It's a new year! Get to know Melissa Coles, a stalwart on the local race scene, and get inspired for the upcoming season... let's do this!
What's your athletic background and how did you first get into triathlon? Where & when was your first race?
I grew up playing competitive soccer and swimming. In 7th grade my mom had me choose between swimming or soccer. I chose swimming.
I became a lifeguard at the age of 15 for Dimple Dell Recreation center and the Draper pool for 4 years. I often rode my bike to work. My last summer there (2004) I was approached by a race director that was going to be holding a triathlon race. I decided to do the race! It was a Sprint Distance. We swam in the 50 Meter pool in Draper, biked 12 miles around Draper, and ran 3.1 miles.
I don’t remember too much other than I somehow managed 1st place! I had a lot of fun but didn’t do another triathlon until 2006, one in 2008, and part of one in 2010 (a relay for the Utah Half where I did the swim and the run).
According to our results database, you've clearly improved a lot over the years. What have been the keys to your continued progression as a triathlete?
In 2014 I had my last baby where I gained a lot of weight. I was up to 225lbs. I felt tired and wanted to get myself back.
I decided to work on my health and also sign up and train for a marathon. From Oct 2014 to Sep 2015 I was able to lose 90lbs by focusing on my nutrition and training for a marathon. In September 2015 I ran the Big Cottonwood marathon in a time of 3:31:57 which was a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. This was something I had never even dreamt of being able to do. I think this is where my passion and drive for running really started!
In 2016 I made it a goal to do 31 races for being 31 years old. I completed several half marathons and 3 full marathons that year setting a new PR in my marathon with a time of 3:24. That year though something else sparked my interest again! Someone had asked me if I ever used to do Triathlons. They knew I used to swim and that I used to bike to work.
So I decided to sign up for the Utah Half Ironman that July (2016). I slowly ramped up my mileage in biking again so that I would be able to complete the 56 miles. That year the swim was canceled due to toxic algae in the water, so they had us run 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and then run 13.1 miles. I wasn't used to eating on the bike and also was so new to this distance of triathlon I wasn't really sure how much to eat.
I only consumed about 250 calories during the 56 miles on the bike. I know better now! ha! I still think back to that race and kinda chuckle wondering how in the world I survived that day on basically nothing but water. I have grown and learned a lot since then. I have met many amazing people through the Triathlon clubs and the cycling community that have been a great help to my performance.
I have always been self coached and love finding new challenges and always setting new goals for myself to achieve. Growing up I swam on the swim team and played soccer. I believe that is where I became someone who is very dedicated, determined, and has always been pretty self disciplined when it comes to sports.
You laid down a stellar performance at the Bear Lake Brawl 140.6 in September (11:52, 2nd female & 6th overall). What was your reaction to the deferment and then cancellation of Ironman St. George, and what kept you going during the uncertainty of 2020 to be in such good form for Bear Lake?
When the Ironman St. George was first moved from May 2020 to Sep 2020 I was pretty upset. All that training and time spent and now I had to start over or continue training just as hard. I took a few weeks to reevaluate my goals and asked myself what I really wanted. Biking has always been my weakest discipline out of the three. In fact, even when I would put biking on my schedule I would always try to find an excuse to either go run or swim instead!
So I decided while we had time and not knowing if September's race would even happen either that I would focus on biking and see what I could do to improve. I took every opportunity I could when invited to go biking to make sure I could go.
I met a cyclist late August of 2019 at the top of Emigration Canyon and we realized we lived pretty close to each other. In April of 2020 our schedules worked out pretty well so we were able to ride a lot together and throughout the rest of the year.
He has been an amazing help teaching me a ton not only about cycling but about life in general and pushing me to my limits. 2020 was a year of learning and growing for me. I was able to bike 8,010 miles which was 6,650 more than 2019!
