Joanna Zeiger, Olympic Team Triathlete, Multiple Ironman Champion
When I started following triathlon more closely, my wife was learning about some of the top professional women and immediately recognized Joanna Zeiger’s name. When I asked how, she reminded me that she swam against her when Zeiger was at Brown University! Unfortunately, my wife was on the losing end of those battles—not too shabby, though when Joanna ended up making Olympic Trials! She also still has multiple records at Brown—almost 20 years later!
Swimming aside, Joanna is among the elite in virtually all distances of triathlon. She made the US Olympic team in 2000, has scored multiple international distance wins and won Ironman competitions at Coeur d’Alene and Brazil. 2008 will see Zeiger’s attempt to return to the Olympic team. She was kind enough to spend some time with us to talk about her past results and her insights on the sport.
Your experience in Kona 2007 was below your expectations. Now that you've had several months to look back, what were your biggest learnings on how things turned out last year?
Going into Kona last year, I thought I had everything under control. My training had been really good and consistent, I had a nutritional plan in place and I figured I was ready. I had some trouble with the heat earlier in the summer, but I thought it was behind me. It was very surprising on race day when I was dizzy and vomiting, from the heat. It was very disappointing. I have consulted with some experts since then, and have come up with a new nutritional strategy that includes a lot more salt and some cooling strategies as well.
OK, boring question time. How did you start in triathlon and what drew you the sport?
I was a competitive swimming through college and when my swimming career ended I looked for a new challenge. I was swimming on a masters team that included some triathletes and they helped me out. I loved triathlon right from my first race. I enjoyed the challenge, the people and the competitiveness.
Give us a taste of your most embarrassing moment in any race.
My most embarrassing moment occurred in 1998 during my second pro race in Oceanside, CA. It was a beach start and the start line was quite far from the water. As I was running into the water I tripped and did a face plant into the sand. I heard over the loud speaker "There is a woman down". My ribs were really sore the next day, and to add insult to injury there was a picture of me falling in the paper the next day (it was actually a really great shot).
Your 2nd place finish at Ironman Arizona 2007 was a great race for you last year. Unfortunately, you were out kicked in the last several miles and ended up getting edge out by Heather Gollnick by less than 2 minutes! What was your biggest learning from that race?
I would have to say that the problems I encountered in Hawaii plagued my in Arizona, but since the conditions were not as severe, it was to a much lesser degree. I was suffering from not enough salt and some overheating.
What have been your biggest obstacles in getting to your level? Specifically, what used to be your greatest weakness that you've been able to overcome?
There have been a lot of obstacles. Every season presents it's own challenges. I have had several injuries, some long term, I have exercise asthma which needs constant attention, and I seem to have a knack for encountering a lot of unexpected things (concussion during Ironman in 2006, broken toe during a race to name a few).
I'm a big fan of learning about various 'evacuation' strategies of top triathletes. How do you deal with, well, number 1 (or God forbid, number 2!) on the bike and the run?
I always wear a separate top and bottom to make things easy if I do have to visit a porta-potty. On the bike, I just let it fly while I am riding. The run is usually where stomach issues arise, and I bring Immodium with me just in case.
What does a typical peak training week look like for you?
There are no typical weeks. It varies depending on whether I am focusing on short course or long course. I generally do one or two track workouts, a tempo run and a long run. I do intervals on the bike once or twice a week, a long ride and some recovery rides. I swim 4-5 days a week.
In your own experience and in exposure with various other top pros, what have you found are the top 3 strengths that each of them possess?
Dedication, ability to endure a lot of pain, good genetics
Last one. If you could go back and redo one race from your past and change one thing, what race would it be and what would you change?
I wouldn't change anything. Each race is an opportunity to learn from both the good and the bad. After I take what I can from the race, there's no looking back, only forward.
Born: 1969, Baltimore, Maryland
Grew up: San Diego, California
First Triathlon: 1994
Turned Pro: 1998
Family: Husband - Mark Shenk
Lives: Boulder, Colorado
Career at a glance
- 7/22/2007 - Boulder Peak Triathlon 1st
- 4/1/2007 - Santo Domingo ITU Triathlon Pan American Cup 1st
- 3/18/2007 - Bay Islands ITU Triathlon Pan American Cup 1st
- 2000 - 2006 - Sixteen (16) 1st Place Finishes!!!
Thanks, Joanna! We wish you best of luck in making your second Olympic team and continued success in the sport.
Interview by Max Wunderle
To News Center »