Melissa is a Mexican triathlete who juggles a full-time job with putting in the hours needed to train for her sport. She talks to Sundried about the ups and downs of her triathlon career.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes, I started swimming when I was 6 years old and a few months after learning how to swim I won my first competition in the local pool. So very early on I got to taste how good it feels to win something by your own merit. I took breaks and tried other sports along the way (gymnastics, volleyball, running) but triathlon ended up being my sport from 2012.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
In 2009, I was doing my masters and living abroad in Australia with a tight budget, so I started running since it was the cheapest exercise I could practice on a regular basis. During the last months of my masters, I ran my first running race ever, a 9k starting on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, and from then I was hooked.
When I returned to Mexico, I started to sign up to every running race I could find. I started to try longer and longer distances, and when I finally ran a full marathon in 2011, I thought that triathlon could be a next step, since I already had the swimming background and the running, I just had to add the bike to it. Right? I definitely didn’t know what I was getting my self into! The “just add the bike part” really tested my limits.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
A triathlon in Bacalar, south east Mexico, in 2015. It was a small triathlon that wasn’t even registered as part of the National circuit, so this race didn’t add points to my ranking nor did it help me qualify for a championship.
This was my first triathlon podium, and the town is such a lovely place. It has a lagoon know as 'the lagoon of seven colours' for all the beautiful shades of blue you can see in the water.
This was also my favourite race because my family was there, and it was also the first race that nerves didn’t get the better of me the day before so I could just enjoy myself.
And your proudest achievement?
Finishing my first (and only to date) full Ironman in November 2015. My time was a lot slower than what I had expected, but crossing that finish line before the cut off (my final time was 14 hours and 22 minutes) and knowing all the effort it took to get there, working full time and training… hearing my name and the crowd chanting “You are an Ironman!” was a very emotional and special moment for me.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
When I started racing in triathlons, podiums seemed like a far away dream, but when I kept working and my times started to get better, and especially after the Ironman, I set the goal to qualify for the standard distance age group ITU championship in 2016. That year, the championship was held in Cozumel in Mexico, so it made it even more special to be able to race in my own country.
3 weeks before the race I had a bike crash, and I couldn’t move my left arm and shoulder for 10 days. So, I did rehab and mostly cycled on the trainer, but I was definitely lacking range of motion and speed on race day. It was blisteringly hot, and it was probably my worst bike and run of all my races. That day just being able to get to the finish line, took everything I had. I ended up being second to last in my age group, but not having a DNF next to my name was an achievement for me that day.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I’ve always said that when it comes to triathlon, working on your mindset is almost a fourth sport you must train for. You must learn to be comfortable in uncertainty and also you have to learn to adapt when something doesn’t go according to plan. For example, instead of worrying if I get a flat tire on the course, I focus on practising how to change a flat and always have the necessary equipment with me. And for me, it took me a while to embrace the fact that winning is not everything, being an age grouper, working full time, sometimes you just can’t put in all the hours to perform at the top of your capacity, so goals change, and that’s okay.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
ALWAYS arrive early to the transition area! This is the last place where you want to be in a hurry, because big mistakes that can cost you valuable seconds or minutes can be made here. And it's also important to have time to spare to relax and shake off the nerves before the gun goes off.
What are your goals for 2018?
On August 4th I’m competing in the Xterra triathlon in Mexico. This is the first time that I’ll attempt the Global Tour distance (similar to an olymplic triathlon, but given that this is an off-road triathlon, instead of 40k you do a 30k mountain bike course).
The bike is my weak spot, and mountain biking even more so. Taking on an event where the bike portion is so important to the overall result and so challenging for me is definitely something I’m looking forward to tackle.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Regarding athletic inspiration, it is always the type of mindset and grit that craves a good challenge that draws me in…
Jan Frodeno, being an Olympic champion and now Ironman Champion
Rinny Carfrae, overcoming double digit deficits in T2 to win the Kona Championship with an amazing run back in 2013 and 2014
Flora Duffy, being an Xterra champion and now an ITU champion
Tim Don, making a spectacular comeback at the Boston Marathon in 2018 after getting a broken neck just 2 days before Kona in 2017.
Gwen Jorgensen, leaving a triathlon career at a high point to take on the Marathon for Tokyo Olympics.
Also, athletes from other sports like CrossFit, Brenda Castro, who just became the first female to qualify and represent Mexico at the 2018 Crossfit Games. Roger Federer, Misty Copeland, Lucy Charles, Katie Ledecky, Javier Gomez Noya…
I could keep going…at the end of the day it is also the integrity of these athletes that’s truly inspiring. It is not that they win, it is how they do it, and how they work to stay on top.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
As consumers we are faced with the reality of really analysing what we buy and how we consume it. There’s a choice to bring your own reusable coffee cup to the coffee shop, there are cruelty-free make up brands, there’s organic food that comes from local and not mass producers… but when it comes to clothing, there are fewer choices. Sundried stands out by being truly sustainable, ethical and I love that it is a wholesome brand.
The Breithorn 2.0 Sports Bra is my favourite. It is a mix between a fitted top and a sports bra, great choice when you need range of motion and when the weather gets warmer.