Success Breeds Success

After my first 6min on 11% oxygen session.

After my first 6min on 11% oxygen session.

I increased and maximised my training by attending the New Zealand Altitude Training Centre with a free 45min session. In this time I received information about how to better my training with less impact on my body all whilst saving time. I’m sure I speak for most who have young children and who balance with work and training – time is always greatly received when someone shows you how to take more of it!

You really do gain a level of trust in those with whom you train. I immediately saw the passion and commitment Walter Thorburn at the New Zealand Altitude Training Centre has with his clients. Walter is a true believer in supporting one’s strengths, whilst encouraging you to push through any areas in need of development – a great approach to push you to the limits and achieve big things.

As mentioned in a previous blog my levels of oxygen were set to 14%, which would equate to approximately 3000 meters above sea level. Within just six sessions I was fit enough to run at 12.3% oxygen, which would equate to approximately 4000 meters. Now, with just six weeks to go before I depart – I have achieved running with just 11% oxygen at a positive 8.0 gradient at speed 8.0. I began running 4 minutes on and 1 min off. Now 6 minutes on and 1 min off I can honestly say that it’s the most rewarding workout however at times I have had to dig very deep to push beyond my personal walls. The last two minutes before a rest feels like eternity! To push through the tough times I have a few mantras that I mentally repeat, “It’s only two minutes Mel” and “Wait until you feel the achievement of completing this”.

Doing this intense training has brought my running speed and endurance up so quickly that I’ve even noticed incredible improvements to the strength in my long distance Sunday run. My usual time for this 22km run was around 2hrs10min. I can now complete it in 1-hour 45min, reaching under 5min/Km.

The honest truth is that deep down I was once very nervous about participating in the Everest Marathon.  I can absolutely 100% say that those nerves have now left me and have been replaced with absolute faith that I will achieve what I have set out to achieve. The greatest motivator for success – is success itself.

The lovely Lesley Turner Hall AKA LTH after her Iron Man 2015

The lovely Lesley Turner Hall AKA LTH after her Iron Man 2015

We are all influenced by those around us. I’ve received some very heart warming messages from those who’ve read my blog and through that I’ve also been able to follow some wonderful athletes on their own personal journeys to success. Their sheer dedication and strength gives me fuels to carry on and the inspirational stories of those around me continue to affirm my strong belief that we are all capable of achieving greatness if that is the path we choose to follow. Lesley Turner (who is a beautiful athlete) is one of these people. She has that sheer determination I have referred to and is an absolute machine on foot, in water and on bike. I will be lucky enough to be on this Everest Journey with this amazing woman.

I cannot wait to meet the others who have also embarked on this journey and find out their personal stories of success, as well as sharing in the experience of conquering this awesome feat. I also can’t wait to share this inspiration with others in the hope that it may help someone out to take the first big step towards achieving their own personal greatness. Believe me – I’m doing it now and it feels incredible.

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Universe on my side

In Nan's last days with us.

Nan & I

My brother and I lost our Nan 18 months ago and she was very much like a second mother to us. As my brother and I grew up Nan would always welcome us with loving hugs, tea, Plasticine, the movie Jaws and Jam toast at 9pm at night dripping in butter.

Nan was always an inspiration, not only to me but also to all those around her. On reflection this was mostly due to her determination and stress free caring nature. She taught me to be compassionate and above all else never give up on myself.

My brother & I visiting Nan at her home.

Nan, JP & I

When I originally looked at my itinerary for the Everest Marathon I never did pick up on the dates along the way – just when I was to arrive and depart. It didn’t even dawn on me that the very date I run the event of a lifetime – The Everest Marathon – would be on my Nan’s birthday. I do believe everything happens for a reason in your life and this is no exception.

It’s amazing where one can find inspiration in life and unfortunately it can come off the back of bad news. Once such example was when I recently found out that a very dear friend (who was once very close to my heart) had been diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 30.

