This month we bring you an exclusive interview with Olympian and Zealios team athlete, Sarah True!
Sarah spills the beans about her recent transition from short course to long distance, gives an insider’s view into representing USA in two Olympics and of course, we talk all things coffee.
We’re stoked to have her on Team Zealios.
Zealios: Hey Sarah! Good to see you through a computer screen!
Sarah True: Hello! You too!
Z: It’s been a few months. Last I saw you was at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. I even got to cheer you on at the finish and throw out a high five. That’s always a fun race.
Photo credit: Talbot Cox
So, how’s the rest of your season been?
ST: It’s good! After Oceanside I raced St. George half and haven’t done anything else since because I have (eekk…) Ironman Frankfurt in just a few weeks.
Z: Your first full distance! How exciting. We’ll dive into that later, but I want to learn more about young, pre-triathlon Sarah. After doing some research, I found you grew up swimming and running...
Psst... Sarah's finishes 2nd at Ironman Frankfurt! Her splits are shared below!
ST: Well, like most American kids, I grew up playing a whole bunch of sports. My first sport was actually soccer. Through soccer I realized I had no real coordination and the best part of practice was the 2 mile warmup run. Ha! So, the next year I realized I should just do cross country and not ride the soccer bench.
I do remember watching the Wide World of Sports Ironman broadcast in elementary school and mentally filing it away that triathlon could be for me someday. I thought, I can swim and bike and run, and it was cool seeing women on TV doing sports. In the early 90’s you didn’t see ton of women doing sports. Watching Paula Newby Fraser wear dayglow suits was awesome.
Z: You were super jealous, thinking “Oh man, I want that to be me one day wearing day glow!”
ST: Ha! Exactly!
So, in high school I did a couple of triathlons but there weren’t any races nearby and we had to make a 4 hour drive just to do a sprint triathlon. In college I did a couple more, but considered myself more of a swimmer than a triathlete.
Upon graduating I found I was a little bit of a slacker with my swimming. I felt like if I had put my head down, I could have been pretty good. I guess you need to mature sometimes to get to that point. What a surprise! If I had worked hard, I could have done something…?!
Z: Always that hindsight that gets ya.
ST: Right?! But I thought, it’s not too late for triathlon, given I’d done a few and they were pretty fun.
After graduating I didn’t have a plan and thought I’d give triathlon a crack which is totally ridiculous in the whole ‘hindsight’ thing because I had no reason to think I’d be any good. So, I gave myself a 2 year window and told myself after that period that if triathlon doesn’t work out I’ll go to grad school or figure something out.
Here we are 12 years later and it worked out okay.
Z: 12 years? Wow!
ST: Yeah, it’s crazy that it’s been 12 years now.
Z: I’d say it worked out really great for you! You’ve had the honor of representing the USA in 2 Olympics. Such an amazing accomplishment, congratulations!
So I’m totally an Olympics junkie and have to ask, what’s it like to go to the Olympics when competing? What’s it like to be in that atmosphere, representing your country at the highest level?
ST: To get to that point, you really do live in a bubble of your own sport and you think it’s much more important than it really is. When you go to Olympics, you realize how much bigger it is than your sport and your country. It’s really awe inspiring. Like when you sit down in the dining hall and look around and realize it’s the entire world represented across all different sports, not just your tiny sport.
Sport is play and it’s a privilege for everyone around the world to come together to play. You feel like you’re apart of something historically massive. I’m not doing a good job of describing it, but it’s humbling and inspiring at the same time.
Z: So that Olympic cafeteria… I can’t imagine looking around and seeing the most amazing and fit humans in the world.
ST: You do realize it’s an extreme of the human potential. You see these tiny gymnasts at 4’9” and they stand just past my navel, seriously, and then you see basketball players standing at 7” tall. It puts into perspective the range of shapes and sizes humans come in. Which is really cool.
