Kona Konquered

Please forgive the time that it has taken me to write about the Ironman race in Kona, Hawaii. I was practising my recovery – sunbathing and relaxing instead!

Going to Kona and competing in the Ironman World Champs was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far. I can honestly say that I enjoyed it and am so pleased with my race. However, as you all know, I did find it difficult training over the winter and there were times when I was not sure if I would make it to the race or whether I would be able to finish well.

After I got back from the Ironman 70.3 World Champs in Mooloolaba, Australia, I got very sick again and had to take another 2 weeks off of training. By the time I got better it was only 2 weeks before I was due to fly to Hawaii and only 3 weeks until the big race. Needless to say I was very stressed and worried about how I would go.

One of the biggest battles I had was mental against my own perception of how well I thought I should do. I say should because I kept thinking back to March and my fantastic race and time in the New Zealand Ironman. I didn’t think that I would be able to race as well as that and that upset me. But once I reflected on my build up and accepted the training that I had been able to do I felt much better and was excited again about going to Kona.

Before I knew it, Scott and I were flying to Hawaii. Everything started happening so fast from this point on – except for the waiting around at airports and immigration parts!

When I stepped off the plane in Kona, my first thought was how unbearably hot it was! I desperately wondered how I was going to race in these conditions. However, once I had a few days of taper week training under my belt I started to adjust. I think the Hot Yoga and sauna work also paid off. More and more people started to flood into the town too, and I got more excited as the atmosphere grew.

Once I got an idea of how I felt training in the heat, I then thought about my race plan with this in mind. My main goal was to finish, but finish in a way that meant I could run the marathon part of the race. The next question was how was I going to do this? I needed to keep my biking within my limits, keep cool, and walk each of the run aid stations to get in all the fluid and food I needed. An important moment for me came when I was at the pre-race dinner and was watching a video montage about the race. All of a sudden I felt a sense of calm and with it came the knowledge that I was going to have a good race. “Good” meant that I was going to achieve the goals that I had set out in my race plan and the heat would not defeat me.

The night before the race I went to bed early like I normally do, but I was too excited to sleep! I woke up every hour until finally I got up at about 4am to have breakfast and make my way down to the start – along with over 2000 other people!

I was so paranoid about my bike tires deflating that I must have checked them about 3 times before leaving the transition area. Then I went back in a checked them again. Finally I went and got into my swim skin (no wetsuit for this swim as the water is too warm). My goal for the swim was to go hard and if I got anywhere near the 70min mark I would be very happy. I had done a practice race around the swim course and did that in about 72mins so I was hopeful that I could do better on race day.

The pros went first, followed by the men and then 10mins later the women. We swam out to the start line and tread water for what seemed like a very long time. It was very hard to stay in one spot as the currents moved everyone around and pushed us all together. I had no idea whether I was in a good position and thought I may be too far forward. Finally the gun went off and arms and legs thrashed frantically in the water, yet no one was moving forward. I think I may have been in the worst spot! I was stuck behind a bunch of women who were trying, and failing, to get around the surfer who was marking the start line.

Eventually I did get going but it was one of the worst, and vicious, starts that I have ever had. My race number tattoo was scratched off by the nails of other swimmers and I also had a big nail mark on the inside of my arm. The swim was the most physical part of the day and the part of the race that I did just want to be over as quickly as possible.

When I finally ran up the stairs out of the water I was so excited to see that I had done the swim in 71mins. The next task was to get through T1 and make sure I got everything for the bike. The biggest challenge was getting my arm sleeves on over wet skin, closely followed by finding a seat to sit on that hadn’t been peed on.

Even though it was only about 8:30am it was already getting hot! The bike was hard work even though I thought I was biking within my limits. It felt like I was biking into a headwind on the way out and while I was making good time, the heat, wind and effort were taking their toll. But I was looking forward to the tail wind on the way back and when I turned a Hawi I managed to do 5km in about 5:30mins! I even ran out of gears. But this didn’t last and after a short time it felt like there was a head wind again. So I focused on maintaining a steady wattage and not over exerting myself. Plus it looked like I was going to finish the bike in 6 hours and this was in line with what I expected to do. My actual time was 6 hours and 9 very annoying seconds.


I could also tell that despite putting on sunscreen in T1, I was badly sunburnt on my legs and a small section of my back where my top had ridden up. I now have a scalding reminder of the race – no need for an Ironman tattoo for me! I put on more sunscreen in T2 and headed out on the run.

The first 15km of the run was unbelievably hot! I immediately wished I was already at the first aid station so that I could get my hands on some ice. Anytime that there was some shade on the road I would run to it and stay in it for as long as I could. My goal for the run was simply to run it so I started out much slower than I normally would and if I could run faster later on in the race when the temperature dropped then I would. But for now it was run, aid station, walk, ice, sponge water, eat, run and repeat.

I resisted the urge to chase others as they sprinted up Palani Rd – a steep road by anyone’s standard – as I knew I would pass them walking later. When I reached the top I had a moment of pure joy as there was a long section of downhill to enjoy. Plus I could tell that the day was starting to cool off a bit. I couldn’t hide the smile on my face! However, the dreaded Energy Lab section was still to come.

