Knowing that those traits are being learnt by the little people around us… 🙂

Things I have learnt being a working triathlete mum:

  1. Respect & appreciate your body,
    You are not just relying on your body for your sport, your baby/ child/ children/ family is also relying on you. So if ever there was a time to listen to your body, and do whats right for you and your family – then its now. Don’t ignore any signs.
  2. Being healthy is paramount,
    Above all else, it is imperative to stay strong and healthy. I don’t believe any goal should override this and especially not when you are supporting a young bubs. So don’t cut corners on your health.
  3. Consult / work with a professional,
    Make sure you get the all clear from a womens health professional/specialist. Even though you may want to get back running asap, sometimes it may be advised against it based on your personal recovery. So listen to the professionals. They are there for you, so if it means walking for another couple of weeks. Then do it – there is plenty of time to get back to running! 🙂
  4. Communication is king
    You need to have good communication. With your partner, with your coach / support team, with family… Whoever is on your ‘team’. Communicate frequently and communicate well.
  5. Start sloooowwwwllly,
    Slower than you thought was even possible. And above all else, listen to the advice from professionals.
  6. Have patience,
    For me it was 3 months of what felt like slow, heavy, awkward running before I even felt like I was running and not just plodding along. It took 3 months back in the pool after 2 years out of it to actually start to ‘feel’ the water again. It’s about having the patience to stick at it even though it’s hard and having the persistence (read stubbornness) to want to improve and be better than you were yesterday.
  7. Sleep is key – get it when you can,
    I feel very blessed. Both children learnt to sleep through the night quite early on. So from around 4mths they mostly slept through, this makes a MASSIVE difference. So if you have children that need you more at night time, keep in mind how this can impact your recovery and how your next sessions may feel. And if it means having a nap – or even just a lie down, during the day, then take it. You don’t have to be on the go all day every day. Give yourself permission to rest and recuperate – netflix is great for this just saying! 😉
  8. Don’t underestimate the toll breastfeeding takes on your body. Fuel for your bubs but also fuel for your training. And if you are unsure, seek further guidance. It can be a balancing act – especially around breastfeeding.
  9. You CAN find a way to make it happen,
    If you want to do something, or have a goal that means something to you, then you will find a way to make it happen. I won’t say it will be easy, because its not, but there can always be a way. You just have to be willing.
  10. Just as with anything in life, you learn,
    You learn to be able to carry two squirming children at once. You learn how much is too much. You learn what your body is telling you…. And you will be forever learning – and I actually love that. 🙂 So don’t be so stuck and rigid (in your often old ways) that you loose the ability to learn.
  11. Don’t feel you have to be super(hu)mum!
    There’s the saying – you can do anything, but not everything. And this is so true! If the washing has to pile up for a couple of days, then so be it. If you have to get take out one night because you didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, it’s not the end of the world! You don’t have to be on top of everything all of the time. And that’s ok!
  12. Online shopping will be your savour!
    Speaking of grocery shopping, I can’t believe I never shopped online before children. What a time saver! If you don’t already, I highly recommend you start. I now shop for my ‘staples’ online, and then just walk to our local grocer / butcher / fish monger for fresh food with the kids in tow once a week. SO much easier! Plus I find saves money by planning ahead and not getting sucked into any unnecessary purchases.
  13. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
    If you have to miss a session because you are too tired as bubs was up more than normal the previous night, then do it, but don’t feel guilty about it. If you need to cut a session short as it’s all you had time for, then by all means cut it and again, don’t feel guilty.
  14. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself,
    Set a goal, but be flexible with it. Check in every couple of months to see how you are doing / progressing. Change things up if needed. But at the same time, know that you don’t have to be 100% fit or 100% ‘ready’ for a race to be able to do one. View your first race back as your first ever race! The excitement of simply being back out racing, no pressure and simply picture that finishing line with your little one waiting there for you, that will be your biggest achievement, not the time on the clock. 🙂
  15. Be flexible,
    Some days / weeks you will feel like you are nailing it all, and others you will feel like you are just keeping your head above water. During these times you need to be flexible. Drop or switch out a session if you need to catch back up on sleep or simply to reset at home. We have a lot more variables in our lives now, that you need to be flexible, otherwise you will get to a point and you will feel like you are failing and not doing anything well.
  16. Don’t compare yourself to ‘pre-baby/ies’
    It can be easy to look back and think ‘I used to be able to do this’ or ‘I used to look like this’… but it serves no purpose. All you want to do is compare yourself today from yesterday. Not 3 years ago. Your life is vastly different now. There’s a new line in the sand. You have permission to set a new bench mark. Of course have goals, but know they don’t have to be compared to ‘before’ children.
  17. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
    As women – this can often be the hardest thing to do. And I find myself guilty of it too. We feel like we ‘should’ be able to do it all. And if we can’t we are failing (there’s that word again!) So reach out. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help if you just ask. And if someone asks – say yes!
  18. I never said it would be easy….
    It WILL be tough at times. There will be times you will feel like crying. There will be times you feel your partner doesn’t understand. There will be times when you feel in over your head. And that’s ok. Humans are emotional beings and feelings are what makes us human. So feel the emotions, acknowledge them, and then work with those around you to keep moving forward.

