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.
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!!!
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.