Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kona Profiles: The Legendary Sue Pope

The Ironman World Championships ("Kona") is quickly approaching, taking place Oct. 14th. As you know, it's incredibly competitive to qualify and a major accomplishment to do so. Like last year, we'll be catching up with our local Cinderellas... getting to know them better as a tri community and cheering them on as they get ready for the ball!

  • Name: Sue Pope 
  • Age Group: F5559 
  • Qualified: Ironman Los Cabos – Oct. 2016 
  • Qualifying Place & Time: 1st - 11:28:26   (5th female overall!)
  • Splits: Swim 1:14 Bike 5:59 Run 4:04 

What's your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon?

Born and raised in San Diego, I grew up playing softball, volleyball and basketball in jr high and high school. I played and started on the varsity team as a freshman in all sports and was selected to be in the Hall of Champions for high school athletes in the San Diego area. I received a basketball and volleyball scholarship at Idaho State and then transferred to the University of Utah.

I started doing sprint and Olympic triathlons in 2004, my first sprint being Jordanelle. Two friends talked me into taking a triathlon class. I could not swim and had a mountain bike I got years before when RC Willey was giving away bikes when you buy furniture. LOL! I did two brick sessions with that bike and about killed myself trying to catch my friends. They told me I needed a better bike! I went to Bingham Cycle and they helped me get into a road bike with aero bars. 2008 was when I did my first Ironman 70.3 in Boise. I placed first and qualified for the 70.3 world championship in Clearwater, FL. I had no idea what the world championship race was, nor did I know I had qualified since I had gone back to the hotel and missed the awards not thinking I had even placed in my age group. My coach at the time, Keena Schaerrer, was screaming telling me I needed to go claim my spot for the 70.3 world championship and that I took 1st place in my AG.

What's your history with the full Ironman distance race and Kona?

I participated in other Ironman 70.3 races and the world championship in Vegas from 2008-12. In 2012, My friends talked me into training for Ironman Florida. I had been putting off signing up for an Ironman, knowing the commitment I needed to make with my training. I had chosen Florida since it was known to be flat and I did not want to die on my first Ironman. It was my first ocean swim, thank god my friend Sandy gave me a crash course the day before on how to dive into the waves and start my swim. The race went well, placing first and qualifying me for Kona 2013. I placed 4th in my age group in Kona 2013, which got me on the podium. That was so cool, I gave it my all that day. In 2015 I did Ironman Boulder and qualified for Kona 2015 two months later. That race did not go as well, placing 13th. My bike was slower along with GI issues on the run, and I struggled the entire race mentally. Not happy with that Kona race result, I decided to give it another try by doing Cabo 2016. I picked Cabo since it was a challenging course and hot. I am to the point that if I want to qualify for Kona, I want to do it on a tough course.

Any goals in mind for this year?

My Kona goals are simply to pace myself, don't go out too fast or hard, and take my nutrition as planned. And have fun, which is what my friends tell me. 

What's a typical training week?

I get in 3 bikes, 3 swims and 3 runs, along with strength training a few days, which I lack consistency. I mix hills in with flats when working out, and try to train on similar terrain that I will be racing on. I train alone the majority of the time but will catch up with friends on longer rides, open water swims, trail runs and recovery days. I like to train in the Park City, Kamas, Echo area, along with Emigration, Suncrest, Alpine mountain view and Saltair.

My coach Jo Garuccio has got me to use a power meter and a heart rate monitor, and I've been trying to focus more on zone training. I like Jo since she is a knowledgeable/ experienced triathlete, keeps me focused, pushes my ability and understands I can't train like a 30 year old. I'm 56 so recovery and schedules vary.

Sue devastated her AG at Los Cabos, where the temps were reportedly ~100 degrees

Best and worst thing about Ironman?

Best is the feeling you get while training and during the race, it is a good feeling of accomplishment. Worst, weather, sometimes the long bike ride, along with the aches and pains we get.

What are your plans for next season?

After Kona, not sure what next year will bring. This was a busy race year with 5 long distance races and other local races. I would like to spend more time with my family and friends in California, working in my yard and fixing up my home. I am thinking of doing a solo marathon since I never have, maybe the USAT National sprint and Olympic races in Cleveland, St. George 70.3 and whatever events my friends talk me into. I will see how Kona goes and assess my goal races for next year and plan out my training strategies.

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