Monica Stratton has a diverse athletic background, but triathlon has become her passion. She balances her time between a physically demanding job, caring for her father, and finding the time to train. The Sacramento native now calls San Diego home and is coached by D3 Coach Julie Dunkle. Monica is mostly focused on long course racing and has already competed in several 70.3 races this year and has Ironman Canada still to come.
We asked Monica a few questions to learn more about her background, how she manages her time, and what drives her to compete.
D3: Can you give us a brief history of your sporting background and how you got started in the sport?
Monica: My background in sports could not be more different than triathlon. I started playing golf at a young age and started to play competitively at age 11. I played through High School and earned a college scholarship were our team was number two in the nation and I was an All American. I have been very fortunate I had the opportunity to play all over the country and four trips to Japan. After college, I played three years professionally and soon found out that it was not for me and decided to become a PGA Professional and work at a golf course. Golf was my main sport through high school and college, but I did get very involved in Martial Arts at age 15. Martial Arts was a great addition to playing golf in my athletic development. I stopped training after college. I earned a third degree Black Belt in Kenpo and first degree in Tae Kwon Do.
I stumbled into triathlon. In 2011, I started running with a friend that wanted to run a half marathon. We were not very fast, but we did run several races in a year. My training partner started not to be able to run because of her back so we switched to biking. I hated biking it hurt my butt and my back, it was really hard for me. Then my training partner could not bike anymore, so I was trying to decide what I should do next. I saw the Ironman World Championships on T.V. and did not know anyone who raced triathlons. I went to our local YMCA to see if I could swim as I had taken a few classes in college. I went to a Master’s swim and the rest is history. I participated in my first triathlon in June 2012 at the San Diego International Triathlon and did an Olympic distance race a few months later. I found my people and have never looked back. Triathletes are so different than what I know, and I love it.
D3: What drives you to compete and continue to improve yourself in the sport?
Monica: Coming from a golf background I never thought of myself as an athlete and competing in triathlon makes me feel athletic. I want to see how good I can be so I keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone
D3: Julie mentioned that you are a golf pro and on your feet 8 to 9 hours a day and take care of your father. How do you manage the physical nature of your job and how do you manage the day in order to get quality workouts in?
Monica: My schedule is crazy, it makes me tired just thinking about it. I am very fortunate that I am able to have two days off from work not back to back. I currently have Thursdays and Saturdays off which gives me two long training days with a rest day in between. The average day: the alarm goes off at 4:37, and I start training at 5 am to 7:30 or a bit later depending on what I am doing. I teach golf lessons from 8 am to 10 am, then I start work as the Head Professional at a very busy driving range. I stand all day which makes my legs really tired so after work, training is not an option. The hardest part of my job is that I am with customers all day which makes it extremely difficult to eat. I am constantly drinking protein smoothies or any quick snacks. Julie has a great understanding of the physical strain on my body and she limits my workouts such as easy spins or easy runs knowing that I am walking around all day. My dad is turning 85 this year and I am very happy that we are close. I try to spend my days off after training with him and helping him as I can.
D3: What has been your biggest challenge that you have overcome or greatest goal you have achieved?
Monica: I am a work in progress.
D3: Julie also pointed out that you are an excellent teammate who always encourages others. What is it about being on Team D3 that you like the most?
Monica: Julie has done a phenomenal job bringing us all together for workouts. On a weekly basis, we run hill repeats and Julie coaches masters once a week that we all try to attend. We truly all care about each other and it really starts with our leader.
D3: How has your season progressed this year and what do you still have on the race calendar that you are working towards?
Monica: I am really happy with how my season is progressing. I started with 70.3 Oceanside, St George, Coeur D’ Alene then Ironman Canada. Every race I am learning more and more about myself and racing. I am extremely excited about Ironman Canada the bike course is exactly what I love, lots of climbing. The course is so different than most IRONMAN courses with how hilly it is. I don't have a time in my head, but if I stick to the plan that Julie and I have, I'll have a good day.
D3: What is the most important or surprising thing you've learned so far?
Monica: I am learning that it takes a great deal of focus to race. You have to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of yourself.
D3: Last, what is your favorite/toughest workout that Coach Julie gives you?
Monica: There are so many workouts it is hard to pick one. My favorite workout challenge is when she does the 100/100 swim. The toughest workout by far is when we did the IM race simulation. The 9:30 workout definitely took it out of me. I was so happy that I had Julie and other D3 athletes to suffer with me.