The long road to Ironman – an athletes journey, Darren McKemmish

Athlete Darren, shares some of his training journey heading into his first Ironman. It’s been a long time in the making, when 2020 was the plan, but finally we are about to embark on the final leg of his Ironman journey – the race itself this weekend! So keep reading to follow his journey and how he relates Ironman to that of ‘eating an elephant!” ;-p


Give us your back story – who is Darren and how did he get into triathlon?

Most people know me as Dazza or Dazzler, I’m based in Country Victoria, where I live with my partner of 32years Sue. I actually stumbled across triathlon after finding a bike in 2016. I had bought a steel frame bike at a garage sale and repaired it to get it rideable. A friend encouraged me to get out on the road and we would go riding Sunday mornings and I was terrible. I’d have to stop often, but every week it started to get a bit easier, and we’d get a little faster and I really started to love it. We started doing some running as well. And in 2017 I decided to do the local triathlon. Again I was terrible! The swim was only 250m and I was last out of the water, I had to breaststroke, my ride was slow, and the run was HARD! I came third last, but what I remember was how supportive people were during the event. But I knew I had a LOT of work to do. So I started some run training with a local running group, did a 12km run event – the furthest I had ever run! And later that year did my first sprint distance triathlon. And I survived.

Fast forward, I joined the local triathlon and cycling clubs and gradually got faster and stronger and in 2019 completed my first half Ironman in 6:38hrs, and 4 months later cut that down to 5:41. I was well and truly hooked now, and realised with consistent training, I could actually do ok!

When did you set yourself the goal of IRONMAN and how has that journey looked?

From there I knew I wanted to complete an Ironman, but the plans of Cairns 2020 got put on hold, 2021 was a write off but now here we are !

The Journey has had its ups and downs, a few stop signs and side steps along the way, a couple of mechanicals, road blocks, a destination change, but some great guidance over the past couple of years from Coach Sarah and some awesome company along the way and now I’m ready for my long awaited first crack at an Ironman!

What challenges have popped up along the way and how have you managed them?

COVID would be the biggest one. Not being able to swim much as all for such a long period of time made it tough getting back in the water and a little shoulder niggle thrown in there too. But we worked our way through that and feel comfortable now that I’ve done enough to get through. Having to train mainly solo during covid was tough at times, but my me and my training buddies kept supporting each other and encouraging each other which helped and which meant we all continued to train through which set up in good stead for when things opened back up again.

Work is another big one (isn’t it for everyone!) haha But I have some seriously long and tiring days at work, I often start at 4/5am and work through to late arvo, So training in the mornings weekdays is near impossible, and often in the afternoon I’m work tired. But Coach Sarah worked with me on this and helped make it work. I also have an understanding boss who provided some flexibility at times which was super helpful. So I found communicating with those around you super important.

Have you learnt anything new along the way ?

I learnt that making training fun was important to me, so we made that work by incorporating things I love into my training program including:

– I run with my dogs often, which they and I love! So they joined me on many of my runs
– Riding with groups, as it makes the time go much quicker and more enjoyable ! So I’d include additional riding before and after to clock up my long weekend ride and not have to do it all solo.
– Including our local tri races and crit racing on a weekly/fortnightly basis allowed us to include some intensity into the training, while for me enjoying it with others. So these became regular inclusions in my training over summer.

What parts of your program / training have given you the most confidence leading into your first Ironman?

Long rides for sure. Just knowing you can do the distance and not be absolutely smashed at the end is important. And practicing is nutrition and getting that right. As they say – nutrition is the fourth discipline of triathlon ! But really, just having a coach who can lay out the program for you and not have to think too much about what is needed has been so good. To have Sarah as a sounding board, to adjust my training when needed, give me a little push when I was slacking off and help me balance around work and family life ensured I was able to get to this point in a far better space than if I tried to tackle it myself!

Any pieces of advice tips/tricks (or what not to do!) from others you have had along the way that you will take into the race with you?

