In a room full of triathletes, more specifically, in a café just a stones throw from where her triathlon squad swims, Kristy Hallett is without doubt the most unassuming athlete in the crowd. Hallett is the personification of a workhorse, wrapped in a blanket of humility. She doesn’t come from a swimming, cycling or a running background, but is a smart and determined athlete, who, under her coach, Sean Foster’s, guidance has gone from a BRW corporate triathlon in 2007, to a professional long course triathlete in 2012.

Kristy at Ironman Melbourne - Photo courtesy of Rob Grummit

The story so far:

On April 10th, after waiting on the edge of her seat (unpleasant if it’s a bike seat), Hallett got the official word that she would be racing as a professional triathlete from July 2012. Hallett, who is in her late thirties, decided she would tackle the professional game after her appearance at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships in 2011 (total time, 10:28). Doing the maths, Hallett has only been in triathlons for five years, yet, a common response to her announcement of stepping up to become a professional has surprisingly been, “it’s about time!” Maybe that’s a collective sigh of relief from other 35-39 year old triathletes? Or, is it because based on her performances, people assume that she has been doing this sport for years?

Her recent Ironman performances were outstanding for different reasons, and have helped shape the athlete that she is. At Ironman New Zealand 2011, Hallett’s goal was to qualify for Hawaii again (she had already competed there in 2009). On paper, Hallett was looking untouchable. However, in the lead up to New Zealand she had to take on some huge mental battles. Sadly, her mother in law passed away, and her husband, Dan, while on his bike, was hit by a car door and hurt badly. The thing that kept her sane throughout this time was her training. “When I was training, or racing, it just felt easier than everything else that was going on. Training saved me from a depressing year,” she said. To add insult, six weeks out from the event, she injured her ankle and had to race with barely any run training under her belt. The game plan changed to just finishing, and possibly searching for a race overseas so that she could qualify for the World Championships that year. But, race day is a different beast. Attacking the race as best she could with her injury, Hallett ended up finishing second in her age group behind Janine Willis in 10:17:56, a run time of 3:28:41 and a ticket to the World Champs. “The whole race was amazing. When I was out there, I was just driven by a reoccurring thought that I wouldn’t prefer to be doing anything else in the world right now.” Hallett returned to Hawaii after training through another Melbourne winter. The big difference this time was that her coach and close friend, Jo Coombe, were heading to the infamous Island as well. So, many of the winter kilometres were fuelled with external motivation from her training buddies. Hallett posted a 10:28 at Hawaii, 40mins faster than her previous race in 2009.

After Kona, Hallett struggled with the imbalance she felt between her muscles and her cardio fitness – the two just weren’t sinking synching. Recovery and rebuilding seemed harder than previous times, but she continued to be a consistent trainer. Jumping ahead to the inaugural Ironman Melbourne, March 2012 – Hallett’s last race as an age grouper. Spending a lot of time working on her weak leg, the swim, Hallett was out of the water in 23rd overall of the age groupers, and 6th in the 35-39 age group (1:04:35). Melbourne’s bike course was super fast with perfect conditions and a sleek surface. Hallett rode well and moved up a few positions, but was still 6th off the bike overall (5:11:42). Ticking off each triathlete along the run course, it took the most part of the run for her to finally reel in leading age grouper Michelle Boyes with approximately 7kms to go. If you have ever seen Hallett race you can see that she is the smiling equivalent of four time Ironman World Champion, Chrissie Wellington. Just on her expression you wouldn’t know whether she was in the hurt box or having the time of her life. Dubbed as the Smiling Assassin, Hallett says that other than purely loving what she does, she just never wants to worry her friends and family who are cheering, so even when she’s in pain, she continues to smile. Hallett ended up with the second fastest run split (3:19:32) and was the fastest female age grouper of the day in a total time of 9:42:05 – a huge personal best. Because she was waiting to hear of her acceptance into the world of professional triathlon racing, she didn’t take her Kona slot, but instead, waited on the edge of her seat for April 10th – as we know, the news was good.

 

Kristy and Belinda at World Championships, Hawaii

On going Pro and the challenges she faces:

At the Geelong Long Course in February 2012, Hallett raced in the Open division for the first time. Both the elite and open women started together, and Hallett got a small taste on what it would be like to race the pros, “I was left for dead in the swim. I was completely lost!” she exclaimed. As an age group athlete she was used to mass starts and being surrounded by other athletes, however, for the first time she was solo as the other girls flew ahead. She found out the hard way that sighting was also not one of her strengths. “I don’t have years of consistent swimming and strength like a lot of the professional women. So this winter I’ll be working extremely hard on the swim – both intensity and strength.”

