It's been a year to remember for Lizzie Orchard.
The 30-year old Aucklander was crowned champion in her first three Professional XTERRA races at the start of the year and she finished second at the Asia-Pacific Tour Championship in Malaysia earlier this month.
Orchard started the season off with victory in her first XTERRA major in the Philippines. She then went on to win the XTERRA New Zealand Championship in Rotorua, before topping the podium at the Asia-Pacific Championships in New South Wales. She said winning on home soil in Rotorua was a great feeling.
"It was really, really good. It was awesome to do it with family and friends around. My partner was with me in the Philippines which was amazing, so it was just as great to win with all my family and friends in Rotorua as well. Mum and Dad were there, as well as my brother and his girlfriend. I also had a few friends who were actually doing the race too, so that was cool."
In November last year, Orchard finished a commendable fifth place in a stacked field at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui. She said she couldn't have asked for a better start to 2016.
"The last race I did before the Philippines was the World Championships in November. So it had been a good three months between then and the Philippines. It was a good three months of training during our amazing New Zealand summer and the training must have paid off. Rotorua, New South Wales and Malaysia were all really close together. It was three races in about four weekends, so it was bang, bang, bang. I needed to have a good training base behind me for those races because I wanted to do well in all of those events, and luckily I did."
Orchard has a Bachelor of Technology (Food) with Honours, from Massey University and she works part-time for a company in Auckland.
"I have been working part-time for about a year now and I think that may be one of the major reasons why this past at least six months has really started to go well. I am reaping the benefits of working part-time. It still means I have to get leave during the year though, but my work is really flexible and they have been really helpful so far."
The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour champion had a break after returning from Malaysia and she will take a bit more time to decide what to do between now and the XTERRA World Championships in Maui in October and the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships at Lake Crackenback, Australia in November.
"There's not a lot of time between the two World Champs, which is great because I can get a good training base in and then do a couple of races during that time and then peak for the two big ones. It's a great location for the Kiwis because Australia isn't too far away. We had a pretty big team at the Cross Tri World Champs last year and they were in Italy, so hopefully we can get an even bigger team this year. All the XTERRA races until then are in the United States or Europe, so whatever I decide to do I'll have to save up and do a trip."
The ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships are 19-20 November 2016 at the Snowy Mountains, Australia. Tri NZ High Performance are calling for expressions of interest for both the individual and relay elite events.