Ten Questions With….Professional Triathlete Sara McLarty

If you weren’t around this blog in 2010 and 2011, I ran a really popular series that I affectionately called “Ten Questions With…”  This interview series included interviews with some of the top professional triathletes, a bunch of age groupers, and some industry folks (see here for the full list).  I totally enjoyed doing the interviews, and got to interact with some of the coolest folks around.

Well….I’ve decided to bring the series back.

And to kick off the series with a bang, I reached out to professional triathlete Sara McLarty.  Sara lives and trains in Clermont, FL – home to the National Training Center and one of the more popular independent iron-distance races in the Southeast.  She grew up swimming, and was an All-American at the University of Florida (go Gators!).

I could go on and on…..but why don’t we just get to the actual interview?  So here we go…..Ten Questions with Professional Triathlete Sara McLarty:

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Professional Triathlete Sara McLarty

TriMadness:  So congratulations on a solid race at St. Anthony’s last weekend.  You had an amazing swim and came out of the water in 19:10.  How did you feel about your race, in general?

Sara McLarty:  Thanks, but it was a terrible result for me and I’m not happy at all. However, I am going up to Knoxville this weekend for the rev3 race and hoping for a better race!

TM:  Like so many professional triathletes, you have a massive swimming background.  Is your typical race strategy to go out and try to bury folks on the swim?

SM:  Yes, now that I am competing mainly in non-drafting races, the goal is to go our hard in the swim to capitalize on my strength. Previously, in draft-legal races (Olympic style) it was futile to swim off the front so I would work together with other strong swimmers to build a lead on the bike. 

TM:  You were an all-American swimmer at the University of Florida and swam in the 2004 Olympic trials.  How would you compare & contrast the swim trials in ’04 with the process that USAT is using to build out the 2012 tri team?

SM:  Swimming is a much older sport and as a result, the Olympic trials process has been perfected. It is also a very controlled environment (pool, lane lines, etc) while triathlons vary from one race to another with many other elements (crashes, flat tires, hills, etc). I dont think any country has their triathlon Olympic trials completely perfected…and the USA is a perfect example of that!

TM:  You grew up in DeLand, FL, not terribly far from Daytona Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  Were you a beach bum as a kid?

SM:  To be honest,  no. I was not a beach bum because I’d already spend 10-15 hours in the pool during the week and had no desire to be anywhere near water when I wasn’t training. However, on the rare occasion that we had swim practice at the beach, I was thrilled!

TM:  Seems like even from a young age, you were competing in something.  Swimming.  Cross Country.  Track.  Triathlon.  Moreover, all of this was a family affair.  Your brother is a heck of an athlete in his own right, your mother swims, your father cycled.  Was there ever an element of competing against each other growing up?

SM:  Absolutely! I remember the race that I first beat my mom, and I remember the race that Dustin beat me for the first time! But it made for a great training environment because we did everything together.

TM:  I read that your family is a group of daredevils, so to speak.  Your father was a pilot for skydivers, and was a skydiver himself.  Did you get any of those daredevil genes?

SM:  I like to call it the ‘adventure bug’ and yes, I have it! I compete in adventure races in the off season, I’ve been hang gliding, zip lining, hot air balloon, running through alligator infested swamps, swimming with dolphins, etc. My goal is to try everything, especially when I travel for competitions, I try to find something cool in the area to experience.

TM:  Today, you still live in Florida, and work at the National Training Center in Clermont.  Tell us about what it’s like working there.

SM:  I did my first triathlon when I was 7 in Clermont. Almost 20 years later, I moved back to town and bought a house! Small world. It’s a great training location (in the winter…it gets a bit rough in the summer) and more and ore pro triathletes are moving to the area…so it’s easy to find training partners! Working at the NTC has been a great experience, I’m coaching the masters swimming team 3 mornings a week, and working one-on-one with people to improve their swim technique and efficiency.

TM:  A big part of your life is spent on coaching others to become a better swimmer.  If you were to give one swim tip to triathletes, what would it be?

SM:  Relax and stop over thinking. That is the main difference between and adult trying to learn how to see and a child. The child will just get in the water and listen to their body to find the simplest and easiest way to move thought the water. An adult will try to take all the info they have read, heard, seen, and been told…and try to THINK their way through the water. It doesnt work!

TM:  What’s more important in a swim – gliding & balance or a strong pull?

SM:  Nothing is ‘more important’ than another thing in swimming. The important part is doing it all in a relaxed and efficient way.

TM:  What is your biggest hobby outside of swimming, biking and running?

SM:  Currently, playing board games with my training partners and friends! It’s a great way to stay competitive but laugh and have fun the whole time!

Check out Sara’s website!  Or follow her on Twitter!

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