Thursday, March 25, 2010

Family Road Trip to Ironman Australia

On the way down to Port Macquarie in the car...... 8hrs= lots of good work done and no that is not facebook on my computer!!

Catching up with my sis- hadn't seen her for such a long time- loved getting to spend time with her.

Being inducted into the Australian Ironman Hall of Fame- what an honour.

Yes I was actually speechless.......for about 5 seconds but then the 'megamouth' took over.

DAY 1 -
Well it has been quite a while since our last true family road trip. We all decided that Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie would be the perfect excuse to get the entire family together again. So my parents, Justin and I started the 8hour journey down the coast to Port, while my sister and her boyfriend made the 5 hour journey up the coast to join us. It was going to be a fun-filled, albeit, loud weekend.

For an athlete, being hauled up in the backseat of a car for 8 hours is almost on par with pulling your toenails out. For me personally, being on the hyperactive side, it is just about as bad as it can get. But my parents and Justin are keeping me thoroughly entertained and it also has given me the opportunity to update my blog and get up to speed with all of the latest 'goings-on' in the world of triathlon and facebook of course.

I am actually really looking forward to the weekend. I cannot remember the last time I was at Ironman Australia as a spectator and not as a participant- it could have been as far back as 1998! I am excited about the women's race and I love the fact that I am going to be able to socialise and mingle at the expo for as long as I want without being worried about wearing out my legs, although there is a very good chance that I will be wearing out my mouth.

I am heading to the carbo dinner tonight and then the expo tent tomorrow- I am going to be at the TP Therapy booth at 11.30 and then the Powerbar booth after lunch- if you are at the expo then swing by and say hello- you know I will be up for a good chat. Race day I will be on the microphone for at least a couple of hours- I love to commentate (shock, horror) and it is something I am really keen on exploring post-racing.

Well the carbo night was a huge surprise- during the night I was called up on stage as I was inducted into the 'Ironman Hall of Fame'. What an enormous honour it was. I never, ever dreamt that I would be included in this very elite club of amazing athletes and contributors to the sport of Ironman. The most unbelievable thing was that my dad actually had tears on his cheeks when I returned to the table after giving a 'short' speech. It was such a wonderful and unforgettable night and I was just so happy to have been able to share it with my family and friends. We continued to celebrate well into the night- yes quite a few red wines were consumed.

DAY 2-
We got up quite early as a group of us wanted to get a ride in before we hit the expo tent . We rode on the race course- good to see a lot of cyclists out and about getting their last little ride in before race day. The course here at Port Mac is definitely not flat. It is a solid, demanding course and has everything from hills to bumpy roads and wind. It really has a bit of everything. It is a three loop course so you get to know it quite well by the time you are finished with it.
After the ride we all went for breakfast at a cafe called 'Crema'. It is a bit of a favourite amongst the athletes and I can understand why- great coffee and good healthy food. After brekky it was time to hit the expo. I loved catching up with sponsors and friends- some I had not seen for quite a few years. I stopped by Powerbar and TP Therapy for quite a while and chatted with athletes. I was getting so excited for them all. For sure there was a part of me that wished I was also racing along side them. By the time I left the expo tent most athletes had racked their bikes- the transition was packed solid with bikes of all sizes. It is such an amazing sight- so many cool bikes- loads sporting disc wheels- lets hope the wind does not rear it's ugly head tomorrow.

Saturday night we had a bbq at out apartment. It was supposed to be a fairly quiet night as we knew we had to be up early the next morning for the race start at 6.45am. Well lets just say it was an extremely fun night and we will leave it at that. I blame my sister for bringing up too many great bottles of red wine (she works in the industry).

I awoke nice and early and I admit I was not feeling so chirpy, but I was up and at it and out the door by 6.30am. I was meeting some friends for a run as soon as the starting cannon went off at 6.45. We ran along the foreshore so that we could see the swimmers and then out along the first part of the run course and it was so still and so eerily quiet- we knew this was all going to change once the athletes hit the run course later in the day. We then ran back into town to watch the athletes riding out of town. It was so exciting to watch them exit the water and jump on their bikes- it is such a different perspective watching rather than racing. I was getting so hyperactive watching everyone. The swim times were super fast and the pro girls were right up there. I couldn't wait to see how the race was going to pan out for them.

