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Just One of the Guys in Australia

By Renee Tomlin | Feb. 20, 2015, 2:04 p.m. (ET)

VanThe last time I was in Australia I was living in a van with my better half and traveling the coastline from the Whitsunday Islands down to the Great Ocean Road. We covered roughly 7,000 kilometers during this 1-month escape from reality. And it wasn’t until this journey and break from my single sport of competitive running that I realized I needed a change.

It was actually here in Torquay, Victoria, that I decided to actively pursue triathlon. I wanted to continue to run competitively; I had so much more to give. It just took some deeper reflection to realize it was time to transfer this energy over to the sport of triathlon, a sport in which I see larger potential to grow as a professional athlete. Coincidentally, last year’s time spent in Torquay and Geelong was an investment of immeasurable return as it marked the location of our latest training camp now a member of USAT’s Collegiate Recruitment Program.

Renee Tomlin BikeThe return to Australia, especially to Torquay and Geelong, was something very special. It was here that the wheels started to turn figuratively. Now, of course, they’re spinning literally with the support of USA Triathlon, Team Psycho, HED, and Litespeed bikes.

The journey began Feb. 8 when coach Jarrod Evans and training partners Nick Karwoski, Josh Izewski, Robby Webster and I boarded our flight to Auckland, New Zealand. Before kicking off our training camp in Geelong, we planned to race a super sprint Continental Cup in Takapuna — a suburban city just outside of Auckland. I knew the race would be on another level of intensity given the short distance, but I was excited to keep the ball rolling after my opener in Cuba. I ended up third overall and learned some major lessons on the bike leg regarding gear selection, strategy and the overall demands of competition.

I carried these lessons with me to Geelong, Victoria — the site of our 3-week training camp. There we settled into the Riverglen Holiday Park cabins next to the Barwon River and got down to business. “Be careful running down by the river: there are tiger snakes down there,” Jarrod warned us upon arrival. I smiled; knowing there were a number of dangerous animals lurking about the Australian continent. Given it was our first day I figured Mother Nature wouldn’t want to spook us just yet. But without fail, only minutes after starting our run, Nick and I high jumped straight over one of these deadly offenders. My heart rate skyrocketed into the mid 200s and then Hugh Jackman flashed before my eyes: “Welcome to ‘Straya.”
To prep for upcoming races, we focused on sustained bike efforts, transitions, and added a bit of surf-swimming into the mix. I couldn’t have asked for a better training environment than what the cities of Geelong and Torquay had to offer. Not to mention, their abundant supply of Tim Tams and yo-yos made it easy to want to stay.Stadium

On top of training & fitness gains, we were lucky enough to squeeze time in to explore sections of Melbourne, Philip Island, and even tour the Geelong Cat’s AFL stadium and meet the team. Breaking up the training and racing routine with these experiences helped give a little balance to such a focused lifestyle. It’s amazing how channeled you become on swim, bike, run and recovery. Taking a step outside this life and into that of an AFL player’s, or even playing tourist, is necessary to keep the mind fresh and offer perspective.
After this three-week block of training in Geelong, our group made its way north to Wollongong, Queensland, the site of the next Continental Cup race for my CRP teammates. For me, however, this week marked my final preparation before the World Cup race in Mooloolaba. Heading into three weeks of back-to-back races, I felt lucky to take advantage of the mellow beach environment Wollongong provided. At dusk I’d go for a dip in the ocean to catch the last of the day’s surf break. And at night I’d lay on the picnic table to gaze up at the Southern Cross and full moon.
Renee Tomlin Training Crew
Although I would’ve been happy to stay in Wollongong, I was looking forward to the Mooloolaba World Cup and to reuniting with Kirsten Kasper, my training partner-in-crime. Kirsten’s arrival to Australia had been postponed due to a major crash only two days before her departure. She took the next four weeks to heal and recover while I spent those four weeks as the only thorn traveling with four roses. As we pulled out of Wollongong en route to the Sydney airport, I cherished my last moment as “just one of the guys.” I had just spent the past month living, training, and traveling with four of the best guys out there. Josh, Robby, Nick and Jarrod made that month one of my most memorable. I’m forever grateful for their inclusion, support, and continual light-hearted laugher.

Every Australian adventure has brought something new into my life. The first trip brought triathlon to the table. The second: my triathlon family.