Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gearing up for Europe!

I've got just over 2 weeks left here in New Zealand before we head away to Europe. I am super excited about racing in Europe. It could be with Benji starting Kindergarten next year that it will be our last really long trip away as a family. We were thinking of doing the US but in the end I just could not say no to Europe. I love the whole race vibe over there. It's exciting, racing is aggressive, the crowd support is just fantastic on each course and I love being able to move from country to country, from culture to culture. Heading over in early May means I can race 4 half distance races. The European women are such strong competitors and always when I first get to Europe I am a bit off the pace, but with each race I learn and get stronger and more aggressive and this is what I want in order to have one really good strong Ironman race. I will start at Challenge Rimini in Italy which will be our first time in Italy (outside of travelling through Italy on the autobahn to get to France), I am a little bit nervous about racing in Italy as it will be a totally new experience. Then we are going to Ironman Pays D' Aix the week after. Ironman France is my absolutely favourite race ever so I hope that I will have a good experience at Aix en Provence as well. Then I will have a month to really knuckle down and train in my favourite part of Germany (Bad Reichenhall) before tackling Challenge Kraichgau and Ironman Luxembourg 70.3 in June. These races I hope will prepare me well for Ironman Frankfurt. I really struggled to pick an Ironman race to do as there are just so many good ones to choose from. Ironman France as I said is my all time most favourite course and so it is super hard to not go back there, but I may love the course but I'm really not the best at technical downhills. I love to climb, but in 2012 I lost 5 minutes in the last 50k descent and it's just too much to be truly competitive. Ironman Austria I would love to do; a super fast course and I have never been in Klagenfurt. Challenge Roth I have done many times and I love the course and the whole race experience but it is just a couple of weeks too late in the year for me this year as is Ironman Switzerland. Ironman Frankfurt I have watched in 2009 and it is such a spectator friendly course on the run and that is perfect for me to see Benny and Brett. Being in a different country I won't have much personal support but in a 4 loop course with bridge crossings that spectators get to nip across it is pretty perfect, and the finish is fantastic and I can't wait to cross that line.

Training is going really well. Usually after I race Taupo I would just do no training at all for a week at least, even when racing Ironman Melbourne 3 weeks after Taupo. Last year after Ironman Melbourne I then took 3 weeks completely off training. This time I was allowed 3 days completely off then very slowly back into it doing something each day. My body was pretty devastated immediately after Taupo so I was pretty surprised at how easily it bounced back. I then felt pretty bummed I was not down on the start list for Ironman Melbourne. My best running always seems to come strangely a couple of weeks post ironman and I have always run close to 3 hours in Melbourne but usually I have a dismal bike performance. This time without such a big break from cycling I was cycling very well at the time Ironman Melbourne took place so I was a bit frustrated that I was not racing and testing myself at a Championship Ironman. But I really need this big block of training although I would rather be racing. Things are starting to click, my body is adapting to these changes and I am pretty fired up to have some half ironman racing on the horizon where I can test myself against really strong competition in order to improve. I have no idea what the results will be but I do know that my body adapts well with multiple half distance racing and always have seen quite an improvement when I do this. I don't have training partners and I saw how much I improved in the camp environment earlier this year, so racing lots of half distance races is the same sort of thing, I will have thousands of training partners to push me to hopefully improve as an athlete.

There have been some changes in the last few months. We have had to move away from Wanaka. It was a really hard decision to make as I really love Wanaka and when we built our house we intended to live in it for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately I haven't been able to adapt to the environment. Since we moved there (Jan 2013) I have been suffering from allergies. I have never had any allergies in all my life but as soon as I moved there I had blocked nose, sinus, sneezing (over a hundred times a day when I bothered to count), constantly runny nose, headaches from being so blocked, unable to sleep as I wake in a panic as I can't breathe and even eczema. Every time I would leave Wanaka I would be completely back to normal in 24 hours and then it would all start again within a week of returning. This happened every time I came and left it was so frustrating. I thought it would be just a winter thing and I could put up with it for 6 months of a year but when getting home from Hawaii in October it continued, it continued into Christmas and the New Year and then I got really down mentally (and was completely not myself as a person) as I knew this was not going to end at any season of the year. It was having a pretty big effect on my training and performance but once it began to really effect me mentally I knew I couldn't stay. This is a tough sport to be in, very much a roller coaster ride, and I don't think you can do it if you are not positive and in a good frame of mind. I was able to perform really well at Ironman New Zealand because I spent nearly all of February in Hawaii and Christchurch and so felt really good, had no breathing difficulties and could put all my energy into my training and all the changes we were making and I saw a vast improvement (I felt like my old self again), obviously from all the changes we have been making and things starting to click, but also just from being healthy. I love Wanaka, the running on some of the best trails in the world right from my door, the beautiful scenery, all the wonderful people we met at Benji's play groups and it was really hard to leave but we are a single income family and I am the earner, and I basically make money from my body and it's performance so it was the only decision I could really make, I want to race 100% at my full potential.

So we are back in Wanganui and we are all absolutely loving it. I am loving the climate (it's like being back in February in the South Island, so warm even early in the morning). There are so many amazingly quiet roads to cycle on all nice and undulating that I am enjoying getting re-acquainted with as well as the 400m track and great swimming pool complex. Benji is loving it here, we have joined a few play groups for him, and he loves the playground at Kowhai park where we go nearly every day. The added bonus of the climate is that in the future when I may not be able to travel quite so much, I know that I can train here year round no problem even in the depths of winter, and best of all I can breathe (something that I have definitely always taken for granted) and therefore so much happier. Onwards and Upwards!