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18 Jan

It’s Saturday morning. It’s raining in Brisbane. I mean, really raining. At home we’ve had 70mm, but I’m aware of places within an hour’s drive that are sitting on totals of 253mm since midnight (that’s about 8 hours ago). Normally my Saturday morning starts with parkrun if I’m not at work – but today I didn’t go because of the rain (many were cancelled). It’s a grey day, perfect night shift sleeping weather – hopefully it will help me nap this afternoon before I start my night shifts. The grey day and weather though is a bit reflective of how I’ve been lately.

At the end of last year, after being told I was “burnt out”, I started reading up on burn out in nursing, and I was a little shocked at what I started to find. As those who work at the coal face of health care, nurses manage traumatic events, are placed in compromising situations, witness critical incidents, and are increasingly exposed to occupational violence (a recent report in Queensland showed that violence had increased in QLD hospitals by 40% since 2016/17!!).  Unfortunately, the qualities that motivate you to do nursing in the first place can be the very ones that lead to burnout.  Those driven to care, solve, fix and heal can find that when resources do not allow them to do that, or when support is lacking, the cumulative effect can lead to dissatisfaction, disillusionment and burnout (or “physical and emotional depletion after a period of chronic, unrelieved, job related stress”).

I think if someone had told me that I was a case of “burnout waiting to happen” (statistically), maybe I could have been a little more aware of what to watch out for. So if this is you, here are some of the factors that have been found to affect burn out, and the symptoms to be aware of – taken from Danielle LeVeck’s article found here:

  1. Women are at a higher risk of burnout. Women tend to have higher levels of anxiety and more responsibilities at home and at work, thus burnout is a possibility.
  2. Working in the ICU or in another high-stress environment like ED, you are at a higher risk of burning out due to long hours and the intense emotional burden amongst other factors.
  3. Being single or divorced, 
  4. Lacking spirituality of any kind, 
  5. Holding an Undergraduate/Postgraduate degree, you are at a higher risk of burning out.
  6. Working full-time at the bedside, you are at a higher risk of burning out. In other words, the closer you are to the patient, the closer you may be to burning out.
  7. If you are a nurse, especially a new grad, you are at a higher risk of burning out than any other position in healthcare.

3 Key Symptoms of Burnout

  1. Emotional exhaustion is the single highest predictor of burnout and depersonalization is a coping mechanism we develop to deal with burnout.
  2. Depersonalization – we become so emotionally exhausted, that we have to “depersonalize,” or become numb to emotion to protect ourselves.
  3. Lack of personal accomplishment is frequently found in ICU settings where nurses often experience death, trauma, and arguably futile care.

Interestingly, I also discovered in my reading some other facts – the fatigue from changing shift schedules and working nights, weekends, overtime and long shifts are all major contributors to stress. In fact, those who work 12 hour shifts as standard (yes, this is me too) are two and a half times more likely to experience burnout symptoms than those who work shorter shifts. Inappropriate skill mix, inadequate staff levels and excessive administrative tasks can all lead to ongoing stress, which when continual and unrelenting can lead to burn out. Interestingly, LeVeck also said that “surprisingly, many ICU nurses still say they love their jobs, making sustaining or leaving a very difficult choice” – and this is where you find me right now! If you ask me, I will tell you that I love working in ICU. I enjoy the complexity of the patient care, the way you can holistically manage a patient, the technical aspects of the job and the equipment we use, and of course seeing recovery after critical illness. Of course, with any job, there are aspects that I do not enjoy. I cannot see myself working in any other area, and yet, at the same time, I wonder how much longer I can continue as I am.

So… as I work out where to from here there are a few resources that I want to share with my nursing friends, that I have been finding useful, in the hope of helping anyone who hasn’t been in this situation from getting there in the first place.

When you are experiencing signs of burnout:

  • Take some entitlements – a mental health day or a holiday
  • Create some “me” time and stick to it
  • Reduce sugar and refined foods if you are feeling lethargic
  • Exercise = endorphins – go for a walk or do some physical activity that you enjoy
  • Review your job – Are you performing well? Do you enjoy it? Are you getting positive feedback?
  • Develop a career plan. Where are you going? What do you need to get there?
  • Do more of what you love when you’re away from work
  • Tell someone how you are feeling
  • Be realistic – reduce your goals to manageable plans

The main thing I keep hearing time and time again from my reading and research, is make sure that you prioritise sleep wherever you can. First comes sleep, then everything else.  Secondly, self-care. For years I’ve thought that self-care meant that I was being really selfish and for this reason I think I didn’t prioritise what I needed when I needed it. I said yes when I should have said no. I’ve had to say “no” a little bit lately, and while sometimes I feel guilty about doing this, I am needing to put some boundaries in at the moment to get myself back to a position of health. So please, bear with me.

If you are struggling with burn out at the moment, or you recognise that you may have some of the “risk factors” then please have a look at some of these articles/resources and look at some of their prevention strategies.

  • The Healthy Shiftworker – Audra has a book, podcasts and regular information offering tips on everything from sleep to nutrition and beyond. Use the link to access all that information.
  • Nurse and Midwife Support – This is an Australian support network for nurses and midwives 24/7. Loads of articles, where to go for some help if you need it. In particular the information and articles on burnout 
  • I mentioned the article during my blog earlier, but LeVeck has information on how to help prevent burn-out in her article here.

There are loads of resources out there, have a look around if you need to. It is really hard to put up your hand and say “I’m struggling” but it is also really imperative that if you are struggling you do say so. Talk to your GP. Talk to a coworker, friend, boss… whoever you need to to get the ball rolling. It’s important. Trust me.

Anyway, that’s all from me. I’m only a few weeks away from some annual leave, and I’m hoping I can take some time to pause, reflect, recharge and return to the area I love. I’m hopeful that by putting some new strategies in place, I will be better able to manage this in future, to ensure that I can continue nursing for many years to come. ox




Hervey Bay 100 (2/80/18)

25 Nov

Every event gets a recap and this is no exception. I use these recaps as a tool to think about the good, the bad and what I can do better next time. I signed up for this event at the start of the year with some mates, keen to have a go… and a girl’s weekend away. We could perhaps (definitely) have done a little (lot) more training, but hey, such is life… let’s get to the recap bit…

I had everything laid out ready to go so that when my 0400hr alarm clock went off I could get up and go! A short couple of kilometre cycle to transition, the laying out of all the gear, and bam – time to head to the start line.  I’m so much more comfortable getting transition ready these days – and so far I’ve not forgotten anything important. So, with that done it was time to take a little walk to the start (well – about a kilometre walk….).

Standing on the beach prior to the start I realised one thing quite quickly. The ocean that had been a millpond for the practice swim yesterday was a little bit choppy… no “proper” waves, just messy up and down.  Darn it! I was looking forward to a beautiful swim. Still, such is life.  I jumped in the water with a mate Cassie to check out the conditions and do a little warm up swim.  Not too bad, not great, but not completely horrendous – I thought…  The swim was shaped like a giant M (or I was later to discover, a whales tail – it is Hervey Bay after all).  This meant some time parallel to the beach, but also two sections of heading out through the chop. Before too long it was time to start. I wished all my mates well, and stood on the start line.  I was happy enough with my swim.  The chop made sighting the buoy’s very difficult, as did the sun – which was in the perfect position to blind you every time you tried to sight the buoys that ran parallel to the beach (ie 4 of the 6 buoys).  I tried to maximise my sighting when I found myself on the crest of a wave breathing, and minimise mouthfuls of very salty sea water. While I felt no noticeable current, the chop of the water made the swim a bit tougher than normal.  I managed to add 100m to my 2km swim, and swum 2100m by my Garmin, and was overall quite pleased to get out of the water after that time.

