Great Wall Marathon Wrap Up…

Great Wall Marathon Complete!

Great Wall Marathon Complete!

Of all the epic things I have done, the Great Wall Marathon is up there with climbing Kilimanjaro and completing an Ironman.  It was possibly the hardest run I have ever completed.  This includes the marathon at the end of my Ironman, so that is telling you something of the sheer difficulty of this race. It is billed as the hardest marathon on earth.

My preparation was again unconventional and unfortunately impacted by 7 days of sickness.  After the Ironman I took 2 weeks off and this only gave me 6 weeks to prepare for the grueling 42.2 km marathon so being sick for a week of it and struggling to get my strength back proved emotional at times.   So what makes this marathon any different to a normal marathon you might ask?  Simply put you run 5km uphill then 3.5km across the Great Wall of China which includes a goat track downhill, you then run across the fort and out for 25.2km through villages and just for shits and giggles they put a 2km concrete surface hill at 20km.  Then at approximately 34km you hit the wall again, literally! You run back up the goat track onto the Great Wall and then back down the 5km hill you did at the start.  Yep this was going to be different!

My coach Dan, from IronmanDan Online, God bless him was up for the challenge again of coaching this fly in fly out rebel! Though seriously he kicked it up a notch! Steps ups on two different height steps for 20 minutes was initially torture.  Sweat dripped off me more during that first 20 minute session than in some of my bigger rides preparing for the Ironman.

This follow session was nothing short of punishing!

Gym First:

3 x 10 back squat 65% 1RM

Bulgarian split squats (rear foot on bench) one D/B in each hand (start 5kg per hand) aim to do 150 reps per leg. Break it down as 6 sets of 25 lunges per leg. after each set do 1min of skipping

Have drink and a snack then do 20min easy run on treadmill then head out to football pitch and do

***This could hurt, just manage it take lots of water and some food***

In 10min blocks do the following for 50mins

first 5mins easy running then

5mins of

1min bear crawl 30secs one direction then turn around

1min plank

1min push up hold (hold yourself in ‘up’ position of a push up)

1min push ups

1min star jumps

THIS COULD HURT!!! Yes my coach wrote this could hurt… this was a gruelling session…but who doesn’t love to have a snack half way through a workout!

Two days before the race they pack all the runners onto a bus and take you out to do a race course inspection! Holy snapping duck poop! The bus ride up to the start of the wall had my wondering what the hell the actually wall will be like.  I shouldn’t have worried.  The wall, despite being difficult in its own right didn’t seem so scary now that I had walked it.  I took Mutt for this part of the adventure!

The next day I stupidly got a massage…. OMG a Chinese deep tissue massage is not nice.  Now don’t get me wrong because I love the pain of a deep tissue remedial massage.  My physio back home, Craig, is brutal but in a good way. He can get right into the bits of my body that need the work. Despite me telling him somedays that I hate him because the pain is so intense I always feel better for it.  This however was something out of this world in a VERY BAD WAY.  It was like someone squishing their fingers through your flesh to reach their palms and then pinching your skin! This was not good!!!!

But I am getting side tracked… how did I actually go on Race Day!

After an early morning bus ride and a breakfast box (I really should have brought my own food for this bit!) and we all assembled on Yin Yang Square! My tiny bladder rewarded me in a female squat urinal pre-race nervous pee.  Nothing wrong with sharing a concrete room with five other women on squat toilets taking a nervous pee!  Yep I had to pee in front of 4 other women on a drop toilet squat! Sharing is not caring in this case!

Being in the third wave I had time to really centre my thoughts and know that after my less than perfect preparation that I could just go out and have fun.  There was an 8 hour cut off and my goal was 7.30 because I really didn’t know just how difficult this race would be coming off the back of the Ironman.

