A little while ago I was introduced to Meredith Kessler, Professional Triathlete, through my buddy and CEO of Arctic Ease, Carol. (How’s that for some name dropping? Heh.) I did an interview with Meredith for the Arctic Ease blog and from the moment she started speaking I could tell that this was a woman who was not only going to win some big races, but that she’s a genuinely nice person.
Meredith turned pro in late 2009 (after killing it as an age grouper mind you) and went on to win Ironman Canada in her first season as a rookie pro. She’s no joke. I’ve been following her career pretty closely ever since our first chat. Mere, I swear I’m not a stalker. Although, I did cut my hair and dye it blonde. SWF! Kidding, kidding.
I was so delighted that Meredith won Ironman New Zealand two weeks ago that I started thinking about asking her ridiculous questions that don’t often get asked by those hard hitting journalist types. See: Good article HERE. Fortunately, when I sent her an email to see if she’d mind doing another goofy, B.o.B.-style interview she accepted immediately. (See, she’s totally cool!)
B.o.B.: Do you get nervous bladder like the rest of us before races? I mean, do you have to go like 900 times before the start of a race too?
Meredith Kessler: Absolutely! I don’t go until I get to the race. You almost want your wetsuit on so can pee in the lake! It’s totally acceptable. One hundred percent. It’s easier to do that than during the race.
B.o.B.: So…do you pee on the bike?
MK: You have to pee on the bike! You almost have to have a hill to do it though. It takes a lot of fortitude.
B.o.B.: What do you want to eat immediately after you race?
MK: The only things I genuinley crave are McDonald’s French fries and something with carbonation. Usually a Sprite but anything with fizz. You can get a massive headache because you are dehydrated so I don’t drink typically until the next day. And then it’s wine.
B.o.B.: Red or white?
MK: I used to be a white drinker but I’ve slowly become a red drinker. We (her husband) love our wine! And pairing it with food is the best part about it all. It took about five or six years to understand the pairings and now that I appreciate this side of it, the wine tastes that much better!
B.o.B.: Wow! You know your wine!
MK: We have quite a cellar. My husband’s “IM” is wine tasting. I get a pretty good deal when being his sherpa in this capacity! We appreciate wine for sure. And since we live in wine country in California, we always take visitors to wineries. I’m pretty sure we belong to at least seven wine clubs! All of our friends love wine as well. We’ve invited friends over to each bring a bottle and we do a little tasting together. It’s a good social thing for all of us especially as we grow older!
B.o.B.: I’m going to switch gears now. How was New Zealand? I saw in the article I read that you had a hard time telling them which bag was yours for your gear.
MK: I love New Zealand. I forget that I was the one with the crazy American accent. I’m thinking they may not of understandably understood when I said ‘fourteen’ so I finally said “ONE, FOUR” and we were good to go! I learned a lot of things in NZ in general, it was a fantastic time!
B.o.B.: What do you want to pig out with after a race?
MK: Well, I believe in the food pyramid. I keep everything really consistent. If I want pizza, I’ll eat pizza. It’s all about moderation. I love McDonald’s. There’s nothing that tastes better than extra hot French fries. Usually after a full ironman, my appetite isn’t as vibrant until a couple days after. I LOVE Thai food –a lot! A couple of days after are when I crave salt. Oh and I do crave a really good donut.
B.o.B.: Oh my lord, me too! I knew we were meant to meet.
MK: Chocolate glazed or glazed. Any donut really! With milk!
B.o.B.: Do you get days off? I know it’s your job, but how much recovery do you get after a race?
MK: With Purplepatch we have a really great routine with my training between races. We know how to dial it back just enough to not have any muscle memory loss and then keep the engine open in order to stay on top of fitness before the next race. I’m a huge advocate of listening to your body. It’s usually two to three days later that you can tell. Legs are little heavy. The day after an Ironman is truly the one day that I have no interest in movement. I love to swim so I’m usually back in the water first. Yesterday I was supposed to do mile repeats but I could tell right away that the 5th gear just wasn’t there and I knew I’d be more productive if I switched my days. You have to listen to your body in this sport 110% or you will dig yourself into a hole that is hard to get back out of properly.
B.o.B.: I’m glad to hear you say that. Even as a Joe Schmo age grouper, I feel bad when I skip a workout.
MK: Some days you push through and you need to dial it down when you know you need to. Part of your job is to be SMART with it all. Some workouts are what we call W.E.B. Why even bother?! You know you are not going to have it, so it becomes a clear “WEB” workout! You have to know when to call it. Say, obviously I’m cooked and need to reevaluate. You have to dial it down when it’s screaming at you. I get concerned sometimes if I happen to feel too good sometimes as WEB days mean your training is marinating. Hillary Biscay and I have fun with it. I tell her WEB-tastic swim today! You have to dial it down when it’s screaming at you. I get concerned if I feel too good. WEB days mean your training is marinating.
B.o.B.: I love the term WEB! I’m totally using that one.
MK: And we as women deal with those a lot with our body’s cycle.
B.o.B.: I’m glad you said this too because I’ve noticed more fatigue at certain times due to that!
MK: Heck yeah! Shoot–I’ll try to plan my race schedule around it if I can! (ha ha) And you have to get through it. For me, a day or two before is when your energy is the lowest. I find that seven to ten days after is when you perform you best.
B.o.B.: I have definitely experienced that. So true! And annoying! Speaking of annoying, I was just telling someone that I have yet to experience a true ankle or foot grab during a triathlon. I saw that this happened to you at New Zealand. What was that all about?
MK: When you are starting with forty men, they are organically just more aggressive. They are just swinging their arms and at the start they don’t know who’s male or female so they just want to get out there. It is often like a gigantic washing machine and sometimes important things like goggles, swim cap or your chip get knocked off of you! I have to have an internal pep talk ten seconds before the swim start. That’s where “keep calm and carry on” comes in. It’s always the first 500 yards of chaos and the turns. It’s all part of it though of course so we deal!
B.o.B.: When you are struggling during a race what do you think about? I have always wondered what pros think when they are at a tough spot during a race.
MK: When you are in the well of pain, one thing comes to mind. “I won’t remember how I feel in ten minutes!” There’s a time in a full where I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing. It’s mind over matter at its finest. The training is so important because 60 percent of finishing is being comfortable being uncomfortable. The back half of the IM is uncomfortable. I’ve passed out at mile 22 (St. George’s 2011). I was past my plateau. But it was the worst and best thing that could have happened to me. It was a nutrition issue that we’ve worked on. There is obviously no sandbagging in this sport. We want to get to the finish as fast as we can!
*Special thanks to Meredith for speaking with me. I’m thankful today for her awesome words of wisdom and an insight into the mind of a pro!