It’s a juggle – and at times often a struggle, I can’t deny that. Made even more challenging when your hubby is an athlete too, which means competing for training times and juggling these around children, work, daycare drop off and pick ups, feeding times, sleeping times and not to forget adult time!

But when my eldest yells with glee ‘mummy’s riding her bike!’, and waves with a big smile on his face as I head out the door, it truly melts my heart. It reminds me I’m not just doing this for me. But I’m doing this for them. Showing our two little ones that exercise is fun, and in our household, it is a part of who we are and what we do and with that, I can sleep well at night knowing that the example we are setting for the two most important humans in our lives is one we can be proud of. 🙂

Sarah xx

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Sarah qualified for the Ironman World Champs in her first Ironman attempt at Ironman Melbourne 2013 (also achieving a podium place in the same race), going on to compete in Kona that same year. Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.



IN FOCUS: Ironman Cairns

CPC: Firstly congratulations, Caroline Houston YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!! How does it feel? 

CAROLINE:
Coming down that chute I was so stoked – I forgot to do anything coming over the line, so no special pics there !

I am happy with how I stuck to what I needed to do to prepare, which I don’t think was very sociable sometimes, and gave me some hard decisions, but it really gave me confidence (once I got out there) that I was fully prepared. But I seriously did not believe that until I was on the course, prior to that I was sick with worry (and still not very sociable!)
CPC: It’s a tough game this Ironman business that’s for sure and can bring out deep rooted insecurities and fears. But… for now, let’s take a few steps back, you started your coaching / training with CPC mid 2018 ahead of your preparation for the Standard Distance worlds. You were really looking forward to the experience, but unfortunately race day you had an unfortunate accident and crashed – but even that couldn’t stop you finishing! It did however stop you in your tracks for your attempt at Busselton 2019 with a shoulder injury. Talk us through that.

CAROLINE: 
Yes, I was happy to finally be on a supported track as I had wafted around trying to do a ‘self program’ & was getting very dissatisfied with lack of progress/direction.

Worlds:  lesson here,
1) this was the only corner I didn’t recon thoroughly prior to racing,
2) plus, I went into it too hard as I was trying to make up ground, braked hard (right hand corner & I am worse that side) & the wheel went from underneath me. I knew I had done damage – I got up & yelled at this guy not to touch me (otherwise I would be disqualified) & he said he was an official, so it was OK but as I could move my arm I figured nothing broken and I should just finish. From here, I then worked out I had no lower gears, only big chain ring and I was a bit concerned with a short sharp hill on 2nd lap, also, being on the drops was a bit painful. Then both running in with the bike and the pull on my shoulder was painful on the run, I was always going to finish (this is the Worlds!) , just maybe not in good shape.

CPC: so post race you actually had to have shoulder surgery, spent approx. 8 weeks off training (incl. 4 weeks in a sling) and 14 weeks out of the pool, but worked diligently on your rehab. How hard was it though coming back to full health after your surgery? How did your coach and physio / medical team help you work through that process?

