A Star on the Rise
Meet Madi Roberts, the pocket-rocket originally from Port Macquarie, who is taking the half iron distance world by storm. At only 23-years-old Madi has already accomplished more than some of us could ever dream of and has a number of World Championship Age Group titles to her name. Australian Triathlete’s Margaret Mielczarek chats with the rising young gun about her start in the sport, her goals to turn pro, the importance of female friendship and support, her advice to other athletes and more.
Australian Triathlete (AT): To start, tell us a bit about yourself – who is Madi Roberts?
Madi Roberts (MR): I am 23 years old and live on the Gold Coast. I am a Griffith University graduate with a Bachelor of Sport Management and Masters in Marketing. I have been involved in triathlon from the age of 13. I began competing in Ironman 70.3 events from the age of 18.
I have competed in 16 Ironman 70.3s, taking out the overall female win at Ironman 70.3 Cairns, New Zealand and Port Macquarie in the past year. I was 2017 Olympic Distance World Champion in Rotterdam, Netherlands and I will compete at Ironman 70.3 World Championships this year in South Africa.
AT: What is your background in sport? Have you always been active?
MR: I was brought into the sporting world from a young age when I started swimming lessons from the age of three. As I got older, I attended swim squad numerous times a week and swim club on Friday nights with my older sister. I did ballet at age five, but this soon changed to Martial Arts because I had too much of an aggressive personality and needed to let off some steam. I also participated in netball, surf lifesaving, touch football, and acrobatics. I discovered my love for endurance running at age 12. What drew me to running was the freedom, simplicity, challenge and sense of achievement. I have always been an individual soul and running allowed me to just be in my own space challenging my own limits. As I entered high school, surf lifesaving was starting to become difficult for me because I was unable to take the large surf skis and rescue boards out past the big waves due to my tiny stature.
My friend was participating at the local Port Macquarie Triathlon Club at the time and told me I should give it a go. So I bought a bike and never turned back. I was accepted into the North Coast Academy of Sport for cycling and triathlon and competed at Nationals for both triathlon and cross-country during high school. After school I moved to the Gold Coast – ‘the hub of triathlon’, to chase that passion, and also start my university studies.
AT: Tell us about your foray into triathlon? Why did you choose a life of swim/bike/run?
MR: What drew me to triathlon was the challenging nature of the sport. I have always enjoyed seeing how hard I can push my body and mind. I love that your result on race day relies on you and not on other people like in team sports. I also have a bit of a stubborn, relentless and obsessive personality, which suits triathlon well. I am very much a goal-orientated person; therefore always having a race on the horizon is a major motivation for me. This is something I love to work towards in training daily.
Growing up in Port Macquarie was very inspiring. My training buddies were always training for numerous Ironman events and I aspired to be like them once I was old enough. I volunteered each year at the 70.3 and full Ironman events at the nutrition stations, often until the last competitor came through. I was finally able to compete in my first Ironman 70.3 only eight days after my 18th birthday. It was definitely the best birthday present!
AT: Awesome. OK, so tell us what a day in the life of Madi looks like? Talk us through your typical day.
MR: Each training day is different, which is something I absolutely love about our sport. I generally wake up anywhere between 4:30-5am and head to the first session of the morning. Generally, I get two quality sessions done each morning. My coach Andrew Ivey (Elitesportz Specialist) likes to leave the rest of the day free to recover for the next day. This is because we train at a high intensity and the importance of recovery is high so we can hit those high intensities the following day. After training, I head off to work – I am currently working in the marketing department of an online pet store. On Saturdays I head out on my long ride and Sundays are for long runs. Open water swims are also a weekend favourite with my squad. My favourite sessions of the week are ‘Tough Tuesdays’, which incorporate windtrainer plus treadmill repeats, Friday 10km tempo runs, and Sunday long runs.
AT: What’s the most important lesson you have learnt in your time as a triathlete so far?
MR: Definitely listening to and trusting your coach! As a young, stubborn triathlete, I was always inclined to go further and faster than what my coach told me. This will usually result in injury, poor performance or mental burnout. I joined Andrew Ivey in December 2016 and put my complete trust in him. Andrew has a strong coach-athlete connection with all his athletes and I think this is crucial for improving performance and believing you are on the right path to success. Following a training program and instructions precisely requires dedication and patience at times but it is worth it when you achieve results you never thought you could.
AT: I’ve read one of your goals is to turn pro after Ironman 70.3 worlds this year. Tell us more about that. Why do you want to go pro?
MR: Yes, going pro in Ironman 70.3 has always been a vision of mine and I think I am getting closer to that goal. After winning overall at Ironman 70.3 Cairns, New Zealand and Port Macquarie, I have greater confidence in mixing it with the professional women. It will be a big leap for me and will take some time to transition but I am willing to give it a go in 2019. I will be 24 next year so I know I will be one of the youngest (and smallest) pros on the circuit but I’m willing to put that aside and focus on my strengths.
AT: Good one, that’s great! So what’s the biggest highlight of your triathlon career so far?
MR: My biggest highlight was winning the World Championship in 20-24 Olympic Distance in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 2017. So many things went terribly wrong in the week leading into that race including a bike crash two days before the race resulting in mild concussion and whiplash. I had no expectations for that race.