Transition – not too bad for me, only about 4 minutes from out of the water to onto the bike. Dave would be proud – I didn’t take the time to stop for a cup of tea this time 😉 (Although I did get complimented from one competitor that she was impressed I had a water bottle just for washing my feet – no-one wants little gritty bits of sand on their feet for the rest of the day…)

Onto the bike. 80km. Four, 20km laps. I had not ever cycled the course. We did go for a drive to have a bit of a look at it, and while it felt like there were a few “false flats”, and some gentle ups and downs it didn’t seem too bad.  The road surface was also predominantly very smooth. The notable exception to this was what is known as Gatakers Pinch. Pinch it was. While it was not long at all, it maxed out a 16.5% gradient – which is decent.  So, it was time to head out. After a choppy swim, I was now 1 hour into my race.  Not ideal – as I knew they reopen the roads for bike cut-off at 10.30 so I had to keep moving.  About 2km into the ride shouts of encouragement came from the café by the road – Kim, Zoe, Beni and Michael were enjoying breakfast and had found a great place to spend a bit of time (praise the Lord for wonderful support crew!).  As I went back past transition I saw a few friends getting on their bikes – I knew they’d catch me on the bike soon enough (note – in triathlon when swimming is your best leg it is not ideal… it’s over the quickest and you soon get passed!!).  Anyway – I pedalled along, and it didn’t feel like it was too long before I was at the turn around point ready to head back (which also meant that little hill that I had enjoyed coming down was about to become an UP…).  The volunteers and supporters on that little pinch were fantastic. I approached, put my bike in the lowest gear, and thought “ah well, here goes” – there was pure relief when I made it to the top of that blasted hill – and lots of encouragement from those roadside.  I spun my legs out a bit before picking it up again and heading back to town.  From here, the bike leg kind of just got worse for me. Nothing went wrong per say, but I just was in struggle street. I was uncomfortable in the saddle (not enough riding), and my legs just felt devoid of energy. I just got slower and slower, and as a result also started to lose the mental battle.  Each lap brought cheers and g’days from friends on the sidelines, but it also brought a lot of negative self-talk.  By the time I hit the third lap I was in a world of pain – physically my butt was sore, my legs were empty, my back and shoulders were aching, but that is normally not enough to stop me. However, the mental game was lost here.  As I turned around on the third lap to head back into town I was ready to walk up that pinch – however, I said to myself “If you end up quitting this lap you better have cycled up that hill every time!” As I got to the top of that little climb, the volunteer congratulated me on making it up for the last time (most people were on the last lap, though I had another one to go, however it turned out he was right – it was my last time).  As I cycled back into town, looking at my speed drop sub 20km/hr over the last 5km split, I realised that it was game over.  When I got back to transition, in order to make cut-off for the roads re-opening at 10.30 (and bike cut-off) I had to do a lap in 45 minutes.  The last 20km lap had taken me 56 minutes, and my fastest lap was 52 minutes. While the officials did not pull me off course, I took myself off. As I came in there were no more cyclists heading out – I was the last one in on the third lap.  I was done. Mentally and physically done. I cycled into transition (where they just assumed I was finished my 80km), racked my bike, switched to my joggers, reapplied my sunscreen, put my visor on, and stared at my race belt. It would not be going on. I took my timing chip off and handed it to an official.  I said “I’m out”. Then I took myself over to the ocean edge and cried.  Once I had that out of my system (well, kind of) I went to cheer on the mates who were coming in having finished the bike and getting ready to run.  Having to admit again and again that I was out was a bit awful. My first ever DNF (Did Not Finish).

Total time: 3hrs 40 minutes. Total distance, 2km swim, 60km cycle.

After this, I just wanted to go back to my accommodation and crawl under a rock. I was done.  I didn’t want to be at the race anymore. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I especially didn’t want to stay and cheer on my friends (how rough is that!!). Because I was in my tri-suit, many asked how my race had gone, and I had to keep repeating that I had pulled out (tip: that’s not fun). However, despite feeling pretty sad, angry and disappointed with myself I stayed until the last finisher (because ultimately, I know what it is like to finish a race last and have no-one around at the end).  I stayed and listened to the emcee repeat again and again how many people had started the race, how many had pulled out, and how many were gutsy enough to keep on going (each time reminded me of my own failures). In very hot conditions, my incredible friends exercised for 7 hours – I was so proud of my mates for starting and finishing the race – dead set legends all of them!!

I had come into this race knowing that finishing it was going to be difficult, and perhaps in that sense I was not mentally in the right head space to start.  However, I still wanted to give it a go. I told myself that I would be kind to myself if I decided the best thing to do was stop. I told myself that I needed to respect the long course triathlon distance, and just “rocking up and hoping for the best” was not really something I could necessarily get away with, though I would give it a try.  The reality of pulling out was completely different. Especially because I thought I should have been able to do the swim/ride in the very least. I was incredibly tough on myself.  I thought I was the world’s biggest failure. I never wanted to do another triathlon again in my life. I didn’t want to exercise ever again. I decided I was destined for a life of being overweight and incapable. I decided that some people just are not made to exercise, and I was one of them. I was too fat, too slow, too unfit. For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening I went through periods of sobbing, and periods where tears just ran silently down my cheeks. I sent a message home to family (to make sure they knew I was well), and let them know that I had started, but not finished, and that I wasn’t all that happy with myself. I am indeed my own worst critic. As others congratulated me for showing up, I could only think over all the negatives.

So what about now? I’m now 24 hours post event. I want to apologise to everyone who saw me at my worst yesterday. To my friends who I was not kind to, though they had given up their weekend to come and cheer us on. I want to apologise to those who I may have inadvertently upset because I was so disappointed with myself, despite exercising consistently for almost 4 hours. Because ultimately, I am healthy enough to stand on the start line, to participate willingly in a 2km swim, and to then go straight into a 60km cycle. I didn’t mean to take that for granted. I entered an event, I didn’t prepare appropriately for the event, and subsequently I didn’t finish that event. That’s called life. So, while the disappointment is still present to a small degree, this princess has dried her eyes, and taken a reality check. There are far bigger problems in the world than my inability to finish a triathlon! So again I apologise to those I may have upset. I’m honestly not sure what events I’ll head to from here (though I do have a short, hopefully fun, indoor triathlon to do next weekend….). I think I need to consider exactly what I can and cannot do, and go from there. I need to do a few things to build some self-confidence again, because this is something I’m struggling with. But, my chin is up, and I’m ready to face the world again.

Thanks to all for the support. From those physically present over the last few days (and training buddies) – Kim, Ki, Zoe, Hayley, Elise, Paula, Nikki, Cassie, Beni, Michael, Michelle, Jack, Martin and Martin, to those who weren’t up in Hervey Bay but supported me with messages and love (family and friends I appreciate you).

Until next time xo


I’ve been thinking…

20 Aug

Some days I just feel like I need to step off the world for a while, ponder my existence again, reflect on where I am at right now, and look at where I am headed. Today is one of those days.

Lately I just feel tired all the time. I feel tired when I wake up, I feel exhausted when I get to bed. I feel weary at the thought of going to work, and the thought of exercising leaves me feeling almost despondent – after all, if I’m tired before I start, how can I possibly finish a swim, ride or run? Making an effort to get out of the house, be sociable, try and make some friends, and continually push myself to keep on keeping on is exhausting – especially when this has to be done around shift work which also, let’s face it, leaves me tired.

That’s how I feel. If I’m honest, it’s how I’ve been feeling for a few months. I hoped a holiday would fix it, but it didn’t. Because a holiday really is stepping out of life for a couple of weeks, and when you step back in, you find that life really hasn’t changed – it’s just you took a little minute to step away. So I’m currently looking at what I can do to turn this around.

Exercise does help. It is so hard to get out there when you feel tired. It is deflating that when I do get out there I’m so much slower and don’t have the endurance I’m used to having. BUT, I need to keep getting out there. I do feel so much better after I have exercised, been out in the world, explored, breathed in the fresh air, and used a few muscles.  I need to remember that feeling, stop procrastinating, and just get moving.  Set the alarm on days off, get up, get started and go! Note to self, re-read this paragraph whenever required – you’ve got this! Also self, remember that in 15 weeks you have the Hervey Bay 100 long course triathlon so a little fitness would be useful…

There have been many days recently where I have considered that I need to change my job. I have often felt that I am just not cut out for the role that I have. I am in a shift leader position, and my shifts have a habit of having a few unexpected surprises. Each day in the last week, as I have been considering leaving I have had someone say something… Yesterday I received this message after the shift – “Hi Jen, you did great last night as always… I always feel safe to work when you are on… take care”. I had an agency staff member so pleased that I was in charge because he knew “the shift will run smoothly no matter what happens, it always does”… and on a day when we were VERY short staffed, and I had struggled all day, another colleague said “your calmness, unruffled nature meant that even though we were up @#!% creek today everyone took their lead from you and just got on and got it done without a fuss as well” – I even had staff thank me for a great shift at the end of the day!! These felt like little prompts to me to keep hanging in there from a job point of view. On many shifts while I may be the in charge, I am far from the most experienced person on the floor. This can sometimes feel really wrong to me – because I feel that I just don’t know enough to be the one in charge – but we’re a team – and if we all combine our strengths it manages to work. So for now, I think I’m to stay in this job, as each time I considered leaving in the past couple of weeks, someone has encouraged me with a kind word out of the blue. So I’ll keep doing my best to leave the stresses of work at work, and take time to ensure my days off are restful/replenishing – knowing that having days off is part of ensuring that I am fit and healthy for my days on.  If God needed to rest on the seventh day, then I’m pretty sure I need rest days too!

