You only suceed with support around you – Season 2014/15 Review

It’s coming up to two months since the 2014/15 tri season finished, so I have had plenty of time to reflect. The past 12 months have been an absolute roller coaster of a ride, reaching heights I never thought possible and plummeting to lows I never saw coming. The highs I have thrived off and the lows I have turned into survival mode, but what I have learnt most from the past season is triathlon is not an individual sport, and the more support around you the more success you will see.

Image via @superspringevents instagram

The Gatorade Series 14/15 kicked off in December and the first race was epic to say the least. The top 5 of my Age Group finished within 90 seconds of one another, and any one of them would have won any other age group. The season ahead was going to be highly competitive, and I was pumped for it! To top off the year, I signed up two sponsors, AvantiPlus Collingwood and She Science. This was a big step forward for me in my triathlon pursuits and very exciting.

At Christmas time an unexpected change occurred at home. The emotional stress affected me physically, and as my body ‘shut down’ to cope it also became very sick. With tonsillitis, a surprise (and excruciating) root canal and the flu in January I had the month off training and spent it largely in bed. I missed Race 2 in January which stung; I am not good at sitting on the sidelines but I was in no way healthy enough to race let alone train. With the emotional stress I was undergoing I was tempted to quit triathlon, but with new sponsors signed up I knew this wasn’t an option. As a competitive person I decided to take the focus off the tri season and just do what I love; running! I signed up for the Sunset Series by Start to Finish. I got along some friends to participate with, and with their support my love for exercise and training returned – plus my competitive nature! The events were brilliant, held in different fun locations across Melbourne and it was the perfect alternative I needed to get back out there.

So with a few fun runs under my belt, I got myself moving again and managed to toe the start line for the Gatorade Series Race 3 event. I gave it everything and walked away with a 4th spot. At first I was disappointed not being on the podium, it was the first time in a long time I hadn’t managed a top 3, but then I stopped to reflect and was really proud that I had even got to the start line to race, and gave it my best. I had 4 weeks until the next race and 6 weeks until the finale. I was finally physically healthy, and decided to transfer the emotional stress I was experiencing into training. For six weeks I did not miss a session and have arguably never trained harder. Race 4 in Portarlington saw me not only win my Age Group but was the fastest female of the day! Two weeks later was the final Race 5. There were three of us in my Age Group that could win the overall series depending on that race alone. I couldn’t believe I was on the start line with a chance at an overall series win with the season I had experienced! I came second in the race and second overall in the series.

I am proud, to say the least, of the way the season finished off and I know it absolutely wouldn’t have happened on my own. At Christmas time I was ready to quit triathlon. I was done with it, and couldn’t see how I could possibly train let alone race again. With the time off I was able to focus on myself and my health. Once I got that sorted, I used the people around me for strength to get back to where I wanted to be. Having sponsors on board at first felt like a burden; for the first time I wasn’t just racing for myself. Whilst I know whole heartedly they don’t care about results and are there to support me, I created that feeling of burden. But it was a positive weight and was the first step towards ensuring I didn’t quit the sport. I had my friends around me who were checking in and helping me out where required. My colleagues were also aware of my situation, and without me knowing, managed to ease my workload in the background so I didn’t drown from work pressure. My family unsurprisingly was a huge support and my mum would quietly leave me pre made meals in the fridge or run errands for me during the day. And finally I had my coach and training partners. My coach took it day by day then week by week and got me back to where I wanted to be. He was instrumental to getting me back to racing – and finishing the season with a 10km run PB – who ever would have thought that was possible!!


Whilst it was a challenging season, it is clearer than ever that you can’t do triathlon on your own. And whilst you may think you can, and you may well be currently, I can assure you will never reach your true potential. Triathlon is a team sport. You need to surround yourself with those who believe in your dreams and will assist you to get there. I have sponsors, friends, family, colleagues, training partners and coaches. Each person plays an important role, and I am grateful to every single one of them. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today, and quite possibly wouldn’t be a triathlete anymore.

 

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The Easter Cycling Binge

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The Binge that sent me cray cray

The end of a season is always an exciting time. You have all these great plans of doing NOTHING! You tell yourself that you’re going to go out partying Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Sleep in and not exercise. Let dust build up on the bike. You convince yourself you are going to do what non-triathletes do, whatever that is (I’m still trying to work it out). All goes well for a few days, and then you start to miss your mates who you usually see daily at training. You start to feel ‘fat’ (let’s be honest – you know you’re not). And finally, you just miss being out training. It’s a triathlete thing.

Just because you miss training, doesn’t mean you have to stick to a regiment routine you are used to. Being off season is the perfect time to reinvigorate your love for the sport. You can do what you want, when you want – and the best part – because you want. Having got into Instagram the past few months I see daily all the amazing places people have been riding – yet I was sticking to my routine Hawthorn Velodrome/Kew Boulevard/Beach Road routine with training sessions to smash, and race goals to hit. I was jealous of what I was seeing and had a desire to just get out there and ride and discover new places.

I work in the construction industry and Easter is almost a shut down period like Christmas. Frustrating if you want to accrue annual leave, however after being told to take an extended Easter break – just one week after my last race of the season, I saw a golden opportunity to get out and ride. Gone was the plan to do NOTHING, and in was the plan to ride until my heart was content!

So began my Easter Cycling Binge. After 3 days of drinking and playing a tennis tournament with friends, I kicked off a different type of binge. It was meant to be just 3 days worth of riding, but I ended up doing 5 big days in the week, totally over 510km’s, more than 21hrs of riding and nearly 9000m of climbing. Three of those days (about 15hours) I did on my own. A few people thought it was weird, some worried for my safety, others I think for my sanity! I asked around for people to join me but no one else had annual leave during this time. I had a choice, miss out or do it solo. It was a simple decision in my mind, I am a stubborn person and refuse to rely on others to do things I want. The experience was very new for me and so much more rewarding than I was expecting. On the second day at the top of Mt Buller, stuck in a rain cloud where I was wet, cold and couldn’t see, I was honestly scared. I wasn’t having fun and questioned what I was doing. But I stuck it out and got home. Facing that sort of challenge and having to deal with it completely on my own because there was literally no one to call ended up being very rewarding. I was proud of myself. There aren’t many times in your week or month or even year that you pat yourself on the back and say well done. It then meant the next day that I went out, I appreciated and loved the days ride even more than usual because the sun was shining and it all seemed so much easier than the day prior.

