The element I love about the sport of Triathlon, in particular Ironman events, is that any shape, size, gender or ability can have a go on an equal playing field. Spectating or watching an Ironman is all it takes to catch the bug, planting a seed of when and where you next or first Ironman will be. The essence of our sport should continue to attract a wide array of individuals from varied backgrounds and abilities who are motivated by very different things. They might be motivated by Kona qualification, simply crossing the line, making others proud, making themselves proud, completing a PB or a particular time. With all the hype and excitement that comes with an Ironman event, there is also a “dark side”. The niggles, the fatigue, the grumpiness, the strained relationships, injury, bike or mechanical issues, impaired work performance, mood disturbances and other health concerns. With these dark side elements, considering tackling an Ironman should not be taken lightly. There is also a large financial investment to consider. With so many things to juggle and wonder if you are ready for an Ironman, I want to take you through what I feel are the key foundations of Endurance training, which puts you in the best position to tackle an Ironman, minimising the chance of injury, burn out, hormone imbalance and mood disturbances.

Before a baby can learn to walk they need to lay the foundations of movement. First they learn to lift their neck and use their spine, then comes rolling over from front to back, and back to front. Then they learn to crawl, stand and walk. For my recommendations below, I need you to harness your inner baby, embrace the baby steps, literally – because minute as they may seem – have the largest affect on Ironman success. Let me explain.

A consistent athlete will be a successful athlete. (Obviously success is defined differently for each individual). Illness and injury are the number one factors to derail consistency. To minimise your risk of illness and injury you need to lay solid foundations, no matter how small, insignificant or boring they may seem. With this in mind, I’ve come up with 8 key questions to ask yourself when considering embarking on an Ironman Journey.

Questions to ask yourself when considering an Ironman…

1. Do you have a clear and concise nutrition plan that will enable you to:
– recover from large training volume or intensity
– manage inflammation
– maintain hormonal health
– develop and maintain immunity
– assimilate sports nutrition
– maintain weight or achieve race weight goals.

I’m referring to a nutrition plan for day to day nutrition in the early phases of your training for Ironman. As these months will lay the foundations for optimal health.

If no:
Who do you need to help with the above elements? and what do you need from them?
Jot down some notes and options available to you, then take action!
I recommend seeking out a sports nutritionist that can provided individualised advise, based on individual needs, physiology and metabolism.

2. Do you have a plan to ensure you have optimal mobility, functional movement and physical function to prevent injury and enhance performance?
Yes: GREAT! What action steps do you need to put in place to ensure you maintain consistency with this? Jot them down.

No: Time to build a team! You will want to consider consulting with a Strength Coach, Myotherapist, Sports Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor.

I recommend starting with a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or assessment. This process will help identify current imbalances that may put you at heightened risk of niggles in the future. After your assessment a strength coach or Exercise Physiologist can write an individualised program targeting activation, mobility and strength. [See resources.]

3. Do you have a tailored training plan that is suited to your current ability, personal lifestyle needs and is specific to ensure success?

Yes: Fabulous! What action steps do you need to put in place to make the most out of this training plan or coaching relationship? Jot them down…

No: I would highly recommend investing in personal guidance through coaching and/or programming. Yes, I’m a coach so I’m biased. But even as a coach I seek the assistance of a mentor to support my training. We all need an expert who can be objective throughout an Ironman journey. It’s also a great learning tool. When seeing out training or coaching support, jot down a list of needs and wants so you can match these with potential coaching options that you find, it’s worth doing your research and dudillgence to get the right coach or plan for you right from the start.

4. Do you have a solid aerobic base?
There are many ways to define or measure this, so i’ll provide you with some key characteristics that indicate a solid aerobic base:
– ability to ride for 2-3 hours, predominately in zone 2 heart rate without crashing or bonking.
– ability to run for 75-90 min, predominately in zone 2 heart rate without crashing or bonking – ideally in the absence of exogenous fuel, indicating a sufficient level of fat adaptation.
– low level of aerobic decoupling (< 5%) when analysing long ride or run heart rate data (See resources)
– you can control your heart rate up and over inclines without having to slow your pace dramatically
– your sleep is not affected by training
– inflammation is low and recovery is high
– you can miss a few days training without feeling “unfit”

5. Do you have the support of others?
Ironman might be a solo sport but it takes a village to get you across the finish line. In the final weeks you will be tired, grumpy, short on time and fatigued. It’s important to have a discussion with the significant people in your life at the start of your Ironman journey. Communicate WHY this is important to you and how they can support you. It might be through doing extra things around the house, kid-sitting duties, cooking meals, or just a good hug when you’re tired and grumpy.
If the people close to you aren’t overly supportive, then you need to seek out people who are. You cannot do this alone. Whether its a coach, training buddies or other professionals – hey – maybe even a chef?!

6. Are your hormones happy?
Guys, this includes you. Unfortunately, Ironman training isn’t what the body is designed to do in it’s natural state. Which is why it’s such an achievement. With the training, comes physiological affects – some of which are very positive but others can be detrimental to your health. There are some crucial aspects of your health to consider when taking on an Ironman. I recommend consulting with an integrative practitioner [See resources] and conducting pathology tests as a base line, to gain an understanding of your current health status – with the knowledge that Ironman training could exacerbate any current imbalances. Some factors and tests to discuss with your practitioner are:
– General and cardiac heath: Blood lipids, Homocysteine, liver function and blood sugar (Hba1c)
– Thyroid and HPA-axis function
– Inflammation
– Sex hormones

Even without consulting a practitioner you can make yourself aware of how your body is feeling and general symptoms to get a better idea of your inner health. Areas of your life to pay attention too:
– Sleep quality and duration
– Ability to recover from training
– General fatigue levels
– Libido
– Mood and mindset or outlook on life
– Females: Menstrual cycle health – is it regular? do you suffer PMS?
– Females: Peri & Post Menopause – are symptoms affecting your training and results?
– Inflammation and/or niggles

7. Are you willing to make sacrifices?
This is a big one. Because Ironman will require sacrifices. Either by you or those around you – which is why point 5 is so important. If your drive, purpose and why are clear then making these sacrifices will be a no-brainer. But it’s still important to acknowledge the areas you may need to adjust in your life, such as;
– finances
– social life
– romantic life
– nutrition habits
– sleep
– work hours / balance

8. Do you know your WHY?
There will be challenges along your Ironman journey so it’s important to be able to tap into a deep level of motivation and fire in your belly during these times. I find that if athletes motivation for Ironman sits on a surface level, they struggle to get consistency and push through when the going gets tough. Your WHY needs to mean something to you, it needs to elicit a high level of emotion and motivate you intrinsically. Beating your best mate is not a WHY. Do you know your WHY?
Write it down, explore it, and remember it.

