Saturday, May 7, 2016

Calling time

When I lined up for Ironman Australia last weekend, what I didn't realise was that I would be lining up for the last time in a race. Although my race was marred by some mechanical difficulties on the bike, there was actually something more serious going on, and without having to go into the boring details I'll just say that it was very apparent that endurance racing was not what my body can do, wants to do or should be doing.

Although many know that I have been really struggling with my motivation in this sport in recent times I did have plans to race and obviously finish the Ironman in Port Macquarie and Ironman Cairns next month, before finishing the year out with some half distance races, the distance which despite not being as successful in in the past I actually prefer for it's less demanding nature and quicker recovery times. So although my departure from the sport was not too far away, it does come at a bit of a shock and not on my terms. It's not the way I would have picked to end my career. Hopefully in time the many good memories I have of my time in the sport will come flooding back.

I also have to remind myself of my major goal these last few years since I did come back into the sport in 2012 after having Benny. I always just wanted to survive as long as I could as the lifestyle enabled me to be so flexible and for Benny to spend a great amount of quality time with both of his parents. Although at times I think it surprised and perhaps frustrated my past coaches at my very unambitious nature in the sport, with a lack of any real goal, I think I can be personally proud that Benny has had the best first 5 years of his life that I could ever hope to give him. I absolutely have no regrets and feel so grateful that I was able to live the life I have been able to in these last few years.

I also feel incredibly grateful that although I will no longer be a part of this sport that has meant so much to me this past decade, that I will still be able to be a part of helping others' to achieve their personal goals in this sport. I feel so grateful that I have had some amazing people allow me to coach and guide them and I hope that I can continue to do so for many years to come.

I would like to thank my sponsors, especially my bike sponsor Ceepo who I have been with since 2008. To my current sponsors I greatly have appreciated your support and I am sorry I am not able to continue. Ceepo, Project Clothing, Asics, Rudy Project, Revbox, Keywin, Sweet Cheeks.

While I was still in Australia I was able to see the positives. Port Macquaire was a magical place and I was so glad that I had the opportunity to travel and race there for the first time. It reminded me of a less congested and more laid back Sunshine Coast with beautiful beaches. I was happy I was able to enjoy a few days with my family afterwards and was quietly happy that I could walk normally and really enjoy that time. When I arrived back in New Zealand it was a bit different. I felt numb and a bit lost with really coming to terms with the fact I would not be training and following my usual routine, but I am a pretty resilient person and I am coming to terms with things, and am already seeing quite a few positives in the situation. I have already paid up in full in regards to flights and accommodation for Cairns, so it looks like we will be going on what I guess will be my first real holiday in well over a decade. We won't have to lug the bike through the airports, Cairns is a fantastic destination which is why I was racing it in the first place, and I will be able to support one of my athletes in her first Ironman. So all good.

I'd like to thank anyone who took an interest in my career over the last decade and all the people who have helped me in some way during this time which there are far too many to mention. I will no longer keep this website going but will still be active on my coaching website coachginacrawford.com Ka kite ano, Gina.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

IMNZ 2016

The last 2 weeks I was due to race the NZ "double" again but it wasn't to be. Challenge Wanaka is such a special race to me, I have had such great success there and I have always thought that the course suits me better than any other I have done. Unfortunately I was not able to finish the event. Why? I still can't really work that out. People have asked me did I pull out to save myself for Taupo, but absolutely not. I just physically and mentally could go no further on the race day. I was absolutely devastated, much more down then I have even been about any result in my career. I just couldn't understand what had happened, couldn't make sense of any of it. My training I felt was on track, but on race day I was hugely fatigued to a point I have never experienced before. I was unable to even do my warm up, I tried a little jog but just felt exhausted, I tried a little swim warm up that certainly didn't help, the swim was so choppy I felt like I was boxing not swimming. I was exhausted after the swim, just felt like going to sleep and then on the bike it was very ugly. I do get allergies in Wanaka. That was the reason I had to move a couple of years back as the allergies led to asthma and I refused to go on medication as it was completely environmental, I am totally fine in coastal climates. So perhaps my body dealing with the allergies took some of my energy? I ended up with asthma on the bike which is why I called it a day at around 90k. Now that IMNZ is completed I will go for some blood tests to make sure there is nothing else going on.

