I had mentioned recently to my athletes that it was 10 years since I raced in Kona. My Ironman World Champs experience was in 2013 – the year that Mirinda Carfrae won her second Ironman World Championship Title and had the 3rd fastest run split of the day – including the pro men. Simply incredible! She then went on to win and break her own run course record again the following year in 2014. And only now, have we just witnessed a new run course record thanks to Anne Haug with a 2:48.23 in 2023!
I could have sworn I did a race report / recap after my Kona race – and I thought I found it, but it was actually a recount of my first Ironman – Ironman Melbourne in 2013 when I qualified for Kona in a time of 9:23 (year the swim was shortened). Read about that race experience and how I qualified here.
So I don’t have my recap to share with you, however I did find some of my pics and what I can say is, what an awesome experience it was. And I got to share that experience with my parents – something they still remember fondly. As well as long time friend and athlete Narelle Crooks who was on the sidelines supporting, along with her hubby Nathan who was racing and fellow training buddy Brett. Brett, Nathan and I spent countless hours together training. So many long rides and long runs together, hundreds of laps in the pool, open water swims, trainer sessions, interval runs around the tana and along the beach…. Brett and I even travelled to Port Douglas in the lead up to Kona for a Half Distance race – trying to acclimatise for the heat before we arrived.
But honestly, nothing can really prepare you for the heat and humidity. It truly is a HOT and brutal the race is. But how spectacular and magical the Island is. I get why athletes all over the world still want to compete at this race. It’s not about becoming one of the best in the world in your age group, it is the experience. Living and breathing Ironman the week leading into the race, swimming in the crystal blue waters amongst tropical fish, turtles and dolphins, riding along the Queen K and through the lava fields, running along Ali’i’ Drive, up Palani and through the Energy Lab. And that finish line line. Simply incredible! The visuals from race broadcasts are exactly that. But being there, experiencing it, putting your body through it, truly is something else. And in that moment, the result matters little. Especially for those going there for the first time….
My Kona result? Swim 1:11.38 Bike: 5:34.14 Run: 3:45.22 Overall: 10:39.53
For anyone who has the dream of racing the World Champs, talk to me. It truly is an incredible experience and something that is possible with the right training, hard work and race planning… I previously wrote an blog on how to qualify for the Ironman World Championships. So take a read if you want to find out more on how and what it takes to qualify for this magnificent race…
‘Pain is temporary, but memories will last forever ‘ The prefect quote in what was to be my first (and what I had planned as my last) Ironman race.
Ironman for me was more than completing a 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42.2km marathon. It was setting myself a goal and doing everything in my power to reach it.
It was about the choices, decisions, sacrifices, hard yards and discipline. It was the early mornings and late nights. It was down right hard work.
It was choosing training over birthdays and catch ups. It was lost weekends, friends and relationships. It was missing the world while I was preoccupied in my own.
They were the biggest sacrifices, but also the biggest motivators. And that’s why I pushed through what seemed like the impossible to others on Sunday, to get me not only to the finish line, but onto the Ironman podium and ultimately Kona. The pinnacle of this sport called triathlon.
Ironman is not just about physical toughness, it’s about mental toughness. The ability to put your body in a place it does not want to go and somehow over ride the pain.
THE DECISION My triathlon journey started 6 years ago due to a running injury – the first of 3 stress fractures I would suffer in as many years. I was young and naive – thinking i knew more than the Coach. How little I knew back then. And little did I know, that as I lined up for my first Gatorade Triathlon in March 2008 – coming near last out of the water, and finishing mid-field, that five years later I would be taking on my first Ironman and Marathon all rolled into one. From a Coaches point of view, I had planned to use this Ironman race to experience from an athletes perspective what it took to train and race an Ironman, but in the end it became much more than that….
THE LEAD IN Could not have gone any better. I’d done all the work, rarely missed a session, prepared my life around this one day. All to see how hard and how fast I could go over 226kms. I’d followed my program to a tee. I didn’t go above what was asked, just doing what had to be done and I could see the progression over the months as distances got longer, times faster and recovery easier. Everything was heading in the right direction and my confidence grew knowing what I was capable of ‘IF all went to plan’. I’ve watched many Ironman’s over the years and I have witnessed first hand that things can and do go wrong on race day. I had many training partners during the lead in but non better than Brett Archbold. We spent countless hours on the bike, I’d have sh^t days when he’d have good ones and vice versa. But we both kept at it knowing what we were both capable of. And best of all we will now have another winter of training together leading into Kona!
PRE RACE I waited all week for the nerves to kick-in. I waited patiently, ready to tackle them when they arrived. But even as we stood in the water at the swim start waiting for the gun to go off they were no where to be seen. I could feel the nervous energy around me as the morning unfolded, but I simply thrived on it. I could only put this down to knowing I had done the hard work, knowing what I had to do and most importantly believing that I could do it – so what did I have to be nervous of? Nothing. Lets do it! A BIG thanks to Dane Barclay from The performance and Sports Psychology Clinic who helped prepare my mind for what I was going to put my body through. Game on.
THE SWIM The morning of the race, and race organisers made the tough decision to cut the swim course short due to the conditions in the bay. So the swim was cut in half and shortened from 3.8km to 1.9km (or was it 1.5km?). There has been much talk around whether this was the right decision. And emotions and thoughts from athletes have also been divided. But for me, I didn’t waste any energy on ‘should it or shouldn’t it’ – instead I refocused on my race and slightly changed my race tactics. ‘Control the controllable’….
