Columnist's note: This is the eighth in a series of columns on local professional triathlete Katie Zaferes (née Katie Hursey) and her journey to becoming an Olympic-bound athlete.

SL: What has been the highlight of your pro career to date?


KZ: This past [2015] season and finishing on the podium in six WTS races.

SL: Walk us through a typical race day ...

KZ: If the race is in the afternoon I typically wake up in the morning and do a morning jog that's really slow with some strides at the end. Then I'll have oatmeal and a banana with peanut butter. Depending on the time of the race I will eat again about three hours before. I'm a big race day napper. Rather than think about the race I prefer to just fall asleep. Typically I'm one of the first to arrive [at the race venue], but I like it because having time calms me down; I don't mind finding my own space to listen to my iPod. I've already thought enough about the race so I use my music to [pump me up] and distract my brain from any doubtful thoughts I might have. I also try to smile a lot and not focus on my nervousness. I'm always nervous, but so is everyone else so I take deep breaths and exchange smiles and talk to anyone who is also willing to talk. About 90 minutes from the start I do another run with strides and then do a swim warm up. By the time I get called to line up my heart is beating fast so, [when] the horn sounds, jumping into the water to start the race seems calming.

SL: How many races to you tackle each year?

KZ: I typically do between eight and 10. This year I have nine on my schedule, all with varying importance.

SL: Do you have an "off" season? If so, what do you do during this time and how do your routines change?

KZ: I have about four weeks of down time between seasons. For two of those weeks I do absolutely nothing. This is when I visit my family, eat a lot and do some road trips. My routines change in that I have no routine! Which is nice, but actually this past year I ended up making myself sick. When I stop eating healthy, don't get enough sleep, and decide I can do lots of social activities my body isn't used to, it and doesn't really like it. Sometimes I find that lifestyle more draining than training full time.

SL: What is your favorite leg of the race? What is your strongest and weakest leg, and what steps do you take to improve in these areas?

KZ: My favorite leg of the race is the swim. As soon as I dive in I feel at ease. In training the swim is my least favorite, but I really enjoy open water. My strongest leg of the race is actually the entire thing put together. I don't really have one portion of the race where I am stronger than the other which I think has led to my success. I would say the weakest is probably my transitions and bike skills. I've concentrated a lot on improving my bike skills over the last few months.