Sarah Groff – Triathlon
Editor’s Note: Sarah was gracious to allow us a second interview after technical difficulties limited the video during this first interview. This Olympic Profile is “Part I” from our May 8, 2012 audio interview with Sarah. Part II will be a LIVE broadcast, via our media partner, Spreecast. That LIVE Q&A broadcast will be Thursday, May 17th at 7:30pm PST – you can RSVP here.
Background / Perspective…
The Olympic triathlon consists of a 0.93 mile swim, a 25 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run. Around the world, athletes compete in Olympic distance triathlons as a way of life. But, many of these athletes cannot do it in a blistering two hours like Cooperstown, New York native, Sarah Groff.
Sarah grew up as a swimmer and cross country runner. She also swam competitively for Middlebury College.
After dabbling in triathlons after college, she found her calling and became a dedicated, professional triathlete. Sarah was one of the first athletes to qualify for the London Olympics in August 2011, almost one year before the opening ceremonies, during the Olympic course test race. Sarah took seventh in that race – interestingly enough, the gap between her and third place was so small that you could see Sarah in the chute as the bronze medalist crossed the finish line.
You would think that qualifying a year out would be an advantage, right? “My goal last year was to get an Olympic spot. One race only. This year, it’s August 4th. I have all my eggs in one basket, I have a good coach. I trust the process to get it right. I have to peak on one day.”
The pressure to peak on one day only in a calendar year can be mitigated by good training and meticulous organization. Sarah humbly defers her organizational endeavors to her coach, Australian Darren Smith.
Sarah explained to us that, the sport of Olympic triathlon does not require the day-long endurance of an Ironman and you cannot rely on the open throttle speed of a sprint or dash triathlon.
So, how does one train for endurance and speed? You can’t. Sarah explains, “It is difficult to sustain a high level of endurance over a long period of time. You cannot continuously peak. And you can only train for speed so much. There is a crossover; you want to train speed and endurance without eroding your aerobic base.”
Sarah states, “A triathlon is not a constant effort, there are times when you are pushing massive watts (elite cyclists measure pedaling energy using a power meter) and other times you are not, it’s not a constant effort.” I thought it was full bore all the way in the Olympics? “No sometimes you are coasting.”
Sarah then explained to us the two different energy systems and how she has to sustain aerobic capacity while maintaining power – Even elite triathletes don’t have unlimited tanks and have to save something for the run…
Between now and August 4, Sarah has lined up some tune up races and a workout schedule that will alternate hard and recovery sessions in the three disciplines.
How hard are those sessions? “Sometimes I have four workouts per day?” You hear that world? Good luck keeping up.
Sarah told us how Coach Darren Smith compared her to a rough gem. The 2012 race calendar and training regimen are about chipping away at the gem, cutting it to perfection. Speed work is the polish of the gem so that come August 4, the gem will have brilliant and radiant sparkle, and she will be ready.
With this plan executed to perfection, Sarah will certainly be a diamond in London.
Sarah Groff will tell us more about her prep, give some helpful tips, tell us about the Olympic course (The Serpentine!), and share more on Title IX in a public video interview at 7:30 p.m. PST on May 17. You can RSVP for that public Q&A session here.
Storified by James Hicks · Thu, May 10 2012 04:38:22