Train Like a Triathlete with Angela NaethAngela Naeth won the first triathlon she ever entered, despite changing her clothes completely at every stage transtition. We spoke to her about her rise to the top and how to train like a triathlete.
Growing up in northern British Columbia, Angela Naeth experienced winter for six months of the year. Perhaps that explains why the rising triathlon star now lives in Las Vegas, smack dab in the middle of the crazy-hot Mojave Desert.
“I dreamt of summer,” sighs Naeth as she drives from summer training headquarters in Bend, Oregon, to a “shamanism retreat” with her coach, triathlon legend Mark Allen. “The most I feel alive is when I’m in nature and I feel that connection to being outside.”
Allen has raved about Naeth’s “monster cardiovascular system,” but her progression from Canadian rookie to elite triathlete has been a steady climb. Her grade school didn’t have an athletics program, so she lobbied her parents to allow her to run track with a club team. She became a fast enough middle-distance runner to escape the B.C. winters with a scholarship at the University of Missouri.
Naeth returned home with a master’s degree and prepared for a career as a physical therapist. But on long mountain bike rides in the Rockies, she discovered that she wasn’t ready for the 9-to-5 slog. “I always wanted to see how far I could go in sports,” she says, “and I wanted to get to the top.”
She remembered watching an Ironman event on TV when she was 10 and in 2007 decided to jump into a local triathlon. She felt confident about her biking and running ability; she had been a lifeguard in high school, so she knew how to swim. She did everything wrong that first race—including complete clothing changes during the three stage transitions—and still managed to win.
“I thought, ‘Man, I can do this,’” she says. Naeth journeyed south again in 2008, this time to a triathlon training camp in California. A coach spotted her potential and encouraged her to go pro. She did so that year, winning in Boulder, Colorado, at the Olympic distance.
But as she transitioned to the 70.3-mile distance of the Half Ironman, injuries and other distractions kept her from the winner’s podium. One wag dubbed her the “Susan Lucci” of the triathlon for her many runner-up finishes.
She eventually switched coaches to join with Allen, who emphasizes holistic training principles to avoid burnout and injury. They worked on improving Naeth’s swim stroke and running form as well as building her stamina. Soon she was racking up victories, including three at the 70.3-mile distance in both 2012 and 2013 and one at the Leadman 125 in 2012.
“People ask me, ‘What’s your fastest time?’ ” Naeth says. “Honestly, I have no idea because I don’t pay attention to that. I go out there and race. I let the race dictate how I am and I try to get the best performance I can out of myself that day.”
Naeth then geared up for the grueling demands of the 140.6-mile Ironman. She completed her first in 2013 and another in 2014, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. “When I did my first full Ironman, I was very scared of the distances,” she admits. “I’d never run a marathon in my life, let alone more than 18 miles. It’s a different kind of hurt. It’s kind of a dull ache that gets worse and worse, whereas with the Half Ironman you go through that pain pretty quickly, like pulling off a Band-Aid.”
Naeth recently won her first full Ironman at Chattanooga this September and continues her training with new coach Jesse Kropelinki.