Now that you’ve read through these 8 questions, write down your key actions steps required to address each one. I hope this process then enables you to enter your first or next Ironman with confidence and clarity of the path ahead. Further to that, I hope this process inspires you to be a fit AND healthy athlete, instead of fit and unhealthy, which is unfortunately quite common.

Despite the sacrifices, fatigue, time and commitment required for Ironman, I can whole heartedly tell you it’s worth it. Running down that finish shoot hearing the words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” is a moment that will stay with you forever.

 

Inspired to enter an Ironman? We would love to help! We specialise in a sophisticated and individualised approach, read more bout that here, and book in a complimentary consultation with us here

 

Resources:
https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/aerobic-endurance-and-decoupling/
www.functionalmovementsystems.com.au
www.acnem.org.au

 

Written for, and published in Australian Triathlete Magazine 2017.

This is your first IRONMAN! How have you been feeling leading in?

I keep going through waves of emotion. From being super excited for race day to super terrified. I feel ready in terms of preparation but at times get scared of the unknown or things I can’t control. Then other times when I think about the way I will feel during the race, I well up with excitement and emotion and can’t bloody wait. I guess it’s pretty natural!

In terms of my body and health-I feel the strongest, fittest and healthiest I have ever felt. Which has surprised me. I expected to feel overwhelming tired almost everyday and I haven’t felt like that at all. I haven’t even needed a nap during the build! I have been sleeping pretty solidly at night though!

Have you done anything different in the lead up compared to previous long course races (other than longer km’s!)?

I’ve taken better care of myself in terms of recovery and nutrition. I’ve religiously taken vitamins for the first time in my life, to boost my immune system and have had regular chiropractic treatments and massages. I’ve also embraced the change in the style of weights training that I have always done and I really feel like all three disciplines have benefited from this – more of a power focus rather than muscular endurance and I think this has aided my body’s ability to perform during the training sessions but also recover effectively. 

What have you enjoyed the most in terms of training? 

I’ve really loved seeing the progression I have been making. I am not sure if I’ve ever seen so much progression in a relatively sort space of time in my training before and this has really helped my motivation to keep going. I hadn’t really understood Training Peaks metrics before this build and I have loved getting to understand this better which has helped me to take ownership and responsibility for my program, rather than just following along blindly. It has made me feel more like an athlete than just someone who swims, bikes and runs.

What challenges have you come across and how have you overcome them? 

I think I have been pretty fortunate to not really face too many challenges (outside of the usual fatigue and mental struggles during the long training sessions). However I run a couple of businesses alongside my husband and I guess the biggest challenge has been trying to fit the training load into my busy week. I’ve had some emotional times at work too over the last 6 months, so having to overcome the feeling of just wanting to sit on the couch and block out the world during these times was a challenge. My husband, Tom has been absolutely incredible throughout the whole build, gently nudging me to get my session done even when I really didn’t want to or work was stressful. He has reminded me throughout the whole build that this race is important to me and I needed to get the training done to feel ready on race day. He has also picked up some of the slack at both work and home and never made me feel bad about it. I’ve said it to a few people now but I couldn’t have done what I have during this build without him or his support. I seriously don’t know how people do it without a supportive and loving partner.

Ironman training is definitely a sacrifice for everyone in your immediate circle and they need to be fully on board for what it will take to get you to the start line and I would encourage anyone thinking about taking on the challenge to ensure they have discussed it with your partner and family and make sure they are on board. Tom has sacrificed as much as I have to allow me to do this and I will forever be grateful – it’s made me fall in love with him that little bit more, as it has reminded me of the reasons I married him in the first place – for his kindness, support and understanding of what makes me happy. 

Have you learnt anything new – whether it be about training or even yourself, if so, what?

As mentioned above I’ve learned a lot about the understanding of data and metrics and also how amazing my husband is but I think I’ve also learned how I can do things I never thought possible, if I want it bad enough. Before March 2017 I had never ridden my bike on the road and couldn’t eat or drink on the bike or even signal. I was a bloody liability, fast forward to present day and after focusing on these skills I can now ride over 180kms on the road and eat and drink and signal all while doing it! To say I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come as a cyclist is an understatement. I’ve still got a long way to go in becoming an accomplished cyclist but to think I have been able to get to this point is incredible!

You recently started utilising power on the bike, how was this changed your training and race planning experience?

I’m still wrapping my head around power and getting a proper understand of it but I have definitely seen an improvement in my ability to go long without dying in the arse. By sticking to the power numbers I have been able to trust that my legs will get through to the end of the ride and feel fresh ready for my run. It’s been interesting wrapping my head around not worrying about speed and focusing on power instead and trusting the process but it seems to be working! On my first race utilising power I took almost 20mins off my previous PB on the same distance! 

What parts of your program have given you the most confidence?

Definitely the long rides into ROTB (run off the bike) and then backing up the next day with a long run and a swim. The volume over the weekends has really helped my confidence, as I have been surprised at how well I am recovering and backing up for the next week or day of training. I feel like this bodes well for putting it all together on race day. The other thing that isn’t specifically “on the program” but has been the understanding of the metrics and also having consistent coach chats over the course of the build. Another HE athlete who had done an IM last year, gave me the nudge to plan these consistently all the way through to race day and this has definitely been a great addition to my program as I have always known I can hash out any issues or ask questions. Also, consistently leaving notes and asking questions on my training peaks sessions has helped me to navigate the program and given me confidence that I am on track 🙂

Nutrition wise has there been any changes? What are the differences?