While I was in Wanaka I also had a fall just taking off a bit of skin but also I banged up my hip and the pain I get in my stomach/diaphragm/QL immediately was worse. So that led me to seeking the help of the chiropractor which actually led to a major breakthrough for me. I guess everyone gets sick of me going on about this horrible pain I get and over the years I have been to see numerous experts, sports doctors, physios, breathing specialists. Everyone looks at me with blank faces, they have never come across such a thing. Even my own husband a couple of weeks back said to me are you sure you just aren't imagining it? No I'm not! The pain is horrible. Everything locks up and I can't breathe, it feels like I have a knife in my gut. Like most ironman athletes I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance but I just can't stand the thought of running a whole marathon like that. So finally when I was at the chiropractor he tells me that I have a pretty major issue with my sacrum, probably an injury that healed wrong and everything became immobile. I think childbirth had a bit to do with it, as you could hear my bones cracking and then afterwards I had a tail bone issue and couldn't sit without pain, and then later when I restarted training issues with my back. I saw a physio and did some exercises and the pain eventually went away. So my sacrum is immobile on the right, the chiro was amazed that I can run at all, but all the pain I have is secondary to this, I don't feel pain in my sacrum but the fact it is not functioning is leading to a chain of problems. He thinks this should take about 12 sessions to get mobile again, so far he hasn't been able to budge it after 3 sessions, and after each session I am unable to run properly for a couple of days. So therefore going into IMNZ I was thinking how I am going to possibly run this marathon? On the Tuesday of race week I did a 30min run which was pretty uncomfortable and not great for my mind set, so I decided to not run until the Friday and then I did 10 mins pain free which made me feel much more confident!

So as for my race goals they were completely different to any other year. I really just wanted to finish to get my confidence up. I hadn't finished an iron distance since July with the DNF in Hawaii and then two weeks ago in Wanaka my confidence was really quite rock bottom. I said no matter what I was going to get to that finish line even if I as a pro had to walk the entire 42km marathon.

This year in Taupo the weather was gorgeous, it was my 9th time to race and most definitely the best weather day we have ever had. My swim was the highlight. A lovely calm lake and I came out 4th women with Amanda Stevens in just over 30 mins. I had on my Project Wetsuit and it was so comfortable. My favourite feature is the neck line, a bit lower cut so I don't have this tight feeling about my neck restricting my breathing. I felt relaxed and really enjoyed the swim.

Onto my Ceepo and I felt great, so much better than in Wanaka. The first 45k went well I don't think I really lost any time, and I was 2 minutes ahead of Amanda at the turn around point. I could see bunches of the other girls about 4-6 minutes behind me. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I felt solid, not super speedy. After the race I see that with each 45k I slowed down. This is most definitely an indication of where I am at with my training. In previous years I have taken my break in October (a couple of weeks off) and started my build up for this race in November. This last year I extended my season until December and then with illness I took 3 complete weeks off. So I had at least 7 weeks less in my build up for this race which does make a difference. Often as pro athletes with such a huge base of work behind us we can trick ourselves that we are race ready as we are holding good paces for our intervals, but really my endurance and my race fitness was not quite there. Having said that I still had a solid bike ride, finishing in 5.12 a few minutes quicker than in the previous year.

Onto the run and I was very hesitant, I just wanted to get as far as possible before the pain set in, but to my surprise it never did. Maybe partly because I ran so much more conservatively than usual and also I focused a great deal in breathing through my nose and keeping my diaphragm relaxed. These are good goals but being efficient like this takes weeks if not months. If you decide in race week to try and breath mostly through your nose then of course you will be running slower, but as I said in this race my goal was just to get through it not to break any records. The most eventful thing that happened was that at 18k into the run I was told to pull up my trisuit or I would be disqualified. What? I was pretty pissed off to say the least as I knew without a doubt this was not a rule, unless Ironman had just changed it without telling anyone. I lost my temper a bit as I felt I was being singled out, as at that moment who came running towards me, Amanda Stevens with a crop top on. Not that I think there is anything wrong with what she is wearing but why is everyone else allowed to wear a crop top but not me? There were plenty of others wearing crop tops. The reason I pull my trisuit down is I want as little restriction around my breathing area as possible. For someone who struggles with their diaphragm I simply don't want any extra restriction. I do this in every race unless it is super cold and it has never been an issue. Anyway I didn't want to get DQ so I pulled it up and immediately it made my running more uncomfortable but I still got there. Out of interest I talked to the race referees afterwards and it turned out that they did indeed get this wrong. So ladies you are free to wear a crop top on the run if you like!

So in the end I ran a 3.22 marathon and finished in a 9.32 in 8th place. If I had had my normal run then I would have had a pretty solid race, but even a 9.32 is not so bad for me on that race course, it was just the fact that the other girls were so much better on the day rather than me having a very poor race. The field this year was so much more competitive than ever before. I remember quite a few occasions in the past where I would have finished 2nd with my 9.32. It goes to show just how much this sport has improved over the last decade.

