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.