Triathlete Sami Winter truly embodies the meaning of endurance. She has participated in 21 Ironman races and 38 Half Ironman events, totaling 114 triathlons. She is a race director and just 1 of 2 women coaches in extreme triathlons. She joined the Endurance Podcast with host Matt Clancy of E3 Endurance.
Listen to the full interview on The Omega Sports Endurance Podcast.
Becoming a Triathlon Athlete
Coming from a dance background, Sami is someone who always loved moving. She grew up participating in sports and was not one to shy away from a challenge. After having knee surgery, Sami knew her dancing days were coming to an end.
She took up running and loved it. The catalyst to her triathlon career came in September of 2007 when Sami’s friend mentioned joining the Half Ironman race, which triggered her interest.
Ironman races consist of biking, swimming, and running, only one of which Sami had mastered. At the time, she could barely swim in a 25-yard pool, nor did she own a bike. Yet, these obstacles only fueled her. Having only six weeks to train, Sami wasted no time and got to work. She finished the race and fell in love with triathlons.
With over 100 races under her belt, it’s astounding that the desire to keep competing is still there. Where exactly does this love come from?
According to Sami, the number one key component is camaraderie, and tied to that is meeting great people and athletes. One particular instance Sami recalls is during the 70.3 race. She crossed paths with a girl doing her very first race and helped her cross the finish line. Helping first-timers to finish a race is on another level of joy.
Triathlons have allowed her many adventures. Competing gives her a way to travel and experience the world.
No matter what, there is always something you can challenge yourself with, even if you are injured. Say you have a knee injury that is keeping you from running. An alternative would be to challenge yourself in swimming and work on improving your strokes.
Sami’s Favorite Triathlon
I know what you’re thinking; how could someone this experienced possibly choose a favorite race? Sami has managed to narrow it down to three races.
First, and arguably her favorite, is Escape From Alcatraz. So much so, that she has participated five times. This triathlon has a bit of everything, and yet, there is always something new around the corner.
Second is Ironman Lake Tahoe, with her most memorable year being in 2013. Sami describes biking on ice from the snow that fell the day before, followed by swimming in 28-degree water, all while with a numb face. Thank goodness for adrenaline to help keep you going!
Lastly, comes the Alaskaman Extreme. The views from this race are stunning and unmatched. Whether you’re racing or not, you are guaranteed to fall in love with the scenery, just like Sami did. She has gone back multiple times to visit and engulf herself in mother nature’s beauty.
Now that Sami has essentially mastered the world of triathlons, it’s time for her to step it up, and what better way than to participate in the Norseman Triathlon. This race is not for the faint of heart. It’s the “granddaddy of all extremes,” as Sami puts it.
For the past seven years, she has been diligently trying to get in the lottery. It wasn’t until lucky 2020 when she was invited to join. Of course, a global pandemic shut down that dream. So now, Sami is patiently waiting for 2022 for her turn to run.
If you’re not familiar with Norseman, here is a quick breakdown: it is an extreme long-distance triathlon consisting of a 2.3-mile swim, 111-mile cycling, and a 26-mile run, all while climbing over 16,000 feet in altitude and done in very challenging conditions. But who better to do this than Sami herself?!
With the impressive amount of accreditations Sami has for coaching, it’s easy to wonder what it is that inspires her to help others. The answer is more straightforward than what you think. For Sami, no reward comes greater than helping an athlete achieve their goal. And she does this through her company, Fusion Endurance.
It is important to note that coaching is not a one-size-fits-all. Having trained 112 athletes to date, Sami can testify that every one of those training plans was different from the last. That’s because not one athlete requires the same planning as another.
For this reason alone, Sami suggests hiring a coach. She’s been coaching since 2009, and her most frequent question is, why should I hire a coach when I can download a plan online? Simply put, coaching requires mental and physical guidance, which is not something you will find online.
“Being a coach is much more than being a plan writer.”
Now, as a race director, Sami tackles a whole new set of responsibilities. Being in this position, she now understands the vast difference between participating in a race and coordinating a race. Every race is different and requires a different game plan, especially during these unpredictable times.
One thing she is not willing to sacrifice is the quality of the race. Her number one priority is making the experience great for every athlete by making them feel welcomed and letting them know this is where they belong!
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