I was really fortunate to have Glyn and his team supporting and offering me advice & treatment throughout my 2013 season & training. Last year was the year in which I starting racing as a professional in both half and full Ironman distances. One of the highlights of the year was achieving 3rd place in the UK Ironman in Bolton which was my first full Ironman distance. I was unfortunate to suffer some bad luck during the season with muscle cramps but having G4 at the races when they happened proved really useful. G4’s knowledge and explanation helped me understand what could have potentially caused it and how to prevent it from happening in the future. Glyn also provided key stretches and strengthening exercises to help with my core & lower back.
I am looking forward to my 2014 race season and working with Glyn & his team. My race schedule will be updated on my website shortly – www.tripocketrocket.com
End of Season & Ironman Arizona 2013 Race Report
So that’s the end of my season 2013; as each race has gone by and I have come to this point (where I do my race report) I have felt more and more reticent to document the events. Without a doubt this season, my first racing as a professional has been a disappointment and I don’t want to be known as one of those athletes who always has excuses or is moaning about why they didn’t deliver a good performance. This year I have started 8 races, I have finished 5 of them. I have suffered very bad muscle cramp/spasm in 2 of them which have caused me to pull out. I have suffered the same muscle cramp/spasm in another 1 race (Ironman UK) but I managed to stop it from turning in to the debilitating scenario where I literally cannot bend my leg by spending ~10 minutes at the side of the road stretching my gluts. I have suffered punctures in 2 of the races where I actually got on the bike, 1 of them was so bad the sealant couldn’t recover it and I had to pull out – the second puncture took about 15 minutes to fix effectively putting me out of racing distance from the girls in front. Without a doubt, the number 13 seems to be very unlucky for me! Of course, you do make your own luck to a huge degree – we have worked extensively on preventing the muscle cramps which has seen me work on some specific areas that will hopefully see me become more powerful on the bike and I have now got a tyre/sealant combo which I hope will see me recovering from punctures much more quickly. This year has been a tough year to deal with mentally and I am happy to grab on to the smallest of silver linings that even the darkest of clouds may hold. My trip to the U.S is another tale of silver lined big dark clouds but one that I hope will set me in good stead next season.
I raced Ironman Wales in September and it hit me hard which saw me suffer with a cold for about 3 weeks after, consider I am almost never ill it shows how much an Ironman can take out of you. As a result I had only just started hitting my target power numbers (on the bike) literally as I had to start my taper for Florida which certainly wasn’t ideal. I was in Panama City Beach for the week prior to the race and ended up staying in an apartment overlooking the ocean just a few doors down from Joe Skipper. On race morning I was going through my usual pre-race routine of a light jog and some stretching – Rob and I then started the walk down to the beach to get ready for the start and suddenly I could feel my left quad starting to tighten up. I couldn’t believe it; the cramp was starting even before the race had started! I stretched on the beach and it started to subside but I knew the writing was on the wall. The swim started and I had to take it easy getting past the crashing waves, desperately trying not to trigger it – I took the first lap easy and was pleased to get out of the water feeling ok although I could feel a strange aching feeling in my left shoulder. I jogged lightly round to start the next lap and started making my way through the waves when BAMM!! My left leg and gluts cramped hard, all I could do was lay on my back in agony as the waves crashed on me. I was then dragged, quite unceremoniously, out of the water by my arms by one of the life guards in front of a packed beach of spectators, something similar to a scene on Baywatch! I could barely walk, in quite a lot of pain and feeling very low. I remember turning to Rob and saying ‘I don’t think I can keep doing this anymore.’ We managed to find one of the masseurs and he worked on my legs and released the muscles, he described the muscles in my legs as being similar to what he would expect to see with an athlete that had just finished the Ironman. After an hour or so I could walk again but my legs still felt quite tender and after pulling myself together I spent the rest of the day cheering on another amazing Joe Skipper performance. There was a funny moment where, Rob and I had gone out in to the middle of the run course to give him support and feed him info on where he was, Joe decided to let us know that he was finding the race hard and he was having to dig deep – he very eloquently communicated that fact to us by explaining that he would rather have a piece of his body caught in a door than run the rest of the race! Rob and I were left literally stunned and open mouthed before bursting in to stomach aching hysterics. It was a real Joe Skipper moment which he swiftly followed up crossing the finish line having delivered another stunning time.
That night Rob, Joe and I went to a local nightclub to celebrate Joe’s performance and we chatted about what I should do next. Rob had said that given I was out there and Arizona was only 2 weeks away it made sense to use the opportunity to race again and focus on working on preventing the cramp. The interesting point this time was that it had actually started before the race so we decided that at Arizona I would do a complete back to basics approach and I wouldn’t do any jogging or stretching. Just a swim warm-up, get in and go.
I spent the rest of that week trying to recover from the muscle cramp and it literally took the whole week before my legs felt anything like. On a positive note I was introduced to an amazing swimmer called, Chuck Bass. Chuck has been to the U.S Olympic trials but also seems to have a really good understanding of how to explain technique in a manner that you get straight away. I spent a good part of the week swimming with Chuck and having him provide feedback and critique on my stroke. We also did an ocean swim where I was greeted by a dolphin swimming about a metre below me!
