Aileen's Blog

Aileen's Blog

Patience is Bitter, but its fruit is sweet.

My BlogPosted by Aileen Thu, March 02, 2017 10:31:16

From 2013 to 2015 I was ranked in the top 10 in the world. And stood on a few podiums. So it might seem strange that I changed things up in 2016. But I wanted more, I thought I was capable of more. So I went for it. Training at home was a great set up for me. But I got sick and missed out on the training I needed to be doing to be at my best. I ‘participated in’ a bunch of races, not at my best, in preparation for Rio. And gave Rio everything I had. 21st was good. But still I wanted more. I wanted to show what I could do, so I put the head down for Grand final in Cozumel and hurt my back a week before the race.


Running in the big olympics.

I think people expected me to call it a day; why because I’m old? Because I’m a woman, and I should have children? Because I’ve had my go? Sorry folks, I’m a professional athlete and I can’t just turn it off, its who I am. The desire to train hard, compete, be the best I can be. Inevitably, there are hard times when the going gets tough and motivation wavers. But honestly I returned to training in October hungrier than ever. With all the (many) lessons from injury and illness I was careful to return to training. Having made the move to the Gold Coast with my husband, training was ‘too easy’; glorious weather/ 50m pools everywhere/ grass tracks/ training groups all over the place. Everyone I met was a triathlete too! Moffy introduced me to both her swim and run group. Swimming at Miami with Denis Cotterell’s squad and running with Jackson Elliott. I rode with a group on weekends and pushed outside my comfort zone doing a few Crit races. Having the time of my life and feeling like the fitness was coming together. I raced a local Gatorade series double super sprint and got my mind back into racing mode. With eyes on starting in Abu Dhabi I trained hard.

Moneghetti- ing with Moffy & Jacko's group.

I’ve had my fair share of injuries and niggles, like any athlete racing at world level for 10 years. But I’ve never had a stress fracture, and to my memory I’d never really had sore shins. So I went to a physio. He told me he could fix them and to train away. I thought I'd better de-load a bit anyway and so I ran on grass and reduced the volume. After multiple visits to physio and de-loading they weren’t much better, I wasn’t in any pain whilst actually running, but I knew they weren’t right. So I stopped running and used the X-trainer a bit. They got worse! A scan showed signs of a very minor stress reaction in one shin, but the two of them were giving me bother standing/ walking/ driving/ swimming! The mind boggles at the body’s ability to do peculiar things.

So that’s where I am. Taking a bit of a de-load, watching Abu Dhabi from the sofa. Awesome. I guess I'll just remind myself, 2013 started with a injection in my knee. 2014 started with an injection in my lower back. 2016 started with 3months of antibiotics. Just never give up, no matter how much "you gotta be frecking kidding me" life throws at you. I guess it’s going to be another year where I get better as I go along!



DEDA

My BlogPosted by Aileen Mon, December 22, 2014 18:48:50

I am delighted to announce new bike sponsor ‘Deda’ through to Rio 2016.


Apart from these two beauties we are working on a specially designed bike for the Olympics.
I was focused on getting the best possible equipment for the Olympics, and Deda’s ‘Ran’ frame certainly fits the bill. The support from the company’s President and representatives has been first class and they have ensured all my equipment needs are custom made. This should go a long way to keeping me at the front of the WTS races for the next two seasons.
For further information or to look at the amazing equipment, visit the sites below.


www.dedacciaistrada.com
www.dedaelementi.com



A Kenyan Experience

My BlogPosted by Aileen Sun, December 14, 2014 18:13:15

At one stage I was adamant I was not going to Kenya in November. As far as I knew I signed up for January to September with the squad and this would be enough each year to be with my coach and squad training, with much needed time at home with my husband and family. Well coach managed to convince me different, mostly by way of ‘do you want to be the best you can be?’

Arriving in Nairobi, was an experience itself. I had a bit of a crazy taxi tour of the town and visited an empty pool, cos Kenyans don’t really swim. A short flight to Eldoret and a dangerous matatu (taxi bus) transfer to Iten the following day brought Conor & I last into camp where everyone else had arrived in the previous few days.

view across the rift valley-

Iten itself sits at 2340 odd meters above sea level, and is known as ‘The home of Champions’. Lornah Kiplagat hails from here and she has set up a high altitude training centre (HATC) which is home for 4weeks. Being smart and successful and all- she opened a centre with a pool and gym and (Ger Hartman) treatment area along side accom for Kenyan and international athletes. The local run trails are fantastic and as visitors to Lornah’s place we have access to the newly laid tartan track as well as the dirt track in Iten where it all (literally) happens.