As for the event itself, yeah, there’s more attention and cameras, but at the end of a day it’s the same people you’ve been competing against. An Olympic race is sometimes not as competitive because the field is more diluted because you have to have more representation.
But being in the athlete village or closing ceremony is what the Olympics are all about. Being around the other athletes is when it really contextualizes that it’s so much bigger than our tiny little piece of the Olympic games.
Z: While you may not have felt they were your most difficult competitive lineups, leading up to the Olympic races were you any more nervous because of the grandeur of the over Olympic stage?
ST: The 2012 Olympics I didn’t have as much time to build into the games. But yes, at the 2016 Olympics I was more so because that was my 4 year goal.
Although, once you’re at the Olympics, too much is going on to get too nervous. Just being able to start the race becomes more difficult logistically with things like security and it distracts you a bit. And you definitely have to be on top of all the details that the Olympics bring.
Olympics are a big deal and I would argue that the Olympics are more prestigious than Ironman Kona. Because Kona happens every year. The Olympics are only every 4 years. For triathlon, it’s more difficult to get to the Olympics.
But every sport is different. If you talk to a cyclist being at the Tour de France is the pinnacle of the sport or for soccer the World Cup is more important than the Olympics.
Z: So the short course Olympics are behind you and you’re taking the leap to full distance triathlon. Was this always the plan? Were you like, “Olympics check. Onto full distance.” ?
ST: Not at all. There’s never been a plan for my career. That’s just life and if you stick to the plans you miss out on other opportunities.
I’ve always been a fan of full distance, tracking Kona and following my colleagues. A small part of my brain was always curious, but it wasn’t until last October I basically woke up and said “I have to do this!”
Z: Wow! That’s quite the alarm clock.
ST: Honestly, It was a light switch. I felt like I had to do it for my understanding of the sport. It has really become a personal challenge.
This is the first major goal in my career that’s for me. Obviously, you want to represent your sponsors and make people proud, but it’s 99% for me. That sort of mindset hasn’t been part of my career since the beginning. I feel like I’m coming full circle.
But I don’t know if I can do it. It’s CRAZY far!
Since I follow the sport I know there are so many factors that come into play. You can be crazy fit and super dialed in with equipment and nutrition, but something can still go wrong and if it does it can be catastrophic. I do have the humility to not have any expectations. I kinda feel like I’m going in blind. It’s scary and it’s exciting like any sport should be. A challenge should be a little scary.
Z: Totally agree. If you’re not nervous there’s probably less caring going on.
So Ironman Frankfurt is your first full distance race.
ST: Yes and the course is long! So it’s even more than I should be doing! I’ve never ridden my bike that far and the course is an extra 3 miles.
Z: Is that how Germans do it? We must have a longer course...
ST: I guess so! I’ve never run a marathon. I’ve definitely never run a marathon after riding my bike far.
Of course it’s the most talented field outside of Kona with some really fast women lining up. But I’m used to racing really fast people, so that part doesn’t bother me much. It’s more the unknown of the distance.
I’ve only really focused on half distance for less than a year and now I’m doubling it. It’s exponential growth. You know, what’s next a double Ironman? ha!
Z: Yep, an ultra Ironman!
POST INTERVIEW UPDATE:
After our interview with Sarah, she went on to crush Ironman Frankfurt with a 2nd place finish!
Sarah’s checking off her full distance triathlon goals really fast! Next up, Kona!
Sarah’s 2nd place Ironman Frankfurt results:
Photo credit @marcotolive
Photo credit @contosporkm
Photo credit @ferdinandhuhle
Z: Other than the distances what are the biggest differences between Olympic to half or half to full distance?
ST: I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to the details, but you can’t get away with that in the longer distances.
Everything has to be dialed because you don’t want to add extra variables. So, my low key approach as been fine for the shorter stuff and has bit me in the butt for the longer distances. I’m now out on 5 hour bike rides, where the shorter distance training required I be out for only 3 hours, didn’t have to worry about preparing and bringing stuff like more fuel, sunscreen or chamois cream.
