Finish Line Feels! Ironman Australia

“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…..

JANELLE:

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 !

SET YOUR GOAL. DEFINE YOUR WHY. DETERMINE YOUR SUCCESS

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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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)
  3. 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…..

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

How to nail racing overseas

“Wooohooo BOOM I did it coach! 1.28.56 (50 second PB) And a podium  to top it off. So happy thank you coach you got me the goal we were searching for!!” ~Athlete Andy Rogers

Now this is the kind of message you like to read on waking up on a Monday morning! Andy executed his race plan to a tee, and his hard work paid off.

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There’s nothing quite like a race in a different country / city you have never visited before. The excitement of deciding what to pack, the nerves of travel, the research, the sightseeing when you arrive. Preparing for a race in a different time zone is not only exciting it is also more challenging in managing the long haul travel, the stop overs, the and the jet lag. Ensuring an athlete is able to recover from the travel and feel fresh and ready on race day can be the most challenging part of an overseas travel prep. Last week, we had not one, but two athletes head over for the San Fransisco Half Marathon, and they not only nailed their preparation, they nailed the travel AND their races. Three from three! Read on to find out how their races went….

ANDY ROGERS: 1:28.56, PODIUM –  3RD M45-49!

CPC: Tell us, what was the San Fransisco Half Marathon like? One word – AMAZING! It’s such an incredible city and we had an amazing time. I love being able to incorporate our love for travel with our love for fitness and racing.

A 6.15am start made for our first race starting in the dark, but when you are doing it in a city such as San Fran, it is actually truly spectacular. 6000 Men and Women all with their own stories to why they were led to a very exciting start line in San Francisco. For me, it was about two things: my own achievement and trying to reach my own goals, but also celebrating an event with our overseas family (I’m from the UK but now live in AUS). The 6 all entered the race, and all had our own journeys to get to this day, and it was very emotional and for us to be able to stand together at the end of the race with our medals. It was the greatest feeling ever and something that we all will never forget.

Course highlights:

  • The Golden Gate Bridge – running over this iconic bridge was something!
  • Flaghill – where soldiers held flags every 10 meters cheering you up the very steep hill, gave you goosebumps.
  • The 190mt downhill finish line with 100’s of spectators cheering you home was simply incredible!

CPC: SOOO: Tell us, how does it feel to PB and podium in the same race, seems you nailed it?! 

On a personal front, I ran a pretty much perfect race plan from start to finish. Sticking to a plan and never losing sight of it, even with some very testing hills to challenge me on the course. I went in searching for a PB and PB is what I got! 1.28.54 (50 second PB) 3rd age group, 50th overall. 🙂

As much as being able to achieve your own goals is amazing, being able to share these kinds of experiences with loved ones is simply incredible.

 

CPC: As an athlete that isn’t getting any younger, you still seem to manage to be improving. What do you think has been the biggest contributor to this?  And how has having a coach helped with your achievement?

ANDY: There are a number of factors, including my diet – nutrition plays a big part in being able to fuel your body correctly and recover  well to gain maximum performance. My training program (although I had to manage an injury late on) has been perfect. Low k’s generally looking after my (older) body and listening too it. Not been afraid to call a rest day or to cut a session short.

Practicing my race day nutrition in training sessions and setting out a detailed race nutrition plan was important to ensure I had dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s. Like I said before my race was THE PERFECT RACE, I don’t think you get a whole load of these in your life, but it really was spot on, and I can thank my coach for that!

Having a coach on TAP has just been amazing and crucial to my continued performance. Without a coach I wouldn’t have been able to make adjustments to my plan with my knowledge, so having a coach has just made it so easy. To be able to drop a text or a quick phone call to ask a few questions which is then discussed and an answer to a question quickly resolved.

The last 3 weeks was very testing with the onset of a niggling injury, but there is no way I could have made it to the start line in the shape I did and made the wise choices I made without the support of Sarah. Just like my IM achievement under her guidance, ‘WE’ achieved this PB. Thanks so much Coach for your continual support, you are amazing and know exactly how to get the best out of me and I cant wait to set and achieve my next goal with you!

LISA GROVE 2:28.11, sub 2:30 goal achieved, along with loosing 13kg! 

CPC: Just a few short months ago you weren’t able to run 5km without stopping, and now you’ve just smashed a half marathon! How did you find the training, and the race itself? 

