GUYS. Only 5 more sleeps till the Ironman World Championships go down in Kona!

Are you excited? Because I certainly am. You may have caught my interview with pro triathlete Angela Naeth a couple of weeks ago, and I have yet another one to share with you, this time with one of my age group athlete inspirations, Steph Corker.

I first learned about Steph shortly after moving to Vancouver. I was introduced to her via this video one morning while riding by bike on the trainer in my living room.

As the video says, Steph’s first visit to Ironman Kona was in 2012, and she continued to persevere with her triathlon goals, hoping to make it there again. In 2014, she was awarded the Ironman All World Athlete Champion title for the female 30-34 age category, but that wasn’t quite enough to get her a ticket. She had to qualify at an Ironman event, and that’s exactly what happened this July at Ironman Canada in Whistler.

Steph Corker at Ironman Canada 2015

When I found out that Steph was also a Vancouverite who had moved here from Ontario, and that she teaches spin classes at a local studio, I HAD to meet her. Since getting into triathlon and learning what “real” cycling feels like, it’s really made me change the way I think about indoor cycling as an instructor. I wanted to see how Steph taught a class, so I went for a ride at Method with her and a bunch of other sweaty spinning enthusiasts.

Spin class gear

I tried not to fangirl too hard when I met Steph before the class, and loved every minute of her 1-hour ride that morning. She’s now in Hawaii getting ready for Saturday, and was gracious enough to do a pre-race interview with me. Whether you’re a triathlete or not, prepare for a megadose of inspiration!

Hawaii Sunset

Firstly, major congrats on qualifying for Kona this year! Looking back on the 2015 race season, what have been some of the biggest highlights for you?

I rented a cabin in Whistler with my training partner in crime, Mikey P to spend as much time on the IM Canada course as possible. We had several rides of “the climb” – from Pemberton to Whistler, that were real character builders. Having those miles in the bank before the race this year was a great confidence booster. We also had the sweet pleasure of hosting pros Jeff Symonds, Matt Lieto and their ladies. Hanging with such high caliber human beings feels really special!

Beyond the fun of training (heck, I could tell you that every weekend was a highlight!), taking the age groups win at Whistler was pretty special. My Bro, my man, my coach and heaps of awesome friends were all there. They’ve been there for the journey all along.

And thirdly, 4 weeks after Whistler at Ironman Muskoka, I finished 3rd in my age group and punched a ticket to IM Hawaii for 2016. I guess you can say that it’s been a pretty awesome year!

It definitely has! Speaking of Ironman Canada, despite the gnarly, wet, cold, and rather miserable conditions, you still came out on top in your age group. As a spectator, I remember watching many athletes drop out of that race. I’m sure that fighting through it all, as well as the inherent battle of the Ironman distance itself, could have taken the mind to some pretty dark places. Were there any especially tough mental spots in that race, and if so, how did you pull yourself out of them?

Absolutely! I spent the first 60km on the bike with my rear brake engaged on my wheel. So despite freezing cold temperatures, my knees were crushed trying to push through the resistance. I finally stopped and questioned pulling out of the race altogether, but instead, decided to release my rear brake completely and really go for it. Despite the frigid temperatures, I knew it was my only shot at Kona this year…and I gave it my very best right across the finish line. Not giving up at kilometer 60 was definitely worth it.

Steph Corker at Ironman Canada 2015

You’ve finished 12 Ironmans and qualified for Kona 3 times, but you haven’t always been a triathlete. What made you decide to leave your earlier pursuits as a competitive swimmer and jump into triathlon?

I moved west from Ontario 12 years ago and quickly got drunk on the Vancouver water. Everyone was riding their bike around Stanley Park and running on the seawall and I wanted to join in! Months later I bought my first tri bike, signed up for a half marathon and did the UBC triathlon. I guess you could say the rest is history. What really got me into Ironman was running the Knee Knacker (a 50km trail race from West Van to Deep Cove). After running for more than 6hrs, I decided that I was surely half way through an Ironman so signed up for Penticton the following summer. I think the quest to become a stronger cyclist and a faster runner has kept the sport of triathlon a constant challenge for me. A challenge I have absolutely fallen in love with!

Which of the 3 disciplines do you feel you’re strongest in?

Well, I guess I’d have to say the swim, however that hardly feels like a strength when it is such a short portion of the day. I must admit that I’ve worked really (really really!) hard at my run over the last couple of years and I’m most proud of my ability to be tough at mile 20 of that marathon. So even if I might not be the fastest, in my mind, I’m the strongest with 6miles to go!

Steph Corker

You’re coached by Ironman Champion Jasper Blake, and you’re a coach yourself with B78. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see amateur long-distance triathletes making, and what solutions would you suggest instead?

Oh, great question! I think there is wide range of amateur long-distance triathletes – those who want to finish and those who want to race for a ticket to Kona. The reality is that those two outcomes require very different preparation these days as the amateur field is mighty stacked! That being said, I do think the nature of triathletes being triple-A type personalities can often mean they get caught up in technology, equipment and hours in a training log.