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Farm living – where I stayed on my cycling binge

My Cycling Binge was one of the most rewarding things I have done for myself and cannot encourage others enough to set themselves a personal challenge. I have reinvigorated a love for cycling within myself I didn’t know was truly there. I spent long hours on my own which I would never normally do and was forced to quickly learn to enjoy my own company. I saw new places and new scenery, and pushed myself physically and mentally. I also stayed on an isolated farm I had never been to on my own, which was also a new experience (and another somewhat scary thing!). It was great to truly step out of my comfort zone – and by doing so I was rewarded with an amazing week of cycling and an increased love for cycling.

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Riding in the country

Now it’s Friday afternoon – can’t wait to get on the bike tomorrow morning!

For those interested here is a quick summary of my riding:

Day 1: (115kms/1930 elevation gain)

Easter Monday I headed up to Kinglake and back with my friend Marina. It was the first social ride I had done with no distance or time goals in about 4 months. I LOVED it!!

Day 2: (95kms/ 1700 elevation gain)

I drove up to a farm near Strathbogie the night before ready to conquer some mountains! However Day 2 started with rain. It rained all morning and it wasn’t until lunch time it started to show a vague sign of clearing. I couldn’t bear the thought of staying inside all day, so quickly headed out in the gap. I rode from Mansfield up to Mt Buller and back. I had never ridden Mt Buller before and it was so much tougher than I expected. Having left in a rush I hadn’t eaten enough and forgot my nutrition. The road was rough, steadily uphill all the wall and in a head wind, with rain coming and going. I constantly considered turning around. I stuck it out and got to the top of Buller. I was in a rain cloud so it was wet, low visibility and the apparent temperature was -6.5degrees. I was genuinely scared trying to descent the mountain and considered hitchhiking down. It was one of the worst moments I have had cycling before. After getting home, eating and showering I was proud I stuck it out.

Long roads on my own were tough.

Long roads on my own were tough.

Day 3: (130kms/2100 elevation gain)

The rain had cleared so I set off to ride from Mansfield to Whitfield and back. I constantly ate during the whole ride to ensure my energy didn’t drop and even stopped in Whitfield for a big feed at the halfway point. The sun was shining the second half, the roads were quiet and the scenary beautiful. I loved the ride and loved being out there literally all door!photo 4

Day 4+5: back to work – no riding!

Day 6: (60kms/1300 elevation)

Saturday meant back on the bike! Sick of doing the same Melbourne rides I joined the Avanti Plus Collingwood group and rode up to Mt Pleasant. Albeit a shorter ride, it had plenty of pinchers! It was so refreshing to be out on new roads with new people.

Day 7: (115kms/1930 elevation gain)

I hadn’t planned a ride for the Sunday, but when I woke up early I decided I just wanted to be out there! So I quickly jumped on my bike and headed up to Kinglake on my own. I felt so much stronger than the six days earlier I did the ride, I couldn’t believe the difference!

12 Tips For Every Athlete

12 tips

Here are my top tips to every athlete… fortunately and sometimes unfortunately each one has been tried and tested!

1. Hide. Snacks. EVERYWHERE. 

Hangry. It is real, and it may kill you. I have muesli bars in my work drawer, Tupperware with nuts in my handbag, dried apricots in my swim bag… there’s a little hidden glycogen boost wherever I look to avoid the athlete unavoidable – hangry. Snacks to an athlete is like an epi pen to anaphylactic, you should not go anywhere without one.

2. Wash your helmet in the shower 

I can guarantee most people reading this don’t wash their helmet. Think about the amount you sweat plus dirt, rain and sunscreen that goes into that little bit of foam, rubbing your forehead for all those hours. I take my helmet into the shower with me weekly. This also applies to your HR monitor strap and any other fabric you allow to rub your sweaty body for hours at a time.

3. Buy and love Tupperware 

Athletes are busy and need to eat well. The only way I have managed this is to live in a wonderful world full of Tupperware. I use up to 10 pieces of Tupperware a day, and it is all thanks to these fantastic plastics that I ensure I always have healthy food at my fingertips.

Tupperware in dishwasher after one day...

Tupperware in dishwasher after one day…

4. Turn on aeroplane mode on your phone 

Us athletes are a precious bunch and need their beauty sleep. I can guarantee most of you go to bed earlier than everyone else you know, so turn your phone onto aeroplane mode. There is nothing worse than just as you drift off to sleep get a text from a friend, or 20 minutes before you are meant to wake receiving an email from some sports brand in the US whose mailing list you signed up to in hope of winning a round the world ticket to the Tour de France… because you totally had a chance of winning. Unsubscribing is too hard, just turn on aeroplane mode!

5. Wash your sports bras in shower 

The shower is a wonderful place to save time. I wash my sports bra’s after every session in the shower with me meaning I always have one ready to go (plus it saves them wearing out so quickly from the washing machine – win win).

6. Love your freezer 

God forbid, I use to not understand or utilize the power of the freezer! It is now my soul mate. Cooking for one is tough, cooking for 4-6 makes sense. One serve for dinner, one for lunch and one or two for the freezer. That’s if the recipe serves 6… I’m still not sure where the other two servings go…

7. Set up a charging station 

Being the geeks we are we have a lot of high tech equipment flying around being used for every session. If you’re like me you have a different charging outlet for your front light, back light, watch, bike computer and god knows what else. Put all the cables in one spot next to a power point with a USB adaptable charger permanently in the wall. Now – DO NOT EVER move any charging cable! Keeping them together means you can always quickly charge something because there’s no wasted time hunting for those damn cables that look the same but are one tenth of a millimeter different than the one you have in your hand.