I’ve had plenty of advice and words of wisdom for others, a few that stick with me.

  1. From Luke Barlow: “it’s like eating an elephant – one piece at a time!” I loved this. It made me laugh, but totally makes sense!
  2. Don’t do too much to early
  3. Don’t burn too many matches
  4. Keep it under control
  5. Pacing is key!
  6. It’s about getting from the start to the finish as fast as you can but as WELL as you can (thanks coach!)
    I’m still learning these! (I tend to go all in!) HA! So lets hope I’ve learnt enough to put this sound advice into practice this Sunday….

Can you picture yourself crossing that finishing line yet?! And what do you think that will look and feel like?

I’m thinking it will be quite emotional. A lot of time and effort and mental and physical energy has been put into this event, so I may just shed a tear! It will be awesome to see my partner of 32years Sue at the end. She’s been just invested in this as what I have.

And importantly – how do you plan on celebrating / rewarding yourself? 😊

We’re having a well earned holiday afterwards and I can’t wait! Sleep in here we come !

Any plans post Ironman?

I have recently purchased a vehicle that we are planning on doing some trips in where we can take my bike, sleep in it and can explore the country side riding and running. We can’t wait.

I would like to get some stuff done around the house too! Sue has bee amazingly supportive during my training, so it’s time to finish off the garden for her and do a few more things for her and what she would like to do. It’s all about give and take! So time to give back. 🙂

Amazing work Dazza, I can’t wait to support you on the sidelines this weekend, cheer you on, and feel those goose bumps as you hear those words down the finishing chute “Darren McKemmish YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!”

Making Space

I haven’t written a blogpost in ages. Since July 2021 to be exact! Yes I’ve written up race results and share our athletes amazing achievements. And I write regular newsletters and do I haven’t written a blogpost in ages. Since July 2021 to be exact! Yes I’ve written up race results and share our athletes amazing achievements. And I write regular newsletters and post a weekly video blog for our crew, but I haven’t sat down and ‘written’ about something that just resonates with me, or something I am passionate about, or to share an experience or my knowledge in over 8 months. But it wasn’t until I did something last week that made me realise this was missing. It took me stepping away and making some space to realise that I missed writing. That I missed sharing this with my athletes, friends and the wider triathlon and endurance community. So I encourage every athlete (read person!) to keep reading, and check in with what I did, to see if there is something you are missing also…. But you just didn’t realise…..

What was it? Keep reading – as I share my experience and lightbulb moment…

I recently spent a whole 1.5days (!) away from home. Away from my kiddos, away from hubby, away from work, and ‘everyday life’ and spent it catching up with some special girlfriends, as well as having pampering afternoon at a day spa. Something hubby had bought for my birthday nearly 3 years ago but something I just hadn’t made a priority to use. We’d been back to Melbourne numerous times since we moved to the country, I could have easily ducked back anytime also, so I’ve had many opportunities to use this voucher but ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I can’t I have too much work on’ always seemed to be the answer. Plus who would look after the kids, do the washing, the cooking and generally just ensure the household ran as I liked it. ;-p  

Yet I would make training a priority, I’d always make time for family, I’d attend friends birthdays and gatherings, I’d organise outings with the kids. (You get the picture) but when it came to giving back to me, I would always falter. ‘I don’t need that. I don’t need the afternoon off, I don’t need a pamper, I don’t need a night away from our children‘….. 

What I had forgotten was it isn’t always about what is needed on the surface, but what is truly needed on the inside. And that ‘life’ will still be there, and it will still function even if you step away for a moment (or two). 

Hubby WILL be able to get the kids to kinder (albeit late) 😜 he will be able to feed them, work can wait one day. Washing can too! Because this ‘stuff’ really doesn’t matter. 

And most importantly. Others will understand. And if they value you, they will actually encourage you too. ENCOURAGE you to take a break, a moment to yourself, (and no mums – going to do the grocery shopping by yourself is not a ‘break’ as much as it might feel like it). 

