Queenstown triathlete Fiona Gallagher’s mixing it with the pros for the first time at today’s Tauranga Half at Mount Maunganui.
The 29-year-old, the event’s top female amateur last year, was also invited into the elite field then, ‘‘but I guess I really didn’t have the confidence to do it’’, she says.
She’s changed her mind, however, after another good year in the sport, including finishing second-fastest female in last month’s full Ironman New Zealand in Taupō, which didn’t feature any pros.
A council lawyer, Gallagher admits joining the elite field today is an ‘‘absolutely huge’’ step up.
‘‘I’m the only girl who has a job, the rest of them are full pros, but, look, I’ll never know how I stack up against them if I don’t try.’’
The first five pros, women and men, earn prize money, but Gallagher says she has no particular target — ‘‘those girls I’m racing are so amazing so if I can just do my best, then we’ll see what happens’’.
Depending how she pulls up after this weekend, Gallagher’s also planning to compete in Challenge Wānaka Half next month, then Ironman NZ again in March.
If she goes well there, she’d hope to qualify again for the Ironman world champs in Hawaii —‘‘I turned it down in December ‘cos I just wasn’t ready for it’’.
Though still building up her confidence to turn pro, she’d relish more overseas competition to push herself further.
Only completing her first tri fours year ago, she’s still loving both training and racing.
‘‘Until I stop enjoying it, there’s no point stopping, really.’’