The initial hill should not have been as much torture as it was but my calves had been blowing up on me for a few weeks already so I had compression calve sleeves on and within 2kms I was alternating between power walking and running.  As I approached the wall one of the other runners from our tour group caught up to me.  I think if it wasn’t for him I would not have had such a fun first 14km when he peeled off to do the half marathon.  We ran together, walked together, gave each other grief and powered on.  The wall was this fun playground that first lap but I was acutely aware that I actually had to run it again!

Thankfully there was no shortage of people to chat to along the way.  The surfaces changed from the stones of the wall to bitumen to concrete to compacted dirt with many rocks and tree roots.  This part should have been my favourite bit considering I love trails yet it was painful due to being in direct sunlight without any toilet stops! I can confess that I pee’d behind a wall in someones orchard! Sorry about that!

I walked far more of the race than I thought I would but when I reached the half marathon mark at 3 hours I knew that I would be well and truly under 8 hours. The biggest pain was actually my cheapo camelbak! I had mixed my nutrition into it and after the first few mouthfuls the mouthpiece had split so it was leaking down onto my boobs and legs. I was literally the definition of ‘sugar tits’ with my sickly sweet nutrition covering my boobs!!! Lovely just lovely but unfortunately I let this effect me more than it should. I was having to hold the end of the feed tube up and this was effecting my running posture. I wanted to ditch the whole thing a number of times but given I had the rest of my nutrition and my phone I figured it wasn’t the best idea! It took me a long time to realise that if I blow back into the tube after I had a drink it would stop it from running out all over my boobs! Mentally I used up far too much energy thinking about my ‘sugar tits’. Funny thinking back now but not so funny on race day.

I have still not found a nutrition plan that works for me. The taste of my sour grape nutrition burnt my mouth and I ate the bananas and took the energy drinks from the aid stations along with water. I also ate some nuts and jelly lollies. Chinese jelly lollies are the best thing for pick me ups!!!

As I came back through Yin Yang Square to go over the wall for the second time I was really hoping to see my mother so I could actually get rid of the pack but she wasn’t there at the time. As I climbed the first few steps I wondered how long it would take me to conquer this section!
What came next was a little bit of “Goat track love”!  As I started up the goat track I was beaming and having a ball. It would appear that goat tracks and walls are my thing!

I was powering along and the only delays were being caught behind other runners who were struggling. I even had time to stop and tease the photographer not take a picture until he got my best side. He asked what that was and I stopped, flashed a massive smile and raised my fingers in my customary peace symbol. He giggled and snapped a few pictures. (I haven’t brought my race photo pack yet or I could show you that photo! Being a cheapskate here as it costs nearly $150 for it and most of the photos aren’t that good).

I was over the wall in 55 minutes and would have been 10 minutes quicker if it wasn’t for the two-stepping around and waiting for other runners. However the worst was yet to come. I thought if I just kept running, one foot in front of the other and grimacing through the pain I could do the last 5km in 30 minutes. As my feet hit the bitumen it become very clear that my left knee had taken a beating over the previous kilometres and the mind was having difficulty pushing through what could be more than just simple pain. I didn’t run as quickly as I wanted too. I had crisscrossed paths with two of the girls from the tour group and as they ran forward without me I felt sad that I wouldn’t be crossing with them. It was in this self-pity that realised I had done some epic training sessions leading up to the race and with the Ironman training I could push through this last few kilometres and my body would recover perfectly.

As we crossed the line together I did a little jump! Just like the jump I did finishing the Ironman. I think this is going to happen after any long endurance events I enter!! I was very emotional at the end and I will admit I did shed a tear or two. Well maybe a lot more than two. I was very happy with my time of 6:37. Given I thought I would be finishing in 7.30 I felt very proud of my effort. Unlike the Ironman, I was starving when I finished so ate before going for a shower and the free massage. Somewhere in the course of 24 hours I forgot just how painful my last Chinese massage was! I was again assaulted with fingers trying to pull through my flesh. How can people actually enjoy this? I couldn’t let her finish as I was debating in my head whether I should slap her or face a complete mental breakdown so I just stood up and said, “Sorry I can’t do that, it hurts too much” and walked off.

