Anonymity is something on the national scene Dr Rachael Smith used to enjoy, however her 4:17 at the recent Busselton 70.3 certainly has got a few tongues wagging around the country, although none of the WA locals are surprised. Rachael has been a very fast girl on the swim, bike & run for the past few seasons. She is the current state champion and record holder for the State 80km Time Trial (2:04:46/39.32km/h) and finished the second female overall at the inaugural Albany Trek Half Ironman in December.
Born 1975, Rachael is a Kiwi native from central South Island NZ, brought up on a sheep farm 2 hours south and inland from Christchurch. Rachael played various team sports through school and university including hockey, touch rugby, squash, and did a few social fun runs, but horse’s and horse riding were her passion from a very young age.
Rachael studied Veterinary Science at Massey University, one of New Zealand’s largest universities and graduated in 1998. After graduation Rachael worked in a Equine (horse)/Dairy practice in the Waikato region of New Zeland’s North Island, sport including social running.
Eventually circumstances in her Veterinary profession led her to her now home town of Perth to take up a position in post graduate specialist training in Equine Surgery at Murdoch University.
It was in Perth that Rachael discovered triathlon, starting in the Busso Half and IMWA in 2005, where she qualified and competed in Kona 2006.
TriZone caught up with the very fast and not so anonymous (anymore) Rachael Smith
TriZone: Usual first up question. Triathlon, how did it find you?
Rachael: I went to a bike shop to buy a commuter bike (given I’d always worked and lived in rural farming areas it was a very novel thing to be able to ride a bike to work) it was there that instead of buying a hybrid commuter bike I ended up with a second hand road bike, and signed up for a beginners triathlon training course at the start of 2003.
I dibbled and dabbled at the start and hated swimming! For a few years work took precedent with long hours of clinic work and study. In 2005 I did my first Olympic distance, first half ironman (Busso 2005) and first ironman (Busso IM), under then coach Andrew Budge. It was here I qualified for Kona and took my spot under the insistence of friends, at this stage not really knowing the significance of or anything about Kona. I competed in Kona 2006, after which I had a couple of years break due to having to prepare for my certifying specialist exams in the United States in Equine Surgery.
TriZone: You had a fair break from the sport since 2006, how long ago did you get back into it, we see you raced in the Pro ranks in 2011?
Rachael: In the 2010/2011 season I started training more regularly, and now I train under coach Raf Baugh, mainly working on my run. Cycling had always been my strength and swimming my weakness. I have had a steady improvement in results since that time with good age group results, juggling busy work and social schedule with training.
I raced the 2010/2011 Triathlon WA state series in the Open category and due to confusion with the age group vs open vs pro categories when Busso became a 70.3 race in 2011, all Open Triathlon WA athletes were encouraged to get their pro license, due to this I raced Singapore and Busso 2011 70.3 under a NZ pro license, performing fairly but lacked confidence and form at that time.
TriZone: You had an outstanding result at Busso 70.3 knocking out a 4:17 which was the fastest female on the day, describe your day?
Rachael: I had some good races in the lead up and Busso was my key event for the season. The course really plays to my strengths being it’s a wetsuit swim, it’s a flat bike course which means I can really grind out a good consistent pace, without any breaks for climbing etc, and then that type of riding doesn’t really affect my run.
In the swim I was lucky enough to get on Matt Illingworth’s feet (Matt was also racing Open), I hung with Matt for the 2/3’s of the swim until he dropped me at the last turning buoy. When I came out of T1 on to the bike course the roads were empty as the Pro’s had already gone (the Open wave fits in between the Pro’s and Age Groupers) and Matt and most of the Open guys had already gone up the road.
I spent the first lap trying to thaw out as the weather was so cold and get in some type of rhythm. On the 2nd lap the course started to fill up with age groupers and I concentrated on riding to heart rate and catching the other girls in the Open wave.
