COVID-19, WHERE DOES IT LEAVE AGE GROUP ENDURANCE ATHLETES?

Over the past week/s we have really started to see and feel the real impact of the Coronavirus in Australia. We first started witnessing it in the supermarkets with many staple items becoming low or out of stock. Something that many of us jeered at when people first started to stockpile (in particular toilet paper!) but now is a real concern for many, including the vulnerable and the elderly.

And now this week the Australian Federal and State Governments have directed that all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people be suspended from tomorrow along with recommending social distancing. Schools, may be closed for extended periods of time, gyms and play centres could close. Some may not even survive just as we have already seen in the hospitality industry. This is unprecedented and will probably not be seen again in our lifetime. The Government and Health Authorities action is to reduce the SPEED of the spread and the impact that it has – not just on the health of individuals, but on the economy as a whole.

Sporting events are now being impacted too. This week alone we saw the NBA put a hold on their season, the Formula 1 cancel the Australian GrandPrix, and closer to home for us as endurance athletes, Run for the Kids, and the remaining races of the local 2XU Triathlon Series have already been cancelled. Ironman also sent out an email whereby CEO Andrew Messick said:
We expect that there are going to be substantial and widespread event postponements in the coming weeks and months.”  This comes on the back of Ironman already postponing 70.3 events in both Greece and Puerto Rico.

Given the Australian Governments action to date, and the advice coming from the World Health Organisation, there is a real possibility (and reality) that some – if not the majority of endurance races and events in the coming months to be cancelled / postponed.

SO – if this does happen, where does that leave age group endurance athletes? What does that mean for the remainder of the season ?
(NOTE: I haven’t even touched on the impact this has on professional athletes who rely on races / racing for their lively-hood, or the impact on the broader triathlon / endurance community)

Some athletes are already feeling a little ‘lost’ – their A race/s taken away from them, their season abruptly cut short and so now even after just a couple of days are already feeling a little ‘lost’ or unmotivated. And that’s not to mention those athletes who seasons are still up in the air, with uncertainty on whether their upcoming races are even going to go ahead (ie Ironman Port Macquarie and Cairns and Challenge Shepparton to name a few) I see the same / similar feelings emerge after an athlete finishes an A race, a big goal or at the end of a season. When all an athletes training and focus was on one (or more) targeted race/s and the sudden loss / end of of the main purpose on what fueled their daily training has now been and gone – OR taken away in the scenario we are now finding ourselves in.

So – the question is, what now? Where do we go from here? How do we come back from this?

Adjust your training
Firstly, you will need to adjust your training to reflect the changes in your race plans – whether the change was in your control or not, you can control how you react. Remember – you want to be peaking for your races, not for races that are now not to be. So this may mean heading into your recovery phase OR starting / continuing your base preparation phase instead of continuing your current race / competition phase.

Firstly – recovery at the end a season or major race is extremely important and can look and feel different for every athlete but generally should include a reduced load, focus and / or structure. Sessions during this time should be light, with a focus on active recovery, refreshing the body and the mind. Even if you didn’t get to finish off your race season, it is still super important to include this phase in your season. So don’t skip it..

If you have already served out a recovery period after your last A race and feel refreshed, ready and motivated, then get stuck into your base preparation phase. This phase aims to develop your base endurance while developing and correcting technique and refining your skills – it underpins your whole season. So great news is, you now have extra time to spend in their all important training phase!

So if your race season has been shortened, then now is the perfect time you should either kick start your post season recovery or dive straight into your base preparation training phase. This is the PERFECT time to get a head start on both!

If your races are still uncertain….
If you have a race in the next couple of months that have yet to announce a cancellation or postponement, then continue your training / build as normal. It’s all systems go. What may adjust ever so slightly though is the underlying factor and that base endurance is key, and reducing intensity if needed. This can help ensure that your immunity isn’t compromised too much in a time when the virus is at it’s peak, along with continuing to work on the foundations of endurance sport – aerobic strength and conditioning. So work with your coach, ensure you continue towards your goal, and cross the bridge of any announcements when they come to light.

Review your season
Just like at the end of any season or major race of your season, it’s the perfect time to sit down and review your goals for the past / current season. So now is your chance to sit down with your coach and evaluate your year / season. This is important to make certain of your continual development and progression and ensure your next season is even better than the last ! Again, don’t skip this part of your season..