In the early part of 2018 I focused on becoming more “fat adapted”. Through testing we had discovered I was an extremely high sugar burner and this meant that if I didn’t try to change the balance I needed to basically carry a buffet with me during IM. At first I was really resistant to the changes, thinking I basically couldn’t eat carbs anymore (and for anyone that knows me you know how much I love my food). I was feeling really tired as my body shifted the way it processed my food (I didn’t understand til later that this is what was happening-I thought something was wrong with me) but through talking to Coach Katee about it in detail, I came around to understanding that fat adaption doesn’t mean not eating carbs and can be aided by the way you train too (doing more sessions at an aerobic heart rate). By trusting my coach and the program, but also making nutritional changes I felt comfortable with (i.e. Keeping my breakfast the same carb heavy brekkie it has always been but focusing on veggies and fats and proteins the rest of the day) when I was retested my fat burning had increased by 20%-meaning I could almost halve the amount of carbs needed while training and racing. This has revolutionised my fueling meaning I’m nowhere near as bloated or nauseous coming off the bike and also not having to basically carry a backpack to hold it all! The great thing too has been that I have a better understanding of fat adaption and have been able to educate some naysayers. It isn’t saying that while racing or training you don’t eat carbs (your body’s preferred energy source) it just allows you to be more efficient at processing them!

Comparatively, to most IM athletes, you have had an exceptional build and consistency with training. What holistic principle have you found has made the biggest difference in your training/recovery? 

I think the nutrition changes and supplementation have definitely helped. I’ve also adopted some stress relieving/relaxation techniques to help my sleep. Blue light blocking glasses have become my saviour at night (I also look super cool in them haha) and utilising legs up the wall after big sessions. I truly believe though that the communication consistently with my coach and being open, honest and transparent with my needs and what was going on, has allowed my program to be effective in my life. The personalised approach, as well as her understanding me as an athlete has allowed her to program a build that worked in my lifestyle and for my fitness level, which has meant it has been motivating to complete. Also, knowing there was no judgement if I needed something to be changed or altered gave me trust in the process and in her.

I truly believe though that the communication consistently with my coach and being open, honest and transparent with my needs and what was going on, has allowed my program to be effective in my life.

The most surprising thing you learnt in your journey to IRONMAN?

That I can do almost anything I put my mind to and that I am surrounded by some amazingly supportive and loving people who are happy to celebrate my success.

Who has been on your team to make this happen that you would like to thank?

As mentioned, obviously my husband. He has been my rock and I couldn’t have done it without him. The HE family has been amazing through this too. I’m also pretty thankful for some of my training buddies who have helped me pass the time on the bike particularly: Courtney Lornie, Matt Gedye, Courtney Potts, Mardi Cuthbert and Jaimie Lee Brown. I’m pretty excited to have a whole team up in Cairns to cheer me through that finish line including my parents and some of my training buddies and staff, clients and colleagues from my business. And lastly, but by no means least important, the one that has made it happen and without the support and guidance I couldn’t have gotten here – Coach Katee. I could wax lyrical about what she has provided both emotionally and physically but I think it best summed up by what she did for me this weekend just gone. After a group of us went for a ride in the morning (including Katee), I was left on my own to complete the last 3hrs of my ride alone and then into a run off the bike for an hour or so. You can imagine my surprise as I round the corner during my run and see up ahead Katee and her husband standing there to cheer me on and give me a high five, some encouraging words and take some photos. I was overcome with emotion and kept running beaming with joy. Then about 30mins later there they were again! Katee and Mick had given up their Saturday afternoon to support me on my run and it was so unexpected but so appreciated. This was after supporting me the weekend before too. The above and beyond nature of this gesture – sums up who Katee is a coach. Loving, caring and supportive and I can’t think of a better person to have in my corner.

Road to Cairns, Personalised coaching

If this has stirred your inner Ironman check out the details of our personalised training plans.

So you did your first sprint distance triathlon back in February, followed by your first Olympic  distance in April… now your lining up for your first Half Ironman next week!

 

Tell us what sparked your interest in triathlon?  

I don’t think  I wouldn’t have even thought of doing one if it wasn’t for my best friend and training buddy Jaimie.  I went to Bussleton last year and that’s when I really thought I think I want to do this. It’s my first year of any kind of triathlon training and I am loving it. Previously I was playing netball on  Saturday’s and also had done a few half marathons and a full marathon. I had ankle surgery in  October last year and as soon as I could start exercising again I begin my tri training.

It’s my first year of any kind of triathlon training and I am loving it

How have you been feeling in the lead up to Cairns? 

I have been feeling really good, the difference in training to what I am used to and all the mini  goals in training peaks has kept accountable to these goals and I’m loving it.

What have you enjoyed the most in terms of training? 

Hmm.. so many things. The training sessions, the different locations I’ve been and also the friends I’ve met along the way. The coaching and checking training peaks to see what I have booked in for the week after. The weekend training sessions and different races I’ve been completing along the way. So many things!

What challenges have you come across and how have you overcome them? 

I think trying to juggle work and training. My role at work has been quite busy and I’ve had to do a  lot of late nights and extra training for new staff which meant it was hard to get out there and train after a big day at work. But the feeling once complete and the green in TP makes it worth it!

Have you learnt anything new – whether it be about training or even yourself, if so, what? 

I really haven’t been one to set too many goals in life but I am really surprised how much I am  enjoying all the goal setting.

What holistic principle have you found has made the biggest difference in your training/recovery? 

That MAF training was very hard at the beginning to get used to but after a few lessons I now  know the reasons behind it and how it changes the recovery and training for the better. How could I run that slow in training but still manager to run faster on race day? Well it does work and I  think it has made it easier to juggle those busy days at work knowing I’m not training to fatigue.

What are you most looking forward about race day?   