ST: I feel like a camel that’s loaded up for a trek across the Sierras.
Z: What about nutrition? Do you follow a nutrition plan? And how has it changed for the longer training?
ST: That’s something I’m continuing to learn. I have forgotten to take calories or water and it really messes up my race. Short course I’d take one gel. In hindsight, I should have trained myself to take in more fuel.
I view nutrition as one part education and the second part is making it routine through repetition.
I have to sit down and calculate how many carbs I should be taking before long training sessions. It’s not second nature for me yet.
Z: Talking with athletes who’ve done endurance races for years, the nutrition is still something they have to constantly monitor and tweak.
ST: I don’t want to hear that! Ha!
It’s intimidating to me. Unless it’s a really hot day, nutrition doesn’t decide whether or not you have a good or bad racing in short course. Long distance if you don’t have nutrition dialed it ruins your race. So nutrition has always been a thing I’ve been nervous about.
I’m an athlete and I want it to come down to who’s the best athlete not who forgot to take in a couple hundred calories. It just doesn’t seem fair to me, but it’s part of the game. If you don’t get it right that’s your own fault and that’s part of being an athlete as well.
Photo credit Vermont Social
Z: Do you have any tips for athletes that are looking to make the jump to extend their distance? Anything to ease their process?
ST: Become a student of the sport and learn from those who are more experienced. One of my advantages is I have a lot of friends experienced in Ironman.
What’s cool about the long course community is people are very willing to share information. So, there are no bad questions. The other day I was having a conversation with someone and part of me was embarrassed to ask a question, but I was like I don’t know the answer and I should ask.
“Do I change my socks? Or do I wear the same socks?”
It seems dumb, but I don’t know the answer. If you don’t have experience ask someone who does and don’t be shy.
Z: Great advice for sports and beyond.
So, as with the rest of America, we were glued to the TV watching this year’s Boston Marathon and kept seeing these sweet Linden & True hats...what’s that all about?
ST: Yeah, our timing was incredible. So the back story is Ryan Linden (Desi Linden’s husband) and Ben True (my husband) really got into coffee roasting at the same time.
Desi and I couldn’t handle all of the roasting talk at home so we set them up on a man date! They both started communicating nonstop about roasting and here we are now.
ST: Desi recommended a soft launch during the weekend of the Boston Marathon, though we hadn’t named the brand yet...
So we launched Linden & True Coffee during the marathon weekend and handed out free coffee. It was a cool event and we got a lot of support from the running community. And as you know, Desi won the Boston Marathon and was the first US woman to win in 33 years. From that point our little hobby roasting company became a legitimate company.
Z: What a cool story and amazing timing!
ST: Our timing was incredible you can’t beat that. It helps that we all have a fan following, but at some point we want to be a coffee roastery that happens to be lead by athletes and not buying our coffee because we’re athletes.
There are things we’re still figuring out.The limitation for all of us is we have jobs that aren’t coffee-related and we can only dedicate so much time to what we’re doing. Ben was off in Europe racing for 2 weeks. He can’t roast in that time. We do have Founder’s Club year subscription which helps us plan for production. But the response has been amazing and we keep selling out!
Photo credit @poolisasport
Z: Sounds like a fun and exciting challenge and one I can completely relate to! Congrats on the very successful launch.
So, last but definitely not least, what is your favorite Zealios product and why?
ST: Currently, I would have to say the Sun Barrier because I’m spending a lot more time in the sun. But I’m also spending a lot of time in my chamois so the Betwixt has been so very good to me. So both are making me very happy while training!
Z: Sarah, thank you for chatting with us. Best of luck at Ironman Frankfurt, we’ll be cheering for ya.
And I’m gonna try and buy the Zealios team some delicious coffee beans before they sell again!
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