ITU World Olympic Distance Triathlon Championships – climbing mountains - Mel Thomas PDF Print Email Address *

ITU World Olympic Distance Triathlon Champs - Run LegITU World Olympic Distance Triathlon Champs - Run Leg

My background is that I’ve been in the tri scene since 2003 when as a swimmer with XTC squads I was coaxed along to the start of season party and won the door prize – a season pass to the triathlon summer series in Victoria 2003/2004. I’ve always done triathlon training to be fit for surf life saving so triathlons have been a bit of fun on the side where I’ve made good friends to share the training, but most importantly the coffees afterwards.



Jervis Bay coastal inspiration

I should start by saying that a year ago, after a 1.5 years training hiatus, I’d only been back on the bike for only 6 weeks and did the Olympic Distance tri at Huskisson.  Diving Jervis Bay had always been on my ‘to do’ list so that was the incentive to go and with a beautiful sunny day on the coast, I had a fabulous race with Kristen Walker from Bilbys.  Kristen did a time I could only have dreamt of previously and whilst Kristen’s a great cyclist, I realised that my swim and run were comparable but if I actually trained the bike then the possibilities of achieving those times too were in my grasp.  So my mission on the bike was set and Kristen inspired me with crazy thoughts of attempting to qualify for worlds.

Unexpected set backs

After another 6 weeks of training I competed in the ACT Olympic distance triathlon and managed to cut 7 minutes of my bike time – I was stoked!  In the mean time I’d found myself a surf club in Sydney but on my first patrol at North Bondi, I managed to fracture my wrist in the IRB – I was devastated.  It felt like my summer was over but I kept doing what I could with my cast.

Swimming training swapped for Friday night drinks - Ellie taking me out to cheer me up after fracturing my wrist.Swimming training swapped for Friday night drinks - Ellie taking me out to cheer me up after fracturing my wrist.

When my cast was removed, I was able to swim and ride the day after and I was amazed that my fitness returned so quickly.  With the local tri cancelled I decided I needed to do something crazy so 2.5 weeks later I did the Olympic distance tri in Devonport which turned out to be the OTU Oceania Triathlon Age Group championships!  I came 8thin my age group - there weren’t many people there but those who competed were serious.  I made a few friends, including the female who ended up winning my age group in the World Aquathon Championships in Auckland and coming 5thin the actual tri.  When I told Belinda my story, she said I should try to qualify for worlds because I’d get loads of points for Tassie.  The journey continued....


The dream

I’d spent the last 10 years of my life with the dream of working in a developing country but had it crushed a number of times so with a group of friends organising their own Tour de Timor I set off to join them and visit a friend working in a village for World Vision in Time-Leste.  The return to Australia from this trip coincided with the tri in Darwin and another group of friends I’d been promising to visit for ages.  The tri was shorted for the tough conditions racing in the humidity, but perfect for me coming from the tropics and I ended up placing second in my age group. This shot me up into the top 20 in my age group on the point score ladder.  With the teams scheduled to be announced on the Triathlon Australia website Kristen and I met for drinks – we both made the teams and I couldn’t believe it!

Kristen & I at the Australian team dinner.Kristen & I at the Australian team dinner.

A call of congratulations came soon after came from a Townsville triathlon friend who offered to lend me a bike for the race.  These friends were particularly special to me – not only had we shared amazing times training & racing in Townsville together, but in 2011 we all travelled to Auckland for their wedding.  So to return to compete in the ITU World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Auckland in 2012 on my friend’s former bike (additionally the owner prior to Rochelle had been a junior pro triathlete in NZ!), meant that I felt like they would be present with me in my race.  I should also say a thank-you to my ex-boyfriend Robert Hytch, surf life saver and triathlete, who shared those special times and was part of my motivation to return to triathlon.



The coach – Dave Hohnberg: MOJO Skills Coaching

Having trained alongside gun triathletes over the years that had made the Australian age group teams and feeling like I’d snuck in the back door, I was now scared of what I’d got myself into.  I promptly made the decision to get myself a coach to get me up to standard.  I had been riding with the MDBA coffee crew and knew that Dave was wanting to start up a coaching business.  I knew he’d be the perfect coach for me because I needed someone who understood me and that whilst I had goals, my work and my personal life are important to me and I didn’t want tri training to take over my life.