8. Get some washing disinfectant 

The amount of lycra we wear, and sweat we produce in it, of course it makes sense to disinfect your sports clothes. Lycra generally needs to be cold washed to save the garment but hot wash kills things better. Do yourself a favour, and buy some washing disinfectant pronto.

Washing Disinfectant

Washing Disinfectant

9. Have a spare house key 

Constantly flying out the door for a ride or run, it makes sense to have a single house key that you can stuff into those tiny invisible pockets your running shorts have. But please tell me I am not the only one who has taken my house key off the main set of keys for a run, then left for work with the main set having forgotten to put the house key back on… Disaster. I did a tally and have 6 house keys… well covered!

10. Wear an eye mask 

We go to bed early, we get up early. And we’re temperamental to anything, let’s be honest! I never said I was cool, and this has now cemented it, but I bet a sleep better than those who don’t wear one, so get onto it people!

Eye mask

11. Have spare undies in your desk drawer 

We’ve all been there… do I need to say more?!

12. Be nice to your mum

Trust me, if there is anyone you need to treasure more in your athletic life, it’s your mum! Be kind and she will bring food parcels, collect dry cleaning or nurse you after an accident… No one does it better, so be kind.

Came home to a stocked fridge all thanks to my Mum!

Came home to a stocked fridge all thanks to my Mum!

It’s not an “Individual” sport – so long as you belong

“I prefer team sports”

“You learn commitment by playing in a team”

“Individual sports are lonely”

We’ve heard it all! Swimming, running, cross fit, diving, gymnastics, cycling… is all apparently an “individual” sport. Apparently you train on your own. You race on your own. You’re just a loner! Ohhh how life must be sad for you and your individual sport! Apparently you don’t know what camaraderie is! Apparently you don’t know what it is like to commit to a team and be responsible to turn up every week! Apparently you don’t know that feeling of belonging to a team and sharing the successes and losses. Blah – give me a bucket!

Naturally, there are some differences between a team and individual sport. Largely, the way in which you compete. In a team you will have team tactics, whereas on your own you have your own game plan. But when you talk about the differences of commitment, camaraderie and sense of belonging – you make me want to scream!! At school I did both types of sports; I played netball, volleyball, rowing and badminton, whilst I also ran and swam “individually”. When I left school I joined an athletics club, and now for the past five years I have done triathlon. And one thing I have found very clear is regardless of your type of sport, every sport offers a sense of belonging. And from my recent experiences, a sense of belonging is the most important thing in sport.

I noticed how strong this sporting “sense of belonging” is after participating in the annual Portsea Swim Classic. During summer down at Portsea there is a daily morning swim at the Front Beach. What started as a few friends years ago has grown to 60+ people every morning at 8am. It’s an amazing mixture of people. There are dads with their daughters who are still at school. There are Ironmen champions both the triathlete and surf types. There are ex-national swimmers and new-to-swimming swimmers. Men, women, girls and boys. Some get in early and do a double point-to-point. Others are classified as “tea baggers” (the official and technical term) and just hop in a bob around for a bit. And then afterwards they all sit down for an hour and a half coffee! They “train” together, sharing tips and encouraging each other to do that bit extra and if someone doesn’t turn up they heckle them so they definitely turn up the next day – just like a “team” sport. The group then all enter the Portsea Swim Classic in late January. My dad, who was a runner as a child and not a swimmer, did his first Swim Classic last year. The conditions were perfect – a roaring current would have got an 80 year old granny floating on her back across the line. I was proud of Dad for earning his finishers t-shirt, after giving him one every year for about 14years from my time at the surf club!

This year was different though. Whilst the event is timed to go with the current, a strong westerly wind meant the top section of the water was going against you. The swim heads straight out from shore, then takes a left turn around the cliffs. This year the turn around the point was extremely choppy, and don’t forget about that westerly wind pushing against you. Dad was concerned and hesitated even starting. But the night before friends from the 8am swim group had given him a pair of bathers matching the rest of the group. Each morning dad had commented on their bathers and how he wanted a pair to feel a part of the group, and now he finally had a pair. With the power of the bathers, and to his credit, dad started the swim. And not only did he start, but he finished it in a very impressive time. Seeing him come out the water (when to be honest I was anxious he may have been coming out of a rescue boat), with the biggest smile on his face was a great moment. At the finish line he met all his 8am swim group buddies and celebrated his accomplishment. Some of the swimmers were the fastest in their age group, while others were at the back – but they were all excited to be there and complete the swim and congratulate one another.

Proud Father-Daughter moment!

Proud Father-Daughter moment!

It really struck home how much of a “team” they were when they insisted on getting a photo together in their matching bathers. Like 15 year old girls with a selfie stick they hunted for a camera and posed, tummies sucked in. And even afterwards they all went to the Portsea Pub for a celebratory drink! At the pub friends, wives and husbands of the swimmers committed to doing it next year – because you could tell they just want to be part of the team.

The Team and their Bathers!

Some of the Team and their Bathers!

The magical part of this sense of belonging, is it is bigger than your own circle. This group are part of the bigger team that do the Portsea Swim Classic. Who are part of the bigger team that do the summer series of ocean swims. Who are part of a bigger team of just people who are swimmers. The circle is never ending and so is the sense of belonging. Yes sport offers health, fitness, endorphins, speed and whatever else you may be chasing. But nothing soothes the soul, brings a smile, or genuine pure happiness than a sense of belonging. So don’t tell me it’s an individual sport.

Pro-swimmer and non-swimmer: it doesn't matter!