I truly have grown to love riding and it has changed my life in many ways. It's not all about those miles though, it's more than that! It's about the friendships I have made while doing it. So many good conversations, so many laughs and sometimes even tears! The memories I was able to make with friends this year were amazing!
When IMSG was officially canceled for the September race I was pretty heart broken. The second round of training I had put so much time and effort into it and to think I had to find another race to sign up for again and literally start over again was so tough to think about. I took a couple weeks before deciding what race to switch to for 2021. I will be racing Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June.
Bear Lake Brawl 140.6 - I can't believe I was given the opportunity to race a Full Ironman Distance Race! So grateful! WOW what a day that was!! I needed this race for me! That day was one of the hardest days out on the race course I think I'll ever have to endure. That day I was showing myself all those things I know I have in me to never give up, dedication, self discipline, determination.
I endured 3 crazy storms during that race. I've never fought so hard both in my mind and body to complete a race. I'm sure if you talk to anyone that was there that day they will tell you it was a crazy day. If you would like to read about that day and my race I have it posted on my Instagram and Facebook, or if you reach out, I am happy to relay the day to you. I am grateful for a healthy body and that I was able to finish that race and only 22 min off of my first Ironman time!
Were you able to do any other racing this year (tris, running, etc)?
In 2020 I wasn't able to do many races but I had a great year! I did 3 half marathons, a 70.3 that Makinsie Bartholomew created and directed! She did an amazing job! That was such a fun race and all about Unicorns!!
Any specific races and/or goals in mind for next year?
I’m still trying to decide what I really want. Sure getting faster and stronger is great! Qualifying for Kona would be amazing... but is that enough?! What would be next? Would I ever be satisfied?!
I’ve been asking myself these questions lately and learning a lot about myself this year (2020) learning to accept me for me and where I’m at. Learning to let go when needed. This year I'm going to keep learning to love my body and listen to my body, not always pushing myself to max capacity. I really just want to enjoy the social aspect by being around my friends and swimming, biking, and running together.
I also want to be more involved with my children and their goals. Excited to see what they can do and accomplish this year, and I want to be a positive example to them! I love taking them with me on my workouts whenever possible. Hiking, riding bikes while I run, and in the summer towing them in the boat while I swim at the lake. They are everything to me! I want them to learn to never give up, and that in spite of adversity you can accomplish great things.
You earned the F3034 Utah Tri Buzz Championship Belt in 2019, with your top 3 Championship Series races being Ice Breaker (9.6 percentile), Echo Olympic (22.1) and Jordanelle Olympic (also 22.1). What are your favorite local races and why?
I'm not sure that I have a favorite. They all have been so much fun! Right now I think we are all thinking it would just be fun to be able to race again so any race will do. My absolute favorite part about racing is being out there with all my friends and being able to cheer them on. I love seeing the progress in others.
You've gone a speedy 1:04 at Ice Breaker, have been first female overall at other sprint and Olympic distances races, and the previously mentioned great performance over the full 140.6 distance at the Bear Lake Brawl. What do you feel is your best distance?
That's a good question. I really enjoy all the distances for different reasons, but I feel the longer distances are better for me.
Are you affiliated with any of the local clubs?
I am a part of the Salt Lake Tri club and then a part of Team Zoot.
We see from social media that you rep some brands as an independent ambassador. What brands are you the biggest fan of for your training and racing?
I enjoy using Spring Energy Nutrition, Carbo Rocket, BeatRoot Pro, Nuun Hydration, Ideallean and Clif bar for some of my nutrition. I wear mostly Zoot and Enve for Triathlon.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Remember everyday to be proud of who you are and what your body can do! Keep smiling and laughing everyday!
*****Still preliminary, but below is what we know so far! More races may be added, and we'll update as we learn more. Check out this post if you need a refresher on how it all works. Thank you Trent Perry for being the title sponsor of the UTCS!*****
We're also always grateful for talented people who contribute in terms of time... let us know if you'd like to be part of the Utah Tri Buzz team.
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