The MDBA coffee ride crew at Silo Bakery.The MDBA coffee ride crew at Silo Bakery.

With a master plan set in place followed by monthly catch ups to review my program, Dave was a dedicated coach and managed any challenge I threw at him.  This included not knowing whether I could even compete in the triathlon at all when I found out that I had a heart condition despite never having had any issues. Taking it all in his stride, Dave found a way to work with me to manage this discovery.

I raced in the Moreton Bay tri in Queensland one month out from Auckland, achieving a PB of 2:31:19 to well and truly beat my race goal.  A massive thank-you Dave for getting me to where I need to be before Auckland so I could truly enjoy representing Australia!

I should also mention Gary Rolfe here who welcomed me to train with his world’s squad.  Thank-you for all your encouragement Gary & the transition skills practice in particular made a huge difference. Thank-you to Bilbys for all the great coaches and sessions which made it possible to reach the

Rochelle and I at Moreton Bay – check out the special green and gold race number!!Rochelle and I at Moreton Bay – check out the special green and gold race number!!

 fitness required for worlds.







2012 ITU Age Group World Olympic Distance Triathlon Championships – fabulous fun!!!!!

Now my key aim of the week in Auckland was to meet members of the French and Brazilian teams....within two hours of being in Auckland I’d achieved this aim – unbelievable!  Additionally, it turned out that the person I’d given my contact details to from the Brazilian team was the only Brazilian female competing in my age group so I made a beautiful new friend for the week.  Staying at the Australian team hotel meant that I got to meet members of the Australian age group team from all over the country plus the Portuguese pro triathletes and Sweedish Olympic silver medallist Lisa Norden!!!!


Mel with Lucinana at the parade of nations.Mel with Lucinana at the parade of nations.


2012 Auckland ITU Aquathon Age Group World Championships

The aquathon went really well and I met more Australians from my age group.  I was fortunate that the 30-34 female age group seemed to be full of friendly females, which for me makes racing far more enjoyable.

The rest of the week was spent trying not to get sick in the windy wet weather.  With so many meetings and tiny details to organise prior to the race, the only tourist attraction I managed in Auckland was the aquarium but it was worth it because I got to see gentoo and king penguins for the first time ever.

Mel with French Canadians after the aquathon.Mel with French Canadians after the aquathon.


Olympic Distance Age Group Triathlon race

Race day came and I was ready.  The swim started and the fast pack swam out in front and I was in my usual place in the second pack.  I’ve done so many ocean swims over my years so this leg is supposed to be the easy one for me but when I got between the two cans out the back, eerily there was no one around.  I looked up to get directions and I turned inwards slightly so I promptly straightened myself out and back on course. I wasn’t used to being on my own in the series age group races so I panicked slightly but I reminded myself that I knew the course so to have faith in myself and focus completely on my own race.  Focus on your own goals - a lesson in life!  I got out of the water with no one in sight, either in front or behind, but plenty of bikes still in the racks.  It was time to focus on the scariest leg for me – the bike.

I’d been so nervous about the bike course and the hills – I was prepared for the uphills but had fear of being swept off my bike on the descents as the 35-39 year old male wave behind screamed past me.  I concentrated intensely on the bike course to avoid accidents and drafting so when I arrived safely at transition I was ecstatic.  I knew the run course from the aquathon and with people cheering me on from every nationality, I smiled the whole way home to the finish line doing a PB on the run and enjoying every minute of it!  With such a long transition, my overall race time was slow (2:43:39), but I amazingly placed in the top 50% of my age group.  I was 6thout of the Australians in my age group - so I’d smashed my goal of earning my place on the Australian age group team.

I had such a fabulous week & the memories will live on.  So I’m thankful most of all to those shared the journey to make it to Auckland but also for the new triathlon friends I’ve made both in Australia and all over the world!


At the national hero themed closing ceremony: Mel (SES T-shirt thanks to Andrew McKenzie from the National Disaster Recovery Taskforce) with the Tahitian team (tropical islands like their bananas!)At the national hero themed closing ceremony: Mel (SES T-shirt thanks to Andrew McKenzie from the National Disaster Recovery Taskforce) with the Tahitian team (tropical islands like their bananas!)