Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Gathering

Finally snotty is packed and feeling like crapolla crawled into the passenger seat and promptly went back to sleep. Woke up, yawned, read a little, then slept some more. Got woken up by Gazza saying we had arrived at what feels now like our second home. Port Macquarie.

On the otherside of that hill the fear has stilled.

We headed for our accommodation. Smack bang in the middle of the action. Great at the time, walking to transition, restaurants etc not so good at 4am when the volunteers were setting up road barriers and the race director was warming up the P.A. I woke up, opened one eye and guaged how I was feeling. No excuses, I'm well enough to play.

Bike check done I headed for the rendezvous point and there is Coach with the Crew. All chatting excitedly, doing last minute checks and admiring the latest matching earrings and nail decorations in team racing stripes. Yep, we are a deadly serious team! not. I love the relaxed air and camaraderie of the Crew. There are no over inflated egos here. And if there were I think their balloon would be popped pretty quickly. A few last wise words from the big guy (not racing this time due to illness) and we headed for the start. A short walk and then we found ourselves standing on the edge of the water ready to enter. Very little time for a warm up swim today. We are funnelled in and I lose sight of the girls.

Gun time and it's time to rock 'n roll. Hit out hard, found a set of feet to jump on to and rode the wave. Tried to jump across to the next set of feet when I could. Came out of the water feeling good. Could I have gone harder. Yep, but the run is always the unknown and so somewhere I always hold back. 4th in my age group. Let's hit the bike.

Out on the road ready to mount. And here he is larger than life screaming my name. No megaphone required. Roaring for the crowd to hear my name. I mounted and Coach's energy propelled me into the 1st lap with gusto.

Not far down the road and Kel passed me. I started to go with her and caught myself. 'Ride your own race' I thought and put my head down so that I could let her go. Over the hills and out on to the straights, I dug in hard. Our T.T sessions over the last weeks really paid off as it felt familiar and the legs remembered what to do and got to work.

And there it was! Matthew Flinders Drive hill. My nemesis. My dread, my pain, my fear, looming ahead of me as I rounded the corner. So many times I have dismounted and pushed my bike up this hill. I kept reminding myself that this was a chance to give it a go so that by Ironman I would not have the fear in my head. Visualising before the race for me came down to, 'will I make it up the hill or not?' Will I fall off in front of the crowds that always line the hill encouraging those who take on the hill and roaring approval as they crest it and for others, like me who opt for the safer and less humiliating push version, the crowd matches equally with words of encouragement and enthusiasm.

But for me, fear comes from several dark places.... Fear of failure, fear of being singled out in a crowd, fear of letting my team and Coach down, fear of embarrassing myself. Combine all those fears to one spill on a hill and you have the sum of all my fears. It must be put to rest! I hit the bottom of the hill and didn't focus on a run up, but rather, moving smoothly into the 'granny gear' and finding the 'dig deep' button. I started to work, a pinch, a moment of doubt, a reassuring 'you can do it' from the crowd. 'Ease your grip on the bars' from a single knowing deep voice from the crowd and obeying the voice I focused on legs rather than my hands.

I spun up the hill. Twice! Yep the second lap was a ground hog moment.

Out on the run and ok, here we go! This time I spotted Roberto just ahead of me. Part of me wanted to keep him in my sights and I wanted to run with my training buddy (the easier option). But again the little voice in my head said whoa! I knew I couldn't match Kel's speed and the same applied here. I had to run my own race and besides, my itb was giving off warning shots. Damn it! there it was again. ok, now I'm worried. 2kms in and it is telling me it's not happy through a painful nagging. Pop a panadol and focus on the form.

And round the next corner is Coach on his bike. GO SAMMI! watch the form, run tall, don't get caught up in the mental games, dig deep! GO SAMMI!!!!!!! Yep Coach, I got it. BUT, in a moment of lost focus I made a fatal rookie mistake. Yep, I poured water over myself and wet shoes plus orthodics = blister. A blister as big as a 50c piece on the arch of my left foot. Nice! Now it's 12kms to run. I stop and grab some Vaseline and try to run without limping. It's smarting bad. I pass Coach and I think he saw the look. 'Keep tall Sammi' he yells and I focus on form and watching the dolphins in the cool river we are running alongside to distract me from the pain at each step.

ok, ouch! Time to pick a box. I start visualising. ok, the box is small enough to hold a blister in. Tight, red, small, now put the pain in it and put a lid on it. Clamp it down tight. Pick something to clamp it down with. ok, found it. That big guy up in front of me running smoothly. He looks like he could be heavy enough to keep the lid down until the end. I watch his legs striding and I fall into a hypnotic rhythm behind him and we run to the finish line.

I lose sight of the big guy and the lid flies off. But it's ok, the race is done and ice cream heals everything including blisters......for now anyway.