At the swim start, I lined up beside fellow Tri Alliance athlete Nathan – a plan we had leading into the race. We’d swam together in the pool and open water most of the prep and we were going to pace off each other (to a degree) in the swim leg. But within 100m, that plan was out the window, it was ON and I quickly lost sight of him. ‘Have a good race Nath’ I thought to myself as I focused on tacking on the waves and swell ahead of me. The swim was brutal – more so from the other athletes than the conditions. It was like everyone was fighting for survival and literally the fittest and strongest survived! There was no thought or care for another’s safety. If you were in the way, you were going down! The swell at the back of Frankston pier was the worst conditions I have swum in – but I was loving it. This is my kind of swim! Heading out past the Pier I couldn’t sight the turn around buoys. The swell was huge, swimmers everywhere. As we got closer I could see I was heading straight for the buoy – normally that’s what I’d want, but for this course and these conditions I decided I wanted to stay slightly wide so I didn’t get shoved around too much. So unfortunately for those around me I made a slight detour to swim wider and in the process swam over other swimmers. (sorry!) Turning the buoy and heading back to the beach was fun. It was rough but the swell pushed you in and made for a fast swim back to the swim exit. Athletes were strewn 300m wide though as the current pushed people down beach. But many athletes made the decision to just go with it and make the mad dash up the beach instead of trying to fight it. On dry land I spotted another Tri Alliance training partner Steve Akins just in front of me. it’s a comforting feeling seeing someone you have trained with. I was off to a great start to my race. Swim (1.9km) 28:18min, 19th in Category
THE BIKE Transition was non eventful, in and out as quickly as possible and out on the bike. I did thank my helpful volunteer but other than that didn’t look around or spend any more time than necessary in the change tent.
After watching this race last year I knew the support as you headed out on the bike was going to be amazing. The mounting line is lined with supporters cheering for athletes as they begun their 180km ride. Thanks to those who shouted out cheers – but I will be honest. I can’t remember one face. And so begun my 5+ hours on the bike…..
The ride out was congested with riders for the first 30km I jostled with other riders (mainly guys) to find my own space. Time and time again they would ride past and then pull straight in front of you, causing you to slow right down to give yourself space and avoid drafting. After half a dozen times of this occurring I made the decision to change my race plan and ride harder on the first lap to create myself some room. I feared getting stuck amongst a pack and getting ‘done’ for drafting. So into the right hand lane and head down I went. Not long after I made this decision Nath and Steve passed me. I gave them a cheer and refocused back on my race. The legs were doing what I asked and I was happy with the pace and effort level, so even though I was riding faster than planed, I didn’t slow down.
I viewed the ride leg as 4 x 45km rides. Not 180km. I knew it was going to be tough on the way out into the wind, but I also needed to use this to my advantage. Even though I had a good swim I knew there would be girls up the road trying to increase their lead. So I focused on my nutrition plan, stayed out of trouble (drafting trouble that is) and before I knew it I was passing girls I thought would take me most of the ride to catch. Things were more than going to plan. ‘Don’t get too ahead of yourself’ I kept staying to myself. There’s still a long way to go.
The second lap and the wind started to pick up. You could feel the resistance slowing your pace and cadence, the gusts of winds trying to shove you off the road. And although my average time was slightly slower I still felt strong and couldn’t wait to get off and tackle to run – and to find out where I was placed!
Ride: 5:10:48, 3rd in category, average 34.75km/hr
THE RUN The first time I got slightly nervous during the race was when I was preparing to jump off my bike and onto the run. I have watched around half a dozen Ironman’s, and many more on TV and I always cringe when I see athletes jump off their bikes and their legs are like wooden pegs. Stuck in a cycling position not knowing whether they are going to collapse underneath them. The burning question I was ready to find out was, what were my legs going to do? As they hit the ground I smiled inwardly AND outwardly. They felt great and I was ready to run my first marathon to finish this race.
In and out of transition, quick toilet stop and I was on my way. 2km into the run was the first time I knew how I was tracking. Fellow Tri Alliance Coach Emma screamed at me I was coming 2nd in my age group. Another quick smile and nod of the head to acknowledge I’d heard as I headed out of Frankston. The first 5km went surprisingly quick with the roads still lined with cheering supporters – some I knew, others I thanked for their support anyway. ‘Looking good’ people cheered. And at this point, I agreed with them. ‘Feeling good!’ I’d cheer back at them. This was too easy I thought – wait for it…. wait for it….
Before I knew it, I was 10km into the run and I couldn’t have planned it any better. My pace was exactly how I had planned, I felt awesome, nutrition going well. What more could I ask for. ‘This was supposed to be tough’ I thought to myself. And as if my body heard me, outside influences started to come into play. And this was where the race to the finish line really began for me. My right hip started to have a dull ache. Nothing I’d felt before. At this stage I was unsure on what to think. But it wasn’t long until that dull ache turned into a dead feeling all the way down to my right knee. At the 12km mark it hit me (and it dawned on me!) that I was becoming a victim of the dreaded Frankston > Mordialloc ‘camber’. I’d heard about it, I’d read about it, and I was now experiencing it and there was nothing I could do.
At this point I passed Pro Athlete Bree Wee who was not having her greatest of races and she was running in the curb. At that point of the race I was running in the centre of the road so I quickly switched to the curb hoping that it was flatter there and I could diffuse the pain before it took hold. A few more kilometers down the road and I thought I may have succeeded. But as I ticked over the 14km mark it felt like someone had run up beside me and stuck a knife into my knee. It literally made me jump it was that painful. ‘No, not yet.’ I cursed the road. But a few more steps and it was gone. The dead feeling was there, but the knife had retracted. ‘Ok think, what to do? I couldn’t afford to be crippled by ITB pain’ So Plan B kicked into action – I slowed my pace down. This provided some relief. So I continued on at a pace slower than planned, but I was moving forward – and that was the overall aim. ‘Your slowest jog is always faster than your fastest walk’ I knew there was only 5km until Mordialloc and the road flattened out, so my next goal was to get to Mordialloc ‘The pain would go away once I’m on the flat’ I kept saying to myself, willing my body through the random stabs of pain.