LISA: I’m not going to hide the fact that I didn’t particularly enjoy running, I found it a tough slog. But since I decided to do the San Fran half marathon I’ve had no regrets, and dare I say now enjoy running?! 🙂

During my training plan with Sarah, I’ve shredded 13 kilos and over 55cm in my measurements. This has helped make running a lot easier that’s for sure! Not having ran for years apart from run / walk park run, there was only one place to start. 5k run walking we continued to gradually build on that each week until two weeks out from race-day I ran a 19km training run and knew I was ready! The thought of that extra 2.1k didn’t worrying me at all, but the hills I knew I had to tackle did. I had to mentally prepare myself for what was going to be a hilly course and this was the only thing that was going to stop me in my goal chase. But it was never going to happen my mind was in the right place my pre race build was perfect and we were ready to do it come the gun.

Sarah talked me through some great strategies to try if things weren’t going my way on race day (luckily i didn’t need these) so I just focused on hitting each of my race day targets – to slowly run all the hills, then as got to come back over the bridge I could have a quick walk to reset (12km mark) then walk through the last couple of water stations where I needed.

CPC: What did you find the most challenging about your journey, along with the most rewarding?

LISA: The most challenging part of my journey was running at a weight that was uncomfortable but of course the most rewarding part of my journey was losing those kgs, beginning to enjoy running again and feeling great and comfortable. And being able to share this experience of training and running with my partner Andy and being able to make him proud of me and my sister/coach proud of me, makes all the blood sweat and tears worth it. Who knows one day I may just think about doing a full marathon…. but not on a hilly course lol.

CPC: And the result? !

LISA: Sub 2:30.!!! Get in there.!!! Far out the hills were nuts.!  1km in and a big hill climb, 6kms in and another big winding hill climb, a gradual hill up both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge plus another big hill 1km from the finish line! But the views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline for almost all of my run kept me going. The support along the course was brilliant and the support of Andy and his family at the end cheering me down the last hill got me to my sub 2:30 goal! Thanks heaps coach you’ve helped me 100% to get me to the start and finish line of this race. And hopefully many more to come. Thank-you so so much for all your help, support and guidance.

Full details and race results here. 

Athlete Profile: Faz Zamani

A self confessed endurance junkie, Fazzy / The Faz / Fazzo loves the outdoors and a good challenge !  Oh and not to mention a long lost Persian warrior Princess!! 

Name: Farinaz Zamani (Faz)

Nickname: I have so many! Fazzy, The Faz, Fazzo, Faztastic, Fazzles… you get the drift! 🙂

Lives: Brunswick, Victoria

Sports growing up: Swimming! My mum used to take me to swimming every week when I was really young and growing up in Iran. It was the only sport you could do really as a girl and only at private pools where no men were allowed and only female teachers could lead the class. Loved it and I’ve always had a soft spot for it 🙂

Chosen sport nowKind of two sports: Cycling – though not sure it’s a choice as much anymore. Secretly I would choose running over cycling, but don’t tell anyone! 🙂

Years in Sport: Running – about 4 years and cycling about 3. I dabbled in triathlons in between as well.

How did you get started in the sport: started running after I did a freakout entry into my first triathlon race! It was also part of massive weight loss campaign where I ended up losing close to 40kgs. In training for my first triathlon race I started to fall in love with running and went on to run four marathons (Melbourne, Paris, Berlin and Chicago). After a while I stated to really enjoy the cycling leg of triathlons as well and continued that into recreational road cycling.

Why I choose CPC: Because Sarah is the best! And also because she has coached me for a very long time and I have always found her guidance and support paramount in my ability to excel as an athlete and as a human 🙂

What is your ultimate goal? Ohhhh good question. I used to be very goal oriented when I first started becoming active. Not sure I concentrate on set goals as such anymore (e.g. races and PBs). To be honest my ultimate goal would be to enjoy an active and healthy life 🙂 Secretly I would love to one day run all five world major marathons – I have NYC, London and Boston to go.

Running / Cycling in 3 words: Running = freedom, solitude, endorphins! Cycling = mates, adventure, fun!

What couldn’t you live without: Oh god! Um … do I have to choose one thing? My family for sure! And maybe sparkling water 🙂

Biggest love: Travel! Even if it’s a quick weekend adventure. If I spend too long in one place I start going a little crazy. I have to get out and about and see/experience the world! #sagittarius

Pet peeve: People who speak during a movie in the cinemas. Not cool.

Guilty pleasure: This is a weird one and doesn’t tend to happen often but on a rare occasion when the planets align I get to do a workout early in the morning (running or cycling) and I come back to have enough time to shower and get back in my PJs and back into bed for a sleep in. DON’T JUDGE ME! ;-P

Interesting fact about meWhen I am super tired and sleepy I like to play with my ears. I know – I’m weird. Oh and apparently my great great great grandfather was a tribal leader of some sorts back in the day during the Persian Empire – so I think I’m some kind of Persian warrior princess! 

