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Archive for April, 2012

If you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

August is shaping up to be a huge month.  Not only will it mark the start of a comeback to the sport I love – but there’s also a rather large race going to be happening over in London that will showcase triathlon to the world once more.

Although I’ve been given a due date – Junior hasn’t been informed and he’ll arrive when he’s good and ready.  For the athletes of the 30th Olympiad – they’ve known their due day for around 18 months now, there’s no excuses and no escaping their destiny.

Having competed at 2 Olympics (Athens 2004 & Beijing 2008) I’ve got a fair idea of the pressures they’ll face over the next 4 months.

In 2004 I was just happy to be there – the only New Zealand girl to qualify for the triathlon, I collected my blazer and race suit from the New Zealand Olympic Committee and proceeded to take every opportunity to soak up the Olympic atmosphere.  From the opening ceremony to the closing, I went to so many events, little wonder I didn’t perform on race day – it was all one BIG adventure to me.

In 2008 I’d finished on the podium in every ITU World Cup leading into Beijing – and had my best ever finish at a World Elite Triathlon Championships; 3rd place in Vancouver. I’d also found a far happier mental space to hang out in, having got engaged and found the support of my husband to be.

To say I took Athens less seriously than Beijing would be wrong – the fact was I was just far more focused as an athlete, knew how to prepare a lot better by 2008, and had the support to back it all up.  I knew if I came off the bike in the front pack there were only 2 girls in the world that could run faster on their day; Emma and Vanessa, and it needed to be ‘their day’.  I felt I was going to China with a fighting chance.

6 months out I stated in an interview that I believed there were 10 girls capable of winning that Olympic Gold – and each month one would drop away as a result of misfortune, poor decision making, or the pressure that the Olympics invariably generates.

“Welcome to the Beijing OLYMPIC GAMES”  “You’re here at the 29th OLYMPIC GAMES”  “ Welcome to China – home of the OLYMPIC GAMES”

It’s everywhere on your arrival, loud speakers at the airport, on the buses, billboards and sides of taxis.  The newspapers are full of it and everyone wants to talk about it!  Tell them you’re going to be amongst it and you may as well gift them thirty minutes of your time.

That’s the thing about Olympics – they’re a real war of attrition.  From the qualification process, logistics involved with where to base your build up, filtering out all the information people want to give you and balancing sponsorship commitments along the way – it’s a real art arriving on race day with your powder still dry!

I’m finding pregnancy strangely familiar.

Everyone has an opinion of what’s right and wrong, and they’re quite comfortable telling you.  Just the other day I was at the gym, I’d done my early morning swim and thought I’d jump on the treadmill before breakfast and do a build.  Now when I say build I’m building from around 9km/h upto around 13 km/h…on a GOOD DAY!

The lady next to me…power-walking on the treadmill…. decides to ask me mid effort “do you really think you should be doing that in your condition”.  I have no malice towards her, she felt she needed to ask and did so – good on her for speaking her mind.  But what she didn’t realize is that I’d normally start this session anywhere around 15km/h and finish up around the 17 km/h mark.  I was running well within Junior’s limits and mine.

In 2008 I was one of the last couple of athletes to drop out of contention.  I didn’t know it at the time – you kid yourself that you’ll come right on race day, but looking back around 4 weeks from the big dance my chances started to go south with my form.

Giving birth to Junior isn’t about winning or losing but getting to the finish line is far more important than any Olympics now for me.  From all the reading I’ve done on pregnancy and all the advice Doc has given me on training through it – the trick is to keep things simple.  Just like preparing for the Olympics or an Ironman you don’t want to be changing things up in the lead in to your big day – a steady consistent build is the key.

Research suggests that if you trained regularly leading into pregnancy then this should be continued throughout the full term – stopping at any point could put strain on the placenta.  Likewise if you weren’t an exerciser before the miracle occurred you need to be really careful about suddenly starting an exercise regime mid-term, again this can put a strain on the placenta and thus affect baby.

Not only does training throughout pregnancy help with stress, but it also improves your posture and helps with managing weight gain.  The stamina that you’ve maintained will I’m guessing be useful when it comes to labor too!

It’s all about sticking to what you’ve always done, not getting caught up in the moment and trying to be someone you’re not.  Just like the last months and weeks leading into a big event, whether that is Olympics, Ironman or your local Half Marathon.

Consistency of effort is the key.  Doesn’t matter who you are, Alistair Brownlee, Caroline Steffen or a weekend warrior preparing for your local sprint triathlon – consistency is the key, doing the basics right – day in day out.

This week athletes from all over the world are descending on Sydney, Australia.  They’re racing for a place in the Worlds largest spectacle – The 2012 London Olympics.  These guys and girls are the crème de la crème; the absolute best in our sport and they’ll show us all how it should be done this coming weekend.

