Friday, December 27, 2013

Tri-Pro: Gina Crawford

From their twitters, blogs, instagrams... all pro-triathletes have been so kind to me when I have reached out for an interview.  SO EXCITED that Gina Crawford agreed to answer some questions and appreciative of her thoughtful responses. She is an avid blogger (since 2009) and is one to follow. Men, I did ask two questions on motherhood which I know does not apply to you but I felt these were questions women wanted to know. Thanks again for your comments Gina and looking forward to seeing you on lots of podiums in 2014!

What was your most enjoyable race (not necessarily best performance) last year? and why
I got to do some great races in some great locations this year. Probably my favorite race experience was the Half Ironman in Samoa I did in August. This was a first time race and I had such a great time. Being a half ironman it was a great preparation for a race such as Kona as it is hotter and more humid but it doesn't take it out of you like a full distance would. In the lead up to the half ironman they also had a swim series and I took part in the 5k swim alongside pure ocean swimmers, a great test for the non wetsuit swim in Kona as well. The bike ride of the race took us through many villages. Each village had been given a country to support and so as you passed through there were the countries flags and the village people all dressed up. For example when we passed through the "Australian" village there were children all dressed up in Aboriginal dress. It was the first time many of the people had seen a triathlon and they were so excited as we passed through. I am nearly always completely focused on my race but this race I just enjoyed myself so much, waving to everyone as I went by. It was a great race to be a part of and I hope I can return there to race again maybe next year.
As a mother who has taken time off to start a family and come back so strongly, do you have advice for other mothers out there that might be in their comeback process?
Probably my best advice is just to take the time to come back slowly and not to rush it. In the early months you can easily get back on the wind trainer during the times your son or daughter is sleeping. I didn't get back into running for over 3 months as I ended up having to have an emergency c section, so it was the doctors orders. And as I didn't run past about 4 months into my pregnancy it meant when I did start running again I was about 8 months off running. So I went about things completely wrong. When I started running I knew my muscles would not be used to it and I intended to run only 5 minutes but once I started running I felt so free and happy I ran for a whole hour. The next day I was much more sore than after any of my ironman races. I continued to train too much and got a running injury after 2 weeks and then had to take off another 2 weeks off running. When I started again I started the sensible way and the way I would recommend, building up slowly by adding a bit of running into my walks. So my first run back was 5 minutes. I then ran every second day, the next day was only 7 minutes etc until I built up those muscles again in my legs. The last thing you want is an injury to contend with. If you are sensible your fitness comes back easily and my worry of never having the fitness I had before birth never eventuated. Doing a lot of walking with your baby in a front pack is also a great way to build up the muscles in your legs and fitness slowly.
My biggest worry I think was the breast feeding issue. I had a midwife that was very old fashioned who said I shouldn't run for a whole year! There wasn't a lot of research I could search out on the internet about elite sports people and breast feeding. So I was careful with adding the intensity and the length as I wanted to assess the effects it was having. For me I ended up finding out it had zero effect on me, so I was really lucky and I was able to get back into racing ironman, I nursed my son for 16 months and I never had any issues but I think everyone is very different so you have to find the right balance for you.

The other piece of advice would be to get back into doing the core strength work early. I didn't as I had ad vice from my midwife that I shouldn't do anything of the sort, and with the c section I was unsure what to do so I did no core work. When my son started crawling at 5 months and I was continually bending down and picking him up I got a back injury from incorrect posture and only then did I get this core work back on track which has helped a lot, but it is something you have to continue working at forever, I'm definitely not as strong in the core as I used to be.

I have been lucky in that we have structured family life so that I am able to train about 20 hours a week while my husband is around to care for Benji, but I hear from a lot of women who are trying to get back into fitness who don't have that support. There are still many ways you can train for a triathlon, biking on the trainer while your baby sleeps, running with the buggy once they are old enough to handle the bumps, and carriages you can put on the back of your bike if you want to cycle outdoors. The hardest part is the swimming, you need to find the time to structure that into your week.

What has been your biggest challenge balancing motherhood and triathlon?
Physically I didn't find it challenging coming back into the sport. I definitely changed my training a lot and did a lot less hours and made the most of any time I had to train. What I found really difficult was actually leaving the house at all to train as I felt and still feel guilty when I leave my son. I know this isn't the 1950's and women are expected now to work as well as be Mothers but it is something I can't help, feeling guilty every time I train. Even now with a 2 year old I do most of my training when he is asleep. I get up really early and train before he wakes and then train during his afternoon nap. This year I also had to do a few trips away from Benji which I found really, really hard and didn't enjoy it at all, but we couldn't always afford to travel together and also with a few trips it would have been detrimental for him. For example I traveled to Indonesia which involved an 8 hour flight and then only there for 5 days before coming back on another 8 hour flight. I thought it would not be fair to put him through that. But I have to keep reminding myself that if I wasn't doing triathlon as a career which is incredibly flexible I would see him a lot less if I was working as a teacher, and I am doing the best I can to be the best Mom.

What is one of your MUST HAVE pieces of equipment?
My Ceepo Katana bike for sure. I have been riding Ceepo since the 2nd year of my career in 2008 and I have won 10 ironman races with Ceepo. I think it is really important to find a bike that is a great fit to you as it is not only the 180k bike ride, but being able to run well after that that is important. I think I have that with Ceepo. Each year they change the model slightly and it keeps getting better and better.

Have you set your goals for 2014? If so, willing to share a few with us?
Not set in stone yet. This year I am much more focused on the Ironman World Champs in October and want to have a good race. I have never really given myself the best chance to perform there as I always have done an ironman in either late August or September before the race. I have 3 finishes (7th, 8th and 9th placing) but this year I would like to crack the top 5. So I will race heavily in the first half of the year and then will give myse lf a good build up (all going well) into Kona. I will start the year off racing Challenge Wanaka in January (I have never been beaten on this course, have 5 victories and it would be super if I could continue that trend), then I will most likely race Ironman New Zealand in March. Each year I like to try and find a new and exciting destination I haven't been to and I think this year I might try Challenge Taiwan in April, then I will most likely do Ironman Cairns or 70.3 in June (a super family friendly destination). I would have liked to have traveled to race a bit in the States, but having done a budget we just can't afford it this year as well as doing the World Champs in Kona.

Follow Gina at:

No comments:

Post a Comment