Ironman World Champion Chelsea Sodaro doesn’t keep her massive first place trophy in a fancy glass case. It’s not on her living room mantle, or displayed anywhere else that she might show off her latest achievement to visiting friends and family. 

Sodaro, who became the first American woman to win the Ironman World Championships in 25 years, has her trophy hidden in a closet. Her winner’s medal is stashed in a sock drawer. Eventually, she’ll move them both to her parents house, roughly 150 miles away from where she lives. 

“I don’t really like to have reminders like that around,” Sodaro, 33, a professional triathlete since 2017 who lives in Reno with her husband, Steve, and 19-month-old daughter, Skye, tells SELF. “I like to stay super hungry. And I feel like if I were to just be looking at my achievements, that wouldn’t be good for my drive.”

Sodaro’s “stay-hungry, stay-humble” approach explains, in part, how the former pro runner turned triathlete bested a field of 41 other elite women in October to win the Ironman Championships in what was only her second-ever competition at that distance. She finished the grueling course in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, in just 8:33:46. Widely considered the most prestigious race in the sport of triathlon, the Ironman Championships is a brutal event. Competitors battle ocean waves, unrelenting wind, quad-killing hills, and often oppressive heat as they swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles. 

As Sodaro looks ahead toward her goals for next year, which include defending her title at the 2023 Ironman Championships, we asked the world-class athlete to unpack the training secrets that propelled her to her historic win, as well as her biggest takeaways from the monumental day. Here, her top reflections. 

1. Family comes first and their support remains key.

Sodaro gave birth to her daughter in March 2021, and Skye has been the“best thing that’s ever happened” to her, she says. But it’s been difficult balancing the role of pro athlete and parent, especially since having a baby has limited the time Sodaro has to devote to training. For instance, prior to her pregnancy and Skye’s birth, Sodaro could spend copious amounts of time executing even the smallest details of a training program, like doing 30 minutes of activation drills before a run. But now she doesn’t always have the bandwidth. 

Because of the strain of juggling both roles, Sodaro says she seriously considered quitting the sport of triathlon over the past year. 

“It’s been really, really challenging to make this work,” she says. “I’ve oftentimes felt like I’m failing at my job and failing at being a mom, like I could never be good enough in both at the same time.” But through those periods of self-doubt, Sodaro’s husband provided unrelenting moral support, she says. “He just kept on reminding me that there was still so much to come, and that I just needed to get through this initial postpartum period to really find out what was possible, and that it would get easier in a lot of ways.”