Friday, August 27, 2010

Contemplating Ironman

I often wonder what are the driving forces for someone in deciding that they want to challenge themselves to race the Ironman distance?

Tonight as I pushed myself through an hours treadmill session in training for an upcoming half-marathon, I watched last years' Hawaii Ironman World Championship coverage.

Now you may wonder why? I have watched it before. In fact, I have watched almost all of the years gone by (IM has an impressive IM and Tour de France DVD library also for indoor training sessions :-) -  yet I do not compete in IM.

Firstly, I find them motivating and I mange to push thru my training session thinking "Gosh, I do nothing compared to these people - get moving!!"

Secondly, it helps me to understand why my IM wants to race this distance and the experience he has when racing.

Thirdly, it gives an insight into all the different people who race IM and the reasons why. Every year the Hawaii IM coverage does not fail to bring a tear to ones eye and leave you inspired by the stories told.

Of course, watching tonight also made me realise how close we are to experiencing it ourselves - "Living the Dream" as my IM says - and it does get you very excited!

So many years of watching and talking and dreaming has meant we as a family are ready for the experience. In fact, by the time we arrive in October despite never being there before, I have a feeling I will know all the names and places and even recognise the famous faces!

So back to why?

When you watch the coverage there are many reasons why and so many inspiring stories. As you listen to the physically challenged, those who have suffered from sicknesses or who have lost a loved one, talk about what it means in their life to compete in IM - and particularly in Hawaii  - you realise what a positive effect a special event like this can have on so many people, and not just those racing!

I am yet to pose the question to my IM yet I feel I know the answer. There are those who like a challenge and want to push their bodies beyond it's limits - and those who don't.

As you listen to competitors talk about the high they get when crossing that line it almost stirs a desire in me to want to experience it myself - the problem is the mind. That's what has to be talked into it before you can dedicate the time and energy. In the meantime, I am happy to play my part as spectator and be part of the experience.

I will sign out with a quote from last years Hawaii IM coverage:

"You can learn so much about life, at this place, on this day"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trading Places

Today was an unusual day for two reasons:

1. IM did not go training first thing in the morning - and it's sunday!
2. I competed in a race and IM and kids were the supporters!

As background, I will begin by saying I have never been a sporty person. I did do quite well in some short distance running races at primary school, I then avoided sport in high school, became a gym junkie in my twenties, took up walking and yoga in my early thirties and only a few years ago after having two children, did I come to the realisation that I needed to do more aerobic workouts to lose the extra kilos from pregnancy and keep fit and healthy as I get older.

I could never be a runner I declared to my ultra fit IM husband! Famous last words...

I have to admit that having a fitness obsessed husband probably helped me to change my thoughts on running and a trainer at home who was able to slowly convert me from walking to my first 5km race was a bonus! Once I strapped on the heart rate monitor and started to understand how to train myself to be running fit,  I did not look back!

So, 4 years on and I have finished two half-marathons, training for a third and seriously contemplating the challenge of a marathon for my fortieth year.

Back to today. It was not a long race. 11.5km. It was local and didn't start early. It did not require a lot of support apart from kids being looked after and being cheered on at the end - and some TLC for the rest of the day. But it feels good.

There are partners who both train and race for long distance events and mange to juggle family and work life - and I take my hats off to them! However, I would guess that in many IM families there is one who competes and one who supports. Like ours. As I discuss in the page about me, this works well in our family and you respect each others needs and balance as best you can. What I do think is important however, is that the supporter has their own passions and goals that they can have time to spend on. This may be anything, not necessarily related to health and fitness.

Running for me seems to be a good fit. I have my own personal trainer at home, and I now have a better understanding for IM's love of running, triathlons and racing  - I even tried a mini Tri just to have that feeling of bobbing in the water at the start!

I may not have the desire to do an IM triathlon but I now have my own health and fitness goals that we can share together - and just occasionally we can trade places and I can be the competitor for the day!

Still don't think IM quite understands what it's like to support someone through IM but hey, never say never, maybe one day the desire may come for something bigger and more challenging.....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preparing for the Unexpected

IM packed his bags and headed up North for a Half IM over the weekend. Good preparation leading into Hawaii I was told....also good to practise the bag packing and weighing. (will dedicate other posts to packing lists and the weight issue!)

What I want to focus on now is preparing for the unexpected. Or really, the question of whether you can prepare yourself for something that happens which is out of your control?

Our household had some nasty tummy bug doing the rounds last week and IM stayed as far away as possible. A few days before he felt like he had something but it didn't seem to take hold. Training kept going and the excitement built as it always does in the lead up to a race.

The support crew did not have tickets to this race (can't always be there) but there were other friends attending and we were there in spirit.  In fact, maybe we were not meant to go, as the weekend may have been even less manageable if there were kids around.

In a nutshell, IM came down sick with gastro type bug night before race, attempted to race next day and ended up not finishing as was so ill. Then he proceeded to be stuck in bathroom of hotel room for next 24hrs and only just managed to make it home in bus/plane/car. (really felt for his room mate!)

Still not feeling well three days later, IM has been fairly accepting of the situation and is now just focusing on feeling better and getting back on track with the training plan.

