'Zinc Out Loud!' with professional triathlete Haley Chura
Zealios: We’re here with the amazing, happy and always smiling Haley Chura.
For those who don’t know, Haley was the first ever pro to believe in Zealios and work with us! We are so thankful for your support.
Haley Chura: Thank you! It’s an honor and a badge I’ll carry forever!
We’ve grown up together. I’ve had a lot better races, skin and hair since meeting you guys!
Z: Ha ha! So happy belated birthday! It sounds like you had a great day that involved a ‘mountain triathlon.’ What’s a mountain triathlon?
HC: For years I’ve wanted to do something called a “picnic”. A picnic is when you start in town and ride your bike up to a mountain lake, swim across the lake, then hike a mountain. You’re then supposed to eat your “picnic” at the top of the mountain and do it all in reverse. Run back down the mountain, swim back across the lake and bike back down to town.
Where I live in Bozeman, is a perfect place for this. I however did not invent this event, I think someone in Jackson Hole, WY did. You can YouTube a bunch of their videos which are much crazier routes than ours. They’re like climbing the Tetons.
Logistically, I was pretty worried, but then my parents rented me a U-Haul as a birthday present! So we could store our bikes, water and food in the U-Haul.
It was a 1.5 hour bike ride climbing up to about 7k feet. Since it was my birthday I decided to do a non-wetsuit swim which I quickly regretted because it was 40 degrees! You only live once I guess. We swam the width of the lake and back. Then ran up Mount Blackmore 5 miles and back down, then rode back to the town.
It was a beautiful day and so much fun. It really made me happy for the fact that I’m in good health and fit enough to do something like that on a whim and have nearby mountains to enjoy.
And I was very proud of myself for handling the logistics, I guess triathlon makes you good at that! And I didn’t do it by myself, it was so cool to have so many people to celebrate with. Afterwards we had a big BBQ at my place.
Z: What an amazing way to spend your birthday! The Zealios team wants to know how we get an invite to your 34th birthday?!
HC: Ha! You guys are more than welcome!
Z: So, any ideas on what next year’s event might look like? Maybe create a new type of race?
HC: Oh fun! Personally, I think it would be really fun and challenging if the swim was last, so a reverse triathlon. Although you’d have to take out a major liability insurance! So that’s probably out. Can you imagine people start cramping on the swim after running and biking. I don’t want anyone to die!
Because we don’t have a big triathlon in Bozeman, we think about race routes a lot. Maybe something around the whole swim & run idea which seems to be trending now.
I like cold water, I know that’s crazy, but I do. And I like trail running. So maybe it’s a easy bike for warm up to the start line, swim in cold water and trail run.
Z: How has the season been going for you?
HC: Actually there’s been a lot of ups and downs. I started my year at Texas and had a rough swim and bike, but a really great run. I ran a 1:21 for the half which was a PR!
In Brazil I finished 4th. Had a great swim, but bike and run weren’t as good. I was struggling to put them all together.
Then I headed to Coeur d’Alene 70.3 where I was the defending champion and was able to put it all together and came up with the win.
Photo cred Loren Benoit
After that, I needed to do one more Ironman to qualify for Kona so I headed to Netherlands Ironman Maastricht. I’m not sure how to pronounce it even after having been there... I say everything with a very American accent!
There I had a great swim and bike on a very technical bike course which probably didn’t really suit me, but I was really proud of how I handled it. I was running super strong and in second place off the bike about 7 minutes behind. I closed the lead to 2 minutes and was confident I was going to make the pass. But unfortunately, I had some abdominal cramping and GI issues that stopped me in my tracks.
Z: Ugh! Awful.
HC: Something like that has never happened to me. Since the race, I’ve done a lot of research on what happened. We’ve ruled out food allergies and the major things, but still unsure.
It was very disappointing since I was having such a good race. I ended up finishing in 6th, but it wasn’t enough to qualify for Kona.
Kona was one of my big goals for this year and I fell short and that’s okay, because it means I’m setting high goals and I am learning along the way. And there are a lot races outside of Kona. Even though we all get caught up in the circus of Kona.
When I look at my career, I do think I’m missing my best day racing at Kona. Last year I came in 18th and I don’t believe that was my best possible day.
Haley racing in Kona at the 2017 Ironman World Championships
Z: It’s so amazing you can keep such a positive attitude. Hopefully you can get everything figured out on the GI front. That seems to plague a lot people.
Z: You spend a lot of time training and racing but you also do a ton of work outside of that in the triathlon community, like the IronWomen Podcast. We see it everywhere! At events, on social media... It seems like it has really taken off. For the readers not familiar with the podcast can you share what the podcast and mission is about?
HC: I co-host the IronWomen Podcast with Alyssa Godesky, also a pro female triathlete and the goal is to bring more media attention to female professional athletes and triathletes.
Our producer, Sarah Gross, a former professional triathlete noticed towards the end of her career that there was a lot more media attention towards men but not women as well as the inequalities between pro men and women’s race slots for Kona. There are only 35 pro female slots versus 50 for pro males.
Z: Which has to be a little tough given your situation…
HC: Definitely. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow. If I was a male pro I would be going to Kona given my current standings. But because I am not a man, I’m not going to Kona. Today, the fields are plenty deep to have equal numbers.
So, going back to media coverage... sponsors want more media coverage and if females aren’t getting equal media coverage they’re making less money. IronWomen Podcast set out to answer, ‘How do we fix that?’ Our answer was, let’s become the media and give women more media coverage!
I was brought on about a year ago and I really enjoy it. And I think I’ve improved along the way. I’ve always been really good at talking, but I’ve learned how to not just spout words and talk in a more meaningful way.
