Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Changing direction

During 2015 I have thought very deeply about where I want to go and what I want to do when I leave this sport. I think it is fair to say this year I have struggled a bit with direction. When I first jumped into competing as a pro in 2006 I remember my Head of Department at the school where I was working saying to me that the biggest struggle I would have is that being a pro athlete requires you to be selfish and he didn't think I would cope with that. And I have found this to be completely true. I have times where I just feel I really am not contributing what I want to, to society. At the end of 2010 I was going to depart from the sport entirely when I unexpectedly fell pregnant with Benny. Brett and I decided for me to give sport another crack in 2012 and through Brett's support I was able to do so, and Benny gave me some extra years as I no longer felt like a selfish pro athlete. I had plenty that I was giving, if only to one individual. Now he is growing up, I have more time, and again I have itchy feet.

I have always had many strings to my bow, and that is when I am the most happy, and in my case this has boiled down to 3 main ingredients. Sport, music, teaching and being a Mum of course. Before I became a pro athlete I was working 3 jobs. Maths teacher, violin teacher and violinist. When I became a pro athlete and started travelling around I was no longer able to give students the commitment they deserved and had to give up all forms of teaching. I was still able to keep my music going through my playing, but in 2011 we left Christchurch for a number of years and this was also put away leaving me with just sport in my life. This year I have been up and down, so many thoughts in my head as to what I want to do but finally everything is coming together, I have a clear plan and I know what I want to do.

This year I have also pushed myself very hard in regards to my racing and my travelling schedule. I am always pushing myself hard, I always have, but this year I finished particularly exhausted as I explained in my last blog I just took a step too far. I now have decided I don't want to put myself through that kind of travel and racing schedule again. I love travelling with my family. I love going to Europe and spending a lot of time there and visiting a lot of places and challenging myself to a lot of races, but with Benny beginning school mid year of 2016 I can't expect him to pack up and leave in pursuit of my goals, and I don't want to go away by myself for more than a week. In 2016 I want to stay at home more, which will allow me to keep commitments and do other work. I will focus on fewer races throughout the year, and to places and courses that I am truly passionate about. Financially too, with some changes with sponsorship, my projected income is much less and I can no longer afford to be a full time athlete, and actually it has made my decision much easier, as everything just sort of switched on in my brain as to what I truly want to achieve, and it is no longer simply in reaching my own sporting goals.

So what do I want to do? Well I want to get a balance to my life. As I said before, I am happy when I have a number of different hats on. We are coming back to Christchurch and I have been lucky enough that the orchestra is letting me play in a number of concerts in 2016, so I have a bit of work there. I want to teach the violin. I was doing this before I came into this sport and I love teaching especially one on one, so that will be a major focus for me. And then finally I want to coach a small, limited number of athletes, so that I can give them the time and dedication they need. I have been in this sport for a decade, and I have learnt so much during this time (as well as finishing 37 iron distance races). I have been lucky enough to have learnt off some fantastic coaches during this time, to have been able to pick the brains of the best in the business. I have also had a number of years where I self coached. I did a lot of reading and experimented with a lot of different ideas and have a clear idea of what I believe works and what doesn't (not just for my own body, but for others that I have observed). I was also able to self coach myself to 6 iron distance victories, 5 half iron distance victories and 2 top 10 Hawaii finishes (so I didn't do a bad job there!) I would never coach anyone like I do myself. I have always seen myself as a business. I have never had the opportunity to just pick a race and really train for it like I would coach someone else. I also never gave any coach the opportunity to coach me as such. As a pro ironman athlete without government support like an olympic athlete, it is all about survival. My success is due to the fact I was an opportunist. I was willing to go and do whatever I had to race wise to make ends meet, and a profit for my family, plus of course I was never really driven to just succeed in one race, I always wanted and was driven to challenge myself by doing groups of races. I loved travelling to Europe for instance with my family and challenging myself by doing 4 half races and 1 or 2 full races in a couple of months, and having the whole trip as a whole being a success. Coaching Age Group athletes however will be a new experience, in that they don't depend on the income of the races to survive! So it will be nice to coach people with a plan to get them in peak fitness for their A race. To be able to talk with them about what they want to achieve, and then put a plan in place for them to get themselves there. 

So I have started my journey down this path. In the last weeks I completed the Ironman University course and I am now an Ironman Certified Coach. I really enjoyed this course. It was broad and comprehensive and the assessment was also. It has really kick started my passion. I am now currently coaching two amazing women who have let me in the door to helping them realise their dreams, so I am very lucky. I am also now looking to further pursue my interest in the fitness industry in further study as I want to learn more especially in the area of Strength and Conditioning. So all of this will have me fully occupied in 2016. Having all these goals in helping others' reaching their goals and bettering and challenging themselves has me fully re-energised and raring to go. I think also having areas outside of my own race goals will be beneficial to my own racing. I hope to not have so much financial stress on my shoulders each time I line up for a race. I am still on a much needed break and aim to start moving the body again next week just before Christmas. I aim to be on the start line giving it my all at the 10th Anniversary of Challenge Wanaka on February 20th. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all !!
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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

End of 2015 racing

This weekend saw me race my last race of 2015. It wasn't supposed to be my last race, I was planning to race the IM 70.3 in Taupo on December 12th but unfortunately I fell ill just before departing for my race in Sydney and am still battling this virus still with a fever and a very bad cough. I would never advise anyone else to race when sick. These endurance events are never to be taken lightly, but like most people I find it very hard to follow my own good advice. After my DNF in Kona I really didn't want to let anyone down again and it just came down to the fact I care more about letting people down than I do about my own health. So I got through the race and finished in 4th place and actually I was pretty surprised with the splits I achieved which saw me finishing only a few minutes slower than the year before, but now that it is over it is clear to me that I need to listen to my body and give it the break it needs. I started my season on January 9th and have completed 11 (4 full and 7 half distance races) since then, 13 if you include my 3.8k swim, 180k bike, 16k run in Hawaii. In fact when I look back, by the first week of March before most athletes had even begun their season I had already embarked on 2 full distance races and 3 half distance races! And of course it is not just the racing, I have traveled long distance far too much and that always takes far more out of me than racing itself.

I think part of me has been trying to punish myself these last few weeks. Because of my DNF in Kona I have embarked on a torturous schedule which has seen me travelling long distance, separated from my family on red eye flights with endurance races at the end of it all, all it seems to make up for the fact I was not able to run the last 25km of the race in Hawaii. What is really quite funny though is that after all this travel which took me to Europe, twice to Asia, Hawaii, and numerous times to Australia I am now unable to do the race which is just 3 hours drive away from my house!!

Looking back at my results it looks like the year went very smoothly. I achieved 4 first places, 4 second places, 3 4th places and a DNF, but really 2015 has been one really long battle. From my perspective it has been a battle to get on each and every start line and I am looking forward to put 2015 to rest. So now I rest and recover for a bit. We move back down to Canterbury just before Christmas and I will be taking a slightly new direction in the New Year which I am very excited about. Thanks as always to my supporters and sponsors in helping me through this year. My coach Kristian from Trispecific, Ceepo, Project Clothing, Asics, Rolf Prima, Rudy Project, Keywin, Sweet Cheeks, Powerbar, Roka, Cobb.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Challenge Forster

This last weekend I raced Challenge Forster. It was great to be able to go to a pretty iconic town in Australia's triathlon history. It was a really beautiful town and I enjoyed my time spent there. This race was 7 days after my previous race in Taiwan. I have always backed up races well, but usually I don't have a lot of travel in between which for me is much tougher on my body than the actual race itself. This time I had a 2 hour taxi ride to the airport in Taiwan, one short flight to Hong Kong, another redeye 11 hour flight back to Auckland (the second in 5 days), a night in Auckland to try and catch up on some sleep, then one last flight to Sydney before a 4 hour drive to Forster. My body was truly knackered by the time I arrived! In fact my tightness in the right hand side (diaphragm, stomach, ribs, back) did not pull up well after the race in Taiwan, I really was in quite a lot of discomfort and by the time I arrived in Auckland I was very hesitant of continuing the journey on to Forster. It was not the money I stood to lose on making a trip with a poor showing, but the extra time away from Benny that could possibly be all for nothing. But I did decide to soldier on, and in the end I am very glad as during my time in Forster I feel I had quite a few questions answered about exactly what is going on and how exactly we can improve the situation. So in the end it was a huge step forward for me, I hope!

So to the race. The two days before the race had been absolutely lovely weather and Forster looked so beautiful. Unfortunately race day bought rain and wind and much cooler conditions. Nothing that I'm not used to being from New Zealand! Just not what is usually in mind when you are racing in Australia. The water temperature was however very warm, and the pro athletes had a non wetsuit swim. We didn't get into the water until the last possible minute. I was very grateful for my Project merino socks, the best socks I have ever worn, which kept my feet nice and toasty pre race, but the rest of the body was frozen. I was quite pleasantly surprised however when getting in the water that it was really much nicer than out (should have just stayed in there for the 20 minutes pre race!). I had an enjoyable swim and came out with a bit of a buffer on Courtney Gilfillan. However I had a dreadful transition even by my standards. My hands were so cold most likely from pre race (and maybe now I will have to wear those Project merino socks on my hands as well) that I just could not get them to work to put my helmet buckle in. I stood there for what seemed like forever trying to do it, and just as I got it in and finally got out of transition I saw Courtney arrive at her bike.

