Friday, November 4, 2016

Interview with Local Pro Megan Foley

Get to know Megan Foley, a local pro triathlete who's also no stranger to the overall podium when she races in state. Among other things, here she talks about experiences as a pro, mercilessly forcing a teammate to choke down vegetable juice, and wearing a child's swimsuit.

Thanks for the time, Megan!

What’s your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon? Is it true you were literally born in a swimming pool?

Haha, yes. My mom's water broke while she was swimming the mile in master's practice so I had exposure to chlorine at a really young age. It's funny actually there's home movies of my mom giving me a swim lesson at six weeks old.

I spent a large portion of my childhood in the water. I started off as a springboard diver. When I reached middle school, I switched to competitive swimming and continued to swim through college at the University of Denver (Go Pios). While I was there, my coach sent me a few emails about USAT's Collegiate Recruitment Program because he thought I would be a good fit. At the time, I thought it was a cool idea, but I didn't consider it too seriously since I still had a few years of NCAA eligibility left (and didn't own a bike).

I took some time away from sports after graduating from DU, but realized that I missed training and competing. I signed up for Boulder Peak in 2013 and immediately loved it. I went a day early for packed pickup and was struck by how cool and fit the people at the venue were. I wanted to be like that too.

When did you decide to become a professional triathlete, and what was your pathway to making it a reality?

I'd done one or two more one-off races after Boulder 5150 but never trained too seriously. In fall of 2014, I moved here to Salt Lake for graduate school. I was occasionally swimming at Steiner when a mutual friend introduced me to Wes, who was coaching practice that day. I'd told him what I'd done, and that I was thinking about doing a half or even a full ironman. He told me no, and that I should do draft legal triathlons instead.

I was a little confused since I'd never heard of draft legal triathlon, and figured a sprint triathlon couldn't be that hard, right? But, I figured I'd give it a shot and started working with him and people at BAM. Four months later, I raced my first draft legal triathlon down in Clermont, FL and earned my elite license that weekend by finishing as the third US finisher (fourth overall).

No pun intended, but what are some “pros” & cons of your experience as a professional so far, and/or “lessons learned”?

Oh man, there have been a lot of lessons. Even though I compete as I pro, sometime I still feel like a newbie since I feel like I haven't been in the sport that long. Recovery is everything. It doesn't matter how hard you train if you're not taking care of yourself outside your workouts.

How would you summarize the 2016 season, and what was the highlight and lowlight?

I got to race in WTS (World Triathlon Series) Edmonton this year which was an amazing experience. The race took place two weeks after the Olympics so a lot of the athletes present had come straight from Rio. I was trying not to be a complete fangirl. Being at the race was a huge high because WTS races are one of the highest levels you can reach as an ITU athlete. At the same time, I made, what I would consider to be, a lot of rookie mistakes at that race which was disappointing. Not that I was expecting to go in there and champ it, but I felt I didn't execute the race how I should've.

However, afterwards it was really nice to talk to the other girls on the US Team (the ones who are now dominating these races) who shared similar first WTS race experiences to mine. So there's hope for me!

editor's note: a then unknown Jorgensen won this race I did in 2010...
bike for show, run for dough ;) !!

Does the attention Ironman/ 70.3 athletes get ever annoy you? Do you feel the ITU circuit is sometimes overlooked, at least in the US, or has Gwen Jorgensen cured that with her Rio gold medal?

Usually if I let it slip that I'm a pro triathlete, people assume that I do Ironmans. Sometimes it bothers me, but like I mentioned earlier I had no idea what draft legal triathlon was until I started doing it, nor did I think that a sprint triathlon could be hard.

Ironman is a household name, and they've done a great job of growing recognition for the sport. Short course triathlon just doesn't have that recognition yet. I just think many people haven't yet grasped the intensity and training it takes to be successful as a short course athlete (look at what the Brownlee brothers are doing). Gwen has been really great for the short course world. But, I also really like athletes like Daniela Ryf, Jan Frodeno, and other ITU athletes who are now crushing the long course world. I think their success will bring more recognition to how intense short course racing can be.

On that note, is it comfortable doing a full tri essentially in a bathing suit? Are the whisperings true that you’ve trained in the same suit since you were 10?

Haha, I've worn the same size suit since I was eight actually! In competitive swimming, we used to joke that if you didn't need a friend to help you get your race suit on, it was too big. I guess I've just kept that mentality. Plus less drag to worry about!

I really prefer to race in a swimsuit. Initially, I thought it would be uncomfortable, but I like having my legs free. I can cool off easier, and have had less chafing issues wearing a swimsuit that I had wearing tri shorts. Who would've thought less fabric meant more comfort.

What are your plans for next year and goals for your future in the sport?

Next year I'm planning to continue to race on the ITU circuit. Hopefully doing more World Cup and WTS races. Eventually I will try out long course races. But right now, I feel I still have a lot of room to improve in short course racing, and still have a lot to prove to myself in the ITU world. This year I also was involved in Major League Triathlon which is a new, cool racing series in the US which I'm hoping to do again next year.

What are your biggest pet peeves involving your BAM teammates?

That's an easy one ;) I hate when my teammates talk about how fat or heavy they are. My thought process has been if you're performing well, why does it matter how much you weigh? If you want to become a better athlete, focus on your training, on eating well (the majority of the time), and getting enough rest, not the number on the scale. If you focus on those three components, your weight will be exactly were it needs to be to perform your best on race day.

Megan w/ Skye Moench, Chris Hammer, Evan Santo & Ty Perkins at Salem

We’ve noticed a couple references on Facebook regarding a wager you’ve had with Chris Hammer. Can you elaborate, and have you won or lost those bets?

Chris and I are good friends and were training partners for a lot of the summer. At East Canyon, we had a bet that if he beat me by 4 minutes or more in the sprint distance race, that I would have to eat an entire Hot n Ready Pizza by myself (one of his regular meals). If he beat me by less than 4 minutes, he'd have to drink vegetable juice. It was going to be really close! I can out swim Chris but he's a phenomenal cyclist and runner so we didn't really know how it was going to turn out. He ended up about three and a half minutes ahead of me. So now, there's great video footage of him trying to suck down vegetable juice a few days later after a track workout.

On the local scene, you crushed Salem (3rd overall behind only Chris Hammer & Evan Santo), East Canyon (2nd overall - Hammer), and Echo (4th overall - Hammer, Santo, Tucker Hathaway) this year. What’s your favorite local race you’ve done and why?

It's hard to say which local race was my favorite. I really like racing locally because I get to be out there with all my teammates which is much different than the pro races that I go to. It makes for a more fun racing environment. That being said, I'm still very competitive so I'm always happy when I can make the men's overall podium.

Anything else you want to share?

I think that's it. Thank you!

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