Having completed five Ironman events, Rachele Sanderson was looking for her next challenge and boy, has she found it! One of only 50 athletes worldwide accepted to compete in the elite Ultraman Australia event on the Sunshine Coast next year, Rachele will face the toughest mental and physical challenge of her life.
Hi Rachele. What’s your background in the Port Mac area?
I’ve been based in Port Macquarie for over 30 years now when my parents decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. I feel so fortunate to have been able to live here and bring our two children up in such a beautiful place.
Where did the interest in tri events begin for you?
I grew up with a love of running, but it was when our children got involved in surf lifesaving about 10 years ago, and I met Melinda Cockshutt – a local triathlete. Our sons became good friends through the surf club. It was then I was introduced to Ironman; I watched Mel compete, and I was just in awe. I remember my son, Isaac saying, “If Zac’s mum can do an Ironman, you can too, Mum!” The rest is history!
From that day on, I volunteered for the event, then started competing myself, racing in many triathlons. My first 70.3 Ironman event was in 2012, and then I stepped up to the full distance in 2015.
You’ve competed in five full Ironman events now. What keeps you motivated?
Yes, in May this year, I completed my fifth full Ironman. Endurance sport is part of my identity; it’s who I am, and I’m at my happiest when training and racing. I love setting myself goals and working hard towards them. There’s nothing quite like the thought of reaching a race finish line to keep you motivated.
What are some of your favourite memories from previous Ironmans?
I think my two favourite highlights would be the completion of my first full Ironman in 2015; hands down the best feeling ever! I don’t think anything could top that, especially as I achieved this with my husband, who also raced his first Ironman at the same time.
Then there was this year finishing my fifth, knowing that I’d completed the race, giving me a qualifying time to apply for Ultraman. Excited would be an understatement, as I had been working towards this goal for the past three years.
Yes, you recently found out you’ve qualified for the 2020 Ultraman Australia event, which will take place on the Sunshine Coast from 9th – 11th May. This is an elite, invitation-only event, extended to only 50 athletes! How did you feel when you found out you’d been accepted?
Being accepted to race Ultraman Australia, just wow! With the selection process being limited to only 50 athletes that apply from all over the world, and even with my qualifying time and racing background, I was still not guaranteed an entry. The morning I received the email with my invitation, I was just blown away – so many emotions – excited, overwhelmed, nervous and super proud of myself. I set myself a goal three years ago; I worked terribly hard to achieve it, so to get my invitation, let’s say I’m pretty stoked!
Certainly not for the faint-hearted, the Ultraman event consists of a 10 km swim, 421.1 km cycle leg and an 84.3 km run. What’s your training plan?
Ultraman will definitely be no walk in the park and will be my hardest race to date.
Ultraman Australia is held over three days. Day 1 consists of a 10 km swim followed by a 140 km ride. Day 2 is a 280 km ride and Day 3 is an 84 km run, with a cut off time of 12 hours for each day. It is also all self-supported, with you relying on your support crew assistance through the race, e.g. with nutrition supply.
At the moment, the level of training is nowhere near what is to come. Closer to the race from January/February, a lot of my training will definitely be focusing on building to the large distances required for this race, so there will be a lot of eight to nine-hour training rides, five to six-hour training runs and three-hour swims.
As one of the few women, and the only Port Mac local, I believe, who’ll be competing in this event, what’s your advice to other ladies looking to set some benchmarks in their fields?
Yes, generally only a small number of women compete – around seven or eight, and as far as I’m aware, I’m the first Port local to ever compete in the event.
I’m really proud of my sporting achievements over the years. I’m so grateful that even at age 42, my body enables me to do such amazing things. I honestly believe that setting myself sporting goals and working on them has also reflected in my everyday life. I feel more confident, happier and healthier than I felt even in my teens!
My advice to women of any age is to believe in yourself! Whatever your goal, with hard work, persistence and determination, you can do it. Never let anyone determine and limit the dreams you chase in life.
Whom would you like to thank for helping you achieve your goals to date?
I give so much thanks to my husband, Jim, and son Isaac; they have continually supported me with every goal I set out to achieve. The amount of time required for training and recovery can really eat into family/social time – especially when you also work full-time. Not once have they complained; their support in training and on race days has been incredible – even with them both being athletes themselves and having their own training and work commitments, they still go above and beyond to ensure I have the support I need.
That’s why these two amazing men will be my support crew come the event, alongside Melinda Cockshutt from Her Coach-His Coach, family friend and now my coach, who’s helping me prepare for this race.
The team at Foher sporting apparel; these guys are a company based in Queensland run by two amazing women, Hannah and Kylie. They’re super passionate about women in sport, and I have been privileged to be a part of their ambassador programme for the past two years.
And, a huge thank you to Deb MacKenzie from Back to Normal Massage. Deb has been my sport masseuse for about 18 months, generously sponsored me for my last Ironman and is kindly sponsoring me for my Ultraman journey.
Thanks, Rachele – good luck! We’ll catch up with you after the event, to see how you fared.
Interview: Jo Robinson.