Onto my Ceepo and my legs really just felt bad. My glutes especially were very sore and the bike felt like quite  a struggle. Courtney caught me at perhaps 35km and we pretty much stayed together the rest of the ride. I started to feel a bit better at around 60k and I think I got a little gap on her at that stage but it was only a few km before a turn around point, and at that point we turned and had the wind behind us so I couldn't get away from her. I knew that she was a very speedy runner and I really needed to get a few minutes on her going into the run, but it never eventuated, we came off the bike together and she left the transition just ahead of me.

Now I had to focus on the run. I had not been able to run all week, just a few 15 min tries at jogging that had not gone well and had been very uncomfortable. However, I knew with a couple of changes I had made that the problem was improving and I just focused on holding my form and trying to relax. I could not even think about trying to keep up with Courtney's pace. I just ran conservatively and was hoping that I could hold it together. It went very well. I was able to run comfortably for the first time in perhaps 5 weeks. I was thrilled. I was a couple of minutes too slow to compete with Courtney who put together an outstanding race for a well deserved victory, but in the end I was very happy with a second place finish as I feel that I can now really get on top of what has been going on. Really though I couldn't get out of Ironman gear, I feel so nice and comfortable like I can go forever, but I just can't get my body to go that little bit harder. I already know I can run well over a marathon distance. I am trying to challenge myself by getting it to do what doesn't come naturally to me, and push myself in a different way. I have two more goes at it before the end of the year!

The aim now is to be able to get into some proper consistent training and then really challenge myself to really have confidence in my body and to be able to get out of the ironman gear and have a bit of much needed speed for my next race. That will be Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney in just under 3 weeks time. My body has recovered so much better than it did last week and I feel we can now build on what I have achieved in the last week or so. The travel home was also much easier. I have managed one 30 minute run (2 days post race) which felt very comfortable, and tomorrow I have a proper run session which will really test the body.

Thanks always to my great sponsors Ceepo, Powerbar, Rolf Prima, Asics, Project, Rudy Project, Roka, Cobb, Keywin, SweetCheeks.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ironman 70.3 Taiwan

This will be just a quick post as I am travelling with just an iPad. Yesterday I raced and won ironman 70.3 Taiwan. I am extremely happy to win this race and to have had this opportunity to travel to and race in a new location. I had a great time here. The people are so friendly and welcoming and I feel extremely fortunate that I am able to keep visiting and exploring new places. Here is a very quick run down of race day.

Swim. Non wetsuit really enjoyed it. I was out alone and on the way back got completely lost as to direction. I stopped several times to try and get my bearings. When I finally saw someone on a JetSki I was frantically trying to wave to them to ask for directions but they thought I was being friendly and just waved back! I was pretty relieved when I finally could see the buoy and I had gone a bit too far to the right and wasted a bit of time but that is life.

I was first women out and onto the bike. The bike was shortened to 78km because of wind. It was  2 laps, the first lap I was very conservative, learning my way and watching for hazards such as cars, motorbikes, dogs etc. on the second loop we had a lot of passing to do of slower athletes. Kate Bevilaqua came past me at this point and I realised that I was perhaps being a bit over cautious and picked up my pace. We stayed in close proximity the rest of the way and came off the bike together.

Kate got a lead on me in transition and I caught back up to her at about the 2k mark. I was still having some issues with my diaphragm, ribs, back tightness and decided to race conservatively for the first part and then my plan was if I was still in the mix with 5k to go I would give it everything no matter what. I just didn't want to destroy myself at the beginning. It was very hot and humid and luckily for me racing in Asia doesn't require you to be super fast, you just don't want to overdo things and blow up. I stopped at every aid station and poured water over myself etc, each time I looked back I could see Kate just 100m behind or so. At around 15k or so I could no longer see her which was a relief! I was happy with my run a 1.28 in hot conditions, but I didn't feel comfortable in my ribs and diaphragm and could not run freely. I still have much work to do on this, and it will probably be the case that I just have to manage it until I have my break in December and then really get on top of this.

Ceepo had a great team of athletes here and in the end we took out first and second in the men with Guy and Christian doing a great job, and also first and second in the women with Kate and myself. It was so great to have their support out there on the course and to see so many athletes riding Ceepo!

Also big thanks to my coach Kristian from trispecific for getting me back on track post kona and to all my sponsors for their continued support. Hopefully this makes up somewhat for what happened in kona. Ceepo, powerbar, Rolf Prima, project clothing, Asics, rudy project, Cobb, roka, keywin and sweet cheeks. Next up is challenge Forster next weekend!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hawaii 2015

This is a blog I'd rather not be writing. Hawaii 2015 was pretty much a disaster as soon as I arrived on the island. But there are many lessons to be learnt and to take away. I had a great build up to this race and really put everything into it this year. I had a great 3 weeks training on the Sunshine Coast, Australia, one of my most favourite places to be in the world. I felt fit, healthy and full of energy. Unfortunately things did not continue as such as soon as I arrived in Hawaii which of course is frustrating. I didn't come to Hawaii to DNF but unfortunately that is what happened. In a very brief nutshell what happened was I arrived in Hawaii and had a reaction to a food. I know the symptoms so it was the inflammation throughout my body, waking up like I had been hit by a bus, swelling especially in my diaphragm, gut issues, breathing difficulties/asthma type symptoms. I haven't had this since I took wheat out my diet, and I was wracking my brains to think if I had accidentally had some. Meanwhile on one of my easy runs most likely because my pelvis was all in a strange position because of swelling I pulled the muscles in my stomach. This is a common occurrence for me, it is my area of weakness and my Achilles heel. It is hard for me to pinpoint the exact muscle, but it effects all the muscles on my right side from my hip flexor, up through my posas, my diaphragm, around to my muscles in between my ribs in my back. The difference is I usually pull it at the end of a marathon as my form tires and I run in a less than desirable posture. The difference here was it was 7 days out from the race. I have done it so many times, I know it always takes 10 days to 14 days to heal. I only had 7 days and my heart just sank. I have always been so lucky in that I have never had any injuries. It's not to say I don't get niggles, but if I do I simply take a day or 2 away from running and I am healed. If I feel the niggle is quite bad I often tape up parts of my body to take pressure off them if I walk around and this always works. The problem with this area is you never stop using it. Swim, bike run of course but you use these muscles to just breathe. Every time I eat anything and my stomach expands just a tiny bit it is really painful. I did everything I could, to try and release the area but I knew that time is really the only thing that has ever worked and that is the thing I didn't have.

There were a few tears shed of frustration before the race, but by Thursday (2 days before the race) I was pretty relaxed about it. Well my parents would maybe say otherwise, but truly when you compare me to most triathletes (all of us pretty much type A personalities) I was positively laid back. I thought about all the races I have had where my race week has been terrible and how I got through and I thought positively that I could do this and it may just heal in time and I would be just fine. Unfortunately even in my 10min on Friday the day before the race I knew it really wasn't right, or even on the morning of the race it really wasn't good, but I didn't say anything to Brett about it, just put it from my mind and thought about the swim start instead.

Going back to the food reaction the other part of the problem. About the Tuesday we realised it possibly was the milk causing the issues. The milk, although organic was so white (milk in Australia and NZ is a creamy colour) but this was ultra processed and as white as when you see someone that quite obviously has whitened their teeth. We took out milk and ice cream and all the swelling, inflammation vanished as well as any breathing difficulties and gut issues. Luckily I had Pip Taylor's book The Athlete's fix with me which was probably the best book I could have with me at the time. It explained pretty much exactly what was going on with me, and Pip also talks about how a food which may have no problem to you usually could temporarily be a problem in times of stress which obviously the week before the World Champs was for me. I hope that is the case for me, and I can bring it back in at a later time, but for now it is eliminated from my diet. The biggest change was my pre race food the night before the race. It used to be I had pasta or pizza which after I had to eliminate wheat became kumara or potato. But then I used to always have a big bowl of ice cream or a banana split. Luckily I was in the States and I could quite easily get hold of Coconut ice cream (with no rubbish ingredients in it) which went down a treat.

So after my hell of a week I was just happy to be starting the race. The swim was fine. For the first time in my racing life I didn't feel like throwing up at the start, and I didn't feel lethargic, and I also didn't physically throw up which has been a occurrence for me in recent times. I had always put that down to nerves but it seems now that could have been my high dairy pre race meal and breakfast that I didn't have. For the first time I was able to properly sprint as I didn't feel sick. I have always made the front pack in Hawaii. But usually it is me getting off the group then clawing my way back by 1-2k. This time I easily made the group right from the beginning. I then tried to sit at the back and just get dragged along. This was because any sighting I did really hurt my torn stomach and rib muscles. So I didn't want to look up if I could help it. So I tried to just sit there and follow the bubbles.