Nearing Mordialloc and I needed a Plan C. My plan B of running slower was working, but it wasn’t getting me there as quickly as I liked. And this is when I cursed myself that I didn’t put any pain killers in my special needs bag at Mordialloc. Then before I knew it I was yelling out my number and picking up my special needs – a bottle of Shotz, wishing I’d had painkillers in there instead…. And I carried on through. Mistake number two here – in the chaos, I forgot I needed to go to the bathroom and it wasn’t until I was 500m passed the toilets that my body remembered. ‘Damn’ I cursed myself. Running past the Lifesaving Club and I yelled to someone for toilets – they pointed up the hill and into their club rooms. So I made the split second decision to turn off course and into their toilets for a quick pit stop. A decision that I now know put me back into third position. Because as I ran back on course I saw a girl had passed me. I cursed myself for a second time in a matter of minutes.
1km up the road and I had to look forward to our Tri Alliance Aid/water Stations. Back to back at the 20 and 22km mark of the run. But by this stage I was not in a happy place. I had my blinkers on – my eyes darted for anyone who held a cup of water in their hand and grabbed it. The only other thing I remember is hearing Pam screaming at the top of her lungs ‘You’re going to Kona!’ Not yet Pam, not yet I thought to myself……
I was half way. 22km down, 20km to go. This could go right, or could go terribly wrong. My family popped up again at around the 30km mark. ‘Not long to go!’ my mum cheered at me. I cringed, from both the words and the pain that again stabbed me in the knee and tried it’s hardest to derail my race. This was the first time during the race that I felt like crying. I stopped and stretched – the only thing that made it better ‘There’s still a long way to go mum and I’m in pain’. I cringed, stood up and kept running. 2km run, stop, stretch, continue, repeat. ‘Please, please, please get me to the finish line in one piece’ I pleaded with my body ‘I promise I will give you a rest after this, I promise’. I remember actually pleading with own body.
Next I remember I was rounding Brighton Baths towards Elwood and I spotted Coach Ryan, Shane and Xavier. ‘You are in third’ Ryan yells at me. ‘You have 9min on fourth’ This was the first time since the beginning of the run I knew where I was. 3rd place. But just 1km later and that knife was stuck right back into my knee which brought me to a halting stop. I quickly did the maths. And yep if I walked the last 4km she could still catch me. I as desperate now. I looked back hoping to see Shane (who is an Osteo) as I thought in my desperate state that he would be able to help me. I clearly remember having the thought of jogging back the 1km I had just completed to try and find him. What was I thinking?! I had to regroup. I clearly remember standing up and eyeing the finishing line in the distance – it was going to be mind over body from here on in. So I began my chant ‘do not walk, do not walk, do not walk…..’ and this continued the whole 4km to the finishing line ‘do not walk, do not walk….’ The knife was well and truly staying there now, it was not going anyway. It was trying it’s hardest to get me to walk but that last 4km I didn’t. I ran through the crew at The Great Provider – again I cannot remember a single face out of the dozens of people I knew were there. I could hear the screams, the cow bells, Mike Reilly over the loud speaker, I could see the finishing line ‘Do not walk, do not walk….’ I rounded into the finishing chute and it wasn’t until then that I allowed myself to believe that I was going to hold third place and finish on the podium.
The only thing I remember about the finishing chute is someone holding out a TA jumper, and seeing Ollie behind the finishing line. I’m sure I high fived people, I’m sure I smiled, but I cannot remember a thing. All I knew was that I had finished. And I had succeeded. I was an Ironman!
I had not actually pictured the moment before the race so I had no plans on my ‘finishing photo’. I simply put one fist in the air and crossed that line.
Run: 3:37:55, average 5:09km/pace
Overall: 9:23:17, 3rd 30-34F
THE AFTERMATH Since the race many people have asked me what drove me in training, what made me get up in the mornings, what motivated me to push through the pain during the race. What really keeps me going when the going is tough? These are all good questions that I may never really know the answer too. All I know is I am a perfectionist, I love to work hard, I thrive on goals and challenges. I give 100% to anything I do – and for now that happens to be Ironman.
“Tomorrow is just another day. Another day to dream big, another day to achieve a goal, another day to prove to no one else but yourself what you are capable of. Dream BIG. I set goals that others may see as out of reach, as that way the satisfaction in reaching that dream is all the more sweet.”
“…..So as the mind starts to waiver, look back at your goal. Look back at your dream and ask yourself ‘How much do I want this?’ And if you want it enough you will get it. If not today, then tomorrow, or the next day.The difference between the IMPOSSIBLE and the POSSIBLE lies in a person’s determination….”
And so on what was going to be my first and last Ironman, has now turned into another journey which will end in Kona, Hawaii on 12 October 2013!
“You only get to do your first Ironman once. So take your time down that finishing chute! Soak it all in. Look around. Find your loved ones. Embrace them. And draw in all that energy! That is the feeling you have been chasing all day. That is what you have trained so hard for. So don’t rush it. Remember it, savour it and enjoy it !”
Advice I gave first time Ironman Athlete Janelle Wolski ahead of her first Ironman at Ironman Australia last weekend…. And she heeded that advice with full gusto ! Her finish line video and pics are incredible and a memory she will savour forever !