Shift the goal posts
Just because your race day may be shifted, it doesn’t mean your goal has to. You can still have that goal of your first triathlon, your first Ironman, you can still go in search for your next PB, of qualifying for a World Championship – these goals don’t need to change. They can still happen AND if you think about it, may even come about bigger and better than you had planned. Giving yourself more time and more space to really hone in on your goals through further progression in your underlying base endurance, technique and mastering the skills of triathlon / endurance sports.
So even though the race may not happen when you planned, your goal can and still will be achieved regardless of when.

Stay healthy
During a health crisis such as we are experiencing, it is important that we keep ourselves fit and healthy so that if we do get the virus, our immune systems are in a good position to fit it off quickly and/or lesson its impact. So ensure you are doing all the right things such as good wholesome nutrition, sleep and recovery, maintaining our hygiene and exercising (read training).

In saying all of that, we should all be following the advice of the Department of Human Services – Victorian Chief Health Officer, so if you feel unwell, or if you have been in close vicinity of someone who has the virus, you should isolate yourself until you are all clear. More info is available here.

Remind yourself of WHY you train
Of course having races and goals to train towards are a big part of that, BUT remember the underlying factors of WHY you love to train and the value it adds to your life and how it makes you feel. There are so many benefits to training, including the feeling of being fit and healthy, the social interaction, the sense of accomplishment… the list is endless. Enjoying the process of training and learning provides so much more. It’s not just about crossing that finishing line, collecting a medal and posting it on facebook / instagram! 😉

So don’t use the Coronavirus as an excuse to drop the ball on your training, health or fitness. See it as an opportunity for extra time to improve your strengths, work on your weaknesses, hone those skills that need extra refinement and become even stronger and more robust than before – so when we do race again – you will be your strongest and fittest yet!

Ultimately – the decision is yours…




The added challenges of racing as a triathlete MUM

My return to long course racing…..

I haven’t written a racing blog in a LONG time, so what better time to write one given it’s been a LONG time between races !

It’s been 3 years, and 2 babies since my last long course race. My youngest is nearly 10months old already. Wowee that time has flown, yet at the same time, pre kids seems like a distant memory. I guess now having two little ones keeping us occupied, plus working / running my own biz as well as back into full training – there really isn’t much time to just ‘sit and reflect’. 😉 So much has changed in the past 3 years though and it’s hard to even compare my life now to what it was like 3 years ago. But as all mums / parents would say – we wouldn’t change it for the world!

So making the decision to return to long course racing as a mum of a 2 year old and a 9mth old wasn’t taken with a grain of salt. I knew I wanted to, and my main driver was when I heard the 70.3 world champs were going to be in New Zealand. I have always wanted to visit NZ, and we would have loved to have gone for our honeymoon last year but I was 6mths pregnant at the time so we decided we’d go another time when we could really explore and experience what NZ has to offer. SO what better way as two outdoor loving people to go and race there at the same time! (well hopefully anyway!) So the idea was born to work on qualifying for the Half Ironman World Championships.

This racing blog I’d thought I’d write a little differently though – because, well why not! Instead of writing a normal race blog on how my race panned out, how I felt, where I could have done better… I wanted to share the added challenges of getting to the start line, and racing as a triathlete MUM. Of course there are challenges being a triathlete dad also, but this is my experience as the main care giver at home and there are definitely additional challenges faced being a female.

So whether you are a mum yourself or not, I hope this can give you a little insight into what it takes to get to the start (and finish line) as a triathlete mum and an overview of how my return to racing went.

(you can also read my previous blog ‘The juggle (and real life struggle) of a working triathlete mum’ which covers some of my training and home dynamics.

The added challenges…..

Lack of sleep / broken sleep
This one is REAL. And for anyone who has ever suffered from sleep issues, I FEEL your pain! Sleep is when our body goes to work in repairing and rejuvenating itself. So when sleep is disrupted for what ever reason – and not just the quantity but more importantly the quality, then your recovery is going to be impaired. This is something that really has to be considered in the training of athletes – and in particular mums who have to wake (or are woken) over night.

