Monday, February 23, 2015

Triathlete, Olympian & Mom: Interview with Sarah Haskins

Simply put, Sarah Haskins is one of the most prolific female triathletes of all time. A few highlights on her extensive resume include the US Olympic team in 2008, a career win total too high to count, and becoming a mother in 2013. After bouncing back from an injury last year, she has her sights set on new challenges in 2015. Thanks for the time, Sarah, and best of luck this season!

photo credit Eric Wynn
You’ve been pretty unstoppable throughout your career, amazingly even last year following time away for the birth of your daughter (btw, congrats!). How frustrating was getting injured mid-way through last season after winning 6 races right out of the gate, and what’s your current status? Has juggling your profession with motherhood been easier or harder than you expected?

Thanks! When I returned back to racing last year, I knew my training had been going well and I was excited to get back onto the race course. I was more than pleased with the start to my season, but was devastated when I developed a mid-season injury. I learned so much last year about the art of balancing motherhood, training and recovery. Being a mother adds so much joy to my life, I would not want my life any other way. In some ways being a Mom and athlete is easier than expected, but in some ways it has been harder. As she has gotten older, recovery has been a little harder since she is not a little baby anymore! Now she is running around and getting into everything! I have learned to plan my training around when my body feels ready and when I know I can get in some recovery afterward. My husband/coach, Nate, is a huge help to me and we truly work together as a team. Currently, I am healthy and excited to start another season.

Living in Florida must be a double-edged sword... the climate allows you to train outside year round, but the heat and humidity has to be pretty tough in the summer. How do you view the benefits of training in Florida, versus, say, at altitude? As a side note, our team rides with Rudy Project, which has won the “Kona Count” for helmets the last 4 years thanks in part to superior ventilation. We noticed you do as well… is that a deliberate choice for dealing with Florida training and general race day heat?

We moved to FL several years ago to escape the winter! We lived in Colorado most of the year from 2005-2011. Since we have been in FL, we have not spent all summer here, so we have not experienced the full FL heat and humidity. Training in FL from Nov-March is ideal temps...60s and 70s, with low humidity. I loved training in CO in the summers and I think training at altitude has huge benefits. I do believe training at a high elevation year round, however, can be tough on the body. From a scientific standpoint, training in the heat can have the same physiological benefits as training at altitude. From a personal standpoint, I think training in the heat is tougher than training at altitude! Most of the races I compete in are in a hot environment, so I feel FL has helped me better prepare for those races. I believe in a race it is important to keep your core as low as possible (when racing in the heat), so I always choose equipment that will help give me an edge, like my Rudy Project TT helmet.

photo credit Eric Wynn

We noticed Ironman 70.3 St. George was originally on your 2014 schedule in order to earn Hy-Vee championship points, which, correct us if we’re wrong, would have been your first 70.3. Are you still interested in the 70.3 distance with Hy-Vee now out of triathlon? What are your 2015 plans?

My current 2015 plans are vastly different from years past. I am setting new challenges and goals for myself. My first four races on the schedule range from a sprint distance to an Iron distance. I am focusing on Ironman Texas in May and after that race, I will know which direction the rest of my season is headed. I am very sad that Hy-Vee will not be on the schedule this year. It was a great race with a hometown, mid-west feel (being close to St. Louis).

Prior to becoming a triathlete you were already a high school state champion (Missouri) in both cross country and swimming and a collegiate runner. Did the bike come just as naturally or did it take more work? With its combination of longer distance + non-draft legal racing, is the bike a relative vulnerability for you at the half and full Iron distance, or no cause for concern?

Some aspects of the bike came easier to me than other aspects. The strength and threshold riding paralleled with my years of swimming and running and I was able to pick that up quickly. The technical skills and explosive power took a good four years to develop. Even after ten years of riding, I still have room for improvement!

photo credit Nils Nilsen

The Summer Olympics is something we always look forward to, especially since triathlon made its debut in Sydney. To be able to compete at that level must truly be something special. At what point did you realize that the Olympics were no longer a dream, but a reality? What was the greater emotion, the high of racing in Beijing in ‘08 or the low of narrowly missing the team in 2012? Do you have your sights set once again on representing the US in 2016?

In 2004 when I moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, I realized that my dream was becoming a reality. I was working every day towards becoming an Olympic athlete. My dream was not 100% sure until just six weeks before the Games when I qualified in Des Moines, Iowa (at the Hy-Vee Triathlon). Racing in 2008 was surreal. It was the kind of feeling that gave me goosebumps knowing my dream since I was a child was becoming a reality. In 2012, missing the team I had much more raw emotion. I had worked very hard leading up to the trials race and put so much effort on the line during the race. I raced with pure adrenaline, heart and emotion and gave it everything I had. I was disappointed falling short of my goal, but proud of my effort. Currently 2016 is not a primary goal of mine, but it's not completely out the door.

photo credit Eric Wynn

Follow Sarah's season, including her Ironman debut at IMTX!



The Haskins Elite Support Crew:

Rudy Project
ISM Saddles
Gear For Multisport

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