In April professional triathlete Sarah Haskins gave birth to a healthy baby boy. It is Sarah and her husband Nate Kortuem's second child, the first born in July 2013. The blueseventy supported athlete returned to professional racing earlier this month at the Des Moines Escape Triathlon where she finished an impressive 2nd place overall. She has since been on the start line for two more professional races and hasn’t finished worse than second. She won the Nation’s Triathlon and this past weekend was 2nd at the Lake Geneva Escape Triathlon.
Sarah began competing in triathlons after graduating from college with a background in running. She turned pro in 2004 and four years later competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing finishing 11th. More career highlights include a silver medal at the ITU World Championships in 2008, 2-time Lifetime Fitness Cup Champion (2009, 2011) and a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games. We caught up with Sarah to learn more about the challenges and rewards of returning to high-level competition after childbirth and what lays ahead in 2018.
How eager were you about returning to racing and what made you the most thrilled to be back on the starting line?
I was really excited to get back to the starting line this year, as I had not raced since July of 2016. I wanted to test my fitness and have fun and enjoy the process of racing again.
What were you feeling the most concerned about with your return to racing?
A couple of months out I had quite of bit of doubt in my mind about how I would physically be able to execute a race. At times, it was overwhelming, so I focused on making progress one day at a time and not looking too far in the future. I also knew that I would not be back to 100% race fitness and it was difficult for me to enter a race knowing that I was in a completely different place physically than I have ever been before, but it was important for me to race before the season ended.
Racing really helps to keep me motivated during training.
For your first race back, the Des Moines Escape Triathlon, did you hit the goals you set pre-race?
Yes, possibly exceeded them; however, I really did not know what to expect from my body. I had not completed much race specific training especially on the run. My goals going into the race were to have a solid swim and bike and I knew that I could be fairly competitive in those two disciplines, but I did not have proper time to build my run fitness.
What races are left for the season?
I set a goal to race a 70.3 before the season ends. A lot depends on how the little one is doing with nursing and if I will be able to get in the miles in time for my body to handle the race. As of yet, Connor is not willing to take a bottle, so this makes long training sessions and races difficult to get in. My priority at this time is to continue breastfeeding, so I may focus on Olympic distance races for the remainder of the year.
What’s been the toughest part of coming back to training and racing?
I am on my children's schedule and getting in adequate sleep and rest is tough at times, but I focus on doing the best I can! I have to do my training around Connor’s nursing schedule and since he does not take a bottle, he is with me 24/7. The mental and physical fatigue can be tough, especially when I get very little sleep at night, but I take things one day at a time and really enjoy the balance of a family lifestyle.
Has this experience been any different from your return to racing after the birth of your first child in 2013?
It has been a bit busier this time around. Previously, I could nap when Caroline was a baby and fit in workouts when she was sleeping, but with two kids that all changes!
I have to be very organized with my time and try to maximize my training when I can get it in.
Do you need to communicate more to Nate, your husband and coach, on a day-to-day bases now or is it the same old training and racing routine?
Definitely! Nate and I try and plan out days but this changes quite often with what happened the night before. We focus on the big picture and try to make gains over long periods of time. In the past we could put in hard 6 to 8 week blocks, but now it is more like 12 weeks. I focus on getting in a few quality sessions a week and then fit in training when I can. Many of the workouts I create on the spot depending on what we feel I need to do.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself since coming back to the training grind on your way to race day?
The biggest thing I learned in the past 4 years is that training is all about keeping your body healthy and fit. If you do this, the peaks can be high but you minimize the valleys. My training volume is relatively low, but I am trying to keep up the quality. I have learned that in the past I was probably a bit over trained and I now realize that I can maintain a base level of fitness with not too much volume.
Having a family fulfills my life and gives me much more joy in training and racing.
What will be your race focus for 2018?
I will focus on a mix of Olympic distance races like St. Anthony’s, Escape From Alcatraz and the NYC Triathlon with the 70.3 distance.
Learn more about Sarah at sarahhaskins.com