As part of our run up to the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, we spent some time with Coeur Pro and one of 35 women to qualify for Kona, Beth Shutt.
Coeur: First, Congratulations on qualifying for Ironman Hawaii! How does it feel to be one of 35 women to make it to Kona?
Beth: Thank you! It's a pretty surreal feeling to be one of only 35 women PROs at Kona. I honestly NEVER thought I would be on the start line here as a PRO so it's very much a "pinch me" type of feeling! Just goes to show, you really can't put limits on what you *think* you can accomplish.
Coeur: You don’t live in the traditional "Hot Weather" states such as Florida, Nevada, Arizona etc. How will you go about acclimating to the heat and humidity that is present on The Big Island?
Beth: I knew the heat and humidity would be pretty oppressive coming from the PA fall weather, so I'm actually already out here in Kona getting used to the elements! I will have been here for almost 3.5 weeks before race day so that should give my body plenty of time to adapt to the weather, as well as the time difference (6 hours) and the course, etc... The first few days I was here I couldn't keep up with my fluid needs - it was crazy! But I can already feel myself getting used to it. I feel very lucky to have the support to be out here so early!
Coeur: Now, you and Coeur teammate Kim Schwabenbauer both train with QT2 Systems and we've heard that they are sending something like 30 athletes to Kona. We know their athletes work incredibly hard but what is it about QT2 that seems to work so well with both of you?
Beth: For me, QT2 Systems was a GAME CHANGER! My coach, Tim Snow, pretty much taught me how to "do" Ironman - from pacing, to fueling, to mentally preparing for the day, etc... Of course he also prepared me with the training plan but really it's QT2's way of taking care of the small details that makes such a big difference. I owe so much of any success I've had to them, and to my QT2 teammates that have also taught me a lot!
Coeur: Of course Kona is the big show in long course triathlon and everyone who is anyone seems to be on the Big Island. We've heard that some athletes like to experience as much of the race as they can and spend a lot of time on Alii and at the expo. Others make a point of staying away from the action so that they don't get distracted. Do you all fall into one camp or another?
Beth: I'm definitely one of the one's that prefers to keep my distance from the action, a bit. Thankfully, I've had the Kona experience as an AGer, so I don't necessarily have to be at the expo for hours, do every single "activity" out there, etc... There are some things you CANNOT miss (like the UP run!!), but otherwise, I like to stay out of the heat and on my butt. :)
Coeur: We don't want you to give away any secrets but do you race Kona any differently since it is the World Championships or once the gun goes off is it just another Ironman?
Beth: To tell you the truth, I'm not sure just yet! Once Coach comes up with my race plan, I'll let you know - haha! Seriously though, it will be just like any other race in that, I will follow MY plan and let the day unfold as it will.
Coeur: Quite a few of us will be out cheering on the course in Kona, so we have to ask. Do you ever hear what people yell to you on the bike and the run or are you concentrating so much on your body that you don't notice? Also, if you do notice, what is the best thing you've heard from a fan during a race?
Beth: I'm sure I miss some stuff but for the most part, I definitely hear what people say (more so on the run when you can actually hear vs the bike). I DEFINITELY look for and hear what people with familiar faces say (ie: family, coaches, you guys, etc...) but also, spectators are usually very helpful in general in giving splits to the next person up, etc.... One of my sponsors, CID Buildings, has the steel logo as part of their logo on my kit. The steel logo is what the Pittsburgh Steelers use as their logo so one thing I get A LOT is "GO STEELERS or GO PITTSBURGH!!!!" That ALWAYS makes me smile. :)
Coeur: We think that the finish on Alii drive is one of the most magical places in all of sport. What do you think you'll be feeling when you make the turn on to Alii?
Beth: I know for sure, good race or bad, that I will be feeling a lot of gratitude for getting to the finish and for all the people that helped me get there. I ALWAYS feel that. I'm the only one that gets to cross the finish line but there are SO many people that I wish could cross with me, for all that they give of themselves so that I can get to do this. What I also hope to be feeling is (again, no matter the outcome) "I'm proud of the effort I gave. I couldn't have given an ounce more."
Coeur: Beth, since this is your first year racing as a pro in Kona, did you ask your Coeur teammate Kim (who raced Kona as a Pro last year) for any advice?
Beth: Absolutely!! After every race, Kim and I debrief each other and talk all about how the day went, what we learned, etc... and I distinctly remember doing this after her race here last year. I'm sure we will rehash it before the race this year, but I remember her telling me about the differences racing as a pro, dealing with AG men (always an issue for pro women....ha!), etc... Kim has ALWAYS been so giving of her time and knowledge in the sport and I'm very thankful for that.
Coeur: Speaking of age group athletes, Coeur has quite a contingent going. What advice would you have for a first time Kona participant?
Beth: LOVE every second of it! It's such a long, hard, hot, windy day. But keep things in perspective - WE GET TO DO THIS. And we get to do this in PARADISE, no less!! When the going gets tough, take in the beauty of the island and be thankful -- that always changes your outlook.
Coeur: Finally, as you know, part of Coeur's mission is to draw women into endurance sports and much has been made about the fact that there are only 35 slots for professional women versus 50 on the men's side. Is this something that bothers you and what do you think will have to happen to get it changed:
Beth: I absolutely think there should be equal numbers for men and women pros. WHATEVER that number is, is not quite as important to me, as the fact that it should be equal (ie: 35 women/35 men, 50 women/50 men). The only way to encourage women to turn pro and grow female involvement is to give equal opportunity. The women's race gets more and more competitive every year, but that will only continue if more and more talented women are attracted to the sport and given the chance to race on our biggest stage.
Coeur: Well, thank you so much for chatting with us! We'll see you on the Big Island!
Beth: Thanks for chatting with me! Can't wait to see you guys!! Don't forget your sunscreen! :)