When the dust settled after her race, she shared her experience with me, and by sharing with others, may just inspire someone else to take on a challenge that scares you, to step outside your comfort zone, to be brave, and to trust in the process…..
Prior to the race: I was nervous off and on , all week prior. Why was I so nervous ? I asked myself…. I think I was scared I wouldn’t have the mental toughness if there was a situation in the race where I got overwhelmed at what was ahead of me and I might just give up …….which isn’t like me but these thoughts kept creeping in . There is also the ‘mum guilt’ that pops up … if I fail at this , what a selfish waste of time all the training has been and the expense, the race, accommodation etc etc.. I know this is irrational for many reasons. The training plan fitted in with our lifestyle ( legend coach!), sometimes I dropped the ball with things on the home front and at times I was distracted, but the kids knew what I was aiming for and well, that’s life sometimes. We can’t always have all our ducks in a row, and I know that that’s aok.
I suppose when nerves set in and thoughts of uncertainty about race day follow, the self sabotage sets in !!! What a ride it’s been and I hadn’t even started the race . I know tapering can make you cranky or feel off but I wasn’t expecting the nerves …………..I guess it also showed how much I really cared about achieving this goal …………
Race day ………3 hours sleep tops, but I had a fantastic sleep the night before and a nap during Saturday and others have probably functioned during an ironman on less sleep. I just kept thinking that no matter what , by this time tomorrow the day would have been played out and just relax girl …… I started to feel better on the walk to transition and Bryan (hubby) was a calming voice, ‘this is normal don’t worry, everyone is feeling the same‘. Thankfully it helped and I started to feel better …….. Transition done , I found some Maitland Tri Club girls that raced their first IM last year and before I knew it we were walking to the swim start ( thanks to Ange, the constant reminder that it is just a long training day) … as coach would say “hurry slowly.”
The swim was amazing , I forgot to hit go on my watch, oh well, I turned it on at the weir. I liked the stop start of going over the weir, a chance to reset and site from above. The next time going back over the weir I got to put my swim cap on that came off , this has never happened before but no dramas , I didn’t rush the swim and at no time felt tired , I felt I was pacing right and because I stuffed up my watch I had no idea of my time when I got out of the water, I was in disbelief later to find out I did 1.13 … goal was 1 hour 20 mins and I expected to go over that …… I was wrapped!
Transition 10 minutes … I’m glad I didn’t go over 10 minutes , I’m totally fine with my transition time and the decision to wear bike knicks as I was comfortable the whole ride , I have no plans to do another ironman in the near future , but if I do, I would like to get use to long rides in a tri suit so as to not have to fluff about with the clothing changes. :-p
Off on the bike and realised I left my electrolyte / hydration tablets in my bike bag. Thankfully (again thanks Coach!) I had backup at personnel needs station. Crisis averted..
The ride going out was flat , I was doing 30 km p/h plus .. with hardly any pressure on pedals, was I going to hard? I didn’t think so , so I kept on at that pace , the bike course was easier than the old course, everyone I have spoken too has disagreed though.. There were rolling hills but no steep spikes of hills like the first 15km of the old course ( which I knew was ahead of me ). At the 30 km mark I had that preempted thought of “shit what have I got myself into“ but it was brief, I didn’t let it fester and though and reminded myself that I’d done the work. Nutrition – I consumed my 3 hour plan of infinite nutrition in 2 hours and my hydration was gone in 1 hour …. I hadn’t factored in being so thirsty and hungry after the swim. The 44 km mark came, personal needs stop done, too easy, back we go .
Technically, there were steep long downhills that didn’t feel too steep when going up them . Going down the hills I didn’t pedal much , I got good speed , tucked in and let my legs rest while I held on tight. The tail wind going out was nice but the roads were bumpy and there were bottles strewn all over the place, many with flat tyres. It is proper country roads, so not many spectators. I liked the course ….. but …… it’s not appealing to do it again, I would prefer doing the old IM course because of the scenery, the out and back and the spectators.
Coming back into town and going out for 40 km I knew would be hard however the hills weren’t as bad as I remember when I did 70.3 a few years ago. I think my bike fitness made a huge difference. I had to keep concentrating at this time, the wind was brutal . More times than I can count I got knocked around by cross winds. Going downhill was particularly nerve wracking. A lapse in concentration and it could have ended my day but I was not breaking in the downhills unless absolutely necessary because it was free speed!
Many times throughout the bike my mind would wander to “how on earth am I going to run after this bike“? Focus was key, I was chatting about my angst with the run leg to a kids sports psych at the boys soccer once and she said “when you are swimming, think about swimming !” “Don’t think about running when you are still swimming”, lol simple and affective, be in the moment.
I was now on the home stretch back in town, firstly ….…..block out all the people already on the run course and already finished, run my own race, it has gone perfectly so far. I nailed the nutrition , I kept it going throughout the ride and it was a good distraction making a few little adjustments that I thought I needed. The wind was blowing straight up the Main Street of Port it felt like I was going nowhere it was sooooo strong. I did not want to lose control of my bike going down the Main Street of Port 😬 How embarrassing would that be!
Coming into transition and all of a sudden the bike was done! I gave myself a pat on the back – I was happy. I knew I had trained well and executed my race plan well when I was passing people in the last 30 km of the bike who are cooked.
Transition . There is a definite mental lift changing into run gear it felt good. Home stretch ! I have never thought finishing this Ironman was a given. There are so many variables that can be out of your control …mechanical or gut issues, sickness, random niggles that pop up… But so far so good !