So many things from start to finish, each leg, the times I will do and experience I will have. The  finish line and the feeling of all that hard work paying off. Also loving that Jaimie and I will be  doing the same race, I think having her over all those big sessions have made things so much  more enjoyable

How will you celebrate completing your first Half Ironman? 

Well I am going to Bali for a week so I am very much looking forward to relaxing at the hotel or by  the beach. I’m not really one to sit around too much so I’m sure I’ll still be doing something but just thinking of that time off work and warmer weather….!

 

Feeling inspired? Make your 70.3 dreams come true here.

After spending months working along the Holistic Endurance (HE) crew and being surrounded by triathletes and talk of triathlon, our Health & Nutrition Coach Kirsty was keen to see what all the fuss was about, and in doing so, signed up for her first ever Sprint Triathlon at Batemans Bay this weekend.

Kirsty is our resident Health and Nutrition Coach and Admin Superstar!! You can learn more about Kirsty here.

Kirsty has spent the last 7 weeks training for her big event with some guidance from Coach Jackie.

We thought we would take this opportunity to do a little Q+A about her journey to this point – She has some great take away messages, particularly for those just starting out or wanting to do a triathlon…

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself as an athlete – given that this will be your first triathlon, what have you been doing before now?

Ah that word ‘athlete’…. Its one I have definitely struggled with and still do. Heading to the gym, swimming a few laps and going out for runs, it never entered my head that I was an athlete. Competing in a few fun runs, felt just that, a little bit of fun that I did whilst the ‘athletes’ were doing the real stuff. That was until I came to work at HE. Here everyone is considered an athlete, its one of the foundations that make this company great! Its made me really appreciate what I have done up to now. You certainly train and make the commitment to training differently when you do actually consider that you are an athlete.

I was a sporty kid when I was younger playing team sports and swimming. Then puberty hit and hanging out with friends was so much more appealing. I would dabble in the gym doing classes and the like through my early 20’s. Then in my late 20’s I thought I would like to be able to run. Even as a child I never enjoyed running. I would dread athletics carnivals. I never even really saw the point of just going for a walk unless it was for the purpose of getting somewhere. So to say my family and friends were shocked is an understatement. I found myself one of those 8 weeks to 5km running plans and off I went. I loved it! I loved the sense of achievement. I loved the way I could talk myself through the hard parts. I loved the way it made me feel energised. With my new found love of running I signed myself up for my first 5km fun run.

That was 5.5years ago. I had my eyes set on running longer distances – 10km, 13km. I was really enjoying the longer runs of between 1-2hours but I started to get really bad hip pain. The running was put on the back burner. After lots of great rehab and removing other inflammation from my body through diet and stress reduction I was able to start running again. As part of getting me back running and reducing the stress I trained using the MAF principles (the ones we use here at HE). I was slower but I could run again. I had no pain and I could run more than once a week.

Being around all the incredibly inspiring athletes at HE competing in some amazing events. I definitely started to feel the bug to get back to entering a few races. I wanted something to train for. In November I competed in my first half marathon. It was a great learning experience. I didn’t quite get the time I wanted but I did it! It re-ignited my fire.

 

 

So.. the decision to try a Triathlon! How, what, when, when ??

Tell us all the details of how this came to be?!

Just after I competed my half marathon Coach Katee and yourself (Coach Jackie) competed in Busso HIM. Seeing how much they loved doing this, how much of a high it gave them, certainly made me feel inspired. They both would randomly drop little comments about getting me on a bike (I had not ridden a bike in years) and competing in a triathlon. I always scoffed. There was no way I could do one of those. Those were for those fit people, not for the average Joe like me.

I started looking for swim and run events as I felt confident I could do those. I found a great one but then the timing didn’t work out. I had just ordered myself one of the new Spanky HE Speed Suits so I could do the race and now couldn’t do it, I was bummed. I was hunting around for another similar event when I came across the Batemans Bay Sprint. Well actually it was the Enticer I looked at first. I was talking to my boyfriend about it and as one of my biggest cheerleader’s he was like “you can do anything you set your mind to, you totally should do it”. Then there was a quick message to my fellow workmates at Team HE asking if it was possible to do with 7 weeks of training. They was resounding Hell Yes. And with the encouragement and belief that they showed had me I signed myself up. I wanted a challenge so picked the Sprint distance in the end over the Enticer.

What has your training looked like since deciding to enter Batemans Bay Sprint tri?

It has been a great mix of swim, bike, run. Getting back on the bike was definitely the most daunting part. Coach Jackie gave me some great little rides to build up my confidence.

The feeling of doing my first run off the bike (ROTB) was exhilarating. I felt amazing. And no Bambi moments. I’ve been sticking to MAF HR on the bike which has left me feeling great when I come to running.

At no point have I felt exhausted from the training. The opposite in fact. I have felt more energised.

Did you go out and buy a flashy new bike for race day ? 

Nope. I have borrowed a mountain bike. Yep I’m going to park that thing in transition next to all the other flashy bikes proudly. No one I know (who lives close to me) has a road bike so that wasn’t even an option. For me it’s not about having the best gear, it’s about proving to myself that I can do this. I remember the message I sent to Coach Katee and Jackie when I was questioning if I could do this and the response was – Do I have googles and do I have a bike? It was a yes for the googles and I knew I’d be able to find a bike to borrow somewhere. Their response back to me was “Then you can do a triathlon”! And its so true. Coach Katee did a great podcast on this very topic recently (New Bikes + Tax Returns), exploring balancing your love of triathlon with your money values. I wanted to get out and experience this, I wasn’t going to let not having all the gear stop me.

The only things I have purchased for this race was the speed suit (and technically I had that before the race), a helmet (again a very stock standard basic one) and lights for the bike. And with that it just goes to show you can do a triathlon with the basics.

 

What are you most excited about race day?

Race day! And getting to show off my fancy HE Speed/ Triathlon Suit. That thing makes me feel like I know what I’m doing. For someone who has never considered themselves sporty or an athlete, just competing and finishing this is going to be the biggest buzz!