Shameless plus – how can we follow you?
IG: @fzashni – my gram is mostly cycling related but I have that same handle for my twitter account which is a lot more Human Rights oriented! Whatever floats your boat – would love to connect 🙂

Fire up your training

You’ve been training for a few years now, results happened quickly, improvements kept coming, you felt unstoppable, riding the high of your triathlon successes. But as quickly as the results came, you suddenly feel like your improvements are slowly withering away and your shot at another PB seems like a distant memory. You keep training but your body just doesn’t seem to respond like it used to. Paces seem to be faltering, or even slowing down, energy and motivation wavering, race results diminishing. Does this sound like you? Good news is – you are not alone. Most athletes hit a plateau at some point in their training. We often see it in athletes after 2-3 years in the sport, but it can happen at any time. So with some understanding, practical tips and know how – you can smash through the plateau and be back on your way to your next PB in no time.  

What is a training plateau? 
Firstly, to understand why you have hit a training plateau, we must understand what it is.  When you put your body under physical exertion or physical stress (training), it creates a multitude of physiological responses at a cellular level in your body. Once the body is stimulated by the stress (training) it then goes through a process of adaption to meet the demands of the stress. As adaption occurs, the body is then better equipped (adapted) to handle the training load and it therefore becomes easier (ie you become faster / stronger / more efficient).  

Training increases must then be applied to elicit further physiological responses in the body and to continue improvement. This can be done in a number or combination of ways including increases in frequency, duration and/or intensity. If not, or if you don’t allow the adaption process to occur (through over training or under recovering) then your body will undoubtably hit the dreaded training wall plateau.  

Hitting a training wall or plateau is a frustrating part of training that most athletes will unfortunately experience at some point. The key is recognising it and making changes so you don’t find yourself stuck there and treading water for too long. So if you are consistent with your training, but have stopped seeing the results, try these practical and effective tips and training methods to smash your way through that training wall plateau and reap some serious results (and PB’s!) as a result.  

1. Don’t just train more
I put this first, as it’s often the ‘go to’ for athletes if they find themselves in a plateau. This can often be the worst thing you can do, especially if you have hit that wall due to over training or under recovering in the first place. Overtraining generally leads to fatigue, injury and/or underperforming, all that go hand in hand with hitting a plateau. So if you find yourself in this situation, don’t immediately just train more. Yes it’s important to be disciplined and consistent with your training, but it’s also crucial that you pay attention and listen to your body. If you have been training consistently, then look at other signs and reasons as to why you have found yourself in a plateau (read on). More training doesn’t necessarily equate to better results.  

2. Get the balance right
How much you train, and the type of training you do over time, along with the amount of recovery and/or the recovery methods you employ will all help ensure your training keeps progressing. A well-developed training plan/program will incorporate frequency, intensity and duration to elicit a specific physiological response at specific times in your training. Training increases are needed for a progressive overload but it is the amount of overload applied to the body that is the key. Too much and you risk injury, illness and over training, not enough and you won’t get the physical response to improve. To continue to see improvements, your training plan must stimulate the body at the new fitness level. Adaption then takes place again (the plateau) and so the process then continues. If you get to a point where you aren’t coming out of your plateau, then review the frequency, intensity and duration of your sessions to ensure a continued improvement. Sometimes it can mean not quite having the balance right or at the right times that sees you landing in a plateau for longer than planned.

3. Mix it up
One of the reasons you may have hit a plateau is because you are stuck in the same training routine. That training routine may have worked well in the past, but it doesn’t mean it is right for you now. Our bodies are very smart and extremely good at adapting to outside stress, so if you don’t mix things up, it can not only affect your results, but it can also affect your motivation too. So make sure you mix things up every now and then. It doesn’t have to be drastic, but just by changing up a block or period in our training such as backing off your running and bumping up your riding can freshen up your run and boost your ride at the same time. Or if you are always prescribed an aerobic, high volume training program, try adding some more intensity into your training. You may even want to try and flip things around, start your build with some intensity, and then move back to aerobic and strength. Remember there is always more than one way to achieve results. So don’t get stuck in your ways. Change it up and then monitor your results to ensure you are getting back on track.

4. Embrace recovery
If you are one of those athletes that fears taking a day off training, you are actually more susceptible to hitting the dreaded training wall plateau.
A body grows and becomes stronger and faster AFTER it has adapted to a training stimuli. So the amount of rest and recovery you give your body is just as important as the training itself. Without sufficient recovery, over time your body won’t be able to absorb the training load and make the adaptations to increase performance.
Think of this process like climbing a staircase. You can’t keep climbing at the same rate and the same intensity forever. At some point you will need to stop and rest so you can recharge and keep going. That’s what recovery days / sessions allow. A chance for your body to recharge so you can then hit your next sessions stronger.  So if you are constantly fatigued, sore, or not hitting your target times or efforts in training, there’s a good chance that you are simply not giving your body sufficient rest and recovery. So listen to your body and back it off a little if you need. Try taking a day or two off to regain both your physical and mental strength. You may just be surprised with how taking just a few days off can actually help not hinder your training and performance. So don’t fear recovery sessions or days. Embrace them.