She also recognises that now when she races, she will be ‘competing’. “As an age grouper, you’re essentially racing yourself and the clock, but as a professional you’re racing others.” Like most professional women, Hallett will now also be facing the challenge of the age group men chasing them down on the bike. Without a large enough gap between the start of the professional women and the age groupers, the dynamics on the bike can change a lot. A lot of the professionals want to increase that time so that there can be no advantages to pacing, or dare we say, drafting, off the strong age group men. “Usually when I’m racing amongst the men, they tend to surge a lot, which can really hurt your bike legs, and consequently, your run legs. As an age grouper, I would try not to surge and keep a constant and even tempo, and then the best thing would be passing them on the run. But, when racing professionally, I can’t let the other girls get too far ahead, so it will be interesting to see those dynamics first hand,” she stated

“The age group athletes that I’ve spoke to have all been very supportive, and the professionals, all very welcoming. I’m certainly under no illusion that racing and living like a pro will be easy. But, not many people get an opportunity to do this, so I’m looking forward to the challenge, and the chance to really test myself… Even if I am old!”

Hallett will be lining up for her first professional race at Yeppoon 70.3 in August, followed possibly by Shepparton 70.3 and Phuket 70.3. “After a long winter preparation, I’ll almost split the season into two, with a break at Christmas. Then maybe a few local races and halves in New Zealand next year, with the idea to just get faster,” Hallet said. “It’s actually awesome to be able to pick and choose whenever I want. That’s a huge advantage over age groupers who essentially have to plan their seasons 12 months in advance.”

 

Her introduction to triathlon:

Like most youngsters in Australia, Hallett was involved in Little Athletics and netball when she was younger, and generally enjoyed keeping active. However, at University, she fell under the spell of the Uni Bar, and describes the time in her twenties as “one big piss up.” In her thirties she began running again and took part in fun runs, and particularly remembers that the 10km run was a massive achievement (which she did in 50mins). In 2007 a work colleague convinced her to take part in the BRW, and she became hooked on triathlon and the lifestyle that it offered. She was introduced to the coach she is still with now, Sean Foster, and within nine months of her first triathlon, Hallett had raced the Shepparton Half Ironman, Sandringham Olympic distance, Geelong Half Ironman, and then lined up for Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie. “I actually signed up for Port Mac not long after the BRW, when my work colleague, Brett Healy, suggested it. He then introduced me to Fos (Sean Foster) – thought it was best to get some guidance now that I signed up for an Ironman,” she chuckled.

Hallett’s goal at Ironman Australia was just to finish and make it a learning experience. She crossed the line in 11:39, which is what her and Sean had expected. However, the passion was ignited, and she lay in bed that night thinking of how much faster she could go. Hallett professed, “I gave it everything that I could. I felt like I didn’t have much strength on the bike, and felt sick on the run. But, I knew there was so much room for improvement. It’s weird. I look back at that race and how I felt on the run, then compare it to Ironman Melbourne, where I felt that I could have run all day like that. A lot has changed.”

 

Kristy, Coach Fos, Jo Coombe at World Champs

Coach Fos and training:

Sean Foster is the head coach of Fluid Movements who are affiliated with the Melbourne Triathlon Club (MTC). He’s been coaching Hallett for five years, and has helped create the athlete she is today. However, while Hallett speaks volumes about Foster’s coaching, he certainly returns the sentiments. “Kristy really is the perfect triathlete. She does as she’s told, she listens to her body, she’s strong mentally and physically, and our communication, which is essential, is brilliant. I do have to admit though, women are generally easier to coach. Ego doesn’t get in the way quite as much as what it does with the men – but that’s just between you and I.” Like most triathlon clubs, MTC is a close-knit group, and Hallett also attributes her success to her training partners.

“Kristy hardly ever misses a session, and her success is definitely from five years of consistency,” says Foster, “we have specific squad sessions that she goes to, but she does a lot of training on her own as well.” An average training week for Hallett will include:

3 x Swim Squads + 1 x solo,

4 x Bike sessions – includes an easy ride before her long run,

4 x Run sessions – with the inclusion of a fifth in specific weeks,

1-2 x pilates/conditioning sessions.

