Sarah is an American triathlete from St. Louis, Missouri.
A competitive swimmer from a young age, she attended the University of Tulsa on an athletic scholarship for cross-country and track. It wasn’t until graduating from university in 2003 that she did her first triathlon.
She hasn’t looked back, turning pro in 2004, and having several major race wins under her belt, including silver at the 2008 ITU World Championships, Race to the Toyota Cup Series Champion 2009, winner of the MN LifeTime Fitness and Chicago triathlons in 2010, Pan Am Games Champion 2011 and and an 11th place finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
She is coached by her husband Nate Kortuem, and splits her time between Colorado and Florida.
You can keep up to date with Sarah by following her blog: http://www.sarahhaskins.com
You were obviously a very good runner and swimmer before getting into triathlon. What was the hardest thing about moving to triathlon, and what advice would you give to anyone trying to make the move into triathlon from a single discipline?
I was fortunate to have a strong background in both running and swimming, so the move to triathlon was something I always had in mind. For me the most difficult part about triathlon was learning the technical skills on the bike. In addition, learning how to balance the training for all three sports!
The best tip I could give to someone moving towards triathlon is to take some time focusing on your weakest discipline for several months in the off season.
For example, if your weakest is swimming, I would recommend joining a master’s swim team and work on technique. If it’s cycling, I would suggest getting into some local road races and be sure to have a proper fit on your bike.
What is it that you love about the sport that keeps you going, especially during hard times of injury, constant travel etc?
I truly enjoy working out and staying fit. Once I am retired from the sport, I will always continue to stay active, although not having quite the structure and regimen that I currently undergo.
Injuries are extremely tough, but it’s something that all professional athletes will have to deal with at some point in their career. I feel that it’s during those tough times, that you learn something about your body and about yourself for the future.
I get through those tough times, trying to keep a positive attitude and remind myself how blessed and fortunate I am to be able to do what I do day in and day out.
You‘ve obviously travelled the world a lot, where are your favourite places?
My first overseas trip was back in 2005, when I traveled to New Zealand. I fell in love with the country and I have to say that is my most favorite place so far; the beaches, the mountains, the green pastures and the ocean is beautiful.
In addition, it helps not having the language barrier and being able to eat a diet similar to home.
I also have enjoyed Europe, particularly the Hamburg World Series race and London. In addition, I love racing close to home, since travel can be tough!
What are your favorite training sessions? What does an average training week consist of?
Right now I am in the middle of some tough training blocks in preparation for the upcoming season.
An average week consists of 20,000-25,000 meters of swimming, 150 miles of cycling, and 40-50 miles of running.
One of my favorite workouts is a descending run tempo workout where I start out at a moderate pace and every mile I drop 15/sec per mile pace. (Total is 5-7 miles for the duration). (Or 8-12 kilometers).
You’re coached by your husband, Nate Kortuem. What are the benefits of being coached by your husband, and do you both ever find it hard to switch off from ‘work’?
Nate has been coaching me for 2.5 years now, and every year we are improving our coach/athlete relationship...much like how our marriage gets better every year! A benefit is that he knows how I’m feeling every day and can back off workouts or ramp up workouts depending on how I am recovering. Being around me all the time, he knows my body more than anyone else.
He is also a great training partner, having raced pro from 2004-2007. Sometimes it is hard to switch off the coaching mode, but we have gotten better about communicating switching off “coach/athlete” and taking those mental breaks during the day.
It is also an amazing experience getting to share this ride with my husband and I know that he has 100% best interest in me not just as an athlete, but in my all-round my well being.
Do you always have set race plan, or if not how do you decide what tactics to take?
For most non drafting races, the plan does not always change too much. Draft legal races, the tactics can be completely different depending on the course and number of races, etc.
Often I will have several race strategies going into a race and will go with what race strategy is necessary depending on how the race is unfolding.
You recently won the Pan American Games (2011) and you mentioned afterwards that the goal of the US girls was to work as a team. Does this happen often, and who decides the tactics?
Triathlon is mostly an individual sport, so this does not happen to often (especially in non drafting races). Draft legal races, this is possible depending on who is racing and what the specific goals are for the race. The tactics are decided by the coaches and the athletes together and several game plans are discussed prior to the race.
Your dad and your brother do triathlons - was that your influence, and why would you encourage people to give triathlon a go?
A couple of years ago, some of my family got involved in Tri’s. For some time, I expressed to them how important I felt it was for them to exercise and stay fit. Ultimately, it came down to them deciding they wanted to do this.
I can only encourage and help guide them to a certain point, but they have to be the ones to continue the lifestyle day after day. I am coaching my family and having so much fun. It has definitely brought us closer as they understand a little more what I do and I have been helping them daily with questions, training, etc.
Also, they have competed at some of the races I have competed in, so they enjoy getting to race on the same course as me! I encourage all to find an activity that they are passionate about and enjoy doing. Triathlons are a great way to meet others and a great way to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
This past year, I had a December Charity Challenge that included encouraging others to donate $1.00 for every mile completed during that month to one of the three charities.
In the past, I have had silent auctions with the proceeds going towards the charities or participated in races with prize money going towards the charities.
I feel it is important to give back in some way that you can and each of these charities has a personal connection to me.
What skills/qualities do you think you’ve gained from being a full-time athlete that you could take into the next stage of your life, and what do you think you will do when you retire from triathlon?
When I first started the sport, I never realized how much more there was to being a professional athlete outside of swim,bike,run. I have learned so much about the art of recovery and training as well as nutrition. I have learned about the business side of sport with sponsorship opportunities and marketing with social media, interviews, etc.
I have also had several public speaking opportunities about goal setting and working hard to achieve those goals, which can be applied to all future life endeavors.
I also can’t forget about becoming a “professional traveler”, not sure if that qualifies as a skill, but knowing the ins and outs in the airport and what to expect in the security line can cut back on that holiday travel stress!!
Most importantly, I have learned what it means to push your body to its limits and to put forth all your focus, effort and heart towards a goal.
When I retire, I feel all of these skills I have learned from being a professional athlete will help me to one day coach others and also to become a mother (which is one of the toughest jobs out there, but most rewarding!).
24th January 2012