From the period of 6 – 8 months old, Edie woke just about every night. Sometimes 2-3 times in the night. So for a good 8 weeks solid, I did not have a full nights sleep. I wasn’t getting to bed until around 10/10.30 and waking 5am to train, which is only 6.5-7hours of sleep regardless, but throw in a few wakes during that time and all of a sudden i’m only getting 5-6hours of UNBROKEN sleep. I definitely felt this at the time and I had to modify my training accordingly. I couldn’t do any hard / quality training sessions in the morning, and even in the day/evening I had to be mindful of doing any back to back intensity days knowing that my recovery was going to be impaired. So this limited my training during the week some what. But despite this, I still felt I was able to make the most of the time and energy I had at the time and stayed super consistent and healthy – which was going to get me better results than a few days of hard training, then resulting in having to have a few days off as a result OR getting sick or injured. Next race hopefully I won’t have to contend with this and I’m happy to say that Edie is back sleeping full nights and so am I ! 😉

Balancing training with family life
There is a quote that I remember seeing on social media a little while ago – ‘You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce’ Implying that we should all be able to do as much / be as much as Beyonce’ . Yes – it’s true that everyone has the same 24hrs in a day, but we don’t all have the same help and support. I don’t know any working age group triathlete mums who have a personal chef, a personal trainer, a stylist, makeup artist, a manager…… so go easy on yourself. And remember, you can do ANYTHING you want, just not EVERYTHING. And it is your choice on what you choose to do with your time. If you choose more family time over training time, then go you. If you choose more training time over family time. Then go you too. Just don’t go comparing yourself and your situation to anyone elses. It will serve you no purpose.

For me, gone are the days when I’d happily train all weekend. Before kids, I would happily start training at 6am in the morn and not get home until after lunch and never thought anything of it. But when you have 2 young children at home (one still breast fed) then this wasn’t an option for me, nor did I actually want to. PLUS hubby is a cyclist and trains too, so we had to make compromises on the times we trained, when and for how long.

Did this impact my race? I’d say it probably did to an extent. I certainly wouldn’t have trained the same quality or quantity that some of my fellow competitors would have, but would I change it? Nope. As for now, finding a balance between training enough and still spending quality time with my family was important to me so I am happy to make that compromise for the sake of a slightly faster race time. 🙂

Body changes
A couple of weeks before the race and I actually started to not only feel ‘race fit’ but I felt I looked race fit too. So I decided to try on my race kits from 3 years ago. ‘There’s no way I can wear that!‘ I thought as I glared at the image in front of me in the mirror. In that moment, all I could see were the little things that others would not notice, but through my own eyes was simply seeing what I thought were flaws.
My stomach was firm, but it didn’t quite have the ‘abs’ that it used to have. My butt was strong, yet had this little sag I could’t remember having pre children. My boobs were lopped sided, thanks to two fussy children who only liked one side…
So as I stood there in front of the mirror, being overly critical of myself I suddenly thought of my daughter. As women, we are far too critical of ourselves. We put ourselves down. We wish we could be better, smaller, firmer, stronger, leaner, taller….
And it was that thought that brought me back to reality and instead of being self critical and pointing out any perceived ‘flaws’, I started to be grateful and thanking my body instead;

So I thanked it for two healthy pregnancies.
I thanked my stomach for growing two beautiful children.
I thanked my boobs for being capable of feeding two vulnerable babies.
I thanked my butt for giving me strength on the bike and run.
I thanked my body for staying strong when I felt weak, for being the vessel to my soul and for being exactly who and what it is.
I thanked it for allowing me to continue to train and do what I love.

This was a reminder to me that our bodies are far more on the inside than what they just look like on the outside.

These thoughts didn’t effect my race at all, but I wanted to include this. As our bodies do change post pregnancy. Some more than others. So I implore women to try and not to compare themselves to their pre baby body, simply to appreciate your body for what it is and remember how incredible they really are.

Hormonal changes
The female body is INCREDIBLE. Just in case you didn’t know already. 😉 The changes it goes through to grow another little human inside of it still blows my mind. There are so many hormonal changes that happen in a females body during pregnancy to prepare the body for child birth, and even more changes postpartum (post birth) that it’s hard to even get your head around! I feel blessed that my body managed well with these changes and settled back into routine within about 5 months post birth. BUT it’s certainly not fool proof just yet. I track my ‘cycle’ on an app and by it’s calculations I wasn’t due for my period (yes guys I just said period) 😉 for another 2 weeks. But low and behold, I go for a pit stop at the race venue before heading into transition and HELLO female hormones! Argh! I had not prepared for this! Luckily I was there with another female athlete who helped a sister out. (thanks chick!) Otherwise I was going to have to make a quick dash to the medical tent. Lesson learnt – always come prepared, just in case!

Did it impact my race? Possibly. But I don’t feel like it did on the day. But it did weigh on the back of my mind throughout the race. At another race at a different time of the month and it certainly can though. So again, for female athletes this is something that should be discussed with your coach when you are talking about your training and racing planning.