I knew when I got off the bike that I was in the lead in the Open category so I really tried to settle into a good rhythm and enjoy the run as it’s a course filled with many local supporters, friends and training buddies, it’s like a 21 km party. I achieved my pre-race aims of winning the open category, getting a PB and enjoying the day.
TriZone: Any reason why you didn’t race in the Pro Wave?
Rachael: I didn’t consider racing in the Pro field as I don’t have a Pro license and I had raced open all season as part of the WA Triathlon Open Series championship, the last race of the series includes Busso.
TriZone: Any ambition to step back into the pro ranks?
Rachael: I do triathlon, running and time trialing for social competitive fun and an outlet from what can sometimes be a stressful job. We have a fantastic, social and talented triathlon community here in Perth, everyone knows each other.
I’ve trained hard for the last couple of years and have enjoyed some good results and achieved personal goals of self-improvement. I’m not motivated to be a full time professional triathlete. I have a rewarding career, and I already function on a knife edge with fitting in work, relationship, training, social life and family and friends.
TriZone: We’ve had friends that have completed their Veterinary Studies, we know from them that it’s a demanding course and profession. How do you find that all important work/life/training balance?
Rachael: My work is quite physically and mentally demanding, working full-time as an Equine Surgeon (surgery of horses) at the Equine Centre, Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital, which is mainly a referral equine hospital. I also teach and lecture on the subject of equine surgery, and the job includes a demanding after hour’s roster for emergencies.
Triathlon is very much my social life, and outlet from work. But I still enjoy training hard to be competitive. My partner Rich and I both love the sport and we have a great bunch of friends and training buddies in the triathlon community here in Perth. This makes the 4.30- 4.45am starts before work for training, and after work sessions a whole lot easier to get to. Still the long days of training and work can be draining, and for me personally not sustainable for month in month out, so I’ve tried to focus on one or two key races a season to get up for.
TriZone:- I see you had a stint in Europe last year, how did you end up there?
Rachael: In 2012 whilst using part of my long service leave, I travelled to France with fellow athlete Thomas Bruins and coach Raf Baugh to compete in the French Duathlon Grand Prix series for the Metz Duathlon Team. This went for a 5 week period, finishing with the European Long Course Duathlon Championships (Powerman Holland) in Horst Holland where I finished 7th women overall.
TriZone:- Tell me about your Coach Raf Baugh, how has he helped you to become such a fast athlete?
Rachael: Raf has been my coach and mentor for the past few years, and integral into the development of my running and confidence to train and compete at higher levels. Raf, having been a world class duathlete for many years has a wealth of experience and passion for the sport, and his intuitive and engaging coaching methods, particularly training within his group of ‘like minded’ athletes, have seen me slowly go from strength to strength in the ride and run, and I can’t thank him enough. I’m a goal driven person, love competing and being fit and healthy so triathlon accommodates many of these characteristics.
TriZone:- Any supporters or sponsors you wish to thank?
Rachael: I don’t really have any official sponsors but Ride Advice Cyclery, Milligan Street, Perth (Steve Rukavina and Carlo Barendilla) have helped me out with a Specialized Shiv S-Works (which I love!) and have been a fantastic support for me and my racing, as have Raf Baugh and Jason Nuttman from The Running Centre, West Perth. My work and my career have always been my priority, and it is important to me that triathlon remains my fun time away from work[RS3] , the guys at Ride Advice, and The Running Centre are good friends, and don’t put any pressure or obligation on me which I really value.
TriZone:- So what’s Next for you?
Rachael: Cairns 70.3, I entered Cairns 70.3 months ago in age group, a group of us are going up to do it as part of a holiday, and fun trip. I was hoping to do the City to Surf Marathon here in Perth late August so I can reduce my swimming for a while (Sorry Stu!) and concentrate on running which is more fun in the colder weather. Then Powerman Malaysia (Duathlon) in KL at the start of November and maybe one of the Challenge Half Ironman races next year, and always Busso Half…it’s our local end of season celebration race .
TriZone:- Thanks Rachael, good luck!