IRONMAN champion Rachel Joyce recently announced that she and her partner Brett are expecting their first child this fall. We caught up with Rachel to learn more about how the self-described “lean mean racer” is adapting to her good news.
Professional Triathlon: How will 2016 now unfold?…how will you adjust your training and future race season?
Rachel: Our 2016 looks completely different to the past few years that’s for sure. For the last 5 years, my main focus for the year has been Kona, and Brett has played a huge role in that preparation. Now our priorities have completely switched – my aim is to grow and deliver a healthy baby in September. This means no racing although I did sneak in a couple of races in January before I realized I was pregnant: Pucon 70.3 and Mercury Man in the Cayman Islands.
I do have a few other projects to fill the gap. In January, I joined the Women For Tri Board of Advisors. This is an initiative set up by Lifetime Fitness and IRONMAN tasked to increase the participation of women in triathlon. In February, I flew to Tampa, Florida to have our kick off meeting for 2016, and it was very motivating to meet women who share my passion to grow triathlon amongst women.
I am also continuing to work with TriEqual. This is our second year and we are continuing to work towards the mission that originally brought us together: to see an equal number of pro men and women on the start line at Kona (currently there only 35 women to the 50 men), as well as a number of other initiatives.
I have also just completed the Ironman U coaching course, and I am looking forward to sharing the knowledge and experiences of my years so far in triathlon to help others achieve their goals. I volunteer 3 hours a week with Intercambio, an organization that seeks to improve immigrant lives through English education — which I am loving.
And, of course, I continue to stay active: being fit is in my DNA and whilst training is lighter in volume and intensity, I am embracing what is my new normal.
How have the early months of motherhood gone so far?
If you had asked me this question 8 weeks ago, I would probably have been asleep or feeling green.
Brett and I were delighted and excited at my pregnancy, but I was definitely not feeling my best. It is only now when I have my energy back and am not feeling nauseas that I realize I was feeling quite rough in those early days. I think the first trimester must be the most difficult for all mums to be. I felt worried during those early weeks as I knew the risk of miscarriage is relatively high until 14 weeks, plus I am terrible at telling white lies which is what was required before Brett and I felt comfortable going public with our news.
“My mantra has always been to listen how I feel and not to force things on the days when I am really tired or feeling sick”
Now I feel good. I have stayed active throughout my pregnancy so far. My mantra has always been to listen how I feel and not to force things on the days when I am really tired or feeling sick. Between 8-12 weeks this meant some days I literally would go to the pool, swim 500m and then go home and nap for 2 hours. Other days I felt much better.
Now (almost 20 weeks) I generally have good energy levels. I like to join squad swim sessions that Julie Dibens teaches as I enjoy catching up with friends. I am a lane (or two!) down but I feel quite relaxed about that. In fact, I have surprised myself at how easily I have switched my mentality from being so focused on performance to staying fit. Now, I “exercise” so I stay strong and fit, and continuing to swim, bike and run keeps me in a happy place.
There seem to be more resources for and awareness about female professional athletes choosing to be mothers during their careers. As an elite athlete accustomed to rigorous training and intensely competitive races, how are you preparing for this phase? What are your plans for staying active and fit during your pregnancy?
I have found the best resources to be the blogs and advice I have read from athletes who have already been through this transition from high performance athlete to pregnant athlete. It is hard not to constantly second guess yourself when you train….I mean, “exercise”… Am I doing too little? Too much? How hard is too hard to push myself?
I am grateful that my doctor has seen many athletes through this process, so her advice has been very reassuring as have the conversations I’ve had with friends who have been through this. I had lots of advice and I learnt early on that every woman’s experience of pregnancy is different and now is definitely not the time to compare what I feel comfortable doing to what others are doing or did during their pregnancy. I like to think I became well tuned into my body in my 7 years racing professionally and that is what I do now: listen to my body.
What’s the some of the most helpful advice you have received from other athletes who’ve had a baby? Any surprising suggestions?
I think the best advice I have had is to enjoy this special time. I am constantly in wonder in what my body is busy doing, and this has helped me accept the big changes I am feeling and seeing with my body.
I am not the lean mean racer of last year but my job this year is different and what my body is doing it is quite amazing.
With your success, you’ve established great relationships with sponsors over the years. What were the conversations like when you shared the news?
Sharing our news with sponsors was something I was worried about. I am sure it is not a situation unique to athletes but any woman who faces that conversation with their employer. Whilst nothing could take away from the joy Brett and I felt, I also felt I was letting my sponsors down who have supported me over the years and who, no doubt, expected me to back up my runner up position at Kona in 2015 with another assault on Kona this year.
“…the reactions I got to my pregnancy just confirmed that I get to work with some great brands and people”
However, the reaction I got from all my sponsors was brilliant. Without exception, they were all super happy for Brett and I and our new adventure. I am grateful for the continued support I will be getting this year and for the faith others have shown in rolling over 2016 offers to 2017. I have been lucky to enjoy great partnerships since turning professional, and the reactions I got to my pregnancy just confirmed that I get to work with some great brands and people.
Have you started sketching out your future race plans? Any definite plans?
No!! Definitely, no definite plans! I feel motivated by the challenge of adjusting to what will be a completely different world come September, and the challenge of returning to fitness and then to racing appeals to me.
However, you won’t find me on a start line in a rush: I intend to stay relaxed and enjoy the first few months without pressuring myself to get back into race shape quickly. Come Christmas, I anticipate/guess I will be in a better position to think about something that comes close to a “schedule”.
What’s the biggest thing you will miss and not miss about training and racing this season?
I am appreciating the time out. Exercising for pure enjoyment and being able to give myself a break if I decide I am too tired to do what I had originally planned. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss that endorphin kick that comes with nailing a hard session but I know I can get back to that next year.
In the Joyce household, who’s voting Boy? Girl?
The jury is out. We keep swinging between thinking we are having a boy and then a girl. We are waiting till B day to find out what we will be having.
Finally, how’s Maggie adjusting to the news?
Maggie has been so sweet. It really feels like she has noticed the changes in my behavior and has been my constant side kick the last few months and also become quite protective – barking if she hears anyone close to the front door or passing the front of the house. We just know she is going to be great with the baby come September.
Anything else to share?
I don’t think…except, if anyone sees me near the candy aisle in the grocery store, please guide me to the fruit department….this is a weakness when blood sugar levels get low!!!
Oh, and please get in touch through my website www.racheljoyce.org if you are interested in my coaching!