Lessons from Athletes: Jane Crawford – Know your ‘why’

Each month endurancecollab is going to share a story from our athletes. The idea is to show more people that the sport is more than just Instagram poses and overpriced bikes. There is a real side to it, and like anything real, it’s not always pretty! This can be a hard sport, and sometimes it is easy to think that you are the only one suffering! But you are not – we are one big endurance family, and we can all share our stories to help others learn and grow.

Enter EC athlete Jane Crawford. She is a tough competitor but also shares amazing positivity towards the sport and people doing well. Jane’s Kona story didn’t start with EC, she was in the capable hands of another smart coach but as she pushed on towards another big goal on the Island this year, we thought it important to share her insights as told in a speech she gave for an International Women’s Day event:

Finding my Why

I feel very honoured to share with you  my journey from:

  • Being a Mum blending work, family and life,
  • A public servant with over 30 years working for DJAG, 
  • To now getting the opportunity to represent Australia for the 2nd time in 3 years at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii later this year.  

One of my Ironman idols, and now a new mum herself, Aussie pro triathlete – Mirinda Carfrae once said:

‘You put me in a race where there’s a lot on the line, especially when people tell me ‘you can’t win’ or ‘you’re too small’, you tell me those things and I’ll find a way to prove you wrong.’  

That is the kind of spirit, women like Rinny and I have in common when we compete in Ironman. That nothing is an obstacle.

An Ironman is the ultimate test of mind, body and spirit.  It is a race & a journey that lasts anywhere from 8 to 17 hours (in my case about 11 hours) where you put your body through a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and then finish off with a full marathon of 42.2km run.   

Doing it all on Kona –  the Big Island of Hawaii at the Ironman World Championships is the ultimate test – against over 2000 of the best Ironman athletes in the World.  But Kona, whilst it is a truly beautiful island, it is also a brutal place to hold the World Champs.  

On the day, conditions can break even the best athletes in the world.

When I started on my Ironman journey in 2014 I would never had thought I would make it to Kona because I thought only the BEST athletes in the world make it to Kona.

Now WHY would someone want to do an Ironman ?? ……well, that is what I want to talk to you about today.  About MY journey to qualify at this years World Champs, and HOW I found my WHY.  

 It’s these extraordinary things normal people ‘WOMEN’ like you & I CAN do with 

·      EFFORT

·      PERSERVERANCE

·      CONSISTENCY

·      SACRIFICE & 

·      a DREAM

It’s not easy, but if you have a vision, surround yourself with positive people & your ‘tribe’, set some goals & truly believe in yourself then that is the first step to achieving it. 

Last December, I travelled with my family to Busselton to compete in the Western Australian Ironman, which is 1 of only 3 Ironman races held in Australia each year.  

I had trained pretty much all year for this race, with one main focus… 

TO WIN my age group which would give me an automatic slot to the Ironman World Championships in Kona this year.         

Pretty huge vision & goal right there!!

It was in the last 10 k’s of the marathon, that I had a lightbulb moment. A switch had been flicked in my head. Let me set the scene….

It was a stinking hot day as temps were into the mid 30’s. There were sharks. There were bushfires. Conditions were extreme for this event. Even crazy kangaroos were trying to knock bike riders off their bikes.

I had biked pretty hard for the first time in a race. 

I was totally worried I could have cooked myself by trying to push the needle for that 180ks… 

My strength is in my run, so only time would tell. 

Don’t get me wrong, I was hurting from the start of the marathon. It was still 35 degrees as I started the run leg in the mid-afternoon.

Those last 10ks were really starting to hurt. 

Other athletes around me were stopping, bent over, walking & vomiting on the course. My feet, calves & legs were severely cramping from dehydration. 

My mouth was dry. I had never encountered or experienced cramping on the run before, so this was new. Even the coke and water at the aid stations tasted awful.

I really thought that if I stopped running & tried to stretch out the cramps in my legs, I wouldn’t be able to start again. 

That would be it. I’d be done. Race over. Dream over. 

So, it’s here I dug deep. 

I went into my ‘Filing cabinet’- my memories of thoughts & experiences that I had saved from the endless hurt-locker training hours, just in case I needed a good swift reminder, of WHY am I here?

WHY   have I sacrificed so much family time, lack of social time with my friends, not catching up for lunch with my work colleagues while I was out training all the time?

WHY were my family & friends here ENCOURAGING me, SUPPORTING me & BELIEVING in me as I’d spent a lot of hours away from them? 

WHY was I always tired, hungry, sore but kept bouncing back every day for more?

WHY did I do all those long solo training sessions where I pushed myself to the limit?

WHY did I swing my legs out of bed every morning for months at stupid o’clock

All to now say, ‘Oh I’ll just stop right here & I’ll feel SO MUCH better’.

So it hit me.

WHY DID IT MEAN SO MUCH TO ME?

I WANTED to finish this race & keep going – to justify all those reasons and get back to Kona to achieve my dream.

To prove that I WAS strong enough and all that commitment wasn’t wasted.

So my mental strength & determination took over. My ‘hurt locker’ was going to be SHUT DOWN with positive thoughts & belief- that I can still do this thing.

