AFTERSHOKZ: What did it feel like when you found out you were going to the 2016 Olympic Games?
KATIE ZAFERES: It was a combination of relief, excitement, and disbelief! I was super aware of what an honor it is to represent the USA at the Olympics. I have always held Olympians at such a high pedestal and really had not considered that it was something I was capable of achieving until I became a triathlete and started working my way up in the world rankings. So to actually achieve a goal I hadn’t even had the audacity to dream of when I was little really opened up the realm of what I believe I am capable of.
AS: Walk us through a typical day of training for you.
KZ: With triathlon training, every day of the week looks pretty different for me. I train about 25 hours a week, but there are some days where I have as little as 2 hours of training and others that are up to 5 hours. I normally do two to three sessions each day and have 1-2 focus (hard) sessions on most days. I have a couple of recovery days built into the week, but they are considered active recovery. They are both days where I have legs off of running but will still have a swim, easy ride, and strength.
AS: How does training look different for the World Triathlon Series and the Olympic Games?
KZ: Training looks pretty similar for the World Triathlon Series compared to the Olympics Games. The main difference comes from preparing for the specific course. For instance, for the Tokyo Games, we have been doing a lot of heat prep because it is the norm for that time of the year to be really hot and humid. In addition, I will practice specific cornering and course flow for Tokyo. However, the substance of our training plan will remain quite similar to what we’ve done to prepare for the other World Triathlon Series races.
AS: Do you have any good luck charms or superstitions that you use or do before a competition?
KZ: I travel with a few good luck charms. There are two Japanese charms that a fellow Japanese competitor, Juri Ide, gave to me after my bike crashes. I travel with them in my backpack and also two corks. One is a wine cork that a USA Triathlon coach had found on a walk before one of my races when I was in my first year of triathlon. He said that he thought it might be lucky, gave it to me before the race and I went on to win my first World Cup in Palamos, Spain. The other cork is a cork from a bottle of champagne that we celebrated with after I qualified for the 2016 Olympics.
AS: What does the 2021 season look like for you? Are you working towards another Olympic qualifier?
KZ: The 2021 season looks very similar to what the 2020 season was supposed to be. I’ll prepare to be ready to go for a World Triathlon Series race in early March. Then I will prepare for our qualifier since we believe our next qualifying race would be WTS Yokohama in May 2021. That will be my first focus race of the season (or A race) to try to automatically qualify for Tokyo. If all goes according to plan, I’ll continue to do a couple more WTS races and then really dial things in to get ready for Tokyo.
AS: What is the biggest obstacle/hurdle you’ve encountered in your training, and how have you overcome it?
KZ: The biggest obstacle/hurdle that I’ve encountered during my training is my mind. I found that it has been my mindset and lack of mental strategies that have limited my performance in the past. In order to overcome this, I’ve taken more ownership in learning mental strategies and educating myself through reading and listening to others. I have a greater awareness of my different tendencies in training, racing, and life in general. With this awareness, I am able to get the most out of my strengths, work more constructively with my weaknesses, and make sure that I don’t let my weaknesses overpower the strengths. I do all this with the assistance of an amazing support crew that includes my sports psychologist, coach, husband, and teammates (which are only a few of the crucial members).
Learn more about Katie Zaferes here.