Pro-swimmer and non-swimmer: it doesn’t matter!

#melb2albury – Stage 3

Summary of the third and final Stage of Le Tour de Vic!

Tour Fast Facts
390km’s ridden
14 hours in the saddle
2 flat tyres
3 climbs; Kinglake, Mount Stirling (Tolmie) and Beechworth.

The Route
A delayed start commenced Stage 3 due to the rain. We successfully avoided the rain all day although it looked ominous many times.

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The Stage started with about 65km’s of relatively flat terrain through the beautiful King Valley wineries from Whitfield to Tarrawingee.

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It was a welcome change of scenery from the yellow farmland of the previous days. It was Tour Le Towns as we rode through small country towns such as Edi, Moyhu, Oxley, Milawa and Tarrawingee. Moyhu was a tiny town of about 2 shops and 30 homes, but there were countless bikes decorated and placed on the nature strip – it really made it feel like Le Tour!

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In Tarra we visited Juls’ great grandfathers homestead and pub. Adding in some family history to Le Tour, we were ticking all boxes!
Out of Tarranwingee and it was a 16km climb to Beechworth (couldn’t be a Stage without a proper climb).
From Beechworth it was downhill to Yackadandah, another 3km climb out then the home stretch to NSW. It was exciting to cross the Murray into NSW and reach Albury.

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Jinx of the Day
We were finally on the homestretch to NSW. As we went through the last traffic light, about 3km’s from the hotel and only 300m’s from the Murray, John yelled “I’m calling it early – Brad is the loser who got the only flat”. Two minutes later, boom.

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Happiest man ever to change a tube?!

To make it even funnier (to us) Brad was also “the only loser” who knocked down the giant jenga at the pub that night with the local albury boys. Twice. Brad “Two Tubes Two Jenga” Floyd.

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Athlete of the Day
Only the four main riders did the final stage. Brad yet again impressed all with his riding and had exceeded expectations all Tour. John was yet again an asset pushing dragging the team through the northerly wind.
Julian “Car Back” Connors had his stellar day though. Juls was improving each day on the Tour and peaked at the end. He was strong on the flats and hills but is also awarded AOD with his calling when on the back of the pack – there is no one else you’d want at the back calling all the cars and trucks, he was awesome.

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Tips and Tricks
All four of us absolutely loved the trip, and I think it actually exceeded all of our expectations. I cannot recommend highly enough for others to do a similar trip. As a triathlete so much time and energy is put into sticking to the daily and weekly program it can all too often become repetitive and dull. Planning and achieving something so new and different is exciting and rewarding, and rejuvenates your passion for the sport. Some tips from our experience are:
Plan an interesting route. We loved having the challenge of a climb a day and would structure it similarly for the next trip. The variety in scenery was also perfect.
Balance between a challenge and realistic. The distances and difficulty we covered were the right balance. We all felt so rewarded that we covered 390km’s, were tired by the end of Day 3, but it wasn’t so far that we ever got too tired and over it.
Plan how you will carry your things. We had Topeak bags on the front which worked perfectly and we highly recommend for a short trip. For longer distances you may require larger bags.
Coordinate items between the group. Carrying multiple pumps, tape, multi tools etc. is unnecessary extra weight.
Pack two pairs of undies! We all agreed we would take one kit and wash it each night, and have one set of clothes we’d wear each night. Thankfully I packed two pairs of undies because you needed to wash one while wearing the other! Some didn’t think this through…
Book accommodation with a washing machine. We ensured each place had a machine so we had clean clothes for the next day and saved travelling with an extra kit.
Plan a bike shop in your route. As your tires will deflate from the weight, road and heat it is a good idea to stop by a shop to pump them up. We did this in Mansfield.
Plan your nutrition. We bought food when we could but there are a number of small towns that don’t sell fresh fruit (bananas) or other cycling foods you may want. It’s better to be over prepared than underprepared with nutrition.

After Thoughts
The trip could not have gone better. When debriefing last night you know it has been a successful trip when you’re all saying “next year when we do it…” We are already planning different routes or places to see which is exciting. The trip was so successful because we worked so well as a team. It wasn’t a race and it wasn’t even a training camp. It was an adventure. Adventures are there to be enjoyed and experienced. We stopped when we wanted to, when we saw funny things and wanted a photo, when we wanted an ice cream mid ride. We took all day to cover distances you’d knock out before lunch on a Saturday because we looked around and enjoyed the views. And we always rode as a team. I couldn’t have asked for three better guys to experience this adventure that I decided 6 months ago I wanted to do, so thank you John, Brad and Juls.

And finally a huge thank you to AvantiPlus Collingwood. A trip like this requires planning and support from people with experience.

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On the road to Sydney

Paul and Jamie from the shop sorted us with bikes, bags, clothing, seats, bike rack… Pretty much everything was sorted by these guys and we wouldn’t have done the trip in such style or comfort without them!

Can’t wait for Le Tour de Vic 2015!

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#melb2albury – Stage 2

Another day in the saddle! Summary as follows…

The Team
Garth ‘Socks Off’ Tucker
Garth joins the team for a fly-in-fly-out appearance for Stage 2 only. He joins the team as a very strong rider, despite his size he performs well both on the hills and the flats. The team are very grateful for his appearance, albeit short.

Priscilla ‘Short Course’ Barrington
Missed the opening team descriptions. Joins the team as a strong short course athlete but doesn’t have the experience over the longer distances. Risk of fading towards the end of the tour.

The Route
Fear was amongst the riders at the start of the day that Stage 2 was going to be a much harder day than Stage 1. Fortunately for the riders there was less dead road than Day 1, so less taxing on their bodies. The day started out leaving Yarck with about 55km’s of low undulating dead roads to Mansfield directly into the northerly headwind again. From Mansfield it was undulating, then the riders had to suffer a 20km climb through the Great Dividing Ranges, resulting in a final 10km decent into Whitfield. The scenery was hot dry farmland for majority of the ride with temps hitting 38.8 degrees. It made it tough for the riders, and they were relieved when the clouds came over during the main climb. Highlight was stopping for a beer in Tolmie, a tiny pub in the middle of nowhere during the climb.

