Written By: Super Clinic Physio Ambassador & Iron Woman Champion, Harriet Brown.
What made you want to pursue the ironwoman series?
I started nippers when I was 9 years old at Ocean Grove surf lifesaving club. My older sister, Alexandra, had begun nippers and as I was an energetic kid I wanted to join in too. I fell in love with the sport. However, I only started to pursue the ironwoman series later on when I finished school and moved to the Gold Coast to study and train. When I was in school and playing multiple sports, the ironwoman series initially seemed like a far-fetched dream. However, once I joined BMD Northcliffe Surf club, started training harder, I gradually started to improve. I made my first ironwoman series when I was 19 years old and have been racing every year since. This is my 14th year!
Board, swim, ski & run – how does your training vary between each discipline?
In surf ironwoman racing there are four different disciplines. In an ironwoman race each discipline is equally weighted with one swim, board and ski paddle in and out of the surf break and short run transitions in between. Even though they are quite similar in a race, training for each discipline is done quite differently. I swim train in the pool mostly, rather than the ocean, four mornings a week from 5:15am to 7am. Swimming is where a lot of my fitness is built. You can’t hide in the pool. Because it’s such a controlled environment, it’s a great way to push yourself and easy to monitor how you are progressing with times and efforts etc. Board and ski sessions are done separately on alternate afternoons either at the beach for surf practice or on the canals for flat water fitness and technique. Running training is usually on a grass track after swimming in the morning. Occasionally I run on a curve treadmill to work on pace and technique. Twice a week I put each discipline all together for an ironwoman session at the beach. There is also gym; I can’t miss gym and do two sessions per week consistently.
Which discipline is your strength & why?
The board is my favourite discipline and it’s also the one that comes the most naturally to me. I love training on my board especially out in the big surf. Because it’s my strength, it’s also the discipline I spend the least amount of time training for.
How do you plan your training days?
I train 2-3 times per day, 6 days a week, which is around 15 sessions per week. When structuring my week I have to make sure I include all disciplines; board, swim, ski, run and gym as well as combined ironwoman sessions. It’s impossible for every session to done at high intensity. There are key sessions throughout the week that are really important for me to show up and train my best, and other sessions that are more focused on skill or recovery.
What is involved in your recovery process? Is this different between each discipline?
In between each race I aim to do a short active recovery, hydrate with water and electrolytes (koda) and have a carbohydrate snack. If there is not much time in between races my snack will be a gel, if there is more time it might be a banana & peanut butter sandwich. I will then rest up before my next race.
Recovery during the week is usually kept pretty simple focusing on the basics first: sleep and nutrition. I prioritise sleep as it’s so important for recovery and one of the simplest ways for athletes to recover. Nutrition is also really important. I keep it simple by focusing on eating real foods and including combination of carbohydrates, protein and good fats. This is really helpful for muscle recovery and replenishing my energy stores. I also use ice baths for recovery as well as massage and physio. If some of my muscles are specifically sore I will use compression, for example compression socks. I will also roll out and trigger point my muscles using my favourite Blackroll rollers and balls.
How do you prioritise events/training for specific events when they’re all so close to together over summer?
This is certainly a challenge. This season has been especially challenging as we are racing 5 weekends in a row. This might be normal for team sport fixtures but not for Ironwoman racing. It is full on, especially as most races involve travel. I make a plan with my coach, Naomi Flood, at the beginning of the season and then adapt as I go week by week adjusting on how I feel. There have been times this season where I have been injured or a little bit run down, so I just adjust my rest and training session accordingly. I know that when it comes to racing rest and recovery is so important.