Granted some of my time away from home was work – because two birds and all that, but most of this time was purely for me. To do as I pleased. And man it was exactly what I needed and I didn’t even realise it. And boy do I feel AMAZING! 

So my friends and I made plans to catch up for brunch. And I booked in that LONG overdue pamper session. I literally unplugged. For 3hrs! 😲 I can’t remember the last time that happened! There was no outside / external stimuli in the infrared sauna, in the float tank, or during my relaxation massage. (Oh and what a novelty – a massage that doesn’t turn your muscles into pulp, and you can actually nearly nod off!!) 🤣 It was just me. In my own headspace, in my own mind. Reflecting. Imagining. Creating. Exploring. Sitting with happy thoughts, and uncomfortable feelings. Feeling some home truths, and using these to enrich my day to day life. For ME. Because if I do it for me first and foremost, then that will flow and resonate into those in my life and into my work. 

But without stepping away I likely wouldn’t still have written a blog. And you most definitely wouldn’t be reading this one. It took me stepping away to actually come back and make the time. Because I love sharing my experiences and my learning and my knowledge, as a coach, as an athlete and as a mother. I hope that by sharing, others will resonate and take something away. Because although I write to share with others. Primarily I write for myself, because I love it. And the by product is others get to share in that too. So as much as I write for others, first and foremost I write for me. 

So this is YOUR reminder to not get so stuck in that daily routine, the weekly grind, that before you know it another year has passed and you haven’t done something TRULY for yourself. 

Go fill up your cup! Even if just a little bit. It doesn’t have to be that week long health retreat with yoga and mindfulness every day. It can simply be some time in nature (unplug!) it can be turning your phone off for the day (how liberating !), giving yourself space to set / reset some goals, or new boundaries, or plan something amazing! But often without giving yourself the ‘space’ you may never find it…. Ever wonder why writers / business owners / entrepreneurs go away on writers/business retreats? It’s where they give themselves the space to allow MAGIC to happen! Away from the ‘busyness’ of every day life.

BUT don’t bring any guilt along with you. Mum/dad guilt not allowed in the space of giving back to YOU. Because by giving back to yourself, you ARE giving back to your family, or your business, or your work. 

I came back with so much more clarity, feeling more relaxed and also more grateful. For the love that I have for my family. And for the work that I do with and for my athletes. And no-one should ever feel guilty about that. 🙌🏻

So here’s to making the space in your life for not just the things you need to do, but the things you WANT to do, and LOVE to do. Those things that light your fire.

Oh – and thanks to my hubby for firstly gifting me my pamper session and then allowing the space for me to enjoy. 🙌🏻

Finishing the series in style

Melbourne – how we have missed you the past 2 years! And for that, we now forgive you because you have put on the goods again for the last race of the 2XU Triathlon Series in Melbourne. What a cracker way to finsh off the season!

Well done to all athletes who took part in the series, whether it was a one off race, used as lead up races or you focused on the series. It’s great to see the sport alive and well in Melbourne!

Congrats to our CPC female athletes who took the stage the this week:

OLYMPIC
Johanna Clark: 2:17, 3rd F 35-39 AND 2nd overall in the series.
Jo Finished a well fought out 3rd place for a race we haven’t trained for at all but we decided last week why not give it a crack! And what a race Jo had, nailing her power and pace numbers could not have asked for anymore. INCLUDING having the fastest overall bike split for the day in a smoking 1:02, 38.2km ave!