Steph Corker at Ironman Canada 2015

Regardless of whether or not you are going for an AG win or finish-before-midnight, I think the biggest mistake is that we take ourselves too seriously. We pour hours of time, sweat and dollars into a race, we see training as sacrifice, and we forget that racing is such a gift! We forget to have FUN! I feel insanely blessed to have the world’s greatest training partner-in-crime, Mikey P who insists on ensuring that every single workout is a good time. My coach Jasper and I work together as much on my mental state of happiness as we do on my leg turnover. Find your happy, run on purpose, and sweat only the stuff that matters!

What are your top 3 unexpected training essentials?

First, Saje products. That entire product line is some kind of magic! I pack Pain Release every where I go, Peppermint Halo lives in my car (to manage road rage when I’m late for swim practice!) and Arrive Alive Jet Lag + Travel Mist is my favorite to bring on any flight. Not to mention, the muscle rub is a delight and everyone should buy the coolest trinket ever: The Relax-o-Ring! (google it – it’s amazing!)

Saje products

Second, coconut oil – always organic. I cook with it. I moisturize my body with it  cause to me I always smell like aloha, and I “oil pull” every morning to clean my mouth – especially when I’ve been consuming more gels than real food in a training day.

Third, Mikey P – I’ve said it before, but you really can’t buy a training buddy like this guy! I’ve watched him go from his first day on the bike to an absolute power house who has to wait for me to catch up. We swim, we bike, we run….we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. He’s a champ!

Not only are you a rockstar triathlete, but you also teach spin classes at Method and are the driving force behind Steph Corker Inc, a company that works with organizations who care about their health, happiness, and their bottom line. Being your own boss comes with plenty of risks, but in my opinion, it’s also super admirable. What were you doing before you founded Steph Corker Inc, and what factors gave you the courage to branch out on your own?

I was the Director Global Recruitment + Employee Brand at lululemon athletica for 5 years. It was an organization that I was deeply passionate about and still look back on with fond memories, big goals and best friends. However, times changed and it was time for me to move on. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what was going to be next…I thought I’d race just one more Ironman and then figure it out. Well, as luck or fate would have it, within 2 weeks of leaving lululemon, I had incorporated my business and quickly became addicted to the hustle. Only a few sleepless nights and 6 Ironman finish lines later, I’d say that my first year in business has been a raging success!

Hawaii Sunset

How do you balance running your business with your triathlon training schedule, as well as relationships and other areas of life that are important to you?

A very well organized calendar. I’m positively obsessed with planning my weeks – I know on Sunday what time I need to wake up at each day to get my workouts in. I created some “Creative Habits” for the flow of my life which also compliment my rather rigid training regime. For example, habits like a weekly date night, family dinner and a new recipe ensure that I make time for the people I love and am fuelling our lives/bodies with goodness. Cooking feels like my version of art! I also ensure I’m at my desk by 9AM every day. I’m relentless about writing out to-do lists and equally focused with who I spend my time with. Now if I could just figure out when to sleep…..

Steph Corker

Here on Eat Spin Run Repeat, goal settingvision boarding, and self-growth are discussed a lot. I know you’re also a big fan of goal setting and enjoying the journey. What are 3 things you’ve learned about in your quest for Kona?

  1. Instant gratification is only worth while when making your Nespresso. Everything else is worth the hard work, grit and gumption.
  2. Set big hairy goals. If they really matter, you will do whatever it takes to make them happen. (And hint: giving up is not nearly as gratifying as sticking with it!)
  3. Find your tribe. I’ve got the coolest crew – athletes and hustlers; best friends and training buddies. These people matter when it is dark and rainy and you’ve got a track run to hammer out. And the one common denominator: we all set audacious goals and are relentless about chasing them. #inspiringhumanbeings

Steph Corker at Ironman Canada 2015

If you could give one piece of advice to women looking to chase after their dreams, whether they pertain to triathlon, starting a business, or pursuing any other passion, what would it be?

Perhaps cliché, but START TODAY! I spent 3 years and did 7 Ironmans in an attempt to get back to the Big Island. I think if I knew that is what it was going to take, I might not have started, let alone kept going. And now, I will have the sheer delight of starting my 13th Ironman race in the waters of Kona. It’s a total dream come true!

As they say, the time will pass anyway. I see no difference between how you chase your athletic pursuits to how you chase your professional pursuits. Elizabeth Gilbert said it best: “the only thing between you and the life you love is fear”. Who wants to live a fearless life anyway? It’s more fun out on the skinny branches. ?

Do what you love, love what you do

Ok, how awesome is she!?!

If you’d like to learn more about Steph, you can hop over to her website, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter. And if you don’t mind, why not send her a quick tweet to wish her good luck? I’ve written one for ya:

Now over to you! Tell me…

  • Who is one of the most inspiring people you personally know? What do you admire most about them?