As the sun was low in the sky, the Energy Lab was pretty uneventful for me. It was mentally challenging knowing that I still had about 16km still to do and a bit of an uphill to get home but there were still a lot of people around me and a lot of people still to come. So I enjoyed the small victories, like landing a basketball style shot into the trashcan without breaking my stride.

From there on I danced and high five-ed my way back to the finish line. The last 2km was all down hill and I decided that this was my time to shine. I sprinted so fast down that hill that I felt like I was going to fall over! At least felt like I was “sprinting “in comparison to the previous km. It was such a thrill as I turned onto Ali’i Drive and could hear everyone at the finish cheering and willing me to finish strong – in a total time of 11:34 hours.


And I would do it all again!

Thank you to Sarah Coales (my Coach) and Scott for believing in me. Thank you to Results Room Gym and DAC Beachcroft New Zealand for the financial support and to Kiwivelo for all the bike fits and selling me an awesome new Trek bike – three weeks out!


Half way there – Mooloolaba Ironman70.3


My first experience at racing in a World Championship event was definitely an eye opening experience for me. You may find this strange but I was reminded of when I first came to Wellington and started University. I had been doing well in events in my age group here in New Zealand but going to Mooloolaba for the Ironman 70.3 World Champs was next level, much like the transition from High School to University.

When I arrived on Mooloolaba Beach there were so many focused and fit looking people swimming, biking and running their way along the beach. Now I know that some were probably still making that fatal mistake of doing too much right before race day, but it was still intimidating.

Although one of the reasons why I was feeling intimidated was because deep down I wasn’t happy with my build up to this race. I got a chest infection a few weeks before the race which prevented me from training and I also had some personal events to overcome. This left me feeling fragile and under prepared. However, I tried to put that behind me and focus on getting myself into a good mind set before race day. I was actually really looking forward to a bit of summery weather, swimming in the sea, and some nice outdoor biking. I got all of that and some sunburn to boot!

When we arrived in Mooloolaba the heat and humidity took me by surprise. I had been doing a little bit of Hot Yoga to prepare, but the difference in temperature coupled with very high humidity made even a 30min jog a lot harder. That did make the sea very refreshing at least! The day before race day the temperature got up to around 27 degrees and the wind reminded me of back home. I thought that race day would indeed be a true “warm up” event before going to Kona!

Luckily when I woke up on Sunday morning the view from the apartment was like a holiday post card. As the sea was almost dead flat all that practice a body surfing went to waste! I felt relaxed and ready to go out and see what I could do and hopefully come away with some lessons to take into the next race.


As my age group start wasn’t until 7:55am I had a bit of a wait and got to watch the others go off first. I didn’t feel too nervous and when the time came for my age group to get into the water and swim out to the start line, I was ready along with about 170 others!

The start was a lot more chaotic than I was expecting! I had all the punching and kicking that I would expect with a bigger mass start. I even had to dive under the buoys marking the course as I had no space to get back on the right side of them. Now I really understand why people say that my age group is competitive! But in spite of all of that I was really pleased with my swim. This was only the second time that I had been back in the open ocean since training for the New Zealand Ironman. What I needed more re-training in was getting out of my wetsuit! I felt like I took ages getting out of it and onto my bike.

Once I was out of the water an on the bike I focused back on my race plan and how I was going to keep an even wattage throughout the ride of 170W. After the last Ironman70.3 that I did I think I may have biked a little too hard and burnt out on the run. This time I really wanted to have a good run and, in turn, control things on the bike.

The first 40km or so of the bike course is out and back along the Sunshine Motorway. So to start with it was quite fast, but I was a little disheartened about how soon the later age groups started to pass me – there must have been some very fast swimmers in those groups! Still if I kept up this pace I knew I was going to do a good time. However, at the turn to come back along the motorway I was confronted with quite a strong head wind. I thought this area was meant to have light winds! Still, nothing like the wind in Wellington! But it did bring the speed down a bit.

The second half the course was in the hinterland (the land behind stuff…). I had driven this part of the course a couple of days ago and was prepared for a very steep hill about 55km in. I hadn’t biked up it before but was confident that everything would be ok – I train in Wellington after all. But even in my easiest gear it required my whole body to get up the hill. There were people in front of me who looked like they were going to stop and fall off…so I yelled at them to keep going. If someone have of stopped we would all have to and then we would had to walk the rest of the way. I must admit though, it was quite amusing watching everyone reach the top and SLOWLY start the decent because their legs were buggered!

I really enjoyed the rest of the bike course after that. There were hills but it felt more like what I am used to and I could surge up the hills and use my strength to my advantage. My legs also felt good and I hadn’t tired them out. I was feeling positive and I wasn’t even bothered by the heat. I was ready for the run.

I started out for the first few kms at 5min pace. This was on purpose so that I could build into the race. In past races the middle part of my runs has suffered a bit, so I was hoping that this would be the cure. I was able to hold that pace quite comfortably for about 3km and then I started to pick up the pace, but man it was hot! I started chucking ice on me almost straightaway. There was also a decent wind on the run that made the 5km back to Mooloolaba Beach a bit of a challenge. I got to the end of lap 1 and I hadn’t really been able speed up by as much as I had hoped. Still I thought that if I did under 1:45hrs that would be ok.


