More: Are you normally a morning person?
MP: I am, thank God. I’m definitely not a night person anymore, but it’s still rough to hear your alarm at five in the morning and have to get up and run 10 miles.
More: What was the hardest part of training this time around?
MP: The hardest thing for me in general is riding my bike outside. I have a Spin bike in my house, and I’m perfectly comfortable on that. I’m really a chicken. I learned to ride a bike when I was at Stanford, in college. I didn’t ride when I was little. So for me, that’s the hardest part. It’s actually scary to me, which sounds crazy. It’s equipment; I don’t really like equipment. I will run and swim until the end of time, but I don’t like having equipment.
More: What else did you struggle with when you were training?
MP: The hardest part of all this is finding the time. It sounds like a cliché because everyone says that, but it’s the truth. It’s really hard. The truth is, I didn’t always get in two hours of perfect workouts every day; sometimes my daughter would wake up early, and I would only get in half an hour.
Another lesson I learned was to go easy on myself because I’m such a little overachiever. If I make a plan, I’m going to keep the plan, and I’m going to do what I said I’m going to do. But I learned that when you don’t, that’s OK, too. I think there was some moment during the past six months that I said, “Oh, I stopped beating myself up! How did that happen?” I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s age, wisdom or having a child.
More: Did you train by yourself?
MP: I mostly trained by myself. For me, it’s kind of a meditation. It’s a good way to kind of turn off my brain, because you can’t really think when you’re swimming, biking or running.
More: Did you work with a trainer?
MP: I worked with a guy who did an online training. There are tons of online training programs. I also used a book called "The Woman Triathlete" by Christina Gandolfo.
What’s surprising about training is that it’s a lot more about recovery than it is necessarily about pushing yourself. A lot of people train too hard. It’s important to let your body recover.
More: Would you recommend these training sources for new triathlon racers?
MP: Yes, especially for women, because it’s difficult. I had a fear that I would bulk up or lose my boobs.
I would say a sprint distance triathlon doable for anyone with six months worth of training. It’s such a fun thing to do. It’s built-in cross-training. You’re not doing the same thing or hammering your body every day. As a woman, I don’t want to give the message to my little girl that I’m exercising to be skinny. I love that she says that mama’s training to be fast and do her race. To me, it’s such a better message to give her. It’s also very fun to have this arbitrary little goal. It makes exercise not exercise.
More: Is training something you look forward to?
MP: Once I get into it, yes. I will also tell you that I TiVo Top Chef and whatever else on my treadmill. That’s the only place I watch TV—when I’m running.
More: Did your eating habits change when you started training?
MP: They didn’t. When I first started doing triathlons, I thought you could eat whatever you wanted to, and I wondered, “Why am I gaining weight when I’m training so much?” I don’t eat meat; I’m a vegetarian. I always eat tons of vegetables, fruits and grains, and I’m pretty conscious about what I eat, but I didn’t really eat more of anything. They call it train-gain, by the way. It’s like, you’re working out, but you’re not really burning an extra 20,000 calories. You can’t really go to Baskin-Robbins.