Starting the run I wasn’t yet convinced I would finish but it was definitely looking very likely. I started running to see how I felt. I have learnt after doing long hours of training that often I will feel worse at the start before feeling better. This was in my mind to not panic if I set off and then felt crap ….. but that didn’t happen. I felt ok, no nausea , no low blood pressure feeling. Nutrition nailed. It was cold by now – and it suited me … not for others who ran in hoodies and gloves! I said to myself if I walk I will get colder and when the wind was behind me I’m not to walk. Some negative thoughts popped up in my mind when I saw someone else I knew out there racing and next thing I know………I am walking WTF !!!
I thought to myself, “I’m feeling pretty good stop with the unhelpful thoughts !!!” There was an aid station not far from me. I walked to it, regrouped and decided to run … mostly … with blinkers on and sticking to the plan. Get to 21 km, aid station and big hill walk only. Off I went and stuck to it pretty closely, I was happy ! The 3rd lap I thought, keep the plan going with 20% room for error 🙂 This lap was going to be the hardest, seeing others finishing, that point in the race when you aren’t on your last lap yet and it still feels a long way away…. So I had to block it out and my goal was to pass the last finish line for the last time for the last 5 or so kms , then I allowed myself to imagine finishing and think about the day and start to believe it would happen but not only that, it happened really well! I had NO idea at this stage what my time was, the last 2 laps I was feeling the pain. By the 4th lap I gave into the lure of more walks but was so proud of sticking to my plan as long as possible. I stuck to my nutrition which helped immensely I have no doubt !
A Tri friend met me with 200 metres to go and ran with me to near start of the carpet and said some really awesome things and said your time is fantastic and told me, I couldn’t believe my time, it was really such an amazing feeling! And the lights, the people the noise – simply incredible! I found hubby Bryan and son Liam and some other friends were there also, big hugs had all round! I always thought my legs would stop working at the finish line and I would be almost collapsing but I felt like I was running on a springboard. I was soooo proud of my time, but most of all I was so proud of myself, of my achievement. An absolute bonus, I finished well under 15 hours 14.22 !
What an amazing day, so very lucky to have the opportunity, grateful to have made the start line fit and healthy. There had been a few circumstances that had me very close to pulling the pin on the training and my goal, but I kept training through and adjusted training when needed – thanks to coach – it made all the difference!
…. Mmmm and right now I just had a thought …… imagine if I didn’t have a 20 minute transition time or picked up the pace in the swim? I could have got under 14 hours ? ………. and there it is …… so this is how it happens that somehow you end up registering for another Ironman 😂😂😂😂😂
Thank you SO much for sharing your experience Janelle. Such an incredible effort ! What a super star mum !
This time of the year for many athletes is the perfect time for reviewing your past season, setting new goals, but most importantly defining what success is to you. Then building a framework to measure your success. In sport (well in life really!) the performance journey goes well beyond simple concepts of becoming faster, stronger, finishing or winning… Results are important. However, a broader perspective provides a healthier and more productive framework to measure success over the long term. And that’s where an athletes WHY comes into it….
Most athletes start their goal setting process with a goal. It makes sense right? ! Set a goal, and lay out the stepping stones to help you achieve that goal….
But what if I got you to look at goals from a different perspective? What if I said, without a WHY your GOAL won’t be able to determine your success? What if I got you to first determine your WHY before you set your GOAL and in return then determine your SUCCESS? How do you think this would differ?
Here’s an example. An athlete set a goal of breaking 5hrs in their next Half Ironman. They loved the idea of going ‘sub 5’! Their previous best was 5:30hrs. They laid out the steps they thought they needed to get there, they trained hard, their family / training / life balance was a bit out of whack, they were managing a little niggle, but they had a goal so stuck to the plan….. Come race day they finished in 5:10hrs. 10min off their goal time. What feelings do you think they had? Disappointed in their result? Because they didn’t hit their goal time…. DESPITE still hitting a 20min PB!
But what if that same athlete was asked the question – what is your WHY ? Why do you want to do a sub 5hr? Why do you train hard, and push yourself and why do you race? After some thought, the athlete wrote down a few things such as: to inspire my children to work hard, to not give up on a goal, to be a better version of myself at work and at home for my family. Their WHY was far more than simply hitting a 5hr time barrier. This doesn’t mean they couldn’t aim for both. Of course they could. But their WHY is what is deep, it gives purpose and means much more than a time on a clock…… That WHY is what should also help drive you – not the goal itself…. Read on >>
A WHY is a statement of purpose that describes why you do what you do and why you live the lifestyle you do. A GOAL is the object of ones ambition or effort; an aim or a desired result. SUCCESS is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
Success cannot thrive without a goal (aim) and a goal cannot thrive without a why (purpose). So when setting a goal, to determine your success of achieving your goal, you want to know the WHY behind it.
Why do you want to achieve X? Why do you push your body to train every day? Why do you do triathlon / cycling / running?
“Your WHY is what will set you apart. It will help inspire you to take action. It will also drive you in your training and your racing.”
So as you sit and ponder your WHY, here are some action steps on helping you to determine your WHY:
1. The first step is to ask yourself what your ultimate goal is. This could be related to your sport. Ie I want to complete an Ironman, or, I want to qualify for a World Championships, or I want to have a balance in life and training etc….
2. When you determine what this/ these are, the next and most important step is to ask yourself … WHY do I want to do / achieve this?
Now, there are some key things to remember when developing your WHY.
Your WHY should be powerful: When setbacks or obstacles (such as an injury or a bad race) arise, use your WHY because it is powerful enough to overcome the setback/obstacle.
