This weekend, Melbourne's Kate Gillespie-Jones will make her Ironman World Championship debut amongst the world's best professional triathletes in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
The historic solo women's race on Saturday will be the 32-year-old's first time competing at triathlon's pinnacle event. Gillespie-Jones qualified by placing fifth in her inaugural Ironman in Cairns earlier this year.
"I'm feeling really excited. It's only just dawned on me that I'll be on the start line with the best Ironman athletes in the world," said Gillespie-Jones. "It will be hard not to fan girl athletes like Daniella Ryf."
While admitting "some irrational fear of saunas," Gillespie-Jones has been training in Melbourne's cooler temperatures with heat-adapting strategies to prepare.
After a 13-game AFLW career, Gillespie-Jones quickly found a new obsession in triathlon's endurance training and adventures. "I love endurance training and the adventure side of it and all the places you can see on long rides and runs and open water swims," she said.
Her successful Ironman debut in Cairns brought the thrill of qualifying for Kona. "When you are training for an Ironman you sort of get tunnel vision and it didn’t really hit me until a few days after the race that I had finished my first Ironman and qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona," said Gillespie-Jones.
While expecting Kona's conditions to be tougher, Gillespie-Jones' goal is to build on her Cairns performance. "I felt limited during the run in Cairns due to stomach issues so hopefully I can get that right this race and run off the bike to my potential," she said.
"I'm really proud to be racing the Ironman World Championship in Kona in my first year as a professional Ironman athlete. This year is all about going to Kona and getting the experience of racing in the tough conditions on the Big Island on the world stage," said Gillespie-Jones.