Saturday will be the first of many hurdles they have to clear if they wish to be on that start line in London.  Some will have stellar performances and qualify this coming weekend and still not race London, whilst others will scrape through unnoticed and go into London as a dark horse.

Either way, whether we’re talking my pregnancy, these ITU studs, or your build up to your next event -  the trick is to manage the situation, master yourself , and  not succumb to your emotions along the way.

All the best to everyone racing this coming weekend,

Sam.

22 Weeks and counting….

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

There’s something not quite right about running with a small pumpkin up your top. Well the American’s apparently call it a ‘Spaghetti Squash’ and that’s just what it feels like in my tummy at times!

Exercise is going well – I’ve stopped calling it ‘training’ as it’s too demoralizing. I’m ‘exercising’ to keep healthy and ensure baby is healthy too.

Last week I headed down to Karapiro here in New Zealand for the Secondary Schools National Championships. It’s an event I love, as the kids are so competitive and every year I go the numbers seem to increase which is awesome to see!

We were down there for 3 days with the team from the area I live in New Zealand called ‘Northland’. We’re the most northerly district in New Zealand hence the name – we’re 2 hours North of Auckland.

Our kids really stepped up, as it was the first time racing outside our own area for a lot of them. Two of my girls got Bronze medals – one in the Under 14’s and the other in the Under 16’s so I was really happy with them and all the others we took down.

Triathlon here in New Zealand is a really fast growing sport – they tout it as currently the fastest growing sport and that doesn’t surprise me at all! We have events for women, men, Maori, kids, Duathlon’s, there really is something for everyone.

Once back home it was a weekend exercising indoors as the weather has been shocking here! I’ve spent sooo much time on the wind-trainer and treadmill – it’s just not funny!

Doc says I’ve got one more month running and then that’s it until Junior arrives. In the past that would freak me out – the thought of not running, but I have a new found sense of confidence in what I’m being asked to do, I just don’t feel like questioning anymore – the planning is taken care of….I just need to worry about getting out there and doing it!

I did the mandatory watching of races and following of tweets whilst on the wind-trainer yesterday – and it amazed me the amount of people in our sport who seem to be injured?!

It seems it’s a sport that actually isn’t always that good for you!

One of the main reasons I think I’ve never been injured through 10 years of ITU racing (touches wood very quickly!!) Would be my consistency. Hubbie would argue I’m too stubborn to get injured and maybe he’s right – stubbornness get’s you out the door on a regular basis and its consistency that’s the protector of athletes in any sport.

I went backpacking in my mid 20’s with a friend. We traveled all around India, and then on to Australia and New Zealand before heading home via the States. I was so worried about putting on weight (as we did have the odd beer and burger!) I ran every day for one hour…this went on for a year. When I say every day, I think I probably had less than 7 days off all year. I wasn’t doing tempo runs, or build runs, or anything else fancy, I just plodded. Some days I’d go in the hills, others run on the beach, but my goal was always an hour. If I passed the campsite at 55 minutes – I’d always do the extra 5 before stopping.

Having Junior is no different – all the reading I’ve done suggests that you just keep things simple and keep doing what you’ve always done. I trained before Junior came along so I’m still ‘exercising’ now – albeit a little less intense!

So 22 weeks in and 18 to go, it’s Easter weekend coming up and that means school holidays. We’re having a quiet first week and then Stephen and I plan to finish off the nursery-which will be fun. We haven’t decided on a theme yet, so I’m open to suggestions, at the moment we’re leaning toward a ‘farm’ theme with pictures of animals etc since we live on a small farm anyway Junior will have to get used to cattle in the paddocks pretty quickly!

So the week in summary:

Happiest moment:

-20 week scan (2 weeks late) seeing Junior, doctor struggling to get a good image as the little bugger seems to move SO MUCH, he’s def going to be a mover!

Proudest Moment:

13 year old Lois competing in only his 3rd triathlon and first event outside of our town finishes 5th in the National Championships.

Funniest moment:

-Again at 20-week scan, Doctor asks prelim question, “Before we start will you be wanting to know the sex of baby or shall I avoid that area in the images”. Stephen replies “We’re not interested whether it’s a boy or girl but it would be handy to know the fast / slow twitch ratio – if that’s possible Doc?”

Most embarrassing moment:

-Down at Secondary School Nationals, I was in the finish area having just done a turn on the microphone. Triathlon NZ had one of the young girls down there from the High Performance Programme. I was congratulating one of the kids as they finished and managed to get myself thrown out of the finish area – according to the technical official on duty “She’s High Performance and you’re not!” I laughed so hard on the inside junior kicked me!

Hardest Moment:

-Build run on the treadmill – managed to get up to 15 km/h….that used to be called a ‘warm up’.

Speak next week,

Sam.