Tori Potts did her first triathlon in 2012 on a 30-year old road bike found in her parents' garage. She has improved dramatically since then, rocking a 5:48 at Rev3 Florida this past November. Among other things, she talks about training with two young daughters, winning a "worst wetsuit" competition, and mustering the courage to swim in gator-infested waters!
What's your background and how did you get into triathlon?
I was always actively involved in sports. I grew up on a lake in Central Florida, so we did lots of water sports--water skiing, kneeboarding, etc. I also played basketball, volleyball, and swam on a team, at different points in middle school and high school. After becoming a mom for the first time, I trained for a half marathon to get back in shape. After that, I ran and lifted weights off and on, until I got a mailer for a local sprint triathlon in late 2012. I signed up two days before, borrowed an old bike, and fell in love with the sport.
You have degrees from rival schools, the University of Florida and Florida State University… how would you compare the two, and what % of you is Gator vs. Seminole?
They are both excellent schools with beautiful campuses. At UF, the university is Gainesville's claim to fame. It has a small town feel. Tallahassee is a whole different monster. Besides FSU and FAMU, it is the capital of Florida, so it is a big city in its own right. I grew up a Gator fan and will die a Gator fan. When choosing a school for my undergraduate degree, I had no interest in any school but UF. I was at UF for the back to back championships in basketball ('06, '07) and the championship in football ('06). It was a good time to be a Gator. FSU was one of the few Florida schools that offered my graduate program, and I was given a fellowship, so it was an easy decision to attend. Now, I enjoy seeing FSU succeed, but when they go head to head, I still cheer for my Gators.
On that note, I’ve always wondered something about Florida… are races ever held in gator-infested waters? Or are they mainly ocean swims?
All lakes in Florida have gators. Many triathlons have lake swims. Gators are more afraid of you than you are of them (at least that's what I tell myself to get in the water).
How would you sum up your 2013 season? What was the highlight and lowlight?
It was a learning experience. I raced two 70.3s, one in March and one in November. I cut 58 minutes off of my time in that span. I finished the first one by sheer determination, as I epicly failed with hydration and nutrition--I was 13 lbs down from my normal weight 8 hours after the race. I trained through the summer and honed in my nutrition, then I finished strong with a smile 58 minutes faster in November.
You mentioned that for your first race you rode a "30 year old road bike from the back of your parents’ garage.” Most people can relate to that (personally I rode a borrowed mountain bike for my first). Since then, how have you been able to improve so quickly?
I am married to a wonderful man who wholeheartedly believes "happy wife, happy life." He has encouraged me to make proper gear purchases. I spent several months waiting for the right deal on Craigslist and I am now the proud owner and happy rider of a Felt B2. I won a worst wetsuit competition at Rev3 Florida and won a blueseventy Helix. Besides the gear--I have just picked out training plans online and followed them. Time spent training is the #1 way to improve in my experience.
How would you rank the three disciplines from your personal strength to weakness, and what are some gear/products you use for each? (eg. wetsuit, bike, shoes, nutrition, etc)
My primary background is swimming. It comes most naturally to me, but I don't swim nearly enough due to family constraints and pure laziness/complacency. I have a blueseventy Helix sleeved suit, and an xterra sleeveless. I have improved my bike leg dramatically in the last year, so I would probably rank it second. I have a Felt B2, Bontrager shoes, and Profile Design aerobottle.
Running is my least favorite leg, but that has changed some in the last few months. I switched to Altra shoes (zero-drop) from a typical running shoe. They have eliminated a nagging pain in my hip that I have had since high school and improved my form. I am hoping to put more time in over the next year and improve my speed. I primarily use salt pills and shot blocks for nutrition, while drinking water. That was my proven formula after my 70.3 PR. Plus, shot blocks taste like really good gummy bears.
You wrote in your application “I am someone who commits fully when I see something good. It is why I jumped straight into the half-iron distance.” What was it that attracted you to long-course racing vs. short-course? Do you see yourself doing an Ironman in the next few years?
I like a good challenge--a 70.3 seemed insurmountable when I thought I was going to throw up after a sprint. It was also the farthest distance that I felt I could adequately train for as the primary caregiver for my young daughters. I have since completed a local sprint series as well, and while I enjoy it, I do not enjoy the hard and fast training sessions that are necessary to improve my sprint times. I plan to go to the Iron distance when both girls are in school, about 2-3 years from now.
What's your focus in terms of racing and/or goals for the 2014 season?
At this point, my race schedule includes all of the exact same races from last year. So in short, my goal is to PR each race. However, my reality as a stay at home mom with a child in preschool for the first time has included the most unhealthy winter of my entire life--the flu 2x, bronchitis, strep, multiple sinus infections, as well as a bike accident in the last 3 months. So, due to this mess, I feel like getting across the finish line of this first race will be an accomplishment in itself.
Tell us about your family, and what’s your personal strategy for fitting training in? How does triathlon help you as a mom?
I have been married to my husband for almost 6 years. We have two daughters, ages 3 and 4. I am a wife and mother first, and triathlon has to fit around my first 3 loves. However, I am a much happier, healthier person when I am exercising regularly. I love setting a good example for my girls who think it is very normal to swim bike and run everyday. I try to run on the days my oldest is in preschool, pushing my 3 year old in the jogging stroller. I ride on the trainer a lot in the evening, and try to work in at least one swim a week. My husband decided to try a triathlon after my last season, so he is training for the early season 70.3 as well. Our "date night" has consisted of long rides on the local trails for the last few months.
How do you like to spend your few moments of “free time” outside of family responsibilities and training?
I like to read, crochet, and spend a lot of time volunteering at our local church. Besides that, I like to nap.