So a couple of weeks ago I postulated I was in the autumn of my career. Some may say that’s as obvious as rain is wet! And for others such as the girls I race here in New Zealand it was perhaps even a welcome whisper?
But rain’s not always a welcome thing for water birds. Ask the poor Wader bird if he likes the run off that heavy rain brings – it kills the small invertebrates that he feeds on.
And this Kiwi still feels she has one good run off left in her legs at 40 years of age.
When Doc approached me back in January and invited me to join Team TBB I really did feel I had more in me, but at the same time I had just found out I was pregnant and really wanted a healthy child.
Every elite athlete thinks they’ve got one good result left in them – many a time I’ve said to my husband ‘you will tell me when I’m over the hill won’t you?’ I’ve never wanted to be the one still racing long into their forties, banging their head against the brick wall of lost form.
Pregnancy has brought its fair share of challenges – perhaps mental more so than physical. If you think training for Ironman is a roller coaster – try harboring ideas of making a comeback to it – whilst pregnant.
So how do all the feelings I’m going through at the moment get me thinking of autumn?
In our garden autumn is a busy time. From the trees perspective it’s a time when some show their most vigorous growth. It’s also a time they give back to the ground – after drawing on it all season the leaves they shed will protect and feed seedlings until spring arrives.
And from our perspective of the ‘garden keeper’ – it’s an important time too. There’s a lot to be done to make sure the garden is in order for next season. Old growth that serves no further purpose needs to be pruned away thus allowing energy to be directed toward the young new shoots.
If I really do want to return to top level racing Brett told me some time ago my biggest challenge would be mental.
Brett believes my best Ironman is ahead of me. But before I can get there I need to overcome self-doubts and mental flaws that are preventing me from achieving to the same levels I’ve experienced at ITU.
Pregnancy has provided me with many opportunities to work at these very character traits – as my husband would say I’ve encountered many teachable moments of late!
You’ll find with a lot of elite athletes when you get to know them well enough – we’re actually quite frail and harbor self-doubts. I’ve often thought the primary motivator for many athletes is the fear of failure – I hate to think of people writing me off!
Racing ITU from 2002 until 2009 I was able to ‘muscle’ my way through – I was strong and fast, and even when I doubted my self as I did on many occasions I was still able to muscle the other girls and force my way to the front.
But Ironman is a totally different beast – try and ‘muscle’ Ironman and you’re the only one getting bruised!
I really have had to throw out any concerns about what others think of me the past few months. I’ve been written off by some of my closest friends. Not in a bad way – it’s just what I’m attempting to do is so far from their normal experience of motherhood that it’s just incomprehensible to think that I could potentially go back to racing after Junior is born.
But I know I can. And at this point in my life two things are important to me; the health of my family and being able to do what I believe in.
I think coming to the best coach in the world and in fact the best triathlon team in the world has played a huge part in this change of perspective. I’ve been known to ‘search’ for answers in the past. If my swim, bike, or run dropped off I’d search for a solution. The Doc has nipped that in the bud pretty quickly! And for the first time I’ve felt happy to hand over the responsibility – I guess you could call that loss of fear – trust.
I’m supported by some amazing sponsors – why would the likes of Cervelo provide me with a world-class bike if they too didn’t have 100% confidence in my ability to get back racing at the absolute top of the sport.
The growth I’ve felt through this sudden loss of desire to second guess everything and everyone has liberated me to focus on the one step in front of me. And that step is nurturing a healthy baby.
The remarks I was getting early on about training really challenged me. People stressed about my training and how it could affect baby. But just last week we visited the mid-wife and after a raft of measurements the midwife duly informed us baby’s measurements suggest we’re in the 95th percentile. And if I make it to 38 weeks (I’m currently 32 and a few days!) then baby will be on for around 9 to 10lbs….ouch.
I really do feel the change of perspective from worrying about what others think to just trusting my own body to be an amazing thing capable of producing amazing results will not only help me to be a better mother but also a better athlete when I make my return.
Having a little more time on my hands of late I’ve been able to give back a little too. Just like the tree sheds its leaves and new trees appear in spring from the seeds shed in autumn – I too have been passing on my knowledge to the next generation of athletes.
Last year I set up The Future Championz Academy here in my hometown in New Zealand. I invited 30 young athletes along to attend a few days of seminars and training. From there I developed a group of local athletes who are passionate about triathlon. We trained all summer and the culmination was taking them away to The New Zealand Secondary Schools Triathlon Championships.
I’ve continued to coach these young kids this past year and we’re all focused on the Auckland ITU Triathlon World Championships where the kids are entered in the youth category of races – they’re all under 16.
Giving back to these kids is a real honor and I find it really rewarding when I see them give it their all in races.
Not only am I giving back to the kids – I feel now is the time to give back to my husband Stephen too. He’s supported my dreams for quite a few years now! Staying at home and working for months on end whilst I’m away racing around the world – for the past 3 years I’ve been away from March through to October except for the odd trip back home. Stephen has wanted children for a couple of years now – so I really am ‘giving back’! ☺
So in all I really don’t see this phase of my career as being about slowing down. Although my 1 hour runs on the treadmill really are more of a shuffle than a run these days – that’s about being strong mentally and just getting the job done whilst eliminating self doubts so I’m able to just focus on the step ahead of me.
Autumn is a pleasant time and we’re really excited about the next few weeks. I’ve been asked lots of questions about the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of my training so next week I’ll draft a blog on the details of my training through pregnancy, what I’ve been doing and some tips for overcoming the many challenges you’ll face if attempting to train through pregnancy!
All the best for the coming weekend to those of you racing around the world – and if you’re not racing be sure to check in over the weekend to see how the other Team TBB pros are getting on!