Nicole van der Kaay (Taupo) writes as she approaches her first ITU World Cup race this weekend in Mooloolaba on Australia's Sunshine Coast.
As some of you may know, I've been out of the racing scene for a while due to injury. Long story short, I am two years on from a prolonged Navicular Stress Fracture (in the foot) including two sets of six weeks of non-weight baring casting and six weeks in a moon boot, and I now have one extra screw in my body holding the fracture in place.
With the help and support of Tri NZ, a hefty rehabilitation programme from the most caring but brutal (sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind) and experienced physiotherapist out - thanks Rone, and my masseuse Dale McClunie continually beating out my calves to keep me in one piece, I recently had my first race back in my home town of Kinloch.
To my delight I performed above my expectations, finishing second overall in the Oceania Continental Cup event. It was incredible the amount of home town support and encouragement I had out on the killer bike course and having my family and friends there to see and experience my first race with me made it super special.
This result prompted my coach Jon Brown and Tri NZ High Performance Director Graeme Maw, to enter me into my first ITU World Cup, to be held in Mooloolaba this weekend. Words cannot describe how happy and privileged I feel to be selected to once again represent New Zealand, let alone being back on the Triathlon racing scene.
This will be my first time racing against some of the best in the world, of all ages, and majority of which competed and placed top eight in the WTS held in Abu Dhabi last weekend. Obviously the nerves are heightened but I'm looking forward to another challenge and I plan on using my surf swim skills to my advantage.
My goal is to gain experience racing against the best, and see what I can do in comparison to them. This will hopefully the first of many World Cups which will help me progress into racing World Triathlon Series in 2017, then targeting the 2018 Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast with the ultimate goal of Olympic representation in Tokyo 2020.
So again a big thanks to all who have helped me through these past 18 months or so, most notably wonder physio Rone Thompson, magical masseuse Dale McClunie, coach Jon Brown and the Tri NZ support staff and athletes - and of course my friends and family for their never ending support and encouragement.