5. Go hard on hard days, easy on easy days
Far too many athletes spend time in the ‘grey’ zone. Sitting in that middle ground of training. I understand it, it feels like you’ve had a good work out, but still got some left in the tank, it’s not super hard, but not easy either. But there lies the problem. Each type of session has a purpose at specific times in your training build. If you are always training in that ‘grey’ zone, you will miss the benefits of building a sounds aerobic base and therefore stunt your maximum aerobic function (your engine!), and at the other end, you will never hit hard sessions hard enough to effectively improve your VO2Max – which is what every athlete should be aiming for. Plus another down-side – you are at an increased risk of over training and/or under recovering.  So know and have a purpose for every session you do. If the purpose is aerobic base development, train in that zone, if it’s technique, go slow and focus, if it’s VO2max or speed, go hard and fast. Save the tempo and threshold training for race specific sessions when they are needed, and they certainly aren’t needed in every session.

6. Include specific training blocks
Many athletes get stuck into the ‘3 swims, 3 rides, 3 runs’ routine and then find themselves stagnating in one or more of the 3 disciplines. To give your training a little boost, while still balancing your time and recovery, look at including a block of training which focuses on one or two disciplines for a specific period of time, not all three. As an example:
Plan a 6 week ‘swim’ block if you have found you aren’t making progress in your swim. You might still train 9 times a week, but the ratio may be 5 swims, 2 runs, 2 rides. Similar plans can be done for the bike and run.

7. Add a training spike 
If you feel like you train specifically, you tried the recovery, have a good balance but still feel like you are in a rut, the next step might be a training spike. A training spike can often come in the form of a training camp. Training camps provide a training spike through a condensed training overload over a specific period of time – generally from 3-5days. Your aim is to overload your training during that specific period, then allow sufficient recovery and you should see the benefits a few weeks later. You can choose to attend a specific training camp, or you can simulate your own at home. As an example, you might normally swim 3km on a Friday morning, ride 3hours in the hills on a Saturday and run 1hour on Sunday. A training spike over the same 3 day period may look like the following*:

Friday AM: 3km aerobic strength based pool swim
Friday PM: 45-60min easy technique focused aerobic run
Saturday AM: 4hour aerobic strength based hills ride
Saturday LUNCH: 2km easy recovery pool swim
Saturday PM: 60-90min aerobic strength based run
SUNDAY AM: 3hour flat aerobic ride
Sunday LUNCH: 45min easy technique focused run

*Keep in mind that everyone’s training load and demand is different. Depending on the time of the year and phase in your training program, your training spike might focus on increased frequency, duration, intensity or a combination of all three. It should also have a particular focus based on where you are at in your training such as aerobic strength base or race specific phase.

8. Plan a bi-annual /annual recovery phase
A sound training plan will build you up over time, aiming to peak you for your specific key race/s, then include a recovery or transition period where you enjoy some recovery and down time. Too many athletes are frightened of having time off after a key race for fear of loosing the fitness they worked so hard for. Yes – you will see some decline in fitness after a week or so, but it is necessary. If you don’t, you actually run the risk of under recovering. The key though is not stopping fully. In general, aim to move your body for fun, enjoyment and exercise – rather than viewing it as training. Try something new, jump on a mountain bike, sign up to a yoga class, go on a hike… the list is endless. The movement and exercise will help maintain some fitness while fast tracking your recovery. Our bodies can’t be at their peak year round, so take some time off after a key race to refresh physically and just as importantly mentally, and you will come back even stronger for your next race or season.  

9. Seek out a coach
When you started out in the sport, you may have been training yourself, joining in on group sessions or even following a template training plan. But as you progress, your training needs to progress too. So if you are serious about improving, it may be time to seek additional guidance through a Coach. A Coach can provide a training program that is periodised, with specific training blocks and cycles to help you get the most out of your training, and also leap you out of that plateau. Do some research on Coaches that provide individualised training programs designed for you. It will cost you a little more, but don’t underestimate the value a personalised coach who can add to your training and progression as an athlete. 

Although there can be a number of reasons for a training plateau, most of the time you can come out the other side with just a few small changes to your training, recovery or lifestyle to get you are back on your way. So instead of getting stuck behind the training plateau wall, listen to your body and make some changes to ensure you are back on your way to your next PB in no time!  

 

Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, 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.