Cold, dark, deserted winter mornings lead to long golden summer days.
Each morning a trio of Bond Ironwomen plunge into the Pacific, driven by the knowledge that the work they do while the rest of us are rugged up in bed, or slipping on Ugg boots and padding into heated kitchens, gets them closer to their dreams of sun-drenched podiums on crowded beaches.
The cycle of sporting life is on display among the Bondies at Northcliffe Surf Club.
Harriet Brown, a 14-year veteran of the sport and one of the greatest Ironwoman of all time, is constantly pushed by the next generation snapping at her heels.
“Some of these young girls are so incredibly talented and it is exciting and so good for the sport,” she said.
“Sometimes I’m thinking, ‘Oh damn, they’re beating me today’ and that’s tough but I think that is the great thing about sport, it keeps me on my toes.
“I embrace it. It just makes me think that I need to do better.’’
Youngsters like Ruby Meehan who is set for her first Nutri-Grain Series debut after gaining qualification by winning last summer’s Next Gen Series, or Bree McCowatt who is preparing for the half-course Coolangatta Gold in mid October - a race that closely resembles number one on her bucket list, the Mount Monster in her home country of New Zealand in December.
Reading Brown’s resume is an endurance event in its own right. The Exercise Science graduate and Australian captain counts a World Ironwoman title and two Nutri-Grain Ironwoman Series titles among her achievements.
To teammates Meehan, 18, and McCowatt 19, she is a mentor - both for their racing careers and in developing the skills required to juggle studies and elite level sport.
Last summer, while still only 17, Meehan announced herself as a rising star of surf sports by finishing sixth in the elite open division of the 46.6km Coolangatta Gold.
Distance racing is a passion and she would love to follow Brown’s path and one day compete in the Molokai Challenge Ocean crossing.
Brown is a three-time winner and the record holder of the gruelling 52km race in which skiers and paddleboarders cross the Kawai Channel, which in Hawaiian means “Channel of Bones”, to the island of Oahu.
However, with a 12-week block of distance training behind them, they are now working on speed with repeat sets of board, ski, swim and run legs under the watchful eye of coach Naomi Flood.
“It is hard getting used to it, going in and out through the waves and getting our skills back up to par,” Meehan said.
“But it is going well, I feel pretty good at the moment and I can’t wait to start racing.
“I know I have to prioritise exams and study every now and then so that’s why I have to make the most of my training when I am here.’’
With both short and long course racing ahead, McCowatt is also making the transition in her training.
“This is one of the first short sessions back so I’m finding the change in intensity and pace is a bit different,” she said.
“I feel it gives me a really good endurance and aerobic base for the short course summer, but will also prepare me for the Gold and a race back in New Zealand which I am keen to compete in.’’
Pre-season involves 15 sessions a week and will continue until racing starts. And somehow Meehan (Biomedical Sciences) and McCowatt (Exercise and Sports Science) have to find time for study.
Again it is Brown, and the life she has created for herself, that serves as a motivator.
“I’m an exercise physiologist and it has been a really great profession for me because I have been learning about my body and learning about being an athlete, which is really cool,” she said.
“But also it is easy to juggle part-time work with training, so it is a nice way to be able to support myself.’’