TeamSFQ athlete Danielle Audio graduated college last year and decided to take on a six-month solo international adventure that would culminate in her first ironman at Ironman Austria in the end of June. Danielle went on to finish third in her age group in Austria and our team had six months of living vicariously through her reports and stunning photos from all over the world! We were pick her brain about this journey and our conversation is below.
You just graduated college last year. What you to take on this adventure once you finished school?
I had been thinking about doing something unconventional after I graduated college for a while, but I wasn't exactly sure what that would look like. I had explored a few different options such as fellowships and volunteer programs but nothing felt right. I was itching to go travel and knew I didn't want to jump into the working world just yet. I had only been doing triathlon for a few months when I decided to go on this adventure, but I had already fallen in love with the sport and the community. I wanted to really just dive into this community and explore the triathlon culture all over the world. I have dreamed of doing a Full Ironman since I saw the NBC Kona broadcast 10 years ago so I figured, why not combine my love of travel and my passion for Ironman! Plus, there is no better way to see a new place than by swimming, bikind, and running my way through it :)
I started in Stellenbosch, South Africa January 1 - February 1
Then I went to Perth, Australia from February 1 - February 26 (Stayed with fellow SFQer Janine Kaye!!)
Then headed to New Zealand and raced Taupo 70.3 on March 4th. Went down to Wanaka, NZ for the rest of March until April 12
Headed to Noosa, Australia from April 12 - May 16
Headed up to Fuschl Am See (a little town outside of Salzburg, Austria) May 16 - June 11
Went to Klagenfurt June 11 and settled in there until race day on July 2nd!
That's a long time to be away from home and, I assume, a lot of new places to live. How did you prepare logistically and otherwise for this trip?
It took a lot of planning! I think Trip Advisor was my most visited website for the year leading up to it! I started planning about a year before my trip begun and I just began with a blank slate. I wanted to go to places that had strong endurance sports cultures so I just started researching where a lot of triathletes race and train. My itinerary changed quite a few times from when I started planning to the final trip, and it even changed while I was traveling too! I decided that each country I went too, I wanted to settle in there for a while and really get to know the area and the people there by trying to live like a local. Before finalizing where I was going to go, I reached out to the local triathlon clubs in those areas and chatted with them about training routes, access to pools, OWS, where to live etc. to make sure I was going to be able to find good training. That was super helpful in getting a local athlete's perspective of the area and really helped me think about the little details (like if I would need a rental car, or where I would buy groceries etc. )
Once I finalized where I was going, I then hopped on Airbnb to find a host to live with! I did almost exclusively Airbnb for my accommodation and LOVED it. I always rented a private room in someone's home rather than my own place. It was great to stay with locals that way and I really lucked out on having awesome hosts. I intentionally left my itinerary as loose as I could because I wanted room to change things around and be spontaneous during my travels. By leaving room to be flexible, I was able to stay with a fellow SFQer, Janine Kaye, who graciously offered her extra bedroom for me to live in!
How many bags did you bring??
Surprisingly, it wasn't too bad! I had my bike bag, a large rolling duffle bag that I checked, and a pretty big transition backpack that was my carry on. The first plane I took to South Africa, the airline actually didn't weigh my bike bag! I had no idea I was way over the weight limit until I got on my flight heading to Perth and was told I had to do some major pairing down or face huge fees. Lesson learned!
Do you have any secrets/ tips for training in new / unknown destinations? How did you figure out where to swim, bike and run in each place you stayed?
Reach out to local triathletes!! That was huge for me. I really lucked out that many of my hosts were athletes themselves, or knew athletes. I hooked up with a few triathlon clubs for my first few rides until I had a better understanding of different routes in the area. I also made friends at all the local bike shops and picked their brains about good routes! While I was there, I spent a lot of time on Strava finding routes that were super popular. All that usually got me pretty set. But, often my first ride or two was just to get out and explore. I always had my phone with me in case I got lost and could just use GPS to get back home!
A big piece of advice is to find places to stay that are not in major cities! I spent most of my time in little towns that were so small they didn't even have stoplights :) but that usually meant there were a few major roads that all kind of led back to the same place. That made it pretty easy to get my bearings and I got to see some incredible places that are often skipped over by tourists.
Did you encounter any unique training challenges along the way?
One of the most challenging things I encountered was handling my nutrition needs. Before I left, I was still playing around with what I would use for nutrition during training and racing. In most places I went, I couldn't find the same brands we have back here in the US, or if they did have brands I recognized, usually the price would be doubled! I ended up ordering a lot of things to my home in Seattle and have my mom ship them to me... not the cheapest route either!
Can you pick a favorite place that you visited (and why)?
Without a doubt, New Zealand. I fell in love with the country and I would seriously consider moving there! I had an amazing Airbnb host family who were also triathletes and adventure racers so they knew Wanaka like the back of their hand. With their help, I found the most incredible places to swim/bike/run that I will never forget. Wanaka was truly a triathletes paradise. I had access to a beautiful clear lake to swim in, a challenging masters swim group to train with, and probably a different running trail for each day of the month! There was such a ruggedness to the landscape there that was unlike anything I had experience before.
Thanks so much Danielle for the chat!!!