Evelyn Wilton, 3:13, 17th F45-49
Coming off her first ever Olympic Distance only 2 weeks ago, Evelyn threw herself back out there to finish off the season with another. A little illness leading into the race didn’t stop her getting on the start line though and finishing off her season on a high. 🙂

SPRINT
Elise Fookes, 1:44, 12th F30-34

Coming off a bike specific program, Elise jumped into the deep end literally in throwing herself into this race. With no specific preparation other than starting back some run training and a couple of swims. Elise can be proud of her efforts (especially clocking the 2nd fastest time in her AG) and now set her sight on getting some work done for bigger things to come! 🙂

Esther Toh, 1:46, 9th F45-49
Esther has had her sights and focus on some long trail runs and walks this season and nothing like throwing in a sprint event 1 week before a 100km Great Aussie Hike next weekend! Well done Esther. 🙂

Full results and series points here


OTHER RACE & EVENTS AROUND TOWN:

Darren McKemmish – Crowned Club Crit Champion.!
Although training for an Ironman – only 5 weeks away! Darren has been geting amongst the local crit racing scene every fortnight and last Friday Night saw him race a strategic and smart race and he crossed the C Grade finish line in first, taking the crown of Echuca Moama Cycling Club C Grade Club Crit Champion for 2022! Mighty fine effort Daz !

Kathy Wilkinson & John MacNamara – Snowy Mountain Classic
Both Kath and Macca made the trek to Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains for a spectacular 110km 1600m ride through the Snowy Mountains. What an amazing event to do, one to put on the ‘to do’ list if you haven’t ever done this one before or ridden in this area!

Robyn Bourke – Australian Grand Traverse
A 30km hike from Falls Creek to Hotham with 1400m+ of elevation (read climbing!), 8hrs on the feet. What an experience to do this with mates just 1 week post Ironman Melbourne 70.3 and Geelong 70.3 only weeks before that! (I’m sure Robyn apologised to her legs a few times!) haha. “Epic fun, epic views, epic quad engagement! epic company. Five stars” Robyn shared after the event. Now to give those legs a little rest! ;-p

Janelle Wolski – Softball Grandfinal x 2 !
Who said it was all swim, bike and run. One of our athletes Janelle paired her triathlon pre season training with her end of Softball Season which saw he land in not one but TWO Softball Grandfinals over the weekend. Back to back headers! Although they didn’t win the converted grandfinal trophies, Janelle was super impressed with her teams efforts and just a little bit chuffed about hitting a home run – over the boundary on the full! Something that doesn’t happen very often but when it does – what an awesome feeling, and to smash that out during a grandfinal! There’s a celebration right there! Well done Janelle. 🙂

CPC athletes produce results at Geelong 70.3

We had a small but awesome stable of athletes toe the start line yesterday at the Geelong 70.3 Half Ironman. Such an iconic race on the Oceania racing calendar and brings athletes from all over the country to this magnificent location.

Regan Hollioake – 1st F30-34, 3rd Female AG overall
Swim 26:26
Bike 2:25.52
Run 1:39.47
Overall 4:37.21

A super impressive race from Regan, in her first Half Distance and a 30+min PB ! She was 2nd out of the water in her AG. With the work we have done on her bike leg, we knew this too was now going to be a weapon to go with her swim/run combo and hat it was, with the fastest bike split in her AG and coming off the bike with a very handy lead and went on to dig deep on the run and win by nearly 3min. Putting her everything into the race and her finish down the finishing shoot showed that – literally NOTHING left in the tank as she stubbled across the finish line to take that much deserved win.

“I over cooked it!” Regan after emerging from the med tent. ;-p

With her win she also went on to secure her place in the Half Ironman World Championships in Utah later in the year! Let the journey continue ! !


Rachael Dols – 8th F25-29 a mighty fought out race!
Swim 28:19
Bike 2:46.11
Run 1:54.07
Overall 5:15.48

If you haven’t read Rachaels story yet, make sure you do as she shared her story with us here after recently being diagnosed with External Iliac Artery Endofibrosis (EIAE). So to push through immeasurable pain barriers to have a bloody great race is a testament to her character!
She had a great swim, pushing from the get go, coming 2nd out of the water and taking that into a strong bike – managing her symptoms that come along with EIAE. But we’d done LOTS of work on her bike and this showed with a massive 30min bike PB! She then worked her way through the run, managing pain and symptoms to finish with nearly a 30min PB on the run also and claim over a 1hr PB overall. What a legend!