I’m also currently looking at options for how to make things in life a bit “easier” at the moment. This includes meal-kits. For the last week and a half we’ve been trying out Hello Fresh – a meal kit delivery company.  We select five meals for the week and pretty much everything you need to make that dinner is included in the kit. This has been a big relief for me – and I didn’t realise just how much stress thinking about what to cook, shopping for what to cook and actually cooking was causing me.  Sounds ridiculous when I put it like that, but it was true for me.  Now when it’s dinner time I can simply pick one of the five bags, follow the steps, and dinner is on the table within the hour. Five dinners has been working well as invariably we’ll have a dinner or two out somewhere each week.  It isn’t the cheapest option in the world, but you also don’t have any food waste as you have exactly what is needed – no more, no less – and right now I’m more than happy to pay for the convenience of this.

I often think about getting a cleaner. Let’s face it, I’m not a great cleaner to begin with.  The house stays relatively clean, but I admit it’s not cleaned regularly like it should be.  There are times when this really frustrates me. I like a clean house, I don’t like the time it takes to do it. I know I’m busy and I could consider a cleaner, but then it feels like I’ve failed if I hire a cleaner because I should be able to do it myself – if I wasn’t lazy. This is something I’m still working through… If you have a cleaner and you think it’s the best ever – let me know… I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…

I’m putting a bit focus on my sleep – sure as a shift worker this is a big challenge. But days off, I want to make sure that I am not aimlessly sitting up when I should be resting and sleeping.  Getting adequate sleep will make everything else feel a whole lot more achievable.

If you are reading this and have any other suggestions on things that make life a little easier then I’m all ears – please please let me know!

The last thing, and probably the most important thing though is refocusing my attention. I’ve been reminded at a church team night, and during this week’s church service, of the value and importance of worship. I have been challenged that worship is what is going to get me through this season.  So since then, I’ve also been really looking at what biblical worship is. When we worship, we ascribe worth to something – and that can be so many things (that are not God!) – we can worship money, power, a job etc but biblical worship is assigning worth to God. True worship then, is the priority we place on who God is and where God is in our list of priorities. I found this definition from Sally Morgenthaler:

“Christian worship is not only offering all that we are to a Holy God. It is the intentional response of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. The God, the One revealed in the Word, made known and accessible to us in Jesus and witnessed in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In real worship, we carry on an exchange of love with the God who is present, the God who speaks to us in the now, who has done and is doing marvellous things.”

I therefore again I re-centre my life – for what feels like the billionth time (gosh I wish I was better at this!). I’m reminding myself of the character of God – His generosity, love, wisdom, mercy, grace and holiness (amongst other things!). I’m going to get my strength by continually tapping in to His strength. I’m going to take my weariness and exhaustion and trust that, with time, God will do a new thing in me. He will prune off the dead bits in my life, and give me the strength and life to be exactly who He wants me to be. We’ll just take it one day at a time.



MND and Me Pies to Pacific 2019

19 May

Last year, I did this same ride for the first time. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I got off my bike, and told myself I was never going to do it again. Fast forward 12 months… MND Pies to Pacific 2019, and you find me here again… glutton for punishment? I’d rather consider it a good reason to raise a few $$ for Motor Neurone Disease. A disease I dislike immensely (Mum and Dad told me never to hate…), and a disease I’d love to see treated and eliminated. The nerves had well kicked in the week before, self-doubt returned, and I wondered why the heck I decided AGAIN that this would be a good idea.

The short event report is this:

Distance: 154km, Climb: 1187m, Time: 6:27, Average speed 23.9km/hr, Top speed: 57km/hr, Average Heart Rate: 156bpm

The longer event report is this:

A 4.45am alarm had us heading for the Yatala Pie Shop at 5.30am – we had about a 40 minute drive to get to our start location. Fellow rider Jim joined us for the trip down, and it’s always nice to have a familiar face starting an event with you.  We made good time and there was a bit of waiting around for the ride to start. Something which always escalates my nerves and had me feeling like I was going to vomit.  I wanted to just get it started!


Ready to roll!

We rolled out perfectly on time at 7.04am – we were the third peloton to leave – the 170km set off at 7, the 155 faster crew at 7.02, and then my “Enthusiast” 155km crew – saving the best to last… I was pleased to see the friendly faces of Matthew (our ride captain), Fletcher (encouraging us from the back) and Jim (strong cyclist – and extra helpful with those of us less experienced). I remember all three from last year – as they were all there to help and encourage. I felt immediately more at ease just for seeing their faces and hearing their welcome greetings.

Last year I rolled out of the start in second wheel and stayed in that position for the 60km to morning tea. I remember feeling like I practically flew to morning tea with very little effort. This year I rolled out a lot further down the peloton, and it felt hard. I remember feeling concerned that I was only 20km in, when suddenly Jim cycled next to me and told me to jump on his wheel and he’d pull me up to the front (it would not be the only time this reshuffle happened). A couple of us came right up to second/third wheel in the peloton – a position where it was suddenly so much easier – can someone explain the science in this to me? Why is the start of the peloton better than further back? Anyway… it felt noticeably better.  The roads were slightly wet and I was eating a fair bit of road juice off the tyres in front before I remembered to keep my mouth shut and breathe through my nose!! But in second and third wheel 28/29km/hr was so much more comfortable. The remainder of the first part to morning tea was uneventful.  I met a variety of new people as people went to help Matthew out in front, and as the group moved around a little, but I tried to keep my place near the front of the group. As a side note, I’m thankful this happened just before we saw Dave by the side of the road – so the video he has of our group has me near the front of the pack and smiling… timing is everything…


Morning Tea – 59km in

59km was our morning tea break.  The carpark at Bunnings turned into a sea of blue as all three pelotons refilled water bottles, chowed down on food and drink and took a minute to stretch off the bike.  Jim’s partner Kym and her parents were at this pitt stop – it was nice to see them and also good to see Kym (who broke her pelvis horse riding or she would have been pedalling too). I knew that the bit from morning tea to lunch was going to be pretty riding.  About another 50km, but we would start to see the ocean, and skirt around the waters edge as we continued south to the border.

71km into our ride we stopped for our third mechanical – a third flat tyre. They all happened in the space of about 5km – we must have cycled through something! The mechanic in the rear support vehicle was wonderful – and for the third time, jumped out, changed the wheel over with one already pumped up and ready to go. This makes a stop fairly quick.  I had just enough time to have some water and a gel. Just as Matt turned around to ask me how Pete was this year, and ask after his children, I over balanced and felt myself going down… Yes, it takes incredible talent to fall off your bike while stationary!! I was clipped in with my right foot still, and tilted to the right and didn’t get my foot out quick enough. Thankfully I had enough time to warn those around me that I was falling. I’d love to say it was graceful, it wasn’t. Thanks also to the three guys who then got me back up when I was trying to work out how I was going to untangle myself from my bike and get vertical again… A skun knee, a sore right ankle but the biggest damage was my pride… it’s very conspicuous when you fall while doing nothing…


Photo Credit: Jim Ramsay – this is actually the first 155km peloton not mine, but we looked as good as this too 😉

Once again, having the police escort made our transit south much safer and more efficient.  Saturday morning traffic, and Election Day made the roads busy. As soon as we hit the border and the police peeled off home, we missed their presence – and caught what felt like every red light between the border and the Tweed Coast Way.  It seemed we lost all momentum after some nice solid downhill’s to find red traffic lights at the bottom of the hill before we went up the next one – DARN!!  Just keep pedalling and avoiding pot holes on the NSW roads – gosh they were rough! As the road got narrower we hit single file for much of the Tweed Coast Way. I found single file quite difficult. I struggled to find a good pace.  I would catch the person ahead, then have to brake heavily, then drop them as they accelerated. It felt like a high intensity workout. The smooth, constant cadence was definitely absent.  A solid tow from Jim as we neared lunch brought me and a few others back to the peloton so we could roll into Pottsville for lunch as one group (just like last year). 108km done!