My body was not so accommodating to that plan. I started slowing down even more, I tried to eat and drink but that didn’t seem to be the issue. I felt hot, but also cold and started to shiver when in the wind. This feeling was all too familiar and I didn’t want to end up sick and in shock and the end of the race so I decided that the best thing was to ease off and just focus on finishing. Still, I couldn’t help a bit of a sprint finish to make sure that I finished in under 5:30hrs.

A day after the race I was coughing up phlegm and had a nasty cough. So that might explain why I started to feel rubbish during the race. I have now spent another week off training and am desperately trying to get better so I can get back to training for Kona. But the race was a good experience and it gave me a bit more insight to what it might be like when racing in Kona – but that will be on another level yet again!

I do hope that there is a “Chocolate Country” in Hawaii as well – this was the best thing about the hinterland. It made for a good all round recovery. Check out more photos from my race and trip on my FaceBook page.


I’m about to drop a bombshell…

I think I am allergic to chocolate!

Life is over!

I came to this realisation while trying to find out why my hay fever is so bad and affects me all year round. Readers – I warn you, you may find this post a bit gross.

Hay fever is not new to me. I have been plagued by it since I was about 11 years old. I have not so fond memories of wanting to scratch my eyeballs out because the itching was so bad. But because my Mum was quite cheap, and we only went to the Dr when things were really bad, it took me until my mental breaking point before asking her if I could have some medication. The sense of relief when the eye drop hit my eye ball was amazing!

Flash forward to University and my move to Wellington. My itchy eye ball symptoms went away and were replaced by a runny nose. At first I didn’t think this was so bad, after all, it is not that hard to blow one’s nose – just not that great for finding a boyfriend. Plus it was also only during the hay fever season. But it slowly got worse and more constant.

I started taking some medication again and this provided some relief but it never really fixed it. Plus buying over-the-counter drugs was expensive! I then figured out that I could get a prescription from the Dr and this cut costs down a bit and I was happy for a few more years.

I hear you asking “but how does this relate to Kona and triathlon?” Well, the more serious I got into my running, and then into triathlon, the more time I would be spending outside and the worse my symptoms got. I was now symptomatic all year around. It was also a struggle trying to breathe while training and I would have to constantly clear my nose. I suspected that this could also be one of the reasons why I am prone to getting the stitch. But that is a topic for another day.

Still, I soldiered on and kept taking medication to no avail.

Dreamstime photo – pretty!

The next thing that happened was that I would have blood in my mucus. I was initially quite concerned about this, but my Dr did not share my concern and said that sores don’t really heal in the nose because of the moisture and every time I blow my nose it reopened the sore. I went with this for another year or so.

This was until I started thinking that it might be diet related. After I joined Results Room I would occasionally participate in Real Food Challenges where I stopped eating all chocolate and junk food. One of the unexpected benefits was that there would no longer be any blood in my mucus. Then after the Challenge was over I would go on a bender and the blood would return.

I started thinking about this recently as I was expressing frustration to my personal trainer at how my hay fever seemed like it was getting worse again this winter. My Dr was telling me that it was the colder weather that was making my nose run more, but I didn’t believe this to be the true cause. My trainer asked if I had thought about whether it wasn’t hay fever at all but perhaps an intolerance to a food group, or maybe that certain foods were making it worse? I did some research on this and while there is conflicting evidence on whether food affects hay fever, I was willing to see if my symptoms improved if I cut out the groups of foods that are known to cause allergic reactions:

  • wheat
  • dairy
  • soy
  • eggs
  • fish
  • nuts

The plan was each week to trial cutting out one of the above groups to see if it made any difference to my symptoms. At the same time I would also cut back on the chocolate because, let’s be honest, it is 5 weeks to Mooloolaba Ironman70.3 and I need to start acting like it! I also read on one website that chocolate is a histamine!!!!! This was obviously quite devastating news.

Seeing as I don’t eat a lot of wheat I thought that would be the easiest one to trial first and eliminate that. I noticed the blood did disappear but there was no other real effect on the frequency of my nose blowing. The second week I tried cutting back on dairy. The night before I stared I had some cheese, yoghurt and milk as part of my dinner. Not because I was being rigorous about my testing, just because that was what I wanted to eat. That evening as I was trying to sleep I felt particularly blocked up and I had difficulty sleeping (but the pin had not yet dropped). The next day I had eggs and avocado on toast for breakfast and went to work. It was quite remarkable the difference I felt. That evening I made sure to have no diary in dinner and I was much clearer going to bed.

So it looks like diary and sugar might be the culprits for aggravating my hay fever/intolerance. I will have to keep up the non-diary diet for a little longer to be sure. But this conclusion is bittersweet as I love yoghurt almost as much as I love chocolate. In fact, it is what I turn to when I am trying not to eat chocolate. It is also quite mentally challenging thinking that I can’t have something. I guess that means I have to change my mental mind set – a common theme with anyone that is trying to eat healthy and/or lose weight – from “I can’t have it” to I should eat something different”.

But will this stop me eating chocolate? I think we all know the answer to that question 🙂


Heart A Cat/Kittiac Arrest

I started out writing this post thinking that it was just going to be a brief recap of my race over the weekend. However, it turns out that there was much more going on just to get to the start line on Sunday.

