We caught up with #SoundAthlete Rachel Joyce to learn what she’s been up to since announcing a hiatus from her professional racing career.
World champion triathlete and Kona podium regular Rachel Joyce will forgo a spot at the 2016 Ironman World Championship to focus on a different adventure: motherhood. With her baby due in the fall, Rachel is staying active through her pregnancy, but also relishing the freedom and spontaneity rarely found amid the rigors of training at the professional level.
“I’ve really enjoyed not really having a schedule,” says Rachel. “There are certain sessions I’ll try and do every week just because I enjoy seeing friends that I train with, but I also listen to how I feel. Some days I’m more tired so I might just do a solo swim. I know that some women maintain a very strict training regime throughout their pregnancy, but for me this is the perfect time to take that pressure off myself and do other things.”
These other things, for Rachel, are many. Just have a look at the laundry list of activities that make up her new day-to-day:
First, there’s her passionate work as an ambassador for two leading women’s triathlon initiatives, Women For Tri and Tri Equal. Rachel has been directly involved with the development of Women For Tri’s new ambassador program and serves as the organization’s point person in her home of Boulder, Colorado.
“It’s been really fun,” she says. “I want to see the sport grow amongst women. One of the nice things inherent in the sport is the mix between the age groupers and the pros, and it’s inspiring to see how enthusiastic and generous the women we are engaging with are in giving their time to share the sport with others.”
Among Tri Equal’s initiatives, the organization is best known for the drive to achieve an equal number of men and women pros in Kona.
“I think that ties in quite nicely with the Women For Tri objectives, because beyond growing the sport at a grassroots level, it’s important to lead by example on the professional side of things,” says Rachel. “We haven’t succeeded at getting equal numbers, but we’re not going to give up.”
Also on Rachel’s agenda are coaching duties, a title she is earning through Ironman University.
“I only have a few clients but it’s been really fun working with them. My goals are very different this year, but I have enjoyed taking others through a training program to reach their goal.”
And her mentoring doesn’t end there. Taking a detour from triathlon, Rachel serves as an English teacher volunteer through Intercambio, an organization that provides cultural integration and English language classes to immigrants in Boulder County.
“I’m an immigrant, although I happen to speak English,” says Rachel. “It sometimes feels very separated in Boulder, and you could miss that there is a large immigrant population. I’d really like to see a more intercultural, integrated community. And while I don’t want to get too political, I want to do what little I can to counter the negative dialogue that’s been created about immigrants and integration. It’s a small thing that I’m doing through volunteering, but it is important to me.”
To further expand her own cultural horizons, Rachel attends an intensive Spanish course three mornings a week. She’s always wanted to master a foreign language and says, “It seemed like a perfect time to throw myself into it.”
As a soon-to-be mother, Rachel is also more invested than ever in her physical well being. She uses Sound Probiotics to safeguard both her own and her baby’s immune health.
“I started using the product about 18 months ago,” says Rachel. “The more I read about gut health, the more I see that it’s central to how you absorb nutrition, to the health of your immune system and your mental well being. So Sound Probiotics are a staple in my daily routine. Even if I don’t take another supplement – if I miss my Vitamin C, for example – I take my probiotic every day. And now that I’m expecting, I’ve read articles saying that taking a probiotic – during pregnancy and after you give birth, if you decide to breastfeed – can help with your child’s future health and help prevent acid reflux. I wasn’t unhealthy before I started taking Sound, but professional sport is about finding your optimal health. Now I want to do everything I can to be as healthy as possible and create a healthy environment for my growing baby.”
With all of Rachel’s interests, community activities and outstanding athletic accolades, she’s an obvious inspiration to many. Yet she’s hard pressed to see herself in that light.
“I don’t see myself as inspiring people,” says Rachel. “I would love it if I do inspire people but I am not sure that can be a goal in itself. I love what I do and I’m mostly driven by doing stuff that I enjoy and things that feel right. That’s why I got involved with these various projects. Triathlon has had such a positive impact on my life, and that’s why I think it would be great if we could reach more women and get them into the sport. That comes from my personal experience in the sport and how it makes me feel. It makes me a more positive person, more confident, and that’s something I would love everyone to have the opportunity to feel.”
“Plus,” she adds, “When you’re training all the time, life can be quite mono-dimensional. It’s been quite nice to add other things in that key into other important parts of my personality. I would never have had the time to do the things I’m doing now when I was training to race and focusing on Kona. I do want to return to the sport, but I have ambitions for after the sport as well, so this is a good time to explore how I might shape my career after I’m done racing.”
Starting a family is one thing that Rachel and her long-time partner Brett wanted to do, and the experience thus far is providing a fresh and welcome perspective.
“Not all of pregnancy has been easy,” says Rachel. “I definitely found it hard in the early days just because I didn’t feel great. But it feels really nice that it’s not me that comes first now. I like that aspect – thinking about another person and making this baby my priority. Sometimes I have struggled in the sport because you need to be selfish at points and so singularly focused. That’s necessary to reach your potential, but I also found it difficult at times. So it’s nice to have shifted focus. It’s a relief in a lot of ways.”
As for when we might see Rachel back on a triathlon start line?
“I think nothing can really prepare you for having a baby except for when you actually have it,” she says. “I don’t have a concrete image of how life will be after the baby comes and I’m not pressuring myself that I have to be back into training at a certain time. I really feel that I’m going to go with the flow and see what happens.”