Today on The Kona Edge we catch up with Ironman Age Group world champion Ellen Hart, who shares with us her latest struggles with running injuries. We find out how she deals with the mental side of bouncing back from injuries, particularly being the sport that she loves the most.


BRAD BROWN:  Welcome onto yet another edition of The Kona Edge, it’s great to have you with us and I’m super excited to welcome our next guest back onto the podcast, she comes from a running background, a superb runner by any stretch of the imagination. Ellen Hart, welcome back onto The Kona Edge.

ELLEN HART:  Thank you Brad, it’s great to be here.

When injuries delay your Ironman run training

BRAD BROWN:  Ellen, I wanted to chat a little bit about your running. If people want to find out what you were able to achieve from a running perspective, they can go back and listen to the first episode, but one thing that I have picked up is you are struggling with a lot of running injuries at the moment and at some stage in everyone’s triathlon career that happens, how do you deal with the mental side of bouncing back from injuries, particularly when it’s a sport that you love?

ELLEN HART:  Brad, you know your stuff because you’re asking questions that get right to the heart of things. I have sometimes a really black and white mentality that if I can’t do what I want to do and I can’t do the training program that my coach sets out, then by golly, I don’t want to do anything and really what I feel like doing, it’s like this really great comforting image, is crawling under the covers and eating cookies and that is one way of dealing with the disappointment of injury and not being able to do what you want.

It’s not so much even just on this day that I can’t do what I want, but for me it’s the whole slippery slide that I put in all this work and I’m in good shape now, and I have this long build up to Kona coming and I’m losing time and I can’t do it.

15-Minute opt-out rule when injuries plague your Ironman run

One of the really great things about triathlon is that if you can’t do one discipline, you have two others that you might be able to do and I think that, well, I saw the doctor a week ago and he said I could still cycle. I think I probably overdid it last weekend and so I think that’s probably off the table, but okay, I can still do swimming. And I can still do water jogging and I can still do some core work so to keep myself active. I mostly just want to crawl in my hole, to be honest and I do get depressed and then I just want to eat for comfort rather than for fuel and for happiness or camaraderie. And so what I do is try and get a friend to join me at certain workouts.

I also give myself the 15 minute opt-out rule, which is that just go and start. All you have to do is 15 minutes and if after 15 minutes you want to stop, you can stop, it’s really okay. More times than not after 15 minutes I think oh, this feels better than sitting on my couch. And particularly if I have a friend there then it usually kind of gets me through whatever it is, half an hour or an hour.

My swim workout was like that this morning. I showed up not feeling particularly happy or enthusiastic about it, but I had a couple of friends and before you knew it, we had done the workout. It’s not isolating. It’s still, oh, and the other thing is not being so rigid about the training program that if I do A plus B it equals C and the only way you can get to C is A plus B.

Not true, there are plenty of times, like two years ago when I first got the knee injury, I had run 6 times in 6 weeks before Kona and I just didn’t think that was going to be sufficient in any way, shape or form, for doing a marathon. Particularly as the last piece of a triathlon and one thing about that, even if you don’t have the preparation that you think you might have gotten or you should have gotten, keep it out of your mind on race day.

Just realise, you’re here, you’re going to do the best you can. It’s an honour, it’s a privilege to be healthy, to get to participate in these events. To get to travel and see other places and to be with people that you enjoy and that today is today. I’m not going to let what I have done or haven’t done in the past get in the way of what’s possible to do today and sometimes you can surprise yourself.

I’m not saying you can pull a rabbit out of a hat, but like I have a few years now of athletic activity in the bag and so I’m not ever going to run the times that I did. Deena Kastor has had this really great quote that: My best times might be behind me, but my best days are still in front of me. It’s really nice to phrase it that way and that has something to do with me with me ageing too.

In any event, the injuries are hard, but it’s also part of the fabric of being an athlete and to think that I am going to be the only one that gets a reprieve from being injured is just not really realistic and so it’s part of it. And always before my injuries have healed, there will come a day when something won’t heal and that will be the end of the line. But I don’t think it’s today and so you just keep moving forward. For me, it’s trying not to get bogged down in the, oh, poor me, I’m losing all of my fitness and I’m never going to be able to race again. Just keep moving forward.

BRAD BROWN:  Absolutely, I think that’s solid advice, avoid the ‘pity party’ and you should be okay. Ellen, thank you so much for your time on this edition of The Kona Edge. I look forward to catching up next time about what you did on the swim, but we’ll save that for another day. Thanks for your time today.

ELLEN HART:  Thank you Brad.

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