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Sarah True on 70.3, Coffee and Kona

Updated: Nov 10, 2018

Chelsea Sodaro, a Transition Four member professional athlete, shares a sincere interview with Olympian and 70.3 champion, Sarah True. They discuss Sarah’s transition to 70.3, training for Kona, a budding coffee business, Sarah’s battle with depression and more. Special thanks to Sarah True for sharing with us.

Photo by Ansel Dickey

Sarah True is an athlete that I’ve long admired. I’ve been following her career well before I became a triathlete myself. As a new fan of triathlon back in 2015, I watched Sarah qualify for her second Olympic team and cheered her on from afar as she built up for the games.

After leaving ITU racing for non-draft in 2017, Sarah has become one of the world’s best in long course triathlon, taking an impressive 2nd place at the European Championships in Frankfurt earlier this year. She’s also one of the kindest, and most honest pro’s that I have had the pleasure to meet. What I admire about Sarah is her aggressive, relentless style on the race course that she so gracefully pairs with her quest to champion women in sport.

Sarah is an athlete that young girls in sport should look to as a role model — an athlete that does things the right way, and for the right reasons.

Sarah was gracious in sharing her recent experience of transitioning from draft legal racing to long course. She gave me a sneak peak into her training for Kona and her goals for the Ironman World Championships. Sarah talked about the joys and challenges of running her small business, linden & true coffee, and how she balances her business responsibilities with training and competing as a pro athlete. In her typical fashion, Sarah was real and honest about challenges that she’s faced along the way and how she hopes to contribute more to the triathlon community than just race results.

We couldn’t be more proud to feature Sarah here on T4. Her love of the sport is something that we admire and work to embody through our own triathlon journeys. WE share her excitement on her 2nd place at Ironman Frankfurt, and her new coffee venture. There’s no doubt we’ll be cheering her on in Kona come October 13th!

Transition Four: How are you feeling coming off of Frankfurt? How have you experienced the recovery process as compared to ITU and 70.3?

Sarah True: More than anything, I’m pretty relieved after Frankfurt. There are so many variables with long-course racing and I know how fortunate I was to avoid any major hitches in my first attempt at the distance. I had nightmares before the race of having to walk half the marathon or stop at every port a potty. Thankfully I was okay.

Recovery-wise, we took a couple of weeks before diving back into training. For the first couple of days following Frankfurt, stairs were my arch nemesis. As that initial soreness passed, the physical part of recovery wasn’t as bad as I might have feared. I think the biggest difference in recovery is that the IM build and race itself requires a ton of mental and emotional energy and I was a bit mentally fried afterwards. Taking a couple of easy weeks was good to focus on coffee stuff, family and recharge before a big block. 

T4: Have you started your Kona build? What does your training look like right now? 

ST: Once I bounced back from Frankfurt, I started to get back into more 70.3 training. We wanted to get a layer of intensity in before layering on a month of higher volume in September. Training was pretty standard 70.3 stuff- some short speed, moderate volume and pretty solid strength and threshold work. Nothing fancy, but just nudging the bar up from my pre-Frankfurt fitness.

"...I stopped loving being a short-course athlete years ago. Last year I felt like I was at a crossroads..."

T4: You are already a world-class, decorated short course athlete. Why take on Ironman?

ST: I love triathlon and I love the ITU format, but I stopped loving being a short-course athlete years ago. Last year I felt like I was at a crossroads; either I would find a new home in non-draft or I’d call it a day in the sport I love and be proud of what I’d accomplished. 

I’ve enjoyed the long-course world more than I expected. It’s given me a newfound love and appreciation for triathlon and for the process of training. Last October, the desire to qualify for Kona hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my growth as an athlete or person. I know how cheesy it sounds, but it’s changed my life.

T4: What are your goals for Kona? 

ST: I’ve watched too many super fit, highly prepared athletes struggle in Kona to be able to have any real outcome goals. If you don’t approach the race and the distance with humility and respect, you’re insane. My goal is to show up on the start line confident in my preparation and feeling ready to take advantage of whatever the day brings. I know how vague that sounds, but great preparation and good luck should put me in a good position to have a race that will make me proud.

T4: You recently launched Coffee by LT with your husband, Ben, and the Linden’s over Boston Marathon weekend. Did you always envision yourself as a business owner?