After the run we all went for a quick bite to eat and then Luke McKenzie and I had some commentating to do. We wanted to be to in the tower when the athletes were dismounting their bikes in T2. I was actually able to go into the T2 tent and give the spectators a 'birds-eye view' so to speak of the pro girls and how they looked heading out for the run. The girls looked great and it really did look like it was going to be a close and hard-fought race. One thing I did notice though was that most of the professional athletes that left T2 looking great, did not finish looking so good. The athletes that started the run a little more conservatively ended up being the athletes that held it together and came home strong. It really showed me the importance of being patient during the marathon- taking it out at a steady and controlled pace rather than going crazy and not being dictated by other athletes around them or in front of them. Being able to view the results now and looking back at the way athletes left T2 you could have picked the athletes that were going out way too hard. I learnt a valuable lesson that is for sure.

At the end of the day both winners were deserving- they had controlled, strong races and never really looked like faulting. They stuck to their race plans and it paid off. Carrie made a decisive move on the bike and then was able to control the run- with such a huge lead off the bike it enabled her to just run her own pace on the marathon and the girls never really got close enough to have her concerned enough to change her pace. What an amazing effort for her very first ironman.

Well we are on our way back up to Noosa now after an awesome weekend. I loved every second of it. I really wanted to stay for the Awards night but I knew I needed to get back home as my own training needs to hit top gear again. I have taken a good break after IM Malaysia and China 70.3. It is now time to get moving and prepared for the next round of races. First up of course is defending my title at Hawaii 70.3 in June.

Monday, March 22, 2010

China 70.3

Well I have been back home in Noosa now for almost a week after spending the past four weeks racing and training in Asia. I really enjoyed my time in Asia and and of course I love to race but nothing beats being home. Justin and I brought ourselves a new house just before Christmas last year and we have done quite a bit to it since then so it is always nice to come home and appreciate what we have done.

After IM Malaysia we flew to Singapore. We decided that this would be the best place for us to base ourselves between races. We had 10 days in Singapore with the priority being recovery. Obviously we didn't need to go too crazy with the training as both of us had just finished the Ironman. It was more about active recovery and getting the body moving again and ready to fire for China 70.3.
We were lucky enough to stay in a wonderful penthouse apartment over-looking the ocean (thanks to Michelle and Steve and Nicole and Evan). The complex had its own 50m pool and gym equipped with treadmills- perfect! I really love Singapore- it has just about everything you need- great food, good coffee, massage, shopping.....did I mention how good the shopping was....... I had to keep reminding myself that I was not on holidays but rather, that I was preparing for another race. Before we knew it our 10 days were up and we were on our way to Hainan Island, China.

I had not been back to Hainan Island since winning the inaugural IM China in 2008. That was, without a doubt, one of the hardest and most gruelling Ironman races I have ever done. I was only doing the 70.3 this time around but Justin was backing up and doing the 'double'- two IM races two week's apart. I thought he was crazy. I knew it was going to be tough enough getting through the half. The conditions at this race had been horrendous both years so I had no doubt that this year would be no different.
Race day came quickly as we did not fly in to China until late thursday afternoon. My race did not start until 9am so I got to have a bit of a sleep-in while the poor Ironman athletes had an early start at 7am. By the time I got to the transition area the IM athletes were well into their four lap swim and it was actually kind of cool to watch them exit the swim and jump onto their bikes. I got to cheer on Luke McKenzie and Justin which was a lot of fun.

Before I knew it, it was my time to jump into the murky waters and do my thing. I had no idea how I was going to feel as I had not done any high intensity training since Malaysia. I have to admit the swim did not feel so great- I felt uncoordinated and weak in the water- a complete contrast to the way I felt swimming in Malaysia. Amazing what a week can do to one's swimming. But I survived the swim and was actually looking forward to the bike as then I got to see what the IM athletes were up to. I was surprised at just how windy it was on the bike course. I knew within the first few kilometres that it was going to be an extremely tough day on the bike.
Even though I didn't feel too bad riding, I certainly had to push hard to keep any sort of speed up- you really did have to work for every km. The wind was brutal. I didn't find the heat so much of a problem but the wind was making it very hard indeed. I entered T2 with my slowest bike split ever for a half ironman race- I was just so glad I didn't have to turn around and head out in it for another lap.

I started the run straight into the head wind but I knew I only had to endure it for 5kms and then I got to turn and for the rest of the run I would have the wind behind me. I saw the pro men running back towards me and they all looked happy- I couldn't wait to have the wind at my back! The only problem with having a tailwind is that it often results in over-heating. But because I had raced IM Malaysia two week's before I did not find this a problem.

It is amazing how quickly 21kms goes when your last race was 42.2kms- before I knew it I was celebrating another win at the finish line. Funny thing is that all I was thinking about was how the guys in the IM were doing and I wanted to turn around and start running back out onto the course so that I could cheer the boys on. Unfortunately the drug testers had other ideas and they bundled me up and took me away for drug testing.
Fortunately I got back to the finish in time to see my good friend and training partner Luke McKenzie smash the field and cross for the 4th IM win of his career- he is such an amazing athlete and a wonderful person. I was so happy for him and his fiance Amanda. I then waited patiently for Justin to arrive. I knew it was going to be a long day for him- he was not going to be breaking any records today but it was a goal of his to do two IM races two week's apart, so I knew he would make it to that finish line any way he could. He managed to put in a solid run in the tough conditions after struggling big time on the bike and crossed the line in 7th place- not too bad at all after finishing 4th in IM Malaysia. Of course he was out of the 8% cut-off for prize money but he was not upset by it. He was just happy that he could tick the 'double' of his list of 'things to do'.

After the race we headed back to Singapore for a day of shopping. I loved it- I had made a pact with Justin that if I won both of my races then I could do some guilt-free shopping post-race. We had 6 hours in Singapore before our flight back to Brisbane- a small window of opportunity but one that I treated with the same enthusiasm and intensity and precision that I would a race. Honestly I truly believe that if there was a 'World Championship' for the Best Shopper', I would definitely be in the running for the crown. I would be like the 'Chrissie Wellington' of Ironman- unstoppable.
But back to reality now- back home and back into training. I am taking this next week fairly steady. I have a big block of training coming up as my next race will not be until the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on the 5th of June. I am looking forward to spending the next few months here in Noosa and getting myself strong and fit before I head to a training camp in Kona for the month of June. The most exciting thing about this camp is that Hillary and Maik are also joining Justin and I for the month= HAPPY TRAINING!!!

Next up I will be making the trip down to Port Mac this weekend to watch Ironman Australia- I have not been down for quite a few years now so I am actually really looking forward to it.
Hope to see some of you down there.

IM Malaysia- three from three

IM Malaysia 2010

Well this was my 4th trip to Langkawi and IM Malaysia. I first raced there in 2003 and finished 2nd in what was the hardest race I had ever entered at that stage of my career. Move forward seven years and it is definitely still one of the hardest races on my calendar. It is not the course that makes it difficult, it is purely the conditions- the heat and humidity are like no other- not even the big one in Kona compares with this race. But funnily enough, it is the reason I continue to return to this beautiful island- the tougher the better for me.

I really wanted to win the race this year as it would be my first 'hat trick'. I had never won three IM races back to back. I have won three IM Koreas but not consecutively. I also wanted to notch up my 12th IM Distance win of my career. Well I am happy to report that I was able to win and I am very happy with the way the day panned out for me.

Justin and I arrived on Langkawi on the Monday before the race- I like to get to this race a little early just so I am settled and 'semi-acclimatised' to the conditions if that is at all possible. I am from Noosa in Queensland so the weather isn't dissimilar but I am not sure if anything really gets you used to the extreme weather. I also get to stay at the Westin hotel and they look after me like no other place in the world.

The week leading into the race went really quickly. I was so happy to see my good friend and fellow K-Swiss athlete- Hillary Biscay. I got to do some great little training sessions with her and of course got up to speed with everything that had been going on in her world. We used to train together every day, but now I only get to see her every few months so that first ride together turns into a hypoxic session as we barely take a breath between sentences.

