Hi, my name is Andrea and I will be in Kona later this September for several weeks, supporting my Ironman boyfriend Garron in his final training preparations for Kona Ironman World Championships 2016. While we are in Kona I wanted to offer my support, guidance, and services to any other ironman athletes in the final stages of their preparation should you feel nudged to seek support.
Kona countdown can be a stressful time and for many an uncertain one when it comes to striking the balance of managing your energy, emotions, training performance and recovery, and mental focus; never mind other speed bumps such as acclimating to the heat, humidity, and the frantic environment.
All of you will have invested time, money, blood, sweat, tears, and innumerable personal sacrifices to get here (as will have your nearest and dearest) and these final precious weeks and days are about hitting that perfect balance of nutrition, preparation, training, tapering, active recovery and rest, sleep, and ensuring that systems in your body such as the cardiovascular system, immune system, musculoskeletal system, hormonal and neuroendocrine systems, and more, all hit peak to have you fit and ready mentally as well as physically on race morning.
It’s more an art than a skill, just ask the experienced athletes who have been striving to perfect this balance for years. Having support from your coach and persons like myself can assist greatly in assisting this while allowing you to focus on the doing rather than the worrying, hence saving vital energy.
This will be our second year here in Kona and I am excited to be not only supporting Garron as his girlfriend but also professionally in all my capacity. What capacity you may well ask!
Well conventionally the titles would be nutritional therapist, senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, and intuitive healer all carved into the background science degree of pharmacy. What this translates into practically is support of Garron and other athletes in all matters related to nutrition, health, body composition, functional balance (e.g. adrenal health, immune health), energy and performance, as well as liaising with other members of their coaching, medical, and physical therapy team.
What do I do to support an ironman this close to competition?
Describing what I do is not always that simple as it is not just nutrition, which is what most people believe that I do. And at this stage of the Kona countdown game we don’t make any major changes to nutrition; nor would I ever recommend this to an athlete seeking advice this late in the season.
We do however continue working on strategies to optimise recovery, maintaining metabolic adaptations to training, cardiovascular adaptations, to limit inflammation, strengthen the immune system and encourage an efficient adaptation to the challenging environment on the big island. If problems arise such as pain, cramps, coughs and colds, poor sleep, fatigue, dehydration, injury niggles, and so on then we trouble shoot as we go. I also at this point encourage the use of visualisation, mind-body relaxation strategies, and also energy balancing work.
So what sort of happens is that in my support role to Garron and other athletes working with me, I tend to spend time in observation, listening, and also intuitively sensing what the body is saying and needing with the goal of providing the small but very important tweaks that can be made to the delicate balance of training and recovery, nutrition, and strategies to assist the body to optimal health, energy and well-being.
It is all about ensuring that come competition day the athletes body is fit, healthy, rested and recovered; energetically balanced and grounded; as well as the athlete being in a positive, focused and resilient state of mind.
My role is to support this using all the skill sets that I have from a medical, functional, nutritional, healing and caring perspective.
There is always such a lot going on in Kona; it can be quite the circus. Last minute doubts, health niggles, acclimation challenges, nutrition challenges, mind-body imbalances and so on can all take from last-minute preparations. No one wants to be dealing with twitchy crampy muscles, mental fatigue, heavy legs, doubts, dehydration, injury niggles and so on. So if you feel nudged to seek support, whether it is a chat about food and your taper week menu, nutrition, products, health, recovery, energy or for some intuitive energy healing work, please do contact me if you feel that my approach resonates with you.
I love this sport; I love supporting athletes in not only chasing but in actualizing their dreams and I do know one thing and that is that the energy of this incredible Big Island delivers what is for you; be prepared!
I cannot wait to be a part of the adventures in 2016; and look forward to connecting with as many incredible athletes as possible and hopefully sharing a part of the journey. I’ll be rooting not only for the Irish, but also the South Africans; and mostly because I am biased, my man 🙂 I know exactly how hard he has trained for this and also how hard his little team of coach Lucie Zelenkova and myself have worked in the background in support; Lucie coaching and me perpetually nagging.
Curious about my experience?
I am a big live in the now person; always striving to be, know, and do more; so I always feel a tad uncomfortable listing through the details of past successes since I started on this incredible journey in 2004.
For me racking up completed books, science papers, conferences and courses is how I rate my success and dedication to those I work with. I have always been thoroughly committed to furthering my education in all fields of health, functional medicine, chronic health, athlete health and sports nutrition as well as specialist areas such as chronic fatigue, fatigue in the athlete, energy healing, diagnostics, endurance training specifics, as well as the basics of sports science. It takes a lot of reading, travelling, and asking questions to satisfy my quest for knowledge.
