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,