Road Racing to Off Road Exploring...

I recall an interview I did with someone a few years back after winning The Outlaw triathlon 2016, and setting a new course record (which has now been broken), I’d commented on how I loved running and cycling up big hills, but yet I wasn’t doing any of this anymore, why??

I was inspired to complete an Ironman triathlon from a young age, after seeing the infamous crawl of two female athletes crossing the finish line at Kona. A few years later I entered Ironman Wales 2015 along with Liz and a couple of friends. Here I qualified for Kona and without thought took my place to race the world championships in 2016 and again in 2017, along with 4 more Ironman distance races across the two years. The success I earned was through hard work, commitment and some lifestyle changes, which came with its highs and, looking back, some lows. Totally engrossed in the Ironman bubble, thinking there was nothing more than triathlon, I loved it! Seeing my times get faster, myself getting stronger, the ability to call myself an athlete and the results to support the statement, I wanted nothing more to get better and yes, consider going professional. So what changed?!

A successful 2 years, with the trajectory of improvements and results being so good, it ultimately bit me in the ass- and yes, on reflection, for the best. Injury came with a few health-related concerns in tow, the turning point and the point of reflection. I took some down time, attempted to do nothing triathlon related and try some new things in life, and ultimately enjoy being in New Zealand with Liz.

I loved nothing more than all the training I was doing, the input from my coach, the results, the hard work, all of it, but still I wanted to do more exploring around New Zealand. I wanted to start doing my TT bike rides off road, I wanted to explore the trails instead of pounding the streets being disheartened by looking at my pace. I just wanted to get off road and see the real NZ, the real reason we moved out here. There were a few months where I tried to do it all, the scheduled training, the non-scheduled exploring, my 40 hour physio job, and the odd low carb beer…something had to give…

I wanted my weekends back, back with no plans, with no lingering negativity like ‘urrgghh I’ve got a 5hour ride to do…but, yip sure I can meet you for coffee…before going to bed’. This is what my weekends consisted of for a while and again I did it because it was fun and I was into it whole heartedly. But when you realise you can still be fit, still be an athlete, have fun with training and have a social life (and good work life balance), things become even more fun and more rewarding.

The first step came by stepping away from structured coaching and doing what training we wanted and when we wanted. This swiftly lead to a Crossfit comeback and hitting the trails on our mtb’s and runners. We ticked off a load of trails, climbed some mountains, stayed in DoC huts and spent every weekend packing the van and heading off somewhere, yes, still with the bikes and runners, because this is what we love to do and consider it one of the best ways to explore the best of New Zealand.

Its all well and good just to get off road and have fun, but the competitive side in me still lies strong, so to the off road racing it was. I started with a few trail runs, off road duathlons, mtb, multisport and adventure races and I was hooked. The reward, the mental and physical toughness, the need of overall strength, and the need not to constantly look at your watch for paces, HRs or any other number. The off road element allows you to focus on the now, the challenge in front of you, the terrain you are in. It allows you to race in some of the most beautiful and untouched places, the likes of which we wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to see.

I think what I’m trying to say is, the triathlon chapter for me is now done. I’m not writing off a comeback in the future, but there are other things in the world that are more inspiring and appealing to me currently. I can now whole heartedly say that I can happily sit on the side line of a triathlon and enjoy the athleticism in front of me, instead of having FOMO (fear of missing out) like I used to. It took a while for me to come to this conclusion, but I write this with ease…

Here’s to the next chapter… I’ll probably see you running up a big hill somewhere out in the great outdoors exploring


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