Your WHY should be deep: Having a shallow why can be easily broken. (ie I train because I enjoy it) Instead, you should focus on a deeper meaning. (ie I train because it helps my mental health and makes me happier)
Your WHY should be intrinsic: Don’t base your WHY on extrinsic factors (ie I want to do an Ironman because my best mate is) instead look inside and feel your WHY (I want to do an Ironman because I want to test my own physical capabilities)
Developing a WHY is the best way to ensure you are avoiding setbacks and continually making progress towards your goals. AND the best way to then measure your success – which I will touch on in my next instalment….
So I encourage you firstly to take some time to write down your GOALS AND YOUR WHY. Remember to make them powerful, deep, and intrinsic. And you need to write them down. Not just have them in your head. Find some paper and write (or type) it out and have it where you can see it. In your phone, beside your bed, on the fridge… Somewhere you can visit them regularly. And if your why truly means something to you, then you will find a way to make your goals happen and you will more likely lead to a happier success…..
It’s no mean feat training for a Half distance when you are a working parent. The balance of getting the training done, along with prepping children for school, after school activities, homework, lunches, dinners and everything else between that comes with being a parent. Not to mention being a husband/wife to your partner ! ;-p
Well what happens if you put both parents into the mix of training for a big race! That’s what athletes Evelyn and Shaun Wilton did on the weekend when they BOTH competed in this years Ironman Melbourne 70.3 – both as their fist half distance race.
When you share training time with your partner / other half in can sometimes lead to some friction – who’s doing more, who’s taking more of the training time, who’s more tired and deserves more rest… Other families choose to not race at the same time of the year. Many I have trained generally have key races at different times of the year to their partner so they can share the training load better and balance home life – as it works better that way for them. If you have been there / are there, I think you will know what I mean! ;-p
But for Evelyn and Shaun, their children are at an age that having a shared goal actually worked in their favour.
“Our kids are teens, and pretty much ignore us unless they’re hungry or want something. 😊 They are also self-sufficient to a degree. They also sleep in, so week-end mornings and weekday evenings are generally the time we train. We make sure we’re there for sports, pick up and drop offs and everything in between.” wife Evelyn reflected.
So for this family, having a shared goal was what worked for them. Being able to spend training time together, share the experience together, and the highs and lows that go along with it.
“Shared goals, wow, massive! The ability to go out together early on Sat for our swim, early on Sun for our ride, etc, so much easier as there are no expectations on each other to be home by a certain time, or frustrations due to either of us being out for long periods.” hubby Shaun said of their shared goals.
And Evelyn agreed – “I think… it was easier for us to have a shared goal. We could share the tiredness, the nutrition, the 101 things that needed to be done. We’re on the same path, similar mindset and can help each other. Lastly, and most importantly we have lots of laughs. We do this because we enjoy it, it’s fun. (Most of the time)” ;-p
So for this couple, they managed to take it all in their stride. Of course there were some compromises along the way, and it required planning and balancing, but they did what was needed, including ensuring their children’s needs were being met as well as their own, open communication being at the forefront. “Another important thing is open and honest communication with your kids. We would often ask them questions such as “Are Mum and Dad out training too often?” “Are you OK with the time you are spending at home along?” “Please let Mum and Dad know if it is too much”. All this communication made sure the kids felt they had a say in it all and could speak up if it was getting too much.” hubby Shaun said of their experience.
For a family with teens, and both working, I asked how else they managed to ensure the household kept up and everyone managed as at times training topped out at around 10hrs a week including importantly strength and conditioning sessions. And Evelyn shared some of her top tips:
Outsourcing: “We are a big fan of outsourcing to free up our time. Things that need doing, such as cleaning, mowing, meal kits, online shopping. Anything that will give us extra time is appreciated. It costs extra, but that’s the reason we work so hard.“
Reducing mental load“As above, anything that reduces the mental load, such as coaching. We don’t have to think about what next, or should I go swimming, running, cycling, everything is mapped out. I don’t have to think or choose an option. I just need to tick it off my list.”
Limited social life: “Other than the occasional birthday celebration, we pretty much keep to ourselves. Our weekends are structured around kids activities and training and that’s pretty much it. Now that the race is over, we’re catching up with friends and social circles outside of triathlon.”
Group Training: “Training as part of a group helps so much, the time goes quicker and it’s great to have a shared goal with others. If one of us is getting ready for group training, it’s almost an obligation for the other to go, even when we didn’t want to!”
And how did their races end up?
AMAZING ! First and foremost on the top of both their lists was to enjoy the experience. To be in control of their races and not have the race control them – or unravel – which you can often see in long distance racing. To ttick to their race plans but be flexible in their approaches. If something isn’t working, then to change it up. And they both did this brilliantly. Not everything went to plan – and that often can be long course racing, but regardless, they both stayed headstrong in their goals of completing their first Half Ironman and embracing the journey along the way! And what fantastic attitudes and outlooks they both have. Shaun finishing in 6:02.55 (if only he knew he was so close to a sub 6!) and Evelyn 7:04.23. Both loving the experience, the learning and the training process along the way. What an awesome team effort from both of them!
There are not many (if any?!) races that you would feel ‘accomplished’ with a DNF (did not finish) beside your name. But in this event, there were 25 people who DNF’d and just TWO who did not…. Yes you read right. Unless you WIN, or are the second last (the assist), you DNF. The winner is, literally the last man standing…..
