August 2016 - Athlete Profile
Husband: Ben True
Residence: West Lebanon, N.H.; raised in Cooperstown
Pet: Otzi, a husky mix, who is sponsored by Nulo Pet Food
Primary Sport: Triathlon
Secondary Sports: Skiing, Mountain Biking, Hiking
Plan for Rio Olympics: “Race as if I am a medal contender”
By Kristen Hislop
Of the Olympics, Bill Bowman (American track coach and co-founder of Nike) said, “Victory is in having done your best. If you’ve done your best, you’ve won.” True enough, but when you are out of the medals by a mere ten seconds it definitely lights a fire in an athlete’s heart and body. Add in that if you qualify again you have the chance to participate in the same games as your husband and fuel is added to the fire. This is what was out in front of Sarah True after the 2012 Games in London. Being so close to the podium in triathlon ‘reframed’ the way she saw herself as an athlete.
Sarah (Groff) True was born in Hanover, N.H., and raised in Cooperstown, where her parents still reside. She is the youngest of three siblings. Her brother, Adam Groff, is an MD/MBA in New Hampshire and her sister, Lauren Groff, is an accomplished fiction author. Sarah chose her own path in academics and athletics excelling as both a runner and swimmer in high school. Jessie Ravage, Cooperstown High School cross country coach, pulled Sarah off the soccer field telling her, “Child, you should be running. You may be decent at soccer, but you should be running.”
In her first year of running, she was an alternate for the state cross country meet. But after discussions with her swim coach, Connie Herzig, they decided swimming was her sport. In her junior year of high school she transferred to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. Sarah got a taste for cycling at Deerfield Academy, but when she went to Middlebury College in Vermont, it was all about education and swimming. Sarah was a double major in conservation biology and studio art, graduating cum laude and with highest honors in art, as well as All-American and All NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) status in swimming. Early success in triathlon fed the competitive flame and her career focus became the sport.
After graduating from Middlebury, Sarah moved to Hanover, N.H. It was there that she met Ben True, originally from North Yarmouth, Maine. Ben was an All-American Nordic skier and cross country runner while at Dartmouth College. After graduating in 2010, Ben joined the Oregon Track Club for his first year as a professional runner. After breaking his toe, he moved from Oregon back to New Hampshire. Mutual friends suggested that he might enjoy cross training on the bike with Sarah Groff while his toe healed. Sarah and Ben were married in 2014 and they both began a quest for Rio in 2016.
Qualifying for the Olympics is a bit different for triathletes than some of the other sports. In the 2015 Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, Sarah was fourth overall and the second American behind Gwen Jorgensen. This meant they would both be headed to Rio with a full year to prepare.
In July 2016, her husband Ben raced both the 5K and 10K US Olympic Trials at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., with hopes of making Team USA. After an 11th place finish in the 10K, Ben was ready for the 5K. Falling less than half a second shy of qualifying, he finished fifth in a very strong field. In a post-race interview Ben said “I didn’t have the closing speed I needed.” A little redemption came on August 6 at the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. There, Maine native Ben became the first American to ever win the race. He found his kick and grabbed a commanding lead in the final mile for a 28:17 finish.
After the July trials, Sarah noted in an interview, “The positive side of athlete being married to athlete is that you know how tough it is to be so close and yet not get your goal.” They will both go to Rio with a lot of emotions.
I asked Sarah about mental training and specific advice she would give high school and college athletes. Her response was “Be flexible; if you seek perfection, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Over the years, I’ve learned to be as prepared as possible, but to also adapt quickly and with minimal stress to the unexpected.” As many athletes know, this one of the biggest challenges.
Talking about recovery, she says her best tools are good nutrition and copious amounts of sleep. Massage and foam rolling is also a huge part of her routine. She and Ben eat clean (more whole foods, less processed or refined foods), and focus on high quality foods that are grown sustainably.
For those of us in the Northeast the winters can present a challenge. We never know when we will be able to get out on the bike for solid training rides. Cold winters can hamper strong run training on the roads as well. Sarah says, “I think that the benefit of a cold climate is that you are forced to take a real off-season and gradually get back into shape. Use the colder months to work on your general fitness by cross-training and becoming more robust through strength work. Focus less on total volume of training and more on specificity. Set a strong foundation for the year by working on technique and strength, and by starting the year healthy.”
Stay tuned. Sarah was interviewed by Lava Magazine. When asked to describe what kind of party she would throw if she wins a medal in Rio, she replied, “I’d open it up to the Hanover community and have lots of local brew, good food, and New Hampshire-style entertainment. It will be epic.”
Sarah will be racing on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 10am on NBC. You can also live stream the race. Go Groffy! Go USA!
Kristen Hislop (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Clifton Park is a certified multisport coach who wants everyone to ‘do, believe and achieve.’