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A prolific racer who competes in everything from the Olympic distance to Ironman, pro Sam McGlone, 32, has been a popular fixture on the triathlon scene since turning pro ten years ago. So when it seemed she just disappeared from racing this season, we went looking for answers.
Since her disappointing finish in Kona (16th), McGlone has assumed a low profile in Boise, Idaho, focusing on recovery from a number of health setbacks, working with a new coach (Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness) and cramming for her next career move.
Excerpts from our catch-up with Sam McGlone:
Triathlete.com: So, where have you been and why haven’t we seen you racing this season?
SM: I used to be really consistent, and I’ve had more ups and downs recently. I was dealing with a bunch of issues—residual overtraining syndrome, anemia, chicken pox and hypothyroidism. I’ve been working with Dr. Jeff Schilt here in Boise, and he’s done some interesting new testing for overtraining syndrome. He’s an orthopedic surgeon who has been involved in triathlon for many years and he’s been the doctor for the U.S. Triathlon team and worked with a lot of athletes. He has a really good knowledge of the sport.
I’m focusing on getting to a place of health, energy and vibrancy—not just as an athlete, but as a person. Pushing through another season wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. It would have been an early end to a career.
Triathlete.com: What happened at Kona? Was it a turning point of sorts for you?
SM: It was the first time I had a bad run in Hawaii, and everything that went wrong did. It was very disappointing but at the same time it was bound to happen. My preparation had not been optimal. The bigger picture was overtraining from years and years of going full-gas all the time.
I started talking to coach Matt Dixon after Kona and I felt like it was time for a change. I had a lot of success with [former coach] Cliff [English], but I was encountering new challenges. Sometimes it’s good to get a new outlook and perspective, and Matt is really good about adapting his approach to the individual athlete. Here I am starting with a new coach and the first thing I’ve done is take the season off, but Matt has been super supportive.
Triathlete.com: Was it initially difficult at completely stop training and racing?
SM: At that point I was struggling to just get through the day, let alone make it through a training session. I knew I had no option; it was straightforward what I had to do—not train, just to focus on recovery. I’ve been doing triathlon full-time for ten years, so it wasn’t easy to do.
Triathlete.com: What do your days look like now?
I’ve been riding my mountain bike, running trails and been shadowing Dr. Schiltz to learn about medicine and orthopedics. I’m getting to see this side of the medical field and working in a hospital. I’m studying for the MCAT, the admission test for medical school, which I’ll take in a month. I can’t sit around and sulk all summer, so it’s good to focus on this. It’s kept my mind busy and given me structure. I’ve been staying at Jenny and Michael Tobin’s guesthouse. They’re Xterra pros; Jenny just kicked my butt on a ride this morning.
Triathlete.com: What about your sponsors (Zoot, Powerbar, Argon)? How have they reacted to your hiatus?
SM: My sponsors have been super supportive. I really have the best sponsors and they understand that all athletes will have an injury or be sidelined for a time. I’ve been committed to them for the long term, so they’ve treated me the same. I’ve promised them—and myself—that when I come back it will be 100%—like old school.
Triathlete.com: What are your tentative plans for returning to racing?
SM: I’ll be starting proper training in September and will have all of the fall to do more focused, specific training. I think a good indication so far has been riding and running—I’ve seen improvements and it’s night and day from where I’m at now and where I was last year. I’ll see where I’m at in January and aim for an early season race.
Triathlete.com: Will you be focusing on a specific distance?
SM: I think I’ll continue with the half-Ironman and Ironman. I’ll never be one of those people that races five Ironmans a year, though. I do miss doing some of the shorter races, and those will probably be in my re-introduction to racing.
Triathlete.com: And Kona?
SM: I’ll definitely go back to Hawaii. You never like to end a season on a bad note. I remember being pretty miserable and thinking, “I’m not coming back here until I’m ready to perform.”