For nearly 15 years, Sarah True has raced triathlon professionally, traveling the world and representing Team USA.
She came agonizingly close to medaling in the 2012 London Games, finishing fourth. A strong medal contender coming into Rio 2016, she was forced to withdraw from the race during the bike ride due to a quad injury.
That disappointment sent her spiraling into a struggle with depression she's publicly shared and sapped her love of triathlon. With help, True emerged from her depressive state with a gratitude for life and the sport of triathlon.
Re-energized, True transitioned from the draft-legal ITU circuit to IRONMAN. She raced her first full IRONMAN distance this summer, and is among the elite field of women competing in Saturday's IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii.
USA Triathlon caught up with True for an interview this summer to talk, among other topics, her transition to IRONMAN and newfound love for the sport.
USAT: How has the transition to long-course been?
True: The jump from Olympic-distance to half-(IRONMAN) isn’t that big. But when you double it again, that’s a big, big jump. My first one, IRONMAN Frankfurt, I’m halfway through the bike ride and I’m like, ‘I’ve never ridden my bike even close to this far before.’ And then I have to run a marathon off of it? I’d never run more than 18 miles in my life. What am I thinking?
USAT: That marathon probably seemed long.
True: Yeah and then you get out in the marathon and the first couple hours you’re like, oh this isn’t that bad. But then I reach the point where I’ve just run 19 miles. And I think, ‘I’ve never run 19 miles before.’ Then it’s like, 'I’ve just run 21 miles, I’ve never run 21 miles before.' The entire thing was all so new and so scary and wonderful at the same time.
USAT: It sounds like you’ve found a new love of the sport.
True: There was a few years where I didn’t love triathlon anymore. It was when I switched over to 70.3 last summer when I started to love the sport again. That love has only grown since doing the long course stuff. I have a whole new appreciation for the sport. It’s been such a wonderful thing.
USAT: What do you love about the sport?
True: (Racing an IRONMAN) for nine hours, I feel so much gratitude for the sport. This is something I choose to do. This is something I’m physically able to do. I think it’s a way for us to celebrate what our minds and bodies are capable of. I think that’s something that’s so tremendously beautiful.
USAT: What are some differences between ITU and IRONMAN?
True: One of the things about ITU is you get insulated in this little bubble. It’s a great community, but you don’t interact that much with the amateur segment of the sport. One of the pleasant things about moving to long-course is that I spend a lot more time at races interacting with age-groupers and I love that. It gives me a whole new perspective on the sport that I’d been missing for a few years. I can show up to registration at 70.3 and nobody knows who I am. I don’t care. We’re all just triathletes. We’re all doing the same race and same distance. That has brought back that pure joy for the sport that honestly I thought I had lost.
USAT: So you do most of your training alone now don’t you?
True: I’m a pretty social person and I really enjoyed having training partners in the past, but now, yes, it’s mostly by necessity. I live in rural New Hampshire, so it’s pretty quiet around here. We have like two (traffic) lights. So I either had to learn how to train alone or I wasn’t going to continue in the sport. One of things I like about training by yourself is you have to hold yourself accountable. It reinforces the goals I have every single day. I’m the one who gets me out the door. I’m the one who makes sure I do the workouts. Of course, the hard stuff is always easier if you have a partners, but I’m learning how to make it work.