In transition I came out with the top group but we had caught a couple of pro men that we had started 5 minutes after. I somehow got pushed over and couldn't get to my bags. It was only a matter of losing 15-20secs but that was enough to lose that group of the best bikers in the sport, and I never really got the opportunity to even test my abilities to stay with these group of supreme bikers. I had my usual Kona bike ride. For some reason I just can't seem to get my biking together in Kona. That was my 7th time on the bike in Kona and it has been the same each time. The pattern has always been the same. I start the run a long way back and then run myself into the top 10 with one of the fastest splits. Four times I have snuck myself into the top 10 but today was not that day as I couldn't run. Well I could sort of. As I started my run I was very gingerly running, wanted to ease my way in. So I was going at what I call a jog. But looking at my stats I was running 4min 18 k as my jogging speed (I knew going into the race that my running was the best it had ever been). So it looks funny I guess for the many people who were following me to see me running one of the fastest times and then just stopping, but no one knew what was going on. By 10k all those muscles in my right side had locked up and I was in a lot of pain. There has been one race in my career where I ran the entire marathon like that and I can tell you the recovery was not good and I had learnt from that experience. I had to pull the pin at around 16k into the run. I did it for myself, I can't afford to have a serious injury as my family depends on me for our income, but also mentally I believe if I had put myself through that in that brutal race for another 26k I would be finished in this sport. I don't think I would ever want to do another Ironman again and I would never want to end things like that. I did it for my family so they don't have to put up with a hugely grumpy Mum and Wife for weeks and months on end as I don't think I would be the best person to deal with an injury. I did it for my sponsors. What use would it be for them to have me finish in 17th or 18th and receive no coverage for them and then turn around and say, well because I finished that race I am out for the next 3 or 4 months. The race pays down to 10th position. So anyone that doesn't finish in the top 10 goes home with a pretty big hole in their pocket, but the last thing you want as a pro triathlete is to go home with a hole in your pocket and a body that is wrecked for several months and unable to conduct your business. Let me tell you it wasn't easy. I had people on the sidelines that seemed damn angry with me for quitting. Come on, only another 30k or so to go. Many of them I think had never done an Ironman but certainly there is a bit of bullying type culture in this sport that if you quit a race you are a failure and weak. I don't think having finished 35 ironman or so that I am weak. And certainly there has been 5 years between my last DNF, but there has never been cause for it in those 5 years. I personally never want to do anything that I believe to be detrimental to my future health, and I guess at the end of the day (as John Key would say) I am the only person who knows when I truly can't continue. I know people that have continued to race an Ironman with serious injuries and a couple of years later they still can't get back on the starting line. Hopefully for me there will be a very long time before I ever have to make another call like that again.

So it really was a pretty awful week to be honest but since there have been many positives. After the race I was able to enjoy 3 days with my family and just chill out and relax. I really can't remember the last time I actually did this. Anytime off that I have had post ironman has consisted of me hobbling around with terrible blisters and in Hawaii burnt to a crisp. The first day after the race my stomach muscles/diaphragm, back on the right side was just so painful. I had to do a swim but I couldn't so I just did 30 minutes of kicking, but then with each day they slowly began to heal. By the time I arrived back in NZ about 5 days later I attempted a run for 30mins.  I finally had no pain. So I really think by stopping when I did I really didn't make it any worse and it healed in that 2 week time frame which is the usual. I am now running proper sessions and well.

So as to what is next. At first I really wanted to have another go at another iron distance race, but then I just found my heart wasn't in it. Even though I couldn't finish this race if I look back to my year I did Challenge Wanaka/IMNZ 13 days apart in Feb/March. Then I did IM Cairns and Challenge Roth 4 weeks apart in June/July as well as a scattering of half distance events throughout the year. I then had a great block of training doing all the mileage, and I just can't see myself getting back into high mileage and then sustaining it through the summer. I want to do races and courses that I am truly passionate and excited about. So for me, my next iron distance will not be until Feb 20 Challenge Wanaka a course I love and that is well suited to me. I am then excited to aim for IM Australia in May the only iron distance race in Aus/NZ that I am yet to try. So as for now I am really excited to try a series of half distance races. An Asia/Pacific Blitz I'm going to call it. I have never done half distance races without building up for an ironman with all the mileage that goes with it. So I am super, super excited to visit some new places and revisit some old ones that I enjoy, without hammering myself with ironman mileage, I just want to go out there, race hard, enjoy myself and hopefully represent my sponsors well. So I aim to race Ironman 70.3 Taiwan, Challenge Forster, Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney and Ironman 70.3 Taupo before taking my end of year break over Christmas.

Thanks to my sponsors for their continued support and hopefully I can turn a negative into a positive for you before the end of the year. Ceepo, Powerbar, Rolf Prima, Project Clothing, Asics, Rudy Project, Roka, Cobb, Keywin, Sweet Cheeks. And to my Coach Kristian from Trispecific for all his help preparing for Kona and helping me through a pretty rough patch and hopefully steering me back on track!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

New sponsorship with Project Clothing!!

Please see below the press release by my manager Aimee Johnsen regarding my partnership with Project Clothing. I am so pleased to have formed this relationship, and on the day I left for Hawaii, Graeme hand delivered me my Kona race kit (he came all the way up from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast!). Not only does my kit look spectacular but I am so grateful for all the work that Project Clothing have done in getting it ready for me.

PROJECT clothing is excited to announce the signing of 13-time iron-distance champion Gina Crawford of New Zealand. Ahead of the biggest race on the Ironman calendar, the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Crawford will make her debut in her custom PROJECT clothing race suit in less than a fortnight. The partnership will see the Kiwi superstar in PROJECT for several
years to come.

PROJECT is quickly becoming a force in the triathlon apparel scene with some of the biggest names in the sport choosing to sign with the Melbourne based company. Australian owned and designed PROJECT clothing is the maker of custom technical clothing. Crawford joins an impressive stable of triathlon stars wearing the brand including Luke Bell, Emma Jackson, Ryan Bailie and compression range is the choice of two-time world number one ITU star Gwen Jorgensen.

For owner Graeme Clarke R&D is a key focus and is a big part of the companies overall mission as too is athlete satisfaction. “As a brand we feel it is important to build clothing that is not only sport and race specific but also gender specific – and so when we were approached by Gina to look at working with her on her immediate Kona campaign and beyond – we really didn’t hesitate at all in accepting her into the PROJECT family.”

For the experienced athlete Crawford, the pairing was just what she was looking for. “I'm really excited and happy to be forming a relationship with Project. I am not only impressed with the quality of all of their products which will have me fully kitted for my cycling and running training needs, but how far they are willing to go that extra mile to help me get the best and most comfortable fit for my race clothing. “They are exactly the kind of sponsor I like to get on board with, just so passionate about their products and committed to their goal of making the best fitting and comfortable performance products on the market. I am really looking forward to kicking off my partnership with PROJECT at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.”

It’s an exciting time for Crawford who will be aiming for her fifth top ten finish at Kona to add to her impressive resume and for Clarke it’s that experience and knowledge that will help guide a focus on women’s specific endurance range for PROJECT in 2016 and beyond.“Gina has an amazing record over a number of years in the sport and this will allow us to use her experience and focus to develop a women’s specific triathlon long course range to add to our products.” Notes Clarke.“Currently we have produced a cutting edge race kit for Gina to race in Hawaii which incorporates technology from a number of sports to help her increase her performance in each leg of the race. So rather than just one piece of clothing we have made a range that Gina can use depending on the conditions and the situation on the day.”

Crawford will make the journey from her Australian winter base at Noosa but will have help to keep in top shape despite the travel.“We have also supplied Gina with our brand new V2 compression range to help her recover and travel to Hawaii to ensure she is in the best possible condition for the race.”

To find out more about PROJECT clothing, head to and you can also find them on social media below.

Instagram: @projectclothingcompany
Twitter: @projectteamwear

Stay up to date with all things Gina at and on Twitter @gina_crawford

The Ironman World Championships take place on October 10th in Hawaii and you
can see Crawford and fellow PROJECT ambassador Luke Bell in action on

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ironman Bintan 70.3

Really so happy to get the win here in Bintan. I've had a great run here with a second in 2013 over full distance, a win last year over the full distance and now a win over the half distance. I love the non wetsuit swim, the hilly bike course and the heat and the humidity. It is also always such a great experience to race here. Beautiful of course but such friendly people, such a nice atmosphere of friendliness, and riding around the island through the villages is a great experience with the cheering children and it is never dull. I really love racing here and of course with the the heat and humidity it is a perfect test before the world champs in Hawaii.

The last four weeks or so I have been working under new coach Kristian from Trispecific. I am absolutely loving the change in style. The past few months previous to this I turned myself into a bit of an aerobic machine, my endurance was so good, I felt like I could go forever and an ironman felt short, but the strength and speed was not where it needed to be and Kristian is definitely helping me with this.  I was really happy with my race as coming out of winter training, from experience I know I don't gain the fitness I do when training in summer temperatures. So to bike and run as well as I did at this stage, I'm very pleased. We are going to the Sunshine Coast for 3 weeks in September, and from experience, I know that this always jumps me up several levels, so I'm very happy with where things are at right now.

So to the race. The swim was lovely, very clearly marked. We had a separate female pro start 5 minutes behind the pro men so that was great. The water is 29 degrees and it is just lovely to swim in. I had Laurel Wassner for company and we came out in around 25 minutes. I had a much slower transition than her. I have just bought some new biking shoes which are so much better to ride in than the triathlon shoes I had, but I can't put them on when they are already attached to the bike. Of course this race just happened to have an incredibly long run with our bikes before mounting which I had to do in my bike shoes which slowed me down some, but the power I get from having a much better pair of shoes for 90 or 180k riding is worth the time lost in transition I think.

I caught and passed Laurel a couple of km in and then was alone the rest of the day apart from one man passing me at around 40k. My new Ceepo felt so good. It was the first time racing this 2016 Katana and I am so so impressed with it. It is lighter, more aero and feels very fast. I rode my Rolf Prima TDF tubular wheels with quite a narrow rim up front to be as light as I could for climbing on this challenging course. I felt very good the whole way, no low patches. I had to ride quite cautiously, as there were stray dogs etc that were trying to ride in front of me. I was feeling so good I just wanted to really put my head down and go for it and give it everything, but I had to hold back quite a lot and be scanning for hazards all the time. It is part of the fun of the experience in doing a race like this though, you don't get bored that is for sure! I rode 2.27 which was the fastest bike split and came off with a three minute lead, although I didn't know any of that at the time.

