Photo by: Jon Chiang
A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a really interesting panel organized by InnerVoice.Life in Vancouver, on storytelling and inspiration from endurance athletes. This is where I first heard of Steph Corker, a Vancouver athlete, business owner and all-around inspiring woman. She shared her incredible journey with everyone present in the room and I was immediately drawn to her no-bullshit #realtalk attitude. So I got in touch with her following the panel to find out more about her story and what led her to start up The Corker Co. as well as her thoughts on being the current Ironman Canada title holder.
1) What first got you interested in competing in Ironman and why?
Ironman was a super bucket list item — I wanted to finish my first IM by the time I was 60, because I thought it would take a full life time to build up to that crazy distance! When I moved west from Toronto, I immediately fell in love with watching IM Canada in Penticton, BC. I guess you could say the rest was history…
2) After finishing 16 Ironman races as an amateur athlete, you decided to go pro this year for the very first time. Why was it important for you to make that transition? How much has it changed your life as an athlete?
I took up the sport of triathlon as I like to call myself — a tri-hard! I wasn’t very great at riding or running, but did have a swimming background. So I would swim relatively well and then spend the rest of the day “trying-hard!” It was through some great races and many not great races that took me to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Truth be told, I haven’t yet had an awesome race in Hawaii — it is sort of the elusive goal of many of us. However, I thought I could continue to race at the top of the amateur field and continue working toward Hawaii, or I could take a super leap of faith and see what trying hard with the pro girls was like. This transition was important to me because I’m a raging feminist in all things – business, sport and life. I think we owe it to each other to show up – win or lose – and be a female on the start line!
In terms of changing my life as an athlete, I do think my training intensity/volume has gone up this year — because, it has to in order to compete with the full time athletes that I now race with. Yet more importantly, it has me eating humble pie every darn day. My first pro race, I finished last (as a pro). I mean, I guess there is only one place to go from there, right? 🙂
3) You are the current title holder of Ironman Canada, what does a typical week of training look like for you? How do you balance training with owning your own business?
I did win the amateur race at Ironman Canada in 2016, however, there was no female pro field. So 2017 is going to be a really sweet return with such a large and awesome group of pro women. My training is rather intense leading up to an IM race — I swim nearly every day, I log 2 long bike rides each week and run 3-4x/week. To be honest, it is not the training that requires as much balance as the sleeping, eating, maintaining daily necessities that consumes time in my life. I’m not sure I really balance anything particularly well, instead I think I’m ruthlessly focused and only allow so many things to be in my life at one point in time. I start work 4 days a week at 10AM and try really hard to get to bed early — that is the best version of balance I have found in work and sport.
4) What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in your career as an athlete and how were you able to overcome it?
I don’t think this is spoken about enough and I’m happy to be at the front of this conversation — but body image is a really big deal to me. I do not look like 90% of the triathletes in the sport. And I especially do not look like a runner. This can be really easy to hold onto as dead weight (no pun intended!) and feel really inferior on the start line. My biggest practice has been in ensuring that the food I eat gives me fuel and the self-talk I tell myself gives me wings! Women come in many different shapes and sizes, and my work, my obstacle has been to remind myself that no one can see the size of my heart or the guts of my mental fortitude. Most importantly, my work is to surround myself by the people who believe in possibility….regardless of how we look.
5) How has support for women in the sport evolved over the last couple of years? Are there more women partaking in the sport nowadays?
Ahh, I’m so passionate about this topic yet to be honest, I’m not super well versed in the true stats behind it. If anything, I’d say it appears there is a decline in women participation, yet I could be so wrong about that. My first race of the year there were 20% females/ 80% males – if that is any indication, I just wish the numbers were skewed differently.
I think it is really important that women show up to sport to encourage more women to also show up — I think we like to see examples of what’s possible and then ask ourselves: could that be me one day? I hope so!
You can follow Steph’s journey and upcoming races on Instagram and on her website.