“Thank you so much fo your support, especially the last month! It honestly made me feel better knowing you were going to be there, so if anything – a massive mental boost!” ~Rachael


Robyn Bourke – 10th F35-39
Swim 39:09
Bike 2:59.56
Run 2:19.17
Overall 6:07.42

You know those training days when you just feel a bit ‘meh’, when the legs just don’t want to go from the get go and it just feels like a slog? Unfortunately for Robyn that’s how her body felt today. So her time on the clock don’t reflect the awesome training and the hard work she has dedicated over the months to get her to this race. That can be a bitter pill to swallow. For her as an athlete and for me as a coach. It hurts because knowing how hard and diligently she worked for this and sometimes we may never know the answers ‘why’ either.

“I just felt like my tank was empty all day. Def didn’t think I was going to finish!” ~Robyn post race

BUT on the flip some, what I (we) do know, that she is one resilient athlete. To keep pushing through and on a day that wasn’t ‘her’ day, with a smile everywhere she went, that is why we do this sport. To PUSH our minds and our bodies with what we have on the day. I’ve always said that. If you can give 100% of everything you have on the day, then you cannot lose. And lose she did not. She gained. Experience. Knowledge. Another notch on her race belt. And comes out even more driven and determined. THAT I a bloody proud of !


You can check out full 2022 Geelong 70.3 Half Ironman Race Results here.

Next key long distance races for our athletes include Ironman 70.3 Melbourne and Ironman Australia and Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie.

