Now that Ironman 70.3 Worlds (what a fantastic event!) is in the books along with a host of other amazing races like IM Wisconsin and Santa Cruz 70.3, we're turning our eyes toward the Big Island and Ironman Hawaii.  As part of our preparation for this event, we're starting a blog series where we chat with Kona Qualifiers.

We start our series with an interview with Michelle Simmons. She's a fierce competitor and happens to have one of the most beautiful swim strokes you'll see. Oh..and she also happens to be one of the nicest individuals you'll ever meet. 

So, say hello to Michelle in our first interview on our Road to Kona. 

Kona Qualifier Michelle Simmons

Image above is of Michelle and her dog

Name: Michelle Simmons

Qualifying Race: Hawaii 70.3

Age Group: 45-49

Strange/quirky fact about you or habit you have: Sometimes I dye my hair fun colors when I race (red/purple). It’s a great way to remind myself that this is fun. 

Social Media handles: IG: michelle.simmons08 Twitter @mamasimmons 

Michelle Simmons Triathlete

Image above of Michelle Running

How many times have you qualified? This is my 4th time, but its been 8 years since the last time I managed to get in!

How long did you try to qualify? What was the process like? I first qualified back in 2007 and for a while I was sort of on the every-other-year plan and qualified again in 2009 and 2011. Then, even though I was trying, I couldn’t seem to make it happen again. Either everyone else got faster or I got slower (or both!)… This year my qualification really feels like it came down to being a lucky gift, because my good friend/teammate/athlete Heidi passed the spot to me.

When did you know that a qualifying spot was within your reach? Not until the announcer called my name… 

What do you truly feel like you sacrificed in life to qualify (if anything)? Quality time with my family takes a hit when I’m training a lot and/or recovering from training a lot…

How do you know when to make that push to Kona qualify? I think in a big picture sense, making your #1 goal to “qualify” can be a set up for big disappointment. Instead, find a way to love the process of training and preparing. When you love what you’re doing, you’re more likely to find ‘success’, however that is defined for you.

Do you have a favorite or key workout to get race ready? I definitely enjoy training long. My favorite sets tend to be repetitive and monotonous…. 10x400s in the pool, long intervals on the bike, and frequency runs are among my favorites. I train a lot by feel but check in with numbers/data to see if I’m on track and hitting goals.

What inspires you on the hard days? I look forward to hard days so I don’t feel like I need any sort of special inspiration to get them done. The feeling of satisfaction after overcoming obstacles and/or solving problems that have plagued me in the past is all the motivation I need.

What change(s) did you make to take you to the KQ level? I can speak to this from a coach’s perspective because I work with athletes every year who qualify. Athletes at this level embrace challenges. They’re organized, they prioritize training, and they find a way to consistently get everything done. They are not afraid of food- they fuel and hydrate well, which is a big part of what allows them to be consistent day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year!

How do you manage your time with your family, work and training? I’m in a good position here because as a full time coach, my work hours are flexible. I get a lot of my training done while my husband is at work and my daughter is in school. And commonly on the weekends I’ll train with some of my local athletes, so that training doubles as “work”. :)

What advice do you have for other age groupers who are hoping to one day KQ? Set up your life so you have time to train a lot. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your goals. Don’t be afraid of food. Hire a coach you trust so you don’t end up overthinking everything.

What is your favorite meal after a race? Does beer count as a meal? I’ll go with hamburger here.

How fast were you when you first started doing triathlons? My first Ironman was in 1997 and it took me over 14 hours! To be fair, that was before we knew anything about how to train or recover or fuel or hydrate… But I’m not really a naturally gifted athlete. My ‘talent’ lies in my ability (and desire) to out work many others. Genuinely *wanting* to train more is a huge advantage when it comes to long distance triathlon success.

What is the most important lesson you have learned on your Kona journey? The most important lesson- and this would apply to all aspects of our lives- is to not give up on myself. Sometimes things flow and sometimes they don’t, but my proudest moments always come after performances where I know that at all times I was *trying* my very best. When I’m racing I’m always asking myself, “Is this an effort that you’ll be happy with after this is all over?” And if the answer to that is yes, then that’s the most important thing to me.

Kona Qualifier Michelle Simmons

What are you most excited about for this year’s Kona? After spending the last 7 years in a row on the sidelines cheering, I’m really excited that I’ll get to participate again. And I’m glad my daughter gets to witness it all. Last time I raced there she was only 3 years old, so I think the experience will be more impactful for her this year now that she’s older and has a better understanding of what all goes into this kind of thing. 

What moment have you been visualizing in training? Definitely the swim start! The energy there when you’re treading water in Kailua Bay, with the drums beating and the helicopters buzzing overhead is one of the coolest moments in sport

Reginald Holden