Dispatch: Catching Up With Melissa Hauschildt (Nee Rollison)

Will we see 70.3 world champ Melissa Hauschildt (nee Rollison) in Des Moines, Vegas or Kona this year? Find out in this week's "Dispatch."

Photo: Nils Nilsen

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She’s the reigning Ironman 70.3 World Champion and she was my latte-drinking buddy yesterday morning in Boulder. Here’s a snippet of my coffee chat with Australian steeplechaser-turned-triathlete Melissa Hauschildt (nee Rollison).

Triathlete.com: First things first. You recently married your boyfriend Jared Hauschildt. Will you please tell me how to properly pronounce your new name?

MH: It’s “House-shilt.” But I’m trying to get Jared to change it to just “House”!

TM: You’re dealing with an interesting situation right now. You’ve been tempted with the opportunity to race Kona, having won the 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championship and thus automatically qualifying for all three WTC championship events: the Ironman World Championship, the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship. All you need is to complete a full Ironman in order to validate your Kona entry. Originally you planned to validate at Ironman Cairns earlier this month, despite an injury that prevented you from running. Your plan was to walk the full marathon, yet at the last minute you pulled the plug, fearing that a 26.2-mile walk would be too much of a risk to your healing bone. How psyched were you not to walk that marathon?

MH: It was a relief! But at the same time I was so disappointed. Even if I had done the race, it was not a given that I was going to race Kona. It was just to have my options open, and if I did an Ironman at the start of the season it wasn’t going to stuff up anything in terms of my other races. But it was going through my head all week whether walking that far would make the injury worse, and I didn’t want to do any more damage. It was a stress fracture in my fibula, and the doctor said I could walk in an air cast. But you can’t walk in an air cast for more than 10 minutes without getting blisters! Also, one of my injuries as a runner was a ruptured hamstring tendon. They sewed it to another muscle, so I’ve got two muscles going to one tendon. My knee hyper-extends, and if I walk too long I get pain behind the knee, so I was worried about that, too. If I can’t walk for 10 minutes, how was I going to walk for six hours? I actually hate walking! It’s harder than running.

Triathlete.com: Has your fibula fully healed?

MH: Yeah, it’s fine now. I’ve just started back running.

Triathlete.com: Jared raced Ironman Cairns, and he actually qualified for Kona in his age group. Tell me about that.

MH: He had never done a triathlon. He’s a runner. But ever since he was little he’s watched Kona. It’s always been a dream of his to do an Ironman someday, he just never thought he’d do Kona! He decided to race Cairns because I was doing it and because it was so close to home. Then when I got the stress fracture, he said he wasn’t going to race. I said, “No, you’ve still got to!” He didn’t want me to have to go and just watch, so that was one of the reasons why I asked the doctor if I could walk the marathon – I wanted to get him there! But he did it, and he made it to Kona!

Triathlete.com: Does he aspire to race as a pro?

MH: I don’t know what’s going on inside his head. He’s really shy, and he doesn’t think he can make it, but he doesn’t even ride a bike! Leading up to Cairns he did a little bit on the Computrainer, and the only time he got out on the road was on a Saturday when I did my shop ride. He just sat on it. He’d never done a ride on his own until the race.

Triathlete.com: What was his run split?

MH: He did 3:09. He was hoping to be a lot quicker, but he said he put in 120% on the bike. He got off the bike and was almost walking. He said, “I’m buggered! I cannot lift my legs.” I told him, “It gets better! The first 2K are the hardest! You’ll get your legs!” So he kept pushing on.

Triathlete.com: I know that Jared coaches you. Is he a full-time coach?

MH: Actually he’s not a coach – he’s a physio. I had been doing my own thing, and then when Jared came along I asked his advice on the running, and then I had him start looking over my whole program. When you write your own program, you do too much or you do too little, so I wanted his input. And now I just leave it all to him.

Photos: Ironman World Championship 70.3

Triathlete.com: Do you think part of the reason he wanted to race Cairns was to get a better sense of what you’ll need in terms of coaching specific to the Ironman distance?

MH: I think he did want an understanding of the pain you go through! People have tried to write programs for me who have never done a triathlon in their life, and I just haven’t agreed with them. I think an athlete who’s done 10 Ironmans is going to be a better coach than someone who has all the textbook knowledge but has never done one.