High 5s from Coach. Catch up with the Crew and all are home safe and sound and still smiling. What an amazing day. Sadly though Gazza and Baby Bear had to pull out. But The Onion Man and Roberto are home and happy.

Shower, lunch and climb aboard, it's a 5 hour ride home. Gazza at the wheel, medal swinging from the rear view mirror and I am one very happy Sammi.

Top 10~! P.R in all 3 disciplines. Goal achieved.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Snotty isn't even packed yet............

Got the call last night. Ocean swim.

My first thought was 'you beauty, I need to get some salt water flowing through the pipes.' Gross but true. Nothing like a dose of salt water to clear our the Eustachian tubes. Rolled up beach side and the Crew were there minus Coach and Megzy. Both sick as Mangy Dogs... It's been a huge year for Coach. Looks like they will pull out of the fun at Port Mac this weekend. Maybe a good thing to bench them both and hopefully they have some quiet, relaxing time together.

In the meantime we hit the water and there were some big rollers heading out. 3 circuits round the boats and we were done and feeling pretty relaxed and confident about the weekend ahead. Bring it on!

This week also held some reassurances as far as diet is concerned. I headed to Sydney and navigated my way through the throng and found a highly recommended dietitian, Rebecca Hay. She was tucked in a little concrete room with no windows and a splash of colour with framed jerseys signed by sporting identities and tucked way in the back was a picture of Rebecca with her Forster Ironman medal swinging from her neck.

We set about dissecting my diet hour by hour. On the while she was happy with the balance of carbs, fat and protein. Could use some extra carbs in the arvo on days that I train heavy. But otherwise all good. Race nutrition however, she felt I was a bit light on when it came to carbs in. An extra Dextro bar an hour. Wholly green Batman! That's a lot to add to my day. Getting it down (and for that matter keeping it down) might prove tricky. We agreed as it was race week that I wouldn't change anything at this late hour. But to give it some thought. We also talked about hydration and fluid intake...hmmmm always a tricky one as I think I live my life slightly de-hydrated. So I have a fluid chart to complete over the next couple of weeks. Will be interesting to see the results.

So now I'm off to pack. It's 9pm Friday night. We leave at 6am tomorrow morning and I have a snotty nose.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Crew Talk with Coach

Tuesday afternoon found me racing out the door from work and heading to the harbour for the first open water swim of the season. We are usually in the water on the first weekend in October but it has been freezing in the water. So with the weather warming up slowly, when I got the call from Coach to meet the gang and don the wetsuits I was keen to get it done.

I pulled on the wettie and dived in. It was, shall we say, refreshing! I immediately felt comfortable and found that all the swim training over the winter had paid off. M biggest indicator was being able to match another girl in the water that had previously been able to beat me. Also, later that night I got a text message from Coach saying that my swim had improved HEAPS! woohooo

For the next two days I was in Sydney for work sitting in an air conditioned room with a bunch of strangers. Combined with an ear that filled with water and wouldn't drain... it was inevitable but yep I woke on Thursday morning with a dry sore throat and a snotty nose. By the end of the day I had the body shakes and by the time I got home I was given my dinner and put to bed by Gazza.

Saturday morning saw me up at 4.30am!!!! and eating down codrals in a hope that I would make it through the days training session. Coach had called a team meeting to start at 5.45am and I arrived a little late and a lot of fluster. I knocked on the door and entered the house. The crew were all gathered already perched on arms of chairs and floor. I settled in between two of the girls and waited for the Oracle to speak. As Coach had been in New Zealand the past couple of weeks I (and the crew) were keen for him to share some of the insights he had gained while working as the physio for the elite ultra triathletes. He had rubbed shoulders with the best Coaches in the sport. Bob Mcgee to name just one.

Coach spoke about digging deep. How even the best athletes have to dig deep and have dark moments in their race. But he also said that even the athletes who aren't as gifted perhaps genetically can still work hard and dig deeper in order to win (or in my case finish ;) It's about hearing the negative thoughts, recognising that things can and do go wrong out there, but not owning the negativity, just acknowledge it and let it pass.

I felt I could relate to what he was saying. There have certainly been times in my life where I have felt so terribly trampled and beaten and just wanted to lay down and let the blackness engulf me. But from somewhere, somewhere from within comes the belief in myself that I can 'bloody well walk out of here!' and I do!

So we mounted up and headed out. It was going to be a shorter session than the last few weeks. Just one TT. So with the wind behind us we headed North and upwards. I did a PR on Bald Hill. Even feeling like crap I managed a PR. Very happy. We reached the beginning of the TT session and regrouped. When we started the session one of the girls jumped to the front and maintained a lead with me in second, Elyse third and Megzy in 4th. The elastic between Katrina and I stretched and closed, but never really snapped. As we reached the turn around point I realised that the boys had not been anywhere along the road. But anyway, I turned and opened up. Downhill and wind assisted it was going to be a fast return. And it was! As I went over the bridge with the flattened cat (Peeweww!) I spotted Coach. The boys must have ridden further and come up behind us. I was head down and cranking 47kms per hour. Sweet!

