How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Athena National Champ Sarah Girven

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Meet Sarah Girven, a wife, mother, triathlete, animal lover, hiker, runner and all-around adventurer. She’s another fellow Coeur Sports ambassador — new to the team for 2016 — so I was excited to get to know her better after reading about some of her adventures via her blog.

What I find particularly inspiring about Sarah, however, is that she began working out in February 2012 and has been going strong ever since. And by “going strong,” I mean that she’s since trained for and competed in all kinds of events, ranging from 5k’s and half marathons to sprint-distance and 70.3-mile triathlons.

Not too shabby of a race resume — especially since it’s a mere four years old, right?! 

Although Sarah’s currently sidelined due to injury (but on the mend, thank goodness), she usually spends her time racing in triathlons, duathlons, aqua-bikes, bike, road and trail races. And when she’s not working with her local triathlon club or as a board member, she’s busy running her house, shuttling her kids and volunteering.

Sarah seems like the consummate multitask-er, to say the least, so I was excited to pick her brain about tales from training, as well as get the low-down on her favorite gear and the best advice she’s received as an athlete.

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? My favorite route and workout is riding my bike on HWY 159 from Las Vegas towards Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. I do about a 50-mile ride with more than 3300 feet of elevation gain. The backdrop is amazing, and makes the ride totally worth it.

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? I currently wear Brooks Glycerin 13. I am on my third pair and really like how they immediately fit my feet when I put them on. All three pairs have had a long run as their break-in and have never caused any issues. I bike in Shimano SPD SL SH-WR41. They are dirty and beat up, but I love them. They fit great and are tough!

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? I have a few things that I love to train with. I always wear a hat or a visor. I live in Las Vegas and need it to protect my face and catch my sweat. My favorite visors are Headsweats. I love the elastic back strap because it is so easy and quick to get on during a race. I also usually run with my Nathan Hydration Pack HPL #020 on training runs. It carries a 2-liter bladder and is fit for running, so it does not bounce. It also has enough storage for my phone, a small first aid kit and some snacks.

I never leave home without my Garmin 910XT. I’m able to use it for lap swimming, open water swimming, biking, running and hiking. I enjoy looking at the stats when I’m done with a workout. Finally, I’m always wearing sunglasses. I have two types that I wear, XX2i France1 and Rudy Project Rydon or Stratofly SX. I like the XX2i for running because they really grip my nose and do not move when I run no matter how sweaty I get. I like the Rudy for biking; they have transition lenses so they adjust to whatever lighting I am in.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” I have two tips or hacks I use: One, I set my workout clothes in the bathroom so I get dressed in my gear as soon as I get up and go to the workout as soon as I drop my kids off to school. That way I am already out of the house and ready because if I go back home I might not leave again. Two, I try to pick things close to my house or from my house. If I have to drive a long distance to do a workout, I am less likely to go but if I can walk out my door and start, I am more likely to do it.

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5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: I grew up around the water, so I am very comfortable in it. I have a good, steady pace and have no anxiety about training or racing in it. I am tall with a long torso and arm span so I tend to be a smooth, quick swimmer. My friends enjoy swimming with me because they say I push them to go harder.

Bike: I am a rocket when going downhill! I can make a steady climb but I will fly by you on the down-side. I can definitely use my larger frame to my advantage.

Run: I have a pretty accurate internal pace setter. I can set a pace and hold it for a long period of time.

6. What do you listen to while training? I do not listen to anything while swimming or biking. I do occasionally run with an iPod Shuffle. I put one ear bud in and leave the other out so I can hear and am aware of my surroundings. The playlists are just songs I enjoy and are not selected for pace or tempo. I use it as a tool to take my mind off my run.

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7. What are you currently training for? This is a hard question to answer. This past October, I tore my ACL and meniscus in my right knee, and I had the surgery to replace the ACL and clean up the meniscus in December. Currently, I am in physical therapy to regain my strength and flexibility.

I am not training at the moment but I do have a few races on my schedule, though: I have one sprint, two sprint relays where I am the swim leg, two Olympics, a 70.3 half triathlon, Ironman Arizona and a few running races on the calendar.

My “A” race is Ironman Arizona on November 20, 2016. I am not sure if I will be able to compete in this race, though. It will all depend on my recovery, healing and training. I am staying hopeful but am also realistic and do not want to do anything to jeopardize my health.

8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? What are those? LOL! I would sometimes do ice baths or Epsom salt baths after long runs or extra intense workouts/races. I occasionally foam roll. I also try to do a light swim, bike or run to loosen up a day or two after a hard race. I try to get to sleep by 11 p.m. and am up at about 6:30 a.m. on a normal night.

If I am training, I wake up between 4:30-6:30 a.m., depending on the activity. Since the summer heat is so intense in Las Vegas, I tend to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get my workouts in before the heat gets too bad.

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9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? The best advice I have received is to enjoy the journey. I have had it delivered to me in several ways. One story I often tell others is when I was about to race my first 70.3 (actually 70.4 because the swim was 1.3 miles), and a friend told me that when I am hurting to take a minute to look up and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The race was in Long Beach, Calif., and as it turned out, the run was hurting. I reminded myself of her words, so I looked up and took in the sights. It truly was amazing. The ability to do this sport is a gift! Our bodies are able to do amazing things and we are blessed to be able to do it. Another friend recently said that we get to spend an entire day doing what we love. How blessed are we?

10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? There are so many! If I have to pick one it would be from the Athena National Championship race at the Grand Rapids Triathlon on June 16, 2015. I was racing for the 70.3 title, and I was in the 40-54 age group. I had a goal of finishing in 6:15 going off of my previous times. It was raining that day and since I have zero experience training in the rain, I was not too optimistic of my results.

I had a strong swim, and it appeared that I was the first Athena at the bike rack in the transition area. My ride was solid and even with the rain, I was hitting my time goals. I made it back to T2 fourteen minutes ahead of my goal time. Once again, I was the first Athena to the bike rack. I hit the run and was able to hold steady. I knew that this is where I would win or lose the race.

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At mile 7, my husband saw me and told me that I was crushing my times. He said that I was about six minutes ahead of another Athena. As expected, I was passed at mile 10 but I was ok with that because she is one of my best friends so I was extremely happy for her. As I approached the finish line, I gave it my all. I crossed the finish line and found my husband. He wrapped his arms around me, kissed me and told me how proud he was of me.

We found out that I finished in 5:53:29! I placed 2nd overall and 1st in the 40-54 age group becoming the National Champion for that division. I loved racing with my friend and seeing her win 1st place overall, but I will never forget the pride I saw in my husband’s face when I crossed the finish line.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. I would love to workout with all the girls from my Athena Facebook group and my Coeur Sports ambassador team. There are so many ladies that I am inspired by, and I would love to meet them in person. They are encouraging and are a wonderful support network. I also wouldn’t mind working out with Andy Potts or Ryan Lochte!

12. Anything else you’d like to add? I love to trail run and hike. I could spend days out on the trails. It is my happy place. I love the fresh air, quietness and beauty of it all.

I write about my adventures in racing, training, and hiking here. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram, too. I’m also a proud ambassador for Coeur Sports, Pierce Footwear, FitFluential, Fusion Sports USA and RACEPLACE.

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Thanks, Sarah! Here’s hoping that your recovery goes well so you can be in tip-top shape for training this season. 

Friends, please give me a shout (info (at) kineticfix.com) if you’d like to be featured!

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