Rolling into Pottsville for lunch

I ate, drank, and refilled my bottles – the plan again was to put my nutrition in my drink so that I would be able to keep taking nutrition easily without having to worry about gels. I knew it was rolling hills and therefore I thought that was going to be easiest – and I’m pleased I went with that plan. It was nice to see Dave at lunch, as well as the many other support crew and volunteers making sure we all had everything we needed.

The ride starts after lunch.  When you’re 108km into a 155km ride, and there are going to be rolling hills, you know it’s time to knuckle down and see what grit you’ve got… or perhaps if you’ve got grit! The first 15km (ish) out of Pottsville is fairly flat and as a peloton we were able to turn the legs over as we got our weary legs working again after their rest.  After that, it was time for the fun to begin. It wasn’t long before I got to spend a bit more time with my favourite cycling buddy Fletcher (you literally can’t be slower than him because he has to be last and communicating with Matthew up the front).  There was a time when Fletch said in his radio – “Matty, there is a good 500m between you and me – we’ve stretched out too much, knock the pace off a bit”. I apologised to Fletcher feeling responsible for him being so far behind.  It must not have been the first time… he said “Jen, if you say sorry to me one more time I’m going to clobber you” I managed to laugh and keep pedalling, refraining from apologising again at that point…  As we hit one of the hills at about the 120km mark I remember saying “you know Fletch, I said I’ve been working on my hill legs, but I’m just not sure they have what they need – I don’t know if I’m able to do it this time”.  His reply was essentially our legs are a funning thing – if you don’t use them when you’re swimming, you’d drown, so to not drown, you use them. What can happen with cycling… you know your leg strength is between your ears and has nothing to do with your legs – what are some sore calves and hamstrings anyway… I got his point, and kept on going.

Many times I wanted to quit. The other voices in my head were Julie “You’re stronger than you think Jen” and my brother “You’ve got this Jen”. bikestemI can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.  I just had to look down at my top tube collage to remind myself that people with illnesses don’t get to quit when the going gets tough, and I just needed to toughen up.  I remember one hill that I was spinning my way up, following a fellow cyclist when I heard some yelling – he was literally yelling at himself to get up to the crest of the hill. I appreciated it so much, while some took the hills in their stride, others of us gave everything we could find to keep pedalling. It was definitely just as hard as it was last year. Some new to cycling with only months of experience and less than 100km longest distance in their legs were still well ahead of me – who has cycled about 15,000km in the last few years (one day I’ll be fitter!!). There were probably 4 or 5 of us near the back of our peloton this year – which I appreciated. It’s nice to have some company near the rear of a group. I could give you a blow by blow account of every hill – I can still picture them all, and how I got up each one (but I’ll save you that pain).  There were some pretty stretches of long slow climb, and some shorter pinchy bits, there were tree covered climbs, and wide open space climbs… there were some sharp steep descents, wide sweeping beds, and hairpin descents… it was a mix that kept changing – and the scenery helped to distract me a little.

One final regroup once we made it out of the hills and with only a couple of kilometres to the finish had another peloton reshuffle. Those of us who are out to do the ride for personal reasons get encouraged to take the front. There were a few of us with immediate family with MND riding in the group this year. I was encouraged to take the front, and for the last 5km lead a leisurely pace into Byron Bay. So incredibly relieved to be off the bike.  Everyone was getting ready to enjoy their “Stone and Wood” refreshment, Paul pointed me to the esky of soft drink and I found a Sunkist and happily downed that.  A final g’day to our support crew who we would be lost without (and perhaps stranded in Byron Bay as there is NO WAY I was riding back!!).

I took the opportunity to say thanks to many of those who I chatted to along the way, those who helped lead the peloton so others of us could hang in the group out of the wind. However I particularly want to thank – Matthew who set an achievable pace for our group and continually checked up on me when I was brought up to second wheel, ensuring the speed was appropriate.  To Jim, for towing me back to the peloton the times I slipped back. To Fletch who is the encouraging voice from the back – reminding you you’re there for a reason, that you can find some grit deep down when the going gets tough, and for always encouraging us up the hills with his humour and positivity.  It was not unusual to hear his voice boom when you crested a hill after slugging it out, or to hear a “ok Jen, go get ‘em” as I accelerated down a descent and pedalled past the people I’d fallen away from on the climb. As well as these three guys keeping us safe and well cared for, they all took the time to check up on how Pete was going – having remembered him from last year. They asked after him, his family, and our family generally and I felt this really captured the heart behind the ride.

Thank you to all those who gave up their time to help organise and run this event.  I felt safe, cared for and well supported. I’d like to say as long as this ride is on, I’ll be back. But today, when I think the only thing that doesn’t hurt is … actually, nah I just wiggled my nose and it was a bit sore too… give me a few days to forget the painful bits, and no doubt I’ll be back again next year…

Thank you to those who financially supported me, after all, that was why I went through this pain. As at right now, my contribution – with your help – to the $124,600 total is $2025. So thank you so VERY much for your support!


Stone & Wood – the Finish. I’m done!


Until we meet again

13 Mar

Jennifer Norma May Nutchey
23/10/1932 – 06/03/2019

This week we say farewell to Dave’s Mum, my mother-in-law. As tends to be the case, it brought with it reflections on a life well lived, stories known to me, and stories new to me. We pulled out photo albums, found occasions we remembered clearly, and others we’d forgotten. But for the first time since last Wednesday, I’ve had some solo time to sit down and personally reflect – and for me that’s often best done with my laptop and a blank document. So here is where you find me… reminiscing… and I want to share her with you.

Norma and I shared a few things, our name included – both had Jennifer as our given name (though she was known by her second name, Norma). In fact my initials are JMN and hers JNMN… This was a source of confusion when I attended hospital once only to be told “wait, you’re not 70″… “No, I said, but my mother-in-law is”! The Nutchey surname isn’t a common one! We also both have a little nursing experience. And while her time nursing was only short, it must have been memorable for her, as she often talked about it in recent years. We shared a faith in God – creator of the universe, and someone we can put our trust in – it is comforting to know she’s enjoying the beautiful gardens of heaven. Of course we also shared Dave – her son, my husband – whom she always told me to look after, whenever we were leaving. Norma accepted and loved me well – she had a wonderful hug which she gave out often, a great sense of humour, and a cheeky glint in her eye when teasing, or sharing a joke or story that amused her.

What we didn’t share was our gardening ability. Norma could make anything grow. She worked hard on her garden and was rewarded with beautiful flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a garden that overflowed with life, colour, and animals. Giving her a gift was easy – new season bulbs, plants, gardening magazines, or cute garden gnomes/animals – she delighted over it all. No trip was complete if we hadn’t been to a garden store. I on the other hand, can kill a cactus.

If Norma saw a need that she could help resolve, she would do it with no hesitation – including ironing clothes for “the oldies” (people often younger than her) at the retirement village. Amongst other things, she cut hair, washed clothes, helped with meals on wheels, and helped out as needed at church. I think her nursing nature of helping those in need was always present.

As Waikerie is a couple of hours from Adelaide, most trips to visit were multi-day trips. Where odd jobs could be attended, garden shops could be visited, bakeries could be frequented and time could be spent together. The honey biscuit jar was refreshed (and subsequently depleted), and we often enjoyed a car trip exploring the area around, where I learned much about both Norma and Dave’s childhoods. While my early formative years were in the country, it was crop/cattle country, not orchards full of citrus trees – it was a whole new experience for me.

Norma’s last visit to Brisbane was a memorable one. When I got out of the shower one morning, Norma was nowhere to be found. Dave got home shortly afterwards and I had to tell him I’d lost his mother… Gosh I felt terrible!! We were walking the streets, getting friends to drive around the suburbs, and ultimately involved the police… thankfully we were reunited after a few hours. Norma had gone for a walk around the block and become disoriented – but had started chatting to some others out in their garden – and they’d had a cup of tea while her new friends tried to work out where she had come from… While I still remember this, Norma had forgotten about it very quickly – such is the disease of Alzheimers.

I’m thankful to the all those who cared for Norma in her final years. I’m also immensely thankful to Keryn and Ian who have shouldered much of the responsibility as Brisbane was so far away from Waikerie. It has been a big load, particularly recently, and while I know it is done out of love, and they’d not hesitate to do anything needed, it is still hard and I’m greatly appreciative.