The run was a 3 loop course around a lake. In previous years the race has been held in a different location which had a lot more shade, this time it made for a hotter experience but the aid stations were 1.5k apart and had lovely cold sponges and I never felt uncomfortable. I ran well, felt very comfortable, but I had no idea what was happening behind me because of the loop course. I knew I had Cait Snow and Katey Gibb somewhere behind me who can both run sub 1.20 half marathon. At times I felt a little frustrated with myself as I kept running at ironman pace. It was too comfortable, I should be really hurting in a half, but I just can't make myself go there unless someone catches me, then the surge of adrenalin means I'll start running that much quicker and the race is on. My strength is definitely the full distance as I can just keep chugging along at that speed for a long time, but I do want at some stage to do a half distance where I really push myself, and feel very uncomfortable throughout and be on the edge of collapse at the end, but today was not that day to go to the well. I was just very, very stoked to have a very solid race in hot and humid conditions and with no gut issues. My Asics DS racers felt incredibly light and well fitting, and I finished with a 1.28 a couple of minutes ahead of Cait Snow in second and Katey Gibb a few further minutes back in 3rd.

The most pleasing thing was to see the nutritional changes I have made in the last few months really having a positive effect now. I'll really speak about this in a later blog, but I've made myself a lot more metabolically efficient, an athlete who can use both fat and carbs to fuel my racing, whereas before I was highly carb dependent. It takes time and patience, at first I lost a bit of speed and power as my body was trying to adjust, but now it is returning and racing feels a world away for me than it used to.

Thanks so much to my sponsors for their support, it is great to be starting to hit good form at this time of year. Ceepo, Rolf Prima, Powerbar, Asics, Rudy Project, Roka, Cobb, Keywin, sweet cheeks.  Next up for me is Kona. I did put myself on the Sunshine Coast start list in a few weeks time in case things went pear shaped here, but now I want to focus on some good training leading into Kona and then after Kona I will be racing the ironman 70.3 in Taiwan soon after so best I put my head down, knuckle down and get some work done.

Monday, July 27, 2015

July Update

We are back now in New Zealand. It is the middle of winter, but I think we have been pretty lucky with our timing, it has been quite lovely. I can never really believe that this is winter in the North Island, having lived in Christchurch my whole life, winters were a lot tougher. It has definitely meant adjusting from coming home from a Germany in a heat wave has not been such a shock! I had a pretty relaxed couple of weeks (training wise, still plenty of house renovations being done) and then this week I have started with a new coach, Kristian from TriSpecific Kristian has been quite a mentor these last couple of months, getting my gut health back on track, which I will be eternally grateful for as I can only but say it has been life changing for me. And I promise I will be writing a series of a few blogs soon outlining the changes we have made. I say we as my husband and son as well have made changes to the way they are eating, and I have been taking notes on changes to all three of us.

Quite a few weeks back I got asked to help write an article about why self coaching was a great choice, and I declined, as although I didn't know at that time I was going to ask Kristian to coach me, I said I don't actually believe self coaching is the best way. I fully believe that if you find the right coach for you, with an open line of communication and trust that is going to lead to so much more success than coaching yourself (for several reasons), but on the contrary, if you find a coach that is wrong for you, you are much better off coaching yourself. Over the last few months I started listening to the Fat Black Podcasts that Krisitan and Pete were giving. I think I started at episode 93 and now I am down to episode 19. I was pretty amazed with how much I was learning, mostly on the nutrition side of things but then also on all of their coaching philosophies. I was also impressed with their infectious positivity, and how much they genuinely care not just about their own coached athletes, but the general sporting population, so much so they are imparting an amazing amount of knowledge for free on their weekly podcasts. So to cut a long story short. I was lucky enough that Kristian agreed to take me on. Kristian's been really easy to communicate with, which is absolutely crucial and we seem to be very much on the same page on what and how I need to work to make gains going forwards. I've always been a bit alternative, and a bit different in my way of thinking, and it is nice to find someone so knowledgeable, but also with a real open mind in all things health and triathlon.

Over the next few weeks I will write here a bit about what I have been learning. Anyone that knows me, knows that I pretty much never talk of anything else at the moment, it's just been such a positive journey so far. I want to talk about the changes I have made nutritionally, which have not only helped me deal with the gut issues, but the positive side effects of these dietary changes that have rid me of anxiety and brain fog, and hopefully led me down a track to a much better long term health prognosis! I also believe it will enable me to make improvements in my own race results, but until I really meet my goals in this area I will not talk of the athletic advantages but instead of the advantages it is having to my general health and wellbeing.

So right now we are fully involved in preparing for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in just under 11 weeks now. I will race the Ironman Bintan 70.3 towards the end of August. It will be lovely to get back to this amazing race destination, where I have competed the last two years straight and only have good memories!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Challenge Roth

Yesterday I raced Challenge Roth. It is an incredible race with an incredible atmosphere and I really wanted to experience that again for perhaps the last time. Unfortunately I didn't really get to enjoy the race. I did enjoy parts. Riding up the Solar Berg on the first lap was just incredible, goose bumps all over, but the run was very difficult for me. As I stated in my last blog I have been having a lot of difficulties with my stomach, a lot of sickness, a lot of GI distress and I have completely changed my diet and it has helped so much. I feel like I have made a huge step forwards in the last 6 weeks or so. I would suggest if you are trying to fix a bad gut not to race 2 iron distance races in a month! These were events I committed to a long time ago, and ill health or not I was going to honor those commitments. Racing an iron distance is definitely not the healthiest thing you can do for your body, but luckily I have some time now where I can go home and really try to come to the bottom of things (a little pun there!).

 So here is how my day unfolded. The swim. I didn't really know what to expect as the last few months I have put a lot of time into my bike and run in expense of my swim, especially since it's not the greatest place to do swim training in Germany with usually no lane ropes involved. But I had a decent swim. I felt quite uncomfortable as it was a very warm swim. Perhaps too warm for neoprene. A few days before the temperature had been 24.5 of the water, but they were mixing the water to try and bring that down, and the day before they said it was 22.7 so wetsuits allowed. But to me it felt very hot, hotter than Cairns, and not too pleasant to swim in. I swallowed some of the canal water. Not a big deal usually when my gut was completely healthy, but at the time I wondered if this could have an impact later in the day. In the end I had a solid swim. 50 mins or so which is great for me. I was about 2.5 minutes back from Laura Bennett (super swimmer) and 1.5 minutes or so behind Anja Beranek which was more of a worry as she is a super biker.

Onto my Ceepo and I was biking really well and feeling great. The first part of the course was a bit of climbing, I had no speedo but at 40k there was a road marker and my time was 1 hr 4 minutes which is great for me as I always seem to feel better and better as the day begins. So I was very happy how I was riding, independently and strong. Unfortunately at about 45k a huge pack came past me. Before the race I had found out that we were to have 30 minutes gap to the AG athletes which was great news, and I felt we would all have a clean race with no interference. This group was all pro men and 2 pro women. They were much closer than 10 m together, and what was disappointing was a draft buster was there and did nothing. I get frustrated as Challenge made some great rules. 5 minute penalty on bike, 1k extra to run at 28 k in marathon, and they said 84 draft busters on course who are very experienced. Unfortunately in my opinion these draft busters need to get some balls. I saw no one in penalty tents. So for me, I got passed and had to keep dropping back the 10 m gap as usual, but I am a great climber and this pace on the climbs was too slow for me and frustrating as I want to give my all, at what I do best. I'm not as good on the flats or descents so I want to make the most of my climbing ability. I did a stupid thing in that I decided to try and pass the entire group back. 25 seconds to pass each person, I was sprinting for quite some time. It was not a good idea, but just my personality I cannot be content to "just sit in" for the remaining 75% of the race and save my legs for the run. So I decided I didn't want to be frustrated. I wanted to be proud of myself and do a fair race and by myself. And I did. I can be very proud of myself. Is it smart? Maybe not, but I didn't bend the rules like some did. I was frustrated though because I couldn't for the life of me understand why so many pro men were behind me. I'm not that great a swimmer they should all be up the road infront of me right from the beginning. Challenge made some great starts to try and make the women's race fair, but definitely now I think it shows that the women need a big gap from the pro men as well to get no interference, and for the draft marshals to do what they are there to do.

So once I was alone again I was enjoying myself, feeling strong and as I said the SolarBerg climb with all the spectators was amazing. I didn't feel so happy on the second loop as the course was quite congested and I was passing the whole way but people kept going to pass and not checking from behind and I had a few very close calls where I nearly hit age groupers and it was a bit scary knowing that last year Anja Beranek was taken out of the race when she was in the lead for this very reason. My goal was to bike under 4 hour 50 and I biked about 4 hour 58 I think, so I was frustrated I didn't meet my goal when I really did feel great riding all day. But it was a very windy and hot day by German standards and I know that if I compare my time with girls that do this course regularly it seems that the bike was about 10 minutes slower than previous years, so then I could have perhaps met my goal if the conditions had allowed. I will never know of course.

