By Jeff Barton
All right, Terra. Give me an idea where your head was before and after the West Palm Beach race last year, heading towards the 2022 DEKA World Championships.
Coming into West Palm, I just finished my off-season strength training cycle so I wasn’t aerobically at my fittest. My goal was to turn in a good time and see how I could hang with the rest of the competition. I ended up running a pretty conservative race which I typically do right off the bat. I started out the race in around seventh spot and by the time we gotten to the bikes, I was competitive with the top three or four. I really just wanted to go out and see where I was and find what I needed to fine tune heading towards Atlantic City.
Well, in that six-week window between races, you managed to find a minute’s worth of time in your training.
The difference was prior to West Palm, I had not done any zone work. And the DEKA Arena is all about efficiency. You must learn how to move efficiently in and out of the zones. None of these individual zones will really crush you, but the more efficiently you can move in between them and get back into your running rhythm can make all the difference. So, after West Palm I studied my spreadsheet, found out where I could make up time in each zone and focused my work for more efficient times. This type of fine-tuning over 10 stations and 10 runs, it’s easy to make up a minute’s worth of time.
You went back in and fine-tuned station work during your training. How does the actual competition itself, your fellow Elites, factor in to your race strategy?
Right before the DEKA Worlds, I had listened to a podcast with Rich Ryan and company, and they were doing predictions about the DEKA Worlds. And they predicted that I would not be able to win at Worlds if I was to run my own race. They know that I’m always very conservative, so I realized that a place like Worlds is when I really have to go for it. They completely changed my race strategy. Where I would have normally hung back I instead went out with the lead pack and was able to hold on. I found I was performing well even though I was outside my race comfort zone, racing more aggressively than normal. And I knew if I could hang with everybody until station seven then this could be my race to win.
You earlier used the phrase “breaking the chain” as a race strategy. Elaborate on that.
Lauren Weeks is known for “breaking the chain”, going out hard and creating distance between herself and those behind her, which often times can break people and make them feel they could never catch her. You end up no longer trying to race the front pack by trying to race those in the second group. And I knew in a race like this you have to give yourself the chance to be there to take advantage when a lead athlete may have a problem themselves.
So you’ve got your body ready but how about your mental game at this point?
The mental game has always been my toughest barrier. As the competition gets better, my approach needs to change out of my comfort zone. I had to change my mentality from just a runner’s mindset to a hybrid athletes philosophy.
Do you feel any extra pressure now that you’re holding the title that everybody’s coming for in 2023?
I like to stay focused on the race itself and the things I can control to help stay calm.
It can become overly stressful if you allow yourself to build up these unnecessary expectations. You want a big event win like Worlds but then people expect you to win it the next year. I try to trivialize each race, make it not seem like such a big deal. But every time out does seem like I’ve got to prove myself.
Looking back at your history, you’ve been a strong athlete for a long time. But when did you realize you were a winning hybrid athlete?
I’ve always been incredibly competitive from a young age. and along with that, there’s nothing that feels better than winning. To feel that all your hard work, the pain and sacrifice comes to fruition. All the stars have to align to win a race so when everything fires at once it’s like the most magical thing. You can get addicted to that feeling, something you keep chasing.
Share with me your headspace as you walked up towards that podium to receive your world championship title you earned in Atlantic City.
I was on top of the world that day and for weeks after! I had won races before, but I never thought that I would be a world champion at something. It was a whole different level of emotion. It was also the realization that I had finally found my sport, something that was right for me, something that combined my strength and my running ability. When I first found this sport, I instantly fell in love with it. To become the World Champion was a cherry on top. It is one of the biggest successes of my career, and one of the most special moments of my life that I am proud of.
What’s behind your “Runner’s high” tattoo?
No matter what, running, has always been the one constant in my life that’s always there for me. If I need to deal with something stressful or hurtful, running as always been that rock there for me to help deal with things. Running is such a big part of my life and it’s got me through so many challenging life experiences I have a very intense personality and running with something that allowed me to focus. When I go after something, I fully commit and go all in. I’m glad I was able to take that hyper focusing and put it towards something positive, that I have running to put my energy into that is ultimately very productive.
Favorite DEKA Zone
My favorite zone is the bike. In my mind this is where the race starts. This is an area that I have the biggest advantage, coming off the bike with the last 3 zones being strength based. This zone is always the turning point for me.
Nemesis DEKA Zone
Probably the box step overs. My philosophy is “just don’t fall “! In between West, Palm and Atlantic City last year, I must’ve done thousands of box step overs. I went from feeling slow and not sharp to feeling smooth and like second nature from just hammering this station in training .
Little things matter. When you’re pushing the sled, keep the handles in your hand at all times. Watch videos of people who do each zone with the greatest efficiency. You can save a lot of time and energy by knowing where your pacing is and how to work the stations.
And just simply racing more. The more familiar you are the better your racing will become.
River Bend CBD