From Age Grouper to Open Triathlete – Matilda Raynolds talks about making this decision

Matilda Raynolds burst on to the pointy end of the triathlon scene at the recent first round of the new triseries in Forster. Passing Nicole Ward on the run leg to take second place in the Olympic distance race, Matilda showed that she has plenty of talent posting a very handy 38:46 run in only her

Matilda Raynolds burst on to the pointy end of the triathlon scene at the recent first round of the new triseries in Forster. Passing Nicole Ward on the run leg to take second place in the Olympic distance race, Matilda showed that she has plenty of talent posting a very handy 38:46 run in only her 5th attempt at this distance. Trizone caught up with Matilda after a training session at the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre in Sydney where she is preparing for the Gold Coast Half Ironman, which will be her second attempt at the distance.

We took the opportunity to find out more about this up and coming star and talked about her triathlon dreams and how she is going about achieving them. I grew up in Braidwood (3 hours south of Sydney) on a beef farm with three brothers. I went to school at Frensham in Mittagong where I played almost every team sport I could and I also did a lot of running. Running is the background that gave me the confidence to get in to triathlon.

Before arriving in Sydney in 2007 to study at the Australian College of Physical Education Matilda spent eight months in South Africa teaching at a school for indigenous South Africans, two hours north of Durban. This experience had a profound effect on Matilda and is one of the many things that have shaped the person she is today. While in South Africa Matilda was involved in raising money from tourists to build a library for the school she was teaching at.

Just days before leaving South Africa Matilda witnessed an event that continues to have a lasting impact on her. While staying and working at David Rattray’s lodge at Rorke’s Drift, KwaZulu-Natal, a gang entered the lodge and in the ensuing scuffle David was killed by a single shot fired by one of the gang members. David Rattray devoted much of his life to the study of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, to the reconciliation of the peoples of South Africa and to the promotion of the Zulu people around the world (

On returning to Australia Matilda first lived in North Sydney before moving to the Eastern Suburbs. “I moved to in to a house of triathletes. Before long I found myself at a Bondi Fit training session and had my first ‘Spot Anderson’ coaching experience. I started with a running session and went out too hard at the start. Spot made me continue running at that pace and I learnt my first lesson about starting slow and building. I owe a lot to Spot Anderson. He is a tough coach but has been instrumental in getting me to where I am today.

Spot has ensured Matilda has become much more focused, guiding her through all of her training over the last two years. “Spot is a coach I always want to impress. He has been an inspiration to me both as a coach and an athlete. He does everything himself as well so it is hard to argue any of his points. I believe in Spot’s practices and I probably have a love/hate relationship with his training mantras. One in particular rain, hail, shine, dust storms, huge seas, training is always on’ really encompasses the training ethics we have at Bondi Fit. Bondi Fit is a great group of people and we all enjoy training and socialising together, probably seeing far too much of each other.

There is one person that Matilda trains with who is a big part of her current success. “I train with Siobhan McCarthy for most of my sessions. She can at times be my biggest competition which can sometimes make training a little tense, but when we can push each other we both benefit. Siobhan has become one of my best friends and we really just want the best for each other, I have no doubt that she will make triathlon a successful career. Siobhan raced in the Pro Tour at Forster and also come in fourth in the Olympic distance race on the Sunday. She posted the fastest run time in the pro tour race.

Having just completed her first season of committed winter training one of the main things Matilda learnt was to turn up to all sessions. “I worked out over winter that even if you are not mentally or physically up to a training session at least turn up and start. This has put me in a good frame of mind for the next phase of my sporting career”. Matilda can be doing up to two 3  ½ hr bike sessions during the working week. “I have also come through winter with no injuries. This has happened because I have listened to Spot and backed off when he told me to. I have now learnt to train at 80% and maintain a threshold which has increased over time. I now know when I am going too hard and know my times. Spot has really drummed this in to me.

Matilda also attributes her success to her upbringing “I am really fortunate to come from a really good family who have instilled a really strong set of core principles that I take with me everywhere. I was one of those kids that didn’t do anything wrong, though there is still plenty of time (We haven’t verified this with Mr and Mrs Raynolds but we will take Matilda’s word for it). Although my family are still trying to understand what triathlon is all about”. The first triathlon attended by Matilda’s parents (Canberra Half IM 2009) ended up with her Dad in the recovery tent, receiving treatment for a broken thumb sustained while getting over-excited watching her race!

So far Matilda has completed one half ironman and 5 Olympic distance triathlons plus a few sprint races such as Kurnell and Huskisson. Coming first in her age group at the 2009 Canberra Half Ironman and 2nd open female at the recent triseries Olympic distance race at Forster are the highlights of her career. Running down Nicole Ward at Forster to come 2nd to Lisa Marangon, two female triathletes that Matilda has immense respect for. ‘It was almost surreal racing against these girls that I hold in such high esteem. I couldn’t believe that I was there lining up beside them and then competing. I am still pinching myself.

“I am focusing on long course with 70.3 as my main race of choice. I enjoy the Olympic distance but my running really kicks in on the longer races. My swim is still not quite up to Lisa and Nicole’s and in Olympic distance the swim is comparatively longer. I am really working harder than last season on my swim and am now doing six sessions a week.

Work/Life balance is now a big part of Matilda’s life as she has strives to step up and become a professional triathlete. She recently changed her work hours with her employer SKINS to accommodate more training. “I feel very fortunate to say that I really enjoy my job,. They are an amazing company and they treat their employees very well. They have been very gracious in allowing me to reduce my work hours to allow me to train more. Working for a company that produces a product that I truly believe in has been a dream come true. The innovation, research and development and testing that I see behind the scenes is incredible. It makes it very easy to be the marketing assistant for SKINS responsible for exhibitions and strategic relationships with athletes and partners. This work experience has helped me to understand what an athlete needs to do to support sponsors and give them a return on their investment. This will help me immensely in the future when I am racing as a professional. This is one area that a lot of the top athletes struggle with. I know what it required which is why I am confident of delivering at a later date.

I now have more of a 60/40 work/training split and this is helping as I build to the Gold Coast half ironman next weekend and also Canberra Half IM, Noosa and Nepean later this year. I decided to move from age group to open for the Gold Coast Half Ironman after my 2nd place at Forster. I know I am jumping in the deep end and racing athletes like Nicole Ward and Michelle Wu at this distance is going to be a whole new ball game. I will learn some lessons but I need to do this to push me to the next level.

Matilda is clearly very nervous about stepping up, and the Gold Coast Half IM is her first race where she has set herself a goal and expectations. Previously she has turned up and just raced as hard as she could. Now Matilda has a plan and knows how she is going to tackle this triathlon. At 23 she has time on her side, she is not worried about making mistakes but has a plan that will hopefully limit them.

The 2010/2011 triathlon season is all about Matilda learning where she sits amongst the top athletes in both half ironman and Olympic distance. For the first time she is really starting to think about the prospect of racing as a professional, and is excited by the prospect. She will make the call at the end of this season.