How Haley Chura Charged Onto The Podium at Challenge Samorin 

A last-minute trip halfway across the world ended with a third-place finish—we have the story and two workouts that helped Haley Chura get there. 

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Ten days before the inaugural Collins Cup triathlon, Haley Chura received an email from the Professional Triathletes Organization (PTO) asking if she’d be interested in being a Team USA alternate. The long-distance ace who recently finished fourth in Ironman Coeur d’Alene was excited at the opportunity to race among the world’s best, but there was just one caveat: She’d have to prepare for the trip and travel from her home in Bozeman, Montana, to Samorin, Slovakia in just five days.

After quickly making all of the arrangements to get to Europe, including the required negative COVID test, Chura arrived in Samorin on time and ready to race. Even if she didn’t wind up competing in the Collins Cup as an alternate (which she didn’t), she could compete the next day in The Championship—a half-Iron-distance pro race held at the same x-Bionic sphere venue.

The Race

The whirlwind trip proved to be worth it, as Chura landed on the podium in The Championship—a result she called her “Kona cancellation consolation prize” since most of her training had been focused on the now-postponed Ironman World Champs. “I had been preparing for a race that was double the distance and in a very different climate that was scheduled to happen in a month and a half,” Chura explained. “So this was a pivot to a shorter race.”

From the gun, Chura found herself alone in the super-choppy Danube river, behind short-course stars Great Britain’s Lucy Hall and Spain’s Sara Perez Sala, but she held tough.  “I felt like I was being tossed around and worried I would swim off course, but I took the time to sight, and focused on good form, a strong core, rotating from my hips, and getting the most out of every stroke, even if they felt erratic,” she recalled.  “I was really happy to make it through the swim only 20 seconds behind the leaders after a completely solo swim effort.”

With a solid bike and a speedy run (1:18:20; the second fastest of the day), Chura locked in third place behind Hall and Perez Sala, a result that left her ecstatic. “After international travel and a lot of uncertainty, I am really proud of myself for making it happen, and then ending up on the podium was just incredible,” Chura said. “Given the circumstances, I truly think it was the best-possible-scenario-race for me.”

Photo: José Luis Hourcade
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Chura’s Go-To Workouts

Session 1: Strength Swim

Total Distance: 2,500

Warm-up: 500 mix of drills, swimming

Main set:

4 x 50 @ 15 seconds rest, with band and paddles, split up as 25 fast, then 25 easy

3 x 400 @ 5-10 seconds rest, paddles only. Negative split and descend.

1 x 100m @ 60 seconds rest, swim easy, active recovery

Cooldown: 700 mix of paddles, easy swimming

Workout Notes:

“I train primarily in the pool, but I do a lot of ‘strength swimming’ which includes swimming with paddles, a band, or even doing butterfly. This type of set prepares me for swims with difficult conditions, like the choppy Danube River.”

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Session 2: Effort-Based Run Intervals

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Warm-up: 20min. easy warm-up, then

Main set: 

4 x (1min. at 5K effort, 1min. at steady effort)

7min. easy

3 x (6min. at comfortably hard effort, 2min. easy)

Cooldown: 10min. easy

Workout Notes: 

“The run in Samorin was flat, but with a lot of turns and mixed surfaces like grass and dirt. I do a lot of my training on non-technical trails or gravel roads, so I felt that prepared me well for the dynamic race course. When I’m running on trails, I know it’s hard to maintain a steady pace so I do most of my intervals based on effort.”