So, on Sunday I ran in the Wellington Half Marathon. It was my first event/race in some time and, to be honest, I was a little bit excited! I wasn’t sure what time I would be able to do, but that didn’t really matter as I had only entered a couple of weeks ago because my coach thought it would be a good idea to get back into a bit of racing.

So needless to say, while I am about 2 months into Ironman training, I haven’t been doing any specific half marathon training. Hence, this race would just be a good test of where I am at. It would also be a prime opportunity to test how my heart responded under stress.

A few weeks ago I noticed that my heart rate readings were shooting up to 220bpm. Now I normally have quite a high heart rate when racing and doing hard training, but these readings were beyond belief! I was seriously worried that I might be about to have a heart attack! Now I’m not prone to overreacting, I did check my HR monitor, change the batteries and try a different monitor, but I wasn’t able to rule out that it could be something else.

The thing was, during some of my hard runs I would feel like I was going to vomit and that my heart was going to jump out of my chest. This happened to me after a race when I was warming down and almost walking. However, at other times that it occurred I didn’t feel any symptoms.

heart rate
“Easy” run – can you tell when I start running downhill?

I decided to go and see a cardiologist and get some accurate testing done to put my mind at ease. Plus, I didn’t want to get to Kona and have the heat make any issue even worse. In some ways the comment that the Dr made about my heart rate monitor generally being reliable made me feel better. At least I wasn’t being paranoid!

The first thing that we did was a treadmill test, but I was too tired from training to stay on it long enough to send my heart into overdrive. Plus they kept ramping up the incline every minute. The good news was that everything appeared normal, but to be sure the next test was to wear a proper holster monitor during a hard run.

So I turned up to the Half Marathon with electrodes stuck to my chest and wires coming out from underneath my t-shirt. Perhaps I should have been wearing a Heart Foundation t-shirt? In spite of all of that I felt relatively confident of doing a good time. As I mentioned in my last post, doing Junk Free June had given me a new sense of motivation and I was feeling the positive effects of eating well for a couple of weeks.

I did have one hick-up – my alarm didn’t go off and I woke up at 7am! No big deal in terms of getting to the start line in time, but would it be enough time for my breakfast to digest? I planned to get up at 6am to ensure I had plenty of time for this. I had a smaller breakfast to compensate and hoped I wouldn’t get the stitch. Things seemed positive as I warmed up, I felt relaxed, and there was no sign of a stitch. I think it also helped that I wasn’t treating this race too seriously.

I planned to go out at 4:45min/km pace and build up after about 3kms. This worked for me last year when I got my PB of 1:32:20. There was a northerly wind, but it wasn’t strong at this stage and I hoped that it would stay that way. I watched everyone passing me at the start, I was secretly judging them all and feeling smug that I would pass them later on. I have to think this way as a deliberate tactic so that I don’t get caught up in the race start.

After about 3km I put my foot down and start to pass all those who had gone out too fast and then set my sights on picking off people one by one. I passed through the 5km mark in 23mins and then half way in 48mins. So I was on track and speeding up. I told myself that now was the time to dig in a bit deeper, get the negative split and get home under 1:35hrs.

But the weather had a different idea and when I came back around Evans Bay I was taken back at how strong the wind was! I tried to catch up to people and run with a group, but every time I drew level the person would sprint away. Then I would catch up again and we would repeat this game. Come people, lets work together and we will all be faster! By the time I came back around past Freyberg Pool I was fading and was just holding on.

On a positive note, I was practicing eating my Clif Shot Bloks at pace and I didn’t get the stitch.

I forced my way up the ramp onto the Westpac Stadium concourse and tried for that sprint finish despite the wind forcing me back.


1:37hrs later I crossed the line, missing the rain, but it was a much harder run that I had originally thought it would be. My calves are still recovering! However, hopefully I got some good heart rate readings and fingers crossed for when I get the results later this week.

Even on Tuesday, back at the gym my muscles were still feeling the effects of the weekend. I had to shoot a ball into a target during my personal training session at Results Room and for every miss I had to do a sled push length of the gym (my trainer did this because I had been complaining about doing deadlifts every week). Whatever, that’s not that hard – well it is when you miss a few! This drained all the strength out of my legs, but there is no (complete) rest when training for an Ironman! In saying that, I secretly loved it! I’m a big fan of the sweaty gym sessions as they make me feel like I have really worked out.

I was also channeling The Rock at the time. I have downloaded The Rock Clock so I can wake to the docile tones of The Rock signing “Good morning sunshine” to me. He then gives a daily motivational quote and picture – usually a ripped gym-going photo.

Guns guns guns guns (from The Rock’s Instagram)

Sweet dreams everyone. Less than 8 hours to go before The Rock wants me to get up and train for Kona – what did I tell you, no rest for me!

Getting over chocolate, again

Warning. This post is about chocolate…and then breakfast.

Forrest n Boh

At the beginning of the month I had to give myself a good talking to. I was about a month into training and I was acting like I wasn’t going to go overseas in a few months and race an Iroman in ridiculous heat, knowing that no matter what I said out loud I would still secretly want to do well.

