Balancing baby, home and career commitments are hard enough for any new mum but when you are an elite athlete with an intensive training schedule and who clocks up more frequent flyer points than you care to think about, life throws in a few additional challenges.
Setting the bar high for parents across the globe are triathlon Super Mums Radka Kahlefeldt (Vodičková) and Caroline Steffen whose rapid returns to competition and the winner’s circle have astounded the athletic world and mums and dads everywhere.
Radka and Caroline’s lives have been in parallel for the past two years and the proud mums of 12-month-old Ruby and 13-month-old Xander, are heading to the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong on 17 February to resume their battles on the field and compare baby stories off course.
Radka won the IRONMAN 70.3 Davao, Philippines last March, only 11 weeks after giving birth and in 2018 she and baby Ruby jet-setted the globe winning at IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, Cebu, Western Sydney and Taupo, a 2nd place to Ashleigh Gentle in the Nepean Triathlon, 3rd at the Noosa Triathlon and 5th at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in South Africa.
Likewise, Caroline, two time World Longcourse champ and multiple podium finisher at the IRONMAN World Championship returned to racing four months after giving birth to Xander with a 3rd place at IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, 2nd place at IRONMAN 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in Cebu, before clocking up wins at IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast, Wenzhou and Shanghai and a triumphant return to full distance racing at IRONMAN Western Australia.
After a Christmas break and the celebration of Ruby’s first birthday in January, the Czech born and Sydney based Radka is back in training and keen to kick off 2019 with a win.
“Last year was such a strong year for me, so strong that I can’t believe it. When I was writing down my results I started thinking…wow. It was such a crazy year that I didn’t have time to take it all in. It was amazing and nice to finish off with a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo. I hadn’t seen much of New Zealand so I got to see the beautiful Taupo, check out the venue of the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships and I got the win as well.”
“It was a great Christmas with the whole Kahlefeldt family and my mum who travelled from Europe to see us, so it was wonderful. Ruby had her birthday in January and we had a big party. It was good and she loves the attention. We were singing happy birthday and she was doing a dance like she had heard it before. So, I think she loved it. It was great to have an offseason to relax and do mum things but now it is good to get back into it and start training properly. Like everyone, the first week back at work is super hard.”
“I raced in Geelong in 2016 and was third behind Melissa Hauschildt and Annabel Luxford so I know Geelong well and I really liked the course and the race. I think it is good to have Geelong early in the season as a motivation to get back into the training. I don’t know what kind of race shape I am in or where the others are in their preparation. The first race of the year is always the unknown, so we will see,” Radka said.
The Swiss-born Caroline’s offseason consisted of plenty of time with the family in her home in Port Macquarie, the celebration of a few firsts for Xander, and one session a day to keep moving before easing back into full training and her long-awaited return to Geelong.
“I had my dad over in Australia for the first time for Christmas and my mum is coming in February. It was cool to have my family here for Christmas and after the win in Busselton I deserved a little break and I really enjoyed it. I was 100 per cent focused on having time with Xander and his first birthday came up, his first Christmas and New Year. Everything was his first one. It was all about him so we didn’t go anywhere and was happy to stay at home spending time with family.”
“Geelong was actually my first pro race that I won. Craig Alexander and I won in 2010 and I haven’t been back to Geelong since then. It was an important win for me that got me started and here I am years later and I am still doing it. I was always hoping to return but the race didn’t fit into my schedule at the time, I wasn’t fit enough or it was too early or something. My mum is going to be here in February so I will take her down, take her for a tour of the area and have some family time. She will be looking after Xander will I am racing, so it is going to be good.”
“I am really excited to be going back to Geelong. I have such good memories of that race. I was thinking ‘Oh my god, what am I doing here. I am in the lead’. As far as I remember it was a great venue and a nice little spot to get away. Geelong is easy for me to travel to, it is a nice area and I love Melbourne which is nearby,” Caroline said.
Caroline said that having all the new mums on the IRONMAN circuit has added a new dimension to racing and she is excited to be racing Radka again and getting the two toddlers reacquainted.
“We made a list and I think there were 22 of us last year who had babies, so a creche at the races would be good, we could drop off the bags and the babies at the check-in. It is great. I am in contact with all the girls and we don’t talk about racing anymore, we talk nappies and food and baby stuff. Xander and Ruby know each other already. They have been together in Vietnam, in the Philippines and we always try and get them together.”
“Radka and I have raced each other heaps before and it has been a big change for both of us. She had an unbelievable season last year with all the wins and it was impressive how fast she was. She hadn’t beaten me before I fell pregnant, but I haven’t beaten her since we have had the babies. I feel like I am faster than I used to be before the baby but she is on another level to what she used to be. So it is going to be a good battle and will make for a great race in Geelong,” Caroline said.