The logistics
Preparation for a race doesn’t just come in the form of training, it comes in the form of logistics. Long gone are the days when you can simply plan, book and organise a race without thinking about others. Given this race was going to be interstate, and I was going to be away for 5 days, this meant even more planning and organising. Hubby had to work the weekend of the race so he wasn’t going to be coming. (and let’s be honest, Penrith isn’t really an exciting holiday destination anyway) 😉 But given I was going to be heading up solo, kids couldn’t come up with me, so the process started in working out where they would be, who would be able to help look after them, what time Hubby could have off work, and then there was the issue of my youngest still being breastfed – being strong-willed (read stubborn) means she refuses a bottle!

So my race planning and logistics included not only myself but my family and the worry of ‘will they be ok without me?!’ (of course they would be but why is it that as mothers we always worry they won’t be?!) Thankfully we have fabulous family who were able to step in and help out Hubby while I was away. And no, my youngest didn’t take a bottle for the 5 days while I was away (bless her stubbornness!) And yes I had to express while I was away – including getting up at 3:15am race morning to do so !

Did this impact my race. No, not at all, but it does make it even more satisfying to reach the finish line knowing what you have had to organise behind the scenes to make it there. 🙂

Making comparisons
As mothers we are told not to compare our children to other children. That every baby develops differently, in their own time and in their own way. Yet as mothers we still find it hard not to compare. I already see myself doing it with #2 child and comparing her to #1. By 9 mths Mr Mills was already well on his way to crawling. Yet at nearly 10mths Miss Edie hasn’t shown much interest at all and will happily sit and play all day long without going anywhere. I found myself going back into my development books to see what I had done ‘wrong’. Had I not given her enough tummy time? Has she had less attention due to being #2? Other mothers told me the second learns so much faster so why hadn’t she?

But then I reminded myself what I was doing. I was trying to compare two totally different individuals. Comparing one child to another – what purpose did that serve? Will it make her crawl faster? No. Will it instead create self doubt in myself as a mother? Yes.

The worst thing one can do is compare – as all that does is create uncertainty, self doubt, a feeling of ‘I am doing this right?‘ ‘Am I doing enough?’ ‘Should I be doing more?’ Instead of trusting in yourself and in the process of development – in this case, the development of our children, but putting it into context of athletes, in the development of their training and putting trust in the process.

So when I was planning out this race, I made sure I didn’t get caught up in comparing my previous training or racing to that of my current training and racing. A lot has happened in 3 years since I last raced, and my body has gone through an incredible experience – not once but twice! So I wanted this to be it’s own unique journey. Of course I knew what my previous training looked like and I previously trained A LOT more than what I did for this prep, but I was ok with that. I was ok swimming twice a week, not 3 or 4 like I used to. I was ok doing the majority of my bike training on the trainer. I was ok missing a session here or there if needed to for my family, or for my health. This was a totally different journey that my body was going on, so it served no purpose to compare.

Someone messaged me post race – congrats on your race, a PB post pregnancy!! And I smiled. I loved that. 🙂

Avoiding (unsuccessfully) bugs and germs
If you have children you will understand the struggle! And this one was the biggest one that impacted me on race day, and my biggest take away from the race. Heading into the race I was feeling amazing, everything had gone to plan, everything was organised, I was feeling strong and ready both physically and mentally and I couldn’t wait to head to Sydney.

That was until Tuesday of race week things started to unravel slightly. I started to feel nauseous that evening and all of a sudden I had the urge to rush to the bathroom. Gargh! I had picked up some kind of gastro bug! Bad timing! Ironically a day before competing in the Melbourne Half Marathon I caught the same / similar thing and it impacted that race. But I thought to myself, I’ve been here before and it only lasted a couple of days. I still had 4 days until race day, I should be fine! Little did I know how stubborn this bug was going to be! (and I laughed later as I thought I must have caught it from my youngest given how stubborn she is!) 😉

So from there I did everything I could to get rid of this thing that was turning my stomach inside out and causing everything to go straight through me like an open sieve! (too much information?!) 😉 As race day got closer, I actually started to get a little concerned. I wondered if I was going to be able to make it through the race without needed to stop at every port-a-loo on course. Would there even be enough port-a-loo’s out there for me?! I had pictures in my mind that no one would want to see! Plus I knew my energy levels were declining every day. Any food I ate – which was minimal, was heading straight out the other end, and dehydration was a real concern especially going into a race where it was going to be warm. I can’t believe a gastro bug was going to derail my whole race prep !

