After a series of health setbacks with path for success found with Siri as coach, Paula will be ready for 2015. With 5 wins in WTS on her resume, her addition to the world series will be more than noticed. Trimes digs her.
Even if 2014 had a happy ending, it was another tough season for you. Did you think of quitting? Was enough and your body couldn’t keep it up?
Back in March/April when I had stress fractures in my pelvis and was without a coach for a few months, I felt very burnt out from setbacks. I did question myself continuing in the sport several times. I have ambitions outside of triathlon and I was thinking that maybe my body wasn’t able to handle the training load required to be a world-class triathlete. It was an upsetting time, however I still really loved the sport, and had unfulfilled goals and dreams to strive for. I had seen my potential in the past, and craved the feeling of success again. I still enjoyed the training, I was just frustrated with my lack of consistency and was unhappy with my daily environment. I decided to reach out to the happiest and most positive coaches in triathlon, Siri, and she brought me back to life both mentally and physically. After only 3 months working together, we were able to pull together some solid results to finish the season.
I remember that you were encouraged by the return of Kristen Sweetland… Both of you had success really early in your career. Did you ever feel that you were almost winning too soon?
No, I don’t think there is such thing as winning too soon, and I wouldn’t take back those wins for anything. I think that having early success is challenging in some ways, it forces you to deal with obligations and pressure without much experience in those areas. One downside of my success is that it gave me a feeling of invincibility, so when I did feel a niggle or something wasn’t right in training, I would ignore my body telling me to slow down. It is super inspiring that Kirsten has been able to come back strong this year after so many struggles. However, I don’t think either of us would regret our early success. That is ultimately why we train so hard.
I wouldn’t say it changed me as a person, and I’ve always believed that pressure is a good thing. It means that you’ve been successful and there are expectations to continue to deliver good results. Heading into London, I actually didn’t feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. Ultimately I do this sport for myself, and although it’s an honor and privilege to compete for Canada, the biggest sense of pressure was coming from within. I knew that my preparation had not been ideal, however I maintained a positive mindset the best I could, surrounded myself with a great team of people, and tried not to get too distracted by the hype surrounding the games.
Can I say that before, people were almost seeing you as an athlete in the system that needed you to win and not a person with feelings? Did this pressure put the Olympics as higher importance?
The Olympics are what most athletes dream of every day, and only comes around every four years. Regardless of pressure, it definitely had a higher importance for me that year. I chose to surround myself with people who recognized that there is an emotional side to preparing for an Olympic games. I was not just a robot programmed to win an Olympic medal, and there were lots of emotional days where I really struggled. The most important way to deal with this was to have people around me that helped me through the highs and lows, so I was able to ignore the noise and negative distractions.
I remember that Simon Whitfield took a lot of heat to defend you and is still paying for this. After this episode, what did he say to you?
I honestly don’t remember. Simon is like a big brother to me, he helped me so much with the lead-up to the race, and unfortunately we both came out with disappointing outcomes. He is still a great friend and continues to help and support me through my career.
In Edmonton, I was totally choked by the support of the community. They never let you down, no?
It’s really indescribable to race at home, on the course that I grew up training on, with my friends and family there to support me. The organization of the World Championships this year was amazing, the city and the volunteers totally got behind the event. Edmonton has such a fantastic triathlon community. I always feel that the city is behind me, whether I’m racing at Hawrelak park, or on the other side of the world. I’m super proud to call Edmonton home.
Edmonton 2014 seems to be a turning point for you. It was the start of your collaboration with Siri Lindley. I know that her job is to make you back at your top level, but with Siri, the mental aspect seems to be the real priority with you. Would you say that’s a correct assumption?
Absolutely. I would say that the biggest challenge for me getting back to racing was mental, getting my confidence back, believing I could be fast again, and most importantly, loving the process. I had lost touch with the enjoyment of the day-to-day grind, which made it really hard to stay motivated. Siri re-ignited my love for training every day, so I get the most out of myself at each session, and this ultimately translates to fast racing. I can’t describe the excitement that she brings to each session, it’s incredibly inspiring.
Yes, it was exciting to get out in the front group, and good practice getting back into that level of racing. Obviously I was not in ideal run shape in Edmonton, but given my circumstances I executed the best race that I possibly could. Most importantly, I was healthy, racing again, in front of my hometown. That was really cool for me.
What’s your objective for 2015?
My main objective for this season is consistency. I have so much belief in Siri and her program and if I stay injury-free, I think success is inevitable. The biggest piece missing for me in recent years is being able to stay healthy through the entire season. I know that I’m on the right track to do that this year, and I will consider 2015 a success if I can look back in September and be proud of executing a full season.
It’s ironic, but you never raced Gwen Jorgensen when you were at the top. Do you believe you could beat her? I guess the race dynamics need to change?
I have lots of respect for Gwen, and we all know that she is a dynamite runner, but I think that all the girls need to believe that they can beat her. Nobody is unbeatable. Obviously having a gap on Gwen off the bike would help, however this isn’t easy, she is also a solid swimmer and cyclist. I’m mostly focusing on getting myself as fast and strong as I can possibly be, and not worrying too much about the other girls at the moment.
Do you have the feeling that the ITU community is forgetting you?
I don’t feel that way, and I’m not too concerned if they are. I have been off the scene for a few years, so it’s understandable that I’m no longer a target or a threat in any ITU race. However, I do like this underdog position, and I’m totally okay with flying under the radar.
Can you tell us more about your training environment? Is training a lot different than in the past?
It is different from the past, because I train with girls who are focusing on racing 70.3 and Ironman. This is not a limiter by any means, they are really fast girls and lots of our training is actually similar. Siri is very individual and gives so much attention to each of her athletes, changing things depending on how we’re feeling on the day. I can’t share too much about it- but I can tell you that it is awesome and I’m absolutely lucky to be a part of it.
Can you tell us what’s so special about Boulder? Why do a lot of triathletes train there?
Boulder has great cycling, running, and we train at a great sports club with an awesome pool. The weather is perfect for most of the year (although cold in the winter, I like the snow), and I respond really well to the altitude.
Some people are questioning your choice cause your training partners are mainly in long distance. From the exterior, Siri been gone from ITU for a long time, does it influence the way you train between volume and intensity?
Siri was an ITU World Champ and she has coaching dozens of ITU athletes, so I have no concern whatsoever about her knowledge of short course racing. She knows exactly what I need to do to get the most out of myself, and I have complete trust in her.
There is a lot of thinking that you need to race your training partners to improve. Are you afraid that it could become a limiter in your performance?
Well, it’s a good thing that I train with some of the fastest girls on the planet! Many of the girls in Siri’s squad come from an ITU background, and they are seriously quick in all three sports. I don’t see it as racing my training partners, but we definitely push each other every day and it raises the level each session. I’m really inspired by all of the girls in the squad, they’ve all been doing this sport longer than me and have a wealth of knowledge, so I can learn so much from each of them.
Want to add anything?
Thanks for the interview!