Vanessa is a TeamSFQ member who exudes a magnetic pull to everyone in her orbit to both dream big and focus. She is an entrepreneur and Kona qualifying age group triathlete living in beautiful Bozeman, Montana, where she is coached by Smashfest Queen sponsored pro triathlete, Haley Chura, and runs her business specializing in mindset coaching for triathletes. Vanessa and I had the unique honor of sharing our first Swim/Run adventure together last January at Smashfest camp, and let me tell you, I was the lucky one in that scenario. Vanessa is a wonderful teammate, friend, athlete, and TikTok sensation who I look forward to you all learning more about now.
What first drew you to Triathlon?
Sometimes I think I stumbled across triathlon by accident. After retiring from collegiate rowing, I picked up running with the intention of staying fit. While training for my first half marathon, I thought “why don’t I try a sprint triathlon!” Seems logical right?? After rowing, I was doing whatever seemed fun and a triathlon fit right in.
Well, I was hooked after that first finish line. It didn’t matter how long it took me to get there, the community was everything: supportive, electrifying and so much fun!!
What was one of your very first goals in the sport?
That first sprint triathlon was in fall of 2007. I set a goal to do 5 triathlons in 2008 (a mixture of sprint and Olympic distance) and then I did ZERO! In 2009, I came back with a fire and learned about long course triathlon so I set my sights on my first 70.3 relatively quickly.
Looking back, those early years were about establishing a place where I felt at home. I had a very demanding job right out of college and I used triathlon as an opportunity to create space for me so I could show up as my best self at work.
How has living and training in beautiful Bozeman, Montana prepped your mindset to endure long training days in inclement weather, and fantastic/dangerous wildlife that most of us city-dwellers do not need to consider while heading out the door for a run or ride?
Bozeman sure is beautiful! They don’t call it, "The last best place," for nothing.
I’m a firm believer that there is no better or worse (California or Montana), there just is. And we get to decide how to get the most out of our circumstances. What you practice is what you get good at. Yes, we have winter conditions for 6-8 months out of the year here in Montana. But that gives me the opportunity to have concentrated bike training indoors without coasting or stoplights. You definitely learn to appreciate outdoor road riding a lot more! I also picked up skate skiing last year. It was a nice change in aerobic training that allowed me to get out and enjoy the snow.
As for the bears....you don’t get the stunning trails, overlooks and wildflowers without the chance of running into a bear. Practicing safety is key! You will always see me with bear spray in the front pocket of my running pack.
Do you believe your experience on the Debate Team growing up helped you hone skills during training, racing, and business to talk yourself into and out of uncomfortable situations?
I've never thought about it that way, but probably! I guess I’ve been my own best attorney for longer than I thought.
I live and breathe learning and harnessing the power of the mind. As an athlete and entrepreneur, I apply that skill in varying ways but the running thread is the same. You can use your brain to create literally anything you want. I have done it when I KQed, in my business and in my marriage to my best friend. The key is to be 100% willing to feel discomfort and move forward anyway.
Do you believe that losing your Dad in 2012 lended you resilience and empathy to help both yourself achieve big goals, and help others achieve theirs? Did that difficult experience guide your decision to become a Life Coach?
Losing my dad was, and still is, the hardest experience I’ve ever been through. I believe grief never ends, it just shifts. My dad was the most driven, purposeful, spirited man. He could light up a room with his smile and corny jokes.
His sudden death definitely impacted my resilience and ability to not be defined by events in my life. But what really shaped me in triathlon and in my work was the example he set for never settling. He started everyday on purpose and I thank him for showing me how to do that. Before his death and after, I have been committed to being an example of taking massive action to create a life I love. Settling is out of integrity with that.
I would be remiss if I did not share that becoming a life coach was inspired by my husband, Danny. Since our first year dating he told me I should be a life coach. I wrote that off for years. Because of course I needed to come to the conclusion myself :)
Have you discovered parallels from being a triathlete and a Life Coach that have helped you become stronger at either one?
No doubt about it! Being a triathlete for over ten years before becoming a life coach gave me the foundation of experience I now draw on to be able to support other triathletes. The truth is: how you do anything is how you do everything. I go after by business goals as passionately as my race goals.
Personally, when I discovered life coaching I was in that flux of thinking I wanted to step up to the next level in triathlon, but scared of what it would take. I was scared to tell anyone that I wanted to KQ. Life coaching showed me how being bold in my goals wasn’t selfish; everything and everyone else in my life benefited from me choosing to become a better version of myself.
Since you earned a highly coveted qualification for the 2020 Ironman World Championships at Ironman Chattanooga last September, and therefore have been preparing for the "Big Dance on the Big Island" for over six months, how are you feeling about the event being rescheduled to February, 2021?
Of course, I’m bummed. I mean who doesn’t want to race Kona on the coolest date of all time: 10/10/20! But the safety of athletes, volunteers and the community at large is way more important.
Also, all of my other 2020 races had been postponed or cancelled before the Kona postponment was announced. I had already worked on how I wanted to respond even before it happened. I am calm and certain that I will PR after those extra four months of training!
I know I’ll have my run down Ali’i Drive and it will be even sweeter than I originally thought.
Regardless of the date when you step off the plane, what does earning that Kona slot mean to you? Also, what are you most looking forward to experiencing on the Big Island?
I love this question! Because the date doesn’t matter...what matters is the feeling and nothing can take that from me. Qualifying for Kona makes me so damn proud! It means I didn’t let that little gremlin in my head win. The one who’s always told me I’m not strong enough. The one who was ever present on my best day and my worst day. But I was, in fact, strong enough. And I know my dad would be proud that I didn’t settle for a safe goal.
I’m actually most looking forward to those prerace nerves. The hours before the starting gun goes off when all the work is done and the magic is about to unfold. I love the anticipation as much as I love the execution.
Do you have any alternative racing plans/adventures on your schedule this Summer, or next Fall? If you need a Swim/Run partner, you know who to call.:)
Ahhhhh maybe we should stage a swim/run event to relive old times!
I’ve set my sights on a few peaks here in Bozeman that I plan to bag this summer. My coach Haley Chura created a fun birthday smashfest a few years ago that I want to do again this year. We biked from downtown Bozeman to a mountain reservoir, swam across and back, ran/hiked a 10k ft peak and then did it all in reverse. I also plan to bike a beautiful scenic highway we have here called Beartooth Hwy a few times this summer (if I go soon I might get a snow wall at the top!). Lastly, I set a goal to run a sub 21 minute 5k by the end of the year!