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Support
Garth was only able to join the tour thanks to the amazing Hayley Creswell who drove 500km’s to enable Garth to ride the 117km stage. A drop off in Yarck and pick up in Whitfield from Seymour is legendary. What. A. Girl.

Daily Award
It wasn’t hard to see Garth was performing well. Strong up the hills and did his job on the front in the head wind. However it’s easy to be a One Stage Wonder!

Athlete of the Day must be given to Brad. He started the day strong and held form all day. He has exceeded expectations with his performance.

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Lesson Learnt
Listen to the bike shop, not the bloke in the pub!
In Mansfield we chatted to the bike shop owner about our ride. He described the climb through King Valley and descent into Whitfield perfectly. When we got to Tolmie at 80km’s in, the bike shop man had told us it was undulating to 100km’s. The publican told us it was all downhill from that point and Juls and Brad happily sunk a beer or two thinking their work was done for the day. Setting off and climbing another 20k hurt. Lesson learnt – publicans want to sell beer, listen to the bike shop for gradient instructions!

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All Terrain Cycling in Mansfield – good advice!

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Tolmie Pub – know how to sell a beer!

Highlight
Garth joining the stage was a welcomed relief both from a physical and entertainment point of view. However it was his better half that made our day by booking a room at the same hotel and supplying cheese, biscuits and wine. Love that girl!

But the winner of the day was the view at the top of the climb and the decent down. Every up there is a down, and today’s was amazing, at least 10km’s long and not too steep that you could really enjoy it.

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One more day!!

#melb2albury – Stage 1

Today we set off to ride Melbourne to Albury over three days to kick start the festive season! It was a long day in the saddle with beautiful scenery.
Stage 1 of Le Tour de Vic was Melbourne to Yarck via Kinglake. So to summarise the day…

The Team

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Brad ‘Downhill Skier’ Floyd.
Joins the team as a regular strong rider. Has done the k’s and plenty of hills, is a stayer.

Julian ‘Car Back’ Connors
Strong history as a good cyclist but hasn’t had strong prep for the event. Natural ability will see him still perform well.

John ‘One Foot Wonder’ Hibbert
Will lead the team well, in very good form and will be an asset.

The Route
Very tough day. Hot with northerly winds, with the road radiating heat late in the stage. Very dead road brought down the average speed and tired bodies early. Lots of climbing, however very scenic with sights of fire ravaged Kinglake, thick forest with tall cooling trees, open flat yellow sunburnt farmland and Australian bush land. Echidnas, black cockatoos and wombats were spotted.

The Set Up
The Team came with different tactics on how to complete the ride unassisted. Priscilla and John fitted Topeak boxes to their front handlebars. Set up worked well with easy access and found it was better having the weight at the front opposed to the back on the hills. The bag itself is quite heavy adding unnecessary weight.

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Brad went the ‘rack free’ option with a bag fixed under his seat. Great set up but paid the price for it.

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Julian opted for the simple back pack solution. Discomfort from the weight and heat was experienced. Method not recommended.

Daily Award
As expected, John had a great first day. Highlight was when he dragged the whole team into Yea through the head wind. Everyone was relieved to get there quicker thanks to his efforts.

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Lesson Learnt
Feet swell in heat. Don’t do your shoes up too tight or you won’t feel your toes, or may go as far as experience extricating stabbing pains in your feet. Also may be the result of cheap shoes, good shoe investment is likely required for a Tour of this length on such poor roads.

Highlight
The B&B we are staying at has a goat in the backyard. Awesome.

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Bring on Stage 2.

All in a day’s rest

This week has been a shemozzle for me to say the least. I have been missing my training sessions, lacking motivation and simply, losing the plot! It’s times like these you don’t know if it’s the chicken before the egg. Am I over trained and tired, and missing sessions is the right thing to do, or am I just frazzled and lacking motivation and shouldn’t miss any sessions as I am making excuses? I think as a triathlete one of the hardest things is knowing when you genuinely need to back off and let yourself rest.

I say the week has been a shemozzle, but in fact it started last week, when I was training with my boyfriend John. Our coach set us the same week’s training in the lead up to the Gatorade Race we were both doing. Monday morning kicked off with 5 x 1km efforts. Every kilometer was a race – but we’re not competitive with each other! By the end, to say I was spent is an understatement! But alas, I went to work then straight to swim training afterwards. I can’t remember how far we swam, but am sure it wouldn’t have been anything less of 4km with the torture Butch puts us through each session. It’s a love hate relationship with that man! Tired, I groggily got up for our ride/run combo the following morning on Tuesday. Again, you would have thought John and I were racing for gold at the Olympics. We pushed each other to our limits each run off the bike, each one getting quicker. By Wednesday morning it was another run session, this time hills which I did on my own. I battled my way through the session, not pushing as hard had John been there. I was secretly relieved. Wednesday night was PT and my legs were shaking. By Thursday morning we were back out on the bike and I was now a broken woman. We were meant to do a few hill repeats to get the legs ticking ready for Sunday. But I had nothing; the repeats were more of a survival climb to the top of what felt like Everest. Thursday night I was meant to go to swim squad, but I skipped it. Friday – skipped. Saturday – skipped! I had destroyed myself so badly at the start of the week I couldn’t finish it off! I had no choice but to skip those couple of days before the race Sunday morning, I was absolutely exhausted.

John and I aren’t competitive at all!

