Kona 2018 : Journey To The Start Line
As IRONMUMS ambassador Lee hops on the plane and heads over to Kona I asked her to let us in on her prep for the race of her life before she left, over to you Lee - Naomi
It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting on the couch with my husband and children for the first time since forever. “Back to the Future” is on (yet again) but I can’t concentrate on it. My 8 year old daughter is squished up next to me and I am breathing in the heady smell of her unwashed hair that that may or may not enjoy the contents of a shampoo and conditioner bottle before school starts again on Monday. It’s an ongoing battle that I just haven’t had the energy to win in the last few days of school holidays. But the seriously suspect personal hygiene habits of my darling girl aren’t why I can’t watch the movie. Nope, the reason for that is that taper time is finally here - and with the decrease in “active calories burned” displayed on my Garmin comes the inevitable increase in the mind games that overwhelm me in the final lead up to a big event. This time next week my race will be run, the Ironman World Championships will be all over and with any luck, I will have finally finished the journey that began with me winning my age group at Ironman Australia on May 6 and qualifying for the greatest triathlon event of the year.
I can honestly say I have NEVER trained so hard for an event in my life. Naomi warned me early on that we were going to be focussing on a “big bike block” in preparation for Kona. I was nervous about what was to come - and I was right to be! From the outset, I was put to work on the indoor trainer - and not just for an hour here and there like I’d been set before, but for FIVE hours in a single day, divided into two separate sessions. Doing a session on the trainer early in the morning, then heading off to watch my kids play in basketball matches and then inevitably arrange play dates for one child or another, rushing home to feed everyone and then having to face the trainer for another session was a regular lesson in mental strength, determination and sheer bloody mindedness. My husband also works shift work and was often not home on weekends - so with my wind trainer set up in the middle of the lounge room in front of our only TV, it often meant I was fielding questions and sorting out arguments with one-word grunted sentences whilst working absurdly hard to get my heart rate to its upper limit. Added to this less-than-appealing training environment was the instruction from Naomi that because I was training to race in Kona at the end of their Summer, I was to be wearing multiple layers of clothing, with my head and hands covered at all times to try to recreate the hot and humid environment I’d be facing in Kona. And definitely NO fans. Let it be known that I HATE hot weather - I am a strict cool-weather athlete and it’s part of the reason I choose to train at such early hours of the day. I also HATE washing multiple loads of sweaty, stinky Lycra and I have to admit, the worst thing about all those split trainer sessions was facing the endless piles of washing each weekend.
The split bike sessions finished in early September and were replaced by the traditional “long ride” out on the roads. It was still freezing in Melbourne and no matter how many layers I wore, there was just no way I could realistically recreate the hellishly hot Kona environment when the outside temperatures on my bike route was regularly below zero degrees...
I still liked to get my long rides done without causing too much interruption to my kids’ routines, so I found myself setting my alarm for ridiculous times even by my standards - sometimes for 3:30am and once even as early as 2:30am. I was certainly in no danger of sweating to death...! The appeal of these early rides was also that it was too early for those black and white swooping devil-birds to get much of a go at me. And as silly as it sounds, it also meant that I avoided seeing a lot of other cyclists on my route - I am still so self-conscious of my pathetic speed on the bike that I much prefer riding at times when I am unlikely to face the embarrassment of other cyclists casually flying past me like I am standing still.
On August 1st, whilst I was at work on a Tuesday night, I received a text out of the blue from my local pool complex. It had been discovered that the roof above the pool was structurally unsound and the pool was therefore being closed indefinitely from that moment forth. My Facebook notifications immediately went into meltdown - I couldn’t believe how many people were immediately concerned with where on earth I was going to swim now that my town had no pool! Living in a small rural town meant that my nearest local pool was now 45 minutes in either direction - which meant that any time I wanted to swim I was going to need to find an additional 90 minutes travel time in my already time-poor day. I told Naomi I’d have to cut back my swims to two a week instead of three - but I realised pretty quickly that I wasn’t actually prepared to give up one of my swim sessions after all. It took me a week or two to figure out the perfect way to continue to fit in all of my sessions was to finally start using up some of the long service leave at work that was sitting idle just waiting for such an opportunity to be called upon. It was all authorised within a week and from the beginning of September, I no longer had to worry about my pesky work shifts getting in the way of my all important tri training. I was in heaven!