CAROLINE:
This phase was a very controlled & prescribed section. I was on the bike (WT & Indoor classes) as early as possible (in a sling) as I figured I could monopolise on that period to build up my bike strength. Injuries can be an opportunity!

Honestly, my physio & coach worked hand in hand to both strengthen & control me through this phase (which was quite long). One thing I found was, I needed to communicate avidly  to both of those experts in order to get the best outcome. No comment from me – no comment from them , because there were no details – absolutely, categorically, tell them the smallest changes / concerns (eg. something going on in this calf – which turns out to be a stress on the perineal, easily fixed by some rehab) So having a team around ou is super important and helped me get to the start line of my Ironman that’s for you – I could not have done it without them.

CPC: when did it get to that moment in your training when you thought ‘yes I can really do this’! (Ironman) ? 

CAROLINE: I am forever mindful that it’s a huge ask of the body, and, there are so many things that can get in the way/go wrong. When I reached the taper period I added up the training & prep and thought I should be able to do this, and the confidence in my preparation grew, so I was OK to put myself out there, but I think it was only when I was out on the course & gauging how I was feeling, that I actually finally allowed myself to truly believe. 

CPC: Once you landed in Cairns / Port Douglas and checked out the course, what went through your mind? And how did you manage any self doubt that started to creep in on race week?

CAROLINE: Hah ! Thanks to Geoff for getting me in the water at Palm Cove at least 3 times. The more we went in the water, the more comfortable I felt, but I was mindful that I am not strong in the water and if these were race day conditions, I was not likely to make the cutoff and was not sure how I would manage that heartbreak. But for me, it was about being as prepared as possible to help allieviate those doubts, and that included putting myself in situations and exposing myself to conditions I didn’t feel super comfortable about, because you can get anything come race day.

CPC: Despite that, conditions on race day turned out not too bad, soooo, talk us through your race? We want to know how it unfolded! How were the nerves on race morning? What did you find the toughest? How did you keep focused? 

CAROLINE:
I knew I would be almost unable to talk on race morning & we had made the decision to take the buses so I was not having an apoplexy about being late – good move. Checked the bike, heard the usual explosion of a tyre in transition and glad it wasn’t me ! Frantically looked for Sharon starting in the 70.3 and off she went effortlessly into the froth.

Swim: I had been nervous all week and on the morning, luckily for me the water was calmer. So, I figured I had a chance. I was with my friend Michelle (7 time Ironwoman) going into the water, and she was boldly pushing us forward. Once out there, I think I could even see her in the water near me – good news, I was not completely at the back!  Reaching the yellow buoy I knew this was about ¼ of the way but couldn’t see Michelle & figured she was way ahead, it didn’t feel as strong a current against us as it had on the leadup days, but I was getting nowhere fast. So much so, I checked my watch at the 2nd pink buoy (hoping it was 50 mins, but it was actually more like 60 ). Trying not to feel deflated I plodded on hoping for a bit of current to bring me in. For a while there I looked around & figured that the circling rubber duckies meant that I was the last one out there, couldn’t see anyone either. I got into a bit of rhythm & thought maybe I would try breathing on the left as on my right it was very sunny plus into the chop. Turns out that was a bad move, I became a bit dizzy doing that, and went back to 1in4 on the right. Bit tricky spotting the last buoys as the swell seemed bigger in the last few hundred metres. BUT all in all, I got through for me – what is the toughest leg.

Bike: running (trotting) out of transition after my complete wardrobe change, I was hanging onto all the food I had in my back pockets – reckon I could have fed a few of us ! (I watched a video of me getting on my bike – it’s hilarious, it’s as if I am in slo-mo!)

I spent a lot of time thinking about Sarah’s advice to always be pedalling – make the most of the downhills, so we could hit that 27kph average. I was a bit nervous going hard down hills and concentrated to stay alert, and thanks to Geoff for painstaking going over every metre of the bike course (in the car) prior, to be as best prepared as possible – pot holes, wind etc. The scenery was amazing, and, when you are ‘up the back’ there’s quite a bit of open road with not too many athletes so plenty of space to view.