Having those couple of days off made me forgot how tired I was after the Gatorade Sprint race on Sunday. With no more races for about 6 weeks, John suggested I should take the week off and recover. Recover from what, I asked? The race is just over an hour, it’s really just a training session, I don’t need to recover from that! So I got my program for the week which was another fully loaded week. I set off Monday morning and destroyed myself doing hill runs. I went back to Butch Monday night and knocked out 4.6km’s in the pool. I was going to do my ride Tuesday night so I could sleep in Tuesday morning. But that afternoon I was talking myself out of the session. It will get too late. I am training on my own. I need to do the weekly grocery shop. Work’s been busy. Ultimately – I am too tired. I had a war in my head. Was I actually too tired, or am I making myself excuses?

It’s not the first time I’ve had this war, it won’t be the last, and I am certain I am not the only one who’s had it. I read some articles which discuss times like this. They all refer to writing down your motivation for training, refer to your reasons when you’re making excuses, and kept harping on about focusing on the “reasons” you train. It was useless information. I know why I train, I must be motivated otherwise I wouldn’t be here in the first place. So was it a lack of motivation, or was I genuinely too tired?

So I skipped the Tuesday night bike session. And that night after dinner I had a glass of milk, and when I put the milk away in the cupboard (yes, cupboard not fridge), I thought “Yep! You are tired! Lucky I skipped that session!”. So what did I do next? Go to bed, set my alarm for 5.30am and go for a 17km run the next morning. Surprisingly, I felt ok and did pretty well in my session (there were intervals with times to hit). So I doubted myself again – I mustn’t be that tired. So off to work I went. When in the middle of my client meeting, at about 10am (after being at work for over 2hrs) I realized my shirt was on inside out. Kill. Me. Now. I couldn’t even escape to the bathroom until 1pm to fix it!!! Thank god for high vis vests to cover myself up. Mortified after that experience I was pleased to get home that night. Only to find I had locked myself out. The great run I did that morning meant taking my house key off my set, and forgetting to put it back on. I have a spare at my sisters and my parents, but both were out and weren’t coming home until late. I frustratingly missed my PT session, crashed my friend’s house who lives across the road, and finally got back into my house at nearly 11pm (WELL past my bedtime!). Tired and grumpy I slept well. The next morning I set about hunting to find my key, which I was convinced I had left on the dining table. I looked all over the house and couldn’t find it. I finally checked in my wallet and found it. The same wallet I had had with me the whole time… Not. Happy. Jan.

Triathletes need R&R!

Triathletes need R&R!

Other than trying to see the funny side of what I did last night (it’s a laugh or cry moment!), what am I getting out of writing this? Listen to your body!!! It is really hard to know the difference between being a bit tired from a day’s work, and being truly exhausted from the accumulation of weeks of training and work. Think about the following when deciding which one it is:

  • Are you doing silly things?! People when they’re tired are forgetful, have slow reactions, and do silly things. Are you doing any of these things? You wouldn’t do it after one big day, but perhaps after a big week(s).
  • Look back on your training. It is easy to forget just how much you have done. After Sunday’s race I didn’t think I had done much – I forgot about the huge load I had done at the beginning of the week. Heck, I even forgot I ran 17km’s the morning I locked myself out! Analyse your training to see if you may have in fact over trained. This is why a training diary is so great.
  • If you’re not feeling up for training, ask yourself; if you were training with friends would you be up for it? Training with friends is much more motivating and fun. If you still couldn’t fathom donning the lycra even if it meant socializing with your buddies, then you probably are too tired and should skip the session.
  • Look at your program long term and work out just how critical the training is for that day or week. Most of the times, it is more beneficial to have the day or few days off and let your body recover, than to push yourself too far and into a heaped pile of exhaustation.
  • Look ahead on your program. If today you have a key session but the next couple of days are easy, then you probably want to do it. Alternatively if you have a big couple of days coming up, it may be better to get the rest in so you can give those sessions justice.

Noosa Race Report

Another Noosa done and dusted! I am sitting in the airport (seems to be the best place for me to write!) and getting the chance to write about the actual race. I have never written a “race report” before but have always enjoyed reading others (be it Age Groupers or Pro’s), so here is my first crack at a Race Report! Enjoy!

23. presos on stage

I participated in the Eyeline 1000 swim Friday night to practice pack swimming and sighting. Other than the horrendous sea lice that has left me looking like I have chicken pox still a week later, this was really beneficial. Strangely before the swim I was really nervous, the swim was just practice and no one knew I was doing it, yet I got really nervous and anxious just before it. I assume it was because it was my first pack swim back after breaking my collarbone, but either way it turned out entering the swim was a good idea as it got all my nerves out before Sunday.

Transition closes at 6am race morning, which is horrendously early if you’re staying 35mins away, and painfully inconvenient if you have a late race start (this year was 8am, last year was 9.30am so a very long wait!). in transition I was racked two down from Catherine Allison, the superstar triathlete who anialated me just two weeks prior in the Adelaide duathlon. Between us was a boy our age completing his very first triathlon! He asked lots of questions and we gave lots of advice, and he was so happy with the tips we gave him and the tape I leant and showed him how to stick his gels to his top tube. Starting the morning like this was great as it reminded me how amazing the event is, and set a relaxed tone. I then went and waited at a friends apartment for an hour, and met her friend who was staying with them. Victoria was also racing for the fun of it and again I loved the relaxed environment pre-race.

After the two hour wait and a decent swim warm up, I was finally off and racing. Naturally there was a bit of tossling at the start but I then found some good feet to sit on. It stretched out in a line and I was about 6th down (I assume the real speedsters were already ahead of our front pack). Unfortunately about 400m in the girl I was following dropped off the pack. I swam around her but the gap was too big for me to get back on. From thereon I swam on my own. I sighted well and I think I swam fairly straight (my Garmin says I swam 1.6km’s… I’d love to know what others say?). Slowly I was ticking off girls in the wave before me, then on the back straight I was overtaking the pack from two waves in front. This was really encouraging. A few girls from the wave behind me (the second wave from my AG) over took me on the back straight. I knew this was going to happen but it still hurts, knowing they are already 3 minutes ahead and I haven’t even finished the first leg! Afterwards I found out this included Libby Trickett so that made me feel better about it!

