BY JODI BRYANT
Three Whangarei women from a small local triathlon club are joining a team of 64 athletes to represent New Zealand in the Multisport World Championships in Spain this month.
Mandy Edge, her coach Christine Fraser-Kitchen and Fiona Southorn are gearing up to set off to Pontevedra, a city in the northwest of Spain, to represent their age groups in duathlon events. The event runs from April 27-May 5 and is self-funded by the competitors.
Christine has been a group fitness instructor for 34 years and coaches running and triathlons. She began running as a teenager with her mum, who, at 82, still runs and competes.
"I was a very chubby teenager and went into the very popular running boom to lose weight," recalls the 57-year-old grandmother of three. "I found I loved it, lost the weight and became quite good at doing well nationally and overseas, running everything from 1,500 metres on the track to marathons."
After injury struck, the bike and swimming were introduced to the schedule. Triathlons were becoming popular so she dabbled in those and has since represented New Zealand seven times in age group triathlon and duathlon.
"I love to train, I love the journey of the goal. Training with and coaching Mandy has had the added benefits of friendship and motivation," says Christine, who was seven months pregnant while taking part in a half-marathon when the two first encountered.
But it wasn't until Mandy's first stint at world competing in 2015 that the women became solid friends, both vowing to compete until the age of 80 in order to secure a podium finish.
A keen cyclist, Mandy's own journey into competitive multisport events began when she tagged along with her then teenage daughter on a training expedition. She had no intention of taking it seriously herself. However, while encouraging her daughter's training and recuperation from an injury, Mandy caught the multisport bug.
"My daughter Rachyl had been doing triathlons, but she got injured which knocked her back," Mandy explains. "To encourage her, I decided to give it a go and we trained together."
However, Rachyl's injury kept returning and, while she eventually moved onto other interests, Mandy's grew, as did her fitness. She joined the Whangarei Tri Club, which currently has 25 members, including children, and has participated in events locally, nationally and internationally in the ten years since.
"The club has been around for years and people get frightened because they think we're all pros. We're not, none of us are, we're just normal people that train together and it's actually quite therapeutic.
"With owning a business, I couldn't commit to a team at first as I had to work every Saturday," continues Mandy, who owned A'Fare, from the age of 17 until she sold the catering business last year, 37 years later. She now works part-time at Northland Cricket, which allows plenty more time to train.
But despite the extreme workload of being an owner-operator, four years ago, on the downlow, Mandy entered an overseas race. She made the team and is now returning for her third Duathlon World Championships which involve a 5km run, 20km bike ride, finishing with a 2.5km run.
Joining them is team mate and friend Fiona Southorn, who will be competing in the Para-sprint event. Fiona is a New Zealand Paralympic cyclist, who represented New Zealand in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Paralympics. Fiona started running while looking for a way to keep fit without spending hours on the bike.
"My flat mate was entering in the Auckland duathlon champs so I thought I would go along for the ride. I was surprised to see I did reasonably well."
Since then, in between selling real estate full-time at Bream Bay Realty, Fiona has devoted her training towards cycling, track and duathlon world championships, being honoured for her services to cycling in 2017 and making plenty of friends along the way.
Training for the event began before Christmas last year for the ladies and involves two hard weeks of build-up including three hours a day of track, RPM, body balance and weight training, followed by a slower week.
In addition to being well-prepared the three local women are looking forward to exploring Pontevedra in Spain, a city known for its rich architecture and historical buildings.