On day 2 we went to watch ‘track Tuesday’. There was an awful lot of people there, we wondered was it normal. About 60 people in the stands in suits were doing job interviews for a local company, and in the ‘in field’ a queue formed for the local driving academy. That’s why there was a digger and a bus parked there. 40 Kenyan lads were repping out 24x400s in 68 whilst people were carrying tables and chairs across and a landrover drives across the track in front of them? Apparently it’s the local meeting place and this is fairly normal.

track tuesday

In the first week we had an easy period to get used to the altitude, as we discovered the trails and went out and about on our bikes. The Eldoret road is too dangerous with the matatu drivers (crazy stuff), so we are left with one option down and up the rift valley. A 1hr descent takes 2hours up. But sure its better than the turbo and the sights and sounds of Africa are amazing. I had a few near misses with matatus (they frequently drive in the middle- or wrong side) and I seen a guy with a long machete knife blade- so I gave him a wide berth. Then cows/ goats/ chickens would cross the path. Kids shouts ‘how are you?’ not just once but 5times in a row, and each kid you pass says that. So you say ‘fine’ 400 times, or switch to hello & wave- they love that. They play with tyres barefoot, happy as larry running beside you up the mountain while your sweating the bit out. Our runs often take us back roads, past houses where people bbq corn on the cob, and always seem to be carrying large bags of maize on their head/shoulders. Kids shout ‘mazungo’ which means white man, but they mean no harm, they think it’s the same as hello. The odd one will say ‘give me your watch’, ‘give me your bike’, but your totally safe as houses and they just want to be friendly. I also got used to the men with machete knives, it turns out its totally normal to walk around with one as its used for grass cutting and all sorts of other original things unrelated to killing stuff.

a coke stop half way up with Lindsey & Julia

It rained a fair bit on week1/2 so trail shoes were useful as the red dirt turns to clay slush. But we also made use of Lornah’s track during biblical downpours as the surface was pretty new and grippy. A track session at 2300m is not easy tho. Coach daz prescribed 2x 3k workouts of 5x (400on, 200float), the first 400 was grand, it was the 200 float that got me!

But the usual Kenyan session to do if it rains is diagonals. They use the grassy infield as its not all mucky, but it is full of bumps and holes. It seems they like bumps and holes fines- sure aren’t all the trails bumpy and holey. The Kenyans run in single file lines. So Darren made us join in with them, just randomly run behind some guys you don’t know?! Mad, but sure they didn’t mind. It was tough going though, the recovery is super slow, but it takes the entire way back to the start of the next diagonal to recover.

a trip out w the gals-

Lisa Norden and Jodie Stimpson arrived about a week before the rest of us. They both entered challenge Bahrain a 70.3 in early December, so their training has been a little different from ours. They brought TT bikes and do 3 hour turbo sessions, whilst we go out and about on our X-bikes. They both done an awesome training block, but 70.3 is not my thing. The swim and run maybe, but the bike, no thank you! The 2 Americans Jess and Lindsey have been training away for the start of the WTS season just like me, and the new ‘youngster’ Julia never stops smiling. Conor and Cam are male-bonding nicely, and I think coach daz has chilled a bit since last year which is great for me as its important to talk about stuff and have a cohesive approach to training. He comes across all macho but has a soft n squidgy side too! (sorry coach).

Theres too much fun in Kenya for one blog so il update you on keeping up with the kenyans, trips out to St Patricks high school and meeting Brother Colm in my next update! coming soon.



2014 round up!

My BlogPosted by Aileen Wed, November 12, 2014 17:35:29

I finished 2013 in a good place. Flying on the run for a second in the grand final, and an eight in the overall series. Starting my winter training buzzing and ready to push on for more podiums and a higher ranking.

On reflection I was too keen in my winter training to get going and get back fit and ready for training. That coupled with a bike accident in November which resulted in a major back issue meant by Christmas I was barely doing anything. A caudal injection in January and I was panicking I might not even get on the start line for the Commonwealths in the summer.

Coach changed home base from Australia to USA and whilst all my group were blogging about training sets in San Diego, I was at home doing rehab exercises and virtually no training. I would miss this block and all the Australasia training and races whilst rehabbing.