I simply wanted to do my very best and make my friends, family, coach and training buddies proud. I came off the bike in second position and didn’t take the lead until the final 200metres [of the run], winning by only 11-seconds. I had to dig deeper than I ever had before and I literally cried as soon as I crossed the line from pride and relief. It was made even more special having my sister there at the finish line to celebrate the moment with me. My parents were also at home watching the live tracker at the time and were on the phone to me straight after I crossed the line.
AT: What are you most proud of when it comes to your racing success?
MR: What I am most proud of is my development each year as an athlete. I am constantly learning and apply this to each race. I am very interested in sports psychology and how I can apply this to my racing and training. Success in long course triathlon is all about managing that voice in your head and keeping a positive attitude even when things aren’t going your way. The key to successful racing isn’t always about the training you do, but how you cope mentally during the most crucial parts of your race. One of my favourite quotes is – “Your body hears everything your mind says, so stay positive!”
AT: Oh, I love that. It’s so true. How does triathlon and competing at a high level affect your work-family-life balance? How do you juggle it all?
MR: Triathlon has been a part of my life since I was 13-years-old so I have learnt from a young age how to balance it with other aspects of life. Time management is very important in this sport. I plan each day, setting aside time for training, work, and general life commitments.
I currently live by myself on the Gold Coast with the rest of my family in Port Macquarie. Therefore, triathlon actually provides a great opportunity for my family to travel with me to races and share quality time together. Training with my triathlon squad also allows time for socialising with my training buddies and sharing a laugh together.
AT: How do you define success?
MR: Success is relative to your own goals and aspirations. You shouldn’t define your success in comparison to others. You are only capable of achieving your own very best. If you finish each race knowing you gave it everything you had, with a positive attitude, then you have had a successful day.
AT: Are there any words that you try to live by?
MR: There are numerous words that I live by on a daily basis. A funny quirk of mine is that I like to write key words on my hand to focus on during tough sessions. Some of these include – fearless, relax, make it count, you will never have this moment again, belief, confidence, go to battle, patience, gratitude, and no limits.
AT: As women, we can get pretty competitive, especially against each other. How important is female friendship and being good to other female triathletes in this sport?
MR: I believe triathlon has one of the friendliest cultures of all the sports. Things can get pretty competitive out on the racecourse but at the end of the day it is just a race and everyone deserves to be congratulated for simply making it to that finish line. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and life circumstances that we might not always be aware of. We should always aim to lift others with positivity and lend a hand to those struggling physically or mentally. Simply by giving someone a cheer, a high five, or post-race handshake can make such a difference to someone’s race day.
AT: Absolutely! What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
MR: Something my mum has always reminded me is to enjoy racing and have fun. Sometimes we can put too much pressure on ourselves to perform or meet others expectations. I have found that I have my best performances when I remind myself I do this sport for enjoyment and that it should not be a stressful occasion. Lighten up and don’t take it too seriously.
AT: Who are your role models?
MR: My coach, my mum and inspirational people including, Siri Lindley, Turia Pitt, Lionel Sanders, Steve Prefontaine, Louis Zamperini and Desmond Doss.
AT: When the going gets tough, what keeps you motivated and on track?
MR: If I am going through a rough time, I remind myself what I am grateful for. This may simply be that I have a healthy body that allows me to swim, bike and run daily or that I live in a great place with a supportive coach, family and friends. I also remind myself why I do this sport and that is for the challenge, the simple joy of pushing my body, and training with like-minded athletes. When you go through a rough patch, it is important to remember that things are always changing and you will not be stagnated forever. If you hold strong through the rough patches you will come out a better person and athlete. I always like to have my next key race goal in mind when motivation is lacking. Reflecting on your past achievements also provides light in a dark patch.
AT: What do you do in your spare time? How do you like to unwind?
MR: My favourite thing to do after work is spending time with my beautiful dog, Bonnie! She is a Staffy x Kelpie and I rescued her from an animal shelter when she was only six-months-old. I enjoy going for long, relaxing walks with her to recover mentally and physically from training. I also like to read autobiography or psychology books.
AT: What is your best piece of advice for women who want to follow your path?
MR: To enjoy the process! If you want to be in this sport for the long-term you must love what you do. It makes it much easier getting out of bed each morning if you look forward to your training sessions. Find some teammates, a coach and a race that sparks your interest and be consistent with your training. Most of all enjoy race day. This is the day you get to put all your hard work into action and be proud of what you have accomplished to get to the start line.
AT: Great advice! OK, last but not least, where to from here?
MR: I am currently enjoying the running season and focusing on some half marathons. I will then be training for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. Next year will be an exciting year, racing in my first few races as a pro and seeing how I go. I’m excited to see what the future holds
- One thing you can’t live without… My dog, Bonnie.
- If not triathlon… Running.
- When not training… Sleeping.
- Bucket list race… Berlin Marathon or Ironman 70.3 Scotland.
- One piece of advice that you would give your younger self… Have confidence in yourself. You are capable and worthy.
- Name a hidden talent… I have a few gymnastic stunts up my sleeve.
- If there were a movie made about you it would be called… Size doesn’t matter.