Norma, for now we say a temporary goodbye – we’ll see you when God calls us home. Thank you for loving us well. xo

Tweed Coast Enduro 1.9/90/21.1

18 Feb

Tweed Coast Enduro… the race I said I’d never do again after last year… and what happens? I find myself standing at the start line, after “friends” from work convinced me it was a good idea… First note to self, find new friends! I’ve been getting progressively slower at Tweed as it turns out (2017 – 7:12, 2018 – 7:18 and 2019 – 7:31), BUT this year I took the pressure off myself and just worked on enjoying the day out. My training hadn’t been all there – I’d done most of my bike sets, most of my swim sets, but my run sets lacked a lot of discipline. It was going to be a big day out, I knew that early, and being reconciled with that before the start was good for me mentally. So, for those interested in the finer details, here’s how the day panned out in a bit more detail.

At 4.30am alarm wasn’t too bad (well, if you don’t count the fact that you’re still running on Brisbane time and so it feels like 3.30am), plenty of time to get up, have some breakfast, and make our way to the transition to set up and get the day underway. We were blessed to be sharing our accommodation this year with Kim and Zoe, and as Kim and I headed to transition on our bikes, Dave and Zoe followed in the car. We also forgot about daylight savings, and found we were setting up in the dark. Once organised we headed towards the start line, having also found Beni and Michael.  Kim and Beni were doing the sprint distance, and their swim start wasn’t too far away. I was able to say hello to a few more friends there who would be doing the sprint distance, before I decided I needed keep going as I had about another 1.2km to walk to my swim start. I saw a few familiar faces at the swim start, and in particular found my mate Hayley from work, who was starting the day off with me. It’s nice to have a bit of company on the start line!

The swim – 1.9km.  Marketed as a downhill swim.  The tide turned about 30 minutes before our wave start.  The last part of the swim felt a little more tide assisted than the first, but we definitely weren’t swimming into a current which was nice.  The water was a beautiful temperature, and crystal clear. I was able to spot fish on the way, though lost count of how many – I actually tried counting but my ability to multi-task while I was concentrating on swimming disappeared.  I like to start at the back, but found myself a little bit boxed in this time, I had to swim wide around people to try and get in front and find some space. By the time we had done the turn up around the buoys I had found some space and was happy.  From the turnaround it is a long, straight swim down the river.  I had told Dave to expect me sometime between 35 minutes and 40 minutes, the difference would be how strong the current was.  I finished the swim in 38:20 (1:55/100m) and found about an extra 100m than I should have to turn it into almost 2km…  I took my time getting up out of the water, and through the sandy track towards transition. Once on solid ground I shuffled my way to my bike. When I got to transition I saw that I was the first one back out of the swim in my category – super!

My gear in transition was wet – passing showers had seen to that. A further complication when you’re wet and then you’re trying to put on wet socks… but eventually I got there, got the rest of my gear sorted and set out on my bike. Almost 7 minutes in transition… I knew I wasn’t in a hurry, but that was a bit excessive – oops!

The bike – 90km.  It’s an out and back course – about 11km to the turn around, then back to the start and repeat 4 times. I knew what to expect having cycled this road may times now.  I told Dave that based on my current form (if you can call it that 😉 ), he should expect me at about the 50 minute mark back in town. The course is a 7.5km straight, flat, stretch before the road turns to the right for about 3.5km of slight undulations to the U-turn. This year, the wind was a headwind on the way out – perfect – at least that way when you’re tired and coming home at the very end the wind is in your back! This year I just cycled – I found “comfortable” and went with that. I actually find I love the laps – they help me break down the ride into manageable chunks – and I get to see friends cycling time and time again as we pass each other (on opposite sides of the road – let’s be clear, while I was passed continuously, I passed only 3 people).  Encouragement on course was fantastic – both from friends and random strangers who either liked the fact I was wearing Smiddy kit, or liked my socks. Coming back into the transition at each turnaround is great – with friends there to cheer and encourage you as you head back out (thanks to all who provided this support!).  I managed pretty consistent splits on the bike – 50:30, 50:22, 50:30 but the last lap was a 53:35 – the winds had picked up by then and pushing out that last time (when tired) is where I lost those extra minutes.  There was rain on and off through the bike leg, so I was also very cautious at the turn around points.  Overall, I managed to finish the bike leg in 3:27 (26km/hr).  I saw as I got closer to the end that if I kept pushing I’d stay below 3.5hours so that was my goal, and I was relieved to make it.

Transition two is normally a bit quicker for me. It’s just a shoe change and switching a helmet to a hat.  On long course though, I also take the time to put on some more sunscreen. While the winner finished in just under 4 hours, given I’m out there for a lot longer, I need to be sun smart. I reapplied the sunscreen hoping that some would absorb because I was wet from the rain showers.  Once sorted I headed out for the run – only 4 minutes 30 for this transition.

The run – 21.1km. I saw Kim, Leah and Dave at this point – was able to say “just a half marathon to go!” and off I went. The Smiddy kit I was wearing scored me a few more cheers – and to one group I said “thanks for the support, will you still be here in 3 hours?” they replied they would… I was dubious…  Three, 7km laps. My aim was about a lap an hour. I knew I hadn’t done the training for this bit and it was going to come down to just hanging in there and getting it finished – however that happened.  At the start line I talked to Beni about her run/walk strategy for Ironman and she said she went with a 10min run/5 min walk approach.  I thought I’d try this. It didn’t work. I quickly cut it back to about a 5 min run/2 min walk, but then the math and my tired brain started to struggle and in the end I went with simply run a bit, walk a bit… until the run a bit disappeared and mostly it was walk a lot. Lap one was pretty much bang on 1 hour, lap two stretched out to 1:05, and lap three 1:10. For the record – the random Smiddy spectators were indeed there for the second and third laps also – champions! The last lap was all walk and no running at all – and I was fine with that.  The camaraderie between the back of the pack competitors is always great – everyone so encouraging of each other, with smiles and congratulations.  All egging each other on towards the finish. The friendly faces at the aid stations were also wonderful – a “what can I get for you” as you approach was great (water, ice, coke, electrolyte…). I continued to put ice down my suit and drink at each water station (this year I nailed my nutrition after last year’s disaster).  I had a friend getting some medical aid on the run leg – and it pained me to keep going when they were obviously distressed.  They were being cared for by St John’s Ambulance, and after the first time had family there as well. Still, despite them encouraging me to go on, I checked in briefly each time I passed (three more times!) because I couldn’t just go past! With only 2km to go I tried to increase my walk pace again (as the last couple of kilometres had dropped off a little) and I just wanted this to be over. A massive kudos to all those still lining the finishing chute of this event – as I approached the first tent someone started clapping, and once one started clapping and they saw me coming, everyone started clapping. It was quite something to be cheered into the finish for the last 100m of the race. I’ve never experienced that before – often finishing at the back, you kind of sneak in past because most people have left or are distracted elsewhere. I crossed the line just making a sub 3:15 half marathon.

Overall a race time of 7hrs 31 minutes.  My longest half ironman… BUT my cheeks were sore from smiling so much. With only three people in my category (Athena’s), this also put me on the podium.  I just had to start and finish to get there. I got to meet two other incredible individuals while getting a second medal for the day (I’m thankful for their patience as they had to wait about an hour to get their medals and prizes!!).


So, despite it being my longest half ironman, it was probably my best because I went out without putting large expectations on myself, and I enjoyed my time out there (mostly – of course it really hurt a lot as well).  It is such a privilege to be able to even stand at the start line. I see people daily who use every ounce of their energy to make it out of bed. To be able to go out and keep putting one foot in front of another for seven and a half hours is my challenge. I’m so thankful to Dave for supporting me as I do these crazy things, and to all my mates – particularly those who were there cheering at various points – or all day, and to those who have trained with me.  I’m also thankful to God who has, for now, enabled me to be healthy enough to do this.

Until next time…


2018…Twenty Eighteen… Two Thousand and Eighteen…

30 Dec

As I reflect on 2018 the most notable thing that comes to mind is that I started drinking coffee… yep, this has been a big change, opening a whole new world of socialising, reasons for cycling and running, and of course helping with shift work… Who said you can’t learn something new at 38!!

A few people have asked what my plans and goals are for 2019, and I’ve had some vague thoughts and ideas, to be honest I’m still trying to figure them out. I heard it said today that in order to make plans and goals for the New Year we need to finalise the ending year. You need to consider it, thinking honestly about what you wanted to happen, what happened, why it happened and what you need to change moving forward. So, it’s time to reflect on what happened in 2018 (aside from drinking coffee that is…) so that I can see what changes I need to make in order to move forward into 2019.

