From Breast Cancer Survivor to Half Ironman

success stories

In September 2014 my life changed forever as I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. What followed was chemotherapy and a series of nine operations including reconstruction.

At that time, I knew I was dependent on doctors to make me better and the only thing that I could do to help myself was exercise. So exercise I did. Every day I started walking 6-10 km, depending on how I was feeling, and never took a day off, just kept walking.


After I recovered, I decided I was going to run the Sussan Women Fun Run and raise money for breast cancer which I did in December 2015. I finished in 1 hour and 1 minute, not quite my goal of under 60 but, I made it. After that I wondered what my next challenge was going to be, I had always wanted to do a triathlon, and I did my first Triathlon Pink in 2016.


I plodded along by myself training and competing in a couple of triathlons until I joined TriChicks. I was really excited to be part of the TriChicks Tribe and competed in the Sprint distance of the Gatorade Race 1 at Elwood. I later completed the Olympic distance at the Portland course with a lake swim, hilly bike ride and a trail run.


When the TriChicks were having a webinar and discussing Busso 70.3 I decided to tune in just to hear what it was all about, by the end I had decided to sign up!  


Why Sunshine Coast?


After Busso 70.3 (in May 2018), I decided that I didn’t want to lose the level of fitness that I had worked hard for so I decided to set my sights on another 70.3 at Sunshine Coast in August 2018. I felt it would be a good motivator for me to train through the winter in not-so-sunny and very wet Portland.


I started a 16-week training program, doing most of the sessions by myself so I knew I was mentally tough enough to do the race. This was always going to be a tough race without a support crew, I definitely missed the support of all the TriChicks passing out on the course.


My nephew from the UK was my only support crew, so I really appreciated those lovely people in the crowd who would call out “Go Michelle you are doing great”, thank heavens for early entry and personalized bibs!


Pre Race

It’s funny how although you look at the course map, try and study it and imagine the course, there is nothing like really seeing it.


I shared a maxi taxi with Tarryn, a triathlete from Melbourne who looked a lot more experienced and I dare I say faster than me (turns out Tarryn won her age group), from the airport to Mooloolaba.


Tarryn kept telling that the course is a flat/ fast race but all I could see was the substantial rolling hills which I soon realised was part of the course.


At a brief glance, there was also a nasty hill straight out of transition and the ocean didn’t look too inviting either! To say the least, I started to have a big panic and I wondered if I really was able to do it.


Regroup required – I woke early the next morning and headed off for my 15 min run up and over Alexander Hill. I’ve got this, I thought and noted to myself, low gear out of transition as it is straight into those rolling hills.


Race Day is almost here


All week I’d looked at the weather forecast and it was anything but promising. I woke up at 4 am and as I sat eating brekkie down came the rain. Well, let’s hope it’s just a shower I thought and remembered it isn’t like I haven’t ridden in the rain before — I come from Victoria! I felt nervous but I knew I had truly done the work, all I could do now was enjoy the race, whatever the weather.


As I headed out to set up my transition the rain bucketed down and I started to feel a little flustered — I’d left my hydration behind!


So I set up what I had, pumped up my tyres, and went back to my accommodation. Tick for staying close to the race start note!



Down on the beach the waves were crashing in, even pushing back the pro men and women. The swim was self-seeded so eventually, I got to the front and it was my turn. I had been doing open water swims (OWS) through winter in 12-degree water, so I definitely wasn’t concerned about the temperature.


I’d also been training with some old surfies so I was able to draw on some skills I learned at a session I did with big surf and felt quite confident when deciding which waves to swim over and which to dive through.


My friend, the Big RM, told me once we were out the back all I had to do was watch out for the rogue wave or two so I was thinking about him as I was swimming along and felt really glad I hadn’t chickened out on that tough OWS’s.


I managed to catch a couple of waves which was fantastic and I passed quite a few athletes on the way in. My swim time was 34 mins and 42 secs which I’m really happy with.


Then into transition. I took too long getting off my wetsuit, everything was wet and uncomfortable. I found it difficult getting my wetsuit off, note to self, a bit more glide on my ankles next time. 



Straight out of transition, through a quick roundabout and up the hill, fortunately, I had set my bike in a low gear and made it up easily. There was quite a lot of drafting on the course, partly because there were so many athletes so close together at the start.


I found my groove and started duelling with a couple of other girls which was really good motivation for me as I tried to stay close to them.


I don’t have a bike computer, I was just using my watch, and I found sometimes I fell off my pace, not because I didn’t have the ability to stay with it, I just lost concentration.


At least I know what to ask Santa for! I was really happy with my bike leg averaging 31 km/hr which is a good improvement for me.



I started at a cracking pace for me, going straight up Alexander Hill, but unfortunately, it wasn’t a pace that I could keep up.


I walked through the drink stations and was really happy with my ability to focus on little goals and finished without walking. I completed the run in 2 hours and 8 minutes, definitely not my fastest but I got there, maybe my great bike ride was a bit too fast for me.


Overall, I finished in 5 hours and 47 minutes, 7th place in my age group. I was really happy with my swim and bike and know I definitely have room for improvement in my run and transitions — I’ll leave the picnic until after the race next time!


All in all, I loved Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 and am so glad that I did it and can’t wait to do it again!


I can’t believe how much stronger I am than I was a year ago. Triathlons are like Little Aths for old people, it’s just about your own self-improvement.


Want to receive triathlon coaching catered to your fitness, experience, and goals? Receive all the tools, tactics, and training sessions to unlock your athletics potential & achieve your most successful season. Take the TriChicks Quiz to see which program is for you. 


Take the Quiz!

Find out which triathlon program is right for you! 



Help! Which Bike Should i get?

Aug 13, 2023

My Running Journey: From 2km To Half Ironman

Feb 16, 2023

Can I really do a triathlon?

Feb 16, 2023