Thursday, July 22, 2010

Interview with a Triathlete: Part Two

A happy triathlete, ready to celebrate!

At this point, some of you may be wondering why a food blog is devoting three days, three posts, to a triathlon? That's a fair question. Certainly, familial pride plays a part in the answer; but the greater answer by far lies in my belief that we are collectively inspired and uplifted by witnessing another person achieve his or her goals. While most of us may not dream of crossing a Triathlon's finish line, we do dream. We set goals. Whether its shedding a few pounds, cutting down on sugar or fat, or simply trying to move away from processed foods - you all have goals of your own. I share them.

Who knows, maybe after reading this you'll be inspired to: join a gym, run an extra mile, or enter a road race of your own? I hope so. Hell, even choosing to forgo that extra helping of ice cream is a victory of sorts! It is my hope in telling Heather's story that you will be inspired to dream a little bigger, reach a little farther, and know that you can accomplish whatever you set out to do.

Completing an Olympic-length Triathlon is such a tremendous accomplishment! How did it feel to cross the finish line? What was going through your mind when you did?

I felt great, mentally and physically! I felt like I accomplished what I set out to do, from just a pure goal standpoint. Physically, I felt good; I wasn't sick or feeling bad in any way, and I was really happy about that. I spoke a little about this on Sunday, after the race, but I wanted to run this race for my mom - to embody what she lived, the way she lived, her strength, her mental toughness and determination. This race really represented what she meant to me and I wanted to honor those qualities in her by running it.

Crossing the line, I also felt really good about, and frankly overwhelmed by, the love and support my family and friends showed for me by making a point to be there for me throughout the race and along the course. You cross the finish line and have all those emotions coming at you at once - the sense of accomplishment, the love and support, the feelings for and about my mother - and you kind of cry a little bit. I teared up. Then again, I cry at "Old Timer's Day" at the stadium, so there you go!

Physically, how did you feel after the race and on the day following?

I really felt good. A little sore in my legs, they're a little tired, but I feel like I could have worked out on Tuesday - at least the upper body. Circumstances made that impossible, but I do think I'll work out tomorrow. I didn't need or take any Advil or anything, I've just been resting my legs a bit. Funny, I've definitely continued the tuna and ice cream cravings. I had both again yesterday! I slept well on Sunday night and am continuing to hydrate. Its one of the things you can really control - your hydration, and it makes a huge difference in your body's ability to perform. Hydration is critical, both for performance and recovery.

Do you think, having now achieved this remarkable goal, that you will be able to draw on this success in other areas of your life? In what way/ways will reaching this goal impact your life in general?

I think what you draw on after reaching a goal like this, is your ability to have confidence in yourself. I set a goal and I achieved it ... I can set other goals and achieve them too. What I like about sports in general, and for me in particular, is the ability to control the outcome. There's an element of control that people crave in their lives, but you can't control so many things ... and in sports, you can. I can prepare, I can research, I can control my outcome. I may not be able to control getting a date, but I can control my race performance! And I feel like that experience is completely transferable to my career as well.

I'm happy in my career and, having done this now, I feel like I can set in place a plan to better manage my career so I'm controlling it, not having it control me. Its not a knock on where I am now at all, but I've reached a point where I want to be the master of that ship ... and I feel like completing the tri gives me the ability to do that. Its kind of like that saying about New York - if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere - accomplishing a major goal gives you that same mental toughness, and you can draw on it at any time. I know now that I can take on a lot of mental and physical stress.

Do you think you'll run the 2011 Nautica New York City Triathlon? And do you have any advice for those who are just starting out and want to attempt a tri?

I would definitely do it again. I think I'll put my name in for the lottery - they've changed the way they're doing it next year. But in some ways it depends on where I am in my life at that time. If I do it again next year, I will set more specific goals for each leg, time-wise. The way these races work, is that you commit to doing it in November, but your training doesn't really start until April, so its hard to say where I'll be in my life at that time next year. It will depend on that. Its a huge time commitment. I want to do it, but I won't do it if I can't do it right.

As for starting out and attempting a tri, its different for everyone. The path I took was one of building confidence through sprint (half-length) tri's. I ran the Danskin 2 years ago, and another one last year. Its a good way to start. I found the path of doing sprints helpful, but it depends on individual personality. There's no doubt that doing sprints helps, especially in terms of the transitions and knowing what to expect during a race. Though, if you're really confident, and can immerse yourself in the training, you can start with an Olympic. Its all about having the commitment, time and energy to do it ... and advance preparation.