Onto the run and I immediately knew something was not right with my gut. I was feeling very sluggish as well so after 4k I stopped in the portloo and I thought it would be a one time thing. I felt great afterwards but then 3k later again. I think most normal people would decide it was going to be a very long day with a lot of portaloo stops but not me, I decided I would not stop and would have to go in my pants. Daniella Saemmler was just in front and I finally caught her at around the halfway mark and moved into 4th. I ran as hard as I could the whole way and so it is disappointing to run 3 hour 12 minutes or so when I have run 3 hours there before. Apart from the horrible stomach issues I was having I didn't feel bad. I felt strong and I felt I was running well. I started feeling quite weak at the end and just couldn't wait to finish. I really wanted to enjoy all the sections where we go through town with so much crowd support but I was just feeling so bad I couldn't.

So for me it is back to New Zealand, and further work to get my gut health on track. As I said I had made huge progress. I was running my 2 hour long runs with no toilet stops which is absolutely unheard of for me. So it gave me a bit of confidence and I didn't restrict my vegetable and salad intake nearly so much as I used to do in the days leading up to the race. I find that the worst part of embarking on an iron distance race is that in the days leading up you have to cut out on this healthy food. So since I was doing so well in training I felt it was unneeded. So I am unsure whether this was the reason I had race difficulties or the fact I swallowed dirty canal water, maybe a bit of both. But it is clear, I've still got work to do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ironman cairns ramblings

It's taken me a while to get this done as I was hoping to get my computer up and running and therefore avoid writing this on an iPad, but no such luck! It's been more than a week past the race now and I've traveled halfway across the world since then, so this will be less like a race report and more just a ramble I'm afraid. It was our second time racing the ironman in cairns. It's such a destination race and perfect for those with kids. We were there for 9 days and Benji had an absolute ball. So many wildlife places to check out, and in cairns itself there is a fantastic playground on the waterfront which he would happily play in for hours on end. When I race, I never know how my race will go, so it is super to pick a race where no matter how I go, the family as a whole will have a great time, and we certainly did! I've got to thank the Asia Pacific Ironman crew for always looking after us so well and always making us feel so welcome at their races. As usual it was a thoroughly well organised event which was joy to be a part of.

In the weeks leading up to the race I had some issues with my stomach. My tummy never really got back to normal after the tummy bug in Busselton, and it became clear to me that there was a lot more going on and that what I was eating was causing a big part of the problem. I was having a lot of discomfit in my stomach, a lot of GI distress and bloating etc. I cut out certain foods and everything was so much better straight away. The only difficulty was that I have always eaten a certain way and never restricted myself in anyway in my entire life when it comes to food. I am a big eater, and love my food, so I found it quite difficult to be strict. It wasn't an ideal time to do it, right before an ironman, but I didn't really have a choice. If I hadn't of made those changes the race would have been quite difficult for me, and my race schedule means there is never an ideal time to make those kind of changes. Two days before the race I slipped and ate one bite of banana cake. The next day, the day before the race I struggled to get through my 10 minute run with discomfort in my stomach, so I really did make the right decision in making the dietary changes in the week or two leading into this event. The positive side was my stomach was great and I had no more issues, the downside was in the lead up to the race I felt flat, heavy legs, grumpy and a bit weak. Post race though, now I have had more time to adapt I feel amazing, and I will talk about my recovery from this race a little later on. I will also talk more about the nutrition side of things and the changes I have made in a later blog once I have got my head around things a bit more.

Since March I have been back to coaching myself and I have really enjoyed things. I am in a much more positive head space and much more enthusiastic about things. In the last year I have felt quite undertrained and have felt really daunted going into any iron distance race. This time I felt well prepared and excited. Up until the couple of weeks pre race where I felt I lost a bit of power and top end speed due to changes in diet I felt better than I had in a long time, and I think that showed in the race. It was a race where I felt fantastic the whole day, but just struggled to make any kind of change in pace, just didn't have any bursts of speed. It was also the easiest ironman I have ever done. I really felt fantastic right until the end. The last year or so with so little mileage and intensity in my training I have often ended an iron distance feeling absolutely awful and struggling to keep standing up. This time with a really good training block behind me it really made the difference, and I certainly think that has transferred through to my recovery which has been really swift. I have worked really hard on my cycling, and I think it transferred through to my run off the bike which I have been struggling with even in the half distance races for a while. I had a couple of goals for the race, one was that run off the bike which was a huge improvement, the other was the back half of the marathon which I have been struggling with the last year, and again I didn't feel myself fading and struggling like I have been.

So to the race. The swim was a very choppy sea swim, conditions that I struggle with. I tried so hard to stay with Liz Blatchford but I couldn't get into any rhythm. I didn't really feel like I was swimming, but just battling the waves. So after a few hundred meters or so, I found myself alone for the rest of the swim.

Onto the bike in second place and my legs felt really heavy. I have never really felt like this before, so I can only hasten a guess it was due to the dietary changes in the week leading into the race. After about 90k though I started to feel much better and just felt better and better as the day went on. I did lose a few opportunities through that beginning part due to not having the legs to make any pace changes. At one point Liz was right in front of me when Michelle Bremner came flying past. Liz picked up her pace, but I just could not. Later in the race I caught back up to and got a gap on Michelle but Liz ended the bike with a 6 minute lead on me. The best part about Ironman Cairns is the stunning bike course with fully closed roads for most of the bike course. It really was special to have this road to ourselves and turn our heads a few times during the race and soak up such stunning scenery.

Onto the run and I felt fantastic. I ran a little tentatively as I was unsure what my stomach was going to do to me. I felt light, relaxed and was running the same speed as Liz. It was a great run course, 3 laps with several out and back sections to see our competition, and superb crowd support the whole way. After the second of the three laps at 28 km I had made no inroads into Liz's lead. She looked comfortable and in control, and maybe I could have pushed hard and gained a couple of minutes in that last 14k but it would have been fruitless and would have done nothing for my recovery. By that stage I had a nice buffer over Michelle and the other girls, so I decided to just see in the last lap. I raced for the first time in the Asics Noosa Tri shoes which felt fantastic right until the end. At the end I felt a lot better than I have in any other iron distance that I have done in a quite some time and I think that is due to the good training block I have had.

What has been really interesting though is my recovery from this race. As I said at the beginning of this blog I have had to make some pretty huge dietary changes in the past few weeks and I can't help but think this has contributed to my recovery. I didn't have my usual post race junk food binge, I never felt I needed it. And the 30 plus hour trip to Germany that I was really worried about went really well apart from some incredibly swollen feet. I have always been a really poor traveller and take days if not over a week to recover from long trips and have always put it down to jet lag, but now I think it is diet. Usually I would eat whatever is given to me and feel absolutely ravenous having to bring my own snacks and eating every few hours. This time I had to be extremely picky with what I ate and I never felt hungry at all, I could go for hours without eating which is pretty big for me! My muscles weren't inflamed, I wasn't uncomfortable squashed into my cattle class seat, and I even got some sleep. 

Since arriving I am back into some good training. I feel like I am adapting much better to the dietary changes and my top end speed is coming back to me. I had a good intense bike session today which went really well and it feels like my legs are coming back to me. We are loving it here in Germany as we always do. It is just a pity we have so little time here. Benny is doing so well at his Montessori, we didn't want to take him out for too long. He is loving it though, and learning a little bit of German (quite easy for him as he has only just learned to speak English). So just under 3 weeks until Challenge Roth. Such an epic race I have been a part of on 3 occasions before and can't wait to get back there again!

Thanks to Ceepo, Powerbar, Rolf Prima, Asics, Rudy Project, Roka, Cobb, Keywin, Sweet Cheeks for their continued support.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tips for Ironman Cairns:Travelling from cooler climates

At the present time I am putting together proposals, attempting to find a key partnership with a New Zealand company. So I have been looking back at my results and just how many races I have done. It doesn't feel like I have been in the sport that long, but I now have a huge experience behind me. I have finished 34 iron distance races in just over 7 seasons of racing. Of those finishes I have 13 wins, 9 second places, and two third places (in big German races Roth and Frankfurt). So that is 24 iron distance races out of 34 on the podium. Of the remaining 10 races, 4 have been top 10 finishes at Kona and the other 6 are 4th and 5th places. But most importantly, is just how much I have learnt from this amount of racing in quite a short period of time, in all sorts of conditions, super hot, super windy, super rainy, super cold, super hilly.......get the picture. I have made a huge range of mistakes over my time racing which of course I have learnt a great deal from. I feel now is the time to pass some of this on to others. I always try to incorporate a few tips into my race reports, but really I want to do more than that. I love helping people and passing on advice, I guess that is the teacher in me.

So we are now one month out from Ironman Cairns. I know quite a few will be heading over from NZ and from cooler parts of Aussie, and so I thought I would pass on a few tips for when you are training in an environment quite different to what we will face on race day. The last time I raced in Cairns was 2013 and I headed there from training in Wanaka in the South Island. It was quite shockingly cold. Many days it was down to -6 degrees with a high of only 1 degree. I was able to still grab a second place finish on that day with that preparation. This time the preparation is a great deal easier. Mostly days of 18-20 which isn't bad at all, but still a bit different to race day which will be high 20's or early 30's, hot and humid. Last year I also raced Metaman which was in Indonesia. Anyone who has raced in Asia knows just how hot it can get there. I was training in winter (the race was the end of August) and was only able to arrive to Indonesia a couple of days before the race. I had done several of these below points which helped me to have a good race despite the huge change in temperature.