So why was I then stuffing my face full of chocolate again? I think the answer, as always, was tied up with my mental mind set. Perhaps it was the onset of daylight savings and the cold, dark winter mornings, but I was feeling very unmotivated. I still think that I can eat whatever I want and I will be able to just train it away, then when the weight does not shift I get more and more depressed. Then the vicious cycle begins of hating that I can’t control my addiction and eating more chocolate (and other food) to make myself feel better, and not actually feeling any better because I am failing in my main goal.

I had heard about Junk Free June and knew a few people who were doing it. I didn’t really feel the need to join in. However, on 2 June I bought a chocolate bar and suddenly thought “I don’t need to eat this today. Why don’t I see if I can make it to the end of the month without eating it?” This seemed like an impossible thing to do at the time, but I think what I was looking for was a goal to work towards.

That sounds silly as I am going to Kona and should be working towards that. However, at the time it just seemed too far away and mentally I wasn’t able to commit to it. So I committed to a smaller short term goal instead that I knew I could use as a stepping stone to mentally prepare myself for the hard winter months of training ahead.

What do you know, I’m half way through and it is working! Not only have I regained some control in the way I eat, but I am also enjoying my training again. So what started out as a bit of a joke is now turning into something much more serious. And hopefully I’ll be able to raise a little bit of money for charity in the process! – see https://nz.junkfreejune.org/donate/participants/

I have also been keeping a food diary for the last 6 weeks, which is something that my gym – Results Room – encourages. While doing Junk Free June was a good was to reinvigorate my determination towards competing in Kona, I was also interested to see if there were any patterns in my eating habits that were causing the chocolate binges. I know that this is something that I have talked about before, but I don’t think that I fully understand why I binge the way I do when I’m not focused on a competition goal.


The answer may lie in my breakfast. Now I’m not knocking what I eat for breakfast as I think that it is actually quite a good breakfast. The problem seems to be that I just don’t eat enough of it, particularly on training days where I don’t adjust my intake for the amount of work I have just done.

I discussed this with my trainer and came up with some simple ideas to add more to my breakfasts:

  • add a hard boiled egg (or two);
  • add a smoothie (berries, protein powder and milk);
  • eat a couple of Coconutty Balls straight after training before I get to my main meal;
  • add a scope of protein powder to my porridge.

The next day after my bike/run brick I made and ate my standard porridge and peanut butter mix (with a bit of cinnamon for natural sweetness and anti-inflammatory benefits) but I also ate a hard boiled egg. I had actually prepared two but was too full to eat the second one. Later that morning I was amazed at how full I felt. Usually by about 10am I am ravenous again. As I was going to the gym at lunch I had a further snack anyway. Later in the evening I was still feeling the effects of having a fuller breakfast and wasn’t searching for food after dinner.

What do other people do? I’d be interested to hear about what other people’s training breakfasts look like.

How to not fall over – take your watch off

Today I went for a run, but Strava doesn’t know that. So if its not on Strava then did it happen?


But the whole point of today’s run was to learn to respond to how my body was feeling and push my comfort zones without relying on technology to tell me how fast I was going and how far I had run.

I haven’t always run with a Garmin watch but once I have always wanted to know how long/far my runs were. This was the main reason why I bought my Garmin in the first place. When I broke it and had to send it away to be fixed before Ironman New Zealand, it was very stressful thinking that my watch/extension of me wouldn’t be back in time. How would I know my running pace and cycling wattage (things that I hear a lot about in other articles and training tip pieces)?!

However, running without it today was very freeing. For once I was able to just enjoy the run and take in the scenery without counting how many kilometers I had done, or putting pressure on myself to do a certain number of kilometers before going home.

During the week, all of my runs had been hard hill runs. So to tell you the truth, I was not looking forward to another hard hill run. Monday’s run was to keep my pace in the hills at 5min/km pace, then on Wednesday I was doing 6min tempo blocks where I was meant to build to 4min/km pace.  I did these work outs successfully but it was hard and I had to constantly check my watch for pace and time.

My coach and I had also decided that it would be better for me to now ride indoors during the week rather than take a chance on the weather being good enough to ride outside. My weekend rides were still meant to be outside and yesterday’s ride was a bit of a test. I did not think it was going to rain that hard and my enthusiasm for training drained away like the water pooling on my floor from my clothing. So the thought, of going outside again the next day was not invoking positive feelings.

Dreamstime image

But the sun shone today, the wind had dropped down, and I was able to run along one of my favourite tracks – the Highbury Fling. As another bonus, not running with my watch and being distracted by it meant that I could focus more on not slipping over in the mud! As a wise man once said to me – “you can wear any shoe as long as you have good balance”. So even though I was wearing my Altra road shoes, by making sure that my momentum and body weight was always forward and over my body when going downhill, I managed to come away mud free.

Now I’m not going to give up my Garmin totally, but running without it has definitely given me some positive insights into my training and my body.



Forrest showing me up

Since starting training again for Kona and Moloolaba, I have noticed that I have been getting really tight muscles. Particularly in my shoulders.

I’m not really sure why this is the case. Perhaps I am more stressed from work and life in general, or perhaps it is because I have been working on my swimming and have been engaging my swimming muscles (and hopefully improving!).

