Monday, September 23, 2013

Meet Atlanta's Own Pro Triathlete, Haley Chura!

I've had the pleasure of knowing Atlanta's own Pro Triathlete, Haley Chura since 2009, which was early her triathlon career.  Last Wednesday, I sat down with her to ask her a few questions.  Here is a recap of my interview.

How did you get started in triathlon?
I always knew I would be a triathlete.  I grew up with active parents.  In fact, they did triathlons back in the 80s with the Bud Light series.  I figured that is what you do when you grew up was triathlons. 

I grew up swimming.  That was my focus.  After college, I thought I was done. 

In 2008, my boss challenged me to do a Half Iron distance triathlon.  I did not train at all for the bike and run.  I trained for the swim.  I went down to Macon.  It was a billion degrees.   I finished the race.  

I had the best time!  I loved the atmosphere.  I loved the community.

My friend, Betty Janelle from Dynamo Masters, was training for the Hawaii 70.3 in 2009.  She told me to pick a Half around the same time.  She said we should find a coach and really train right.  We knew Matthew Rose from Dynamo Masters and decided to hire him.  Matthew had just started Dynamo Multisport.  Betty was his 2nd client and I was his 3rd.

What does triathlon mean to you?
It’s evolved over the years.  At first it was something fun to do.  Now, it is my lifestyle and my career.  I never thought it would turn out that way.  I’ve met some really, really good people.  It’s changed my life in so many ways, for the better.  I’ve learned to take risks and dream big.  It is an important part of my life now.

Where is your favorite place to train?
For indoor workouts, I love training at Dynamo for swimming and cycling.  For outdoor workouts, I love going to the Gaps.  That is my all time favorite place to train outdoors.  For outdoor running, I like Kennesaw Mountain, Chattahoochee River Trails, Columns Drive for intervals and Piedmont Park.

What is your favorite workout?
Hill Repeats at the Gaps, specifically at Neels Gap

Start at Turners Corner
4 x (Ride up to the top of Neels, down the same side of Neels, then run off the bike for 12.5 minutes out and 12.5 minutes back)

This workout takes approximately six hours.  Try it!

What are your mental toughness strategies?
For me, I have to work hard to keep my thoughts positive.  Matthew has helped me work with mantras.  Some of my favorite mantras are, “Find a Way”, “Believe” and “Be Kind” (from her friend Kathryn Honderd).

Another thing I keep in mind is something fellow pro triathlete Hillary Biscay told me: “Even when you think you are not doing well, many times you are doing better than you think.  You won’t know until you finish.  Just stick with it.”

I always try to think of happy things.  For example, if my parents are at the race, that makes me happy.

Also, having supportive people around who are positive helps a lot.

What was your most memorable race?
My most memorable race was definitely my first time in Hawaii for the Ironman in 2009.  I was 24 years old.  I had a great swim and a pretty good bike.  I had major issues on the run.  I ended up walking on the Queen K.  It was so lonely out there.  Even though I thought I might be dying, I knew I was going to finish.  Matthew walked with me for a little bit and it was so nice.  My parents found me at the finish.  Having them there was so nice too.

I knew I was going to do another Ironman.  It gave me strength and a hunger to do it again.

What was it like leaving your job to fulfill your career as a pro triathlete?
It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I had a great job in Public Accounting.  It was comfortable.  It was safe.  It is what society says it is what I should be doing. 

Leaving my job was premeditated.  I planned by taking money out of my paycheck to save for four years. 

I knew I wasn’t being fair to myself by working and trying to be a triathlete.  I knew I wouldn’t be as good of a pro triathlete if I was still working.

It was a lot harder than I expected.        

Do you ever miss a workout?
Yeah, sometimes I do, but it is usually something that is out of my control.  I structure my day so I do my key workouts in the morning.

I don’t ever miss a workout just because I don’t feel like doing it.  I want to know that when I line up for a race, I gave my training everything I possibly could.

I also trust my coach, Matthew.  I know if he puts something on my schedule, he feels it’s important.  

What are you doing differently now that you are a pro?
I sleep a lot more.  I cook more.  I take more time to prepare healthy food.  I put more effort and time in to this. 

I haven’t increased my workouts that much, but I’m more focused.  I used not worry too much about missing my times or numbers because I could blame it on some client or something like that.  Now, it is totally my fault if I don’t make my numbers.

What advice would you give another triathlete who wants to take it to the next level?
Make sure you have a really good support system around you. Have one person you can talk to because things get hard.  This is a 100% performance based career.  If I don’t race well, I don’t get paid.

What do you want to share about your experience working with your coach, 
Matthew Rose?
I am so thankful for Matthew.  When we started working together, I didn’t know what I was doing.  He saw so much more in me than I did.  After that first Half Iron race in Macon, he told me I was going to Hawaii and I would go pro.  I don’t think other coaches would have looked at me and seen what he did.

I grew up in the sport with him coaching me.   He’s been a huge part of helping me realize that I could take risks and have something different than what society says.   

Coaches and teachers can do so much good.  I don’t think those people (coaches and teachers) realize it.

How do you choose your races?
I decide on my “A” goal race, then work backwards.  Going pro has been different.  #1 I have more flexibility. #2 There is a points system.

I also have to think about the finances of doing a race.  I have to think about if it is a fairly inexpensive race to go to.  And, will I make money. 

I knew I wanted to go to Hawaii this year, but I knew it was going to be a struggle. I ended up getting in to Hawaii, but at the last minute.  The top 35 female pros with the most points get in.  I was the 36th female pro.  One of the 35 females got injured and it rolled down to me. 

What is your next race and what are your goals?
Hawaii is my next race.  Since I didn’t think I was going to get in, I’m using this as an opportunity for me to collect data on what it is like to race with the pros.  I want to be proud of my race.  I also want to influence the race, especially on the swim.

Do you have any plans to move to a more desirable training location (ex. Colorado Springs, San Diego, Clermont, etc.)?
To be honest, I thought about it a lot because my family isn’t here.  I don’t have any plans to move.  Atlanta is a great tri community.

There are great places to train here.  There is different terrain.  You have the Gaps.  You have great pools.  You have great places to run. 

There is great airport access which is important since I travel a lot now.

There is a lot of value in the Dynamo team.  I have really good training partners.  I have support of the community, like with all3sports.

Atlanta has been good for me.  I want to stay in Atlanta as long as I possibly can.

I really appreciated the time Haley spent with me.  When you see her around town or at a race, definitely say "hi" and introduce yourself.  You might even have a question or two to ask her.  Don't hesitate!  She is totally cool and approachable!

You can keep up with Haley by checking out her blog ( and following her on Twitter @HaleyChura.

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