TRIATHLON Q & A: Made Žeravica
The inaugural Earth, Sea & Fire Dubrovnik triathlon is just a few weeks away. True to this triathlon motto – which is Ignite Your Inner Fire – the organizers, members of Dubrovnik triathlon Club are giving their very best to make this first ever Dubrovnik triathlon a success. Meet Made Žeravica, who is known as Dubrovnik’s first ever female triathlete.
Q & A WITH MADE ŽERAVICA
Made Žeravica thinks of herself as a triathlon beginner. However, her sports successes prove otherwise. This athletic late bloomer began as a self-taught runner mere fours years ago. Today she already has several successful Half Ironman competitions in her sports resume. Warm, brave and resolute, Made became the first female triathlete in Dubrovnik, winning the hearts of her fellow citizens.
Q: Your sports story is a bit unusual. Tell us how you got drawn into the world of sports.
A: It all started with walks. I love long walks and find them relaxing. I was born and live in Župa Dubrovačka, a place near Dubrovnik. I used to walk quite a distance from my working place, every day, even in the heat of summer, which provoked lots of funny comments from my friends and acquaintances. (laughs) And then, one day a lost puppy appeared on my doorstep. We adopted him and named him Best. Soon I began running with him. You see, Best is not interested in balls or similar toys, but he loves wandering around with me and doesn’t mind a quick pace. This is how I discovered I really love running and begun looking for a runner’s group in Dubrovnik. Soon I was running longer distances. Someone told me: Made, you’re good at running, why don’t you compete in half-marathon? I was taken aback, but still, felt rather curious. I ended up racing half-marathons in Croatia and neighboring countries. I didn’t have a coach at the time. I was self-taught.
Q: Did you do any sport back in elementary and high school?
A: No not, really. I just attended a gym class, like everyone else. I remember doing 6 minutes run around the school gym and thinking it’s such a drag. If someone told me then I will be running long distances, I would call him crazy. (laughs) But then, my generation was in elementary school when the Homeland war began. Lots of us, including myself, were evacuated from our birth towns for safety reasons. Due to war, we were deprived of many things, sports opportunities included.
Q: Let’ go back to your running feats. How did you transfer from running to triathlon?
A: I was a self-taught runner. I had the will, true, but I lacked technical knowledge, and so I ended up with some serious injuries, including periostitis. I eventually contacted a coach, who drafted me a program which included swimming. I began learning proper swimming technique. I came to love outdoor swimming, even in winter. This was about the time when I first learned what triathlon is and soon joined the newly founded Dubrovnik Triathlon Club.
Q: What’s your favorite tri-discipline?
A: Running. I love the feeling of movement and freedom it gives me. I also love swimming. I suppose I find bike the hardest of the three. It seems simple, but it’s not. Bicycling is especially tricky when the weather is bad.
Q: What were your hardest triathlon moments?
A: Half Ironman in Pula, Croatia, was definitely the most demanding so far. Weather conditions were really bad, with strong southern wind and heavy rain. There were almost 2000 competitors, and I had to wait for a long time for the swimming start. It didn’t look so bad from the shore, but once we entered the sea, it was terrifying. Waves were high like mountains, and I couldn’t see the buoy. People ended up stranded on the shore. As we got out of the sea and mounted our bikes, a heavy rain began. The race track was well marked and there were ambulances and staff en route, but the slippery road and curves took their toil. So many competitors ended up in a ditch, with injuries and demolished bikes, it was scary. This was my first Half Ironman and I didn’t have a state-of-the-art bike. I soon realized my main task is to survive the race. It was also very exhausting emotionally, especially during the last few kilometers. When I finally entered the antique Roman Arena where the finish line was, I was exhilarated, and begun crying. Am I sort of emotional like that. (laughs) Afterward, I was so happy and fulfilled and proud… I couldn’t believe I not only survived but finished the race! My boyfriend was accompanying me, and following me as much as he could along the race track, waving from the distance and encouraging me. This means a lot. Every triathlete has to have a support.