I thought that it’s time to get ‘COMFORTABLE being UNCOMFORTABLE’!  Pause.

I kept running & tried to increase my pace. 

I passed my husband, who had popped up all over the course on race day supporting me, & my daughter who was on the sidelines cheering for me to keep going. 

“You’re going to podium, “ my husband said. “Just keep your pace”.

So I tried to run a bit faster & started repeating to myself ‘Brett, Ella, Kona’.  This was my little mantra to keep me focused. To help me push through the pain. 

I had just over 2ks to the finish line when my amazing friend from Brisbane, ran alongside me & said “Jane you’re winning. You’re going to win!” I think I said something like “ What? No way!” I was in sheer disbelief.

The last 2 ks were long. I saw my daughter & a small group of my friends who had made the trip cheering me on. It really inspired me. 

Everyone is so encouraging in an Ironman race as they know what you have endured for the day.I got to the last 200 meters which then turns down into the finish Shute which is a length of red carpet. This piece of carpet that is your privilege to celebrate on after spending hours out on course…

The iconic symbol of an Ironman race that you know you are nearly there.  There are rows of supporters cheering you on one either side of the Shute. Music is pumping and you really do feel like a rock star, even if you don’t look like one at this stage. 

I ran down towards the finish line with a look of relief on my face & saw my husband absolutely fist pumping & wahooing for me. 

He said, “You did it!!” “Take as long as you need in recovery honey”. I thought “geez I must look pretty bad?” 

For months while training & leading up to this race, I had visualized crossing the finish line on THIS red carpet.

I had visualized me winning & holding a number 1 finger up in the air. My finish line victory salute!

So as I crossed the finish line I was able to do that!! It felt so amazing! I had done it! In fact I beat the girl who came second by 43 minutes!  My support crew had kept it from me that I had been leading the whole race.  

I went into recovery & took well over an hour to come out. I was pretty smashed, sick & was in a lot of pain once I had stopped. I even spoke to the Pro women’s winner who said to me it was the hardest race she’d ever raced.

Was it worth it??    

ABSOLUTELY!!    

I had never ever pushed myself to those limits PHYSICALLY or MENTALLY in a race before!

This is why I love the sport. This is the feeling of ultimate belief in yourself & about achieving something that you thought may not be possible.  

The next day I stood on the podium with my first place trophy as the 50-54 woman’s age group champion. I felt so proud as a mum & a wife for my family to see this. They were a huge part of my success. 

Earlier that day I had accepted my token to the World Ironman Championships to Kona Hawaii for the second time in 3 years! I still pinch myself at this achievement.

It’s this EXTRAORDINARY event, the beautiful island of Kona, ‘my happy place’ that has been driving me to qualify & to take my family here again & compete at this iconic location. Who doesn’t love a holiday to Hawaii with a little race in the middle of it right?  

  I can’t take all the credit for my achievements. And it’s not all about the training and racing. 

It’s about the JOURNEY to the start line & what goes on behind the scenes. 

It involves so many other amazing people in my life. And the support network from your family, friends, coach & work colleagues that you see each day who ask you how you’re going.

Over the past 5 years, I have learnt & discovered so many POSITIVE things about myself – my body, my mind, what drives me, & what pushes me to keep going, to find new limits, and to raise the bar. 

It’s about showing up, being courageous & being authentic. If you want it bad enough, you will do it. 

Life is about putting yourself out there. The key is to find what MOTIVATES you and then your heart and mind need to connect to it. 

Go for it! Be YOU! Be BOLD! ROCK IT!

There are plenty of things I’m not great at.

When I’d go bike riding I’d say “I’m too slow, I’ll just hold everyone up” or when swimming “I’ll never be able to swim 3.8ks without stopping”. 

I’m normally so unorganized at home, but racing has made me plan my training weeks & race plan to precision. This I’m sure has also attributed to my success.

Having a goal to chase and work towards is the first stage, but it has to be a GOAL that YOU really want & can ACHIEVE-  something that gets you out of bed every morning. 

I didn’t always set out to be an Ironman. After having my daughter I set my sights on running- 5ks, 10ks, some fun runs & then a marathon & it progressed from there. 

It was when I started to believe in myself, I set the goals higher & thought that one-day qualifying for Kona would be achievable.

But sometimes these are the best types of goals and if you want it bad enough the results will come, and the hard work pays off.

I’ve found a new & more CONFIDENT me & found a passion for something I’m actually ok at and really love. I took risks & have tasted success!

However, it hasn’t come without sacrifices  – family, financial & friends. But as the saying goes “What doesn’t break you, makes you.”

It’s an amazing journey of self -discovery, pushing your limits & stretching your mind and body that really excites me.

*Start your journey with the right attitude.

*Share your dreams & visions with people who care & those who can help you along the way.

We are all strong & passionate women. Remember ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

Don’t chase goals, CREATE them!  Take one day at a time & celebrate the steps along the way. Especially with your family and friends. 

I know for most of us it’s not ‘getting to Kona’ that is your WHY.

But I invite you to think about the next thing that you might like to achieve this year or another year?

But find ‘your’ WHY, & I’m sure you will make it happen!