I came out of the swim and checked my watch, low 26mins. Damnit I thought. I wanted to be close to the year before which I thought was 26.30 including T1. I estimated T1 would be at least a minute, so I was a minute behind on last years time. I had set my goal for this race to beat last years time, even if just by 10 seconds. After the race I found out that my swim time didn’t include T1 so I actually swam quicker this year.

I grabbed my bike and noticed I was in before Catherine. Great start, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before she caught me in the ride. I had practiced my bike mount in preparation for this race, and it helped. I felt I had a very quick transition and before I knew it I was heading out of Noosa, already overtaking people who were fiddling with shoes etc. Last year I felt I had a great bike ride as the whole way I was racing another girl in my AG who I knew was a good cyclist, so it kept me pushing. I mentioned to John that I thought I would find pacing harder this year because I was so lucky last year, so he told me to still pace off others, just look out for someone even if they are further up the road. So I did exactly this, and kept looking ahead and focusing on someone who looked like they were moving and worked to catch up. It worked well and I was ticking people off. By about 10km’s in I had caught 8 people from my AG. I then caught Clare White, who conveniently has her name on her race suit! Before the race I had looked at the start list to understand the competition. Catherine and Clare were the two biggest threats. I knew Clare had a killer swim but I was a much stronger runner. Usually my riding is stronger, however on Sunday once I caught her it was back and forth between us – she was putting up a solid fight that I wasn’t expecting on the bike! Keep in mind, Clare started in the wave behind so to be in the same position on the bike meant she was actually 3 minutes ahead of me. When we got to the hill I put my foot down and broke away. On looking at the results I put 30 seconds in on her just on the hill. I didn’t know how much I increased the gap by but I thought I had dropped her. When I turned around within a kilometer I saw Catherine heading towards the turn around. She was less than 2km’s behind. This kept me pushing as I tried to delay how long until she caught me. Then unsuspectingly with about 10km’s to go Clare appears back! And with her there were another 2 girls from the AG below. Still no sign of Catherine so I was confused what was going on. The four of us kept rolling but it was hard with a big group to avoid drafting. I am so fearful of getting done for drafting, so with about 5km’s to go I put my foot down and passed them all. Being out the front was the safest so I couldn’t get penalized. It turned out this was a really smart decision as the last few k’s into Noosa gets congested with slower riders and turns and speed humps. Being at the front meant less people to slow me. Knowing the three girls were behind me kept me pushing hard all the way into transition.

23. bike leg

I knew I wanted to hit the run at around 1hr38mins to be able to beat my time from last year. As I was coming into town I realized I was a couple of minutes under this. I was stoked, if I ran the run I knew I had I would achieve my goal of breaking last year’s time. I threw my bike in and hit the run. I didn’t see the other three girls, I guess I was just ahead of them coming out of T2. Just up the road I passed Lesley, a girl from the AG above but who is a strong runner. I hoped we could run together but I quickly passed her. Good signs for me (chatting to Lesley afterwards she unfortunately struggles with the heat). I was running at the pace I had planned, but within about 4km’s I was struggling and my times slowed. The turn around is at 4.5km’s so on the way back I saw where Catherine was – about 1km behind. I did some maths and thought “holy moly I might actually beat her”, this was never a consideration in the lead in to the race. However, I was slowing and I kept trying to push my times back down but just didn’t have it. I saw an older woman ahead and slowly but surely I caught her with about 3km’s to go. She jumped on with me and we worked together. When one slowed the other encouraged, it was great team work. Without her I think I would have slowed even more, and beating Clare by only 15 seconds this could have cost me the race, I was so grateful to have her. We pushed all the way to the end, and yelling at the slower runners congesting the path in the last 600m’s (one of the biggest issues with the Noosa course). I sprinted to the end and then nearly collapsed. I gave it everything.

I was so happy with the PB I set I didn’t know or care where I had placed. It was at least 20 minutes after the race that I found out I had won. It was great racing and I love how competitive it is. This is what Noosa is about, and there is nothing more satisfying or fun then having a head-to-head race. Thanks so all the girls for a fun day, I look forward to next year!

The moment I just found out I had won.

The moment I just found out I had won.

Noosa dreaming…

Seeing my name up on stage <3

Seeing my name up on stage ❤

In 2012 I left Brisbane and my tri club Reddogs for a stint in London. When I got there I tried joining tri clubs or cycling groups but it didn’t work out so I ended up signing up as a correspondence athlete with NRG Lab. I trained best as I could considering the circumstances (living in central London isn’t ideal for a triathlete!). When I arrived back home to Melbourne late in 2012 I finally got to meet my coach Pat properly and do some testing to set some proper training. I remember doing my first ever FTP bike test at his house one Saturday, almost two years ago exactly, and the results and numbers were meaningless to me. He put it in by perspective by saying a girl who he used to coach hit ‘XYZ’ numbers and she was a Noosa podium finisher. I was in awe of this mystery athlete and wanted to one day hit similar numbers. The fact Pat used her numbers as a benchmark just shows the prestige of the Noosa triathlon to Aussie athletes.

My first Gatorade in December 2012 wasn’t great to say the least! I finished 11th in my AG and I remember asking John afterwards “what’s the point?”. I was training as much as I train now, about 10 sessions per week. It was a sacrifice on my social life and I wondered is it really all worth it? I could cut down to a more sane 6 sessions per week and probably get similar results but have more of a life. John said let’s give it a bit more time. Thankfully I listened and each race I improved a little bit more, with even a podium finish in one, and by the final race I had qualified for the “Championship Wave” where they take the top 5 of each Age Group. I was ecstatic to have made the cut and loved racing in the wave.