My friend Rick and I

One of my inspirations

His amazing story has really given me inspiration to make the very most of this life. He lives to send a message to all he knows and meets about the incredible journey he has embarked on since he has found out his cancer was terminal, in the hope that they may learn from his experience and avoid the need to travel the same difficult path.

He had originally only been given until May 2015, a month for me, which above all other months this year was looking to be the hardest.

May – a month where two special people from two very important parts of my life have something in common. They’ve inspired a girl. A 31-year-old, full time working mother of two who will needs more than physical strength to conquer the event of a life time. They’ve inspired me!

Be empowered by those around you. Notice the struggles that they endure and embrace the life and the time that you have. Take it in your grasp and make something of it. Don’t watch life pass you by and wonder “what if?”  Live it and wonder “what next?”

Deja Vu

As I hear that familiar sound of my alarm go off and it’s still dark, there lies the true daily battle.  The internal debate even! Then the song starts playing in my head… ”Should I stay or should I go now, if I go there will be trouble – and if I stay it will be double”. These lyrics couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s usually a challenge to train and get through the session and it’s an even bigger struggle missing a session only to blame yourself all day for being lazy. So I choose to get up and face it.

As March rolled on I’ve now started training two days a week at The New Zealand Altitude Training Centre. Walter Thorburn, an inspirational athlete and influence in training and nutrition, runs this facility to help support and better sporting greats, enabling them to perform beyond their limits.

First training session at The New Zealand Altitude Training Centre

First training session at The New Zealand Altitude Training Centre

Its mid March and I’m completing two sessions of altitude training per week, eight sessions down and I can honestly feel a positive change in the stamina and endurance of my running. The great thing for me with my recent knee problems is I can train for an hour with minimum pressure on my knees but maximum cardiovascular loading.

Altitude Training is training while being exposed to Hypoxia (a physical condition resulting from oxygen deprivation). The body reacts to the relative lack of oxygen by increasing the mass of red blood cells as well as altering the muscle metabolism.

I do active altitude training, which consists of an hour session running at a medium pace whilst at 14% oxygen which is roughly 3000 meters when speaking in terms of altitude. You might be surprised to hear that the best way to explain the feeling of hypoxia is that you feel a rather euphoric sensation through your body after the hour. During it takes a bit of concentration, as you have to make sure you exhale rapidly to get the full benefits. This makes for a rather entertaining sound for you and anyone else nearby!

Sunday runs have slowly increased in distance and I now run a half marathon every Sunday in the very beautiful suburb of Clevedon. It is the ‘roads that never end’ kind of run! I am proud to say that I managed to achieve a great time of 1hour 50min, which was the same at the 21km mark in the Rotorua Marathon and also my personal best. A few weeks to go and I will be doing two of these per week including the Altitude training mixed with swimming.

We all have ‘moments’ when chasing a big goal with strong determination to reach it. Even the strongest reach a point of question. I do occasionally grow tired in the week, work is very hectic, I miss the kids if it’s not my week with them, and the occasional struggle does take its toll. It creates those moments when you either need to have a good cry, become very quiet or just have a moment. I must admit as much as I hate having those days, I do appreciate them. Embrace the Deja Vu ‘Ground Hog Day’ feeling and push beyond it. Remember that from every moment of temporary weakness comes even greater strength!

All of this hard work pays off for me but also my kids, especially when your four year old is having a pretend play moment and put’s your shoes on, tells her baby she’s going out for a run and then starts stretching! Presenting a positive Influence on my two precious girls is what makes all of the pain, sweat and tears worth it. Only eight weeks to go!

Mum’s the word!

