Mel answers the phone with an immediate injection of infectious laughter! Out goes the ‘formal’ questions and in comes a wonderfully relaxed story filled conversation. I know you will all enjoy this.
Thank you Mel
We immediately start chatting about Victor Harbour and Mel’s philosophy on life and racing quicks in immediately. She stops mid race because another competitor has a flat and is stressing out. For those of us that know Mel, this is no surprise.
This was an easy lead in to;
SB: What are your personal strengths that you bring into this sport?
MS: Stubbornness and determination, my perseverance – Tenacity! The confidence comes and goes, but I never take the ‘easy’ option I give everything a ‘red hot go’. In life and in competition, the easy option turns out to be the tough one the day after.
SB: Do you feel you react to ‘the pack’? Or is this all about a time trial against yourself?
MS: I stick to my plan no matter how big or small the race. I adapt to my body – I say I’m a completer not a ‘competitor’, don’t measure yourself against me, I am out there to do my best for me and my body.
SB: Is it a conscious decision for you to ‘win’ or ‘try your best’?
MS: I always try my best! I celebrate finish lines not finish times. I also say that there is no ‘just’, not ever. It’s all relative to the person!
SB: Best race ever? MS: Port Macquarie my 1st one – It had some ups and downs, but I’m hooked and it’s my favourite. I’m doing my 4th Port Mac this year. I’ve completed 5 Ironman so far and competed in 6, I DNF’d in Busso last year and that should have been number 6. My goal is to complete 10 all up.
SB: Worst race ever?
MS: That would have to be Busso last year. I gave it my all but my body broke down. No swim meant standing around in the heat with no fluids. I felt good on the bike and kept to my race plan, but then ran out of water 15km out from the next aid station. When we came around the bend to turn left we got cut off because of the bush fire and then when I got to the next aid station there was minimal water there. Just in front of me a guy passed out – and I never again want to see a head bounce like that again – and then a girl in front did the same.
On the run I just got really thirsty and couldn’t quench it and I didn’t feel right. I came up to the medics and had vitals taken etc. and passed out. Got my 1st Ambulance ride! Apparently all my vitals were fine, but my body temp just wouldn’t come down. Funny I felt fine after I got the fluids in from the medics tent and I asked them if they could drop me back to where they picked me up from…the guy just took my timing chip off me and where they picked me up from…the guy just took my timing chip off me and said ‘No honey’. I couldn’t let myself get too down though at that stage because I wanted to get back out there, I knew I had friends doing their first and already disappointed about not doing the swim, so I headed back out as a supporter. In the car with dad at the end of the day, I ‘howled’ you know that full on one? And got it all out. I really wanted to do it for my good friend Bryan (who passed away just prior to Busso) and carry his number over the line for his family. But I just couldn’t.
SB: What might we never know/guess about you?
MS: Well I’ve had 26 surgeries since I was born due to a cleft lip and palate – it can be hereditary (my uncle is born with it too) but normally you don’t get both! I had a hole from the front of my face to the back of my mouth. I still have problems with hearing and my nostrils. But I deal with it. When I was a teenager I blamed my parents, but we are very close now.
SB: What’s your most embarrassing moment during a race/training?
MS: Cobbler creek trail run for 4 hours with no toilets, I was busting to go and went in the bushes and then had a panic attack when a bike rider went passed…too late had to finish! So, after 1 hour of intensive recon…epic fail.
SB: What was your biggest ‘Rookie’ error?
MS: Listening to Dawn, a Volunteer. I used to go into the VIP area of the welcome dinner for the volunteers because of Dad and Dawn was a volunteer telling a story about a mass start one year where a guy got out of the water with blood running down his face and was asked to go with a volunteer to have it cleaned up.
They found it was another person’s toenail stuck in his forehead… Still remember that story! Don’t listen to the story’s told by the Volunteers!
SB: Do you carry a lucky charm/have a special mantra?
MS: I have a buzz word for each event. My first was ‘believe’ which I now have on my wrist. My family gives me a buzz word for every race (mum, dad and brother). It was ‘Inspire’ for Busso just gone. “Fitter – Better – Stronger – Faster “ was another one.
We talked a little more about last year due to the amount of ‘incidents’ that happened at Port Mac and Mel talked about feeling like she was in the ‘Black Hole’. Her bike arrived with extensive damage and unrideable. After contacting Gavin Nugent, who was fortunately still back in Adelaide, he packed up her road bike up and send it across – it arrived late on Friday night. Meanwhile for 2 days Mel and her parents had worked out the entire alphabet of plans to get her to the start line, which she did. Even the Shimano guys pushed her to the front of the mechanic’s line to swap all the necessary gear over from one bike to the other to get her through.
Best piece of advice from Gavin to Mel “The race day is a Celebration, enjoy it.”
Text by Susanê Belkhiati | Image supplied by Melissa Shortman