Would I do the Great Wall Marathon again? I am not sure. I loved the race itself but I think there are other challenges that I would like to do rather than repeat this one. Funny I keep thinking that an Ultramarathon sounds REALLY good! Would I recommend it other people? Bloody oath!! It was a great challenge and you meet some amazing people.

For now it’s time to get back to an unconventional training strategy for my next race. The Sunshine Coast Half Ironman! Stay turned to hear how this one goes cause seriously after a full Ironman, a half should be nothing ….. Right? LOL we shall see!

Blessed Be
Robyn xox

Note: I had trouble uploading pictures.  Will update post when I am back in Australia!

DeClutter the Mind

When I first arrived back in Australia in Nov 2013 after living and working abroad I decided to do a rather overwhelming clean out. I spent days sorting through clothes, books, papers and ended up with something that didn’t resemble anything like the minimalistic lifestyle I wished to be embarking on. I imagined that I would have a small but useful wardrobe. Books would be pared down to those I loved and wanted to keep, my paperwork would be a sleek, professional efficient system that I could find exactly what I needed in a second.

My mission failed!

Instead what I ended up with was a pared down wardrobe that didn’t have anything I wanted to wear and a box of paperwork tucked under my bed but certainly not organised! In fact if I am brutally honest I was behind in all my paperwork so I basically just hid from it. A year later my wardrobe was overrun and nothing was what I would call my style. I felt cluttered in my mind and in my world. My creativity was being crushed and I began to feel less like writing and doing anything that related to my creative side.

Note during this period I did train for and complete an Ironman triathlon but when it came to the rest of my personal life it was a little less than fantastic!

So what got me back on the declutter the mind mindset! Life Coaching! During the process of my coaching sessions I was able to see that because my space was cluttered my mind was cluttered. I couldn’t see a way forward for the hundreds of items blocking up the creative airways or to be frank, the floor of my bedroom.

Enter a book! Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”. Thanks to a recommendation of a friend after bleating on Facebook about feeling overwhelmed by my stuff I began reading Marie’s book with an intensity I hadn’t felt in years! The KonMari Method seemed so drastic yet also very simple. If something doesn’t bring you joy get rid of it! Such a simple message yet over the days that followed it became harder and harder to do!

Clothes and more clothes

Clothes and more clothes


I love this, oh that I brought in Nepal, this reminds me of a fabulous holiday with my mother and brother. So many reasons not to get rid of ‘things’ and I realised that was my old self cluttering up my airways before I had even finished. Slowly I worked through most of my stuff and as I did the creativity channels opened up. I ended up keeping a note book handy so I could jot down ideas as I continued to work though my belongings.

Has the processed finished? No!

Just as I was really getting into the swing of things I had to return to work.  The process of decluttering had caused me to look at my entire world and this lead me to something else! I began considering capsule wardrobes. Having only a certain number of clothes that made up the framework of a stylish, French inspired wardrobe that would mean when I opened the cupboard I would instantly have clothes that I knew suited me and could be either dressed up or down.

Enter Caroline from Un-Fancy. Her wardrobe capsules are 37 pieces in which some are carried over from season to season and don’t include underwear, loungewear and fitness clothes (that is a very good thing for an endurance athlete because I literally have swim, bike, run and gym clothes for all seasons and weather conditions!). Her style is very much how I’d like to look albeit she actually pulls it off!

I was devouring her past blogs and realised this was the simplistic and minimalistic wardrobe I had been craving!

Just as I was fully immersing myself in creating a capsule fit for me, Caroline posted a blog that explained she would be taking time away from the blog. My heart stopped, like actually for a split second stopped and I was almost pissed off that I finally found something that appealed to my clothing persona and it was being taken away from me all too quickly. Thankfully she isn’t deleting her blog so I can go back and refer to different things and not being a fashionista I will need this access!

I’ve now returned home and the KonMari Method has ensured my room is still decluttered and my creative space is in full swing! The wardrobe still needs a little bit of work but I can clearly see my style is finally coming to life! It shall be interesting to see what comes next!