Either way, it has really brought home to me the importance of regular yoga and massage. I’m normally quite pressed for time in the morning after my training so I don’t actually stretch or foam roll after workouts. I have good intentions of doing so in the evening but I rarely do. So going to yoga once a week guarantees that I am at least going to get one good stretching session in. I go to The Yoga Lounge in Wellington as the instructor is fantastic and there is a stretch class on at 7am on Friday mornings – my rest day. As a result of doing yoga regularly I have regained some of the flexibility that running and cycling take away. Plus it is a great way of calming my mind from all of my thoughts – work and training related.

As I said, these last couple of weeks I have noticed my muscles getting even more tighter than normal. I started to find that it was getting harder to do the yoga poses and my flexibility was reducing. I obviously needed to do more than just a once a week stretch.

I guess that is also where massage comes in. I usually get a massage every fortnight and leading into Ironman I start trying to fit in weekly ones (I highly recommend Sporting Hands). However, the other week I had to miss my regular massage because of a work commitment. Boy – did I pay for it over the weekend! My body did not like waiting for its massage – it tightened up and was the worst it has ever been. To make matters worse, I could feel my heels starting to hurt again. This is usually a sign that the chain of muscles running up my legs and back are way too tight (but isn’t it weird how where the pain manifests is not necessarily where the problem is?)

I took this as a sign that I needed to try to do more stretching and foam rolling work myself. I rolled and rolled, I used golf balls and a cricket ball to try to get into my shoulders. I also have a smaller stick roller and I use the ends of that to get into my shoulders and the muscles around my collar bone. It was very painful at times but the trick is to actually relax into the pain rather than to fight it. The muscles won’t let go if you are trying to tense them at the same time. I thought I had done well, but the next day the pain in my shoulders was back. I kept trying to massage the tension out but it wasn’t working.

I finally got to see my massage therapist and she managed to fix the issues. But it was quite obvious that I was holding a lot of tension in my back and shoulders. As we were discussing this on the massage table I had a revelation that maybe it was a result of an improvement in my swimming technique – new muscles being worked that were not used to it.

I did feel much better after my massage but it did make it clear to me the importance of stretching and massage. Ideally I would have a massage every week. However, I am restricted by time so this means that I need to do more myself as by the time that my shoulders start hurting it is too late to fix it myself.

One other thing that I am going to try to see if it helps is to do a one-on-one yoga session to get some help with the poses so that I can do them properly at home.

So while it is great that my training is going well and I am seeing improvement, I can’t forget about the recovery part of training.


I’m back!

I haven’t had much to say or update you all with in the last month. Mainly I have just been eating chocolate. That would make a very short post!


For those of you who like me to talk more about my actual training and less about chocolate you will also be disappointed.

This time after the New Zealand Ironman I forced myself to have a decent rest. Now normally “rest” to me simply means that I don’t have a programme and I’m not training for a specific event. I instead start to do all the things that I was missing out on while training and competing in Ironman – such as fitting in a couple of 5km Waterfront Races (hopefully in sub-20mins) before they ended and then launching straight into the Harriers winter running season.

This year I actually took a few weeks off running. Two weeks after Ironman I went for a run but I was still just so exhausted. As it turned out this year it was much easier to take about a month off of doing exercise. I must have actually put all I had into the race because even getting through a day at the office was leaving me drained. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. One person likened it to draining a river completely dry and then waiting for it to full back up again – any time I did something it would drain the river before it was full.

I also had my commuting bike stolen on my first day back at work. I was planning on going for a cruise around the bays after work before fate intervened. So I then spent two weeks trying to sort out a new bike.

On top of that I was also trying to organise my trip to Kona and then a holiday in Hawaii afterwards. I found this quite overwhelming as there was so much to think about and organise – flights, flights times, how much time should I take off of work, insurance, RACING insurance, accommodation…then finding cheaper accommodation! Luckily there were plenty of people that I could ask for help.

Oh, and I did manage to fit some painting in. We freshened up both the inside and outside of our bach near Taupo. I tried to get some landscaping done at home, the gardens get a bit neglected when doing Ironman training, but manual labour is tiring! Chopping out tree stumps is a good cross training exercise though.

But time to now put down the chocolate and seriously thinking about training for the Kona Ironman.

This will be the first time that I have properly trained for an Ironman, or any triathlon, over winter. Since day light savings hit I have become all too well aware of the later sunrises and the shortening days. When I have gone out for a ride before work  it has also been much colder now that I am leaving home before the sun is up. However, one positive is that on fine calm days I am greeted with a beautiful sunrise – as long as I am in a place to see it of course!

Doesn’t get any better than this!

I’m sure I will be doing plenty of indoor bike sessions soon enough, so for now I’m making the most of being able to still ride outside while I can. Particularly as this week my programme is wanting me to “get used to hills” again.

As for the other disciplines, my focus for the swim is to improve my technique and times as the swim in Kona will be without a wetsuit. I don’t think I will be able to have quicker biking and running times in the Kona heat but it would be great to improve on my swimming.

So there we go, I was able to find something to write about after all!

As an aside, it has been suggested that I should change #sierra4kona to something more like #sierraiskona or #sierraisgoingtokona. What do you think? The first sets some high expectations!

I’m going to Kona – pheww!

