A few words with Wendy Mader

Wendy Mader from Northern Colorado, CO was the overall female age group finisher at the 2008 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. She shared some of her thoughts about the 2008 season and what is up next.

ST: Wendy, top overall age grouper in Hawaii is pretty impressive. Was that actually the goal?

Wendy: Well, not really. I did my first Ironman in 1997. Since then my goal has always been to place top 5 in my age group in any race I enter. It only took me 10 years and 7 more Ironman races to finally understand the marathon part of it. But last year I ran a 3:35 in Kona, pretty much a breakthrough run for me, plus I was 2nd fastest amateur swimmer, so I knew I could be competitive. But last year my bike split suffered. This year my goal for Kona was to be first out of water and just finish top 5 in the 35-39 age group. I was very fit but without much racing this year I did not know how fit. I thought I was fit enough to do extremely well, and was even dreaming about maybe winning the overall, but for it to actually happen is pretty unbelievable.

ST: Talk a bit about your day in Kona.

Wendy: I did not suffer the entire day. It just went unbelievably smoothly. I caught a nice draft in the swim and exited the water with another woman slightly ahead of me. I sprinted up the stairs to cross the timing mat ahead of her, in 55:15, first out of the water I believe, so I met my first goal. I was a bit anxious about the bike leg since I’d broke my chain in Ironman CDA which almost cost me a trip to Kona. But it all went well. I rode fairly easy for the first eighty miles, and it just seemed so much easier than last year. I knew it would be windy after mile 80 so I didn’t start pushing until then. My bike split was 5:36 and I sprinted in my bike cleats to the transition, I was feeling so good. I couldn’t wait to put on my running shoes. I didn’t know I was in contention for top age grouper until mile 21, when I passed the gal that was leading. I felt like I was holding back on the run the whole way and even eased up in the end to make sure I didn’t cramp or anything. I could have gone faster, it was just that kind of perfect day. When I crossed the finish line it was totally awesome. I couldn’t wait to see my mom and tell her how well it went.

ST: Which one of your races or results would you consider the most memorable and why?

Wendy: Well of course Kona is at the top. But 2007 Arizona was the first year that I really understood how to integrate my running training into my biking and swimming. I had a marathon best of nearly ½ hour. From then on, I thought I could be competitive at the Ironman distance.

ST: You just recently moved back to Colorado from TN. What instigated the move?

Wendy: We moved to TN for my husband’s job. TN was a beautiful place to train but the job did not work out so we moved back to CO. My friends, many of my coaching clients and my support is in CO and I am very happy to be home.

ST: Is your next step turning Pro?

Wendy: Perhaps if I were ten years younger I would think about it. But I’m 35 years old and my future as a professional would be pretty limited. While the chance to win prize money AND start the swim in the pro wave would be pretty cool, I’m an amateur at heart. I do it because I love it. I would hate to have to depend on it financially.

ST: What is your athletic background and who or what inspired you to race triathlons?

Wendy: I’ve been swimming for longer than I can remember. I began competing at the age of 6. I went to Eastern Michigan University on a swimming scholarship, and ended up with a degree in mathematics. But my freshman year a friend asked me to join her in a relay triathlon sprint and swim the half mile. I watched the rest of the race, the 12 mile bike and 4 mile run and thought: I can do that. So I did it myself the next year, which was 1993. I won my age group and was hooked. I’ve been doing triathlons ever since. I moved to CO in 1995 for grad school, and got a masters degree in exercise and sports science and started getting more serious about triathlons. My mom is my inspiration. She was a runner/triathlete back in the 70’s-80’s when women were just starting to really take up sports. I have a lot of family support and that really helps.

ST: Please describe a typical hard training week for us.

Wendy: Well, since I’m an amateur, my training week revolves around my work schedule. But I think the key to training is to adapt and adjust and see how you are responding to the particular work load. You have to be flexible. That said, in a hard week I’ll try at least to swim 10,000-12,000 meters and run 50 miles and ride 200. There were a few weeks where I rode 250-300 miles and a few weeks where I ran more.

ST: What do you do to overcome a disappointing race?

Wendy: When I was a young swimmer I would cry when I had a disappointing race. Then when I got older and started competing in triathlons I didn’t know enough to know a good race from a bad race. But I just enjoyed the competition, the challenge of it all. I honestly don’t get down very often after a disappointing race. Maybe that’s an advantage of being an amateur; my livelihood doesn’t depend on it, and it’s important to keep these things in perspective. Besides, I’m generally a pretty positive person. But I try to learn from the experience and maybe change my taper, sleep, diet, training or whatever and try and do better next time. The key to getting better is to learn from experience and to be able to adjust things accordingly.

ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?

Wendy: Well, I don’t have a bike sponsor so if you’re out there reading this, I’m open to offers! A nice bike would really help! But a big thank you to AVIA (running shoes and apparel) Powerbar and TYR and my local running store the Fort Collins Runner’s Roost. Thank you. Really.

ST: How do you typically spend the off-season?

Wendy: I work a lot on my triathlon coaching during the winter months. It’s a really good time to teach swimming and get people psyched up and get a plan ready for the upcoming tri season. But I like to run and hike with my dogs and go to the gym with my husband. I also coach the Rocky Mountain High School swim team which is fun and motivates me to swim. I am also the new Rocky Mountain region sales rep for AVIA so that takes much of my spare time. I enjoy the time off structured training in the colder months. I love training in the summer heat. Maybe that’s why I did so well in Kona.

ST: Do you follow any other sports?

Wendy: Of course I follow triathlons. I also follow most of the traditional Olympic sports like track and field and distance running. I even sort of follow the sport of ultra running. And I watch golf, though I’ve never played it. It seems too hard.

ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?

Wendy: Food likes: Cookies are my favorite food group. Aren’t they everybody’s?
Food dislikes: Meat. I’m not quite a vegetarian, but almost.

ST: What about music? Anything you listen to more often?

Wendy: I’ll listen to anything that makes me rock, but I never listen to music while I train. Ever.

ST: What was the last book you read?

Wendy: Swim to Antarctica by Lynn Cox

ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Wendy: I still see myself racing, of course. I just love the sport. But I have been coaching, online and in person, for the last several years. I coach some highly competitive runners but also a lot of beginners. Nothing is more satisfying to me then seeing someone who was once more or less a coach potato change their lifestyle and become an athlete and finish their first triathlon, and knowing I was a part of getting them there. I hope in five years I’m still doing that.

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Wendy: Did I mention I am looking for a bike sponsor?