Tell me your decluttering tips!

Blessed Be
Robyn xox


Becoming an Iron(wo)man…

Okay, okay I am back!! I know it has been almost 14 months since I blogged.  So much has happened in those months it’s hard to know where to begin.  Firstly, I am sorry I have been absent! Especially since I love blogging and sharing the ups, the downs, the downright funny and of course the heartwarming moments of my life with my readers. Secondly, I achieved something in those months that I honestly thought was going to be one of those things that was on the “Life List” that didn’t get ticked off.

By far one of the most amazing journeys I have experienced thus far and truth be told I have had some pretty amazing chapters in my life.


You know that race they do in Kona, Hawaii!  A little endurance triathlon that consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) ride and a 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break..  Yes all in one day!!!  Oh yeah that is a marathon after a swim and a ride.  Epically nuts, right?

The race is now a little under a month ago but I still get emotional thinking back over the 7 months leading up to the race.  Even considering doing an Ironman is epic and the journey has been one of the biggest experiences of my life.

I commence a FIFO (fly in fly out worker) lifestyle almost 12 months ago so this presented a number of issues for both myself and my coach! But I certainly am non-conventional and my training ended up being pretty non-conventional too.

Here is the kicker! Before signing up I had never participated in a triathlon, nor had I ridden a bike for at least 10 years (and before that only very sporadically), I hadn’t swum regularly in 20 years and I had basically given up running for Crossfit…. this ‘little’ Ironman goal was certainly going to be a challenge!

For months I woke up at 0430 and completed swims, rides, runs, strength and mobility sessions that would test my mental toughness almost as much as my physical body.  My strength increased with a deadlifted of 125kg (I weighed 65kg when I lifted this) and managed some very hilly solo rides over 130kms.  I was developing legs that were strong, powerful and just a little bit sexy!

Strong Legs

Strong Legs with tan lines and scars!

I don’t know how many kilometers or hours I spent training but one thing is for sure it infected my life in such a powerful way that I grew to love myself again after the events of 2013 that left me sad and took a piece of my soul.  All the hours of training lead to the event!

Melbourne IRONMAN 2015

In the days leading up to the race I could only be described as being in a bit of a state. The bike needed assistance (how the hell do you put that back on! and what the friggen hell is this bit).  Unsure if I had everything I needed (read checking everything 10 times in a mental panic) and traveling with other people presents a whole set of different circumstances that I would normally not have. I am by nature far more solo oriented than most would realise.  You need to be considerate to other people when you travel with them and honestly when I was chucking my little hissy fit over the bike I would rather no-one see that!  Thankfully the bike was sorted and I finally calmed down.  A message from my coach basically telling me not to fall apart however was what really got me focused again.

The night before the race I got a solid 7 hours sleep and according to my Sleep Time App I had 97% efficiency. Race day, Sunday the 22 March 15 was finally upon me. I couldn’t stomach much breakfast but walking down to the start in the morning I was calm and confident by the end of the day I would be an Ironman.

The plan was really to have fun and finish. I knew I would be testing my body but not pushing it to the edge. The swim started fairly calmly and I tried to latch onto as many peoples feet or hips as possible. I realised quiet early in the race that I hadn’t fixed my wetsuit properly and was going to have one hell of a rash on my neck but trying to fix it and keep going with the group proved difficult (some dude swam right over the top of me!) so I forgot about it. Rounding the last major buoy I hit the changing tide. I felt like I was swimming strapped to the wall and I wasn’t moving. In fact the starfish on the bottom liked like it was moving faster than me! I looked over at a guy near me and he clearly was feeling the same thing so I just put my head down and kicked a little harder satisfied I wasn’t the only one struggling. Coming out of the water at 1:17.52 was a slower than I would have liked but I was still happy with it.