On the home front, Dave and I are still finding apartment living suits us well – the plants we have in pots are mostly managing to survive (nothing to do with me) – and there is far less upkeep than having a full garden. I have no further resolution in 2019 to be better at house maintenance – this is not my strength! We’ve been able to have a couple of mini breaks up on the Sunshine Coast when consecutive days off permit it. Queensland is such a lovely place to live and we are spoilt for the beaches and spectacular scenery we have on our doorstep.  Speaking of scenery, we were awed by Canada this year also when we had a much needed 3 week holiday over there.  Such an incredibly beautiful place – we went on numerous walks, canoed on the river, cycled through the national parks, and generally spent the weeks exploring the country. Hopefully we’ll fit a trip in in 2019 as well, the location and time of this is still very much not planned…

Travel in the first half of the year was limited as much of my energy was taken up with my new role (more about that shortly).  However, in the second half of the year we’ve managed to get back to Adelaide four times – hugs with the nieces and nephews are always very welcome. We’ve also had a few visitors come this way this year which has been fantastic. I felt incredibly thankful to be able to go home for two weeks this Christmas. A week at the beach before Christmas was what I needed – I think if I had to come straight from work into a busy Christmas week I may have spontaneously combusted… Note to self, in 2019 make sure you take some time to rest!

In March I was given the opportunity to step up into a Clinical Nurse position. This entailed a move within the same hospital, but on the other side of the campus to the other ICU.  I accepted this position with a bit of trepidation, not only was I going to embark on a team leader role, but it was with a whole new team, in a whole new environment. The learning curve was steep and exhausting. However, it has been a wonderful change for me. I have learned so much in the last 10 months, and the team have been so incredibly supportive and friendly. Every day I’m learning something new – and there is still so much to know. There are times where the things I don’t know still seem quite overwhelming, but in 2019 I hope to continue to build on what I do know, such that I can continue to be a member of this great multidisciplinary team.

From a fitness perspective, this year I’ve been healthy enough to complete the Tweed Enduro (Half Ironman), the Noosa Triathlon (Olympic distance) and the Bribie Triathlon three times (various sprint distances). We were also fortunate enough to be able to participate in a half marathon while in Banff, Canada. In training and racing I’ve cycled 4093km, run (or walked) 1323km, and swum 103km – for a total of 434 hours of exercise (with one day still to go!). There are many days where I am tough on myself about this – it was not the year I wanted in many respects and training often took a back seat to exhaustion from work, and getting used to a greater number of night shifts in my current role. I wanted to be fitter, stronger, and faster and I wanted to train more. However, it is important for me to cut myself a little slack and be thankful for the fact I can exercise at all – let alone have taken myself about 5,500 kilometres (across all three disciplines) – which in geographical terms is about Perth to Sydney, via Adelaide and Melbourne… or Brisbane to Adelaide two and a half times… That all said, in 2019 I want to ensure that my training doesn’t take a back seat. Being able to exercise is what helps recharge my batteries and take care of me, so that I can then take care of others. I can’t afford to neglect that, as I know when I do my emotional health suffers.

The toughest challenge for me was the MND and Me Pies to Pacific bike ride – 155km bike ride from Yatala to Byron Bay. I hadn’t ever cycled that far at once before, let alone in a peloton where I was unable to go at my own pace.  The team were incredibly supportive though, and of course the cause something very important to me. It was awesome that Peter was able to ride the same distance also (on his wind trainer at his place) – knowing he was riding in tougher conditions gave me the strength and energy to keep on going when I was ready to quit. I found this ride to be the biggest physical challenge I’ve undertaken – yes, harder than a Half Ironman (at least with a Half Ironman you spread your time across three sports!). There is another ride again in 2019, and I need to consider whether this will be included in my goals.

From a spiritual perspective I found the first part of the year tough. There is always plenty of growing for me to do in this area of my life.  In the first half of the year I found that I was working many Sunday mornings and I didn’t get to church very often at all. I noticed the absence of this. There is something about meeting corporately with a body of people with the same beliefs as you. I’ve made an effort to specifically request occasional weekends off, or night shifts on Sunday so that I can still go to church in the morning. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to get back more frequently in the second half of the year. As usual, I’m thankful for a God that loves me, who forgives me every time I stuff up (regularly), and who has walked with me every step of 2018 – even when I have been recalcitrant, and thought I could do it my own way. This will be an area of focus for me in 2019!

When I think about what 2019 might bring, there are various goals I might seek to make – often events or physical challenges.  But there is one area that I want to do better at and that is having an attitude of gratitude.  I feel that in 2018 I haven’t chose to be as thankful as I could/should have been. I want to really appreciate the life that I have been blessed with. My requested Christmas present this year was a big jar and a notepad – and each week I aim to write down something good that has happened in that week and put it in the jar. At the end of the year (assuming I can be disciplined about it), there should be 52 notes of thankfulness and gratitude.

So as 2018 comes to a close there are plenty of things that I could have done better. However, hopefully I’ve learned from my mistakes. As 2019 dawns, may I embrace opportunities as they are identified and may I be disciplined in being thankful and grateful. May I live a life such that I please my creator – full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control –it’s a tough ask, but I can only try!


My gratitude jar (especially awesome as it currently contains Fruchocs – my favourite treat)


Noosa Triathlon #5 (1.5/40/10)

5 Nov

There are some people that seem to have a natural athletic ability… those who can enter an event with a lack of training and still pull it off. Like the guys racking in transition with me on race morning, who claimed to have only swum once, and twice (respectively) and yet who beat me out of the water on race morning… When it comes to natural athletic ability I missed that gene. I knew coming into Noosa that my race preparation was underdone, well underdone. However, I also knew that I could survive the distance. Interestingly this perhaps put me in a unique mindset prior to the race – I took the pressure to do a PB off myself completely, but then was at times anxious of how well or otherwise I’d survive… So, perhaps it is best to go back to the beginning. Grab a cuppa and settle in… if it’s anything like my normal race report this could be a long one… 😉

parcelsMum and Dad came up to join us again this year – a mini break, and my own personal cheer squad. This year they also bought something else – a friend back home had taken the time to make daily packages full of encouragement and cheer. I was to open one each day in the lead up to the race, and then there was a post-race parcel. These packages reminded me to take care of myself, but also they reminded me that I do nothing alone. They were a physical reminder to me that there are people on the sidelines cheering me on, and having confidence in me when my own confidence is lacking. They were a wonderful blessing (thanks team Letcher!).

I checked in to the race Friday, and racked my bike on Saturday. All I had to do on Sunday was get up before the sun (4am), stroll down to the race precinct (only a couple of kilometres), set up my transition gear (that is put everything I need in an orderly fashion by my bike), and head to the beach for the start of the race. After chatting with a few friends in transition, it was time to head to the beach, smile for the team photo, and then prepare for the race start.  The Smiling for Smiddy team photo is a gathering of about 300 of us – all who have paid for a place on the team, and then fundraised a minimum of $1,000 for cancer research.  Adam Smiddy’s Dad, David, was there to say a personal thanks, and he also told us to date we’d raised $420,000 for the Mater Foundation and cancer research (thank you again to my sponsors!!).

I tried to settle my nerves chatting to Dave, Mum, Dad, a few other Smiddy participants and crew (Dr Ward, Dr McMeniman, Krista, Brooke, Michelle, Renae, Jim, Kris and Andy – thank you!). It doesn’t seem to matter how many events I do, I still feel like vomiting on the start line.  This was made worse this year by conditions. Have I told you I hate waves? Like, really, really hate waves?  The usual calm waters of the Noosa Main Beach were replaced with choppy conditions as a wind from the Northeast stirred things up.  From the beach I strategised that it was okay – once I was at the first sighting buoy things would be better – I’d be out through the break zone and then it would be smooth sailing from there.  I was wrong. Perhaps I’ll quote some others here…. “It was a washing machine out there”, “I don’t mind a touch choppy but this was next level”, “there were four people using a paddleboard [water safety crew]”… It took me quite a while to get out to the first sighting buoy and sadly the ocean did not get calmer. I found myself struggling – it is an unusual sensation to be swimming over the top of the wave and put your arm in for the next stroke to find nothing but air as you come down the other side. I found it difficult to find any momentum and switched backwards and forwards between freestyle and breaststroke while I searched for sighting buoys. Well before I hit the first turning buoy the next waves of competitors had come through, and after being clobbered more than a few times I decided to start swimming a bit wider of the buoys. I was struggling enough in the ocean without having the added stress of being hit by other competitors.  When I finally got out to the turning buoy and we started heading across the waves I was able to find some rhythm and get on with it. Thankfully. Up to that point I admit pulling out crossed my mind.  However, I thought about those who would love to be out there but couldn’t be, and, as Dory would say, “Just kept swimming”.  Turning around the next set of marker buoys I wanted to stay well to the left of them. I could see many competitors on the right, but I knew I had to turn right around the final buoy before heading into the beach and I didn’t want to have to swim back out around the buoy if I found myself too far inland to make it around. I also knew that being right of the sighting buoys put me closer to the wave break zone – a place I did NOT want to be. Turning around the final buoy was sweet relief. I knew the swim was almost over.  I’d drunk a lot more sea water than any other ocean swim I’ve done. As I made my final approach in the ebb and flow of the waves, I just had to keep kicking. I told myself the harder I kicked the quicker it would be over. I was terrified that I would have a wave crash over my back. I hate not knowing what is coming behind me. I literally prayed “God please just get me into shore alive” … Generally in an open water swim they suggest that you keep swimming until such time as you touch the sand – at that point, the water is shallow enough to get up and going. I ignored this. As soon as I saw competitors standing in the water near me, I put my feet down… turned to see a wave coming and ducked under it (instead of surf it in… because you know… I really hate waves…) Finally, I was relieved to get out of the water.  A 42 minute swim which for me which is incredibly average (as a guide, 10 minutes slower than last year).  I’m told that the lifeguards were kept busy ferrying people out of the water. Thankfully that wasn’t me. Time to run up the beach and just get the rest done… because the first thing I want to do as I get out of the water is stand up and run up the sandy hill… said no-one ever…

