Q and A with Boulder Professional Triathlete Nicole Valentine
1. Can you tell us a little bit about what got you into triathlon?
I grew up as a swimmer and then switched to cross country running in high school and college. At the time, I had friends who were doing triathlons and always thought that if I could get my hands on a bike, it would be fun to try one. While living abroad in Costa Rica after college, I finally bought my first bike – a mountain bike and did my first triathlon there after a few years of endurance mountain bike racing. It was an absolute blast and I ended up placing first female by a decisive margin. I was hooked.
2. Were you competitive in other sports?
Yes, I grew up playing every sport possible – soft ball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, swimming.
3. What are some of your career highlights in endurance sports?
In 2015, my last year as an age group athlete, I came in 5th at the Ironman World Championship in Kona and 3rd at the Xterra World Championship in Maui two weeks later. I won the Outrigger Double Award for the second year in a row for the fastest combined time at Ironman and Xterra World Championships. What was particularly memorable about this accomplishment is that I actually fell and crashed on the mountain bike midway through the Xterra race and broke my collarbone. Determined to finish the race if I could, and defend my title, I got back on the bike. I finished the technical mountain bike course and then was able to overtake some of my competitors on the run to place third. Standing on the podium with a sling on my arm was my proudest moment to date in endurance sports, as I knew I had given it everything in that race.
4. What brought you to Boulder for training?
In 2015 I had my sights set on trying to obtain a pro card in Xterra off-road triathlons. I had heard about what a great place Boulder was for training due to the altitude, ample roads, trails, and mountains for running and biking, as well as sports injury specialists and support facilities like MEND, and of course, the number of elite athletes and training groups. I convinced the firm I worked for to let me work remotely, and came out to Boulder for eight months to try the lifestyle.
5. Tell us a little bit about your training philosophy, especially in relation to staying healthy and injury free.
I’m finding that the training itself is just one slice of the pie and in order to support the elite athlete lifestyle and heavy training, you need to put as much emphasis on nutrition, recovery, and injury prevention, otherwise the training cannot happen.
6. What's your favorite recovery food?
Sweet potatoes and Healthy Skoop protein powder. I eat sweet potatoes pre workout, during training for fueling, and for post workout recovery – I love them! I’ve been switching over to a vegan diet and have found that Healthy Skoop plant based protein powder has been amazing for ensuring I’m getting enough protein in and I love the taste.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alan Torres @ATV Photography
7. How important are the small things, like stretching, weight-lifting?
I’m finding this year that all of the small things – sleep, nutrition, recovery, stretching, pre workout muscle activation, strength training, massage, PT, etc. make the difference between just getting the workouts in (and constantly battling oncoming injuries), and nailing every training session consistently and making huge fitness gains as a result.
8. What role does Physical Therapy play in your training?
Physical Therapy is a critical piece of the recovery puzzle. Whenever I feel that my body is taking a hit from the intense training load, I know that I need to get PT work done in order to keep training going and prevent a full blown injury from happening.
9. How many workouts a week are you doing?
On average, I have 2-3 workouts a day and about 16 workouts a week. It’s a very high training load.
10. If you could be successful at any other sport, what would it be and why?
I think I might be good at Ultra running. I’d love to give it a try! I know so many amazing runners in Boulder and am so inspired by the mileage they put in!
11. What's the hardest decision you've ever made?
Leaving a successful career in marketing for a financial services firm on the east coast to turn professional as a triathlete and move to Boulder. It has been a bumpy and incredibly difficult transition, but I am happy to be pursuing my dream. I know that this is what I’m meant to do.
12. Who makes you laugh more than anyone?
My coach, Michael Lovato. He has a great sense of humor which is so appreciated when we are jumping in the pool at 5:45am for swim practice. I wouldn’t be able to endure such a tough lifestyle without his great coaching support and the camaraderie of my Lovato Performance teammates.
13. What are some of your competitive goals for 2017 and 2018?
This year, my goal has been to place on the podium in Ironman races and so far I’ve been quite lucky to do so with 6th place at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico and 5th place at Ironman 70.3 Peru. I’m finding that nailing the nutrition, injury prevention, and recovery is making the difference. I hope to keep climbing the podium steps in the pro field!