The bike started really well. Cruising along I knew the headwind had already picked up but that coming back I should be able to make up some time. This worked for the first lap and I was still out there to finish and to have fun. During training I had whistled a lot at cows whenever I went on big solo rides so despite there being no cows I started whistling. Anything to keep my mind off the fact I still had 90 odd kms to go. Cruising along and a guy rode past me and slowed down and said ‘You’re fucking whistling on an Ironman’ I don’t think he was too impressed but it was a good laugh for me. I wasn’t being passed by many people but I was passing people. I didn’t expect that and cruising past some very fit looking, young boys made me smile. Especially up out of the tunnel I seemed to cruise past people that never caught me once out of the tunnel. The second lap was far more difficult than expected. The wind decided it would plague me and I had a headwind out and back. The heat and wind had a different effect too. I started throwing up my nutrition from about 160km because it was hot and horrible by that point. I finished the bike in 6:28.16 which was 28 mins more than I was hoping to do but with the headwind there wasn’t much I could do about it. Plus it was the first time I had ridden 180km!!!

Bike 45km Mark

Bike 45km Mark

I changed into running shorts for the marathon and headed out knowing I wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace Dan and I had set but that was ok. I tried to get nutrition in and it made me queasy so after 1.5 hours I decided to stick with water and ice. Except at the Redbull station. I managed to keep that down!! I walked each aid station and chatted to anyone and everyone. I hid the fact I had stomach cramps and my ribs felt like they might crack. I was still holding a fairly even pace so wasn’t too worried. I slowed down at the 30km mark and by 36km I was walking. My legs and stomach just said not a chance. I was throwing up everything I was trying to take on. I knew I wasn’t going to make 13 hours (my own personal goal) but I was going to make it. Old have a chat here chatted away to all the other walkers. I got really emotional at one point and then realised even if I walked the rest I was still going to be an Ironman. I had already swum, ridden and run 220 odd km so I kept walking and gave up on fluids and just had ice.

Run 1km mark - no pain yet!

Run 1km mark – no pain yet!

With 1km to go I decided there was no way in hell I was walking down the finish chute and started running. Something happened that can only be described at that point as insane! All pain disappeared and I cruised through the last km. I saw my Mum about 200m from the end.  After a massive hug I couldn’t hold back the tears as I kept going. Seeing Jules (one of the coaches from Mavericks – a very cool bunch of athletes I now belong to) in the finish chute gave me the final bit of boost I needed. I decided I was going to jump over the line. Looking at the video now I am really not sure how I managed it but I had done it! 13:38.22 later and I am an Ironman.

I am an Ironman

I am an Ironman

After being ill on the bike and not being able to take nutrition on the run I was unable to eat after the race.  I did however have another Redbull.  I have a bit of an addiction to energy drinks but I was grateful for it in that moment. The next day I couldn’t keep anything down and moving was sheer and utter grief.  Finally I made the decision to go to the hospital. 1 drip later and I was fine. Literally the next morning I woke up with a massive appetite and now body pain.  I even carried my bike downstairs like I hadn’t even competed. So 36 hours later aside from the nasty wetsuit rash you wouldn’t have been able to pick I had just completed 226kms.

It all started with a text message to borrow a wind trainer of a friend as I was considering doing a Half Ironman (70.3) and well true to my unconventionality, to date I still haven’t done a 70.3!  In less than a month I have the Great Wall of China Marathon then towards the end of the year I have the Noosa Olympic Distance Triathlon and finally that half Ironman – the Sunny Coast 70.3 lined up!

Will I be back for another Ironman? You bloody bet I will.  But next time I won’t be there to finish! I will be there to test my limits!!! I am a different person to who I was when I started this and to be honest I am in love with this person! It takes courage, determination and as I found out blood, sweat and tears to finish an Ironman!

This is the part where you reinvent yourself! I could have continued to dream about doing something as epic as an Ironman or do what I did.  Enter, get a coach, training and just go for it! I had nothing to lose but I gained more than I could ever imagine!



Oh and if you want a brilliant coach look mine up –  :D

Blessed Be

Robyn xox