Transition from swim exit to bike start is about 500m.  It takes the pro’s about a minute to get up the beach and on their bikes. I enjoyed a 6 minute transition. I smiled and said hi to all those cheering on “Smiddy” or me specifically, as I shuffled up the beach, across the road and carpark and into the transition area.  After I made my cup of tea (that is washed my feet, put my socks, helmet, glasses and then shoes on) I was ready to hit the road. Time to do the best bike leg I’ve done.

noosabikeI’ve got my brothers wheels. Race wheels. They make you go faster (actually literally – they roll really well).  I was going to push out my best bike ride to show him that I’m super thankful for these wheels. As I headed out through Tewantin I found myself struggling. “Whaaaat, Jen, you’re only about 5km into a 40km cycle. You’re going to have to work harder” – I had a little chat to myself.  I wondered whether it was the swim that sucked the energy out of me, or whether my training had really been that bad.  At about this point a passing participant said “well, at least we’ll have a good tail wind on the way back” – relief coursed through me! Perhaps it wasn’t all me… there weren’t many trees around to look at the direction of the wind, but I was relieved to hear this even suggested.  I don’t have too much to report about the bike leg after that. I did want to try and hit a new PB on the downhill (which I succeeded at – 72 km/hr).  Otherwise it was a pretty average bike leg as well. It was windy and after already being tired from the rough swim, it proved too big a struggle to PB.  So as I cruised back into the race precinct, waving to Mum, Dad and Dave, it was time to get ready and head out for the last leg… the run.

Transition from bike to run is normally a lot quicker for me. I saw KJ in transition heading out on the run and wished her well. Another 400m transition, and with the temp now hitting 30 degrees it was starting to warm up, 6 minutes later I hit the run course… oops 😉

noosarunAs I passed the Smiddy VIP tent I saw the ever encouraging Liz, and as I ran past (because let’s face it, you have to run whenever there is support crew or a camera…) I suggested that now it was “Just a 10km run right?” – she cheered me on as I set out.  Jacob and Jane weren’t too far down the path and I may have whinged about the temperature (sorry about that guys). Not even 1km into the run I was able to see workmate Hamish absolutely hammering it home, and hoped he’d had a good day out (thinking he must have had a semi decent one because he’d started after me and was just about to finish…).  Otherwise, it was a pretty constant stream of Smiling for Smiddy team mates heading into the finish of their triathlon… as I was heading out… oh darn.  Let’s just say I like to get my money’s worth when it comes to events.  I adopted a run/walk strategy.  Probably more walk than run. I took the time to specifically thank the volunteers handing out cups of water, those standing or sitting on the sidelines cheering, and of course tried to find anyone I knew passing me or heading home so that I could cheer for them too (it’s an out and back course). There were also plenty of people encouraging me – having my name strapped to the front of me had to be good for something… right? It was a long, hot, 10km.  At various points I calculated finish times and after laughing it off, and realising it was going to be my worst yet (yep, even worse than that time I had an ovarian cyst burst but still finished…), made sure I took the time to enjoy it instead. This year Dave, Mum and Dad were out near the middle of the run course – and a great encouragement in what can normally be a desolate space.  The heat saw many ambulances and calls for help – though I was not needed to provide assistance at any time this race.  As the finish approached I heard Chloe cheer for me. I suggested I may have run out of puff. She suggested I try walking 30 steps, running 30 steps… so I sucked it up, and started to run again.  Finally, after a massive 3:58 I crossed the finish line.  I wasn’t going to put my time there as it is pretty horrendous (though you could look it up if you were that interested). I finished a full 45 minutes slower than last year and took twice as long as the winning female (nice work Ash Gentle!). I finished 55th in my category (out of 63), 1115th of 1247 females, and 3948th out of 4214 participants. As far as race times go, it was a personal worst. HOWEVER, I think I had the best time out there.  It was a “rough swim, windy ride and a hot run” and with a PB nowhere in sight, I took the time to just be thankful that I could put one foot in front of the other.  My motto on the run was “forwards is forwards” – it doesn’t matter how slow or fast.

In the 12 months since I did the Noosa Triathlon last year, I’ve lost my Uncle to cancer, and had a great mate diagnosed. I’ve seen others continue to repair the damage cancer has caused, and of course, I’ve nursed patient after patient with various cancers.  This year, this was particularly for you Uncle Brian, Debbie and Chris.  You three were on my mind constantly as I participated. You three were why I didn’t quit on the swim, and you were why I wanted to raise a bit of coin for cancer research.

So there you have it… the end of my long winded race recap. Cheers to you Noosa for being the toughest swim, ride, run I’ve ever done…

Bribie Triathlon Series 2018/2019 Race One.

21 Oct

So you’re not racing on Sunday, are you? Was Dave’s rhetorical question as we left the Emergency Department at 9pm on Friday night… My ear ache had been getting progressively worse and I decided after work that I needed to get it seen (and couldn’t get into my GP until Monday morning).  I insisted to the ED staff that I knew I wasn’t a priority and I knew I’d be triaged appropriately and I would wait. I left after a couple of hours, armed with strong analgesia, two types of antibiotics, two types of steroids and an ear wick in – to return in the morning to have it removed (the ear wick is used when your ear canal is so swollen that getting the required drops in is difficult…). It was an outer ear infection and as such, my biggest concern was pain and pressure. I had no issues with vertigo or anything else. After 36hrs of analgesia, steroids and antibiotics it was improving significantly. I found some swimming ear plugs on Saturday and decided I was all good to start Sunday morning. (NB if you know you’re not going to like what the Dr tells you, then don’t mention to them that you’re going to race, and you’re all good 😉 )

So, here is where you find me, sitting down to write a race report on an interesting day out.  I had elected to do the “long” course – a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run (Sprint Distance at most other events).  Something well within my ability to finish even with the limited training I’ve done of late.  I had the car packed last night so was able to get up at 4.15am and make the trip to Bribie. The radar was showing a little bit of a rain front and it rained on and off the whole trip (about an hour) so I wasn’t sure what the day was going to hold.

