I’ve gotten to know Mel Hauschildt and her husband Jared (also her coach) fairly well–we tend to frequent the same Asia races over the winter months, plus the Hauschildts have spent the past few summers in Boulder. This year their return to Boulder (from their home in Australia) was delayed, so we were way overdue for a catch up. When Hauschildt invited me to stop by, saying she had baked a “few” cookies [see photo]–well, I’m no fool. I jumped at the chance to sample the goodies, as well as to interview the two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion. During the course of our chat–while wiping stray cookie crumbs from my chin–I learned a few new facts about my fast-running friend:
- Hauschildt has an interesting take on her first and only Ironman experience (Ironman Australia, which she won). She’s not yet a fan of the full distance (OK, that’s an understatement)–and though Kona looms on her 2014 race calendar, she’s keeping it off her mental radar for the moment.
- Hauschildt’s long run pace is probably equal to my best ever single mile pace. Or, even faster.
- The girl can bake. There’s no scientific method to her cookie-making magic; she simply started with the recipe from the Ghiradelli dark chocolate chip package and reduced both the sugar and butter by “at least half.” Boy, were they good! I could spend an entire column extolling the virtues of Hauschildt’s culinary experiement–how the cookies contained an ideal balance of chewy-meets-crumbly texture and the perfect punctuation of chocolately sweetness–but I’d be slacking (as well as snacking) on the job. Thus, on to the interview:
Triathlete.com: Welcome back to Boulder–it’s been awhile! What things do you miss most when you’re away from Colorado?
MH: The trails and the riding. We’ve just been back a few weeks and already I’ve done three long rides. I love the rides here–no stopping for nearly seven hours! And all the running trails–we ran up at Rollinsville this morning and it was so nice. Also we seem to not have as many commitments when we’re here. We have a bit more free time to just focus and relax.
Triathlete.com: So far 2014 is looking a lot like your 2011 season, when you went undefeated. You’ve only surrendered the top podium step once, at Vineman to Meredith Kessler. Do you view her as your top competition going to the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont-Tremblant? Who else are you keeping a keen eye on?
MH: I haven’t really looked at the start list–Jared does that for me and tells me the day before the race. But I think the ITU girls will be tough to beat. They’re all going to come out of the swim together and if they do work together it’s going to be tough.
Jared [teasing]: Name one of them that’s racing–the ITU girls.
MH: There are lots of them, aren’t there? I mean don’t know–like I said, I don’t look at the start lists! But last year there were three or four, and I think there may be more this year. And yes, of course Meredith will be strong and I’m sure there will be a few others as well. But leading into a race I don’t really look at who else is racing. I just focus on what I’m doing.
Triathlete.com: Next up you’re racing Ironman 70.3 Timberman, Hy-Vee, 70.3 Worlds and then Kona–assuming you accepted the invite?
MH: Yes, I did.
Triathlete.com: Did you sort of wince when you were doing so, knowing that you would have to go the full 140.6 distance again?
MH: Yes! When I got the email I showed Jared and I said, “I’ve got a few weeks to decide.” He was like, “Just say yes! Say yes but decide later, after you’ve done a few weeks of iron-distance training.” The first one wasn’t a great experience. Right now Mont-Temblant is the main thing and Hy-Vee is second. I’d really like to win Hy-Vee as well, and I think if I can win there, then that will be ticked off and I’ll be ready to move up. But if I commit fully to Ironman now, it’s going to be so hard to go back to 5150, and that race [Hy-Vee] is a huge goal. So I’ll do Hy-Vee and Mont-Tremblant, and then give me a couple days and I’ll get thinking about Kona.
Triathlete.com: But won’t you need to start putting in bigger miles?
MH: Well, yeah. I guess we are kind of thinking about it–we ran two hours this morning and I usually only run 90 minutes. And I’ve done two 200km rides this weekend and last weekend. So we are doing a bit more, but we’re doing everything at half-Ironman pace or faster, thinking about Mont-Tremblant and Hy-Vee.
Jared: She just can’t slow down enough to go longer. She does her runs at ridiculous paces!
Triathlete.com: Assuming you do go to Kona, will your first year there simply be an experience-builder, or will you try to go with the preparation and confidence to really do well?
MH: I’ve never been on a start line without thinking: I want to win this. So I’m obviously going to try and win it, but at the moment I’m just not thinking about it at all. It’s a bit scary!
Triathlete.com: Ironman Australia was obviously a positive race in that you won, but you said that it wasn’t a particularly great experience. What about it did you find so tough?
MH: I guess I didn’t think t was going to be that hard! I had a pretty good swim, but on the bike I just had nothing right from the start. I don’t know what happened. Even in the morning I couldn’t really keep my food in, which is not usual for me. And it was freezing and I don’t do well in cold. I never warmed up–when I got to the run my feet were still frozen. So I don’t know if it was that or if I just had an off day, but after the bike I was hoping to just go back to T2 and not to do the run. The volunteers were pushing me out the door and I was like, “No, I’m not ready to go yet!” I just sat there eating my Mars Bar. The volunteers were probably thinking: She’s in second, that’s pretty decent! Why isn’t she going anywhere? But no, I just ate my Mars Bar. Eventually I looked down and my shoes were on me and everything was ready, so I thought: I guess I’ll go now. I’ll just jog. I’ll jog until I see Jared and then I’ll pull off. But it’s hard because there are people everywhere and I was still in second place and so thoughts started going through my head like: I just need to finish and I’ll stamp my spot. I can decide on Kona later–as if I’m ever going to do this again! But I’ll stamp my spot, just in case. That’s what kept me going, but it wasn’t pleasant at all. I was walking through some of the aid stations and the age groupers were like, “Are you OK? Can I do anything for you?” They’re so friendly! But I was thinking: What? Concentrate on your own race! I just want to walk!
I passed Lisa [Marangon] when she was walking and I thought: She’s walk/jogging, so I can walk/jog. I actually went past her pretty quick because I needed a portaloo–I think I stopped five times–so I was in there and I thought: You’re in the lead now. You can’t just stay in here. You’ve got to get out. I kept walk/jogging, and I thought: If she catches back up to me, I’ll just walk/jog with her and then we can sprint the last 100! That was my plan, but then with three kilometers to go I was walking through an aid station and really taking my time, chatting to an age grouper, and I saw Jared down the road yelling, “She’s catching you! You’ve only got a minute lead! Go!” So I thought: OK, I better get going! It was quite an experience.
Triathlete.com: Had you ever trained for or run a full marathon prior to the race?
MH: No. After Abu Dhabi [Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, which Hauschildt won on March 15] I had two full weeks off running. I’d had a niggle for ages, so I just wanted to get through Abu Dhabi and then take a break. There was no intention to do Ironman Australia [seven weeks later]. I had a break to get right and then I started walk/jogging in training. We were originally planning to go to Europe, but I kind of didn’t want to go. We had just moved to Noosa and we were really happy and I didn’t want to pack bags and go traveling again already. I just wanted to stay home a bit longer. So Jared said, “How about you just go race Ironman and validate?” I said, “Give me a few days to think about it,” and he said, “You’ve got until tomorrow night to enter.” So the next day I said, “OK, I’ll do it.” We had three weeks to the race at that point and he wrote out my plan. Three days out it said “1:40” and I asked him, “What does that mean?” He said, “An hour forty run.” I was like: What? I’d just been doing minute jogs! But we smashed it for two and a half weeks and gave it a go. I just didn’t want to go to Europe, so I thought: Nine, nine and a half hours of pain, and then I can stay home! I am getting a bit better at the endurance stuff though–our two-hour run this morning wasn’t too bad.