 As per usual it was great to be involved with this event. I have done so many events around the world but the quality of this event is truly above any other, and for all of us to be able to enjoy it this year with perfect weather was a joy. It may be my last time to be on the start list so I was very glad to have the opportunity to race in such enjoyable conditions.

So it has been a roller coaster couple of weeks for me, but now I can see some great positives from the situation. Obviously finally getting help and finding an answer for a long term problem is huge, but even now when I sit here feeling so much better than I did this time last year. Doing 2 iron distance races in 2 weeks is very tough on the body. You can actually produce quite good results from doing 2 weeks apart, but for me recovering from that last year took a very long time, and I never think I quite got on top of that fatigue for the rest of 2015. This time I feel like I am at the start of something. I feel I have made progress towards my next race and feel in good health. I can think of so many times where I have had below par results due to being at a start of a training programme, only to be on fire in 6 weeks time, the body is quick to respond as long as you don't push it over the edge. Now I am fully engaged in being back to the top of my form for Ironman Australia in May and Ironman Cairns in June.

The absolutely best news to come of this weekend though was my athlete Barb Carson. With her permission I will be writing about her on my coaching website coachginacrawford.com over the next few days. Barb made a big PB taking 23 minutes off her time from last year, winning her age group and taking a Kona spot. 12.07 and she is in her sixties, and not only that but she works as a nurse. A physically tough job with hours all over the place and on call over many nights. Barb has made me so proud these last few months with her determination and willingness to try a new way when she was already very successful. She looked absolutely fantastic out on the course and her back half of her marathon was truly impressive. Well done Barb!

Thanks to my sponsors for their continued support. It has been a slow and rough start to the year but I am confident that I can make a big step forward now. Ceepo, Asics NZ, Project Clothing, Rudy Project, Revbox, Keywin, Sweet Cheeks.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Revbox Erg

This past week I have been lucky enough to get my hands on a Revbox Erg, and so I thought I would give my thoughts on this amazing training tool. I have had a pretty decent trainer the past year which I was pretty happy with but the Revbox takes it to the next level. It is a low inertia trainer. What that means that unlike other trainers which give you some assistance in your pedal stroke this does not. So you have to work hard in every part of the pedal stroke. Through listening to the revbox you can hear if any part of your pedal stroke is weak and can adjust. Just sitting on it for a short time, I felt I was working harder to stabilise my pelvis, and I could really feel my weaker hamstrings really starting to do some work. For me it will be a core part of my cycling programme, specifically targeting some weak points of my cycling. Below I will outline some ways how it could help any age group triathlete.

When it comes to cycling in triathlon, the key to success is strength. A significant portion of my cycling training is devoted to targeting cycling strength, hill work, big gear work etc. Of course I can do this on the road, but when it comes to hill work there are time constraints. First I have to bike to the hill, depending where you live this could be close enough, or you may even have to drive yourself and your bike closer so you can finish your session on time. For big gear reps I like to do this at a certain rpm which often means on the road I can't have a flat piece of road, or undulating, it has to be slightly uphill. Again there are many time constraints for me to find the perfect piece of road which is going to let me achieve what I wish to during that session. In this regard the Revbox is perfect. Being low inertia I can warm up quickly and then get straight into the really beneficial part of the training, riding the rpm I want, for the length that I want. I can dictate. I am then able to train efficiently, no waste of time in travelling, or wasting time biking to the hill and running out of time for my main set. For Age group athletes who often during the week days can only fit an hour in for a bike session, they can still get a very specific and targeted session completed which will lead to increasing that strength on the bike.

If you are a complete cycling novice then the Revbox is even more perfect. I have spent a week on the Revbox and I have already felt that I am changing the way I am pedaling. I can feel it when I go out on the road. I feel more stable in the core, and more efficient in my pedaling stroke, but I am having to undo years of bad habits. For a beginner therefore, getting straight onto the Revbox and becoming a efficient peddler straight away before any bad habits are ingrained is invaluable. I wish I could go back to that moment in time!

I can see many happy days in the winter sitting on the Revbox and not losing my strength over the winter months like I usually do, but I will be using it year round as in so many cases I see it being more valuable then being out on the road, and I don't have to worry about the traffic as well. Even in the heat of summer sitting on the Revbox is comfortable because you get a nice breeze blowing into your legs. It is not the horrible sweaty session that it was with my other trainer.

You can check out all information related to the Revbox here and you can even use the code RB16DISGC10 for a 10% discount if you do so in the next 2 weeks.

Happy Training! Gina