Ironman Arizona is such a well-organized race and I would highly recommend anyone to race there if they get the chance. Race week was very chilled and relaxing thanks to my wonderful homestay (Danielle) who made me feel at home and relaxed straight away. We got on really well and it was fun to hang out with her and her sweet little girls. It was awesome to have their support throughout the week and at the race. Race week comprised a few light bike sets on the course along with Danielle and some easy runs. I also had a wonderful 90min massage by Cory (my homestays friend). Before the massage he let me do my swim session in his luxurious endless pool in the middle of the desert.
The following evening I was fortunate to have dinner with Heather and Trevor Wurtle. It was really cool to meet them and chat about the race course as they had both taken part before. I also discussed my recurring cramping issues and it was good to get feedback from them, Heather said that sometimes you will never know what causes an issue just how to prevent it from happening and this provided me with some comfort that my ‘back to basics’ for Arizona was the right approach.
As always race day arrives with that strange, mixed, feeling that it has come too quickly yet I seem to have waited so long for it to arrive. I think it comes from the excitement of wanting to race but the fear of not delivering a performance that does you justice. Having said that I slept really well and I felt quite relaxed in the morning. I travelled to the race with the Wurtles which was good because they knew exactly where to go and I would have been on my own so it was nice to have someone to chat to.
I did all my preparations with the bike and then made it down to the swim start. I had a quick chat to Rob on the phone. He went over my tactics and said that he thought I would have a great race. That was good to hear as it was much better than his comments a few days prior, he had said that I didn’t feel that I was in the condition I was earlier in the year because of my illness after Wales and the 4 week taper I had now, in effect, had in to Arizona. The benefit of the back to basics pre-race routine was that I didn’t feel as rushed trying to fit everything in and, as a consequence, I felt a lot more at ease than I usually do.
We (pro women) set off 5mins after the pro men. It was a 1 loop swim which was a bonus for me because it meant that I had a slimmer chance of developing cramp. Generally the cramp starts when I go from swimming to upright running so Australian exits in Ironman races mean it has double the opportunity to ruin my day! The swim looked huge from the start but actually it didn’t seem to take too long to get to the turnaround point. I felt like I was swimming well on the first half but on the way back I started to feel something in my quad. In hindsight I’m not sure if there was anything or the fear was causing my mind to play tricks on me. As a result I deliberately slowed down and when I got to the steps I stopped the helpers from dragging me out and gingerly made my own way up the steps unaided. My swim time was terrible but the main objective here was to get out the swim and on the bike with no cramp. I thankfully achieved this, after a few steps out of the water I was jogging to transition. I did everything to minimise the risks in transition, I didn’t let the helpers pull my wetsuit off and I was careful when putting on my socks – both of those actions have seen the cramp triggered in the past at Clearwater. Once through T1 I was on my way.
I wanted a quick bike and thought it was possible because I had experienced how fast the bike could be earlier in the week in one of my training sessions. Even more so as Fast-Forward wheels had kindly lent me a disc wheel for the trip! Then bike course was three loops. The out section of the bike had a slight gradient up to the turn around and then a fast section back into Tempe town. I set off well and kept to the targeted power for the first lap but into the second my left gluts tightened and it was hard to keep the power. After some spinning it eased off and I then could push again but on 3rd lap I felt like I was fading a little. I caught a few pro girls which felt good and it helped me keep focus to carry on and catch more. The bike went pretty quick but unfortunately not quick enough as I came in over 5hrs. In hindsight the detraining effect of only being able to do a little training after Wales and then an enforced overly long taper has seen my power on the bike drop away from where it was earlier in the year.
When I started the run I had no idea where I was but I was going for a 3.15 marathon. Wishful thinking! After cycling for 5hrs my legs were slightly battered. I started running 7min miles and it was comfortable until about 3 miles in and honestly it got really tough from there. I tried to keep the pace up but my gluts and lower back felt stiff. I am not going to say anymore because I am not happy about running a slow marathon but what I will say it was hard, there were a few dark periods in the middle and I was very glad to finish.
I was hoping for a much faster time at IM Arizona, 30mins to be exact but I am just pleased that I didn’t cramp. I may be onto something with how I prepared for this race so I will be doing exactly the same at my next but with more confidence that I won’t cramp.
Having spoken with Rob he obviously too was hoping for a faster time but after reflection we agreed that the taper for Florida, the cramp and then the easy training before Arizona did not help because all in all that was four weeks of practically no decent intensity or decent training. The cramp also really takes it out of my legs too. I definitely was not in the condition I was before UK. Florida was always touch and go too because of my quality of training beforehand. In hindsight it might have been better if I had of gone to San Diego with Joe Skipper and trained solidly with him. Only because I would have been more acclimatized and also being around Joe is always really cool because he knows is stuff about training, is always really supportive and lots of fun!
Looking back at my 2013 season, it’s been okay. I have been frustrated by cramp in most of my races but I know through trial and error I am learning how to deal with it. I did my first Ironman (and then another two to boot!). I feel like I can do some damage at the distance too. All in all, I can’t wait to race next year so that I can attack and commit to races like I know I can.
I want to say a big thanks to my sponsors, 110% play harder, Champion System, Your Sports Fuel, Mi cable tidy, Compex, Run Breeze, Fastforward Wheels, Xendurance, G4 Physio and Andy Bruce for S&C. All your support has been awesome this year.