  • If you can, use a sauna. We have one down at our local pool which I go into straight after my swim sessions. I love saunas. I could easily stay there all day going in and out, but all I have time for is 10-15 minutes or so. But just this change in temperature for that short time gives a bit of heat stress, which allows your body to make changes that will help with acclimatisation. Plus for me, it provides about the only 10 minutes or so in my day where I can just relax... really important for mental health too!
  • Put on more layers than you really need. As I said it is 18-20 degrees here most days which is quite comfortable, so go and make yourself a little more uncomfortable. Put on a polyprop or a jacket that you don't really need when running and/or biking.
  • Inside training sessions. At the moment I am only doing my two long bike sessions outside, the rest of the time I am using the trainer. This enables me to control the climate, make it a bit hotter and uncomfortable. I don't have access to a treadmill, but if you do, then you can do this, and try not to use the fan!
  • When it comes to arriving at the race venue you will start to acclimatise. If you are only arriving the week of the race as most people will be including myself, try to avoid training in the hottest parts of the day. This goes against my natural feelings. I really want to just get out there at it's hottest and really test myself, but race week I don't feel is the time to do that. If you are coming for a long period then you can do this. But in race week, train in the cooler parts of the day, and just being around not training will be enough to start acclimatising to the temperature.
  • As soon as you arrive in Cairns, start making hydration your priority. You may have to add electrolytes to your water. Powerbar have these great ones that I use, you just add the tablets to your water.
  • Long sleeve skinsuits. I know this is all the trend at the moment and I have been experimenting with these in certain races. I have used long sleeve skins in Kona the last two years, and found them fine as the aid stations are so close together, and they were long, so it was easy to pick up many bottles of water and still have time to pour a bottle of water over yourself. So I was able to stay wet the entire race, and therefore cool. In other races where the aid stations were much further apart and short, so hard to do everything you need by the last drop station, I found it hard to keep this top wet. In Wanaka it started out very cold and the top was great. By the end of 5 hours it was nearly up to 30 degrees and I wanted to rip that top off my body. For me, I love the feeling of the air on my skin cooling me down, and armpits are great for cooling aren't they? They say these sleeved tops are faster, but this doesn't really take into account the time that you would lose if you overheat and can't keep cool. So if you are planning on trying a sleeved skinsuit for the very first time, I would just bring two options with you, and try both out pre-race and make a call for which you truly feel most comfortable in. The huge pro for sleeved suits in my mind is that you will not have to deal with sunburn which for me is probably the worst thing about racing an Ironman coming from winter.
  • Race cautiously on the bike. Don't get carried away right at the beginning of the bike ride. If someone comes flying past you just focus on your own race and pace. They could be a local, comfortable with the heat, they may know what they are doing, or they may not. I have had many people fly past me on the bike, only to meet them again walking in the first few miles of the run course. In a hot race the run becomes much more of a factor than in a cool race. A great deal of time can be lost on the run if you overdo things on the bike. In Metaman, both times I raced,  I was extremely cautious on the bike. I built into my race in quarters and each year I felt fantastic coming off the bike and onto the run. I focused on my own race and didn't try to change my pace based on others.
  • Hydration. This is key on the bike. Make sure you get exactly what you need each aid station, especially if you are a bigger person. It may be that you want to put on an extra bottle cage if you are on the bigger size, to make sure you don't run out of liquid between stations. You don't have to over drink, but you don't want to be feeling thirsty, let your body dictate. In the last quarter of the bike race you really want to be thinking about hydration. I feel once onto the run, it is very difficult to get enough liquid in, so you don't want to start the run thirsty. And never miss the last aid station. I can not tell you how many times I have come to the last aid station maybe 20k from the end or so, and thought "No I'm sweet I can just go straight through" only to get to 6k or so from the end and have no liquid left. 6k of riding without a sip is a long time, and it is not a good start to your marathon run.
  • You can walk through the aid stations. This is some advice that I give that I just cannot do myself, but it truly is sensible, especially on lapped courses which can get very busy. A good example of this was my race in Frankfurt last year. I was feeling so great on the run, was flying, running everyone down, it was looking like I was going to win the European Championships I could not believe it. It was a 4 loop course and it was 36 degrees. I think there were 2500 to 3000 competitors, it started to get really busy for me through the aid stations those last couple of loops. So instead of slowing down and making sure I got what I needed, I just dropped and missed cups and kept running. Meanwhile Brett told me Corinne Abraham who was leading was being sensible and was walking the aid stations. I was catching her quite easily, and then I faded badly. I had run my way to second spot, and ended up getting moved to 3rd in the last couple of kilometers. Brett who gets to watch a lot of Ironman racing tells me that many of the top athletes do walk aid stations, and it does seem to be the sensible approach. I always feel that if I start walking I may not ever get going again, but one day I will force myself to try it and feel the difference!
  • If we are lucky enough to have ice on the run, then make sure you make the most of it, use it every aid station.
All the best with the last month of training. I hope to see many of you there!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sunsmart Ironman 70.3 Busselton

In the weekend I was really looking forward to competing at the Sunsmart Ironman 70.3 Busselton. I hadn't been to Busselton, Western Australia since 2009 when I last competed in the full distance event. I have raced the full distance in Busselton on 3 occassions (2007, 2008, 2009). I love Busselton, such a relaxed, laid back town and I have always had a really good time coming to race there. I have wanted to go back on numerous occasions, but have never had the energy to race a full distance in December since my last appearance. So the half distance in May was a tantalising prospect. All the fun of a trip to Busselton, but only over half the distance.

Unfortunately as soon as I landed in Perth I decided to feel rather odd. I made the 2.5 hr drive down to Busselton feeling really strange. I felt like I had arrived in Europe, when really the jetlag was only 4 hours in the good direction. The next morning I woke with a fever, chills, muscle ache and stomach bug. I spent all day on that Thursday in bed. On the Friday, the day before the race I felt better. No more fever and the stomach problems had stopped. Only problem was, my body didn't want me to eat anything. If I hadn't had a race planned for the next day, this would be no problem. It always takes me several days after a tummy bug to start eating again, and I always let my body dictate when this will be. But with a race the next day I was in a no win situation. If I didn't eat I wouldn't have the energy I needed to perform at the pace I needed to, and if I forced myself to eat I would risk feeding the bug and prolong things. I decided to force myself to eat. I opted for high fat, high calorie food, which was a big mistake. From 11pm that night the stomach bug came back and I was up for the rest of the night. This ruled me out for the race. There was no way I could race, having kept no food down for over 2 days, no energy and still having to dive into the toilet every 30 minutes or so. I was gutted (pardon the pun!). So frustrating and upsetting to come so far and then not even attempt a start, but I have learnt the hard way over the years to listen to my body. Most of us ironman athletes are pretty stubborn types, so it was very hard to just not go down to the start and go as hard as my body could go on the day, but ultimately having done that before, I know the hole that I dig myself into, which can tend to lead to a chain of unfortunate events.

So although I was incredibly disappointed, at least I was able to still be a part of this great event. 3000 people take part in the event which I think is pretty extraordinary for our side of the world. The event was really well run, and even with that many competitors was really stress free (illness aside) to be a part of. I was able to get out on the run course later in the day and that was only the second time in my life I have been a spectator. I don't particularly like being a spectator to be honest. It's a very odd feeling! But both the men's and women's fields were fiercely competitive and it was good to watch people's running techniques! On the Sunday I was able to be a part in the Kids Triathlon, which is always one of the highlights for me seeing the next generation staying fit and active, achieving, and seeing the pride in themselves as they reach the finish.

On that Sunday I again felt a lot better, and by the end of the day I even felt hungry and ready to eat, and so I did, only to have the bug come back for a 3rd time. So all in all it was about 5 days where I pretty much kept no food in. I have had to ease back into my training as I really was very weak, and it has taken me until today (Thursday, more than a week after the bug started) to feel completely normal, full of energy and training to the level I was before. So it was clear to me that I had made the right decision not to race.

So for me sadly tummy bugs have been my downfall over the years. It is quite interesting because I used to be called the girl with the iron stomach (this was well before I'd heard the word ironman). I could pretty much eat anything and never get a bug. The first time I ever got a stomach bug was not until I was 24 in 2005. But after the first one I have had them on numerous occasions, I am now prone to them. It can't be my immune function as I very rarely get other sickness. The last time I had a cold was in November, and previous to that it was a good 3 years, and that is with being surrounded by preschoolers a lot of time (known to have a lot of bugs!). You could then say that I must have horrendous hygiene habits, but I also don't think that is the case. The more stomach bugs I get, the more obsessively I wash my hands! So it is just one of those things with me I think. At least I have been fairly fortunate during my career. I had this exact situation happen to me in 2009, when I traveled all the way to Wisconsin from New Zealand, but I guess that is over 5 years ago, and I do race a lot of races, so it really is not a bad record for a pro triathlete.