ST: Ben has always wanted to be a coffee roaster, but I wasn’t certain whether that would be interesting to me. Starting a business has been more rewarding and interesting than I expected. The skill set needed to be a successful athlete overlap with entrepreneurship and I’ve really enjoyed acquiring some new skills. Plus, we can run our business in sweatpants.

Photo by Ansel Dickey

T4: What is your role at Coffee By LT? 

ST: We’re still in our infancy as a company, so we’re gradually finding our roles. I’ve been the primary design and packaging person and help with everything minus the roasting itself. I’m also Ben’s toughest taste tester and take great pleasure in that role. 

"The upside of having athlete business partners is we all understand the demands of training and racing."

T4: How have you enjoyed being in business with Ben and the Linden’s? How do you guys manage all of your training/racing schedules with the business?

ST: The biggest challenge is that the Lindens are located in Michigan and we’re in New Hamshire. They’re great — hardworking, motivated and fun. We went into this knowing that our ability to chip in would vary based on our schedules. The upside of having athlete business partners is we all understand the demands of training and racing. We’re still really small, so it’s easy to manage.

T4: Is the business something that you want to continue to pursue after triathlon? 

ST: Until we started linden & true, I wasn’t sure if business would be something that I’d be interested in for the future. But it’s fascinating! There are so many facets to explore and develop. Like many athletes, I love learning, I’m self-motivated and I struggle with the idea of a standard 9-5. Business is a good fit. The downside is that it could easily take over your life, but we’ll figure out the balance with time. 

T4: How do you balance owning a business and training at such a high level? Do they complement each other or has it been a challenge to manage both?

ST: It has taken a little bit of time to find the balance, but we’re finding our groove. The hardest period so far was the month after Des won Boston. We went from a super casual start up to a legit business in a short period of time and it was stressful. Both Ben and I were fried, we ended up sick and it took a toll on our racing for the next month. But we learned a bunch and got things up to speed. Ben has been a rock star with the business and I’m just trying to help when I can fit it in with IM training. Our evening Netflix streaming has been replaced with business, but it’s pretty cool bonding over building a coffee company and knowing that we’re learning new skills.

...I was given the message that something was “wrong” with me. But I just needed to have a skill set that helped me manage the tough times...

T4: You recently came out with an Instagram post (that was later covered by Brad Stulberg for Outside) about your battle with depression. What prompted you to go public? What has the response been like from the athletic community and the triathlon world?  

ST: Over the past few years, we’ve seen more athletes talk openly about their experience with depression and it’s heartening to see. This isn’t an athlete issue, it’s a human issue. Despite being so pervasive, mental health issues can be incredibly isolating and being part of the conversation helps create support, even with people we don’t know.

I wanted to add my voice to the chorus because I saw that, in spite of athletes talking about their experiences, there was a dearth of practical information about how to balance sport and depression. For too much of my career, I was given the message that something was “wrong” with me. But I just needed to have a skill set that helped me manage the tough times and that the resources (including the right coach). I learned that skill set the hard way, but if sharing it can help another athlete, it’s worth making myself publicly vulnerable. 

The reception has been better than I anticipated. As long as people ask about it, I feel as though it’s my duty to speak openly about my experience. I don’t care if someone might judge or label me; I care about giving someone struggling with depression some hope. Whether it’s in sport or any other arena, you can perform at a high level with depression as long as you have skills and support. 

Finally, I have to mention what Sarah had to say about Transition Four:

“What I appreciate about Transition Four is that it celebrates that there are different ways to be successful in this sport. There’s this cultivated ‘sameness’ about the social media presence of many professional triathletes and I think it’s important to dispel the idea that you have to follow a certain formula to be good. It’s possible to have interests outside of sport, to live different places, to be authentic and still have a career. By breaking down the stereotype of the scripted pro triathlete, I think we empower other athletes to figure out what works for them, not trying to copy what works for others.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Thanks again Sarah, and good luck in Kona!

Transition Four was created with one purpose: to spread excitement about Triathlon and give back to the culture of the sport. It’s part production company, part content site, part collection of like-minded individuals. Our member pros want to share and emphasize the experiences that can be had swimming, biking, and running, and we want to help others do the same. Our dream is that Transition Four will stand for a love of the sport and a place for triathletes to go when they need some inspiration, some positive energy, or just an outlet to return that same energy to others.

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