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Although she was a former track and field athlete before jumping into triathlon in 2007, Naeth, 32, has become best known for her strength as a cyclist. She has trained with some of the top coaches in the sport (previously Mark Allen and now Jesse Kropelnicki), amassing 10 Ironman 70.3 titles in a pro career that only became full time in 2010. A half-iron specialist, she recently won her first Ironman (Chattanooga in 2014), and is structuring her 2015 season around a Kona bid. She is originally from British Columbia, Canada, and now lives in Henderson, Nev., with her husband, Paul Duncan.
– When I was 10 years old I saw the Ironman on TV and remember it quite clearly. It inspired me, and it was always in the back of my mind. Living in Canada, we didn’t really have triathlon around at that time. It wasn’t until 2007 that I entered my first triathlon. It was an Olympic-distance indoor triathlon. It was a small race, only 400–500 people. I was 27. My mom and I drove five and a half hours to get there. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I ended up winning the race.
– I’ve been athletic for as long as I can remember, and was in track and field since about sixth grade. I also played basketball, volleyball and I rode my mountain bike. Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of being in the Olympics—at that time for track and field. I got a lot of injuries and started cycling. When I did that first tri, I was like, ‘Wow, this is another opportunity for me to be in some type of athletics.’ I wanted to reach the highest pinnacle, so my first thought process was that I wanted to get to the Olympics. Obviously you have to be a really strong swimmer, and I wasn’t quite there. I learned how to swim when I was in high school, but I never real put any focus into swimming until I started training for triathlon. I’m still trying to find that rhythm.
– My dad was a bodybuilder, so when I was younger I would always go to the gym and lift weights and I primarily did [leg weights] because I loved it. I’m thinking that’s where [the cycling prowess] started. I used to ride my mountain bike back and forth to track practice. And that was about 7 miles each way. I’d go as hard as I could to track practice.
– It was winter in 2008, and I was sick of being in the cold all the time. I found a triathlon camp in California, and I met a coach that gave me the idea that I could become a professional if I wanted to pursue it in the long distances. So that year I did my first half, and I progressed from there.
– I moved to Boulder, Colo., and jumped into Boulder Peak, and that was my first pro win and my first year as a pro, so that was really exciting for me. My first 70.3 was in Boulder and I got second, and that was a neat experience because it felt like my hometown race.
– I always wanted to do a full Ironman, but I was never able to produce enough volume so that I felt like I could contend in Ironman, so I focused on the 70.3 distance. And now that I’ve done a few fulls, I’m really wanting to focus on that.
– I came to do the Leadman Life Time race here [in Henderson, outside Las Vegas], and the pro liaison for that race was Paul, who’s now my husband. He picked me up from the airport and we hit it off—I fell in love with him at that moment. He’s been a local here for the past 10 years, so when we became a couple, I decided to move here. One year later, just before Ironman Tahoe, we got engaged, and a week later we got hitched. Our swim instructor at the time was a pastor, so we asked him to marry us. The day of the marriage, we just looked in our closet and I picked out a dress and he picked out a shirt and that was that.
– My first Ironman in Tahoe was the first time I’d run a marathon, so I was quite scared going into it. My whole goal with that race was just to finish and have a good time. You want to have your first Ironman race to be a good experience because otherwise you may never go back. I was running scared the entire run since the farthest I’d ever run was 16 miles. When I got to mile 18, I had a panic attack, thinking there was no way that I could make it. My focus was just one mile at a time, and at mile 25 I thought, ‘Wow, I can do another mile.’ You should never draw that line for yourself—you can always keep going.
– I have a folder called ‘The Mark Folder’ and it’s thousands of emails between [former coach Mark Allen and me], and there are so many words and sentences that spark something in my head and make me think a little differently. It makes a huge difference in how I go about my life and training. I read one every few days.
– I was in Panama and Natascha Badmann was racing and I didn’t know too much about her at the time. She just flew by me on the bike, and I was just overwhelmed. I was like, ‘Wow she’s phenomenal.’ We actually biked together that race and then she crashed just ahead of me right before T2. I stopped to make sure she was OK, then kept going. I thought she was absolutely done, and next thing I know she’s all bandaged up and running away and it threw me for a loop. She was just so inspiring so I started following her and learning more about her. When I crashed in 2012 at 70.3 worlds, she was there as well. She said a few words to me like, ‘You gotta finish this race,’ and so I did—because of her. Just to be in that good of shape and always happy and smiling and just grateful for everything is just a huge inspiration for me.
– I always wanted to do a full Ironman, but I was never able to produce enough volume so that i felt like i could contend in Ironman. …Now that I’ve done a few fulls, I’m really wanting to focus on that.
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