Joanna Zeiger has won races ranging from the Olympic distance to the Ironman, but really seems to have found her calling at the 70.3 distance. She is one of the favorites going into the upcoming 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater.
ST: Joanna, between coaching, racing and your Ph.D., it almost seems like you have several Pro jobs. Isn’t that a bit much?
Joanna: I have a little bit of ADD, so I need lots of things to keep me occupied! Actually, I love everything I do and cannot imagine giving any of them up.
I have been racing professionally now for 10 years and the fire is still alive. I am constantly learning new things (or at least trying not to repeat the mistakes!) and I thrive on the training and competition. On that note, I feel honored that athletes come to me to use my knowledge to help them achieve their goals. It has been extremely rewarding guiding athletes and seeing them reach their potential.
Finally, my research work at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics which is a part of the University of Colorado keeps me in the science loop and allows me to use my degree. The work there is fascinating and gives me an outlet from all of the triathlon insanity.
ST: Along those lines, do your friends and family ever ask you when you are finally done with your education?
Joanna: I have been done with my formal education since 2001, but I plan on staying in academia indefinitely. I enjoy the environment and the independence it allows.
ST: While largely abandoning Ironman this year, your 70.3 wins have been impressive and seem to make you one of the favorites at Clearwater. Do you think the half Ironman might always have been your best distance?
Joanna: Absolutely. I love the half Ironman distance and have since my first one years ago. It is the perfect blend of speed and endurance, and everything is over before it hurts too much! It is also hard to get into too much trouble with dehydration and nutrition and you are done in time for lunch. The recovery is so fast that you can do lots in a season and most of the half Ironman races are in great venues. What’s not to like?
ST: Can you win Clearwater and whom do you see as your toughest competition?
Joanna: I think anything is possible on race day. My philosophy is prepare yourself to win, but never expect to win. My training with Coach Phil Skiba has been excellent and we seem to have things dialed in. That being said, there is always an element of luck involved with any race and of course you can never predict what anyone else will do on the day.
The field is extremely competitive and there are certainly any number of women that are capable of taking the top spot. I hope to be up there in the mix!!!
ST: Do you still have an itch to tackle Kona?
Joanna: Kona has been extremely unkind to me in the past few years. I needed a mental break from it this year. I have some serious unfinished business there and will probably get back there sometime soon. I am doing IM AZ in a few weeks, so we will see how that goes.
ST: Do you think you would have had a few more Ironman podium placings if Pro women had had a head start in front of Age Group men all along?
Joanna: No question that the presence of the age group men in pro women's race affects the outcome. It has always been frustrating to just hold off or be caught by a group of men towing along some women with them. I welcome the head start for the pros and was particularly a fan of the 35 min head start that we got when NA sports had the pro women only Ironman races.
ST: What other athletic goals are on your bucket list?
Joanna: I wish I could say that I am extremely adventurous and will jump out of an airplane or ski down Everest. But, I think my "sports" goals will be to improve my bowling and mini golf games. I am woefully terrible at both.
ST: Can you describe a typical training week for our readers?
Joanna: Coach Phil has really dialed in my training this year; we have been able to avoid some of the over-training pitfalls that I have encountered in the past. I normally do 4-5 swims of 4k, 4-5 rides anywhere from 2-5 hours and 5 runs of 45min-2 hours. I do a variety of interval workouts on the bike and track and tempo run workouts. I also hit the gym twice a week.
ST: What do you do to overcome a disappointing race?
Joanna: I cry. Seriously, I love a good cry. Then I analyze the race to death until I come up with a good reason things went wrong and then I implement whatever it is I learned into my training. If it is something out my control, like a mechanical, I still cry and then I get angry and then I move on.
ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Joanna: I have some great sponsors this year. Guru has custom built me a beautiful pink and black Crono that fits like a glove. My Crono is outfitted with Profile aerobars and HED wheels. PowerBar keeps me fueled during my training and racing. Rudy Project keeps my noggin protected from pavement and my eyes safe from the elements, and blueseventy wetsuits and speedsuits keep me warm and fast in the swim. PowerTap has helped me dial in my bike training, and I have gone through enough SaltStick tabs to keep a dozen triathletes hydrated.
ST: How do you typically spend the off-season?
Joanna: Brooding over the cold weather, complaining about the cold weather and figuring out where to go to get out of the cold weather.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Joanna: There are sports I follow willingly like swimming, track and field, and cycling. And then there are sports that I follow by osmosis, like basketball (NCAA not NBA), football and anything else that Sports Center covers. My husband is a sports enthusiast so the TV is often tuned into some sports event, which I end up watching too.
ST: What about food likes and dislikes?
Joanna: I love a good buffalo burger after a hard day of training. My favorite guilty pleasure is frosting (no cake, just frosting). After a bout of food poisoning from sushi I cannot even look at it without feeling slightly ill.
ST: Favorite music?
Joanna: I am a huge 80’s fanatic and I especially listen to it very loudly when I am on the indoor trainer. My favorite band is U2. And if I am being totally honest, I also have the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on my Ipod – yes, I like disco.
ST: What was the last book you read?
Joanna: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Joanna: I am still thinking about this one.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Joanna: We have to save something for the next time ☺
Joanna Zeigers website is joanna-zeiger.com