We spoke with former Ironman World Champion, Michellie Jones. She is making the transition from full-time athlete to career woman, coach, and continuing race-course threat. How does she manage it all?
Slowtwitch: How long have you been racing professionally?
Michellie Jones: 24 years as a professional; I started racing in 1988. My first race was the Championship of Sydney 1km swim and 10km run.
ST: We know you have many race wins to your name, but some beginners may not be familiar with them – please give us a run-down of what you consider to be your best performances.
Ironman World Champion
Olympic Silver Medalist
2x ITU World Champion
2x ITU World Cup Champion
Xterra World Champion
3x Ironman Champion
12 ITU World cup Victories
8 ITU World Championship Medals
8x Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Champion
7x Chicago Triathlon Champion
7x St Anthony's Triathlon Champion
10x San Diego International Triathlon Champion
ST: Comparing “the good old days” to now, what are the main differences in the top ranks? Training methods, racing speeds, technological improvements – anything that pops in to your mind. Has anything really changed?
Michellie: You could write an entire book on this alone. The sport was very, very young when I first started racing. We just trained, went out and raced, and tried to get faster. Equipment has advanced tremendously over the years, especially with computer design and wind tunnel testing. Coaching continues to evolve especially as our sport continues to become more specialized to each distance. The Olympics and draft-style racing dramatically changed how you train for triathlons as well. The bottom line is people are getting crazy fast.
ST: Please describe a typical training week for us.
Michellie: It’s a lot less than I used to do! But, I like to do enough training so that I can still race short course. It also depends how much traveling I have to do.
Monday: Swim 3500-5000, Bike 1.5- 2hrs spin
Tuesday: Run intervals with my Giddy Up Team, Swim 3000
Wednesday: Bike 2-2.5hrs, T-run 30min
Thursday: Bike intervals on LeMond Revolution with Giddy Up Team, T-run 20-40mins
Friday: Swim 2500-3500
Saturday: Bike 2-3hrs, T-run 20-30mins
Sunday: Run 60-80mins
ST: You started working for ISM a few years ago. How did that come about, and what type of work do you do for them?
Michellie: Steve from ISM kept telling me that when I was ready, he wanted hire me as the ‘Sponsorship Commander’. At the end of 2010, I started doing a little work for them. In the beginning of 2011 I was hurt in a car accident (and couldn’t race) so I started working for them a lot more on a full time position. I really feel privileged to be working for such a great family-run company. They’ve really had a huge impact in such a short time.
ST: Has it been interesting learning the “other half” of the business – now that you’re the one doling out the sponsorships instead of seeking them?
Michellie: One of the reasons Steve hired me was because he thought I handled my sponsorship relationship with him so much differently than a lot of other athletes. So, having been on both sides, it is definitely interesting and I totally understand how it’s easy as an athlete to get caught up in the mode of just training and racing… but you also have to remember to keep your sponsors happy.
ST:You also have your own coaching business and multisport team. Please tell us about them.
Michellie: Over the years I have constantly been asked for coaching advice. In the past, I didn’t really have the time that I felt that was necessary to help people achieve their goals and aspirations. Since I recently scaled down my racing to shorter distance, I have slowly added more clients, and started my own team called Giddy Up Multisports. I am also very lucky that my sponsors are so supportive and help out team. We have had some really great results with a couple of top performances - not just at local events but also the World Championship level as well. But, the team is not just about winning races. It is more about realizing your own potential. My real goal is to try to create a fun and supportive environment.
ST: Some folks who don’t know you may wonder why you continue to race. If the nay-sayers say you’re too old – what would you like to say to them? What keeps you in the game?
Michellie: It is always interesting to hear people’s opinions… I have heard both sides. My age group friends have given me all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed to race age group. Others have said I should sit out a year, and then get an AG license. Then some have said I should just stay pro because of how much easier it is to enter races (with no registration cut-off and worrying about sold-out races).
To be honest, I know I am not as fast as I used to be - and I definitely don’t put the same amount time in to my training as I used to. The simple fact is that I still love to get out and race. Currently I am having fun with shorter races and trying to be as competitive as I can.
ST: You seem to keep yourself quite busy – how does Michellie Jones balance it all? Any words of wisdom for the average working triathlete?
Michellie: Everything in moderation! That’s kind of interesting because, as triathletes, we tend not to abide by this. I also remind people that, although triathlon is an individual sport, it is also a team effort with our friends and family members supporting us. Always remember to thank the people who help you succeed, and never take them for granted.
ST: You’ve lived in Southern California for quite some time. Could you ever see yourself in a place like Boulder, or are you a “lifer” in San Diego?
Michellie: I am one of the few professional triathletes that has never been to Boulder for training. I love San Diego, so I only know what San Diego has to offer. I also believe in sleeping at altitude rather than training at altitude.
ST: Favorite and least favorite foods?
Michellie: Believe or not, I am not a big fan of chicken; I’m more of a steak kind of girl. Hence why I my pre-race meal is usually a hamburger. I love white chocolate, oysters, Erin Bakers Granola, gummy candy, fresh cherries, sake and sushi , pavolva, and the corner piece on a birthday cake. Sugar, sugar, sugar :)
ST: Who are some of your sponsors and supporters?
Michellie: I owe thanks to my great team: ISM Saddles, TrionZ, Felt Bicycles, Compex, Newton Running, Rudy Project, Zipp, SRAM, Gatorade, Running Skirts, Champion System, Speedplay, Sidi, Pro Compression, and Profile-Design.
ST: Anything else you’d like to add?
Michellie: I have an identical twin sister, a Miniature Pinscher named Tinkerbell, and a Morgan Horse named CBMF Split Decision (aka Johnny Boy). Some people say I had the Tinkerbell curse in Sydney [Olympics] because I didn’t have Tinki painted on my helmet… only my other two mini Pins at the time.
You can keep up with Michellie on her website: