A chat with Samantha Mazer

Team Timex athlete Samantha Mazer was the top female at IRONMAN Los Cabos in late October, but there is much more to this fast and smart athlete. Raised in Nashville, TN, she now resides in Kirkland, WA and works as an attorney.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Samantha.

Samantha Mazer: Thanks Herbert! It’s an honor to be chosen for one of these interviews!

ST: What are you up to right now?

Samantha: Training wise, the last three weeks have consisted of a very much needed break from structured training with a few social bakery rides and a girls weekend with two of my best gal pals. Location wise, I live/work in Kirkland, Washington, but I’m in Nashville, Tennessee at the moment for the week for Thanksgiving.

ST: Do you get to eat whatever, or are you on a diet of sorts?

Samantha: I follow the healthy habits diet with a nice balance of occasional chocolate and wine on the side.

ST: I believe you grew up in Nashville. When and why did you leave?

Samantha: I did. My family is Canadian but my parents moved to Nashville before I was born for my Dad’s job. Long story short, I moved to WA after undergrad, lived in Victoria, BC for a little bit too, then came back south for law school with every intention of moving back to Nashville after, but decided at the end of law school to go back to the PNW because I really missed living near mountains and water.

ST: In late October you were the top female at IRONMAN Los Cabos. Was this your first overall female title in a big race?

Samantha: Yes it was! It was my first first place anything in a full ironman race actually (AG podium or overall)…actually, now that I think of it, I was the first overall amateur at the BMO Vancouver Marathon back in May when I ran my first sub 3-hour marathon but I was 6th overall with pros included in that race so I didn’t get to break the tape like I did in Cabo.

ST: I think at the end you had a pretty large advantage over the next female competitor. Were you aware during the race?

Samantha: I did know where I was at all times for the most part but I had no idea that I was 22 minutes ahead when I crossed the finish line. I made the pass for first around mile 9 on the run but with so many out and backs on a 3 lap run course and the rolling start, you start to get confused with who is who and where people are by the last time around. At mile 21 I asked a friend how far back the next girl was and when he said, “Nowhere in sight!” I just assumed that meant like 3 minutes or something. Then later in the finish area I remember standing there and talking to my mom and saying, “Has nobody else crossed yet?” It wasn’t until maybe the next day that I realized that it was that big of a lead. Once the finish line rush wore off, I had a pretty rough post-race evening throwing up and lying in bed in the fetal position wide awake with post Ironman insomnia and feverish shakes that a lot of us know all too well when our body is trying to figure out what in the world we just put it through.

ST: Talk about your race day.

Samantha: The Cabo course has to be one of the toughest courses I’ve ever done. Hands down. The overall plan that my coach (Paul Regensberg of Lifesport Coaching) and I came up with was to have a steady but still strong swim and bike and then run my way through the field with a smart run. Minus some Achilles tendonitis that I managed to keep under control for the most part since June, it was the best lead up I’ve had going into an Ironman. I saw my mom heading out of T1 and she yelled that I was in 5th . The bike course was TOUGH. I think there was nearly 7k feet of climbing and it was hot, hot, hot out there…and that’s coming from someone who has spent time living in Mississippi where it’s disgustingly hot in the summer. Even though I knew it was going to be a slower than usual day with all the climbing, I just felt like I was in a really positive place mentally and never panicked...even when I projectile vomited halfway through lap two. Leaving T2, I was still in 5th but I felt awful. The self-pep talk there was to just keep moving forward (the inner voice in my head probably sounded like Dory from Finding Nemo) and to find a pace that just felt like cruise control even if it was a lot slower than usual. Everyone looked beat up and cooked from the bike, myself included, so anything was possible with a long run ahead. At about mile 9 I found myself making the pass for first and after that I just basically ran scared, as I like to call it. Everyone keeps laughing when I say that because I crossed the line 22 minutes ahead of second place but like I said earlier, by lap 3 you can’t tell who is who and where people are so you just get paranoid and I could’ve sworn it always seemed like they were right there! I remember watching my friend, Steph Corker, cross the line and getting to hold up the banner in Whistler back in August and thought how cool that must feel and hoped one day I could get experience that same feeling, but I didn’t think it would happen anytime soon! It still doesn’t feel like real life, but they let me keep the banner and I’ve seen the pictures so I guess it really did happen. Haha.

ST: Was the Kona ticket the goal?

Samantha: Yep! After IMTX and Kona last year, I mixed things up in the spring and ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May instead of doing an IM to try and get a KQ for this year. Sub 3 in a stand-alone marathon has been a bucket list goal of mine for a few years now and I finally knocked that off the list with a 2:57. Cabo was my fall “A race” so I could try and get the 2017 KQ before going into the new year. I knew the overall win was a possibility in Cabo but I told myself that the KQ was the #1 priority and anything else after that was a bonus/icing on the cake. I also got my 70.3 worlds spot at Whistler 70.3 so 2017 will be fun.

