I am a huge fan of athletes who not only accomplish amazing things but can keep their head on straight. That is one of the reasons that I am such a fan of Ironman Pro Haley Chura. The team was fortunate enough to be able to ask Haley a few questions about her life, her training, and some other goofy things (because if anyone knows our team it is exceptionally goofy). She shares with us her passion for racing, her love of OSMO and an original HC Stick Figure work of art! Take a minute to get to know Haley…she’s pretty awesome!
BASE: First of all thanks for being willing to answer questions that some of our athletes posed. One of my favorite questions submitted was “is it really that much fun to be a professional triathlete?”.
Haley Chura: Thank YOU, Lauren!! Triathlon is probably my favorite conversation topics, so this is a treat! YES, it is a TON of fun being a professional triathlete. In just my first year I’ve been able to travel to amazing places and meet some pretty incredible people. I’ve challenged myself in so many ways both physically (6 Ironmans in 13 months?!?!) and mentally (I CAN travel to foreign countries, with a bike, on my own!) and I’m so thankful for everything I’ve learned. Yes, I’ve also taken a crash course in living on a VERY strict budget, and some days are not quite as much fun as others, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.
BASE: One of the great things about triathlon is that amateurs get to race with pros; however, sometimes we still admire from a distance and only can guess about what an athlete really is like so give us a ‘real life’ look at who Haley is…what would your closest friends say about you? What do you do on an off day or with your free time?
HC: Haha! I like to think the pro triathlete me is pretty similar to the amateur me, just more rested! I’ve always been a pretty focused person, whether it was on school, swimming, or work. Now, most of that focus is centered on triathlon. A lot of people would probably call me “unbalanced” but I’ve always liked to approach challenges full force. Whether I’m on a starting line, giving a presentation, or taking a test, I like to know I’ve done everything I can to perform to my full potential. That being said, most of my free time these days is probably spent sleeping or reading, maybe reading about sleeping. I’ll do laundry if I absolutely have to. I know triathlon won’t always be my focus, but it makes me happy to know I’m attacking the sport with everything I have right now.
BASE: When did the world of becoming a pro at triathlon become a reality or possibility of reality?
HC: I got super lucky and met my coach, Matthew Rose, and one of my favorite training partners, Betty Janelle, right after I started doing triathlons in 2008. Matthew and Betty believed I could go pro from Day 1. I wasn’t posting amazing times in the beginning (my first Ironman was a 12:30) but it’s incredible what can happen when people really believe in you. Between Matthew, Betty, my family, and a few good friends, I don’t think anyone was too surprised when I went pro in late 2012. I think most were wondering what took me so long!
BASE: So we know you’re a bada$$ swimmer and a former Bulldog…how did college swimming prepare you for your current role a professional triathlete
HC: Swimming for the University of Georgia taught me so much about racing and being competitive. Every year we were in the hunt for a National Championship (we won in 2005!) and UGA is really where I learned what it takes to win. I learned hard work will ALWAYS pay off and I learned that confidence in yourself and your training is necessary for top performances. I learned how powerful strong teams can be for every person involved, and that when people around me are doing amazing things, I can expect the same from myself.
BASE: Something I know we can all relate to is having an ‘off’ or mentally challenging day. How do you manage these instances and how to you recuperate from them?
HC: I hate “off” days as much as anyone, and I really have to work hard to get through them. I usually try the following steps:
- Eat something. When I get hungry things typically go downhill fast, so when I’m feeling bad, this is where I’ve learned to go first.
- Tell myself something happy. Sometimes it feels like EVERYTHING is going wrong, but there is usually something that’s going ok. Saying something as simple as “yay the sun is shining” or “I look really good in this kit” can keep me going long enough to get to the finish line (where there is hopefully food).
- Talk to a trusted advisor. My mom, my coach, a few close friends – all of these people have seen me at my very worst and have gotten me through some pretty tough times. Good friends are like bad day kryptonite.
BASE: What has changed in your preparation, daily life, and/or training regimen as you went from amateur to pro?
HC: I sleep a LOT. Yes, I train more now, but the biggest changes have come in how I recover. I treat sleep like a workout and make it a big priority. I’m rarely awake in “double digits” at night. I spend a lot more time on day-to-day nutrition and hydration and I’m much more aware of how I’m feeling. I really have to communicate more with my coach and my schedule is constantly evolving. If I’m feeling good, we might add a bit, and if I’m feeling bad, we might rearrange my sessions to provide more rest. It can get a bit tedious when I’m racing a lot, but when we get it right, it’s pretty incredible!
BASE: We know you’re a Stacy Sims fan (we are too) how has working with OSMO changed your hydration and fueling strategy?
