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Beijing Olympian Sarah Haskins won the Pan American Championships in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, over the weekend for the American women, adding yet another title to her impressive resume. Inside Triathlon magazine editor-in-chief Courtney Baird caught up with her recently and talked about the race, resting in the offseason, and Haskins’ approach to nabbing that final Olympic spot on the American women’s Olympic team.
Triathlete.com: Can you tell us a little bit about the race and how it went?
It was kind of a different dynamic than most races because we only had three athletes from the U.S., and a lot of times there are six athletes from your team, like in a World Cup or WCS race, so that made the field really small. It was only like about a 30-woman field, which is a lot smaller than normal and changes the dynamics. It almost makes it a little bit more like non-drafting. It’s not non-drafting, but it has the potential to be like that because the swim and the bike seem to be a little more open. For us that was kind of the goal. We had a really strong simmer there with Sara McLarty, and I got right on her feet, and I was really excited to get out of the water, for one, because it was really hot. I was burning up by the time I got to the first buoy. It was the hottest swim I’ve ever done. That was challenging. For the rest of the race it was me, Sara and then a girl from Brazil who we were riding with. We had maybe a minute lead out of the water, maybe over a minute, and then we just kind of got into a rhythm. No one was extremely killing themselves, and we were all working together really nicely and gaining about 30 seconds each lap. I was thinking if we got enough time McLarty could have had a chance for a top three, depending on how she felt on the run for that day, you never know, or potentially Gwen [Jorgensen], with her run speed, could run up to the podium. We were kind of thinking before the race that she had the potential to run up to the podium. Those were our team tactics and they played out really well. Sara, she did great. She didn’t have the best run for herself, so she didn’t place in the top three. And Gwen, she did great too, although she was maybe a little off on her run too. She ended up fourth and Barbara [Riveros] ended up running up from the pack to get silver. You never know how you’re going to feel on the run, but I got into a rhythm and it wasn’t that hot. You never can be sure what’s going to happen—you could get really exhausted at 8K and slow down a lot, but I realized in the last lap in the three-lap run that unless something dramatic happens, I should be able to get this. I think I was about three minutes ahead, at that point, of Barbara. That’s always nice, not having to rush into the finish, and you can kind of enjoy it.
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Triathlete.com: What’s on tap for you for the rest of the year?
I’m done. I was maybe going to do the 5150 in Clearwater, because it’s a 90-minute drive from our house in Florida. I was in Colorado before Pan Ams, but after Pan Ams I came straight to Florida. We bought a house in a Florida last April, so now we have no winters. I’m really glad, because I heard Colorado’s been really cold lately. And all of a sudden, these past three days of no training, your body gets so tired, and you start sleeping all the time. But I’m taking time off right now.
Triathlete.com: How much of a break do you take?
I’ll probably take a week completely off with no training. Then I’ll probably do four weeks of just, I guess you could say, “exercising.” I’ll just maybe do a swim or run or bike if I feel like it. Nothing scheduled. No intensity. No training where you have this specific pace. It’s just moving your body. Then I’ll pick up a little bit of volume in the run in December, but I won’t do any serious training until the New Year. I’ll still be training in December, but we’re going to be in St. Louis, and Minnesota through the holidays [where Sarah and her husband’s families are from]. So we will get a little bit of a winter.
Triathlete.com: How are you going to approach the 2012 Olympic Trials at the World Championship Series race in San Diego in May? There’s only one spot left.
That’s going to be a key race for me. I’m going to approach it a little different than the last race. I’ll go a little bit more for it from the start, but whatever happens, happens. I’m just going to go and do my best and push it and see what happens. That’s all I can really do. I really hope that I achieve my goal of qualifying, but it’s not going to be easy. Our women’s team is so strong with so many talented athletes. We’ll see what happens. We’ll take it as it comes and either way, I’m just going to have to look back and know I gave it everything I have. There are also other great races that I like to do, as well, and I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket by doing some of the non-drafting races. I obviously will be devastated if it doesn’t happen, but I will do my best.
Triathlete.com: Any tips for age groupers in terms of how they should approach their offseason?
I’ve kind of learned as I’ve gotten older that a break is OK. Not even necessarily, like for me, complete time off—I’m still going out and doing something, but keeping it easy for a longer period of time. Some people get excited and jump the gun and start training hard in December, and by the time July comes around they’re burned out and maybe have a key race later one. It’s important to take a good amount of time, six to eight weeks, of no training for a bit and then really easy training. Take time to do things you don’t normally do—take a trip and visit family or friends. Enjoy that time and know that your body is going to get back into shape sooner than you think, and just not stress about it so your body can fully recover and train harder next season.
Inside Triathlon magazine snagged exclusive access to the American Olympic hopefuls who raced in the first Olympic trials event, in London in August. Pick up the November/December issue, on newsstands now, to learn more.