Catherine Thiele came third in her age group at Ironman Melbourne.  Photo:
Catherine Thiele came third in her age group at Ironman Melbourne. Photo:

Gale force winds prove perfect for Catherine Thiele

HOWLING winds. Big seas. For most Ironman Melbourne competitors, the conditions were atrocious.

For Mooloolaba's Catherine Thiele it all added up to perfection.

Despite the treacherous conditions, everything came together for a faultless race.

With a swim time in the shortened distance of 1.9km in 26.16, a personal best 180km bike performance of 5:20:21, following by a storming 3:35:08 run, her time of 9:27:40 was good enough for third in the 35-39 year category. It also earned her a qualification spot for the Kona world championships in October.

"What I was most excited about was my run time," she said.

"I always knew I had that run in me but I didn't know how to go about it. I have tried, I've done a 3:40 and a 3:45 and I always wanted to get into the 3:30s.

"When my husband Bruce and my friend Kasey (Willoughby), who came down to watch, when they told me my splits I was most excited about that.

"I was happy about Kona too but I was so happy I had a perfect race."

For the teacher and mother of two (aged four and six) it was her seventh ironman.

Her last ironman event was the world championships where she finished in just over 11 hours.

While it was a successful journey to Victoria, the finish in Melbourne wasn't without great challenges - especially in the swim.

"It was really choppy and rough. In that 1.9k (swim) I drank so much water," she said.

"I actually laughed at some stages. I can swim in the surf being brought up on the Sunshine Coast, but for those people who live in Victoria I thought they are going to get nailed because they aren't used to this. You had to laugh otherwise you would cry."

Out on the bike there were "crazy strong winds" which blew the competitors sideways along with some tough head winds, but there were also some nice sections on the ultra-smooth highways with hefty tail winds.

"Living on the Sunshine Coast we are exposed to some pretty wild winds here, especially around Coolum. It was tough but it suited how I like to ride," Catherine said.

Her bike time was about 25 minutes better than any previous ironman ride.

The marathon started with the first 20km protected from the elements, but the second half was a challenge with head winds.

With Kona now in the bank, the pressure is on husband Bruce (and Catherine's coach) to deliver when he races at Port Macquarie on May 5 so they can compete together on the Big Island.