It was with trepidation I caught up with the squad in South Africa in Early April. I felt very unfit, and was looking forward to get some training done. Travel and training wasn't great for my back, but I felt ok after the pressure was released a couple of days later, and my pre-hab exercises became habitual. I really enjoyed South Africa as a training venue.

We decided I would have a pop at the Cape Town WTS race to test out my swim/ bike, and so I had some points on the board in the series! Remarkably I finished 16th in the race. A far cry form my heroics in hyde park, but for what I’d gone through in the last five months that was an equally impressive result. This perhaps overshot my current level of fitness, and with a bit more training I was hopeful going into Yokohama. A bit too hopeful perhaps as the race used all my energy reserves and i got a cold which hampered my training pre Yokohama. However I felt great when I got there, and had an excellent swim and good early stages of the bike. We ended up as one massive pack, my run legs hadn’t arrived in the post, and I was fatigued from all the travel, and possibly the cold, finishing 22nd.

It was a tinge of disappointment after the unexpected result in Cape town that I headed back home in the hope to try and get fit. The next two races presented a different challenge being half distance races. Obviously you need to be adaptable but I’m an Olympic distance triathlete. I am however beginning to love London! After having a hate-hate relationship with that course, (crashing twice in 2010 & 2012) I pretty much ticked all my boxes for an excellent eighth place. I began to get excited again about my season.

Getting fitter heading back to one of my favourite venues, Hamburg I was hopeful of some progress. An OK 9th was the result. Again ticking a lot of boxes, putting myself in a good position but just not having that zip in my run, for obvious reasons. Next stop Glasgow.

I had been looking forward to representing NI for a couple of years, and hoped with a good couple of weeks training in Morzine I could still be successful. We had a great training block in Avoiriaz/ Morzine prior to Glasgow, and I went in very hopeful. On reflection I probably was pretty fit if not my fittest of the season. I had managed to catch up well! On the day the atmosphere was amazing. The support for me from the crowd was incredible, and I responded by smashing the swim, brilliant transition, and great cycle. We had a bit of a breakaway at the front of the cycle group and if the cards had fallen slightly differently perhaps the four of us could have got away and I may have had an even better day!

All in all I cycled well- felt good, make some attacks on the bike, and went into the run in a great position. Sitting in the front group of a major games was exciting and more than I’d hoped for at xmas time. Unfortunately as the laps went by my legs gave way a little each downhill. I would get cramps on the downhill with the eccentric loads, then all of a sudden catch up again feeling great. However in a World Class field you can’t afford to have any weaknesses and unfortunately my legs eventually gave way. Overall satisfied with a sixth place, being in contention, I gave it my all, and thats all i can ask of myself. It was great that my room-mate and training partner Jodie got the gold. Having watched her hard work and dedication over the past two years, she totally deserves to be Commonwealth champ.

Two days later we had the relay for the first time at a major champs. I had a little frustration in me from the individual and wanted to lead the team to a good position. I absolutely smashed the swim/ bike/ run to hand over to Conor in second place just behind Canada. Our wee team from NI finished sixth overall, a proud moment.

Following the disappointment it was good for a change to have the distraction of the World Series and the grand final to come! I knew now I was in decent shape and with a little bit of sculpting by Coachdaz I could finish the season with a bang.


Back to France for some hard work! The next venue was Stockholm which was cold. At times you think the ITU follow the bad weather round the world! An unusually awful swim for me meant race over. I got a bit of fatigue into the legs on the bike, and for the first time this season I felt like I could sprint, outsprinting a few good runners for an 11th place- first of the second pack (there are no prizes for that!)

On to the final in Canada. A quick turnaround of a few days was a big ask for the athletes, and a few people chose to avoid Stockholm for this reason. As I had missed some races I did not have that choice. I felt good in Canada I training and ready for the race. However another stinking swim put me way out of contention and basically out of the race. I almost bridged up, but I had just given myself too much to do. I got out on the run feeling ok, but nothing special looking like I could perhaps run into the top 20. As the k’s went by I started challenging myself to catch a few people and by the last lap was passing athletes all over the place. As I came towards the blue carpet I could see what I thought was Sarah Groff (who had been leading at one stage) in front of me and thought she must of blown up! As we crossed the line someone asked was I fifth and I said ‘no’, thinking I was about fifteenth. I heard Groffy confirming she was fourth and was ecstatic!! I had ran the second fastest run time and had overtaken about 30 people! It was my highest position of the season, and in the big one! This meant overall eighth in the series again. Obviously that is exciting but after some time I was very disappointed with my swim and what could have been!

