Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Q&A with a Triathlon Coach, Part 1

I may have mentioned before that my cousin Judie (our dads are brothers) is a triathlon coach. (And an engineer - I come from a very smart/talented/motivated family!) She was kind enough to do a Q&A with me over email – here is part one: getting to know Judie. Stay tuned for part two, which gets into more details about training and doing triathlons, and how they differ from running-only events.

Experience Triathlon has agreed to donate one half-hour swim lesson session with Judie to my American Cancer Society raffle! The lesson can be held in Lisle or Rolling Meadows. Every $5 donation made before February 14 = 1 entry into the raffle.

Why did you start running competitively? Was it something you picked up together with your husband?

Eric and I fell into training for our first marathon sort of by accident. I had been cycling since 2002, just recreationally. The spin instructors at the gym had a party at a local place, and Eric went with me. At the party we bumped into a friend of his from high school who happened to be teaching classes at the gym. It turned out that he was a marathon runner and ran with a group of crazy friends. So we jumped into the group of crazy friends, did a lot of running, did a lot of post-run celebrating, and caught the bug. They were all training for Chicago and New York, and since we were running with them, we signed up for Chicago as a lark. I hadn’t run competitively since junior high track, and Eric had been playing intramural football and basketball after high school into his working years, but we’d never considered running competitively and certainly not together!

What has been your experience running/racing with your husband?

Racing with my husband is something of a mixed bag. When we’re both training, it’s good because we tend to eat well and hit our workouts. It’s great to have a partner who is on the same page as far as our lifestyle stuff goes. When we’re racing the same race, though, it can be a little chaotic trying to get all of our stuff in the car the night before and get out the door in the morning. As far as pre-race anxiety ... that’s just better when one of us is racing and not both! It can be a really quiet car ride, which is just easier than fighting about what to put on the radio when we’re both really edgy.

With multisport it’s never an issue of us racing together, since he doesn’t swim, and with running races I know he’s always going to beat me, so no issues of racing together there either! The last several seasons, he has been racing cyclocross, which has a season that starts in September and goes into January. Tri season is over in early fall and road races pretty much wind up in November, so our seasons aren’t overlapping too much. It does get tough when I’m training and racing and he’s in something of an off season, it gets really hard to keep getting up early and keep avoiding the stuff I really shouldn’t be eating!

What are your long-term goals? Personally and as a coach?

This is a tough question. We’re all supposed to have long-term goals, bucket lists, big dreams … and I’m coming from a pretty simple place. I love to coach people. I love being an athlete. As long as I can do both of those things, I’m a pretty lucky girl. And if we’re ever ready to settle down and have a family, hopefully we can work in my current loves with the new ones.

My current career in bridge engineering notwithstanding, I would like to coach a handful or two of athletes, depending on what time I have available. I’d like to see them grow as athletes and achieve things they never thought possible – the best reward I could ask for! I’d like to keep learning, which is easy in this business as technology and training science keep evolving, and I would love to eventually be one of those coaches that is known for producing high-quality stuff.

As an athlete, the Boston Marathon is definitely one of my pursuits. I enjoy marathons for the sense of achievement and I do believe that there’s more out there I can achieve. I do want to do more half-Ironman distance races; those are hard but still manageable with a full-time job and a husband. And I do want to continue to get faster at the shorter distance races – a lot of people look toward going longer and longer, but there’s no shame in wanting to be good at what you do.

How often do you race (running-only and triathlons)?

During tri season, I typically will do one tri a month, when it’s running-race season I might do a couple in a month but it’s hard to do quality training when you’re racing every weekend. I will only have a couple of key races a year so I can focus on doing those well.

What's the best race (running-only or tri) you've ever done? Which races are on your bucket list?

I only have a couple of bucket list races right now, but they’re big. One of them is the Boston Marathon. It seems to be the one that keeps getting away, but one day I’ll get there even if I’m an old lady. I would also like to qualify for USAT Age Group Nationals, which is an International distance event held yearly and features the best non-professional triathletes in the US.

My favorite marathon: Green Bay, WI. It’s well-organized, the course is good (flat!!), and I PR’ed there. Beer and brats after a marathon is a good suggestion for other race directors, I have yet to find a better marathon post-race, though Quad Cities definitely is a runner up for that one.

My favorite triathlon course: Pleasant Prairie, WI. The water in Lake Andrea is great, the bike course isn’t too bad, mostly fast, and the run lets you see the finish from a long way off, also any thunderstorms that are going to blast you as soon as you cross the line (2010).

If you need help with your swimming, Judie coaches ET Masters Swim in Rolling Meadows. The next 10 week session will start April 5. Stay tuned to ExperienceTriathlon.com for more details. 

Stay tuned for part two of the Q&A with more questions about training for a competing in triathlons!

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