10 Apr 2020

Deer shed turns into pool for NZ triathlete

2:55 pm on 10 April 2020

In a word, Nicole van der Kaay's lockdown training regime is going swimmingly.

The New Zealand triathlete, a mixed teams bronze medallist from the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, has been isolating with her family on their farm outside of Taupō.

But with the lake itself or the nearest pool not an option, the 24-year-old asked her father John about how she might continue swimming.

No promises were made but an initial plan was hatched and, soon enough, work was underway.

John had turned his attention to, of all places, his deer shed for the solution to his daughter's dilemma.

"I had to do it without leaving home, so it took me half a day to think about it and I said 'yea, I think I know what I can do'.

"The bays [in the deer shed] are about three metres by three metres. I took one of these bays, cleaned it all out, supported the walls, lined it and then also put soft packing in around it.

"I only had a silage wrap in big rolls, so it's not quite thick enough for a pool but it suffices with what I put around the edges and seems to be working okay."

With a belt around her waist, and a bungee cord attached to a pole, Nicole has been able to train all three disciplines triathlon involves.

While the water was a bit cold, John said he had managed to make the pool more than fit for purpose.

"I've kind of made up a bit of a vacuum system to vacuum the bottom and a sieve to clean the top because obviously you get bits and pieces always coming into water when it's in a stagnant position.

"By doing those things and recirculating the water, putting fresh water in, we should be able to keep it clean enough for her to keep training as often as she needs to."

Although it was unknown when exactly Nicole might be competing again, the makeshift pool was giving her a leg up on her opposition.

She said being able to keep swimming, when many of her rivals may not be, was a great advantage.

"A lot of swimmers talk about losing the feel when they're out of the pool for a day or so.

"I'm very lucky I can still get in the water and actually feel the water, feel the stroke, simulate what I would do in a pool swim.

"I can still, as much as I can, train as normal."

Close to normal also applied to the two other disciplines she needed to continue doing.

Nicole said being on a farm meant her cycling and running training had been nothing, if not scenic.

"I've got a nice [indoor cycling] trainer here courtesy of Tri NZ, so I can do [virtual] races sitting in front of the TV or watching the beautiful views we've got.

"I can run up and down our driveway, which is kind of nice but actually more of a nasty hill, and I can jog on the farm if I want, around the paddocks with the cows."

Eventually, Nicole will return to her Cambridge-base to continue training in a more normal setting.

For now, though, she was thankful a stroke of good, old-fashioned Kiwi ingenuity had minimised the disruption to her routines.

As for her dad John, he was simply happy to help his daughter out, and have a bit of fun doing it.

"I've got plenty to do around the place here, so I'm keeping myself pretty busy.

"But even to just have the time to do this was quite cool. It got the thinking cap on and put all the bits and pieces around the farm to good use."

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