I had the pleasure of talking triathlon with the TCSD's Charisa Wernick who earned her podium moment at this year's Hawaiian Ironman. Charisa finished 5th in the women's 30-34 age group with the super fast time of 10:17:14. Please join me as we get to know this very impressive lady.
Craig: What was your sports background when you were a kid?
Charisa: I played all kinds of sports when I was younger but my main focus was gymnastics. After college there really isn’t much you can do with gymnastics competition-wise, so I ran my first marathon as soon as I quit gymnastics.
Craig: How did you become a triathlete?
Charisa: I dragged my Dad into marathon running in college and he did the same for me about a year later with triathlon. He suggested we race the Chicago Triathlon in our hometown. And race we did! I borrowed a bike with basket pedals on it because really, who wants to be attached to their bicycle for that long?! I wore baggy soccer shorts, as spandex was just not something that interested me. AT ALL. I spent what felt like 20 minutes in transition because I couldn’t locate my bike. It all looks so different once they fill that thing up with a million bikes! And we were hooked. My Dad wanted to do this race called Kona. I had NO CLUE what this was. But apparently if it’s something you have to qualify for, my Dad and I become more interested.
Craig: What was your first long course triathlon like?
Charisa: I signed up for Wildflower because someone had told me it was the hardest ½ Ironman around. I figured if I could do this race I could go the full distance. My parents flew out to CA and camped with me the night before the race. I was in grad school at the time and had actually graduated to clipless pedals, but was riding my Dad’s old Softride bike. I remember taking it to the bike shop and telling the bike mechanic that “I’m in school, poor, and can’t afford a new bike – please make this work for my ½ Ironman!!” He looked at me like I was crazy, but agreed to help me. I loved the race; it was everything I thought a triathlon should be. I finished in 6 hours.
Craig: What Ironman races have you done?
Charisa: Coeur d’Alene (CDA) and Kona multiple times. I really need to branch out! HAHA! IM CDA in ‘06 when it was hellfire hot (12:06), IM CDA again in ‘07 (11:13), I got lucky and got a rolldown slot to Kona. Kona ‘07 (11:26), IM CDA ‘08 (10:35) This qualifed me for Kona without rolldown, something I was very excited about. IM Kona ‘08 (10:46) IM Kona ‘09 (10:17). I qualified for Kona ‘09 at IM California 70.3.
Craig: How did this year's Kona play out for you?
Charisa: This year was by far my favorite. I had a ton of friends racing and I was not nervous. I knew I had done the work and it was more a day of fun where I got the opportunity to race against the best in the world and see what my training had done. My swim was relatively low on contact compared to years past, but that being said I came out of the water slower than planned. I had no idea what place I was in going out on the bike. The part of the race I’m most proud of is my bike split. In ‘07 I biked a 6:23 and thought it was the hardest thing I had ever done. In ‘08 I biked 6:00. I worked on my bike a TON this past year because I knew it was my weakest link. My 5:32 bike split is 100% a result of hours spent riding around North County with my friends. Heading out on the run I knew I was in 8th place. Podium had been a big goal all year, as well. By the time I hit the Queen K I had moved into 5th place, fell back to 6th and moved to 5th again. It wasn’t until I went into the energy lab that I knew where the other girls were. At that point I knew I needed to fight hard to stay in 5th and that short of one of the girls ahead of me blowing up, I most likely would not move into 4th. In the energy lab I ran into my friend Nick Bokhoven, who motivated me and distracted me and was just awesome the entire rest of the race. We picked up TCSD member, Brian Scott right before we hit Alii Drive and it was by far my most memorable Ironman finish.
Craig: You have decided to race professionally in 2010. What factors did you weigh in making that decision? And what do you need to do to get your pro card?
Charisa: I love triathlon and I really love racing. I have always been in this sport because it is fun and because I wanted to see how good I can get. My reasons for being involved with triathlon today remain the same. To really push myself and see how fast I can get, I want to chase the fast girls all day. It really seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t want to ever have any regrets in life and this is an area I’m willing to take a chance and go for it. As far as getting the actual card, there are qualifying standards that USAT sets for applying for your Pro Card. Finishing overall amateur at a 70.3 race, top ten amateur at Kona, etc.
Craig: What do you do for a living?
Charisa: I sell microscopes. My Dad and I own a business together (www.MicroscopeWorld.com). We sell microscopes literally all over the world. It’s always a good conversation starter, most people don’t know anyone who sells microscopes. And since I’m in sales, I’ll use these two sentences to do just that – microscopes make great Christmas gifts! You can get an extra $10 off any microscope with coupon code TCSD online. In all seriousness though – the job is a blast. I love working with my Dad and seeing the results of our hard work pay off.
Craig: You bike to work frequently. What is that experience like?
Charisa: It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the day. I hesitated to bike commute for a long time because I live fairly close (5 miles) to work. It seemed too short to me. I also was a bit worried about biking in the dark, etc. I finally decided that “I live too close to work to bike commute” was a lame excuse. I bought some lights and started out with a few days a week. It took me a little while to figure out how to get my clothes to work, the bike bag, etc. But once I got into a routine I really fell in love with it. I started biking to masters at 5:30am and honestly, there is nothing that compares to riding to the pool in the dark. I have seen bats and coyotes and the roads are peacefully quiet. The best part is, after swimming I get to zip by all the rush hour traffic on my bike. With traffic the commute is exactly the same amount of time as in my car. This past year my tiny bike commute miles added up to over 1,500 miles! If you’ve ever thought of bike commuting try it – it’s WAY BETTER than car commuting
Craig: What would you tell someone who is tempted to try their first triathlon?
Charisa: Go for it and don’t be intimidated. I wish when I had started triathlon I’d had a resource like TCSD. Ask questions and remember all of this is for fun. I can’t think of a better way to stay in shape, have new challenges and make some great friends than through triathlon.
Craig: What were some of the most significant life changing events of your life?
Charisa: Oh wow, there have probably been several. In college my childhood friend and roommate died unexpectedly and this definitely changed my life. It made me want to live life to the fullest and really made me appreciate what I have. I realized life can be short and it’s definitely not always fair, but at the same time I have so much to be thankful for. Moving to California and meeting my now husband ranks right up there as well. I’m pretty sure I would have never gone as far as I have in triathlon without his support and ability to make me laugh.
Craig: Who are your sponsors?
Charisa: I’m lucky to be able to work with some amazing people and companies who have helped me out a lot. Kestrel, Zoot, GU, Brooks, Rudy Project, Ritchey Logic, SaltStick, Zipp, TwinSix, SmackMedia!, Team BSK and the Running Center.
Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?
Charisa: Sub-10 in Ironman is a big one. Trying to get on the podium with the pros is another. My biggest goal in the coming years is really to just keep triathlon fun as I chase my goals.
Craig: Charisa, I have no doubt you will achieve all of your goals. You have the perfect approach to triathlon and to life in general. Thanks for sharing your story!