Jacqui Giuliano is a 7th grade math teacher and an amazingly gifted triathlete who was just picked up by the new Suunto Multisport Team. Giuliano has some big goals for 2019 and we chatted with her about what is next for her. Her husband and coach Ryan Giuliano is also no slouch and we interviewed him in the spring of 2018.
Slowtwitch: Thank you so much for your time.
Jacqui Giuliano: Thank you so much for interviewing me. I love reading the interviews and learning more about others that you can’t just see on social media. I look forward to seeing a new interview on the homepage every time I go to the slowtwitch website, so am honored to be featured.
ST: Well, hopefully you are well.
Jacqui: Thanks, all is great and I’m looking forward to another season of racing in 2019.
ST: How have you been spending the off-season?
Jacqui: It’s been a busy but fun off-season. After Kona, our bodies were totally exhausted since we had done IMWI 5 weeks prior, so we didn’t really have a timeframe for our off-season which was kind of nice. We’ve gone on a few shorter vacations just to explore new cities. We went to Door County for a wedding, explored some of Texas - not near The Woodlands, and we visited a friend in Colorado and went skiing. This is probably the strangest off-season ever as we’ve already qualified for Kona so it’s been a little harder to get back into real training again. Usually, one of us - 5/6 times it was me, hasn’t yet qualified, so this is just a new feeling for us. My 2019 goal is to travel more and worry less. I’m still working on that whole worry less part, but I think I’m nailing the traveling more part.
ST: I think you just announced that you are part of the new Suunto team. How did that come about?
Jacqui: I am so excited to be part of the new Suunto team! We’ve never really been able to join a team as we had a sponsorship with EGO for a few years, and then Ryan had a bike sponsorship. I love the camaraderie of a team and always thought it was so cool to see teams gather in person at races and especially Kona, so once Ryan’s bike contract was up last year, we talked about joining a team. I saw the post announcing the new Suunto team, told Ryan about it and immediately applied. I feel very lucky to be part of this new team in the first year and am so excited for what’s to come in 2019.
ST: Will there be an early season team camp where you meet most of the folks and get your kits?
Jacqui: Yes! We’ll be at the team camp in the middle of March in St. George, Utah. I’m really excited to learn even more about our team sponsors, meet and workout with my new teammates, and I can’t wait to start using the Suunto 9!
ST; Are you much of a device slave and do you swim with your watch?
Jacqui: I wouldn't say I'm a device slave, but I do use my devices to monitor my body. It has definitely been a process, but I am really trying to focus more on recovery and truly go easy on my easy days so that I can go hard on my hard days. This is the most challenging for me in the pool since I'm still working on so many different aspects to try and be more efficient to get faster. I always use my watch in swimming because it's the sport I'm least experienced in, so it's nice to be able to monitor my progression. I actually use the app HRV4Training and measure my heart rate variability each morning to track if my body is super fatigued or ready to take on the next session. I guess the math teacher in me likes being able to analyze data and see patterns and trends, and the coach in Ryan likes to have data to use it when he needs it for my training as well.
ST: What is the first major race of 2019 for you?
Jacqui: Duathlon Nationals in April is my plan as long as I can make it work with my teaching schedule.
ST: Talk about your day job.
Jacqui: My now retired mom just reminded me, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” This 100% describes my job. The only thing I don’t like about it is the commute! I teach 7th grade math - Algebra and Pre Algebra. People always ask why math when I am certified to teach language arts, social studies, science, EL and physical education. Math was hard for me in junior high. My dad had to spend hours at our kitchen table re-teaching me. I often went to bed in tears because I hated how hard math was and I know my dad and I had quite a few fights over him having to re-teach me. The reason I chose to teach math is because I can relate to students who struggle. I have now learned ways to better explain things through my own struggle and hope to help them not hate math like I did when I was in their shoes. I am super lucky, though, that I get to teach P.E. over the summer, so I kind of have the best of both worlds! I also coach track and cross-country at my school, which lets me see students in a different way and I love these seasons as I feel like my relationships with my students that participate in these sports really grow during this time.
