Every so often you meet someone who’s managed to overcome adversity and turn their life around – and Jules Mackin is one such person! After a personal health scare, Jules discovered she loves being fit and healthy, and inspires and encourages others to be the same. She’s also discovered she loves competing in triathlon events … and what’s more, she’s very good at it!
Hi Jules. Where are you from originally, and what brought you to Port Macquarie?
I was born in the UK, Chester, located in the Northwest of England. I came backpacking in 2003 and have lived in Australia ever since. After travelling for one year, I settled down in Manly, where I lived before relocating to Port Macquarie about eight months ago. We moved to Port for a sea change, more space, a change of pace and because I have a special connection with the iconic Australian Ironman event.
What are your thoughts about the area so far?
Port Macquarie is a lovely place; the environment is beautiful – the oceans, the canals, the lakes and walks. Luckily, being an active person really does help with moving to a new area. I have joined Port Macquarie Triathlon Club, which has been a great. I have met so many amazing people and made some good friends. The club has a really good vibe and caters for families, the community and all levels of triathletes, which I love. I have also joined local running groups and yoga classes, as well as Port West Rotary club.
And you’ve had to overcome some personal health issues recently, which can’t have been easy …
Yes, it was a very tough time. In 2008 I was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at the age of 31 years; it was pretty devastating news and certainly took a lot of positive thinking and strength to overcome. I couldn’t have survived without my friends in Australia. Two of my friends in particular, Cathy and Dean, were like my angels. I am forever grateful to them.
After my surgery to remove the tumour, I spent a week in hospital, before being sent home to recover and rest. During these weeks I had a lot of time to think about my life and what I wanted to do, especially as I had been given a second chance. I realised that I was no longer motivated by material things. I was interested in health, wellbeing and fitness, and I had a strong desire to encourage and inspire others. Having said this, I also think it is important to find work that is stimulating and where you use your skills and experiences to help others.
What led you to consider triathlon as a sport?
I guess the short response would be I like a challenge! After my health scare, I studied fitness and obtained qualifications in this field. I started my own personal training business. I took part in various running events, such as 5 km, 10 km and half marathons. I was living life; I became a run mentor and coach. During this time I was surrounded by many fit and active friends, a number of whom were competing in triathlons. I was inspired, but had to learn to swim (from scratch) in order to complete a triathlon. I did learn to swim with a lot of help from triathlon coaches and friends and did my first triathlon in Noosa in 2010.
Describe your first triathlon event …
Noosa Olympic distance 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run was challenging, especially as the day before the swim they called a non-wetsuit swim, and I had done all of my open water training in a wetsuit! The atmosphere during the build-up and on race day was amazing. Noosa certainly know how to put on an event. Crossing the finish line was the best feeling ever – surviving the swim and finishing my first triathlon felt awesome.
You’ve since competed in a number of Ironman events – what have been some of the highlights?
I’ve completed four Ironman events, all of which have been here in Port Macquarie. A particular highlight has to be my first one in 2012; there is no better feeling than competing in your first Ironman. Before the event I had not swam 3.8 km in open waters or cycled 180 km, so it was the unknown. I cried into my goggles at the start of the swim, as I was so overwhelmed with nerves and excitement.
Nevertheless, I had an amazing day and managed to finish in under 12 hours – finishing was the main goal, so to get a fairly good time was a bonus!
You recently competed in the 2015 Toyota Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie. What was so special about this event for you?
I recently completed Ironman Australia 2015 in a time of 11 hours 15 minutes and 54 seconds; I was very happy with this result. It was surprising to hear that I was the first local female over the line too!
The weather leading up to Sunday’s event was awful, with sideways winds and torrential rain; it looked like hit and miss as to whether it would be on or not. However, Sunday morning fined up and the race was on, despite the river being very brown and full of debris.
I had a tough swim, as I got hit in the face by another swimmer’s leg and hit a few times by arms! I remember thinking at that point, “Do I have a black eye? Should I pull out now?” Swimming up to the pier, I got stuck in amongst the crowds and had to tread water for a while; it wasn’t ideal, but I just had to keep focused on the task ahead and finish this awful swim!
In transition 1 I was met by friendly faces and a friend of mine, Ros, helped me out of my wetsuit. This gave me a little buzz before heading out onto the bike! I had a great bike leg, although on the second lap of the bike the wind did pick up, so my idea of going under six hours slipped away. I ended on six hours five minutes, which I was fairly happy with given the conditions and that I had so much energy left to run.
I absolutely loved the run; I felt fresh and enjoyed every moment. The amount of support from friends and locals was awesome!
I finished the marathon in three hours fifty minutes; I was pretty pleased, as I finished with energy and a real desire to do it again! I will never forget this day, as I felt so strong and healthy all day, and being the first local female over the line was the icing on the cake!
Do you have, or are you looking for, any sponsors?
I do not have any sponsors, and I would be very grateful if any bike stores, brands or triathlon companies would be willing to sponsor me.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
At the moment I’m enjoying some down time; I am hoping to do Port Half either as an individual or in a team, participate in club races, and take on a peaks cycle challenge and then build up to the Port Macquarie Ironman 2016.
Interview by Jo Atkins.