Meet the Kona Team: Taryn Spates

Continuing our series profiling each one of our age group team members racing in this year's Ironman World Championships, we are thrilled to chat with Taryn Spates. Team SFQ'er Taryn earned her Hawaii Ironman qualification by finishing second in the 35-39 age group at Ironman Arizona last fall. 
Taryn, you are a part of a mighty contingent of first- time Kona Smashfest Queens this year and will be competing in Kona about a decade after your first Ironman. Can you tell us a bit about the journey to qualifying and what specifically helped you break through and take your performance to Kona level?
I raced my first Ironman in Louisville, KY in 2008, and the experience completely changed my life, but I needed more experience, in triathlon and in life, to truly grasp what I needed to do in order to achieve my goals in the sport. 
I raced eight Ironman's between 2009 - 2013, but I took 2014 and 2015 off to focus on running, finishing ten marathons and my first 50K Ultra marathon. Then in 2016, I raced Ironman Lake Placid, figuring I would end my Ironman party at #10, at the place I first fell in love with the sport, (I cheered on my brother, Peter, when he raced there in 2004), but it had the complete opposite effect. I raced well enough to know there was much more I could do in triathlon, and was ready to truly explore my potential. Nevertheless, I needed guidance, (especially with my swim), so that following August I reached out to my old coach to see if she or any of her coaches had room on their roster to take me on, and thankfully, she took the reigns herself. It has been "game on" ever since. 
I think there are numerous factors that helped me breakthrough to the Kona level. For example, the introduction to working with power on the bike. Plus, buying a speed machine, a Dimond Brilliant, helped me make a significant leap in my cycling. Next, the introduction of training on the treadmill made gargantuan steps forward in my running, and a gazillion structured yards in the pool, and open water, has had a profound effect on my swimming. Also, the supportive team atmosphere of TeamHPB during training camps, and races, plus online, is the kind of environment I thrive in, and have greatly benefited from. The changes in my training and race day nutrition have been monumental, too. Adding in more calories has been HUGE. Most of all, I wake up every day hungry to improve. I still have many goals I want to achieve in triathlon, and I look forward to exploring my potential every single day.

What are you most looking forward to about your  Kona experience, besides rocking Dig Me Beach in your new SMASH bikini obviously ? :)
I am most excited to simply be visiting Hawaii. I have spent time with my family on Kauai over the years, but I have never visited the BIG island, and being in Hawaii is always a special experience, so once I step off the plane, the trip will be worth it. However, I am a genuine triathlon geek. I have watched every telecast since 1993, and have read numerous books about the lore of the race itself, Mark Allen's books, Fit Soul Fit Body, and The Art of Competition, and Iron War, by Matt Fitzgerald, and numerous others that have revealed the painful and alluring nuances of the race itself, so above anything else, I am honored to be racing on such sacred ground. 

You inspire many with your plant-based lifestyle as your recent accomplishments have all been fueled by a 100% vegan diet. Can you tell us exactly what your pre-race dinner will consist of?
My pre-race dinner will include a large yam, salted and raw almonds, gluten free pretzels, prepared with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsalmic Vinegar, salt and pepper, along with Kombucha. I will also have a little HU Vegan dark chocolate for dessert, along with an apple, and herbal tea. 

You come from a big and very supportive family. Can you tell us about the Taryn Spates cheer squad in Kona?
Yes, there are a lot of us! Naturally, they cannot all make the trip, but I am thrilled to have both sets of my parents, mom/stepdad and dad/stepmom, and my younger sister, Sarah representing the whole family as my support team on the island. Sarah will serve as my top Sherpa and Crew Captain, a post she earned by trekking up Mt. Alyeska with me at Alaskaman. Also, I am looking forward to having my coach, and many of my Team SFQ and Smash-Dimond teammates both on the course with me, and cheering from the sidelines. I have no doubt that I will be feelin' the love all day.

What are your goals for the race?
My goals for the race are to show up to transition on time, (I missed the start of a race ten years ago due to a multiple transition folly, and it has haunted me ever since). Next, is to fuel correctly. This is an important factor for every race, but especially in the hot and humid conditions on the big island. Finally, I want to cash out the tremendous amount of fitness I have built up this year, and leave it all out on the course. I appreciate the significance of being a part of this race, and I promise to give it everything I have.
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