Nicole Ward on racing as a professional triathlete and holding down a full time job

Nicole Ward, a professional triathlete and corporate professional, challenges the typical pro athlete stereotype with her demanding dual life of work and sport.

Trizone recently caught up with Nicole Ward on her life as a professional triathlete and corporate high flyer. It may surprise many to read that her life, and the life of ‘pros’ like Nicole, is really just like that of the typical age grouper but on (figurative) steroids “not the traditional picture many have of a life of training, relaxing, massages and being on the road.

Born in Melbourne but now living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Nicole who like Pete Jacobs is a member of the successful Warringah Tri club, discovered the world of long distance triathlon when she watched a friend compete in the last Australian Ironman held at Forster in 2005, Nicole was 29 years old at the time, and was quickly hooked on the sport.

Although she does wish she had found the sport earlier, Nicole believes that women peak at around 35-36 years in this sport, and so she is just now coming into her prime seasons.

Soon after starting in the sport Nicole, under the guidance of coach Grant Giles of Aeromax Coaching, was achieving podium finishes, and decided she may as well race under a pro license and receive some financial reward for her hard work. Nicole turned pro after racing the 2006 World Championships at Kona as an age grouper and podium finishes continued to flow including 3rd at the 2009 Busselton half ironman, second at Ironman Japan in the same year, and second at the Yeppoon half ironman also in 2009. Despite racing as a pro Nicole continued with her full time job at Westpac, which meant training had to fit in around her work life, just as with all of us age groupers. She works a 30 hour week and trains 18 “25 hours a week, week in week out, all year round.

A typical day for Nicole involves rising at 4.30am for a training session, going to work, trying to fit in a lunchtime session, or an after work session, and finally getting home at 8.00pm at night. Like many of us she try’s to combine commuting and training sessions running to and from work a couple of times a week, though she wisely avoids cycling to work due to the dangers of the Sydney traffic.

With her partner Bern, who also competes in Ironman, Nicole has to live a very organised life. Meals cooked at the weekend and frozen to be reheated after work which allows her to hit the sack at 9.00pm each night. Not for Nicole the rest and ‘nanny naps’ after the big sessions, or recovery stretches and massages that we imagine pro athletes enjoying.

On the days she is not working Nicole does try and grab an hours rest after training, and ensures she performs stretching sessions every couple of days. Given her frenetic lifestyle Nicole pays particular attention to her nutrition, and ensures she visits the chiro for ‘active release therapy’. She also maintains muscle tissue health through Trigger Point Therapy.

After her first Ironman Nicole’s weight dropped to just 54 kilos, which is pretty light on for a 173cm athlete. Now she is more conscious to balance her protein and carbs, and always ensures she has a muesli bar or protein shake in her bag to be consumed within 10 minutes of finishing a session.

In terms of her plans for the future Nicole aims to keep on with her dual life for at least a couple more years. She will be going to Kona again this year, though this time to support Bern. She says it is hard to qualify as a pro and put in a respectable performance in this category while still holding down a full time job. She will also focus on putting in the km’s on the bike, as she considers this her weakness having only started riding 4 years ago.

So next time you look at the finish time of a pro and think “well I could do that sort of time if I was able to live the life they do”, think again!

Nicole Ward

Born: 16.12.75

Place of Birth: Melbourne

Lives: Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Height: 173 cm

Weight: 57 kilos

Coach: Grant Giles

School: Abbotsleigh, Wharoonga

Uni: UNSW (Sports Science)

Hobbies: Travel, Surfing, Scuba Diving

What would you do if you were not a triathlete?

Well I work, so I would just focus on that! Maybe long distance running for a sport.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Never be afraid to rise to a challenge, and your never too old!

Sporting hero? Crowie (Craig Alexander) and Chrissie (Wellington) and Lance Armstrong.

Favorite Food: Japanese

Favorite Drink: Red Wine

Favorite Book: The Alchemist

Favorite Movie: The Big Blue


Recent Results:

  • NZ Ironman “March 2009, 7th
  • Busselton Half Ironman “May 2009, 3rd
  • Japan Ironman “June 2009, 2nd
  • Yeppoon Half Ironman “August 2009, 2nd
  • Ironman World Championships, Kona “October 2009, 34th
  • Geelong 70.3 “February 2010, 5th
  • New Zealand Ironman “March 2010, 6th
  • Busselton – May 2010, 4th
  • Ironman Couer d’Alene June 2010, 6th
  • Capricorn Resort Half Ironman “August 2010, 5th
  • Port Douglas Long Course – September 2010, 2nd