I had slightly misjudged the last 30k’s by not having enough personal landmarks to help me ‘clock’ where I was, so the last part of the ride was a bit of a slog, especially as my expectations of times kept slipping past, and, by this time, me & the saddle were not friends. So I was happy to pass the bike onto volunteers and start to tackle the last leg.

Run:  What a relief to get here with no mechanicals & in one piece !  I set out with a renewed energy but brought myself straight back to sticking to the plan and not going out too hard – a long way to go yet. I was at first very deflated as the pace is very slow but I knew I had to do it to get there, also, some ‘empty gut’ issues were starting and I didn’t want to suffer from that again so started sucking on Clif Bloks as a way to get at least something in. I spent a lot of time thinking about the course and how many k’s I was at as I couldn’t really see my watch, and, I don’t think I had turned it on properly as it kept beeping at me. Once 1.5 laps in, I was a bit more settled and just stuck to the pace, sucked on a bit of water melon and the Blocks & it was starting to go OK, I just wanted to finish ! With 2k’s to go I decided to go as fast as I was capable of at that point & storm home. Stoked coming down the chute!  What a wave of emotions!

CPC: Hearing an athletes race story always gives me goosebumbs!  For most athletes doing their first Ironman (well technically your second after the shortened Busso in 2017), I try not to focus too much on the time outcome, but more the experience and having a consistent and well-rounded race. How do you feel you went in this regard? 

CAROLINE: I was certainly so much better prepared for this race than Busso, I had really put in the training, to achieve realistic goals. I was thinking about it when I was on the bike, I felt confident that I had the prep behind me for all disciplines.

CPC: and the bonus – you nailed the race and came away with not only a fantastic experience, but a race result that reflected all you hard work – PLUS A PODIUM FINISH! Full results here

CPC: So  what would you say is a highlight (or highlights!) is/are from your Ironman experience? What will stay with you forever? 

CAROLINE:
My strength at the end – I had energy left for the last 2 kms and I pushed hard to the finish & enjoyed the finishing chute experience ! It really was a little surreal, and awesome, and hard, and incredible all in one!

CPC: any wise words for other mature athletes thinking of taking on the goal of Ironman later in life? 

CAROLINE: 
Don’t think of the end-game if you have a big goal in mind. Break it down, with your coach, and it is all achievable. Be patient and it is possible 😊

CPC: Wise words!
I always finish with this question…. so – what’s next for Caroline Houston? Would there be another Ironman on the cards one day?…. 😁

CAROLINE: 
Oh wow – right now, I feel like all the stars were aligned for me, I did the best I could do on the day, I had all the training under the belt, plus, the weather was good to us, so if I went in search of a better performance time wise I could be in for a tough challenge.  Not sure I need to go there again, I need to sit back for a while, I might do shorter racing for the time being – I just don’t want to assume shorter = easier, because it is not!

CPC: anything else you would like to add / people to thank? 

CAROLINE:
Gosh, this was a team effort !  A huge thanks to this team 😊

Coach Sarah: honest & upfront, & able to gauge me as an individual to probe questions and help me through with a ‘fitted’  program

Hubby Geoff: for putting up with me hardly being around, being with me in the open water no matter how slow I was

Friend & training partner Sharon: constant encouragement, great friend & being that arse for me to chase (she’s a very good rider)

Friend & S&C Coach Kerryn: constant support, strength training & sounding board to unload to

Steve: physio from Lakeside Sports Medicine Centre, who helped me set my expectations, & used needles & painful massage to keep me on track. 🙂

My employer, Mondelez: for being flexible with my hours

IN FOCUS: Nailing your first Ironman!

When an athlete comes to you with the goal of tackling their first Ironman, you know you are in for exciting and rewarding ride. Every race, no matter the distance and no matter the goal are as important as the next, but there is just something about Ironman / endurance racing. Something that lights a fire deep in your belly (of coach and athlete!), it creates a higher learning, a commitment to the work load, a dedication above what an athlete often believes is even possible until they actually complete it.