My tips would be, timing is crucial. If you get a tummy bug 6 days or more before a race, there is no reason you can not still have a great race. This happened to me at Challenge Wanaka 2013. 6 days out from the race terribly sick, I then had a great race, one of the best of my career in fact. Don't rush the eating, when your body wants to eat opt for bananas, soup, lots of fluids, then introduce other food slowly and cautiously and only when your body is calling out for it. Hold back on the dairy and the fat, and add them cautiously after eating other foods normally. Once you are eating normally again you need to really get your glycogen stores back up. I found that I really had trouble eating enough to do this, I felt too full and so I had to opt for what I call poison (fizzy drinks). Really that was the only way I could get enough calories (and really is why inactive people should not drink their calories!). Once you get those calorie stores back in, things seem to be good to go. Also remember to get those electrolytes in as a priority if you are wanting to race. As for getting a tummy bug on the very day of the race. I have found that on 2 occasions (IM France 2012,and Ironman Hawaii 2014) that I was able to get through the race. But I never had a fever on those occasions, so if you do, I wouldn't suggest to race. Without a fever, I think the reason that I was able to get through an ironman, was that my glycogen stores were not depleted as there hadn't been enough time for that. Depending on how bad the bug is, I think it is possible to keep going with your race. I think the hard period is if you get a tummy bug between 2 and 5 days before the race. In my cases, I can't think of any occasion where it would have been possible for me to complete a race. I always utter to myself, "everything happens for a reason" and "it's not meant to be". All very well me saying that, as it will never be too long until my next race, whereas I know for many who train for months with such incredible dedication for one race, that that would simply be devastating. You have to pick yourself up, don't give up, set yourself a new goal, and don't look back.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taking personal responsibility and strength training

Often when people ask me what is one of the key things to become a successful triathlete I talk about consistency in training, and in order to do that one thing that helps is to get a muscle balance assessment which will tailor make a strength programme for the individual which will help to avoid any potential injuries due to any weaknesses. So it is quite funny that for the last year or so I have avoided my own advice and let myself spiral downwards. Also, I have always been a person very high in taking personal responsibility in all aspects of my life and again over the last year or so I have not done so to the same extent.

I took my first steps into this sport in 2005, and before that I had no background at all in sport apart from a bit of swimming in school. I did my first ironman in 2007 and since then I have crossed the finish line 34 times with 13 victories. During this time I have had one injury (well if you can call it that, it was a niggly ankle for a few months towards the end of 2009 after tripping up on one of my off road runs) and so I have been able to have great consistency in training. After my niggly ankle in 2009 I had a muscle balance assessment done and had a strength programme tailor made for my weaknesses. This was done by Andrew Abakhan down in Christchurch who not only specialised in this area but was also a triathlete himself, so it was a very good programe. This worked exceedingly well and by the end of 2010 I had one of my best ironman victories due to an incredibly strong bike ride. I really could feel the difference in myself as an athlete. I then became pregnant and so never competed in 2011, but when I came back into the sport in 2012 and 2013 I followed this same strength programme which kept myself strong and injury free.

When I started working with Matt and Purplepatch in 2014 I stopped doing my tailor made programme and started the Purplepatch functional strength programme. There is nothing wrong with this programme, but it wasn't tailor made for me. Every Purplepatch athlete I believe was doing the same programme, and for those that have no mechanical issues or imbalance tendencies to one particular side of their body I think it would be fine, as it is a very generalised all over body type programme, and is good for maintenance. With the beauty of hindsight I can see how many warning signals I was getting that this programme was not working for me, and that I should be going back to my tailor made strength programme with more specific exercises. But never did I take personal responsibility of this. Although I was giving feedback in the form of comments of what was going on with my body during this time, I seemed to think Matt was a one stop shop and that he would figure out what I needed to do based on a few comments. It was like I was waiting for him to tell me to get a muscle balance assessment and focus on strengthening my glutes, when I should have known what was going on and taken personal responsibility in doing this myself.

So very briefly this is what happened to my body over the course of approximately 16 months without focusing on my weak areas of my glutes and in particular the left hand side of my glutes. I did my last race by my own October 2013 and then took 4 weeks completely off and started working with Matt in November 2013. In Feb 2014 I traveled to Hawaii for a training camp which was brilliant as I got hands on help. I was told there was something going on with my left leg on the bike and that I needed to focus on doing more with this leg as I cycled which I did for the next year. In hindsight I know how ridiculous this is. This should have been a huge alarm bell to myself to take personal responsibility, and get back into my specific exercises but I never did. I have absolutely no qualifications in sports, but if I can use a violin analogy to understand this. Say, I had a violin pupil who was having trouble consistently with playing double stop 6ths in tune. Then I would give them a specific exercise to do, or ask them to focus on their double stop 6th scales. What I wouldn't do, would be to tell them to try and focus on playing them in tune, I just don't think the body works that way. You need to isolate the problem, and then strengthen it to bring change. So things carried on for me, by July 2014 when I did Ironman Frankfurt the right hand buttock of mine was so tight and sore that I was having sciatica problems. I finished 3rd in that race the European champs which I am proud of, but during the race it was giving me considerable trouble and it was the first time people commented to me on how I looked like I was limping on the run. After this with the help of google I learnt it was my piriformis in my right butt that was the problem and discovered that using a tennis ball and sitting on it relieved the problem a lot. So I did this for the next few months which got me through my training. It was an ongoing chain. Train, sore piriformis, tennis ball, can train, train, tennis ball etc. It should have been an alarm bell to me that I had a weakness on my left side which was putting far too much pressure onto my right side, and to strengthen in particular the left, but it wasn't. Funny enough, over August and September my mileage was increased a lot and this had a good effect on my body (you would think it would be the opposite). It was like the extra mileage was enough to strengthen the muscles in this area to the extent where things came together for me somewhat and I certainly had a great run performance in Kona and no one commented on me limping. By summer however things really started to fall apart and I was doing a programme of very low mileage by my standards. Now I had a right piriformis which always was aching down my right leg, my right inner quad and knee area was incredibly tight and I had to tennis ball that constantly and now when I was running my knees were knocking together. Any race I did people would tell me I looked sore and uncomfortable on my run and that I looked like I was limping. I never felt this though. I guess the imbalance had just gotten to the point where it was noticeable to others but I was so used to the feeling by this point in time. Matt was able to see footage of me running at Auckland 70.3 and commented also that I was limping, and in Wanaka from the footage was able to tell me that the reason I looked like I was limping was that my legs were running two different lengths. One was pushing back more than the other. By this time however it was much too late to do anything about it and I saw the season out.

After racing in Taupo I had 2 weeks off and then when I began training no longer with the Purplepatch guidance, I finally took responsibility for myself and I knew this was the first problem I needed to tackle. I went to see my old coach Greg Fraine for a bike fit. We made a couple of small tweaks, but what I love about Greg's bike fits is that he doesn't just watch you on a bike but takes time to assess your body posture etc. Within minutes while I was simply standing he informed me of some weak areas on my left hand side. Once on my bike, he quickly saw there were more issues with my left hand leg. He asked me to do a single leg squat and I did it completely wrong utilising my hamstrings instead of my glutes. I was unable to do a single leg squat at all utilising the glute muscles. After this I went straight to a man here in Whanganui Terry Arbuckle who specialises in this area. He was able to watch me and make sure I was doing the exercises correctly utilising the correct muscles. This really is the key. Matt's programme was well set out, he had videos for each exercise which was brilliant, but if you are a learner like me that needs to "do" then it can be a problem. I can't listen and copy, I have to listen and try it, and then get told what I am doing wrong and try it again until I am doing it right. Sometimes I think it is worse to do a bunch of exercises wrong then to not do them at all. So anyway, Terry gave me a bunch of exercises to do, and I went away confident that I was doing them correctly.

So, so far I have worked for 3.5 weeks only. I am doing my old weights session from 2010 twice per week and I am also doing my specific glute and stabilising muscle exercises 2 or 3 times every day. I have only done just over 3 weeks but I am pretty amazed in the changes. The biggest is not in training at all but simply walking around. It used to be that I had what I call paralysed butt. I couldn't really feel my butt at all when I walked around. Now I can actually feel my glutes doing work at every step, pushing back, I guess this is what you call activated glutes! The other main difference is in my running. I feel centred and I can feel my glutes working. I can feel my legs pushing back and I can actually feel sometimes that both my feet are airborne at the same time which is kind of a new feeling. When it comes to biking I don't know I can really feel any difference as yet, but something must be working as for the first time in nearly a year I don't have the constant ache of my nerves in my right buttock down my leg. I am up to riding 4.5 hours now and I am somewhat surprised to not be feeling this. It's a bit like sometimes you don't know how bad you are feeling until you are feeling good and you can look back. Like before I started exercising at all, I was a bit of big drinker, junkfood eating person. I thought I felt healthy. But once I started exercising, eating healthy and no longer drinking alcohol I suddenly had so much more energy and I could look back and see how bad I actually was feeling before. It is like that now. I was racing and people were commenting on me limping about on the run and I thought I felt fine, I had a constant nerve ache on my right hand side and I thought that was ok, and now that I have finally done something to strengthen my left hand glute in particular I can look back and see how bad things had become for my body.

So the moral of this long winded story is to reiterate the importance of getting a muscle balance assessment done and then being able to have a tailor made programme for you that will strengthen your weaknesses and therefore hopefully avoid injury. I have no doubt that if I had let things go on the way they were for much longer something would have given in my body and I would have injured something. I always think there is no reason that people should ever get injured. Your body seems to send out so many warning signals before it gets to that point. If you get to the point of injury you need to follow the chain backwards and find out what you are mechanically doing wrong with your body to put so much pressure on the part of your body that has failed. For most of us it is our glutes not doing what they should be. My husband is a perfect example. For the last year he has been unable to run properly and consistently due to a knee injury. I told him that he should be doing a whole bunch of glute exercises, but he has ignored me, or he will start them, but not keep up with it for longer than a few days. He thinks it is nothing to do with his glutes. He is concentrating on fixing just the knee, but I feel (and I could be wrong) that if he focused on strengthening his glutes, it would take the pressure and the weight off of his knee and it would be able to heel in time. The other area of importance is what we expect of our coaches. If you are lucky enough to have a hands on coach in your local area that is perfect as they will easily be able to spot these kind of inefficiencies in our running or cycling before they get out of control. If not, then we can't expect our coaches to be a one stop shop. Seek support for strength and conditioning from elsewhere. It doesn't have to be a person with a vast knowledge of triathlon experience. I would say any person working in a gym would be able to give help in this area which could have a huge impact on avoiding future injuries.

