Triathlon. Natalie Milne does it. Her brother Cameron does it. Her mum has been known to do it. Her dad did it twice. So what does the dinner table discussion consist of? Anything but triathlon.
“We just don’t talk about it,” explains Natalie. “There’s other things going on – we’ve another brother who doesn’t do triathlon and he has a son and another kid on the way.
“My parents support me 100%, they’ll ask me how is training going and I listen to their opinions, but generally we don’t discuss triathlon. And when it comes to us competing, my dad can watch the races better than my mum can.”
Watching Natalie race last year would have been an expensive undertaking as the 24-year-old from Kinross made her breakthrough onto the World Series circuit. It’s the same again this year as she is just back from the series’ opener in New Zealand and could soon be heading for Japan in May.
Having achieved part of the qualifying criteria, Natalie is planning on clocking up plenty more air miles – and senior race experience – in a bid to be on the Strathclyde Park pontoon at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
She said: “Each year I’m getting better and this year I want to be even better again, finish higher in the World Series and qualify for the Commonwealth Games.
“It’s been eye-opening racing on the World Series. In Kitzbuehel I had an absolutely amazing race then in Stockholm I had a diabolical race. You learn more from the bad races than the good ones and it’s great to test myself at this level.
“The Commonwealth Games would be the biggest stage I’ve been on. It’s different to doing a World Series, it’s the best-of-the-best racing and they’re all going to be wanting it as bad as everyone else.”
The triathlon event in Glasgow is a 1500m open water swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run, or to look at it another way, the equivalent of 60 lengths of a public pool followed by a cycle from Stirling to Glasgow then a six mile run to finish.
In preparation, Natalie is undertaking a punishing schedule, training six days a week, with 6am starts at the swimming pool; bike rides up to four hours a day and 27 miles-worth of weekly running.
She has taken time out of her Sports Coaching degree at the University of Stirling to fully focus on qualification and even managed a few ‘fake’ triathlons before the season started, dashing from the pool and shedding her wetsuit in the car park outside before biking into Stirling and running around the university loch.
This may provoke some quizzical looks from passers-by, but practising the transitions between each discipline are vital in a two-hour race where every second counts.
“All the girls on the other side of the world can go and race as it’s their summertime, but there are no races on for us here so you have to come up with alternative ways of preparing,” added Natalie.
“The transitions are the fourth element. If you get it wrong then you get it really wrong. I’ve never been penalised for a transition, but it can be difficult, especially getting the wetsuit off.
“You need to practise it as otherwise you can be first out the water then last out of transition. That can be the difference between being in the first or second bike pack, which has a huge knock-on effect for the rest of the race.”
Natalie has come along way since her first triathlon race whilst a pupil at Kinross High School. Back then she was a dedicated swimmer and keen runner – training alongside fellow pupil Eilidh Child.
Now she is a triathlete, with the Commonwealth Games top of her agenda. She said: “My first triathlon was the Scottish Schools Championship and I fairly enjoyed it, even though I was on a big heavy mountain bike.
“But my second race was a disaster and I thought I’m never doing this again, but then on reflection I did enjoy it. It’s so much more different to swimming up and down in a pool. Swimmers don’t see what we see; all they see is the black line at the bottom of the pool.
“I would feel very proud to be part of Team Scotland. The Commonwealth Games has always been something I wanted to compete at. The closer it’s got, the more targeted my approach has been and I’m doing everything to qualify.
“And because it’s a home games, that makes it even more special – my family wouldn’t have far to come to watch. It would be awesome to have Cameron beside me. There are the Brownlee brothers, but it would be something special to have a brother and sister on the same team, in the same sport.”
Also competing in Auckland was fellow Scot Grant Sheldon, the University of Stirling Mathematics student finishing an impressive 12th on his debut on the World Series circuit.
You can follow Natalie on Twitter @natty3004
Photo credit: ITU/Janos Schmidt