“I’ve never done an actual heart rate test as I was always away or sick when we had them, so I used to run a lot to feel, similarly with riding as well. But now I use a pace chart for running a lot, and power for the bike,” she proclaims. Hallett treats each session with purpose. Even her long rides in the off-season, she practices race day nutrition. While others grab for the apple scroll at the half way mark, Hallett sticks to her plan. “Most people who go wrong in an Ironman get the nutrition wrong,” she says. She also does a lot of running off the bike, particularly in her specific preparation period, and maximises recovery between hard sessions.

 

On the women she looks up to:

“There are so many, but I think the first few that come to mind are obviously, Chrissie Wellington, who needs no explanation. Definitely Belinda Granger for everything that she has accomplished in her career, and continues to accomplish, and well, just because… She’s Belinda! I’m also a huge fan of Leanda Cave. She races over all distances, and races well. She was still speedy at Alcatraz last year (2nd), and somehow has the balance right to race fast at short course, and race well at Ironman – and has kept it going for the last few years. A lot of people who switch from ITU become successful at the long course, but lose that speed due to the long slow kilometres.”

This humble athlete is clearly excited about her introduction into the professional game, and makes no assumptions on how she will fare in her races. Rest assured though, she is hungry for the competition, even if that hunger is hidden behind her chesire cat smile. Hallett is the kind of athlete who will give back more than she gets from the sport, and is always first to ask YOU how you’re going. We, along with many others, are looking forward to seeing how her transition into the professional world goes, and wish her the very best in her career.

About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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15 Responses

  1. Belinda Seccombe

    Such a deserving athlete,, I had the pleasure of also racing with and meeting a nervous Kristy for her first IM in Port Mac,, that was when it still had most (not all) of those horrendous hills in the run leg. Tough gig for the first timer and even back then it was done with a smile. Enjoy your time on the pro circuit,, you’ve got he main ingredients right,, the love of it and a great team to support you. Good Luck, keep smiling :))) Bel

    Reply
  2. Ailie

    So excited for you KK. You embody everything it is to be an age group Triathlete and we can all learn so much from your commitment to getting it done. Look forward to seeing what you can achieve this year.

    Reply
  3. Judy Somes

    Great and inspiring story from someone cracking into the pro ranks in their 30s. I remember seeing your name as the first age group finisher at Ironman Melbourne and thought that was a great achievement. Well done Kristy and good luck in the transition to pro ranks. I’ll be sure to share this story with some of my friends who are just starting out with 10km fun runs!.

    Reply
  4. Tony Kofkin

    Great story Stef on someone who would have to be one of the most well liked and loved triathletes in Victoria. Kristy is just one of the greatest individuals in our sport. Well done KK

    Reply
  5. Benny Lewis

    Well done Kristy! A true inspiration for others who don’t come from a long sporting history!

    Reply
  6. Jo Coombe

    Great article on an amazing athlete and friend. I couldn’t have wished for a better training buddy for my first attempt at Kona. Half of my mantras are things that KK has told me!! The best is “follow the program”. It certainly works!!

    Reply
  7. Trimumblings -

    […] I’m inspired by this story.  A great read on witsup.com about age group triathlete, Kristy Hallett, late 30′s, transitioning to the professional ranks.   Kristy’s achievements are obviously well deserved and I look forward to following her progress in the pro ranks.  Readers who are just getting into running, take note  – anything is possible! Article here. […]

    Reply
  8. Kacey Willoughby

    Another great story Stef. I’ve heard a lot about Kristy, do to hear she is finally going pro is amazing! And yep I’m sure there are a lot of 35-39 females are super excited to have her go pro as well. I live reading stories like this. Makes it so easy to love the sport;) good luck with everything Kristy. I’ll see u in Yeppoon :):)

    Reply
  9. Sean Foster

    thanks Stef Hanson for such a great write up of Kristy. You and Kristy are both a great asset to the triathlon community
    Kristy’s coach

    Reply
  10. Michael Hermans

    Well done KK. Very inspirational… leave them for dead.

    Reply
  11. Simon Johnson

    Exciting news Kristy. Enjoy the journey – you’ll be great.

    Reply
  12. Kristy Hallett

    Awww, I’m overwhelmed! Thankyou everyone for your support and encouragement. Thankyou Stef for the fantastic article and brilliant writing. Certainly very excited and can’t wait for the season to start at Yeppoon. Happy training!

    Reply
  13. Stef Hanson. Chief.
    admin

    It was an absolute pleasure Kristy. Can’t wait to see you race, and keep us posted!

    Reply
  14. Dimity

    What a great article! It has given me more motivation that you can become pro at some stage in your life… you just have to wait patiently and work hard for that chance and your time will come!

    Reply

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