So what possesses someone to take on such a challenge, knowing full well that you are most likely going to finish with a DNF beside your name? But if you read on, these events are SO much more than about winning. They are about pushing through levels of fatigue that you can only imagine, of working through pain and discomfort, of having a plan, a large support network, of planning nutrition and hydration to a tee and packing just about everything with you – ‘just in case’. It’s about finding YOUR limit – whatever that may be…. For most people, these types of ultra events are not about winning at all, they are about the personal challenge, they are about finding where your ultimate limits lies and trying to push just one lap further, continuing just that little bit longer, until the body finally says no more and you can rest. Lay that weary body down knowing you gave it every ounce of what you had.…
From the beginning – It all started with my mate Phil just leisurely saying ‘hey have you seen there’s a new event coming to Shepparton‘ – that was all it took. And before we knew it, the idea had gathered momentum and I was hooked on the idea straight away; I had been looking for a new challenge and this was right up my alley. For those unfamiliar with the Last man standing or Backyard Ultra’s as they have become known, this is an event that has simple rules. It’s a 6.72k loop that starts on the hour, every hour until one person runs the final loop on his own – the ‘last man standing’ – literally. This one was the Northvic Backyard Ultra – held in Shepparton.
The injury – So with 4 months until the event my main concern was an ongoing injury that I had been carrying for a while – after I completed my last big challenge event – 160k in 48hrs virtual event last October. This cleared up eventually but with only 6 weeks out I developed a calf niggle in the same area that I had experienced a stress fracture 4 years prior. So I went to the start line still having this niggle but it was much better and I felt I was in a position to be able to nurse it through the event. An event that really was an unknown in so many ways!
Short training prep – Rolling back the clock to about 12 weeks out, I slowly made my way back to some run fitness giving myself until 2 weeks out to decide finally if I was going to enter the event. Coach Sarah had put a plan together where I was just introducing a few K’s each week this took me to about 25k’s a week now just 6 weeks out. A pretty low training load for such an event, but we went conservatively to ensure the body managed the training load. But despite this, the calf niggle popped up and I had doubts – thinking that the event was now just a dream and I wasn’t going to be able to do what I wanted to do. But Sarah and I put a strategy together that would see me not running in the week and training one single long run over the weekend. Although very unconventional, it allowed me / the body to recover between the weekends running and it really seemed to work! So I did a 6 x 7k test run the following week and a final 10 x 6.7k test run (10hrs – a lot in the dark!) 2 weeks out. Although the niggle was there it was manageable and we decided I could get through the event so I entered and then started the final preparation!
Race Prep – Having never done an event like this before and of course this event has an ‘unknown’ finish time and distance, I trawled through Youtube videos of previous backyard ultras reading blogs and listening to many podcasts I came up with a plan. And part of that was to be over prepared rather than wanting something I hadn’t planed or packed for. So one list became 2 which soon became 3! I really don’t think I could have added anything more on my list of things to organise and pack! Over prepared for sure but I was totally AOK with that! PS – if you thought packing for an Ironman was full on – this is NEXT LEVEL ! Times your Ironman list by 10, and you probably are in the ball park! ;-p
Race Day – It was 8am when I woke and the nerves were lingering around for sure. I had a pre race catch up with the coach the night before so I knew what my pre race prep was going to consist of so let the day begin! We arrived on course at 11am which gave us 4 hours until race start. Set up had begun and 2 hrs later we were ready for the race briefing and the final last few prep things to go through. Nerves were really surfacing now but I always have pre race nerves which has always proved a good sign. So 27 participants would take the 1st yard and the 3 minute whistle blew, then 2 then 1, so you have to be in the pen at the 1 minute whistle. The race director counted down from 5 and we were off! Lap 1 of who knows how many laps to come ! !
The Race – There has been many strategies talked about and who knows what is ‘best’, all I know is I had MY race plan and I wanted to stick to it for as long as I could. My strategy for the first 10 laps was to run (well a jog really) 2.5k then walk 1.5k which took in the hills on the course and then run home apart from 300mt up a bridge on the way back to the start/finish line. This would get me in at 47 minutes. And for the first 12 laps I was pretty much spot on! I was over the moon at this point that my times and strategy was working with 12laps / hours and 80km already down.
I best not forget to throw in there too though, that come lap 4, night time would hit and darkness would descend over the course and for the next 10+ rounds we would be guided by our headtorches…. Add to that rain, and it made the challenge of this event even more so… On lap 11 I would walk the first 1k with my mate Phil who it ended up would run his last yard on this leg. A big achievement Phil, well done mate – and thanks for planting that seed!
Other highlights of the first 12 laps were defiantly the support crew. Lisa (partner) has been in it from the start and she was there almost until the end (this story comes later). Without a good support crew your day is done before you even start. On lap 4,5,6 would see more support from friends Regan, Ben and Alisha who I never knew were going to come over so it was a great surprise. And this wouldn’t be the last time I would see Regan on course – in fact she was popping up everywhere on the morning loops and she gave me lots of laughs as she would randomly appear, sometimes from behind the bushes. Thanks Regan – a real moral booster! 😊
The biggest surprise of all though came at lap 8 when Coach Sarah had arrived at 10pm with son Alex. I held it together as this was very emotional for me but this gave me a massive boost just when I needed it. Those night time laps, in the dark, and in your own thoughts can get very very lonely especially as more people drop out. Doubts start to creep in, sleep deprivation is real and you start to question ‘why’. Its strange too as you become oblivious of the time of day so I didn’t realise until after the event that it was after midnight when Sarah and Alex actually left….
With about 13 minutes until the next lap it was a case of a loo break change of clothes, topping up hydration bottles and trying to get nutrition and food into me. Its surprising how quick this goes. If you had to sit and wait for someone for 13minutes you would think it was the longest 13min of your lift. But 13minutes of ‘rest and refuel’ in this event felt like 3! It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush knowing you have to be back on that start line with 1 minute to go. And if you are not. You are out. Simple as that! So with my first goal of 12 laps accomplished it was onto my next goal of 15 laps which would see me clock up 100kms. And 15hrs straight of running, resting, refuelling – on repeat!
