Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Claim to HITS Fame: 2015 HITS Naples Overall Female Full Winner & Breaking the Women’s Course Record by Over 40 Minutes
HITS: Why did you decide to race HITS Naples?
JS: I am a track coach and I knew once the season started in January I wouldn’t have as much time to train. October-January we have really great training weather in northeast Florida so the timing was ideal. I came across HITS Naples and it seemed to have good reviews. Gulf swim, flat bike and run course, not too crowded, location ideal driving distance (bike transport considerations) – it seemed to have all the elements to make for a great first full distance experience. Yes, this was my first full and my first HITS event. Years ago (2006) I completed a half and this past December in preparation for this event, I competed in my first Olympic distance.
HITS: When and how often were you training for the big day?
JS: I started training for Naples October 13, exactly 3 months prior to race date. I only took 3 days off during that time, one day each month. I did the majority of my training solo, although I did schedule several organized cycling events for my longer rides in the months leading up to Naples. I have my own personal training business, Stackhouse Fitness, so literally training is built into my job, which really helps. During that 3 month period I logged 18:36 hours swimming, 78:51 hours biking and 516 miles running. My longest continuous swim prior to the race was 2.4 miles, longest bike 95 miles and my longest run was 18 miles. Strength training and dynamic stretching is also a regular part of my weekly routine.
HITS: It’s the week of the event. What is your pre-race ritual?
JS: I started my taper about a week out from the race. I tried to keep the volume low during that week and the intensity dialed in. I tried out all of the gear that I intended to race in and made a checklist of all of the items I would need to compete. I wrote out my race nutrition plan as I was told this is the “4th training discipline” of a full. I set my Garmin to beep every 30 minutes while on the bike so that I would stay ahead of my nutritional demands. I sipped water and Heed constantly. Race morning I woke up at 4:30am and had a Gingerbread Clif Bar, which I tried during the Olympic Tri and it seemed to work well on my stomach so I stuck with that. About 30 minutes prior to the swim start I had half of one Strawberry Huma gel because I was already feeling a little hungry.
HITS: Tell us about the course…
JS: I am big on visualization prior to a big competition, as I feel it really relaxes you mentally on race day. I had studied the course maps pretty extensively beforehand and had already pictured what I expected to be feeling like on race day as I went through the different phases. My plan in the swim was to go out conservatively and as relaxed as possible on the first loop, since we had a common start with the half and relay participants, so I didn’t want to expend unnecessary energy early on. During the bike, I focused on keeping relaxed, patience, sticking with my nutrition plan and not getting too caught up in the moment. I come from a running background so all day long I drew confidence in knowing my best event was last, and didn’t want to do anything to sacrifice that along the way. I broke the race into components and wouldn’t let myself get ahead mentally for what still lay ahead – I tried to stay focused on the current task at hand. The run course was an out and back twice and the first 1/2 marathon flew by. I was so glad to finally be running that I was out in under 7:30 pace. The second half of the marathon mentally was tough because I knew the ground that I just covered, I had to do again, at the end of a long day. I kept watching the sun’s position in the sky and thinking that I was racing the sun to the finish line (I recalled entering the water about 15 minutes before it had risen that morning)! The last 5k I knew I had the race won (since the course was out and back and I could see where the next competitor was) so I started to let myself think about the finish line moments, getting there in one piece and feeling good.
HITS: What was going through your head when I saw the finish line?
JS: I was definitely anticipating the excitement/relief in my family and friends’ faces as I neared the finish line. I knew it had been an especially long day for them, as they had also risen early and tracked me eagerly throughout the day using the athlete tracker app. Their cheering each time I entered transition definitely helped! I had another friend who traveled from Jacksonville to watch and a group of friends from the Key West Tri Club who had participated in the half earlier in the day and they were just as energetic for my finish as they were during their respective races! Plenty of high fives were shared and I slowed down a little to be sure to high five everyone who supported me all day long. One of my favorite race moments was a little boy off to the side of the final stretch to the finish line holding a stuffed Mickey Mouse doll hand, outstretched to me, which I also high-fived. I still smile thinking about it!
HITS: Finish this sentence - “When I feel like giving up, I _______”
JS: Giving up is never really an option for me. I knew that fortitude and mental toughness would get me through the day, regardless of conditions (which turned out to be perfect), or any other race day hurdle that may come up. That being said, my family instilled this in me and they are the reason that I never give up on anything. I try to remember that it all starts with faith, and I feel blessed that I am able to be so healthy and do what I love – to continue to find new ways to challenge myself and to compete. Also, I dedicated my racing efforts to the LoveJoy Foundation, which is a really worthy cause.
For more information on HITS Naples, visit HitsTriathlonSeries.com.