ST: Looking back at 2018, what would you consider the highlight of the year?
Jacqui: Easiest question so far! Ironman Wisconsin. As incredible as it was to share the podium in Kona with Ryan in our last year together, as he ages up to 35-39 this year, I’m not sure anything will ever be able to top our day in Wisconsin. We’ve been going up to watch the race every year since Ryan raced as a pro in 2010. Madison is less than 2 hours from our house, so we go up often over the summer to train and brunch after on the course. It had always been a goal to race it, but I wanted to feel confident on the bike first as I am not super great with hilly courses! Plus, in 2018, I had the Monday after Ironman Wisconsin off of school so it seemed like it was meant to be. Even though my bike had shifting issues for the last 40ish miles of the race, I still consider it a perfect race. I was happy with my performance physically, but ecstatic with how well I performed mentally. I feel like a huge part of any sport is the mental aspect, and I completely nailed that in Wisconsin. It was the best feeling in the world crossing the finish line and running into Ryan’s arms, knowing we had both had the races of our lives on the same day.
ST: You ran in college but I think injuries stopped you during your junior year.
Jacqui: Oh man, collegiate running was definitely an experience. My freshman year, I actually almost broke my fibula because I wasn’t allowed to get an x-ray as it was probably just shin splints. I still remember when the radiologist came back in and was like, “If you run another mile on this, you’re going to snap your fibula.” I came home that Thanksgiving and told my parents I needed to transfer schools right away. I’m glad they made me wait until the year was over as I met two of my best friends during my second semester, but it was a really rough year. I transferred to the University of Illinois, where I met Ryan. Every time I finally started to get healthy again, I’d get another stress fracture or reaction. I knew with student teaching coming up my senior year, that I wouldn’t be able to run in the spring anyway, so just decided to leave the team after my junior year.
I had an amazing experience earlier this year when a junior in high school asked me for advice for collegiate running. I told her to make her college choice based on where she would want to be for academics as collegiate running is so unpredictable. Some people handle the training really well, but a lot get injured. Collegiate athletics bring so many highs and lows, so if you can find a school that makes you happy regardless of where you’re at with athletics, that’s where you should go.
ST: And I believe an injury in 2011 put an end to your marathon goals.
Jacqui: It’s ironic that I come from a running family. My brother is attempting to run the 50 marathons in 50 states, my sister is a 2x Olympic Trials qualifier, and my parents used to run Boston together. Once I left the U of I cross country and track team, I decided I wanted to run the Chicago Marathon. I had an Achilles flare up, and randomly ran into Ryan one night during our senior year of college and we started talking about my training. When I told him about my Achilles, he offered to write bike and swim training so I could still stay in good shape while I went through this injury. Unfortunately, this Chicago Marathon (2007) was the super hot one and I just “ran” it with my dad, so I had some major goals to come back to. My next marathon was the GO! St. Louis Marathon in April 2008 and it was so much better as I wasn’t running as much, but the biking and swimming were really helping my fitness. I made it a goal to break 3 hours in my next attempt (Chicago 2008), and then set my sights on qualifying for the Olympic Trials. I toed the line of the Milwaukee Marathon in 2011 with the fitness I needed, but about 9 miles in, I had this pain shoot up my right hamstring. My hips felt paralyzed and I didn’t know what was going on with my body. Long story short, I partially tore my hamstring. I was crushed. It was a really tough year, but Ryan and I decided we would go back to run the Milwaukee Marathon in 2012 the week before our wedding as I wanted to win a marathon under my maiden name.
ST: And how did that go?
Jacqui: My body held up much better in 2012 and I was able to break the tape in my last race as an Aubert.
ST: But why Ironman racing then?