 

What are you most nervous about race day?

Still the bike. I always rode heaps as a kid and was super confident on the bike. Then one day on my way to a friends house I fell off and fractured my wrist. For some reason more than 20years later I still have a fear of falling. I have a few friends that ride and they have all had accidents so this is something I definitely need to work through.

Also the transitions. Having not done one before I just hope I don’t do anything wrong…

 

So you did a race simulation as part of your training prior to race day? Did you find this beneficial to your confidence leading into race day? Did you learn anything new that you would change come race day?

Yep it was great! It has made me feel so much more confident both in my ability to actually do this and with my nutrition and hydration.

When I did my half marathon I did not fuel properly – I know I definitely ‘should know better’. Having had that experience I didn’t want to go into this weekend under-prepared. The Sprint distance is starting just after lunch so I will have had food in the morning leading up to the race. I wanted to test how that felt before swimming and how that then translated onto the bike and then the run. I found I felt a little heavy during the first part of the swim so a little more time between my last meal and race start will help that. I also felt like a was losing power quicker than usual on my run so I’m going to bump up the fuel a little more on the bike to combat this. It was also good to practice eating and riding. Given my lack of  on the bike this was good. I know I can still peddle at a decent pace and have my freedom fuel without nearly crashing – hehe! Multitasking at its best!

 

What’s the one thing, or few things you have learnt about triathlon – that you didn’t know before now?

– That I could swim in a speed (triathlon) suit.

– You don’t need to be ‘one of those super-fit people’ to do a triathlon. There is no type. If you want to give it a go you totally can.

– Running off the bike is actually not as hard as I thought it would be. I actually find I have to make myself go slower, my legs are just ready to get going.

I have a feeling I’m going to add a few things to that list post race – I feel I will learn a little bit more once I set up my bike and gear in transition and then actually have to transition. I have so much more to learn and that it what makes it so exciting.

 

Dare we ask, or should we just assume that this is the beginning of your triathlon career? 

I haven’t even raced yet and I’m hooked!!  I may have even started looking for the next event… I think another Sprint distance then I’ll increase to the Standard distance. Team HE is so inspiring. With my role at HE I get to see all these great inspiring stories come through and help people during their build-ups, seeing all that passion and love for a sport – it’s totally infectious!

 

 

          Yay! And we could be more excited or proud of you Kirsty!

               We just know you will enjoy every minute out there 🙂

 

 

 

I came to Holistic Endurance and Coach Katee with the idea that I might like to do a triathlon. I had done a few small events as a teenager until I ended up in hospital after a bike crash. Now that my kids were older, it was time to try again. I didn’t have a bike. Couldn’t run. Wasn’t a great swimmer. And I had health issues.

My Why.

I had my whole thyroid removed in 2002 from disease and a set of healthy ovaries removed at the advice from the Genetics department after my sister died from ovarian cancer. I’d also lost my brother to cancer. My mum is incapacitated from Guillean-Barre and dad can barely walk from breathlessness from heart disease. My eldest child is on the autism spectrum. My life was messy and I didn’t want to end up on the burned out from life junk pile. 

I had been doing some club swimming and ended up not enjoying it due to the slog fest. So when I started the Holistic Endurance program, I quit swim club and just did the program and started enjoying my workouts. Fast forward two years, some enticer events, super sprints, sprints, a 21km trail run, a marathon and an Olympic distance, I was fat adapted, MAF adjusted and apparently could run. It was time to try a HIM. 

The Training

I was given quite a small volume of training and honestly didn’t feel like I’d trained “enough”. But I trusted the program and had time and racing goals to achieve. I thought the run was too fast a pace for me and given my adrenals were fatigued from poor thyroid management (but were recovering) and my oestrogen and testosterone levels were abnormal (recovering) I wondered how my body would cope.

I had a family conference and discussed my training load. My husband towed the line and picked up the housework slack (and got man flu in the process) and the kids helped out more so I could train. No ones life was impacted for the worse while I trained. It was just me thinking I wasn’t “mumming” enough. I’ve learned to give my kids more trust and freedom and they’ve thrived as a result. Surprisingly, healing from poor thyroid function has also improved my marriage – I’d all but given up hope that Id even begin to feel the same as I did before the surgery. 

The Race.

So race day came and I was feeling nervous, under prepared and overwhelmed. But I never felt like I didn’t belong. I wanted desperately to finish because I didn’t want to have to come back with unfinished business. I had my race plan/s. And I had my nutrition plan/s. We walked up the beach. I kept to myself and breathed. I warmed up and waited for the start. The swim leg seemed to take an eternity and I didn’t know my pace, I just trusted the feel. I was glad when the swim was done – usually my strongest leg, but I found the long straight line slightly off putting. Maybe I’m better swimming in triangles against currents?

Onto the bike. I loved the first lap. The winds came up in the second lap and I stuck to the race plan in spite of people overtaking me everywhere. The second lap was challenging with cross winds but I felt really good in transition.

Onto the run. Ok. Four run laps. I managed the first lap at pace and it was hard. Could I do three more the same? The conditions were perfect and apart from wet feet from the beach run, my body was good. I looked out and saw the blue sky and felt ridiculously grateful for being there in that moment. I managed the next two laps to pace but the last lap my battery went low (on my watch) and I lost my screen data. I sighted a runner ahead and tried to chase them down for the final lap. I didn’t quite catch them but I got close, and everyone was at the finish line cheering. It was an amazing feeling. I crossed the line just under my predicted race time and broke down in tears! I didn’t expect the tears because they weren’t in the race plan! Having other Holistic Endurance athletes there cheering each other on was simply the best. I had no idea I could accomplish such a big event on such a low volume personalised training plan. I mentioned to Coach Katee, that if I’d started out with a standard coach, I have no doubt that I’d be in hospital by now with adrenal meltdown. Instead,  my thyroid levels are now normal and my adrenals and hormones are normalising. I wanted to complete the 70.3 to close that chapter. But I don’t believe it has… 

My Team

I have some people I want to THANK and APPRECIATE for helping me achieve crossing the finishing line of a 70.3. 
Chris Bellette from Movestrong Gym for being the Functional Movement perfectionist – an undervalued but pivotal requirement for injury prevention all athletes need to be able to do well. I continue to be a stickler for strength and movement and have already recovered well from the race.

Steph Lowe aka “The Natural Nutritionist” for refining my nutrition and teaching me the principles of fueling with real food and why and how to be fat adapted, and investigating the reasons I was so unwell with thyroid and allergies and helping me on the path to recovery. I didn’t have a single gut issue, stitch, cramp or issue with race day fueling. It all went perfectly and I felt, and feel great.

The HE Athletes who have become friends, your support is awesome.

My friends . I cherish all of you and apologise I have been lying low due to the healing and training load. It just had to be that way.

My family . Because you get my WHY.

Coach Katee my mentor, my coach, my friend. There simply aren’t enough words of gratitude to tell you how much you have changed the course of my health and my life. I am indebted to how much knowledge you have, the belief you have in me and how you made a well triathlete out of an unwell person who couldn’t run, didn’t own a bike and had never even heard of a garmin. Thank you

Race morning my alarm went off at 0445 I immediately turned it off and said to my friend who had come with me that I was not ready for this and was going back to sleep. After been told to get up and get moving I rolled out of bed and went straight for the coffee.

My standard morning coffee these days is my own variation of the Fat Black. My stomach wasn’t keen on eating anything and the plan was to eat my banana and almond butter so I just had the coffee and forgot about the food and moved on to complete my stretching, mobility and muscle activation exercises. All my race gear was ready to go so all I had to do was put my new HE race kit on, grab my bag to take to transition and walk down to the race start.

It was a perfect morning; not too cold at all – I actually ditched my track pants soon as I stepped outside of the hotel because it was so warm (15 degrees + 90% humidity if I remember correctly).  A nice 15min walk from the hotel to race start was just enough to get the body moving and shake out (some of) the nerves.

Entered transition, filled up my hydration systems on my bike; 1  x with electrolytes and 1 x with water, pumped my tyres up and lay down the rest of my bits and pieces i.e. runners, bike shoes, helmet, hat, socks, nutrition, sunnies. I had a look around at everyone else’s transitions set ups to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything (felt like I was doing this for the first time not the 6th) and all looked ok so I made note of where I was so I wouldn’t get lost coming in from the swim and then headed off down to the swim start.

The Swim

The first waves started at 0700 and mine wasn’t until 0736 so I had a good 45mins to spare before my race started. Worried I should have forced some food down earlier I chose now to have a couple of mouthfuls of banana and spoonful of almond butter, hoping I hadn’t left it too late and that I wouldn’t bring it back up in the swim. And then it was time to see if my wetsuit that I hadn’t worn since the beginning of 2016 fit. Took me a solid 25mins to get the thing on but eventually got her on and was ready to go.Courtney Swim

Water was flat, not a single wave and was it was the perfect temperature so made for a really lovely swim. Because it had been so long since I had swum in a wetsuit I forgot how different it made you feel in the water. My arms fatigued early on and my legs were been really lazy and needed lots of reminding to kick and help my poor arms out. I have never been a strong swimmer I am usually in the slower half of the pack but I felt incredible slow during this swim. Knowing I was in the 2nd last wave and that there were not many people that would be behind me had me freaking out about been the last one out of the water. I became so panicked by the thought of it and was just picturing myself alone swimming in the ocean all by myself. I knew these negative thoughts were not helping so I instead just pretended I was actually winning, this is what I told myself and what I pictured in my head – me out the front of the pack swimming faster than anybody else. Bit strange but hey it worked it stopped the negative thoughts and got me through the swim. I was probably half way through the swim when I told myself that my goal time for the swim didn’t matter anymore because I was finding the swim a lot harder than expected so just said to myself not to worry about getting the time I wanted and to just keep swimming.  My goal for the swim had been 38mins, I finished it in 38:59.

The Bike

I decided before the race that I wouldn’t go hard in transitions so I took my time getting to my bike actually walking most of the way. Eventually got the wetty off,  had a quick swig of Freedom Fuel (wasn’t in the plan but felt like some) put my socks and bike shoes on, helmet and sunnies on, 2 x bottles on Freedom Fuel in the back pockets of my race suit and I was read to ride.

While making my way out of transition and to the mounting line Elly (my nutritionist who came to watch me) called out so I gave her a wave – did almost drop my bike in the process, and then jumped in the saddle and set off. First part of the bike was little bit hilly so once I got past all the hills and was out on the main road I settled into a rhythm. Focusing only on HR and keeping it low was all I had to do, that and sipping electrolytes and Freedom Fuel every alternate 10mins (i.e at 10min Electrolytes, 20mins FF, 30mins electrolytes, 40mins FF etc for the full duration of the ride). Finished the first lap feeling super fresh as though I could keep riding all day! I thought maybe I was going too easy and that I should be pushing a bit more but remembered I had a 21km run to yet so best stick to the plan or I might regret emptying the tank too early. Was happy to finish my 90km ride in a time of 3:07, which was only 2mins slower than my goal time.

The Run

Another walk through transition to rack the bike and my legs are still feeling fantastic and I am both excited and nervous to see how the run is going to go. In transition I loaded up the back pockets of my trisuit with 2 more bottles of FF and I grabbed a V Fuel gel just in case I needed something extra on top of my FF. My plan was to wash the FF down with some water at every aid station. Didn’t have much of pacing plan or run/walk plan in place as I really had no idea how my leg was going to go so it was all to be played by ear. The one thing that was set in concrete was HR plan.

I started running and legs didn’t feel heavy from the bike at all. I have always liked running off the bike I actually prefer it to running on fresh legs because riding gets all the muscles firing and working particularly the glutes and since my glutes have the tendency to be lazy and not switch on, I run much better off the bike. I was feeling good after a few minutes and thought if I can keep this up I can aim to run to the first aid station. I reached the first aid station feeling good, had a swig of FF and washed down with some water as planned and then started running/shuffling again. HR was steady and body was feeling good, I was comfortable.

