Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Very Fast, Very Wise: Interview with Sage Maaranen

Get to know speedy Sara Jane aka Sage Maaranen, last year's F2529 AG champ.

Thanks for the time, Sage, and best of luck this coming season!

Standard question – what’s your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon?

I swam and did every sport imaginably as a kid, but never really invested much enthusiasm until college when I became determined to outrun the Freshman 15. Post-college I fell back in love with swimming and continued running my heart out. I come from a family of beastly cyclists, and finally my sister (now my coach through Wenzel Coaching) insisted I get on a bike and give triathlon a shot. So I borrowed a set of wheels, and it was love at first race!

You go by many aliases. Should people call you Sara, Sara Jane, SJ, or Sage? I believe I’ve seen all of these in results and/or social media. How did “Sage” come about… is it a reference to your legendary wisdom?

2016 USAT Nationals in Omaha

Yes, I’m a gal of many names! Sara Jane is my legal name, but it’s morphed over the years. Sara Jane Say Jay SJ Sage. It’s no reference to any guru-like qualities, but hey! Maybe like my name that wisdom is similarly evolving?

Similar to our last interview (“THE DANIMAL” Dan Trott), you’re from New Mexico, correct? What brought you to SLC and how long have you lived here?

I’m a high altitude, green chile loving New Mexican to the core! At 18 I left home for college in Missouri, and then after my undergrad proceeded with something of a walkabout, living in the Czech Republic, Spain and Ecuador. But there’s something about Utah! Mountains and desert right at your fingertips? That’s just about perfect.

trying something new: fatbiking!

I see you in 6 local race results from 2016: Icebreaker (7th place), Salem (2nd), East Canyon Olympic (2nd), DinoTri Oly (1st), Echo Oly (5th), & Brineman Oly (3rd). You also mentioned you did USAT Nats, any others as well? What was your best race? Worst race? And/or what was the highlight and lowlight of the season?

Best race of 2016 was most definitely Rage down in Las Vegas. It was insanely gusty, making the course super tough; every stroke, pedal and step was a fight. It also involved a lot of strategy to create the fastest finish time while also staying safe in the conditions. In the end I was pretty stoked about how I handled myself in the wind, an element that has rattled me with nerves in the past.

rolling out of transition at Salem Spring 2016

As for a worst race, I don’t know that I believe in “bad” races. Any time you get to race is pretty awesome! I will concede, however, that some races pose more challenges and learning opportunities than others. My all-time most challenging race was Echo 2015. I was returning to triathlon after a gnarly crash, and I had some pretty big mental demons to overcome. On top of the pre-race nerves, I had a mechanical issue before the start that I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, tri people are good people! Rory Duckworth, a relative stranger at the time, came to my rescue and fixed the problem, no questions asked. I really needed to get back on the horse, and without the help, I wouldn’t have had a horse to ride! So, I guess it wasn’t such an awful race after all. I got to ride, I got to finish, and I got to witness firsthand how the kindness of a stranger can save more than just the day.

sweating it out with fellow Coeur teammate
Heather Casey at a BAM computrainer ride

What are your plans for 2017?

I really love USAT Nationals, so I’ll be heading out to Omaha in August for what I’m calling “Battle of the Humidity, Round 2.” I’m also mixing it up a bit this year and am giving St. George 70.3 a shot. It’ll be my first 70.3, so that’s pretty exciting! Aside from those, I’ll throw in a few other fun local races. It’s always great to go out and see training buddies and local teammates crushing it.

Will your strategy at St. George be more “go big or go home” (70.3 Worlds??) or “finish with a smile/happy to be there?”

I’m just excited to try something new! I’ve coached athletes through 70.3’s, but I’m excited to learn more of the nuance myself. I’m diving in and planning to give it my all, but it’s such an unknown. Regardless of the outcome, it should be a fun new adventure!

Snow Canyon - equal parts beauty & misery

You’ve done a lot of local races, which is awesome. What are your favorites?

Oh, that’s tough! Dino Tri, which was my first ever triathlon, holds a special place in my heart. It’s a beautiful course, and they hold a King/Queen of the mountain competition, which makes for a fun extra challenge. I also really like experimenting with other disciplines and formats. Last year I did a TT through the Utah Crit Series, and I loved hanging with roadies and feeling completely out of my element! I’m also a pretty big fan of the Haunted Half Marathons. Showing up to the start line in an outrageous costume, then gorging yourself on Sour Patch Kids at aid stations is a great reminder that sports are meant to be fun!

celebrating victories with the Judge Memorial swim team

What are all the coaching relationships you're involved with?

I decided I wanted to create a life doing what I love, and what I love is triathlon, so coaching seemed the way to go! I am the owner of Sage Training Multisport, and offer online custom training plans for triathletes and other endurance athletes. I particularly enjoy helping athletes train smarter to balance professional and family life, and connecting them with resources in the greater tri community. I also work with Salt Lake Tri Club athletes as a coach, and offer one-on-one triathlon swim coaching at Northwest and Fairmont aquatic centers. It’s cool to be a part of such a large network of people who are eager to support each other on their respective journeys.

Outside of my tri-specific life, I spend my time breathing in chlorine and coaching various Masters and youth teams. My big winter project is Judge Memorial High School, where I’m just wrapping up my second season as Head Coach. It’s just so cool watching the process. These kids end up in the pool for friends or because a parent pushed them there, but then gradually they begin to see their potential and buy in. They put in the work and get after it, and the results are starting to show. Yeah, coaching is pretty cool.

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