Earlier this year I was blessed to take 2 months off for education and travel to the USA for further education. I spent a week in Phoenix studying Applied Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice with the Institute of Functional medicine, then travelled on to spend 2 weeks in Sedona on spiritual and learning retreat, and on up to Colorado for specialist training in metabolic efficiency. I take education seriously.
I also believe in working as a team with all those involved in the care of the athlete and this means that I must understand training as well as experience training; understand how an athlete must attend to the care of their body with supportive therapies like osteopathy, chiropractic, massage and physical therapy; and also understand all their medical and emotional needs. In essence I have had to add a lot of additional learning to my tool kit because without it I am just a nutritional therapist and to be honest most triathletes at ironman level have a great understanding of nutrition already.
To give advice one must be equally proficient in the basics as the complexities. To understand the latest science one must be able to interpret the data and make clinically significant as well as practically relevant recommendations. There is a lot of bullshit, opinion, and conflict out there as you know only too well and science often does turnarounds, you only have to look at the low carb versus the high carb and the low-fat versus the high fat debates!
Triathletes have to be the most educated bunch of people that I know, as well as dedicated and hard-working; however they are also like flies to the brightest and newest flame be that a new bike, a new diet or the latest supplement promise. You all want results, faster than yesterday.
My job is to make the complex simple, the science individually relevant, and the day-to-day details manageable in your hectic ironman training schedule. It will probably take me a life-time to perfect this art but I will do everything in my capacity to do so; and that includes partaking in the sport myself. I cannot truly know who you are until I commit to understanding you completely.
So I threw myself in too, headfirst, tackling my first triathlon in Ironman 70.3 Zell-Am-Zee, Austria last year with a few similar distance events this year. It has to be the greatest educational gift that I have given myself as my inquisitive nature has turned almost every training session into a lesson. I must drive my coach nuts (thank you coach!).
However, for you the athlete, it is important to know that I am not just all talk! I have worked with both amateur and high calibre athletes throughout my career spanning 2004 until now and been involved in some tremendous highs such as two winning European Cup finals with the Munster rugby team when I was their contracted nutritional therapist, as well as nervously watching Olympians chasing dreams at ’04, ’08, and ’12 games in addition to rowers in singles and doubles bravely crossing the Atlantic.
Athletes I have been gifted time working with are not only involved in long- and short-distance triathlon, but also a diverse range of elite and Olympic sports such as track and field, Para-Olympic track, professional rugby, Olympic rowing, marathon and race walking, trans-Atlantic rowing, martial arts, youth sports, Irish Gaelic sports, swimming, road biking and endurance running. However the sport that grips me the most from a functional, physiological and nutritional point of view is triathlon. And I hope to support many more of you in the years to come.
Want to know more?
Contact me, reach out, and say hello. I also run a Facebook group for those serious about the sport so please request an add if you are keen to know more: Andrea Cullen triathlon and endurance athlete nutrition and training group.
When are we in Kona?
Mid-September until D-Day!
Why the images of the dragonfly?
On my second day in Kona two years ago I joined Garron in a swim set in Kona’s wonderful outdoor pool. I was only new back into swimming and during my set I decided to stop mid-length (sorry for you all!) and just soak it all in. I wanted to feel the whole buzz of the place, the athletes, the thrashing water, and feel completely into the months, weeks, days, hours and seconds that every athlete had carved into their bodies in training. I wanted to appreciate it all. Just as I raised my head two colour-filled dragonflies played over me for what seemed like minutes. It was a pivotal moment for me.
Dragonflies are a beautiful creature with a lovely message:
Dragonflies start to grow in water and then move into the air and fly. When dragonfly shows up in your life you may be called to transform and evolve. Dragonfly is the symbol of metamorphosis and transformation, it inspires us to bring about the changes needed in our lives in order to go to reach our full potential. To read more about the symbolism of dragonfly click here:
For me dragonfly symbolizes grace and endurance and when interpreted in connection to the Big Island of Hawaii, an island of fire and water, hate and love dragonfly represents an opportunity to harness the fire of your energy and passion for your goals into the peaceful flow of your heart’s dreams and desires. The strive for success is as much in the doing as it is in the allowing of something greater.
To face the battlefield of Hawaii ironman takes a quiet mind, a determined spirit, and a self-confidence grown and nurtured by you in every training session and experience that has grown you as an athlete in 2016…..
Kona will not hand you an easy race; be strong in your self belief and have confidence in your race and you will cross that line with an experience that knows no words.
Did you miss Kona this time?
I can still help you, I work with athletes internationally harnessing the benefits of technology. If you are interested in mentorship to support you in the achievement of your triathlon dreams I can provide this. Even better if you wish to do this in person come visit us here in Limerick, Ireland; Ireland’s capitol of sport.
Wishing you every success,