Jacqui: Ryan became my boyfriend shortly after that awful Chicago Marathon 2007 experience and started training me for marathons, but still had me doing the biking and swimming. Summer 2008, he dragged me to Buffalo Springs with him to do the 70.3 there - since I had been biking and swimming anyway was his thought process…and I missed qualifying for Kona by 9 seconds. I didn’t realize what a big deal that was at the time, so just returned to running. On our actual wedding day in 2012, the Ironman World Championships was going on and Ryan said it’d be fun to be there for our one-year anniversary. I completely thought he meant as a fun trip for us. That winter, Ryan and I decided to sign up for Eagleman 70.3 as there was no way I was going to do a full Ironman since I just started my amazing current teaching job. We knew we’d have to win our age groups and that it’d be challenging, but we were also both excited and figured we had nothing to lose. We were definitely hopeful as our plan was to use our qualification as a double celebration: our one year wedding anniversary, and a fun day to compete in the Ironman World Championships together, and my first ever Ironman, but I didn’t contemplate that part very much. 2018 was our 6th wedding anniversary on the date of our 6th consecutive Ironman World Championships race, so it made the day even more special.
ST: How is your body holding up?
Jacqui: I’ve definitely had some ups and downs throughout this journey. I tore my plantar on my left foot in 2015 but I didn’t know this when I was racing Kona. I’m super fortunate that I have had great supports through physical therapists and podiatrists over the years, and my current PT is working with me to create a little video series on this whole foot injury process. I am really excited for this as I know how awful it is to be injured and feel hopeless, so am hoping that this series can really help others that are in the same position as me.
I’ve been dealing with plantar issues on and off ever since my tear, so am learning how to really listen to my body to prevent bigger issues from occurring. This sounds kind of strange, but I am totally a believer that your body sometimes just gives you signs that it needs a break. My foot might just be flaring up because my body is telling me to keep taking it easy right now. Over the years, I’ve really tried to do a better job of listening to my body and not being as stubborn about getting training in.
ST: How much do you train each week?
Jacqui: I swim every morning before teaching, so about 4.5 hours of swim training. I then either bike or run or do a combination of them after school. If I’m biking, it’s 70-90 minutes and if I’m running, it’s usually around an hour. On the weekends, I do my long run on Saturdays usually as Ryan’s philosophy is that running takes more of a toll on your body, so it’s smarter to do that longer effort first. For me, it’s really helped as then I have more fatigue to fight through on the long bike on Sundays as well, and I think it makes my injury risk slightly lower. This probably adds up to 6-10 hours of biking and 5-6 hours of running. I also do strength training 2-3 times per week as well, but those sessions are usually just around 30 minutes. I try to add in 30-60 minutes of yoga each week as well, and foam roll and stretch after every bike or run. The older I get, the more I am realizing the importance of really recovering well and taking care of your body after each session!
ST: Is Ryan your coach?
Jacqui: Yes! It didn’t start off that way originally, but as he gradually started giving me more input during training to help me stay away from injury. So it made sense to just completely move to him coaching me fully.
ST: And what is still on your bucket list?
Jacqui: I want to full out win an Ironman. Ryan jokes with me that I technically didn’t win Ironman Wisconsin as 2 pro women beat me, so I want to go to a race that doesn’t have a pro field and win like how he did in Wisconsin. I also want to run a sub-3 marathon at the end… those 17 seconds in Wisconsin stung a bit, but I literally gave everything I had on that day. My dream goal would be for both me and Ryan to be on that top step of the podium in Kona someday!
ST: Are there no exotic races on that list?
Jacqui: There are many races I would love to do someday, but just aren’t realistic with teaching. I am incredibly fortunate that my district has been so supportive of my races in Kona for the past 6 years. If there are exotic races that happen over winter break, spring break, or summer break, I’m in!
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Jacqui: I am so grateful for everything the sport of triathlon has brought to me. It has strengthened my relationship with Ryan and has brought some amazing people into my life. Words can’t describe how lucky I am to have Ryan support me as a coach, husband and best friend. I am excited to enter the 2019 season with new sponsors, new teammates, same coach, and even more opportunities to meet new people and grow in this sport.
You can also follow Jacqui via her Jacqui's Journey blog