Race day came and I woke up feeling calm and ready to race hard all day…..and I say all day because we don't start until 7.30- a late start as far as Ironman goes but it is too dark to start any earlier. My last IM race was Kona and it was nothing short of a disaster so I was eager to get out there and make amends. In fact the whole of my 2009 season was a roller-coaster ride. I would have one great race followed by one horror race. After my surgery back in March last year I just could not find the consistency that I am renown for so I was eager to start my 2010 campaign on the right foot .

I had a great swim. I knew things were looking good when Hillary and Justin swam past me at around the 200m mark. I jumped on their feet and thought to myself 'now you just have to stay here'. Well I did manage to stay there but I was red-lining it for most of the swim. I exited the water right behind them and quickly made my way through transition. I jumped on my bike and remembered thinking to myself 'ok now it is time to go hard'. I love my Ceepo Katana- it really is the perfect bike for me- so small and compact and it had been decked out with a brand new SRAM Red group-set. It was my first race using SRAM and it was just perfect. I am just so comfortable on this bike and it loves going fast. I was controlled for the first 20kms and then I decided to start picking things up a bit. After about 45mins I really started to feel good and concentrated on putting as much time as I could between myself and the other girls.

It is a four loop bike course with some fairly challenging hills thrown in there on every loop. They feel fine for the first couple of loops but by loop four they feel like mountains from the Swiss Alps. I definitely felt them on my last loop and suffered through the last 40kms but entered T2 with a good lead- around 17 minutes, and it really is a nice way to start the marathon. By no means did I think that I 'had it in the bag'- I still had to get through the entire marathon and in this heat it is easier said than done. I have seen athletes literally melt in this heat and it is not a pretty sight.

The marathon is a 5 loop course- it almost does your head in but it also makes it very easy to keep pace and to see where your competition is. I took the first lap out nice and steady and concentrated on getting in a much liquid as I could. The aid stations are great and the water is icy cold- it makes such a difference. I was pouring water over my head from the get go . The most important thing is to try and keep your body temperature down as much as you can. Honestly I expected my shoes to fill with water and feel like cement bricks but I was wearing the new KOna C's and they are by far the best IM shoe I have ever worn- not one blister and they were as light as a feather as they have this amazing drainage system that gets ride of the water as quickly as you pour it on. I wasn't feeling great but then I didn't expect to have 'that fresh out of the shower' feeling happening-it is Malaysia and it is the middle of the day= crazy hot!

By lap two I was feeling better and started to get a great rhythm going. Edith, who was in 2nd place was not making up much time on me and I was actually happy to see that we were crossing in the same position. That spurred me on and lap 3 was also solid. By the 4th lap I was definitely staring to feel the effects of the heat and humidity. You know this feeling is only just around the corner but you just try and hold it off for as long as possible. I think by the time I turned to complete lap 4 I had really started to slow. But this marathon is not about running super fast times, it is all about maintaining a good rhythm throughout and trying to stay cool and hydrated for as long as you can. I knew the last lap was going to hurt but I also knew it was only 8kms- I could do that in my sleep so I set out on the last loop and just concentrated on making it to each aid station. It is amazing just how good cold water feels on your head and shoulders and how it can bring you back to life even if it is only for a couple of kms. I continued to do this all the way to the last turn-a-round and then I knew that I was on my way home to the finish.

I started to relax and soak up the atmosphere with about 3kms to go. I still felt in control and I knew that I could take some time and really enjoy this finish. I ran back past the host hotel and there were so many people there and the music was pumping- it was a really satisfying feeling. I had a about 1km to go until the finish and I couldn't wait to get there. I wanted to put the horror of Hawaii 09 behind me and move forward. Winning this race was like a new beginning and hopefully the start of a successful 2010.

Whit Raymond was there at the finish calling me in- just like he was back in 2003 when I first did this race. He has called me across the finish line of so many IM races now. He gives off so much positive energy.

I crossed the finish line in 9hrs23 and was just so happy and relieved to have made it and couldn't wait to see Justin as I knew he had had a fantastic race as well and I was eager to see where he had finished. He was there waiting for me and when he told me he had placed 4th, it made my win even better still- it was a great day out for both of us.

Next up is China 70.3 this weekend. I am looking forward to the shorter distance that is for sure. Lets hope I can make it two from two.

Thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors, friends and supporters- 2010 is going to be a good year.