By the time I finished I had left 3 and 4 way behind and had pulled up behind 1. I was very happy with the legs. But, the snotty nose and sore throat were giving me such a hard time. I was feeling a bit wobbly. For the rest of the ride I sat in the group quietly wishing I was home. Digging deep just to make it home.

8 sleeps to Port...... 8 sleeps to get better and get ready.

Later Coach sent this.......

You are better than you believe you are.
You can achieve more than you think you can.
Believe --> Achieve

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2 Weeks to go..........

And with that thought you would think I was hot to trot. Training on fire ready for Port Macquarie 70.3. But no! It seems staying curled up in bed, in the dark, warm and dry has taken priority over dedication, consistency and focus on goals. Having said that though. When I did crawl out from under my rock this week I managed to perform quite well.

Getting a wind trainer session, a swim in during the week was good. But the weekend and the warm sun came out and so did Sammi. Friday was an absolute right off weather wise. Squalling winds and torrential rain made the weekend look less than promising. However, by 6pm we saw the back of the front that moved off shore and the roads start to dry.

Coach is away this week in New Zealand. He is mixing it up with the best of the best at a training camp for triathlete legends. He is physio to the stars and also gets to train with them and then pick the coach's brains at night. What a life! And yet he still has time for me. A text comes in just as I am about to crawl back under my rock. "All ready for the weekend Sammi?" I feel like texting back "Hells No!" But instead it is "OK Coach!" Let's get it done Sammi. Suck it up Princess and get up at 4.30am, pick up Roberto and Big Gazza and join the Crew for a big day out on the bike. Oh yeah and pack your race nutrition and your runners.

A cold start and at 20kms we are grappling with the steepest part of the day. A long hard climb up out of the Illawarra and the beginning of the plateau that forms the escarpment around the place I call home. At the very top of the climb we head left and onto the old highway. Once the main route between Sydney and Wollongong it has long since been superseded by the bypass and now only the locals and a bunch of brightly coloured lycra wearing maniacs claim it as their own.

We muster at the start of the road and the rules of engagement are explained. 3 x 10km out and backs. Hard and uphill out, fast and furious back. Re-muster at the end before a short break and do it again. And we are off. It is hard. The road is really coarse gravel glued together with a bit of concrete. The verge is even coarser but occasionally the base improves and there is a small smooth reprieve. I hit out at a moderate pace on the first out. Not sure what I am in for I err on the side of caution and hold a steady pace without pushing for fear of a blow up come round 3 or worse still heading home. There are still 7 hills to climb to get home.

Back...is an amazing downhill run in the aero bars with the wind at your back. Average pace 47kms per hour. Max speed 65.7 yoikes! 2nd and 3rd loops are given in to slowing the pace and allowing Coach's finance a free pull along as she was suffering a bit. But back again was a free for all and before long I found each time I dropped her easily and pretty soon she couldn't see me for dust. Very HAPPY!

An easy paced ride home, I took my turn at the front and beat into the ever present Southerly wind. Cruised over the 7 hills and finished the ride downing my last GU ready for a 20min run off. The jelly legs were there but I managed to run through it, and almost get taken out my a cyclist on the shared bike track. More my fault than his as I had my head down and had strayed onto his side of the track. His eyes (and mine) were as big as saucers as we each swerved to avoid a collision. Luckily Rob was there to grab me and haul me to one side. We coasted back tired, relieved and extremely happy with getting it done and finishing strong.

BUT WHY DO I NEED A SHOVE OUT FROM UNDER MY ROCK EACH TIME!!!!!! I would have thought by now it would be just ingrained, instinct, easy and effortless. Yeah I'm no fool. I know we all have days like that.

Sunday I met up with Roberto and his Missus. And with Gazza in tow we headed out for an easy 80min run. A nice seaside path with lots to look at and distract us from the pain. The legs BTW have been holding strong with no ITB issues at all. Awesome to hope that 2 weeks out from a race the legs have sorted themselves out. The run was easy with Gazza needing to be reminded that it is an 'easy' pace. I know when the Ethiopian runners go out for their easy runs they are almost walking and they chat and laugh the whole way. Easy means easy. Hard means hard! and there should be a demonstrable difference between the two. But Gazza gets in the groove, finds his pace and takes off. And just like Mister Squiggle I need to take him by the hand and ease him back down to Earth. Or scream EASE at him lol.

At one point during the run I found myself at the front of our foursome. We hit the one and only hill on the course and before I knew it I was powering up with little effort. Gaz is now telling me to ease the pace. I didn't think I would ever hear that. He said after he got puffed and checked the pace, here I was striking up the hill harder than ever. Could it be that I am finding my Groove.