Red bikes are fast…

As I past the woman in my age group who was previously in 1st place I thought to myself “I can’t believe it! I’m in 1st place! Can I maintain this for the rest of the marathon?” It was only 8km into the marathon part of the Ironman and I was feeling on top of the world. However, my supporters were telling me that I was in 2nd place…and then a woman in my age group past me. Sorry, she flew past me. I was left wondering what I was going to do? Had my Kona dream just crash landed back down to earth?

The day had started out so well. I was rested, confident and ready to race.

1538866_10154042122383487_1452198602602543344_n I had sussed out my sighting on the way out on the swim course and I was going to nail the swim this year. I made my way to the front of the swim group and held my position. I was so early into the water I thought the cannon was never going to go off…and then it did and chaos ensued. I got beaten up and dunked under the water. Chivalry is dead in an IM swim and it is every person for themselves. I puffed myself up and tried to make myself bigger and use my shoulders to my advantage and eventually I found space. However, I think this also meant that I had missed a good draft.

I made really good time to the half way mark and was confident I was swimming straight for once. However, when I turned around to come back it hit me that I had no idea where I was actually meant to look. The buoys were red but so were the sails on a yacht in the distance. There were no distinctive landmarks that I could make out and to make matters worse I had this funny feeling that I was swimming wide and crooked. When I went back and looked at my swim lines I was actually swimming straight, if perhaps a little wide. I felt fast and strong while swimming and came out of the water in 63mins. This was slightly faster than last year, but I think last year I must have gotten lucky with drafting of some better swimmers. Still, I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would catch everyone on the bike and run so I was not too concerned.

I sprinted up the road and into T1. This year I remembered to take my swim cap and googles off and had a speedy transition onto the bike.



I started cycling and got comfortable, no need to push things just yet. I made the mistake of pushing too hard up the first hill at Ironman 70.3 and I was not keen to experience those consequences again! The weather was great for cycling, hardly any wind and there was still cloud cover. I got into a steady pace and focused on getting out to Reparoa. The voices in my head were telling me I needed to make up time from the swim and catch everyone. My other voice of reason reminded myself to stick to my race plan and that if I didn’t I would be one of those people bonking on the run. I needed to believe in my abilities on the bike and run and know that I would catch the leaders in my age group through sticking to the plan. I also needed to remember to stick to my food plan. This race I carried all my food with me and had it pre-cut into 10min sized portions. I then just had to pick up water to keep my front drink bottle topped up which I then alternated with filling with OSMO sachets. They were fiddly to get into drink bottle but they did the trick.

Sure enough, after 45km I was back in a good position and still making my way up the field. The weather conditions continued to be favourable but the clouds were disappearing and all I could see was blue sky. I’m sure the spectators were rejoicing, but I was already thinking about ice and sunburn. Again, I pushed those thoughts aside and concentrated on the bike. Some people don’t like thinking of triathlon as three individual sports. But I find on race day breaking it down into the three components is a good mental strategy.

This was also the first time that I was able to put the power information that I had been collecting to use. I was still a little unsure about what wattage I should be pushing but decided that doing the fartlek sections of my bike around 180W or 3W/kg would be about right. I could then use the information from the race to build a more concrete picture of my ability. I had also been warned about pushing my power wattage too high.

I found some good space in the second lap of the course and was coming across fewer women to pass. Could I now be near the front of the group? The only thing I now had to contend with were over confident men who didn’t like being “chicked”. If you are ever in a race with me do not pass me and then slow down! Do you not know I’m going for a Kona spot? I have a blog and everything about it.

I had made such good time on the bike leg that I was going to come into T2 in under 5:30 hours (bike time was 5:26:07). I just hoped that I hadn’t actually pushed the bike too hard. I even cruised into transition because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to lift my leg over my bike and then some camera would get some awesome footage for how not to dismount. While, I didn’t fall off my bike, the run to T2 was more of a shuffle while the legs remembered what they were now meant to be doing. However, once I got those Altra running shoes on (I made sure I had a new pair for race day) I felt fantastic.

Everything is awesome!

I ran out onto the course and my supporters told me I was first..shortly followed by the announcer saying I was in second place! Still, I was elated, I didn’t think I had made up that much ground on the bike. My Kona dream was coming true! That fact probably made me feel even more amazing and I had to consciously rein myself in. I felt like I was easily running 4:45min/km pace and I genuinely thought I was going to maintain it for the whole marathon. I finished the first lap faster than I had planned and then reality hit in the form of a stitch. Those who run with me know that the side stitch is the bain of my running existence. I instantly regretted not remembering to do my diaphragm stretching and massage every night the week before. In the nights before the race I often remembered while trying to sleep that I hadn’t done them but thought “she’ll be right”. Wrong!

I had also trained on eating a Clif Shot Blok every 20mins and this had worked well in training. But because the day had gotten so hot I decided on the course to eat one at every aid station every 2.5km so that I could drink some water at the same time. It was only taking me around 12 mins to run between each aid station at that stage. In hindsight this probably wasn’t the best decision but it was just so hot that I needed to drink more as well anyway.

