For renowned NSW coach and former professional Nicole Ward (Warringah Tri Club), her return to racing after spending more than a year away from the sport following the birth of her daughter has been a rather smooth and successful transition.
According to the 2008 Australian long course champion, who returned to competition in 2016, Ward’s approach to her pro career was not unlike what most age-groupers experience while trying to balance work, family and training on a daily basis.
“Even though I raced as a professional triathlete for six years, I feel I was essentially an age-grouper anyway, as I still worked at Westpac and never did the training hours of a professional athlete, so it was an easy transition for me,” Ward told Triathlon NSW.
“I also competed in my first triathlon at 29, so I knew I still had a lot of personal goals to achieve. I love to compete and to be able to race in the sport that I am so passionate about.”
After retiring from long course racing in 2013 to “have a family and focus on all the other aspects of life,” the 43-year-old Sydneysider and co-owner of Ward Coaching, along with husband, Bern, returned to racing competitively as an age-grouper in December 2016 with a focus on sprint distance triathlon, duathlon and running events.
However, Ward returned to half-iron with a bang by winning her age group at Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast last month.
“It was only this year that I decided to step back up to doing some long course racing now that my daughter is older and it’s a little easier to train,” she said. “I think as a busy mum short course triathlon works really well as it’s a lot easier to balance the training with mum life and work commitments, without the guilt.”
The former Balmoral member, who now belongs to the Warringah Tri Club, admitted the lure of racing across the Tasman next year in Taupo provided multiple incentives to return to long course.
“When it was announced that Ironman World 70.3 Champs 2020 would be hosted in New Zealand, I thought it would be a great excuse for a family holiday and to get out there and train and race with my Ward Coaching athletes and friends,” she explained. “I have very limited time to train now so wasn’t sure exactly how the day would play out and I knew Ironman Oceania Sunshine Coast 70.3 would be very competitive but I thought I’d give it a crack.
“I had an absolute ball out there — and whilst my body felt like it was doing an Ironman — I was over the moon to win my age group and secure a spot to Taupo next year.”
Despite a career that includes racing the Ironman World Championships in Kona (2009), as well as collecting an age-group bronze medal at the super-competitive ITU Sprint Distance World Championships on the Gold Coast last year, Ward says results tell just a fraction of her story.
“When I race now it’s all about being my personal best and enjoying the opportunity to be fit and out there competing in the sport that I love,” she said reflecting on her most recent performance. “Being healthy and fit as both a mum and a coach is really important for me, and to be a positive role model for my daughter especially is what drove me to the finish line when the wheels started to fall off on the run.
"Knowing how limited my time is to train and the juggle I have with being a mum, and coach, as well as my corporate job — it’s definitely up there!”
REMINDER: Don't forget, Triathlon Australia offer a discount of 20% off annual membership for families of 4 or more individuals.
The family discount applies to either 2 Adult memberships and 2 or more Junior memberships, or; 1 Adult membership and 3 or more Junior memberships.
For more info: https://bit.ly/2Inlbbp