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Wellington lawyer a top ironman competitor

08 September 2016

Wellington lawyer Natalie Gaskin has another string to her bow. She is also a top New Zealand athlete, competing in ironman events.

Right now she is preparing for the World Ironman Championship, being held in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i, on 8 October.

Just a few days ago, on 4 September, she competed in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, contested over half the usual ironman distance, in Mooloolaba, Queensland.

To enter these top competitions, athletes must first qualify, and Ms Gaskin qualified for the Mooloolaba event at the Taupo 70.3 late last year. That, she says, came despite "very limited fitness".

She then lined up at the start of the Ironman New Zealand (IMNZ) at Taupo on 3 March.

"I knew that IMNZ would be a different beast," she says. "An Ironman race requires respect and if you line up on the start line without completing the necessary work you will be found out."

Her many hours of training paid off.

Winning performance

Ms Gaskin won her age group in a time of 10 hours 1 minute 45 seconds. That time, she says, "is something I think about to motivate myself. It would've been nicer if it was 9:59, but that's something to go back for next year".

Her time was, however, the second fastest of women in all the age group categories and faster than some of the professional athletes. The Ironman event is a long triathlon, comprising a 3.86km swim, 180.25km bike ride and topped off with a full marathon of 42.20km.

"My goals leading into and during IMNZ were simple and internal:

  • make it to the start line healthy and injury free;
  • have confidence in my body to get me through the race at a competitive level;
  • remember what it is like to race again, hurt (in a good way!) and be competitive;
  • execute my race plan; and
  • most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience.

"I was confident that if I was able to focus on my internal goals, a competitive finish position – both overall and in my age category – would follow and Kona qualification would take care of itself.

"I can safely and happily say that I checked all of the boxes. Focusing on the 'controllables' had paid off.

"The best part of the day was that I'd had fun and enjoyed myself while executing my plan.

"It worked pretty well Taupo this year, especially on the back of a pretty disappointing 2015 with injury.

"I ended up having a stress fracture of my hip, basically an overuse injury. A lot of it stemmed from just general stress in life as well," she says.

"When I was injured last year I went through quite a bit of reflection – listening to my body a little bit more, listening to when I need to take it easier, and not being afraid to do that."

Helps with lawyering

Being both a lawyer and a triathlete can be busy, she says.

Photo of Natalie Gaskin
Natalie Gaskin

"I think you must have very good time management skills and be quite a driven person to fit everything into your day. You need to be driven to succeed as well, and I think a lot of the traits of high performance sportspeople can be translated across to the workforce as well.

"I think it actually helps me in my professional life.

"Some of the things I've learnt from sport in terms of goal setting – and I don't think it matters what sport – you take chances, calculated risks, you have to try something new. You can't just do the same things all the time. If you do, you won't see any improvement.

"I'm often competing against athletes who train full time, but part of what makes me proud of my achievements, and I think a better lawyer is that I've learnt to apply my strategies for training to my working life and vice versa.

"For example, I believe sportspeople are very good at setting (and achieving) goals, however in law I've seen plenty of people drift without a clear focus for their careers," Ms Gaskin says.

"Also, having something else outside work to focus on does make you a better lawyer.

"Work always come first. I can't always fit in all the training that I would like to but I think it does help me quite a lot. It makes you very efficient with your time."

The fact that you are exercising and have good nutrition helps with your job as well, she says.

A property and commercial lawyer, Ms Gaskin was admitted in 2006. She is a partner of Johnston Lawrence. "I've been here a little over six years and I've been a partner since December 2014.

"I think it's a fantastic firm to work for. Naturally as partner you would say that.

Work flexibility

"We have a few working parents at Johnston Lawrence and we try and be a bit flexible for other commitments people might have. Providing some flexibility in the workplace actually makes a massive difference to people's well-being and their performance at work as a result of that.

"I think these sorts of things are really important to people now.

"People obviously want to be challenged in the type of work they're doing and enjoy the culture of the firm.

"At Johnston Lawrence we do like to give people the flexibility to do the things they need to do and as a result you actually gain a lot of good will from your employees and our staff will go that extra mile for you. It is give and take really."

Presentations

On top of what is an already very busy schedule, Ms Gaskin has also presented for some women's and sports groups recently.

"My message is a little bit different – I like to encourage people to think about their goals and careers in a little bit of a different way and applying some of tools that I've adapted to help me succeed professionally.

"Often when I talk to people in terms of goal setting and setting measurable goals, I often find a lot of people aspire to succeed (for example being senior associates and eventually a partner), but they don't really have a clear plan about how and what they need to do.

"With sport you're always thinking, for example with me, 'I want to be able to run this time or bike that time, or certain splits for my swim, and how am I going to achieve that?'

"People think: 'I want to be a partner one day'. I like to ask people: 'How are you going to get yourself to that position? It's great having that as your goal but you need to have all your stepping stones.' That's something that's easy in sport to measure, and can be difficult with our careers as you don't always get the level of feedback you might want."

Speaking about how to achieve one's goals "is something which I quite enjoy doing. And it's nice to be able to interact with people and feel like you're making a bit of a difference.

"That's my little side project, which I do in my spare time – if such a thing exists," she says. "It's certainly rewarding speaking on a subject I am passionate about."

Last updated on the 8th September 2016