Wave of Enthusiasm
Standout Swimmer-Turned Triathlete Haley Chura Ready for Kona Despite Setback
This Saturday, before her second Ironman® World Championship as a pro triathlete, American Haley Chura will follow a proven routine.
Wake up really early. Breakfast. Coffee. Quiet time. Warm up. Then she’ll claim her spot for the start and look out over the water.
“I just remind myself, this is my home. The water is my natural habitat. I’m so comfortable in the water,” said Chura, 30, a standout swimmer who was part of a national championship team while competing for the University of Georgia. “I remind myself that spending a Saturday going as hard as I can in Kailua Bay is a pretty awesome way to start the day.”
Chura, who lives in Atlanta, has built on that swimming foundation to become one of America’s rising talents in long-course triathlon. In 2013 at Kona, she was the first pro woman out of the water. Since then she’s improved her bike and run to become a threat to win or place high in top events. In 2014, she won Ironman® Fortaleza in Brazil and this year placed sixth at the Ironman® Latin American Championships in Brazil. (In that race she had the fastest overall female swim time with 49:35 and was the first female off the bike.)
She skipped Kona last year in order to qualify earlier for the world championship for 2015. The goal was to focus more on training and recovery to arrive at Kona fully prepared. That plan was mostly derailed just three weeks ago when Chura was hit by a car during a training ride in Georgia. The resulting deep laceration near her left knee required internal and external stiches from a trauma surgeon.
The accident meant two weeks without swimming, cycling or running. Training was reduced to walking, stair climbing, stretch cords and medicine-ball tosses. She arrived in Kona on Monday, later than she wanted, because of the injury.
Yet Chura still radiates energy and optimism. She views this year’s race as a springboard to 2016. She talks enthusiastically about her training, equipment, and the support she’s received from her family, friends, coach and sponsors.
“This is how you pay them back because they believed in you. You go hard here and you do the best you can,” she said. “No matter what happens, this is the start line for me to 2016. I have this new anger inside of me. You cannot just mess with my plans and expect nothing to happen. I am going to come back and I am going to train harder than ever.”
Chura said her attitude toward competition is rooted in her experience as a Georgia Bulldog swimmer. “Just that you have confidence in yourself and you know that you put in the work…. It’s not pressure – this is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get out there and use your competitors to get the best out of yourself,” she said.
At Kona, Chura will race a SRAM Force 1 drivetrain with a Quarq power meter and a 52-tooth X-SYNC Chainring paired with an 11-32 cassette.
Chura, second from left front row, with her University of Georgia swimming teammates.
“I was a little skeptical at first because I loved climbing and I love riding with a higher cadence,” Chura said of making the switch to SRAM 1x™. “I put it through the ringer.” She trained in the mountains of north Georgia and in her native state of Montana. She even rode SRAM 1x in Yellowstone and always found the gear and cadence she wanted.
“When I thought about past races I realized I actually don’t spend that much time in the small ring,” she said. “It’s so quiet. I know I’m never going to drop my chain.”
Chura also appreciates the simplicity. In the heat of competition, she jokes about her IQ dropping because she’s so focused on the course and her race. With SRAM 1x, “it’s just harder or easier. That’s it. You don’t have to think, ‘oh, should I be in the small ring or should I be in the big ring,” she said. “It’s clink, clink and you get into gear.”
We wish Haley all the best in Kona and beyond. You can follow her on Twitter @HaleyChura.