We are so excited this month to bring you a personal interview with the one and only Mary Knott, aka #FindingKona. Mary is an unquenchable triathlete who qualified last year to race in the IRONMAN World Championships at KONA! Mary is an incredible athlete with a wealth of experiences (she has done 20 IRONMANS!) and knowledge. Her candor and presence has been an inspiration to many!
1. You're headed to Kona this month! How does that feel?
OMG! It feels amazing. And terrifying. And very surreal. I can't believe it's almost here! It really is a dream come true. I am already super emotional. If I start to think about it I cry. Happy tears! I can't even imagine what I'm going to be like in 2 weeks from now!
2. Let's step back a bit........when did you start doing triathlons? Did you ever in your wildest dreams believe you would be here?
My husband and I moved to Arizona in February 2005. We were marathoners, and were training for Chicago. That was the first year that Ironman came to Tempe. I was in St. Louis running the half marathon that weekend (in April 2005) and Dan called me-- he went down to spectate, and he was like, "there's this thing called Ironman... I think we should do it." So many people here race triathlon that it was kind of a no-brainer for us to transition. We put bikes on layaway and when our flight landed after the Chicago Marathon (in October) we went straight to the bike shop to pick them up. We raced our first triathlon (SOMA) 3 weeks later.
My first 7 Ironman races were all finished within about a 10 minute window of time. I was not super fast, but I was consistent and definitely had a comfort zone. During that time, my husband qualified for Kona twice. The first time we went to the Big Island (2009) I brought my bike because I was training for IMAZ. I did my long ride on the Queen K and it was the hardest, most miserable experience of my life. I got back to the hotel and declared that I NEVER wanted to race in Hawaii! Two years later when we went back, I had grown a lot as an athlete and my perspective changed. I started to think I might want to race in Hawaii. Around that time they introduced the Legacy program (lottery for those having finished more than 12 IM races).
I was pretty close to 12 finishes so I started adding a few more races to my schedule. I planned to finish my legacy qualification by the end of 2012. That year I had an absolute breakthrough race at IMAZ finishing in 10:54, and 6th in my age group. From that moment I knew I had to try to qualify for the World Championships, that I always wonder "what if?" if I settled for a lottery entry.
I had no idea how much work it would take to get there but I was so passionate about that goal. It literally fueled me for 4 years. The dream. The hope. I just believed that if I kept working hard and didn't give up, someday it would happen. In 2013 I plateaued. That spurred me to hire a coach at the start of 2014 which was the best decision I ever made. Before I hired Hillary (Biscay), we sat down to discuss things and I said to her; this is my goal, here's where I'm at, is this possible? And she said yes. Having someone else who believed in me and believed that my goal was attainable was so key over the last few years. She's not someone who holds your hand in training, but she has been my biggest supporter (along with my husband) through this journey.
3. You have done over 20 IRONMAN races. Do you still remember your first one? What stands out about that race?
YES! There is nothing like a first time Ironman! I try to get someone new to do every Ironman race with me, just so I can see things from their eyes. It's really the most amazing thing.
My first race was Ironman Arizona 2007. My family was there (the only one they've seen me race). The day was so surreal. It literally flew by. There were so many people we knew racing and spectating and so much love and support on the run course. I ran/ walked the second lap of the run (at the time the course was 3 laps) with another first timer. When I crossed the finish line there were so many emotions but it was almost overwhelming how awesome the day had been. I couldn't believe that in the blink of an eye it was over. I still get choked up thinking about it.
I had been preparing for that race for about 18 months. 3 months prior to race day, we attended a triathlon camp. In one of the sessions we had to write down our fastest 2.4 mile swim ever, our fastest century ride ever, and our best marathon. We used those times to "predict" where we could finish. I finished within 6 minutes of my predicted time.
4. How has your training been? Do you feel strong and ready? Have you trained differently for KONA?
Training is good! It's hard, of course, but I love it. I have been doing triathlon now for 11 years and I have been working with Hillary for almost 3 years so we have built a very strong base and really, just consistency, which is so important. My training varies throughout the year depending on if I'm preseason, midseason, or post season, and what races we have coming up. This year since my focus has been October my early season was a little rough. Normally I feel in decent shape by February or March. This year, I took a longer off season and focused on my run so I didn't actually start triathlon specific training until March. It was mentally challenging because it seemed like everyone around me was super fit and I couldn't keep up on training rides.
I kept telling myself (and everyone kept reminding me!) that my focus was October. And these last 2 months have been absolutely amazing with training! I FEEL the difference and I know I am fit and ready to race. It's really, really FUN to feel this good. Training for Kona has been pretty similar to my training over the last few years. We have added workouts to simulate parts of the race that are unique to Kona and I have done a month of "humidity training" in the steam room which has been interesting.
5. The best way to deal with fear is to name it and take away its power. Do you have any fears about KONA?
I have a lot of FEAR! The thing about fear is separating rational from irrational fear. A lot of my fear comes from that little place inside my head that is scared that I don't belong. It is 100% ridiculous, and every single day, every single workout I tell myself I DO belong. The mind is such a powerful tool and you have to be willing to use it to your advantage. I am not talking ego, I am talking self-worth. You have to be willing to believe in yourself and when needed, to do so loudly and boldly!