What else can you really do? It is something you cannot prepare for and you cannot dwell on too much.

You can have a healthy diet and lifestyle and take all precautions to not getting sick, and you can pack in your bags all sorts of medication, but really when something like that hits it is just the unluckiness of it that it happens to be on race day.

It reminded us both about our China IM experience - well the fact that we were lucky not to get food poisoning in China when so many did (and many attempted to race or managed to race through it but it was not pretty!).

This was a first time experience of this sort for IM. Was there lessons to be learned?

Maybe he shouldn't have raced and it just made the sickness and dehydration worse but thats a hard decision when you have paid money, made the journey and planned so much for that day.

Maybe a few more medications could have been packed - we have since discovered that Gastro-Stop  is a great one to have in the medical kit (think Imodium is similar).....but actually the one most important thing you need is rehydration and most triathletes will have some sort of hydration drink or powder in their kit - perfect! I think a few satchels of hydralyte is also a must for a travel medical kit.

I did find a good rundown on what to do for diarrhea on a US website which talks about natural remedies and diet  ( and I learned a very useful acronym everyone should remember: BRAT - only eat Banana, Rice, Apple and Toast (lots of other useful stuff on this website!)

Back to the point of this post...

There are a number of things that can happen (not just sickness) that may result in not racing to your full potential or not even making it to race day. You can not be prepared for all scenarios. 

However, what you can do (this is not just for the competitor but his supporters too) is to accept the outcome, try to look at the positives of maybe not such an enjoyable journey and try not to dwell on it too much post-race day.

There will be another race. We all know that the most important thing in life is our health and that of  our families, so we need to remind ourselves of this, be thankful when health returns and all is well again, and just look ahead and plan for the next challenge.

In signing off,  I just have to say, that although we may now be slightly more prepared for the unexpected, I really hope we don't have a repeat performance in Hawaii :-)

Here's to our health!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The BIG One

Ironman keeps telling me about conversations he has been having recently with people he has come across through work or just out and about, and I have had a few similar ones.

Basically, the conversation begins on a comment on sport, exercise or something related and ends up with "Wow. Your going to Hawaii. The BIG One!"

Now although the excitement is rising in our household as we get closer to the date, and there is a lot of swimming, biking and running going on, it's not as though we are out there announcing it to the world!

What is interesting, is that people are so fascinated with someone wanting to swim, bike and run the long distances of an Ironman race and in particular, they have all heard of the ultimate race in Hawaii.

Even if people are not athletic or into triathlon, once they realise you have raced the long distances and that you are going to (or am sure if you have already been to) Hawaii - they want to know more.

The fact that often Hawaii is referred to as THE BIG ONE just goes to show what prestige the race has created for itself over the years. And, it's not just the reputation out amongst the general public, but also amongst triathletes themselves.

You only have to watch a couple of the past Ironman race DVDs to get a feel for how big it is in a triathletes life to race in Hawaii. There are many stories and many dreams - and you cannot fail to have tears in your eyes once you hear them and see the experiences every competitor has, whether a professional, an age grouper, physically challenged or a lottery competitor.

What I am feeling now as the weeks go by and we have these conversations, is that the Hawaii Ironman is a race that is so big, not just because of the distances raced and the difficulty of the course, but because of what it represents to us all and the effects it has on everyone who is involved. 

It is a challenge many people would not want to attempt, let alone have the ability to undertake. It requires mental as well as physical strength to both train and compete. It requires focus, commitment and drive that many of us do not have. 

Yet, when we see people race it, some who seem just like us, it also helps people to dream and set there own goals and think maybe I could have an experience like this if I put my mind to it. For some, this may end up being a shorter race or just getting out there and challenging themselves to try something new. 

It is an event that engulfs everyone involved and announces to us all that this is what life is all about. Challenges, goals, dreams and uniting together to celebrate life.

I am sure that being involved in the Hawaii Ironman as an organiser, supporter, volunteer and spectator - not only as a competitor - holds special lifetime memories for all - I can't wait!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Loads of Lycra

I often wonder what a stranger would think if they saw the amount of lycra hanging on our washing line - and most of it is for men!

The pile of lycra that seems to be a permanent fixture on our laundry floor often astounds me but I suppose when so much training is going on it means lots of stinky sweaty clothes.

What I still haven't quite worked out is what the perfect wash cycle is to get rid of the smell and the stains and keep the whites bright!

What I do know about washing lycra is:

1. Wash with gentle detergent.
2. Don't wash too hot or may shrink to baby size.
3. Don't put in anything with velcro - disaster for lycra!
4. Check pockets carefully as either broken bags of GU may give you a sticky wash or your iPod may be forgotten  - our shuffle lasted about one use!

I would call myself an eco-friendly washer as I always use the washing liquids and powders  from my friends range - Solution Living.  Her Lavender Liquid Wash and Eucalyptus Wool Wash  is gentle and the smell seems to over power most of the sweaty odours. There is even an eco-friendly whitener !

HOWEVER I have to admit when it comes to giving the whites a good boost I still can't get past an occasional soak in Napisan and maybe a bit of warm water.... but still the whites are never as bright as when they are new and bike chain grease is tricky!

Any tips would be much appreciated.