After setting up transition I headed to the start line. Having done a few triathlons now, there are a few more faces I recognise, and friendly smiles and hello’s are the currency.  It was great to catch up with many of these people. At the start line, I put my ear plugs in and then followed the other girls in my wave – after all, now my ears were blocked and things became a little difficult to hear.  While waiting for our wave start we watched a dugong make its way south in the water – I’m pleased I saw it when I was on the shore and not mid swim!!  I made sure I pulled the cap as low as I could, covering my ear completely. The cap put a bit of pressure on my ear (and the plug in it) but I thought it was all good, I could put up with it for the 15 mins or less it should take me to do the 750m tide assisted swim and get out the water – and at least this way my ear would remain dry and safe.  Once in the water though we found a few extra friends.  Jellyfish. Blue Blubber Jellyfish. Hundreds of them. If you put your face in the water you could see them… in mass proportion. Interestingly a group of jellyfish is sometimes known as a smack – which is a perfectly good descriptor for them today!  Anyway I digress… back to the swim…

Only a few hundred metres into the swim, amidst screams and cursing of my fellow wave starters, as I looked up to sight I noticed one of my friends didn’t look to be enjoying herself… At. All.  She had turned over onto her back and looked terrified. I yelled out to ask if she was okay and she quickly responded no! As I started to make my way towards her I was also waving to the surf rescue team for their assistance. She let me know she didn’t need them and was going to keep going.  While some swimmers carried on through with no regard for the stings, others found the going very tough.  I did not overly enjoy it (NB: understatement).  For the remainder of the swim (about 600m!!) I stayed with my friend. She on her back kicking, me doing a head out of water breaststroke. There were many times when quitting was considered, but I really hate quitting. There were many times when I would see another wave of jellies coming, and advise my buddy to put her arms up such as to try and avoid the stings. I sighted for her to help her stay on course. Keeping my head out of the water for a majority of the swim was probably not the stupidest thing for me to do either. It may have taken us about 18 minutes to do the 750m but we did not quit. I gave her a running commentary about how far we had to go, how on track we were, and where the exit was. When we reached the final turning buoy we both immediately transitioned to freestyle to get the heck out of there.  We both exited the swim, covered in welts from stings, and were greeted with bags of ice being handed out by event officials for our stings.  We walked to our bikes in transition, and then it was time for phase two.

Transition for me is never the fastest. Today was no different, and to be honest, I wasn’t in a hurry. There was no way this was going to be an amazing race for me, but I was out to start and to finish, to practice for a fortnight when I race in Noosa.  I’m digressing again…

The bike.  20km, a two lap technical course. There are lots of corners to navigate, with only a few short straights.  I don’t have all that much to report about the bike leg. I focused initially on trying to keep my cadence up, but mostly I just wanted to go out and go for a ride. Nothing too exciting. No particular plan.  5km into my ride I rounded a corner to find a problem.  Just prior to my appearance a cyclist had run into a parked trailer.  I could see how it could happen (and the next time around the corner the trailer had been moved up onto the curb). Another triathlete was on the scene but I also stopped to see if there was anything I could do. He was pretty cranky with himself for running into it – particularly given he was pretty beat up. He had hit his head and shoulder hard, and was suggesting that his left collarbone/shoulder was where his biggest problem was.  He had sensation in his hand and was alert and orientated. When officials arrived on scene and were calling for medical aid, they suggested we continue with our race, after all there was little that we could do. If he was unconscious I would not have left until there was a medic on the scene. The second trip around paramedics were now on scene too and I kept pedalling past.  Official results have me about a 50 minute ride time for the bike leg, though given my garmin auto paused when I stopped, I have it a bit faster… (about 42 minutes). But official results don’t lie.

Time to go from bike to run. Always a quicker transition for me, it’s simply a shoe swap and a helmet/hat swap and time to go. It was starting to heat up by the time I got out to run (about 30 degrees). The run course is where you can start to cheer on friends as you do laps. This race was only two laps. I saw the lead girls in my wave – running really well and they were about a lap up on me. Ah well, time to just keep going if I can. My strategy on any triathlon run leg is to walk the water stations.  This gives me a chance to reset each time, take on some water without inhaling it, and then go again. This strategy served me pretty well today too.  Unfortunately coming back on the last lap the water station was packed up/out of water, so I headed for the water fountain I’d seen on route, only to find that it too was useless. Ah well, only about 1km to the end so I’d just get water when I was done. Certainly not my fastest run, but I was happy enough with it.

I finally crossed the line some 1hr 43 minutes after starting. Probably close to one of my worst sprint distance triathlons 😉 but today was not about coming first (which is a good thing when you come last in every discipline, last in your wave, 143th female (out of 147) and 365th overall (out of 373) 🙂 But again, it is better than being on the couch, and I am completely okay with that.

I would discover on chatting with others at the end of the race that many heard and saw my mate and I swimming together, and that others appreciated the relatively calm chatter I provided (dispersed with occasional cries of yuck, ugh, and whatever other noises I may have made as I touched or was touched by stinging jellyfish).

Not every triathlon is about trying to podium. Sometimes it’s just as rewarding to make sure that no-one struggles alone.

1500hrs… 3pm… Three in the afternoon…

2 Aug

It is 1500hrs… 3pm… and I’m sitting on the couch. My eyes feel gritty, like someone has thrown a handful of sand directly into them. The nausea is intense. The next two hours will be my worst. If I can hang in there until 5pm I know I’ll feel better. How do I know? It’s the voice of experience. You see, I feel this rotten at least once a week, but often more frequently than that depending on my shift pattern. It’s the post night shift hangover. Often I can find the self-discipline to do something with these hours. Sometimes it will be a swim or a ride (and occasionally even a run – though this is not my preference). If I can occupy my time in these hours I can sometimes make it through without feeling TOO horrendous. But today is not one of those days. Today I feel that the couch has claimed me as its own, and to separate would be a mistake. So instead, I’m watching the clock and praying those hands will move quicker than normal past 5pm where I generally find a second wind.

As I sit here, I’m thinking about why I put myself through this feeling week in, week out.  Honestly, it’s not just post night shift either. I know everyone has busy days in their jobs.  I had another one just this week – where I was so exhausted when I finished work that I almost couldn’t drive home. As I drove home tears made rivers down my face as I tried desperately to find some extra energy. I was physically and emotionally spent.  The focus it took to serve the dinner that Dave had cooked almost resulted in a fresh round of tears. That day I had spent hours out of the unit with a critically ill, unstable patient. Hours out of my nice safe environment, where I knew where everything I needed was, where equipment is reliable and there is plenty of help on hand. Instead I was in a small room, packed full of many staff, working quickly and decisively as a member of a team working to keep this patient alive. I think the whole state would have heard my sigh of relief when we arrived safely back in the unit.

Thankfully, days like that aren’t really the norm. The norm is more a controlled environment, where while patients are very sick, we are able to see and respond to deterioration in a proactive way. Generally. Time at work though is time where I feel on edge, waiting for the next call. Constantly considering alternatives, and having a plan A, B, C and even D. Being able to calmly respond on the outside, whilst frantically responding to changing scenarios on the inside.  That’s another thing that is a bit tiring. 12hrs of being in a hyper alert state is tiring.

But of course it’s also incredibly rewarding, this job I do. I have had a rare mention in a thank you card from a patient. Though this week marked a first for me – a thank you email from a Doctor, where she took the time to acknowledge the efforts from earlier this week. I was really touched by that. So, as I sit here feeling crummy, I’m reflecting on some of the things I consider to be the reason I do my job. These are just some of them:

  • I have learned that an anxious patient can have their systolic blood pressure lowered some 30mmHg if you sit with them and listen to them talk about their grandchildren, and let them sing one of the songs they sing to them. Should you be interested Thumbelina is a pretty cool song… Patients aren’t stupid, they will comment that they know you are distracting them from the concerns that had them so distressed. But rather I consider it refocusing one’s attention.
  • A patient whose whole life has been educating students, raising a family and loving their grandchildren can experience fear and terror on waking from anaesthetic after having major facial surgery. You find later that fear is as a result of feeling like they will now look “scary” to kids with the scars on their face. You know time will fade the scars, but how you responded in those initial moments was more crucial than you realised. Being the calm, reassuring, kind voice they hear when they wake will help them on the road to recovery.
  • The environment I work in, is to many a highly stressful environment. To family it is foreign and can be quite overwhelming. After all, you don’t come into the Intensive Care Unit when you are healthy. I’ve found an explanation of the immediate surrounds and equipment helps put family at ease. I let them know that the equipment all serves a purpose and my job is to watch them and my patient and respond as necessary. Their job is to spend time with their family/friend, and not worry about anything else. If they see me look worried then they have permission to worry (and then I pray desperately that I never look worried, and school my features to be calm and friendly).
  • I have been incredibly blessed to work with some amazing people. I find a hospital like a little city or community. There are so many different roles and responsibilities. Sure, some of us have the coal face job, but we would be unable to do that job without the support of a massive team – cleaners, administrators, doctors, allied health, hospitality, technicians, scientists… we all play a part in ensuring that our patients leave in a better state than when they arrived (hopefully!).

Your colleagues and your patients take more cues from you than you even realise. Roll with the punches, laugh with each other, and help each other out. At the end of the day we can smile knowing that we all made it out the other side.

That’s what I’m doing now… because you see, sitting here thinking about my job and the things love… reflecting on so many patients stories that obviously I can’t put here, seeing the faces of the families I’ve met and cared for… all these things have got me through the worst part… the 3-5pm post night shift hangover.