ST: I think in 2013 you had your first Kona start.

Samantha: I did. I qualified for Kona in 2013 and 2015 at IMTX both times. My KQ at IMTX 2015 is actually a funny story. I took the bar exam in February of that year and basically had 8 weeks to go from zero to Ironman ready for Texas once that miserable experience was over with. With such little prep time, I put Kona out of my mind and told myself if it happened it happened but I wasn’t going to stress about it. Two of my friends drove 7 hours from Mississippi to be my race Sherpas because I was there alone and I remember telling them, “I really don’t need a whole lot from you guys except pizza at the finish,” thinking that they’d make sure I was alive and then we’d walk to the Grimaldi’s right next to the finish line like normal people or something. The race was hot and miserable like always and by mile 24 I was just over it. I had no idea where I was with places AG wise and I had been walking aid stations when I said to myself, “screw the next aid stations. I bet Darryl and Donovan actually have the pizza ordered and waiting for me at the finish,” which they did. Turns out I passed the 3rd place 30-34 gal with ½ a mile to go and nabbed the last Kona spot by 10 seconds…basically because I was running for pizza.

ST: What got you started in triathlon and when was that?

Samantha: Well I swam competitively from age 6 to about 15. Then I quit swimming to focus on track in high school and college. I’m basically the typical college track/cross-country story. I got really burned out and injured on and off to the point where I was hating running and racing on the track. I had done a few triathlons when I was 14, so I decided to pick back up the swimming and the biking as a way to mix up my summer training one year and I’ve been doing it ever since. The 80 mile run week thing works for some people but my running has gotten to its best with half the mileage and the swimming and biking mixed in as well.

ST: Did Team Timex find you or did you find them?

Samantha: Maybe a little bit of both? I think I first crossed paths with Tristan (our team manager) at Boise 70.3 one year. My coach had a booth at the expo and told me he needed me to work it for a few hours while he went and did a pre-race talk somewhere. Tristan was working the Timex table directly across from the table where I was. Fast forward a few years and I think I crossed paths with him again in Lake Placid and we chatted about submitting an application. A few months later I did just that and here I am now finishing up my fourth year on the team and I couldn’t be happier. It’s the best mix of talented athletes who are also all around awesome human beings with so much more than triathlon going on in their lives that just makes you always inspired and motivated to work hard at whatever you do.

ST: Talk about your day job.

Samantha: So I finished law school not too long ago and passed the bar exam in February 2015. I worked as a public defender for about a year up until about May of this year and now I’m trying to make my way into the private world. For the past few months I’ve been doing some work for a firm as an independent contractor. When I was doing the public defense work I was commuting 75-90+ min each way from Kirkland to Tacoma so having a bit more flexibility to get work done from home has been nice.

ST: You seem to have fun on your social media accounts. Is that a nice balance for you from work and training?

Samantha: Haha, yeah. I’ve heard my random inner thoughts that end up as Facebook statuses are entertaining to read. When you live with just a Chihuahua, someone’s got to make you laugh and that someone is me - most of the time. Other than that, when it comes to Instagram and stuff, I feel like triathletes sometimes need to be reminded that we do this for fun outside of our day jobs so I hope that is reflected well in my posts. I like to work hard but I also always ask myself if I’m having fun while doing it.

ST: What interests do you have outside of triathlon?

Samantha: I really like to cook/bake and I cross stitch large paintings onto linen. Most people don’t know that last part about me. My dad and I really have a thing for Canadian First Nation art so a lot of the paintings I put into cross stitch reflect that. Right now I’m working on a painting of a bear that is leaning up against a tree and scratching its back and on the other side of the tree is the mirror image of the bear as the native symbol. I’m also working on putting Gustav Klimt’s painting, “The Kiss,” onto linen but that one is so massive that I needed to work on other pieces at the same time so I didn’t go insane. My mom gave me the pattern and failed to mention that it contains 10,000 stitching plus bead work…and once I realized that it was too late.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Samantha: When I was in the 7th grade, I “accidentally” memorized the whole periodic table of elements from #1-#103 because I practiced so much so I could win an apple pie in a contest for the person who could say them the fastest by looking only at the symbols. I did it in 37 seconds, won the pie, split it with my friend that got second place and also tried really hard to win. I can still say all the elements from memory.

Also, I have 27 rubber duckies in my bath tub and if anyone saw a piece of bacon running behind Daniella Ryf down Alii at one point during the live feed coverage of Kona this year, that may or may not have been me.

ST: It seems that Daniela Ryf should have chased the bacon, not the other way around.

Samantha: I think she did chase and successfully win all the “bacon.”

You can follow Samantha Mazer on Twitter via @sam_mazer and on Instagram via @sam_mazer