We’re branching out to other female athletes as well, like:
Jennifer Pharr Davis on her record for the FKT (Fastest-Known-Time) on the Appalachian Trail.
Megan Hottman, a Colorado lawyer who specializes in cases involving cyclists shares great info on staying safe on your bike, insurance options and rules of the road.
Stacy Sims, PhD discuss how hormones relate to training and racing, birth control, menopause and everything in between.
There’s so much to learn from the females we interview and you can apply the wisdom and motivation to any distance! You just don’t see a lot of these stories in mainstream media.
Z: So the response has been good so far?
HC: Support has been great! I love it when people come up to me at races and say “I love your podcast!”. Or when I was racing in the Netherlands people were like “wait, there aren’t equal Kona slots for pro men and women?” While discouraging to hear this, we know we have more work to do to spread the word.
People have a lot of choices for podcasts, but if you put out a good product, it’ll take a long time to take off, but it’ll snowball and take off.
Z: In looking at triathlon, it is an ‘individual’ sport but it truly takes a community. How important is the triathlon community to anyone’s success and longevity in the sport?
HC: So important! When I moved from Atlanta to Bozeman, I was nervous. I had a great community of triathlon in Atlanta, but I’ve been so fortunate that I found a great group of people to train with here in Bozeman. I’m a very social person and I have a hard time swimming by myself. I’ve been swimming for decades and I still get really excited to get up at 5am and go to the pool because I get to see people. It’s our little social hour.
There’s just something about having people around when you’re working hard.
Z: Triathlon as a sport has progressed rather quickly. Have you seen any major changes in the triathlon community over the years?
HC: I did my first Ironman in 2009 so it’s been almost 10 years and I’ve been very involved with the sport.
I do think there has been changes. Some for the better. What Ironman is doing now with the live race coverage has been interesting. I think there used to be more TV coverage with NBC Sports and when that went away so did a lot of the sponsorships. Now you see Ironman coverage on Facebook live and some other media coverage which helps bring more people into the sports and more sponsorship opportunities for professional athletes.
I think they’re trying to learn from other sports on how they can bring the sport to more people. I think they miss the female audience. Look at running, more women run than men now. They could get a lot more people interested in triathlon if they market to women and change the narrative.
This is big change I’d like to see. And I’m really proud that I get a part of this.
Z: It’s great to see people like you out there pushing and making a difference.
Z: You’re also involved with another amazing organization, the Kyle Pease Foundation which Zealios is now lucky to be partnered with as well! Can you let us know a little about how you got involved with the foundation?
HC: Brent and Kyle Pease are brothers and close friends of mine. Kyle has had Cerebral Palsy since he was 9 months old. Now Brent and Kyle are both in their 30’s. I first met Brent in Atlanta, he was my training partner and we did Ironman Louisville together. At that time Kyle watched Brent race the Ironman, which was awful! It was so hot and people were passing out, but that didn’t scare Kyle, after that we wanted to race too.
Kyle & Brent Pease racing
They started with an Olympic distance then 70.3 New Orleans. Brent pulled Kyle on the swim, rode with Kyle on the front of a customized bike and pushing him on the run. I also raced New Orleans 70.3 that year as an age grouper and I remember passed them and couldn’t believe they were competing. They had the oldest bike on the course and it must have been so heavy too! But they did it.
Since then, the Kyle Pease Foundation has grown so much. In Atlanta, the Peach Tree 10k is the largest race in the US and it now has an assisted athletes category and it’s very competitive! Or the Georgia marathon, it now has an assisted athlete group with over 30 assisted athletes competing.
People who thought they’d never have the opportunity to experience being in a race or competing are competing. It’s been so fun to see their mission grow. And to see Brent’s growth as an athlete. I remember when Brent struggled to complete a half marathon under 2 hours himself and now he’s pushing Kyle and running half marathons in the low 1:20’s!
The Kyle Pease Foundation members racing with assisted athletes
And this year they got into Kona. They’re goal is finish and I think they’re gonna do it! Brent is training hard. I’m excited for them.
Kyle & Brent received a spot to race in the 2018 Ironman World Championships in Kona
Z: It’s such an important cause and we’re very proud to help do our small part. We can’t wait to cheer them on.
HC: Thank you Team Zealios for the support!
Z: So I know you have a lot of stuff to do like go swimming in cold water...
HC: Ha! I already swam at 5am!
Z: Brr! What does the rest of your season look like? Races or any fun new plans?
HC: Ironman Augusta 70.3 is next! I lived in Atlanta for a long time and have raced Augusta a couple of times. The down river swim doesn’t necessarily play to my strengths, but it is fun to swim a ridiculously fast swim time!
Then I’ll see how Augusta goes. I might jump on another Ironman start line. I have unfinished business with that distance and I feel like I still haven’t come close to my potential at the Ironman distance.
Z: We wish you the best of luck in the remainder of the season Haley! And as always, we gotta know, what is your favorite Zealios product and why?
HC: You’re going to to make me pick a favorite!?
I wish I could say Sun Barrier, but I live in the arctic so I don’t get to use it much! Ha! No, I do love the Sun Barrier and in the past I had issues with getting really bad sun burns and I don’t have that issue anymore.
I do love Betwixt! Which is weird to say I love chamois cream…
I love that it’s safe for my clothes and doesn’t have any harmful ingredients. I use it under my wetsuit and don’t have to worry about it ruining it. If you use the wrong product on your $1,200 wetsuit or $300 kit you’re going to be really mad.
Z: That’s why Betwixt is one of our top sellers!
Haley, thank you for all of your support over the years and for being such an awesome person! It’s always a blast to connect and we love bumping into you at the races.
Best of luck at Augusta, drop and say hello we’ll be there!
Follow Haley at:
FB @Haley Chura