So I kept to this pattern of running between aid stations as well as was walking up any hills. The run course was 2 laps and towards the end of my first lap everyone around me was on their 2nd lap so were all heading to the finish. At this point the thought of doing another lap was rather uninviting and I had wished I was heading to the finish. The first lap was quite warm and humid but during the 2nd lap a breeze picked up and made a world of difference. I had my Vfuel gel in the hope of an extra kick from the caffeine that I knew was in it. I then decided to veer away from my nutrition plan and have some coke at the 14km aid station. Jackie had said if I wanted to hit the coke try wait until the last third of the run. Elly had said no coke end of story. Although I was hoping to not need to go for the coke at all, I didn’t beat myself up for wanting/needing it. Next time I race I will aim for a coke-free race, once I build some more strength and fitness up and spend a few more months working on my every day nutrition and fat adaption.

The Finish Line

Before I knew it I was heading for the final part of lap 2 which meant 3 more hills and then the finish line. Knowing the end was in sight and I was feeling no pain/niggles in my injured leg I decided to pick up the pace up for the final couple of k’s and I finished with a run rather than my usual shuffle. Finishing my run leg in a time of 2:22, which was 7mins short of my goal time.

There as no disappointment with not hitting my exact goal times for each of the legs of my race because honestly, I didn’t even want to set goal times for this race. The only reason I did was for a nutrition plan point of view. This race wasn’t ever about trying to do it as fast as I could; it was just about doing it. Proving to myself I could do. It was about getting back into the triathlon game, back into fueling my body with nourishing food and back to living a healthy and happy life. All of which I can say I did achieve. I wanted to see how my body handled a half Ironman after recovering from injury and from being on an extended break. I am so happy with how my body held up and how it felt post-race. The only soreness I had after the race was a saddle sore that appeared the week before the race and was stirred up again by the race. The rest of my body felt absolutely amazing, in fact I think I even felt better the day after the race than I did the day before it! Which I believe was a credit to sticking to Coach Jackie’s training and racing plans.

The Takeaway

So in a nutshell I definitely could not be happier with my race, I feel as though I achieved everything and more that I set out to. I am beyond proud of myself for overcoming all my physical and mental barriers to get not only the start line of Geelong 70.3 but to where I am now in my life in general. It has not been as easy road and I know I am not at the end of it yet, but I do know that I am well and truly on my way to better and brighter days and I have Holistic Endurance to thank for all of it!

From here I will be taking my focus to my nutrition, gut health and body composition goals (working with Elly from TNN), whilst building a solid base before my next training block (with a focus on strength and conditioning with the help of Coach Katee) before returning back to Coach Jackie for guidance into my next 70.3 which will be later this year.

What’s Next

In the immediate future I have a friend from work doing the Oxfam 100 and had a member of her team drop out at the last minute so she asked if I could fill in! I have never done anything like it and only have a couple of weeks to train for it so bit of #yolo moment. I’m super keen for it as I have wanted to start doing some hiking and trail running so guess it’s a perfect way to push myself into actually doing it!

Has this inspired you to achieve that athletic goal you’ve been want to reach? Find out more about Holistic Endurance personalised programs here

If you would like to read more about Courtney’s journey it can be found here

As Geelong 70.3 gets closer and the nerves really start to kick in I have taken some time to reflect on the last 3 months and how much I have achieved since starting my return to triathlon journey with Holistic Endurance

Having goals/dreams is great but if you want to make them a reality then you

  1. need to have a plan on how to achieve those goals/dreams
  2. need to be actively working towards those goals/dreams.

I have always been an excellent dreamer and in the past I have been able to effectively achieve my goals but in more recent times I have sort of fell of the aspiration wagon and have found myself not only struggling to come up with goals but then struggling to find the motivation to work for them.

Motivation in the past seemed to have come effortlessly to me but these days I have to work really hard at it, every day. I am the worst culprit for comparison, not that I compare myself to others but I have been robbing myself of my own happiness by comparing myself from where I am at now to where I was 2+ years ago. For a lot of people comparing your present self to your past self wouldn’t be a terrible thing. But in my case and I am sure many others out there, you feel like you have gone somewhat backwards.

So for me now what I am working on is not so much forgetting who I was (as an athlete) in the past, but just accepting that THAT IS IN THE PAST and right now it is irrelevant to where I am now. If I am going to compare then I should only be comparing where I am now to where I was 3 months ago, not 3 years. Because just 3 months ago I was lost and miserable and the most unhappiest and unhealthiest I have been in my life but now, I have not only found some direction in my life but I am healthier and happier and on the well on the road to better things.

I have triathlon and Holistic Endurance to thank for helping me find my happiness.

A week ago I competed in a local sprint distance triathlon, my first triathlon in 12 months. I was the heaviest and most unfit I have ever been so there were no surprises that it was my slowest race to date. I NEVER would have imagined that it would the THE MOST wonderful, amazing and greatest day I could have asked for.

I went into that race with 2 intentions

  1. To see where I am so as to give me an idea of what goals to set for Geelong 70.3
  2. To how how my dodgy left leg handled a triathlon (read about that here and here)

But I ended up getting so much more out of that race. I came away with more determination to succeed than ever before; not only in sport but in life.

I have fallen completely in love with triathlon AND life all over again, I just feel so freaking happy to be where I am. I may not be as fast as I used to be and that has been something that has really been getting me down lately, but after today I can honestly say that I’m absolutely ok with where I am at right now because I am my own work in progress and who I was doesn’t have anything on who I am or who I will become.
I now know exactly where I am at and what kind of realistic physical and mental goals to set for Geelong. I am absolutely over the moon to have had ZERO pain whatsoever in my dodgy leg the entire race. I really couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Special thanks go to Coach Jackie and Coach Katee for getting me back up on my feet again both emotionally and physically.