Q: What’s with triathletes and that triathlon race afterglow?
A: To finish triathlon is an indescribable experience. It feels as a sort of rebirth, both physically and psychically. It’s like being catapulted from everything and anything you were or knew before, and getting a chance to experience everything for the first time, fresh and clear. It’s a state like no other.
Q: What’s it like to be a woman in the triathlon world? Are you being treated as equal?
A: I would say it differs from place to place. Yet, even if someone patronizes you, you can turn it into a challenge, something that can actually strengthen and empower you. In the beginning, when I was the first female triathlete in Dubrovnik, I felt like I would really appreciate a woman, you know, for some intimate talk. Luckily, that has changed as other girls have joined Dubrovnik Triathlon Club. However, whenever I travel to races abroad, I try to meet as many female triathletes as possible. It’s great to get to know them, to build up solidarity, to share experiences.
Q: Do you have more sports or more normal clothing and shoes?
A: I’ve got more sports clothes and sports shoes, definitely. (laughs) Triathlon is not exactly a cheap sport. Of course, it’s not only clothing, there are bike and all the travels.
Q: What’s your daily training routine like? How about calories intake? How do you feel when you cannot train?
A: On average, I train some 3 hours per day. This means I have to get up early, around 5 o’clock, have a breakfast and then go through the training routine for the day. One has to take care to eat lots of carbs, as the training is hard and you spend them all. I am never bored with training. It’s a style of life, as far as I am concerned. Whenever I’m prevented from training, due to injury or something, I feel kind of empty. I never said I cannot or won’t do something that’s on a training schedule. This has to be done, simple as that. And I love doing it.
Q: Do you consider becoming a professional triathlete?
A: Not really, no. I am practically still a beginner. I meet so many triathletes who have achieved so much and know so much more than myself. I have my regular job as a wellness therapist, and with all the training and races it’s enough of a challenge, at least for now. I do not have much time left for friends or going out. For example, this summer I didn’t have a single evening out. Triathlon demands some sacrifices, but it’s my love. I like it the way things are now. I do have a small hobby, though. I love photographing and take every occasion to shoot some scene, often a natural landscape. Dubrovnik’s surrounding is stunning and it simply calls to be photographed. Sometimes I cannot resist taking a photo during my training routes. I stop, take a shot, and then proceed.
Q: What are your future triathlon plans?
A: I plan to continue doing races like Ocean Lava and other Half Ironman competitions. I would love to do Full Ironman one day. Hawaii would be nice, but I will settle for Barcelona. That’s a challenge enough. (laughs) I love to push my limits and see how far can I go. I also believe all things happen for a reason. (laughs)
Q: How do you envisage the future of triathlon in Dubrovnik? Since you’ve become a sort of poster girl for the triathlon in Dubrovnik – do people recognize you on the street?
A: When I entered the world of triathlon, practically nobody in Dubrovnik knew the word. (laughs) Now it’s different. I wouldn’t say that people recognize me on the street, but then I ‘m constantly either training or working, so… (laughs). Sometimes kids recognize me or talk to me as I pass them by on a bike or running. They shout: “Go, Made! I too have a bike, I’ll be like you one day!“ That so inspiring! When I see the kids having the desire and will, that’s such a reward. Dubrovnik Triathlon Club is perhaps new, but we’ve achieved a lot in terms of visibility for such a small club. And if we keep inspiring the kids to get into sports, then the future of triathlon in Dubrovnik is guaranteed.
Q: How do you feel about this inaugural Earth, Sea & Fire triathlon?
A: It’s such a great opportunity for the triathlon to become popular in Dubrovnik! And it’s a great honor to be able to welcome all these people from around the world in our hometown. It’s also a chance for Dubrovnik to open to the world, to meet all these different people… I would also take advantage of the opportunity and invite everyone to join the Dubrovnik Triathlon Club, to train, race and see the world.