Out I went for my first long distance run since my most recent Marathon, which was in part for training but also largely because I wanted to put my body to the test having worked so hard on strengthening areas critical for knee support. My body answered the call as the pain for a few days following was almost too much to continue training. Finally I gave in (before my knees did) and went to a great knee specialist Dr Gary French, who examined each knee only to find that I had developed what he called “Runners Knees”. As a result of the body’s need for repair I had developed a build up of cartilage on the knee, which would sometimes cause discomfort, and the rest of the pain was due to the weakness in my stomach from carrying children.

Long distance course in beautiful Clevedon

Long distance course in beautiful Clevedon

Being such a small unit, during pregnancy I would develop up to a four-finger width separation in my abdominal wall (Diastasis Recti), which resulted in the need for allot of training and strengthening after child birth. With a weakened stomach it also meant that my Tibia Band wasn’t functioning properly – with each thigh pulling on the knee and causing a great deal of discomfort. Despite these roadblocks I wasn’t about to be stopped and with a balance of stretching and swimming in between training I have seen a huge difference in both my strength and comfort levels. An amazing sports tape called Titanium Phiten has also dramatically decreased the pain. The long and short of it is that I just need to manage injury, accept the pain and break through it. As the cliché goes, no pain – no gain!

Four months to go and I’m training five days a week, which between work & family requires my balancing act to be spot on. During weeks where I have my children I wake up at 6:30am to do the morning breakfast, school lunches and school drop off then it’s straight to work. I usually work until 4pm to leave and pick up the kids by 5pm, although with the joys of traffic I would be lucky to make it by 5:30pm. Then it’s home, dinner, homework, bath time, playtime and story time before both are off to sleep (usually by around 7:30pm).

The girls and I doing Yoga

The girls and I doing Yoga

But – no sleep for me! On goes the gas mask for at least 45 mins on the X-Trainer at high level, where I utilise a hill program to partially simulate what is waiting for me on Everest. I manage to smash out at least 11km in this time. I always make sure the level is set high because as my trainer Scottie from Specforce always says, “Everest isn’t flat Mel”. The man must be good at what he does because anytime the voice in my head starts pulling me back, his voice comes in even louder saying, “Come on Mel, faster, push harder, you’ve got this!” Being a part of Specforce Fitness never leaves you, it’s just awesome. Once the mask comes off and the heart rate normalises it’s off for a quick shower, prep for the next day and then logon to work from 9pm-10:30pm in order to make up my afternoon hours. Eventually I slide into bed by about 11pm before Ground Hog Day begins again at 6:30am.

Manic Mel at work

Manic Mel at work

It’s only when you write out what you do each day that you really get a shock at how much you can fit into a day or week! Everyone has their own busy life to lead and even if there are fewer items on your list we can all end up just as tired as each other at the end of the day. No matter how many balls you are juggling, I take my hat off to anyone who manages to balance kids, work and training. As an interesting exercise I decided to break down one of my weeks into its individual parts. It looked a little like this:

  • 28 books read
  • 2 kids birthday parities attended
  • 2 trips to pool with the girls
  • 3 loads of washing
  • 2 open homes (As selling my house)
  • 40 hours of work (7.5 of which are between 9pm&10:30pm)
  • 5 school drop offs/pick ups
  • 8 hours stuck in traffic to get to work
  • 55km on the X-Trainer with a Gas Mask
  • 28km of running
  • 2km of swimming
  • 1 session of yoga at home with the kids

When you really put your mind to it it’s quite incredible what you can achieve in seven days. I also keep in the back of my mind that with each passing month, the number of balls I am juggling is only going to increase – especially as the event draws near. Despite all of the things rotating around the nucleus of my life I do know one thing, the kids are and have always been at the centre and nothing will take away from the time I spend with my angels. My mission (and yes I do chose to accept it) is to succeed in my preparations for Everest but as with any of life’s missions, one must have their priorities in check and family is always number one.

No rest for mummy, even after a long ditance run!

No rest for mummy, even after a long ditance run. Totally worth the cuddle.

As the hour hand creeps slowly on and the days grow shorter & colder I’m nervously excited about what’s coming…