I needed to slow down and I was extremely conscious of the fact that there was a women in my age group who was not too far behind. I managed to almost another lap in 1st place (or 2nd depending on who you listened to) before she sprinted past me. I was dismayed thinking that I was now in 3rd spot and knowing that there probably were only two Kona spots like last year. My stitch had almost gone but I couldn’t match her speed. My coach told me it was now a mental game and I tried to dig it in – after all, who knows how this other mystery woman is fairing. I kept moving, kept drinking coke and kept pouring ice water all over me to keep cool. I just needed to hold off the others for a little while longer.

I reached the water front for the third and last time and still had not caught up to that other woman. Oh well, at least I will still get a trophy, but I may have to change my Twitter handle. I hit the finishing shute and got one last fright when I thought another woman was sprinting up behind me. While that turned out to be just my imagination, it did make me push to finish in 10:17:59 (run time was 3:41:47). No matter what the my placing was going to be I was truly happy with my time and I knew that I had raced the best that I could. I had after all improved on all three disciplines from last year and so had a new PB. However, that did not stop me from checking the results while getting a post-race massage and then finding out that I had indeed come 2nd! I almost cried, almost.

It is such a great feeling when a goal is met and you achieve something that you set out to do. It is never easy but it is rewarding. Again, there are many people who have helped me to achieve this. My coach – Sarah Coales – for another successful year and guidance, Ko Paranihi at Results Room Gym for keeping me strong, Nat Gaskin for passing on her knowledge (and proof reading skills), Tricia Sloan for making me run fast every Wednesday, Tash at Sporting Hands for the excellent massages, and mine and Scott’s parents for their support on race day.

Lessons learnt:

  • Next time I’m going to look for the land marks on the return leg of the swim before the race and not just focus on the start!
  • Sticking to my race plan and food plan works. I had an amazing bike because of doing so.
  • To stick to my food plan for the run. I don’t know if this is what gave me the stitch but I don’t think it helped.
  • Never give up – no one really knows what the result will be until you cross that finish line.
  • It will be too hot in Kona!

But for now I’m going to enjoy a break from triathlon and embrace some chocolate.


Let the Taper Begin!

The (final) countdown is on – T minus 12 days until Ironman New Zealand in Taupo on 5 March.

So how do I feel? 1. Exhausted 2. Ready to race!

Motivational poster

Last week was my last big training week and now I get to taper (relatively speaking). Last week was a total of 18 training hours. The sessions were starting to get a little shorter in duration but still with some up-tempo parts to them. I am definitely ready to taper and my body was sending me clear signs that it considered that it had done enough training: muscles were getting tight etc. But I have made it through training with no niggles.

You also know that it is taper time when the Athlete Start List comes out. Now, in one of my other blogs I talked about how I just need to focus on my own race and my own training as the pressure of qualifying for other races was proving a little too much. However, I could not resist doing a bit of analysis on the other women in my age group! Lets just say it is going to be a very exciting and close race and I need to bring my ‘A’ game.

It was also very motivating watching my friends race in the Challenge Wanaka Triathlon event over the weekend. They got amazing results and toughed it out in rough conditions. This sort of thing strengthens my own resolve and keeps my committed to my own goals.

So back to my training and what a summer it has been for training! To be honest this weather is a little too hot for me and there were times were I found myself audibly sighing while cycling just because it was too goddamn hot. This summer was also the first time I managed to get sun-burnt hands (note to self – do not forget cycling gloves and sunscreen on race day).

The downside to this great weather is that it was often too hot at night to sleep properly. I love my sleep and I like to go to bed early, however, often I would have to wait until late in the evening when the temperature had dropped. Luckily, I could usually nap during the day in the weekends to make up for it. Now if I could only figure out how to get away with it at work…

The other positive is that because I have been eating properly, both eating to train and eating well after training, the lack of sleep has not affected me as badly as it normally would. I am also now where I want to be weight-wise for the race and feel able to control cravings and focus in on what I need the food to do for me and let that be my guide for what to eat.

Normally when I “shred” for Ironman or other races this involves a substantial reduction in grains and an increase in good fats. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive I know. However, this time around that technique wasn’t producing the results it normally did. I think my body had cottoned onto the fact that I was forcing weightloss and then would put it quickly back on again after the race. As I said, now I am focusing on what I need to train and I tried not to worry too much about all these “diet” rules. So if I still had training to do I would eat some brown rice with my meals. I also still had a Friday afternoon flash guy hot chocolate from the Bohemian Chocolate Shop by my work. And the thing is, I still lost weight – slowly but surely – and I felt like I could still have the odd treat rather than banning everything in the lead up to race day.

These have been sitting in my cupboard for 2 weeks. The restraint!

One of the breakthroughs for me came after I read a blog by a psychologist who was talking about his own weightloss experiment.   He pointed out that if it was just as simple as calories in vs. calories out, then why are we all not the weight we want to be? It is all to do with our mental mindset and what happens when we deprive ourselves of certain foods- we make ourselves want them more and we only have so much will power. He did cut back on the carbs and junk food, sure. But he also focused on portions and letting himself have the occasional treat if he really wanted one. I thought this was a pretty good philosophy and the more I thought about it and the people I knew who had no body issues, it was because they had no food issues.

This is something that I hope to carry through after Ironman.

Next time you hear from me the race will be over – well, that one will be anyway! So fingers crossed and positive thoughts.