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.