As far as rational fears, I have done everything in training to maximize the likelihood of success. I am terrified of the heat/ humidity. I am from the Midwest, but I've lived in the desert for 11 years! It definitely is a DRY heat! But I'm 21 days through my 28 day acclimation program and every day gets a little bit easier. I am prepared to deal with the conditions. It will be entirely about managing fluids / calories. I met with Brooke Schohl of Fuel to the Finish and had a sweat test done. So I know exactly what I need to replace as far as fluids and sodium. I have been practicing my plan in training and it will be a matter of execution on race day. I know I can do it. I have literally told myself over and over, "40,000 people have finished this race, there's no reason you can't be one of them."
6. What's beyond Kona for you?
SO MUCH! The thing is I love this lifestyle. I love triathlon, and I love Ironman. I also love trail running and swimming. I love riding my bike. I really honestly do. Probably a big part of why I have never experienced burnout or the desire to "take a year off" (totally don't get that!). I knew that once I qualified for Kona, I would be able to unleash my inner beast! I wanted to focus all my energy on that goal, but now that it's almost here I can start to plan for the future again!
Next year the big race is going to be Ultraman Australia. Ultraman is a 3 day stage race that covers 6.2 miles of swimming, about 265 miles of biking, and 52.4 miles of running.
I'm also planning on Oceanside 70.3 (my absolute favorite race!) and my sister and I are meeting for a long weekend in Utah for a triple marathon (3 races, 3 states, in 3 days). I'm hoping I feel good enough after Ultraman to do the Alaska Extreme Triathlon and Ironman Wisconsin. I've signed up for both of them but am keeping my options open because Ultraman will be a whole different experience for the body!
At some point I would like to run the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler. And thru-hike the Appalachian trail. And swim the SCAR challenge. But one goal at a time. :-)
7. Our TRI Club is filled with new triathletes just getting into the sport. What would you say to those people who are still back at the beginning trying to find their love of triathlon?
My best advice: Do what you love. Build your support network. And love what you do.
If I didn't love Ironman there's no way I could get out of bed at 3 or 4 am every day. I couldn't sacrifice everything I do if I didn't have a passion for it. I never, ever hit my snooze button. Ever. I'm not saying it's easy to get out of bed at 4 am. But it never crosses my mind to NOT get my training in. It keeps me sane! Whatever your passion is, do that. If it's cross fit, do that. If it's yoga, do that. If it's triathlon, even better! It's impossible to stay motivated if you're not doing what you love. After all, you're not getting a paycheck (that is a different type of motivation).
I am lucky to have a husband who loves the sport as much as I do. We don't train together much because we have very different work schedules, but we support each other and encourage each other. And we have surrounded ourselves with people who love to swim/ bike/ run. My swim training partner and I have been together for about 4 years now. She has done nearly every single swim workout with me. In the beginning she kicked my @$$ a lot! (She comes from a swim background). Working together I have improved a lot and now we can push each other. And she never blinks an eye when I tell her I have to be in the pool by 415 am! I am so thankful to have her!!
And love what you do. Enjoy the journey. The process. Enjoy the little things-- how the sun feels on your skin that first warm day in April. The smell of the orange blossoms biking through Mesa in March. The sunrise on your long bike ride. The crisp chill of the water in the outdoor pool in early November. Celebrate every little accomplishment. Never beat yourself up over a failed workout or race. Learn from those moments and move on. When you finish your goal race- eat everything. Cinnamon rolls. Pizza. In n Out Burger. Milkshakes. Beer. Whatever you crave (and likely sacrifice during training), celebrate with that! I eat cinnamon rolls from Gilbert House after every Ironman. Sometimes more than one. And I don't scoop the butter off of them either! Finding the joy in every part of the journey adds to the sustainability.
A HUGE Congratulations to all of our fantastic members who raced and supported the Lifetime Tempe TRI! Not only did we have a big group racing, but we had a couple members place in their age groups! Not a bad day down in Tempe!!!!
We also had several other events all over the country that our members took part in. From Ohio to the mountains of AZ all of our members were active and doing our club proud!
Training and All that Jazz
It truly is a blast to see all of you out there training and getting to know each other! We had a great time at our Labor Day BBQ out at Canyon and the month was filled with good quality getting stronger stuff!
What's Happening this month
10/8/2016- Brick workout and KONA Viewing at Cadence Running Company. Come one come all. Let do some work and then sit back and watch Mary Knott head off on her journey in KONA! You won't want to miss it!
10/14/2016- TRANSITION CLINIC at Cadence Running Company with Two Wheel Jones. This is an excellent event to tune into transitions and learn the tricks to make them fast and efficient. TWJ will be there to talk about basic bike care and flat tire changing. This is a FANTASTIC event to work on some of those skills that can be easily overlooked!
10/16/2016- IRONMAN 70.3 Arizona- We have a few members racing and would love to have some volunteers out at Tempe! This is the final big race before we gear up for IRONMAN!
10/29/2016- Patagonia Lake TRI. Get out of the city and join a host of our members as we tackle this tri! A great venue and really fun course. Volunteers are always wanted and loved!