For me next I go to the Sunsmart Ironman 70.3 Busselton. In the past I have raced the ironman in Busselton (Western Australia) on 3 occassions but haven't had the opportunity to race there since 2009. Busselton is a really beautiful place to travel to, and so I am really looking forward to racing the half distance event. I will be halfway through my block of training for Cairns and Roth, and so I hope it will give me an indication of how things are progressing. My biggest goal however, is that I run without looking like I am limping!! And I hope for no comments of such from the sidelines.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My new ride

My 2015 Ceepo Katana has arrived! I have been riding Ceepo nearly my entire career, they were my first sponsor and I partnered with them after my first Ironman victory at the end of 2007, so I have had 12 iron distance victories on their bikes. I have been riding the Katana since 2010. Every year Ceepo makes subtle changes, and the bike just keeps on improving, slightly lighter, slightly more aero. This year there are also extra features in a seat post clamp to stop the aero seat from slipping, nuts and bolts on the frame to add a bento box, and a scanning sticker so that people can identify you and your loved ones in any accident. I love working with Ceepo as they are such a great team of people, that are just so passionate about their bikes. This year I have been particularly lucky. My former components sponsor SRAM did not wish to resign me at the end of last year, so Ceepo very kindly stepped in and helped me out with Shimano Di2 components. Quite a few people had been telling me just how good Di2 was, but I was slightly hesitant, as to be frank I am very much a laggard when it comes to technology, the simpler the better is typically my motto. But having ridden my new Ceepo now for only a number of days, I can say that it could possibly be one of the best changes I have made in my career. I can see that on certain courses it will make a huge difference. Take for example a rolling course like Challenge Wanaka. I love to climb out of my saddle. So for me that means in the past when I am climbing and I want to change gear, I have to sit back down so I can change the gears on the shifters on my aerobars, and I often feel like I am fluffing around and losing momentum. Now, with the gears on the bull horn of my tribars as well as on the shifters it means no more fluffing around. I can change gears whilst remaining standing up, and I can time it precisely so I can change gear just as I stand up to gain maximum momentum. Over the course of 180k it will make a difference. Also for the past few years I have really struggled with moving from my small chain ring in the front to my big chain ring. No matter who looks at my bike, no one has been able to solve this problem. For me, it has meant if I am climbing a hill and am in the small chain ring but the hill is leveling off, I can not change up into my big chain ring until my bike is over the crest of the hill and heading back down, it just has not co operated. Also when I do get into my big chain ring, I have to stop pedaling for about 1 to 1.5 seconds while it changes. Now I can just push my button and it just flicks up straight away without having to stop pedaling. Very responsive and so far very, very reliable. Again on an undulating course where you are changing in the front ring a lot, this will make a huge difference for me. And even on the flatter courses where you can just stay in your aerobars, you can keep your hands a lot more still, as it so easy to just push the button to change gears, and if you want to jump up or down a couple of gears, you can just hold the button down and it keeps on changing. The manual shifters I used to have required a fair bit of wrist flicking, and aren't as responsive.

So, so far I am a big fan. I just have to make sure to charge that battery!! Would be awful to lose power halfway through a race!

My 2015 Ceepo bike is built up with Rolf Prima wheels, Cobb Saddle, Keywin Pedals.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ironman New Zealand

Last weekend I took to the start line at Ironman New Zealand for the 8th time. This year, as the date for Challenge Wanaka had been moved back to February it meant that the races were only 13 days apart. I struggled with making a decision on what to do. Both races mean so much to me, and both races are of an amazing quality which is a joy to be a part of. In the end I felt that the only decision I could make was to be a part of both of them. Was it the right decision? Yes I think so. I enjoyed being at both races and as they are both in beautiful parts of the world, Benny can really enjoy being a part of it too. Both super family friendly places with plenty of activities for children. I always feel guilty uprooting Benji when we take off for a race, so it is always so, so important to me, that he has a great time. And if I feel one of my races is in a place where he won't enjoy the trip, be it the travel or the destination then I go it alone. But I oh so prefer to be able to stick together as a family. Will I do the double again? The answer is, I don't know. I'm not sure I was able to athletically give the performance I wanted to at Taupo and I may have to pick between these races next year. As Wanaka as a course suits me so much better, this years race in Taupo may have been my last.

I felt I recovered really well from Wanaka both physically and mentally, and I was excited about having another shot. The swim went fairly well. In previous years I have had a deficit of around 5 minutes out of the swim to Meredith. 2 years ago I finished the race only 2 minutes a drift by the end of the run, and last year it was 6 minutes, so in past years you can say that I have lost the race in the swim. This year I came out of the swim around 2 minutes behind so it was a much better place to start the bike from.

On race morning before the swim I had all sorts of difficulties with my bike. My bike had been in perfect condition going into the transition the day before, but as we had a big amount of rain and were unable to cover our bikes, when I arrived in transition I found my back brake was hard up against one side of my wheel. Brett was not with me, as we do not like to wake Benji so early in the morning so I go to the race alone. He tells me that if I had of just pumped my brakes several times it would have unlocked, and that it was likely that some rain had gotten into my cables and stuck my brake. Unfortunately, I went straight for the allen key and started playing around with what I thought was my brake, trying to loosen the cable. However, unknown to me I was actually loosening the brake pad. I was not having much luck moving the brake from the one side of the wheel. I tried moving my wheel, and eventually I just sort of grabbed my brake and gave it a big whack which seemed to do the trick. But I felt a bit dubious about it. I really wanted to just grab some scissors and cut the cable and go without a back brake. I wanted to ask the technical helpers, but there was a big line of people waiting and also I felt that if they saw me do that they would not allow me to start the race. I felt quite sick to my stomach. I didn't feel that things were right with my bike, but there wasn't really anyone to ask for help and I had to get to the swim start. After the race, Brett told me that what had happened was while I was trying to loosen the cable and was pulling on it, I had straightened it out so that the pedal hit the cable for each pedal stroke (which was the annoying noise I heard throughout the race), and that my brake pad was loose as I had undone this by accident and it was onto the rim. He says that I was lucky it was not a bit further hanging out, or it would have been on the tyre and I would have had an explosion at some point. So this was an unfortunate chain of events really. But having said that, it was my 34th iron distance race and this really is one of the only races where I have ever had any real technical issues, so I think I have been extremely lucky over the years, but of course my husband is to thank for that, always getting my Ceepo into perfect working order, and if he had been able to be there pre race he would have told me what to do!! Really though I should be able to fix these simple problems myself.

So as I jumped onto my bike, immediately I could hear this scraping of the cable and the pedal every stroke, but I didn't know what it was. Eventually, at some point on the course the cable was chopped off. When I saw Brett about 3km into the race I wanted to stop and say I can't do this for 180k, I'm done. But I had to stick it out. It was a bit difficult to get myself into the race but eventually I just succumbed to it, that this was the way it was going to be, and got on with it, and I was able to ignore what was going on, and eventually I didn't even hear it at all. I was losing a lot of time to Meredith at every turn around, but I managed to stay positive and do the best ride I could on the day. My end split was about 10 minutes slower than what I have ridden in previous years and I ended up the ride 14-15 minutes behind Meredith, but it is impossible to know whether my mechanical difficulties had any real effect on my time, or if I was not recovered from racing in Wanaka, or if my biking was simply not up to scratch for Wanaka and Taupo.

Off the bike I have never been so sore in an ironman in all my life. I wondered how on earth I was to run a marathon. I felt absolutely awful the first few kilometres, and then I came right. I ran as hard as I could all the way, obviously Meredith was far too far in the distance but I worried about being caught by the girls behind me. It is always lovely running in Taupo with the spectator support, this really makes the race for me. In the end I stayed in 2nd position. Meredith was outstanding, not only winning by a huge margin, but breaking her course record, and well done to fellow Kiwi Melanie Burke for rounding out the podium.

Thanks to my sponsors for their support over this Kiwi Summer season. Ceepo, Powerbar, Rolf Prima, Asics, SOAS, Rudy Project, Roka, Cobb, Keywin, Sweet Cheeks.

I have decided to part ways with Matt Dixon and Purplepatch. This is in no way reflective of any of my results, my results on paper are as consistent as ever. I really enjoyed working with Matt, and learning a completely different way of training, and I really thank him for taking an athlete like myself on. I have learnt many technical aspects on the bike and the run that I could never have learnt coaching myself. But I have also learnt that the overall plan is not the right path for me. Although I can see how the training could fit with so many other types of athletes, I am not one of them. I was 100% committed to his coaching for the 16 months that we worked together, but I can no longer give 100% commitment to his philosophy, and if you can't do that, if you can't have that belief, then there is no point in having an athlete/coaching relationship. I am however, incredibly grateful for the time he gave me and the journey that we briefly took together.

I have taken a good break since racing in Taupo. It was good to be able to travel back to my home town of Christchurch and spend time with family. I loved being back in Christchurch. It has been a long time since I have been able to be there and just relax and not worry about an earthquake hitting. I felt I could do that this time. I didn't feel anxious, and I really enjoyed being home. I have recovered well from my double. The day after the race I went for quite a long walk with Benji around the "Craters of the Moon" and then afterwards my foot swelled up and was very painful. I thought I had caused myself a serious injury, but after a few days when the swelling went down somewhat, the lump on my foot was much more on the surface of the skin than if it was a muscle injury, so I feel perhaps I was bitten by something. It is perfect now. I am going to take a few more days off and then get back into things.