I am a HUGE fan of Stacy Sims! She is a true pioneer in sports nutrition and hydration, especially for us ladies. When I first started the sport I spent a significant amount of time scouring research libraries and the Internet trying to find information on how hormonal fluctuations could affect endurance sports performance. I was SHOCKED at how little I found! I had pretty much given up when I learned about Stacy and her work with OSMO Nutrition. When OSMO’s women’s specific line came out last year, complete with the tagline “Women are not Small Men” I was officially hooked! I wasn’t crazy, women ARE different!! I’ve been fortunate enough to work directly with Stacy on my race day nutrition and hydration plans, and yes, I am a big believer in “eating your calories and drinking your hydration.” I’ve had people ask if I ride my bike with a backpack to carry enough food during a race, but really it just takes a little creativity! Between the pockets in the back of my kit and some cleverly stashed treats down my front, I manage it all without even using a bento box! It makes for some funny race day pictures, but it’s more than worth it when I’m properly fueled and hydrated and still running strong the second half of the marathon.
BASE: So you grew up in Montana, did you ever learn to fly-fish?
HC: I am Montana’s WORST flyfisherman! After my freshman year of college I spent a week fly-fishing with my dad around my parents’ place in Bozeman and in Yellowstone National Park. I had a blast being in the water and seeing all the fish and the gorgeous views, but in an entire week I caught ZERO fish! I look great in gaiters though!
BASE: What’s with the stick figures?
HC: I got really good at MS Paint while I was working in public accounting. One of my co-workers taught me how to make funny pictures of our managers and then slip them into PowerPoint presentations. It made meetings a lot more fun! When I first started blogging I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, so I just drew in my own illustrations. Like this picture of the time I went fly-fishing! (see attached pic)
BASE: What was the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at a race (pro or amateur)
The first big race I won as an amateur was the Rev3 Knoxville Half Ironman. I was extra excited because Rev3 awards presentations are a pretty big deal, even for the age-groupers. I sat patiently waiting for them to call up the top five women, and when they got to number one, I started walking toward the stage. I was nearly at the steps when the announcer CALLLED A DIFFERENT NAME! I quickly did an awkward stretch, spin, sit, look away move and just prayed no one saw me! I went to check the official results and I was listed as a DQ! Reason? “Entire Course” I was mortified!! What had I done for the ENTIRE COURSE to get myself disqualified?!!? Turns out the officials saw my swim time and just assumed I’d cut the course. I spent the next half hour pulling up all of my past swim times and proving I could actually swim 1.2 miles in 28 minutes (which was coincidentally, my SLOWEST 1.2 mile split ever!) Eventually they agreed, apologized, and my cheater status was retracted! It was an honest mistake and I have no ill feelings towards Rev3 or USAT, and luckily I’ve made up for the missed awards presentation with a couple more podium appearances since then!
BASE: What was the most inspiring thing you have seen in the sport of triathlon
HC: My good friends Brent and Kyle Pease raced Ironman Wisconsin last year. Kyle has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound, so Brent, his older brother, pulled and pushed him through the entire race. I know Ironman is tough enough to race on my own, I can’t imagine biking 112 miles with and extra 150 lbs! Brent and Kyle narrowly made the bike cutoff before crushing the marathon for a 15 hour total finish time. Brent and Kyle have even bigger race plans for the future, but they’ve also started a foundation to get other people with disabilities into races. It’s pretty spectacular to see a group of 17+ “assisted athletes” at the start of some local races. You can read more about them and their foundation at www.kylepeasefoundation.org.
Free association (just write first thing that comes to your head when you read the word
o Peanuts- M&Ms
o Swim Cap- Goggles
o Lawnmower- Thank goodness I don’t have a lawn
o Sunshine- Sunscreen!
o Water Bottle- OSMO
o Spider- HATRED
o Sharpie- College class notes. I thought bright colors would help me stay awake.
o Spatula- Omelet
o Energy Gels – For emergencies only!
BASE: What is the most important ‘thing’ when it comes to success in triathlon
HC: Gratitude. I think it’s important to approach every workout, every race, being thankful for the opportunity to be there. Not everyone is healthy enough, has the support, or even the courage to get out the door. It’s important to recognize everything that has led to this moment, be thankful, and enjoy it!
BASE: Is there anything in the sport today that bums you out or you wish you could change?
HC: I think triathlon has pretty big barriers to entry. Yes, there are other sports (NASCAR, Boat Racing, Dressage,) that are probably even harder to get into, but the start-up costs in triathlon are pretty significant (not to mention all the costs that follow!) Triathlon is a relatively new sport, and hopefully over time there will be more opportunities for younger people to get involved and more gateway races and clubs for cautious newbies. I was so lucky to have so many people help me out during my first few years in the sport (and they continue to help me now), I hope in a few years I can do the same for other rookies.
What are your Favorites:
o Event Ironman Hawaii
o Race Location Kona
o Type of workout (SB or R ) Run (surprise!)
o Distance of a triathlon Ironman
o TV show from the 90s Antiques Roadshow, hahah, yes, really! Maybe Arthur in the early 90s. I think PBS might have been the only station we got!
o Book Harry Potter