There are so many resources out there now - even on YouTube. You can actually watch YouTube videos on how to change out of a wet suit ... and I did! My advice would be to get as much information as possible - and the Internet is a great source. You can find everything you need online. Get involved in the "tri community" if you'd like to race - most sports shops have tri clubs, and you can find them online too. Its a very inclusive and supportive community.

If you're looking for a race in your area, check - they have a platform that all the national races hook into to calendar their events. Its a great resource.

You've always been athletic, do you think that gives you a leg up in racing? Or can anyone give it a shot?

I think being naturally athletic does give me a leg up, as does having played organized sports in high school and college. But I think it gives me more of a mental edge than a physical one. It gives me confidence in myself and makes me familiar with the process and what it takes. That said, I do think anyone can do a Tri, athletically inclined or not. The mental prep and the ability to follow a process are key.

I saw someone wearing a great shirt during the race. It said: "You never know if you don't Tri" ... and I believe that's true. From a physical perspective, if you train your body and eat right you can do this. (Assuming you're healthy, of course.) On the mental side, you can draw on past successes and experiences where you followed a process and ultimately achieved a goal.

Finally, what's next for you, in terms of competitive racing?

I think I'm going to do the Bronx half-marathon in August. I actually don't like running, so I feel like that's my challenge. Its 12 miles and the most I've ever done is 8. I feel like learning to run 4 more miles is do-able between now and next month. I've kind of been seduced by feeling healthy and loosing inches. I don't think I've lost weight - and that's fine, I wasn't trying to - but I've definitely lost inches. I'm in the best shape of my life ... and I like eating ice cream! You have to have balance!

Many, many thanks to Heather for allowing us into her head and for this glimpse into what its like to train for and run a triathlon. Even though I was supporting her throughout, I learned a lot from this interview and I hope you have too.

Traditional media does a wonderful job of highlighting the lives of professional athletes. That's a given. But I often feel they miss the mark when it comes to the every day athlete. Its the stories of these every day runners and racers that inspire me most - because while the pros get paid to do what they do, people like Heather (and like many of you) train within the context of their every day lives. They go to work, have families, friends, social obligations, etc., and still find time to achieve their goals.

This series is my way of saluting my wonderful sister in law, and saluting all of you every day athletes out there. Over 3,000 people ran in the NYC Triathlon on Sunday and the great majority of them were people like Heather. Every day athletes. If that's not inspiring, I don't know what is.


p.s. - On the menu tomorrow: chicken meatballs. Stay tuned and come hungry!


Katherine Aucoin said...

I'm proud for you too and I haven't met Heather. Thank you for sharing. Very amazing post Tara!

Ada said...

I did the NYC Tri last weekend also and had such a blast! It's fun to read about other people's experiences as well. Congrats to your sister!

Molly said...

I like how she says accomplishing a goal like this gives you mental toughness, I agree whole heartedly!

Great interview!

Deb said...

On to the next goal - I've got to agree with you about the running thing Heather - I'm definitely not a runner but can see myself walking a large distance - I've been walking Sat mornings and did 8 miles last weekend.

Elle Sees said...

Wowza! I can't run, let alone do an event like this!! Kudos to everyone who does! It gives me inspiration.

zurin said...

Good post. I need to go for that jog now. I do admire those who endure physical challenges and complete them irrespective of winning or not. Im such a lazy bum when it comes to excercizing. ths post was a good reminder. Have been slacking for a week now. thanx :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

It is indeed quite an accomplishment. Heather is a winner and has a strong advantage from the standpoint that she was mentally focused on achieving this goal.

Juliet said...

Hey. Thank you for the kind words. It's nice to be back. :) How are you doing?

pixelgal said...

This post is a definite salute to you too, my Diva. Your loving support helped make this possible for Heather and through your excellent writing you've inspired many folks out there to go for their goal. I was very touched by this article. Hats off to the Diva!!!

Tangled Noodle said...

Thanks so much for sharing Heather's experience with the rest of us! Although I may have only run a triathlon vicariously others like her, I think that inspiration can be drawn into all aspects of our everyday lives. Congratulations, Heather - you are the picture of happy fitness and great health!!

stephchows said...

again super congrats!!!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Again, my most sincere thanks to all of you for the kind words to Heather. She means the world to me and I'm happy to share just a little bit of her with you! :)

Sophie said...

Thanks again for this lovely post! It was fun reading & learning more about your sister's achievement!!

Congrats to her!!

Carla and Michael said...

I have to say , I really have enjoyed this interview. All I can think of now is the slogan; "Be all that you can be". I have been very inspired by Heather.
Thanks to the both of you.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Thank you, Sophie! :)

Carla and Michael - thank you so much, you've made my day! :)