So as you can imagine, going into Geelong 70.3 next weekend is ridiculously scary for me and I would be lying if I didn’t say I had considered chickening out. But then I try to remember that this is just the beginning. This is only the first big race in my new journey. And I will try to keep telling myself that no one actually cares about how fast or how slow I go more than I do. I am scared but I am excited and I can’t wait to share with you all how it next weekend goes!

Read Courtney’s Journey to Geelong from the beginning here.

Running Technique Assessment

The plan following up from my initial Functional Movement Assessment (FMA) (read about that here) with Coach Katee was to have a Running Technique Assessment before moving forwards with run load/volume. After 4 weeks of focusing on my given mobility and stretching exercises including breath control, I noticed a huge improvement in not only my leg that had been giving me pain but in all areas of my body. My hips were more mobile and my core and glutes were switching on relieving the pain I was getting in my back. I was practising my belly breathing every day; not just in training but when driving to work and even before going to bed! I was very eager to start progressing with my running so knew that putting in 110% effort in all aspects of training and recovery was essential.

There were 3 main issues with my running technique that Coach Katee quickly identified;

  1. I was too upright/not leaning forwards,
  2. I wasn’t lifting my knees and
  3. I had no control of my arms.

One by one we worked through correcting each of these issues. Coach Katee got me leaning forwards from my hips as I ran (think about the direction you want to go she asked me, you don’t want to go up you want to go forwards). At the beginning (even still now) this felt a bit strange but I could definitely notice a positive change in my run by simply leaning forward from the hips.

Next was to start making a conscious effort to lift my knees up (to the point of having to exaggerate the knee lift/drive). By focusing on driving my knees up I simultaneously stopped heel striking and started landing nicely on my forefoot. Here Coach Katee then added another note; to think about pushing off the ground with a little more force. The combination of the leaning forwards, knee lift and strong forefoot push off completely changed my run; giving it more strength and momentum and most importantly I felt all the right muscles working/activating i.e. calves, glutes, core.

The last thing was to address my out of control arms. I had elbows going sideways and arms crossing the midline causing my upper body to twist and turn all over the place. To get me to understand how ineffectively I was using my arms, Coach Katee hand cuffed my hands and made me run; I very quickly realised I had to do something about my wonky wings.

So first thing we did was come up with come cues to prompt the positioning of my arms which for me were “butterflies, buttons and boobs.” Pretending there are “butterflies” in each of my hands (and to not squish them) was my first cue; to remind me not to clench my fists.

Next it was to pretend that there were 2 “buttons” directly behind me that I needed to press with my elbows. This was to make me drive my elbows directly backwards and not out to the sides. And lastly “boobs”, was to remind me to not have my arms/hands cross the centre/midline of my body. So the idea is to keep the right hand adjacent to the right boob and not have it crossing over to the left side, and vice versa.

Trying to think about leaning forwards from the hips, lifting the knees, how the feet are landing and taking off and control of the upper body/arms all at once was quite over whelming and I found it too difficult to think about and do all of this at once. So to begin with we broke it down and decided to focus on either arms or legs and at one time and then swap the focus around. For example spending 5 minutes running with a focus on “butterflies, buttons and boobs” and then the next 5 minutes the focus would be on leaning forwards from the hips, lifting/driving the knees with a forefoot landing and strong push off the ground.

4 weeks on and although I can now focus on everything at once, none of it is coming naturally just yet, my HR still increases and I am still having to make a really conscious effort with my technique. But I have to remember that I did have 12 months off running and am now not only trying to regain my fitness but am essentially learning how to run all over again – while healing an injury. Although at times (well most of the time) I get frustrated with my body and where I am at, I know deep down I would much rather take my time, stick to plan, listen to the boss ladies (Coach Jackie and Coach Katee) and do it all properly to ensure my injury heals and more importantly I don’t get injured in the future.

I also have to remind myself that while yes I am running (very) slowly; at least I am running (and pain free!). Although it is nice to keep your eyes on the prize I believe it is even more important to keep your focus on the process.

The Functional Movement Assessment with Coach Katee

To think that just 3 months ago when I started as the Holistic Endurance Ambassador I couldn’t even walk without experiencing pain in my leg, my back, my hips – everywhere, which made any form of exercise extremely uninviting because it was just too painful and I feared doing anything would only make things worse. All I longed for was to be able run (pain free) again but my body was not cooperating with me and this left me unfit, sad and feeling hopeless.

Given my ongoing issues, primarily the pain in my left leg but also the many niggles I had; Coach Jackie requested I have a Functional Movement Assessment (FMA) with Coach Katee. The FMA consisted of Coach Katee getting me to do particular exercises, stretches, movements and then she would go on to analyse my range of movement, rate my mobility and work out whether or not I was activating the correct muscles at the correct time.

When initially doing the exercises I was not activating my core and my range of movement for everything was overall quite poor. But with some simple cues and exercises from Coach Katee we were able to switch my core on, increase my range of movement and get my body functioning efficiently and most importantly – pain free.

One of the key concepts that Coach Katee introduced me to was belly breathing. She wanted me to focus on belly breathing during mobility and stretching exercises as well as when I was running. For the time being I was to only jog or walk at intensity I could effectively nose/belly breathe – to allow for effective diaphragm control and core connection. With a focus on this as well as gait development for the next 4 weeks I would then go back and see Coach Katee for a Run Technique Assessment prior to progressing any further with run speed/volume.

After my FMA with Coach Katee I learnt never to ignore the niggles or tight spots and that by addressing the minor issues early you can very easily prevent (further) injury and speed up your recovery process. I used to say things like “Oh that’s just the way I am”, “that’s just how my hips are” “I am used to that spot been tight and hurting all the time”, but I have now learnt that not only can all of those problems be corrected; but the importance of correcting them.

I now understand the important role breath plays and how you can utilise it to maximise your performance. I have since never skipped my mobility exercises and now my stretching, mobility and functional movement exercises really have become my number one non-negotiable.

A lot has gone on to get me to where I am now and one of the key parts to my progress was Coach Jackie recommending the FMA with Coach Katee early on in the journey.

 

Read more about Courtney’s Journey to Geelong here.