The Road to Geelong 70.3 – An athletes journey, Regan Hollioake

Athlete Regan Hollioake, shares some of her training journey including her training build and how different that looks to her first half in 2018, what lessons she has learnt along the way, how performance is more than just the training itself, and how she plans on celebrating after Geelong 70.3 !

~~~~~~

You started with CPC back in June 2021 and haven’t had a lot of opportunities to race yet, BUT plenty of time to train. How has your build gone and how are you feeling?

Since starting with Sarah in June I’ve noticed some great gains in my training form, confidence and mental health. I’ve been feeling stronger and stronger each week and I’ve gained so much confidence in my swim, bike and run. I’m enjoying my sport so much and have been itching to get on that long distance start line!

My build has gone really well with the exception of some sickness and now a recent hip flexor strain. However, with Sarah’s guidance, I feel much more confident dealing with unforeseen challenges and contingencies by adjusting the program as needed and reassurance that not all journeys consist of only steps forward.

With Sarah being your first coach (previously self trained), how does this lead up feel compared to how you trained previously by yourself into Geelong in 2018?

Training has been so much more balanced, targeted and specific. I’m training smarter and I’ve learnt so much about training zones (goodbye constantly sitting in grey zone) and recovery (2018 me didn’t know what the heck that was!!) and have enjoyed this build up so much more being able to share it with the wider CPC crew. Geelong 2018 was my first ever triathlon and I tackled that on a road bike and runners, now I’ve upgraded to a TT bike and cleats! 😂 (that in itself will make a big difference!) haha

What challenges have popped up along the way (if any) and how have you managed them?

 I was struck down with a bout of illness a month or so back and a recent hip flexor injury resulting in forced adjustments to the plan. I’ve had to be very  mindful of and listen to my body since then. Sarah gave me the confidence to step back and adjust whilst still keeping the body moving in a meaningful way. 

What have you learnt new along the way – whether it be about training or even yourself?

 I’ve learnt to respect my body so much more for what it allows me to do everyday. Not only have I learnt so much about training specifically but I’ve learnt more about nutrition, hydration and recovery. All areas that I previously neglected and my physical and mental health suffered as a result. 

What parts of your program / training have given you the most confidence leading into Geelong?

I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my bike leg. The live weekly coached trainer sessions that push you that little bit harder and the long weekend rides have given me the confidence that I’ve got the strength and endurance needed to put together a decent bike leg .

On race day itself, is there anything you know you will do differently to previous race/s? (ie what have you learnt from racing before)

 Nutrition! I’ve always winged it in previous races but coming into this race I have a tried and tested plan to get the fuel in to (hopefully!!) avoid any upset or bonking! 

And importantly – how do you plan on celebrating / rewarding yourself? 😊

Fish and chips and a cold beer on the beach with the support crew!!  (sounds perfect!)

What’s next – share with us what’s next !

Challenge Shepp in March 
Ironman Australia in May – first IM !

So after Geelong there’s plenty more training and racing to be had this season, and can’t wait to continue the journey with you! But for now, lets bring on Geelong 70.3! :-p

What is athlete self confidence and how can it be fostered?

If you had all the confidence in the world – then imagine what you could do? Imagine what you could achieve. Imagine what you would DO. So why then do some athletes have a higher self confidence than others? Why can some athletes push themselves to exhaustion, to near failure, to the depths.. While others take the other road? Some would say the ‘easier’ road? It all comes down to self belief, and the self confidence that comes with that.

No one would argue that self-confidence is the cornerstone of all great sporting performances. But self confidence is made up from both self belief AND evidence (ie proof). We all have varying levels of self belief, but the level of self belief in athletes can vary widely. So to improve an athletes self confidence, we look at an athletes self belief and marry that up with EVIDENCE so they can improve their self confidence. As soon as you do that – PERFORMANCE will improve.

Self Confidence = Self belief X Evidence

Self belief on it’s own is hard to change. It is an athletes core beliefs, their values, their character. Ultimately it is who they are as a person and how they feel about themselves. This is established from a young age. The environment and early experiences shaped our individual belief systems.

So athletes with strong self belief often require little evidence to create self-confidence. They have an innate belief that they can do anything, achieve anything and can perform when needed. They believe that they can achieve the goal they set out for regardless of what they hear, what others say, and any other obstacles that may be impeeding their way.

Whereas athletes who lack self-belief require more evidence to prove to themselves that they can. They require ‘evidence’ from their preparation, or even past performance to BELIEVE before they actual do perform to their full potential.

I had an athlete who over the last season (maybe longer) starting doubting her ability. She would train consistently, hit great numbers in training, but come race day, was falling short of what she was capable of. She didn’t believe that she could race to a certain level – to a certain power number, or hit a pace target we set. And having those targets were actually causing anxiety around trying to hit them. So to begin with, we took away the expectations, to lower the pressure she put on herself. But that in itself didn’t help. So another change was needed. She needed a shift in her mindset….

So this season she has taken a step back from racing, to take away the pressure, and the feelings that were coming along with that and so in the background, we could work on mindset. So to do this, I started working again on the EVIDENCE for her. Without her necessarily realising, I wanted to create more evidence (proof) for her that she was capable. That she could achieve. So I set about writing a program for her that would allow her to SEE that evidence. We had repeatable, progressing sessions over weeks and months. Ones that she could see and ultimately feel the improvements. I’ve been throwing challenges at her in other ways, including virtual races. But NO expectations. To simply go out and RACE.

Well she had a breakthrough race last weekend: “I’ve got my belief back that I can push myself on the bike… a lot of that comes down to you. Thanks!”

It did not matter at all where she came in the race (although as a side note she came 1st) 😉 what mattered is she believed in her ability. She believed she could push herself. Because the EVIDENCE was there. The numbers, the data – it was all SHOWING her she could. So her CONFIDENCE in her own ability increased to a point here she was able to perform the way I knew she could… 🙂

THIS was a very proud Coach moment. As it was an area of my coaching that I have been developing and working on. Coaching isn’t simply about developing the best training plan, the best periodised programs, or the ultimate individual sessions. Of course, that is all part of the process. But a Coaching environment should be about developing real self confidence. Genuine, resilient self-confidence, which, when pushed (like in a race scenario) can withstand the pain, the pressure and the fatigue of both the training preparation and the race performance. As a Coach, we CAN improve an athletes self confidence, through the high performing culture we foster.

So – as an athlete, if you feel you lack self confidence, maybe you just need to right environment to shift that. Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more..