dailymiler of the week: Nicole Z.

Every week we pick one inspiring dailymiler to be featured on the blog. This gives you a chance to learn the stories of members of the dailymile community. Check out past dailymiler’s of the week. Do you know someone that would be a great dailymiler? Nominate them!

Nicole Z. and I first got acquainted at the end of last year during dailymile’s super fun Secret Santa gift exchange. I (who knows absolutely nada about competitive cycling) had to find something special to give this super cyclist. Checking her profile, not only did she have loads of physical velocity, plastering her wall were the most colorful pics and notes that crackled with the same spark and zest found in those seriously-charged cycles. Barreling toward her first Half Iron Man attempt later this summer , Nicole’s been burning a lot of rubber as she closes in on 5,000 miles logged at dailymile so far this year.

Ilona M.: Can you take us a on a quick spin of your athletic history?
Nicole Z.:In high school, I was briefly on the swim team and did some diving, too. But I loved to ski and that was my passion back then and in college. Most of my adult life, though, I was very inactive – that is, until about five years ago when I started lifting weights and doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I lost over 80 pounds and finally felt like I could do more. After I had my second child, I started working out again. Then I decided I wanted to do a 5K. I trained and did it. Then I wanted to do a 10K. So, I did that, too. Then I met some DMers training for a half marathon, and I saw that people got cool medals. So, I thought, “Why not?” I completed three of them in 45 days and got my place in the Half Fanatic Club! But knee injuries plagued me after that. I was sidelined for months, stuck pool running. So, naturally, I organized a pool half marathon with DMer Larissa. We won our age group, and we have the medals to prove it!

IM:So, how did you move from being solely a runner to a triathlete?
NZ: After my injury, my sports medicine doctor suggested I try triathlons. So, in March 2010, I went to a bike shop, remarking to the guy helping me choose which bike to buy, “I’m a runner not a biker so I know I will hate this!” He just rolled his eyes. It makes me laugh just thinking about it today because my doctor and this bike shop guy were right on: Cycling is much easier on my body, but it also gives me speed. It’s fun to ride fast! (OK, fast for me.) It also takes me places, so it’s solid transportation, too. Biking also allows me to keep running. One of my favorite quotes is by John Bingham: “Everything changed the day I understood that if I was to become a runner, I would have to run with the body I had.”Because of my knee issues (which turned out to be arthritis and joint deterioration from being overweight for many years), to be a runner, I have to live with that reality. I have to make adjustments in how I run, how many miles I run, incorporating cross training and rest, etc. I’ll probably never be a fast runner and I am OK with that because I’d rather run pain free *[than]* over do it and not be able to lace up anymore.

IM:What are some of the best things about being a triathlete?
NZ:Both running and cycling give me the feeling of doing something good for myself, time to be with friends and have fun, or time to be alone in my thoughts or out enjoying the outdoors. I love long bike rides on hot days. You can see a lot of scenery and cool places biking, and I love the cool breeze you get while riding. Oh, and getting those biker tan lines! And to think I used to be a runner and not a biker! But the swimming component is not as fun for me. The lakes are creepy and icky (most of them); but (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I’d rather swim in open water then the pool. It just does not ruin my hair as much. I think maybe the algae even helps to add some shine to it!

IM:About your wheels, what race-specific features can you not live without?
NZ:I have a basic road bike, but I have a special water bottle: my Luna Chix bottle that I must have at all races. I also run with this bottle. I would feel naked not running with my bottle.

IM:Will you share some of your racing experiences?
NZ:My best race was probably my first triathlon, which I did with Fellow DMer Tory K. My family was there at the finish line, too. It was a very proud moment and it was unlike any race I had ever done. It had a creepy swim in a super foggy lake, and I swam it! I went on to do another ten triathlons after that. Of these, my next favorite was the Grand Columbian Olympic TRI. For months, I’d convinced myself that there was no way I could do the race and the hills. I proved myself wrong and it was the best feeling ever! The course was also really memorable, with the most spectacular views. I’m going back, and this time I’m ready to take on more hills. My worst race ever was my first half marathon. It was a small race, and I was alone with a monsoon raining down on me and lots of flooding all around. I was wet and miserable…but, I finished and signed up for another.

IM:You’re always stretching and growing and challenging yourself to aim higher. True to form, you’re planning to compete in your first Half Iron Man (1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike;
13.1 mile run) at the end of summer. How’s the training going?
NZ:This will be my first attempt at those distances all on the same day. I’m starting to lean more toward Olympic races; but, I won’t yet rule out the half. I have to be honest: It’s been difficult to juggle family, work and training. I’ve had some ups and downs with it. I’ve tried to get in at least three rides per week, three runs and two swims. I’m pleased with my biking and running; but, I need more work on the swimming element. Unfortunately, it’s been a challenge to get swim time in due to pool schedules colliding with my own personal and professional schedule. So, my goal is to concentrate more on open water swim leading up to my races. Right now, I’m focusing more time on biking because I feel that’s the area I can improve the most. I’m excited that race season is finally starting this week. I’ll get back in the mindset and start practicing long bricks.

IM:Do you follow a specific training plan?
NZ:I started out following a training plan by my tri-team and for the most part I stick with it, with small tweaks around my other daily responsibilities. For example, little league and school events for my kids have to fit in the plan. I use my lunch hour to run. Or I run when the kids go to bed. In the winter, I would jump on the trainer during naptime and after bedtime. You have to be flexible and it sometimes means you have to train really hard for three days and then less on other days. You do what you have to do. Luckily, I love those spinervals!

IM: Do you think your being so active influences your kids to do the same?
NZ:My seven-year old loves doing weights with me, and we run short distances. One day, I’d like to have him do a kids triathlon, if he wants to give it a go, so we’ll work on his training plan this summer. My son is very athletic. He loves baseball and running at school. Hopefully, my being active will help my kids remain active and let them see it’s a lifestyle that is fun and rewarding.

IM:Speaking of fun, you post some of the most colorful and fun photos I’ve ever seen on dailymile. You seem to really enjoy life and have so much positive energy to share with everyone. What’s your secret?
NZ: It is all about Cupcakes.

IM:See, you’re still bringing the fun to dailymile. And it seems like you’ve bonded and connected offline with so many you’ve met here online. What’s it like being a part of this community?
NZ: When I started planning and training for that first 5K, I started meeting people here at DM who were like me. They were starting out themselves, or they were what I wanted to someday be like. I find inspiration in watching people achieve their goals and overcome obstacles, and have been blessed with this site and the lifelong friends I’ve found here. I’ve met, done races with, train with so many DMers. It’s a community for everyone.

IM:Now that you’re one of the people newbie dailymilers get inspired by, what advice do you have for anyone wanting to give a triathlon a try?
NZ:Just go out there and TRI! Do it for fun. Do not fear the water. I was deathly afraid of lakes before all of this. If I can overcome that, so can you!

About Ilona M.

A Midwest-based digital journalist, author and 2011 dailymile team ambassador, Ilona loves trail running, forest hiking, road biking, open water swimming, free weights, meditation and yoga. Aiming to balance her love of motion with the sedentary and still pursuits of research and writing, she hearts dailymile because it keeps her moving, laughing, learning and growing.
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