As September wore on, I began to really feel the effects of training so hard for so long. I felt like I had been slogging it out on long rides, runs and swims for so many weeks without relief, and the end was still nowhere in sight. I’d run a marathon in August with no taper leading in and no recovery coming out - the week after the marathon I ran a long Sunday run of 43km. My body was tired, my mind was tired and my will to keep going was almost broken. I was absolutely blessed during those trying, exhausting times to be boosted by the love and support of my beautiful fellow Ironmums, Claire and Ruth, who bolstered me every day with sensible advice, encouraging words and sassy humour as we made the regular long trips to the pool . And the support I received from the entire Ironmums community, as well as my Facebook, Instagram and real-life friends lifted my spirits enough for me to keep turning up to one more session, and putting in one more effort to get through one more day. Naomi was fantastic, always ready with a listening ear and prepared to change my program to suit. I even managed to score a scheduled rest day which gave me the chance to recuperate and then pick up where I left off.
On September 26, I was invited to attend the annual Victoria Police Amateur Sports and Welfare Society presentation evening. I had been nominated in June by a work colleague for an award for the biggest improvement in a sporting discipline over 12 months. As a shortlisted nominee, my husband and I were sent free tickets to the 3 course meal at a fancy function centre. A rare night out in a frock and with my hair blow dried at a real hairdressing salon, with my husband by my side and no kids in sight - I figured I was winning already. And then...I actually did win! I was presented with my award and winner’s cheque by legendary marathon swimmer Tammy Van Wisse who told me my story was “inspirational” - it was indeed a surreal moment. The next morning I faced a super early start of 3:30am so that I could make it to a one-off work conference at 7am - but I was still on such a high from the awards night that I barely even felt the pain of the early alarm or the steep hills that I pedalled up that morning.
And then all of a sudden, my last long ride was done. My last long run and swim followed and I am suddenly just seven days out from racing at the Ironman World Championships. I leave Melbourne for Hawaii on Wednesday. For a bit of a giggle, I tallied up my total training workload since the day I qualified for this race and was staggered to find that I have:
Swam: 183,950 meters
Biked: 1,565 km
Bike Trainer: 63 hours
(Approximate time spent swearing whilst on said trainer: 62.5 hours 🤣)
As always, triathlon training and racing continues to teach me things about myself. I may not be skinny but I am strong. I don’t own all the fancy gear and latest technology but my mind and body keep showing me they can still get the job done without all the gadgets. I can’t afford to eat organic, home grown, boutique produce - in fact all of the food in my kitchen comes from the supermarket (and where, possible, from the “clearance” shelves!) - but I know my body is coping well with what I fuel it with since I haven’t been sick in almost three years. In training for this event, I have juggled, shuffled and at times completely butchered my carefully crafted training program - but I’m quite proud to stand here today knowing that I haven’t missed a single training session.
Now there’s really nothing left to do but pack, soak up the next three days with my littlest loves (who fly out with Richard two days after me) and catch up for a final goodbye with all of the precious people in my life who have given me the strength to keep going when I haven’t been able to muster it up myself.
I really don’t know why the universe blessed me with this opportunity to gain entry into a race that so many others have hungered after for years. To me it was a dream so far out of my league that I had never in my life dared to allow myself to dream it. Kind friends have told me it’s because I train so hard, because I am so dedicated, and because I deserve it. I’m just not sure it’s that simple - I’ve been around triathletes for a while now, and I KNOW they’re putting in the same hours,setting their alarms for the same crazy times, and turning up to the same brutal workouts that they know are probably going to bring them close to tears with the mammoth effort required. There were just so many things that fell into place at just the right time for me to have qualified for entry to this race, and whilst the sheer magnitude of the day ahead still terrifies me, I am determined to embrace the opportunity with all of my heart. I will race with the spirit of all the beautiful people who have loved, supported, cheered and at times, cradled me through the toughest five months of training in my life.