Whilst I was improving each race I had signed up to the Geelong Olympic Triathlon in February 2013. Two days before the race I had a bad bike crash meaning I didn’t get to race. Following the race I looked up the results and thought I could have got a top 3 finish. It’s always easy to look at results of a race you didn’t do and say “coulda, shoulda, woulda” but this fuelled my desire to achieve something bigger. It was after this I told Pat I wanted to podium in Noosa – the biggest triathlon in Australia.

Following the summer season I had an enormous winter training. I set a huge PB at the Run Melbourne half marathon, competed in all four Duathlon races, and then straight into Noosa in November 2013. I had a great race that day and came away with a fourth place. I had missed the podium by a mere 15 seconds. I could not believe it!!! I was so close to achieving my goal and missed out by practically nothing! There was one minute between 2nd, 3rd and 4th place so whilst I missed out I knew I was around the mark. The best part though was that I was happy with my race and own performance, so again I was fuelled and encouraged by this. Two weeks later I had signed up for Noosa 2014!

Come the next Gatorade series 2013/14 and it was a different start to just twelve months earlier! Each race I finished on the podium and to much excitement I won the overall series. I went back to finally race the Geelong Olympic where I won the race, it felt like sweet revenge after missing out racing the previous year. I also travelled to Tasmania for the National Olympic Championships where I finished third and automatically qualified for the World Championships in Canada in August 2014. It was an amazing season but by the end I was physically exhausted as I had been training hard for about 9 months straight. I took most of April off to recover and get ready for the World Champs prep.

My World Championship preparation was kicked off with a two week “training camp” at Thanyapura in Thailand, Macca’s (Chris McCormack) triathlete haven. On the second day I came off my bike and broke my collarbone. I was heartbroken. I spent the two week camp stuck in my hotel room cancelling all Canada plans.

The recovery felt slow but it was standard for a broken bone; I didn’t run for 8 weeks, ride my bike on the road for 10 weeks and swim for 12 weeks. All during the key winter “base” months. I re-set all my goals with my coach, and decided I would target the National Duathlon Championships in Adelaide in October to try and qualify for World’s. We thought this was best as my swimming would have suffered by so much at least this was just running and riding. I had my entry to Noosa and was undecided if I’d even bother going. Noosa would be just under 6 months after I broke my collarbone and was told it would take 6 months to get full strength back. During the recovery of my collarbone I strictly followed the physio’s orders by doing my exercises daily and not doing anything too soon (such as swimming). During this time I also started seeing Amber from First Wave Fitness and commenced a PT session once a week. Strength sessions was something I had never previously done in my training.

It got to 6 weeks before Adelaide (8 weeks before Noosa) and I had been swimming for 5 weeks (2 on my own to build up, 3 with my swim squad). Much to my surprise I was swimming ok. I had also done one triathlon and two duathlon’s and performed pretty well. So I turned to Pat and said “Noosa is on”. He changed my program and set me to ‘peak’ for Noosa.

The Duathlon in Adelaide was tough and I didn’t perform how I had hoped. I really struggled to recover afterwards and the sessions didn’t feel good. I complained to John that I wasn’t ready for Noosa, but having experienced where I was he kept reminding me to trust Pat and I was to peak for Noosa not Adelaide.

The moment I just found out I had won.

The moment I just found out I had won.

I listened to John, and Pat and even myself (you need to listen to the rational you at times like this) and went into the race with a clear and calm mind with focus only on myself and my own performance. And it worked. When I crossed the finish line they apparently announced “Priscilla Barrington – provisional first”. I didn’t hear this but John told me as soon as he saw me. There was a wave that started three minutes behind me so I had to wait for them to finish but for once I wasn’t worried about it, I had performed my best and beat my time from last year by nearly two minutes which I was over the moon about. About 20minutes after finishing a friend checked the results and confirmed that I had won. I nearly cried. And this time, when I missed my goal 12 months earlier by 15 seconds, I won by just 15 seconds. It was sweet revenge round 2!!!

Medal

I cannot describe the high I have been on since winning. The support I have received from friends and family has been overwhelming, especially from my coach Pat who was almost speechless when I called him with the news and Amber my PT who ‘nearly cried’. Sunday afternoon and night John would tell anyone who would listen that I won. Usually I would be embarrassed and tell him to stop it, but even strangers were elated for me and celebrated! I had clothing shop assistants high five me, strangers take photos (yes – they were very drunk!) and new found friends at the bar buy me drinks! It felt like I had won Olympic Gold!

So why reflect on the past two years? Other than the fact that I am immensely proud of how far I have come and what I have achieved, I think there is a lot to show and learn from my past few years. Last Friday morning I attended the Witsup Noosa Breakfast and heard an amazing panel of Liz Blatchford, Emma Snowsill and Belinda Granger speak. What they said really resonated with me and my training over these two years. Emma stated “it’s not skill, but commitment”. She (tried to tell us – I still don’t really believe it!) that she wasn’t that naturally gifted. That in her early days her stats and results were lower than the other girls in the triathlon AIS squad. Yet she persisted and her commitment saw her win an Olympic Gold medal. Two years ago I placed 11th in a local Gatorade race and considered giving up, but persistence saw results come. The panel also talked about strength training and that it is critical. This year I added strength training (specifically activation and stability activities) and have reaped the rewards. With all the time off I had from my injury, I don’t believe I am currently fitter, but I do believe I am getting more out of my body from the PT sessions. I truly believe this has been a big factor in my results. And finally, perhaps my injury was a blessing in disguise. Having such a long forced break, a painful as it was for me to sit and do nothing, must have set me up well to go hard again. Triathlete’s rarely take such large breaks, but maybe it is something that should be considered more.

Triathlon is what you make of it. If you commit for the long term you will go from strength to strength and the results will come. I have seen this in friends who race for podiums and friends who have just got into the sport and are here for participation – it doesn’t matter on your ability. If you commit and persist, your dreams will come true.