A last ditch attempt the afternoon before the race I headed to a local chemist again to see if here was anything else I could take that would stem the ‘flow’! lol ‘You really should be going to a doctor’. The pharmacist warned me. I know. I know. But that won’t help my race tomorrow I pleaded with him. ‘Take 2 of these tablets every 3-4hours, if this doesn’t stop it nothing will’. The pharmacist assured me when he grabbed a packet from behind his counter. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I said. And a little hope was restored that I would at least get through the race without needed a toilet stop.

Race morning and I woke early. And immediately I knew I was in trouble when I had to jump out of bed and head straight to the bathroom. Not once. Not twice. But 6 times before I left for the race…. This wasn’t looking good! I was aslso slightly concerned about the toilet lines I was going to be confronted with at the venue and working out what story i’d have to tell the ladies in front of me as I rushed in. God help me.

So I guess you want to know if I survived the race? THANKFULLY I did. I got through nearly 5 hours of not needing to visit a port-a-loo and that was the most satisfying thing ever!! haha.

Did this impact my race though? Yes, I believe quite significantly. I went into the race under nourished and dehydrated and my energy levels were way down. At the start of the race I didn’t notice it at all, but as I had experienced the same thing prior to the Melbourne Half Marathon, I knew it was in the back half of the race that it was going to come and bite me in the bum (literally and figuratively). I knew it was going to be hard to manage my nutrition and my energy levels and I had to adjust my race accordingly. And it hit me at around the 60km mark on the bike. Up until then I felt strong and in control, but around 60km I could start to feel the energy wane, like you get that sugar low if you haven’t had enough nutrition. There was nothing I could do other than to drop my intensity and slow my speed down to counteract it. It took probably the next 15-20km at a lower intensity and continuing to drip feed myself with nutrition to balance this back out again and finish off the bike feeling ok. Not great. But ok.

Onto the run and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold the pace / intensity that I wanted to. If I tried I knew it would end in disaster. So as I started out I did some calculations in my head and decided on settling into around 5km/pace (by goal was originally 4:40-4:45’s). I felt at this pace my energy levels were conserved enough that I could still finish the race consistently. And I did. And I was super proud of that. As I felt in control for the whole run AND didn’t need a toilet stop once ! ! ! Winning!

Lesson learnt: I’ve joked that I will be putting myself into quarantine before my next race. And that I might just have to ! (sorry family!)


Western Sydney 70.3 Results
Goal Time: 4:45-4:50
Actual Time: 4:58:50

View full results from the race here.

Apart from my goal time for the race, my main goal was firstly just getting back out there and racing and feeling good doing so. Despite the issue with the gastro bug leading in, I felt I executed my race day well, adjusting it through the day as I needed. And this is what I try and teach my athletes to do. It is all good and well to have a well laid out race and nutrition plan, but you need to be able to be flexible with it. If not, things can go pear shaped quickly. If I hadn’t have adjusted my intensity on the bike, my whole race could have finished off completely differently – and not in a good way! So I’m super happy with how I executed my race and I gave it 100% of what I had on that day – and that’s all that anyone can ask for.
I did also have the goal of qualifying for the 70.3 World Championships – which I missed out my one spot, so although disappointing, I had anticipated this as a possibility so had already got my next races lined up. So here’s to a HEALTHY race prep into next race! 🙂

Big thank you’s
Go out to firstly my family – Hubby Aaron especially for supporting me on my journey back to racing. He is the most amazing support person there is and couldn’t have got to the fitness levels I did without his support.

Jano and his team at Giant South Yarra. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jano for the majority of my racing ‘career’ now and I can’t thank him enough for his support. To head my return to racing on the fastest TT bike I have ever ridden – the LIV AVOW Advanced Pro 1 gives you that added confidence on the bike. And man does it ride like a dream! Seriously you can’t get better value for money in a bike than a LIV / GIANT. So thank you again Jano, one less thing for me to worry about when out there racing!

Jamie Edwards and his support with his coaching JET Coaching. As a fellow coach with similar principles and philosophies, we bounce ideas off each other, support each other at races and he’s been helping me in the pool with my swim. So thanks Jamie, nothing like learning and supporting other coaches for the benefit of the triathlon community and athletes as a whole and has definitely helped me personally as an athlete too.

My athletes – for being amazing yourselves! As well as being supportive in your own ways of my journey alongside your own. I have my own internal drivers for why I love to race and part of that is because of my athletes. It is important to me as a coach to be able to race and continue to share my experiences with my athletes so thanks to each of you for sharing the journey with me as coach and as athlete.

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? 

~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ 
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