As a Coach you really start to get a deep understanding of your athlete. Conversations form around family and how important they are to the journey, the significance of such a race, the impact it has emotionally and what is required to undertake such a feat.  And always along the way for the athlete, its about learning. What makes them tick, what their default is when the going gets tough, what they revert to and think about over long lonely rides….

The Ironman journey is far more than swim bike run, it’s a journey that takes on a life of its own, and when an athlete goes through an Ironman journey, they come out the other side not only a stronger and more resilient athlete, but  more appreciative of the human body, understanding of the importance of mindset, of recovery, of becoming in tune with their own physical, emotional and spiritual self. Ironman is not just a race….

Some will never understand why others choose to put their body through such grueling and time consuming training “Why would anyone want to do that?Why put yourself through the hours of training? Why choose to sacrifice sleep or nights out in favour of the lure of a race? Why? No one can ever really answer those questions apart from athletes themselves. Everyone has their own reasons…

So we sat down with athlete Scott Salmon who recently completed his first Ironman at Ironman Australia – Port Macquarie. We find out what his experience was like, what kept him pushing, what he found the toughest, and how he crossed the finishing line feeling like a ‘million bucks’!

CPC: Firstly congratulations, Scott Salmon YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!! How does it feel?

SCOTT: The Ironman race experience was absolutely amazing! Definitely up there with the other highlights of my life. It was far more than I could have ever imagined.  I hope this is not arrogance but I feel more like a sense of accomplishment than being proud. Maybe they are the same…..?…. Either way, I could not be any happier!

CPC: Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! Now let’s take a few steps back, you came across Coach Sarah & CPC after reading one of her articles in Aus Tri Mag. You had been doing some of your own training, and training alongside members in your local club, so what made you want to look at adding a coach to your arsenal?

SCOTT: The desire to learn more about being a competitive triathlete and making the finish line of an Ironman. I didn’t think I could do it justice on my own, so when I read an article Sarah wrote about Ironman racing, her words really resonated with me so I got in touch. And as they say ‘the rest is history’. 🙂 

CPC: You had what I would call a pretty perfect Ironman race lead in. You nailed your sessions, listened and learned, stayed healthy and injury free. What do you think were the key aspects in your build for an Ironman that helped you train while staying injury free, healthy and happy?

SCOTT: The whole holistic approach of my coach Sarah, learning, trusting and putting things into practise. As well as my Wife/nutritionist for supporting me. A few key things that I started implementing that were instrumental was mindfulness – nearly daily, allowing time post session to rest and recover and not just rushing off to whatever is next, along with prioritising sleep.  Oh and listening not only to the Coach, but to my body – as Sarah would say, each of us know our own bodies better than anyone else, so really looking and listening for cues if something isn’t right or doesn’t feel right, and having a Coach can then help you break that down and action whatever is needed.

CPC: When did it get to that moment in your training when you thought ‘yes I can really do this’! (Ironman) ?

SCOTT: A third of the way through my IM training block I felt I could finish an IM , but it wasn’t until about halfway into the run leg on race day that I was confident I could race an IM. SO as long as you have a goal and be prepared for the  commitment and the work, trust that the process will get you there.

CPC: Soooo, talk us through your race? We want to know how it unfolded! How were the nerves? What did you find the toughest? How did you keep focused?

SCOTT: I found I was relatively calm leading up to the start, we were so blessed with ideal conditions, so that definitely helped. But as I said above, I was confident I could finish with the training, with the race plan and the tools in my toolkit, so I was confident on the start line – albeit a little nervous.

The swim leg went really well , I felt my strength was my controlled pacing for my relevant swim fitness. Exiting the water was my first experience of crowd support and wow what a picked me up!

The bike was a great time to reflect on my IM journey with a few moments of tears and joy along the way. I had a feeling towards the turn around point of the first lap that I might of went out a bit hard, but I settled into the rest of the race really well.

The highlight of the bike ride was climbing Matthew Flinders hill the first time, riding through a fantastic crowd of friends and spectators was surreal which I can only imagine what the pro cyclists feel climbing the Pyrenees in the tour! Making my way back into town for the end of the first lap was also another highlight with acknowledgement from the Race commentator towards me personally with reference also to our Maitland Tri Club really hit home of the importance of community. With that lift I started heading back out for another lap and my mental energy was very high which made the trip south seem quicker than the first time.

