Taylor Spivey studied architecture at University and ‘never in a million years’ thought she would end up becoming a professional triathlete! But after swimming through her degree and starting to dabble in triathlon, she showed she had talent beyond the pool. She won the USAT Collegiate National Championships and got onto the USA Triathlon National Team. 2019 was her best season to date, with two WTS podiums and a 4th place finish in the World Rankings. She heads into 2020 with high hopes of securing a spot on Team USA for Tokyo 2020.
*How she managed to combine swimming with architecture studies at University, with copious 4am starts
*About her mum teaching her how to swim and how she still makes pointers about her technique!
*The devastation of missing out on Olympics selection the first time, by 7s at the Tokyo test event
*Her “cardio brain” struggles when she is completely knackered
*How she and Vince Luis first got together, how they make the long distance work and why she can’t wait to explore Girona on a gravel bike
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INTERVIEW TIME LINE* (not the whole episode)
01.00 Talks about being on camp and the fatigue building up during training and mid-February being the first time she had taken an afternoon nap
01.45 admits she isn’t a morning person, which meant she had to be super motivated as an architecture student at University, when she had to be up at 0400 in order to swim ! “It was so hard and if I knew the amount of sleep I would not get, I don’t know if I would put myself through that again. But it made me a very regimented and gritty person and when I was out of season, in spring time, I let everything go. So it definitely helped my grades, my organisation skills and it made me a tougher person, so I’m glad I went through that, but now I am glad I am a full time athlete.
04.45 I miss being creative and that is something I would like to do when I am done with triathlon. But when I train as much as I do and as hard as I do and sometimes your brain just doesn’t work like it should. I’ve heard other athletes call it ‘cardio brain’ and your brain just doesn’t work sometimes, you forget things, like you bump into walls sometimes, so I don’t know if I would be the best creative person if I was doing something now outside of triathlon, but I do miss it and I want to use my brain again in the future. I would like to tie what I have been doing over the last few years with my creative passion and do something along the lines of product design.
6.30 Explains that she went to Uni to get a degree in Architecture – “I took a few years off swimming in Middle School and High School, so I had just started swimming two years before uni and I wasn’t as good as I needed to be to get a swimming scholarship but I was fortunate enough to be able to walk on to the swimming team when I got to Uni, but never in a million years would I have thought it would have evolved into me pursuing triathlon”
07.30 Triathlon runs in her family” My mom’s last Ironman was when she was pregnant with me and my parents met through triathlon and before I was born, it was a big part of their life. My mom was a professional long course triathlete and my dad was a really good age grouper, but they never talked to be much about triathlon. We just had really active, healthy lives and I came across triathlon on my own. One of the first races I did, which was Wildflower, was one of my Dad’s last races which is sort of ironic.
09.30 The attitude of her parents towards Taylor pursuing a career in professional sport.
My mom loves to swim and she teaches swimming to kids in our community, and that’s what she has done my entire life. She has a tonne of national medal and world records for age group, so her seeing my pursue triathlon has motivated her to be an athlete later on in life. I think she is my biggest fan, which is really cool because she loves sports and its nice to have a swim buddy when I get back home. My dad is the opposite, he loves sports and is a great cyclist and he is the reason I got my first road bike and I feel safe riding at home because of him and all of his ‘old man’ cycling friends as I like to call them. But he was much more reluctant in my pursuit of triathlon, because there is so much uncertainty in sports and coming from a non-running background and being so new to the sport and an older age compared to people that start when they are really young, he didn’t want me to pursue something that wasn’t going to help me out financially later on in life, but now that everything is coming together, he is a huge supporter of mine and I had to show him that I could do this and I could support myself. So it was a good motivator.
12.00 Taylor’s mum Bonnie taught her how to swim in their back garden.
“I’m sure I could swim before I could walk. I have never seen someone so in love with swimming and she taught me when I was little. She admits her mum still makes pointers about her technique.
12.45 Talks about training under Paolo Sousa, in a predominantly female group (11 females, 2 males) but how it works really well and how she is pre-race. “The week leading into a race, I like to do a lot of things on my own, with jet lag and travel and all of the factors that go into being in a new foreign place, so I think I perform better when I have that week to be alone and not really do the sessions in the group. But during the races themselves, we race a lot of the people we train with and we are definitely the biggest group in ITU racing! The hardest part of these races is when you see someone has had a bad day, especially when you know it’s not indicative of their training and you just have to sit down with them, tell them it’s ok to cry and to be sad for one day, then dust yourself off, get back up the next day and just keep doing what you are doing.
16.45 Did they have to do that for you after the Tokyo test event? “That was really tough but another American athlete I train with a lot (Chelsea Burns) unfortunately didn’t get a start, but she called me straight after and said I was really sad for you and it was really nice to have her there to try to cheer me up.”
17.45 – Talks about the ‘devastating’ final 200m of the Tokyo Test event which saw Taylor miss out on qualification by 7s. “I didn’t want to quit or give up in the middle of the race and I pushed through until the end and I thought I had it, but in the last 200m I lost it. At first I thought ‘wow, that’s my spot gone, I’m not on the team,’ but then my boyfriend (Vincent Luis) reminded me that there are two more spots and that anything can happen. I also felt horrible for Katie Zaferes who had crashed in that race but, after she got her mouth stitched up, we had a heart-to-heart and hopefully it will make us stronger this year. It definitely makes us want it a whole lot more and that makes us hard to beat.”
20.00 On Olympic selection both for the US and British teams. “They are equally, if not stronger than our US Women’s team which is crazy that in the top 30 of the ITU world rankings, over 10 of these athletes are from the US or Great Britain and that makes things extremely hard, but it makes us the best athletes we can be, it raises the bar and makes us rise to the occasion.”
22.00 We talk about the difference between sprint/Olympic and Super League Tri.
“Super League is very different, it’s really fun. Everyone is a lot more relaxed and chatting right up until the gun goes off and we are talking about the order of the races and that’s what I really love about Super League – there is so much to it, that if you make one mistake you’re out of it. We always go over the order of what’s next when we are on the start line and reminding each other. It really makes us have to think a lot more.
25.00 If Taylor gets nervous when she watches her boyfriend Vincent Luis racing.
“Yeah, I get nervous, but it depends on the races and what’s on the line. After a month or so of dating, he was racing the Grand Final in the Gold Coast and I just told him to be safe, but I heard over someone’s radio “Vincent Luis crash” and it was pretty horrible.
“At the Lausanne Grand Final, he was so close to winning the World Championship and I could see him suffering and I had never seen him suffering so much. I barely warmed up for my race as I was screaming at him and giving him as much information as I could, but luckily he did it and that was really impressive for me.
28.30 Talks about Vince being very meticulous “he does everything to a tee and everything is well thought out, even if I am asking him to cut up some onions in the kitchen, they are perfectly cut, but that’s what makes him the athlete he is.
30.00 Talks about how Vince and her got together when their camps overlapped in Flagstaff and how they have an “exciting project” to work on during a highly pressurised year – he recently bought a house in Girona.
33.00 Taylor talks about how she rests and relaxes following a question from a patreon. “As a triathlete, resting is what we are really horrible at! We are so ‘Type A’ that it is hard for us to take a step back and just relax. For me, it’s important to be around my team mate Chelsea Burns. We go on ‘adventure bike rides’ where we don’t look at our power. But if we are really relaxing, I just binge on Netflix, but if my brain is functioning a bit, then I like to read.”