The Girl Who Does It All: Triathlete Chelsey Miller

When I first met Chelsey, I never would have guessed that this curvaceous and mild-mannered gal was concealing a beast of an athlete within. I was new to Colorado and wanted to run, hike, bike, and climb everything. Chelsey was a native who was willing to give me friendly pointers on how to do so, since she’s pretty much done it all.

Along with mountain biking, hiking 14ners, and rock-climbing, Chelsey also competes in Triathlons: For women who are interested in Triathlon training, Chelsey is a wealth of information. I caught up with her to get the scoop on how she stays motivated, how she trains, and why she even does it in the first place.

Hope Gately: Chelsey, tell us a little bit about the how and why of getting into triathlons. What was your initial motivation and what were some of the first steps that you took to start training?
Chelsey Miller: At some point in my childhood I heard about the Kona Ironman and knew that I just needed to compete in it. It took me until my junior year of college to start my real journey to being a triathlete and another three years to finally compete in a triathlon. My journey started with lots of searching for races. At the time I was living in South Dakota where there are maybe five triathlons a year, so it took a long time to find the right one for me. After three years of being too afraid that I wouldn’t be able to finish a race I finally signed up for the Southern Hills Triathlon in 2011. After I signed up I did a lot of research and just started getting myself out the door. I ran a lot more than I swam or biked because I knew I could finish those legs.

HG: To date, how many tris have you run and how many more do you have this year? Why so many?
CM: I have done seven triathlons, 6 sprint distance and one Olympic distance. I still have two more races left this season that I have signed up for. I love the way racing makes me push myself to places I didn’t know I could go. This led me to sign up for the Colorado Triathlon Tour, which consists of 3 sprint distance tri’s, 1 olympic distance tri, and a half ironman distance tri. I figure with five races I have plenty of chances to achieve something great for myself even if I don’t make it on the podium.

HG: What are some training tips and techniques that you would suggest to make things more interesting and fun. How do you deal with burn out?
CM: My #1 tip would be to train somewhere that you love. For me, I love running a country road by my house. It is absolutely beautiful and so quiet. Biking can be long and boring at times, especially when you start training for longer races and your bike sessions start hitting the 3 hour mark. To keep myself from getting bored on the bike I like to listen to podcasts and bike on roads that have a mix of hills and flats. For many people swimming is the hardest discipline as most people have not swam laps when they decide to do a triathlon. I love swimming and often find that getting to the pool is a lot easier for me than most people. If that is the case for you I would find an outdoor pool or a 50 meter pool. I have found that when I am swimming outside or in a longer pool my workouts go by a lot faster. When I start to feel like I am burning out I take time off from training and just do what I feel like doing. This often means I go mountain biking or trail running or I may just go hang on the couch for a few days.

HG: Your husband, Jason, is very supportive of your racing. What are some ways that friends and family can support triathletes even if they don’t know much about racing?
CM: The easiest way is to ask them how training is going. Triathlete’s love to talk about their training with anyone that will listen, even though the person asking likely won’t understand anything they are being told. Another way is to make sure they have the time they need to get their training in. Jason will often do the dishes or other house work so I can go out running. Jason comes to all my races, even my longer races that last for 6 or more hours. This is the best way he supports me. For a lot of people this is not feasible, but I highly suggest trying to go to at least one race each season. Races are when you get to see a thriathlete’s real abilities.

HG: For those who aren’t familiar with an Ironman, tell us a little bit about this type of race. What are your biggest concerns or fears for running such a grueling race next year?
CM: An ironman is just like any other triathlon only a lot longer. You start of my swimming 2.4 miles then you transition into a 112 mile bike ride and then finish with a 26.2 mile run, all with a 17 hour cutoff. My biggest fear for Ironman Boulder is messing up my fueling and having digestive issues. I prefer longer distances so the distance itself doesn’t scare me.

HG: What advice would you give particularly to young girls or young women who are getting into racing?
CM: Just sign up for a race. There is no better way to become a triathlete than sign up for a race and start training. Triathlon races are like a big get together, everyone seems to know everyone. The best way to meet other triathletes is to join the local triathlon club. They love when people new to the sport join. Most have a mentor program and will find a like minded triathlete to mentor you.