After the turn around it was back into being in and out of the saddle which I found was a blessing for my backside. Coming into the section of the race which was flat, I found myself concentrating and reassessing to stay focused. Coach Sarah gave me lots of tools for this, so I started concentrating more on form, breathing and positive thoughts. It worked a treat , as for the first time along the flats no one passed me (LOL) maybe they were tired.

Back into the outskirts of town and the thought of climbing the Matthew Flinders Hill again felt daunting and it was. A fitting moment towards the end of the bike leg was to ride down the main street (draft legal of course) with a true legend of the IM circuit and our club Sensei Pete Hodgson. (Maitland Tri Club)

Setting out on the run and the hardest thing was to slow down to a Marathon sustainable pace. Coach Sarah warned me of this, so I was diligent. Further in and the mind starts to want to take control and once again from the things I learnt from the coach about feeding off the crowd,  acknowledging volunteers, soaking up the atmosphere and trusting in my training really helped me to stay focused on the present moment. I was expecting the run to get tough though and it did. But the support I received from my fellow club persons young and old and the desire to finish so I could see my family was a very determining factor with staying focused and positive towards the back end of the race.

CPC: for most athletes doing their first Ironman, I try not to focus too much on the time outcome, but more the experience and having a consistent and well rounded race. How do you feel you went in this regard?

SCOTT: I’m hesitant to say without sounding cocky, but  I think I had the perfect race. Everything went exceptionally well, right down to (with your help Sarah) nailing the key points like nutrition, having no equipment troubles and no injury’s. So in regards to reflect on how I felt when i finished, I felt like a million bucks!

CPC: and the bonus – you nailed the race and came away with not only a fantastic experience, but a race result that reflected all you hard work. Awesome work!

Swim: 1:01.13
Bike: 5:57.26
Run: 4:08.40
Overall: 11:16.58

Check out full race results online:  Ironman – IRONMAN Australia

CPC: And what would you say is a highlight/s from your Ironman experience? What will stay with you forever?

SCOTT: Most definitely the community spirit within Triathlon at a local and national level. The unselfishness and kind acts of the volunteers sharing their time for my enjoyment too. And mostly sharing all the emotions at the finish line with my Wife Sharon and Daughter Lauren. That will stay with each of us forever.

CPC: Oh for sure! And do you have any wise words for other athletes thinking of taking on the goal of Ironman later in life? 

SCOTT: Like everyone with a bit of age on their side, we often reflect on things we have done whilst maturing. These experiences make us who we are, some we are not proud of, but taking on the challenge of the IM has helped me personally draw back on the all my years and filter the experiences to leave the positives and from that I’m confident in saying I am a better person for it.

CPC: Love that – a great way to utilise your life experiences. 🙂
And I always finish with this question…. so – what’s next for Scott Salmon? Would there be another Ironman on the cards one day maybe?…. 😁

SCOTT: I would love to keep learning about the sport under the guidance of Sarah at Complete Per4mance Coaching as well as staying involved with the Maitland Triathlon Club community which my family and I feel apart of and is something I hope does not end soon. Knowing that gang  I’m certain I will be attending or competing with them on that first Sunday in May at Port Macquarie Ironman……

CPC: anything else you would like to add / people to thank?

SCOTT: My wife Sharon who keeps me grounded and is by far my number one supporter.

Coach Sarah  for her above and beyond commitment to all her athletes and preparing this old bloke to a high level of fitness to take on an endurance event.

Pete Hodgson for inspiring me with the love and dedication he has for Triathlon and the whole City of Maitland.

And for everyone else who I trained with and competed against to learn the skills especially, Aaron Hughes an honest true friend.

CPC: So honest, humble and a true gentleman, truly deserved Scott, well done again!

 

IN FOCUS: Riding to start a conversation

The Pukaup Grand Tour is a ride headed by former AFL star and PukaUp CEO Wayne Schwass. This years ride kicked off at Marvell Stadium and travels 10 days and nearly 2000km through some of Victoria’s most challenging terrain. The purpose of the tour is raise awareness and start conversations around mental health, aiming to stamp out suicide.

