"Starting at 11 left me a lot of time for racing!" jokes Ellie Salthouse, and she has definitely made the most of every second so far as a professional triathlete.
Ellie has enjoyed the most successful phase of her career since switching to middle-distance racing at the end of 2015.
It all began thanks to a box of breakfast cereal, and has been a rollercoaster ride at times since. But as her favourite quote states: "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going”.
Ellie began as a junior in Queensland, progressing to Triathlon Australia, the ITU junior ranks and then through to the elites.
All the time there was an Olympic dream, but London 2012 came too soon and by Rio four years later her career had taken a different path.
She "lost the love" for ITU racing towards the end of 2012 and decided to retire, or at least take a break and pursue other avenues.
But six months away made her realise how much she missed it and hooking up with coach Siri Lindley, who she calls "my greatest inspiration and hero", in 2013 proved a game-changer. As did the switch to half-distance racing a couple of years later.
Fittingly, her opening two wins came firstly on home soil in Australia at Challenge Melbourne in January 2016 and then at IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder, her new training base during the Australian winters.
Many more successes have followed since and her big goal now is a victory in the 70.3 World Championship, something that looked within reach at Nice in 2019.
Ellie calling Siri
The start of Ellie’s triathlon journey began when she saw an advert on the back of a cereal pack for a series of Weet-Bix kids triathlons.
Already a good cross-country runner, she says: "I loved it so much that my parents found me a junior triathlon coach right away”.
She made rapid progress and her Olympic ambitions looked very much on track when at 17 she took an individual silver medal at the Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010, her first international event.
However, over the next couple of years and with drafting allowed and tactics playing a vital part, she didn't feel she was getting the rewards her training merited on the ITU circuit, prompting that mini-break.
When Ellie decided to return, she wanted it to be different, and working with a new coach in Lindley made that happen.
For starters, she was told to fly out to Boulder to make it her winter training base, and she promptly saw snow for the first time.
"Siri helped me get the love back for triathlon and enjoy things. I loved everything about it - the training, the racing, and the atmosphere," says Ellie
Success didn't come instantly though and Salthouse stuck with the shorter ITU races until towards the end of 2015, at which point Siri suggested stepping up to middle distance.
A first attempt that September, before her training had significantly changed, came as a shock to the system.
She soon adapted though, adding in the endurance elements and getting used to a time-trial bike. 2016 was designated as a make-or-break year to give the new distance her full attention.
It didn't take long to realise she had made the right decision, with many friends and family on hand to cheer her to victory in Challenge Melbourne that January. Not surprisingly, given what had gone before, it was an emotional win.
"It hasn't sunk in yet, to get a victory in just my second 'half' is pretty incredible," Ellie said shortly after crossing the line.
Feelings were running high a few months later too at 70.3 Boulder when she outpaced South Africa's Jeanni Seymour in the closing stages of the run to win by 17 seconds.
The year was rounded off with another success in the States (70.3 Miami) and one back in Australia (Challenge Shepparton Half). She had found her forté and made her mark.
A dip of sorts was around the corner as 2017 saw Ellie hampered by a hip problem, which took 18 months to get fully sorted.
Salthouse still managed to defend her Miami title and register five top-five places that year, but there were frustrating times too. However, by the second half of 2018, she was flying again.
A second win at Boulder was followed by further 70.3 triumphs in Cozumel and Los Cabos and a third place in Bahrain.
The run continued in 2019 as she landed Challenge Cancun in April and then a top-10 finish at The Championship Challenge Samorin.
She was in form, full of confidence and had her sights trained on the 70.3 World Championship in Nice that September.
Heartbreak on the French Riviera
Ellie arrived on the Côte d'Azur six weeks early to make sure she knew every yard of what was an unusually hilly and technical bike course.
Her preparation went perfectly, and a stunning swim (only Lucy Charles-Barclay went faster) put her in a great position.
"Becoming a world champion is the ultimate dream and I thought that was going to become a reality in 2019, but things out of my control prevented that," is how Ellie sums up what happened next.
For the electronic gear-shifting mechanism on her bike started to malfunction, something she may have got away with on a flat or even rolling course, but definitely not Nice.
The dream was gone for a year (her bike split was over 40 minutes slower than winner Daniela Ryf) but rather than DNF, she took out her anger in the run as she completed the half marathon in 1:18:58, one of only six women to break 1:19.
Back on her happy hunting ground of South America just three weeks later, she defended her Cozumel title and then followed up with victory soon afterwards at 70.3 Coquimbo in Chile. It was the perfect reaction to Nice and one that spoke volumes for her positive mindset.
As one of the bubbliest characters on the circuit and someone who "loves race day", it comes as a surprise to find out that Ellie suffers from pre-race jitters.
"I think everybody does, don't they?" she says.
"I get really bad nerves to the point where I cry before I race - it's just my way of releasing nervous energy I guess!"