Perhaps reading a few books lately that have been so inspirational has had a positive effect on me as I felt for the first time like I was loving this crazy thing called running.

I would totally recommend anyone read:
  1. Chrissie Wellington's - A Life Without Limits
  2. Scot Jurek's - Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
  3. Chris McDougall's - Born to Run

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Anniversary or is that Birthday

Years ago, 19 years to be exact. I turned 28 and I got married. Big Gazza took the leap, whisked me off to Jamberoo for a rendezvous that would last 19 years and counting. We have had some amazing adventures during that time........and the adventures haven't stopped and we certainly aren't slowing down any time soon. While we have each other, our health and the sun shining above us we are packing it in.

Happy 19th Anniversary

Our Anniversary was spent with a sleep-in which is a novelty for us. Coffee in bed and then we headed out together for a ride North. We stopped and enjoyed the view for a while took a photo. Stopping is another novelty before heading home again. To top it off I decided to throw in a hill climb. Hill 60. It's been on my 'to do' list for a while.

Hill 60, Port Kembla from half way up the hill

It was a hard climb, but not undo-able. I just went steady and consistently without blowing up. I noted on Strava when I uploaded that I had come in 2nd with an average speed of 9.3 and a HR average of 153. The girl who owns the QOM got 10.7 but her heart rate was 197bpm. Yoikes she must have been close to blowing up!

So a good week overall on the program with a tick in every box, finishing the week strong and with the Pinkies Triathlon to bring it home with flying colours (check out my race debrief in the Races Page).

47 and living life a hundred miles an hour

Monday, October 1, 2012

Back in the Game

Well, I had a lot to make for this weekend. After a shocker out on the road last Saturday that saw me making the decision to head home after only 15kms of what was supposed to be a 100km ride. I was more than ever, determined to get it right this weekend.

At the 15km mark, last week, I turned to Big Gazza and announced I was pulling over. I had said that my legs were not working as we rode along. There was no power in them. It felt heavy and while not painful I was having trouble with each and every turn of the pedal. Before we headed out on the road that morning I was feeling positive and looking forward to notching up my first tonne of the season. So as I sat on the side of the road feeling like I had lead sinkers in my tri-shoes I tried to take an honest account of my situation. Yep, honestly, I can't do this ride today. So, with my tail between my legs and a sinking heart we headed for home. I was comforted by the fact that even on the way home I couldn't get going.

I rested for the remainder of the weekend and then started a new week with renewed determination to get it right. I ticked the boxes daily. Making sure to put the effort in when Coach told me to, rest and stretch religiously and get a decent night sleep.

So, when Saturday morning arrived and I was awake before the alarm and feeling fresh and raring to go, I knew I was mentally up for the challenge. I just hoped like crazy that the legs were feeling the vibe too.

I headed out with The Onion Man and Big Gazza and we headed North in the direction of the Sea Cliff Bridge and the illusive 100. By the time we passed the point where I had turned the week before (only 15kms) I knew already I had this thing sorted.

Even better was when I finished the 100 and had claimed victory over the ride and my legs, I left Big Gazza laying on the floor stretching and proclaiming he was done, I donned the runners, grabbed a hat and headed out down the road again for an 'easy' 20min run. The legs felt like jelly. You know that weird wobbly 'will me legs collapse under me' feeling. Yup that was me. After a few walk/run intervals I managed to gain control and finish the run with an unbroken 5minutes.

And to top off a great weekend, I headed out this morning with Big Gazza for a 70min run. We headed for a part of town we hadn't run along for ages and the new view took the mind off the worry that the legs (ITBs) wouldn't hold. I shouldn't have worried. The legs held. A strategy Coach and I are trying is a 20min spin on the wind.trainer before heading out along with the usual warm up drills. This seemed to work a treat as my lower back and hips seemed to move freer than when I just up and run cold. I was continually bolstered throughout the run. And with 20mins still left to run Gaz pulled out with a niggling lower back issue. And while he walked home I continued on. While usually I would have crumpled having to carry on alone, instead I found myself in the zone and running comfortably. I rounded the final corner and came in strong and and punching the air with flaming high 5s. woop woop!

The weekend was rounded out by a second run in the afternoon. I met up with a friend and ran again in a place that I haven't run through for a long time. The friend was a distraction too and we chatted happily as we jogged a long at a snail's pace. My friend has lost a lot of fitness over the last couple of weeks and piled on a heap of weight. Already a big girl the extra kilos has not helped. I found myself jogging on ahead and then doubling back when she stopped to walk and find her breath. Once again the body, legs, heart and head held together and now as I sit here I feel like an Ironman again. The first time in a very long time. I feel bolstered by a great weekend of training.

Of course tomorrow may be a different matter, but today is all that matters!