At this point, I noticed for the first time that my running was slowing down so a change in strategy was made. From this point on I would have to do more running than I had been to make up for the pace deficit.. So I decided to only walk the hills which would work out to be about 1k more of running over the 6.72km lap. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but when fatigue is really kicking in and your body is trying to get you to slow down and stop – it’s a big effort. So laps now were coming in on 50min. This was still ok and giving me still enough time to do what I needed. As I completed my 15th hour, Lisa brought to my attention that I had stopped eating. It’s hard to explain but I think anyone that has done ultra events will experience this. Your body just goes into a self preservation mode and starts to shut down in a way… Lisa would make me porridge which I attempted – knowing I needed to continue to get some fuel / nutrition in to be able to keep going. I spoke with Lisa at this point and said I just wanted to go out for the 8am loop which would give me 17 laps, I knew at this point or at least I thought I knew I was close to the end…..
Laps 15-18 – It was daylight by now, another target achieved and the next few hours would see me just getting through each lap playing mind games with myself, giving myself targets to when I would run and then walk and just finding any way possible to complete that lap I was on. I can’t remember out right but by now I am sure I was in the top 10 finishers. Another target achieved! I was now in a group of 3 of us who I kept passing then they would pass me and this would go on all lap, which was good as we would have a little chat whilst we were together, not many words but just a bit of encouragement knowing we were all in the same hurt together…..
The final laps – on returning from lap 17 and 18 I was greeted by more people that had come down to support me. I think I was probably done at this point. Physically and mentally. I was exhausted. I was slowly getting slower. I had achieved a number of my goals for the event. I didn’t ‘need’ to do anymore. I felt content. But my mate who had come down to watch said to me “how about doing another lap for me”. Well how could I say no, after all – they had made the journey out to see me so yes off I went on lap 18!
There was now only 7 of us left now and I had a renewed goal. I’m here. I’m on 18. lets get to 20 I thought! Just 2 more after this – so this became my new target. I was now getting back at 51 then 55 mins for lap 19. Lisa waved me off for the final time on lap 20 as she had to go to work, yes work after being my support for 20 hours!! Like I said earlier, without a good support you are finished early. So I can’t thank Lisa enough.
Now this was by far the toughest lap yet – heaps of walking but I was determined to get back within the hour even if I never left again. Lap 20. One foot in front of the other. 1k at a time. It was brutal. My body was screaming at me. It was telling me to stop. I had decided that I was going to ‘dong’ at the end of this lap and declare I was done. Because I was. I was done….
But just as that thought went through my head I had a voice message from a very emotional Lisa saying how proud she was of me and just to keep going out until I didn’t make that hour anymore. This was following a voice message from the coach basically saying how proud she was of me and to keep pushing. So there it was, ready to stop. I would get back to complete lap 20 with 2 minutes to spare – so I decided I would go back out and finish this on course. I wasn’t been defeatist but I knew I didn’t have it in me to complete another lap in the time I needed to. So after a very quick top up of water and a swig of coke off I went on lap 21. With another one of my support team videoing me going out he was cheering “just one more Andy!”. I looked back and said this will be my walking lap and off I walked into the distance pondering my thoughts….
I had always stated that I wanted to finish on course and I would always attempt my last lap. But within 2k of walking (as fast as my body would allow!) this lap, I quickly realised there was no chance of me making it back just walking. So I tried the good old Ironman shuffle but my body was having none of it, and I was very soon walking again.. At this point I made the decision not to go any further and turn around and head back to the start/finish line. Speaking to Lisa on the phone on the way back and we both agreed it was a great journey. I had achieved more than I thought was possible and I was happy with how my ‘race’ went and the decision made – no regrets. At the finish line I was greeted with even more support crew but unfortunately, they would only see me bang the gong to confirm I was DNF. Extremely pleased with the achievement 20 laps and 130k much more than expected and I come away with huge memories !
Lessons learnt / post event reflection: A longer build would of been nice but with my niggle this wasn’t possible. Have a more simple food plan. ‘Keep it simple stupid’. ;-p Do what’s necessary to make sure that I continue to eat throughout the event. Always thank your support crew. Always.
What now – Most would probably see this as a ‘bucket list’ event. Do one and that’s enough! But I am already planning my next Backyard Ultra (yes call me crazy!). But for now some time off to get this niggle under control so I can start back ready and raring for my second attempt!
My go to foods – I remember having a bowl of rice which tasted amazing and I enjoyed my dates and peanut butter. Lollies kept me company late on but 3 cans of coke in the later laps certainly helped. Tailwind was my go to liquid calories and I was taking on 170ml most laps and sipping on electrolytes during transition. The main thing – trial in training what you plan to do on event day. And keep your options open!
Thank yous – Heaps of these!
Support crew – Lisa was amazing this was not possible without her. She had everything covered and nothing was too much. Her motivation was incredible.
Coach Sarah worked hard with me at something that was new to her too. Between us we smashed it and her knowledge and expertise was always there for me to call on. I am sure my journey doing future Backyard Ultras will be very successful too.
To all the people that came out and gave up their time to see me for maybe 10 minutes each lap thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Seeing friendly faces made all the difference.
And lastly to all the people that followed our live feed and updates and for all the motivational comments that was left. I have loved reading and reflecting post event. And I’m sure I will again in my next prep!
Finally – When you think you are done, go and do just one more lap……..