Triathlete.com: What do you think of the coach/spouse combo relationship? Do you ever wish your coach didn’t know you as well as he does? I mean you can’t exactly have any secrets from him. You can’t skip out on a workout!

MH: It works really well. All my other coaches have pretty much been by correspondence. And I guess I’m not the one to miss out on a session. I’m the one to add in a session. But Jared sneaks through my training diary and sees what I’m doing! My other coaches would send me the program and I’d have to do everything on it. If I got a niggle I didn’t want to tell the coach. Whereas with Jared, he knows if I’ve got a niggle. I’m touching it or I’m limping. So it’s really good. We have a guideline to my program, but it also changes every day. He asks how I feel or he looks at my diary, and if he sees that for three days I’ve been tired he says I need a rest day.

Triathlete.com: Being here in Boulder means a chance to train at altitude and in an environment very conducive to triathlon. But it also means being apart from Jared for six weeks. Is that because he can’t get the time off of work?

MH: He can get away from work, it’s just the visa. I’ve got the P1 visa, and he can get a P4 now that we’re married, but the visa took so long that we weren’t married when I started the process! For next year he’ll get a P4, and then he can come for as long as he wants. He can only come for three months now. So he’ll get here in four weeks, and we have it down to the day, to where we’re going home one day before the three months is up, just after Kona. It’s a bit of a bummer because we would have loved to come back to Boulder and see some snow and hang around for a bit. I’ve never seen snow in my life!

Triathlete.com: Will you still try to race Kona this year?

MH: I’ve thought about doing Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I could validate for Kona and it wouldn’t mess up my season, but I think I’m probably not going to. Originally I wanted to do all three World Championships. But when I got the injury I thought, “OK, I’ll do two.” I just don’t want to risk building up the running too much. I’m doing Boulder Peak 5150 in a week and a half, but it’s going to be to finish, not to race – just to validate for Hy-Vee. Vegas is the main one. They’re only one week apart, so the workouts before Hy-Vee are going to be targeted to Vegas. And since Jared qualified, I’ll definitely be in Kona to watch.

Triathlete.com: In your previous career as a steeplechase athlete, you felt the sting of missing out on Olympic qualification due to several injuries. Now, in another Olympic year, do you have any pangs of nostalgia for that opportunity? Or do you feel you’ve found your sport in triathlon?

MH: It definitely went through my head, especially since no Australian woman had qualified for steeple. Now they’ve actually taken one girl past the cutoff date because she got the qualifying time. The qualifying standard isn’t that fast, but I could never get it because I kept getting injured. I’d get it out of the timeframe, but I kept getting injured when I put my mind to it. So yeah, it did cross my mind to think I could have made it. But I’m happy doing what I’m doing now. It’s all good!

Triathlete.com: What are two things you love – and two things you don’t – about Boulder?

MH: The main thing I love is the hills. We have hills in Brisbane, but here there are no cars and the scenery is so good. When you’re riding, the backdrop is just like a poster. It’s awesome! And I love the trails. You just step out your door and there are trails everywhere. Again, in Brissy we have trails but you have to drive to them.

What don’t I like? The dry heat! I need some humidity. In Brisbane it’s so humid that you never use moisturizer. You never even think about putting anything on your skin. Here you get so dry and wrinkly and the sun’s so much more powerful. I also don’t like the late starts. Everybody starts training so late here! At home, I’m usually out the door at 4:30 or 5:00am. I train in the morning and then I’ve got all day to rest and then train again. Whereas here, you train up until midday, you’ve got an hour or two rest and then you’re training again. I was on a ride just yesterday and we passed a guy who said, “It’s so hot, I thought I’d get out early to avoid the heat.” It was 11:30am, so I said, “Far out, you’ve been out for hours! What time did you start?” “About 10 o’clock,” he said. How do you get early out of that? For most people here, 8:00 or 8:30 is an early start and 9:00 is normal. If they’re going ultra early it might be 7:30. At home I have to be out the door at 4:30 or 5:00 to beat the heat and get to squad. Here, if I’m out the door at 6:30 that’s a massive sleep in for me!

Note: Next week, Dispatch goes on the road to Germany to cover Challenge Roth. Watch for extended online coverage from our roving correspondent!

Read more Dispatch columns from Holly Bennett.

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