As I write this my group is preparing for their first camp of the year in Kenya. It will be nice to catch up with the guys after a few months break, as we all begin our lap of the world! I’ve won a couple of local cross country races at home, and have been doing a bit of mountain biking and other fun activities since starting back. There are a few new venues on the circuit this year, plus few old favourites. I’ll be taking in the Rio world cup to get a look at the course. This time next winter the countdown to the Olympics will be on!



'Off season' variety

My BlogPosted by Aileen Wed, February 26, 2014 21:45:54

An article i wrote recently for Mary Peters Trust.

Since becoming a full time athlete I’ve had to get used to the small variety of things to do in a day, namely swim, bike, run, eat and sleep. However, an ‘off season’ as some call it, or ‘base phase’ as I prefer, has it own variety.

This year I decided it would be a good idea to up-skill myself and I took to Castlewellan forest with Tommy Evans to learn to mountain bike. At first it was a full 20minutes before we left the car park but from there we quickly navigated ourselves onto the slight downhill trail over muck, stones and bridges. I was hooked and wanted to experience more so I signed myself up for a ‘learn to Mountain Bike’ course at the Tollymore Forest Outdoor Centre. Shifting the weight, using peripheral vision, manual-ing, and rear wheel lifts, are easy when someone shows you how, it helped that I brought the husband along ‘for the ride’ I guess if he could do it then I could too. Before long we were back in Castlewellan riding the red trails and giving it loads on the pump track. Base phase training, love it.

Its not all as much fun though. I’ve found ‘base phase’ for me often contains recovering from some injury or another. Last year I was 6 weeks learning how to swim properly after my shoulder became so sore I couldn’t lift a tea cup. This year I’m having a small battle with my foot. The physios call it ‘acute plantar fashia insertion pain’, which is basically a sore heel. For me that meant 5 weeks of shock-wave treatment (shock wave is like a mini jack hammer pounding your foot 2000 times a minute for 5 minutes at a time). There were expletives on my first occasion. At the same time I built up some run volume on the Alter G, an anti gravity treadmill at the Sports Institute N.I. The first time I used it I was running at 75% of my body weight at a moderate 12kmph. My heart rate was 98.

With them guys being all smart down there, the physio depart and the physiology dept work together to maximise training potential for athletes. They hooked me up to the altitude simulator and soon I was running at 2200meters above sea level (heart rate now 130-140). Whilst it sounds like decent training I still had to teach my foot all of the little muscles its supposed to be using and let me tell you, big toe exercises are not the most exciting thing you could be doing.

November and December is also ‘awards season’ and I also get asked to do the odd chat with rising stars of sport. I was delighted to get dolled up for the triathlon Ireland awards dinner, and chat with mates off the bike at my cycling club shindig, but two was enough for me as late nights aren’t my thing. Cinderella looking at her watch thinking about 5.30am swim and all that. I do however love to be invited to inspire some young folk. I spoke to a handful of the commonwealth games hopefuls from Swim Ulster. As an ex-swimmer I understand the fierce demands of the sport, and I didn’t need to talk to them about dedication or commitment. Instead I told them that I’m only a wee girl from Derry, who found out she was good at something and gave it a go, and really they are no different from me. We might be a small nation, but that’s not to say we can’t be competing on the world stage.

Then I was invited to talk to the UK schools games competitors from the Lisburn area. I was delighted as Dame Mary herself would also be there. As a young athlete myself I looked up to her and to think of her amazing achievements in athletics and to represent Northern Ireland so exceptionally, gaining a gold medal in the Munich Olympis and 4CWG medals. I spoke about what being a full time athlete was about. About base phases, training, highs, lows, injuries, travelling the world and most importantly that a wee girl from Northern Ireland can do anything she puts her mind to. Last year I was a benefactor of the Mary Peters Trust, and I thanked Mary my parents, and the young athletes parents for giving me and them that ‘leg up’ that I/we needed. Physical and financial help are necessary in high level sport, but sometimes it’s knowing that people believe in you that makes the difference.

An exciting base phase ended with a Triathlon Ireland camp in Spain, next I head off to rejoin my training group in South Africa, then race in Japan, before I return home in May. I realise I’m very lucky to have such variety. I’m very lucky to be a wee girl from Northern Ireland. And I’m very lucky to have the tremendous support from the team of people around me.