INTERVIEW WITH RED ZION
Red Zion (24) is one of the youngest participants ever in a Quintuple ultratriathlon race. To realize her dream, the Guatemalan athlete started a crowdfunding project. In the interview, she talks about the beginning of her sports career, her motivation and the secret behind her artists name.
Michelle Echeverria, well-known under her artist name Red Zion, was born and raised in Guatemala. She’s currently 24 years old and semi-living in Dallas where she studied culinary arts and got her bachelors in Marketing.
Red Zion, when did you start to develop real passion for ultra (triathlon) distances?
I trained with different people, and they all had a different distance. Some were fast and some were endurance athletes. It was easier for me to keep up with long distance peeps than with the “fast machines”. I found out that my body composition was more efficient doing it slow and steady. I am the type of person who sets things on her mind and chases them until I achieve. Always within reasoning of course. I have done a couple of ultra trail running races, about to do a 6 mile swim, and have participated in the American anvil ultra triathlons. I’M IN LOVE!
You left home with 16, now you are 24 years old and one of the youngest participants ever in an ultratriathlon race. To be able to realize your dream, you started a crowdfunding project on “gofundme” …
The first time I heard about ultra triathlon races, I suddenly wanted to do longer distances… but money was an issue – the entry fees and travel for such races is so high! My friends introduced me to the idea of doing a gofundme page, and even if I don’t get the whole quantity, every little bit helps.
Again, I pulled myself away from all marketing topics, and if it were left up to me , I would’ve probably just stuck with the idea of cheering for my friends and working my ass off to do it next year.
I agreed, and I am overwhelmed by how many of my friends and fellow athletes believe in me and the things I can accomplish! If I can help them with motivation and keep expanding my relationship with the tri family, I’LL DO IT. I’ll do this for me in the first place and at the same time, I’ll do it for everybody who shares my passion and my goals with me.
Actually, your triathlon career was born out of necessity …
I like helping people , and the best way to do that was to share my knowledge in fitness. I became really poor after I dropped away from my jobs, and found myself surrounded by nature. I used that as my “gym”. The lake around my house was perfect for small triathlon training and so my triathlon journey began.
This allowed me to meet the most amazing people I have met in my life and slowly I got more and more into it, as I was surrounded by like-minded people. I got certified to be a Coach through IRONMAN so I could train myself for my first 140.6 and as time grew, so did my mileage.
And now you are ready for more than “just one” ironman?
I find myself wanting to attempt crazy miles and I am happier than ever. I was 16 when I left home, and ever since then I have been financially on my own. It makes it hard to pursue this sport, that’s for sure, but I like the fact that there are many ways of fighting for it besides the physical training part. Mind, passion, money, workouts…. And many more factors in it, how can I ever get bored? Ever changing!
Let’s talk about motivation: In the beginning of your sports career, excessive exercising led you to anorexia. How did you find your way back to healthy living and training?
In the past, I didn’t always finish everything I started, now I do it most of the time. I used to be very unorganized and broken. I didn’t have the knowledge about fitness like I do now: I perceived fitness and healthy image to being skinny. I took myself in a very bad state of anorexia due to it. When I started the process of changing my whole self, I realized that I didn’t want anorexia to determine what I finished and most of the times, the things that I didn’t.
I spent around 5 years to restructure my whole body, until now. I have a belly and freaking massive legs & love it , because those are my motors and my strength. My motivation is to motivate myself to maintain a mental healthy state and that from my stories and experiences I can motivate others.
Just be honest: Do you plan to set a new world record as fastest or youngest athlete to finish a Quintuple ultratriathlon?
Ha! I don’t know about fastest or youngest. My friend Laura Knoblach, an amazing girl, is younger than me and stronger. She will also be competing. I want this for me and just for me.
As I mentioned before, I am seriously in love with what the ULTRA community has meant in my life. I am really just happy to go and see familiar faces and meet new people to spend miles with.
How do you prepare for the Quintuple?
With my work schedule back in Dallas, training was getting a little complicated and expensive. I decided that for a kick-off to my training, I was going to reside in Cozumel, Mexico for a month and focus entirely in my training. Here I am now. I am waking up early every morning to get about 2-3 hours done and then a 2nd session at night. My days consist of 4-5 hours of training. I will be doing a 6 mile swim at the end of the month, a couple of ultra-trail racing over the summer in Dallas, and possibly a double anvil in July.
And what are your mental «tricks» to finish the Quintuple?
Believe you can do it and believe in your training. That’s my mental strength. It’s something I build up during my training, I mentalize myself in different scenarios and work on it until it is achieved.
As in tricks, the trick is to train wisely. More quality than quantity and NUTRITION really plays a big role in ultra-distance.
Do you have a lucky charm?
The moon. If I get to see the moon and train under it for 5-10 days, I’ll be happy.
Last question: Why do you call yourself «Red Zion»?
I am from Guatemala , the land of the Mayans, but I am a very funny looking Mayan. I have red hair and freckles. My nickname growing up was ROJA, which translates to RED in English. As in for Zion, I’ve never been really religious but I have been really spiritual. My grandparents were missionaries and passed down a lot of wisdom. I always was intrigued by Zion. Zion means “Daughter of God”. That’s who I want to be now and forever. RED ZION.
GOFUNDME project: https://www.gofundme.com/RedZionSwissUltra
RED ZION TRI on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redziontri23