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!