Better late than never, two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True talks to Triathlete about making the change from ITU to Ironman 70.3.
It has been more than decade since All-American swimmer Sarah True (née Groff) made her ITU triathlon debut in 2005. Now the soon-to-be 36-year-old (Nov. 27) two-time Olympian, who finished fourth in London 2012, is making the switch to non-drafting long course.
And by the looks of her fourth-place finish at the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday, it’s none too soon.
“This is so new for me still,” True told Triathlete following her 70.3 Worlds finishing time of 4 hours 20 minutes 40 seconds. “I didn’t come here with any sort of exceptions other than I didn’t want to get embarrassed on the bike.
“I still have a lot of room to grow in that discipline, but that why I love our sport of triathlon because you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself as an athlete.”
While True, who finished the bike leg in 2:30:16, may feel she has work to on her cycling, the swim is a different kettle of fish altogether.
“My background is swimming so that is my happy place,” explained the 2007 ITU aquathlon world champion, who was third out of the glassy Tennessee River in a time of 25 minutes 38 seconds, just 15 seconds off swim leader Lauren Branden (USA). “I was actually surprised, I thought we would have a few more women in the group.
“I did [Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga] in May, so I knew there was going to be a bit of current,” continued True, who finished second overall in that race with a time of 4:17:25 using a different course. “I am more of a strength-based swimmer, so it suited me. The refrain that goes in my head in the swim that it’s free time, because they are going to motor by me on the bike, so every second I can get on the swim I’ll take it.”
According to True, who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics but failed to finish after withdrawing from the bike due to severe leg cramps she claimed is likely due to a nagging back injury leading into the race, her shift from ITU is complete.
“I’ve made the transition,” said True, who has previously vowed to never watch her Rio performance. “I’ve only been a non-draft athlete for a couple of months, but this is Sarah True 2.0. It’s totally unexpected. I was just so focused on Olympic-style racing.
“You just don’t know if you are going to like it,” she added. “You see the men who have ITU pedigrees move over—some love it and some don’t. You don’t see as many women make the transition successfully.”
So what’s next for the former Olympic medal contender, who like in 2012 found herself just one step off the podium this past weekend?
“I’m going to do two more 70.3s and get better at this,” claimed True, who is targeting half-Ironman events in Augusta (Georgia) and Austin (Texas). “I just need to keep building on this year.
“I didn’t have the big bike block and hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have made the change right after Rio, not in June.
“Had I done that, I think it could have been a very different outcome,” she concluded. “I realize there’s potential here. Knowing I did the best I could after just two months, while it wasn’t enough, it’s a great position to be in because I have a lot of room to grow.”