Alarmingly, 3,128 Australian’s took their life in 2017, the equal highest recorded rate in the past decade. That’s an average of eight Australians every day.

Puka Up is a social enterprise founded by one of Australia’s leading mental health advocates, Wayne Schwass. Having battled silently with his own mental health for much of his sporting career, Wayne is now a dedicated mental health advocate, committed to raising awareness about mental health, emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention. In the Hindi language, Pukka means ‘authentic and genuine’.

“Our vision is to make genuine conversations around mental health a part of everyday life, with the aim to eliminate suicide.”

CPC had athletes Stuart Grimsey and Aaron Mulkearns join the tour  this year, supporting the cause along with their family businesses Grimsey Wealth and Tobin Brothers Funerals.

In only it’s second year, this years tour threw challenges at everyone involved. Days often started before light, ended after dark and included hills, heat, wind, rain and long rough country roads. It brought up self reflection, vulnerabilities, physical and emotional pain, but with riders having the support of each other, they all helped each other complete the 10 gruelling days and over 2000kms.

The ride not only takes a huge physical toll on each of the riders, it is emotionally just as hard for everyone involved.

We sat down with rider and athlete Stuart ‘Stu’ Grimsey to learn more about this incredible experience and what it meant to him.

What drew you to the PukaUp organisation and made you want to participate and support the 2019 PukaUp grand tour ?
Our business Grimsey Wealth is a fully integrated financial services business that specialises in medical and dental professionals. We found that through our business a large number of clients were having mental health problems and after speaking with a friend realised that Puka Up would be the perfect vehicle for our business to give back to our client base for a cause that touches so many directly or indirectly.

You had a procedure on your heart only weeks before the ride began, talk us through that and the added challenge that brought for you. 
4 weeks prior to the ride starting I had a procedure called a catheter ablation for an arrhythmia or irregular heart beat. The procedure lasted no more than 2 hours to correct the arrhythmia and a further 2 weeks of rest was required before easing back in to some light training with the 10 day ride acting as a test to see if the procedure was successful. I experienced no arrhythmia throughout the 10 day Puka Up grand tour and this had a positive impact on my confidence knowing that the arrhythmia had been cured.

You have previously ridden as a professional cyclist, riding and racing in Europe, how would you compare your time over there to the physical and emotional challenge of this charity ride?
When I was competing full time in cycling events in Europe I was at a much higher level of conditioning and was able to recover a lot quicker on a day to day basis however this coupled with the emotional fatigue made the ride extremely challenging. I found it incredibly challenging mentally being on the bike anywhere from 8 to 13 hours a day, that if I compared that to a race in Europe you’re probably looking at covering some of those distances in 4 to 6 hours and focusing on the race dynamics rather than relaxed longer base kilometre type riding.

What did you find was the biggest challenge for you over the 10 days?
Apart from being away from loved ones, the biggest challenge was making sure I stayed on top of my hydration and not over using sugary drinks, gels and energy bars to help ensure I didn’t have stomach issues.

What was the most significant point for you in the journey? Did you have a ‘this is why I am here’ moment?
For me this moment came on the evening of day two of our ride into Benalla, when one of our support staff spoke of their journey and experience with mental health. A couple of days later we rode to Mount Hotham and the story from a couple of nights before stuck in my mind. After speaking to strangers at stops on our way to Mount Hotham, I soon realised that we were generating awareness and I realised how important these conversations were that Puka Up was trying to create. Not one rider had an easy day that day and it was clear how important having support around you is.

What is your biggest take away from your involvement with PukaUp that you can now take into your day to day life?
The need to continue these conversations about suicide prevention and to assist our business in creating safe environments and normalising the conversation around mental health and emotional wellbeing.

What is the main message you want to continue to share?
If someone you know is having trouble with their mental health guide them to talk to someone that they feel comfortable with whether it be a loved one, friend, colleague or your family doctor.

And the big question- would you do it again? 100% I would do it all again!

You can view some more of the incredible photos from the tour here