Ironman 70.3 Oceanside

Leaving it all on the race course

On April 7th I did my first race of 2018 at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside and it went very well.  We had ideal conditions as the low temperature at the start of the race at 7am was in the high 50’s and by the time I finished around noon it was about 70 with very mild breezes.

The 1.2 mile swim was in the 59 degree Oceanside Harbor.  They were hoping to make the race be a surf entry to put the “ocean” back in Oceanside, but the surf was too high to be safe for many of the athletes.  So 2 days before the race it was announced that we’d swim the same out and back course as in the past.  Once again we had a “rolling start” so that means each athlete self-seeds themselves based on the time they expect to swim.  That leads to a much better experience for everyone as the faster swimmers start first.  I seeded myself with the 30-35 minute group which was spot on as my swim split was 31:51, good for 12th place in my age group.

I was surprisingly warm upon exiting the water so I opted to just put on a short sleeve jersey for the 56 mile bike ride.  That was the right decision.  The route follows the coast for the first 20 miles and then we turn east through the hilly parts of Camp Pendleton for the next 25 miles.  I love that section of Pendleton.  It is a shame that the only time we can ride that section is during this race.  They actually have 2 no passing zones for short stretches because the road gets narrow.  And then there is a 3rd no passing zone at mile 39 on a steep, curvy descent where an athlete crashed and died when I did this race back in 2001.  Thus, they also have a strict 25 mph speed limit for that ¼ mile section.  The athlete who crossed the finish line 1st in my age group actually got disqualified because he exceeded the speed limit.  We all knew the rules.  He should have known better.  The final 10+ miles of the ride are on a nice flat road.  I thought I biked pretty well, but was surprised to see my bike split was 2:34 slower than in 2017.  My bike split was 2:58:28 (18.8 mph).  This was the 49th best bike split and it dropped me to 26th place.

The 13.1 mile run course was 2 loops along the coast.  The entire run course is lined with spectators, many of them friends of mine.  I had a lot of fun feeding off the cheers and support of the crowd.  My favorite spectator, of course, was my wife Laurie.  She is awesome!  I had the fastest run on the day – 1:34:34 (7:13/mile).  That effort moved me up to tie for 8th place out of 145 men in the 55-59 age group with a finish time of 5:13:12.  This is a very competitive race every year so I am very happy with my result.  I finished 10th in 2017 with a finish time of 5:11:34, so I slowed down by 1:48, but I improved by 2 spots in the rankings.  I was 317th out of 2,397 overall finishers.

The highlight of my day, though, was undoubtedly the performance of an athlete I am coaching.  In my opinion, Susan Powell had her best race during the 2+ years I have been her coach.  Susan finished the 2016 race in 8:27 and she did not finish in 2017.  She finished this year’s race in 7:42 and is clearly on her way to even faster times this year.  I am so proud of her!

Living the life…

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Posted in 2018, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

TCSD Conversation: March 2018 – Guto Antunes

Guto Antunes earning his IM 70.3 World Championship slot at Ironman Brazil 70.3

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the opportunity recently to talk triathlon with TCSD member Guto Antunes.  I think you’ll enjoy getting to know this great guy who has learned to balance family, a challenging career in the banking industry and a challenging career as a professional triathlete.

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?

Guto: Since I was very young, my parents gave me the opportunity to study at a school (Colegio Santo Americo) that allowed me to experience a bunch of sports like soccer, basketball, swimming, track & field… You know, Brazil is a very different country compared to the US: We grew up playing soccer, so mainly that was my “A” sport. But I didn’t like much to be involved on team sports, I was a very selfish boy. I had to discover a sport that training and racing results would rely on my own efforts. Triathlon came late in my life, once my father couldn’t afford all the equipment that I needed for the 3 disciplines.

Craig: What was your first triathlon like?

Guto: Oh man… Seems like yesterday! It was the 2000 “Trofeu Brasil de Triathlon” (Brazilian Triathlon Trophy) in Santos – Brazil. I didn’t have any specific equipment (no wetsuit, a simple bike and heavy running shoes.) I suffered like hell. But that day I discovered that I like to suffer and still have fun. I just wanted to finish the race to say “I did a triathlon” for my friends and family. I was in my early 20’s, so my friends were calling me to go party and asking why I was doing that and losing my life.  At that race, I crossed the finish line and the got the answer. I was so happy and felt so accomplished.  After the race I was heading back to the hotel and heard my name being called to go to the podium. I said: “What???” I was 5th overall in the age group division. From that moment on, I was hooked! Bracing the suck made me feel like home.

Craig: What was your business career like during your early days of triathlon?

Guto: Before being a pro triathlete, I was studying business administration and got an internship job at a bank (trading floor), dealing with FX Derivatives. At that time, I gave up training for a while, once I thought it would be impossible to cope with everything. It was a VERY stressful job, I could win/lose millions in the blink of an eye. One day I left the office stressed and feeling empty. I remember saying to myself:  “I’m done”. I was heading home and had a “deja vu” about my first race. How training and racing made me feel less stressed and happy. I needed that again. So, I started training very early in the morning for 1:20 hours, only to lose weight again. I perceived that working out in the morning made me feel less emotive while dealing with stressful situations at work. After a month, I started swimming to leave my stress in the water and started going after work, to get back home happy and fresh!

Craig: What was the process like to become a professional triathlete?

Guto: That’s a great story . After I started training again, everyone (work partners, family, friends) were saying I was crazy (at that time, I think I was the only financial market guy to have that hectic training routine). They were always asking: “Where do you wanna go with all these crazy trainings, boy? It’ll be bad for your banking career”. But one day I was running and felt a hard pain in my right foot toe. I had a terrible ligament injury and had to do a surgery never performed before by the doctors. My dad went with me for the final appointment, and I heard from the doctor that probably I would never run again in my life. I was devastated.  I got into my dad’s car and cried like never before. He looked at me and said: “Nobody can tell you’re not running again! You’ll do it even if you have to go crawling to the finish line, but you’ll do it. Stop crying and fight”. That was a wake up call. A week after the surgery, I went after my coach at that time and long time friend (Ademir Paulino – “Miro”) and asked: “Miro, do you think I can go pro?”  He didn’t hesitate: “If there’s someone I ever knew that can do it, that’s you.”  From that day on we started to train very hard. I wasn’t running much (as the doctor predicted, I had a lot of pain). 3 months after the surgery, I said to “Miro” that I would go for one of the main draft legal races in South America (2004 Caioba International Triathlon). He said that probably I would not be able to finish it (due to the foot/toe pain). Right after crossing the finish line I’ve called him, crying like that day in the car with my dad: “Miro, we won overall dude!!!!”. To our surprise, I won the overall sprint distance event (only for age groupers) and got my federation allowance to race as a pro.

Craig: From the short time I have known you, it sounds like you led a double life during your early years as a professional triathlete.  You kept your business career in 1 corner and the triathlon world in another corner and neither world knew the other existed.  When and why did you finally start letting your colleagues at work know about your triathlon life and vice versa?

Guto: Yes, you’re right.  I was afraid of my boss saying I wasn’t into the banking career and my sponsors in triathlon pretending that I did not need the money to race because I had another job. You know, there’s a lot of prejudice on both. So I kept the “secret” only for close friends. One day I had a bad race because I was very tired from work travels and my wife said: “It’s not fair, you have a real life story and nobody knows the truth! You need to tell them! You have such an inspiring overcoming story!” I was still concerned of its effects, but decided to follow her advice (girls are always wiser than the boys!). I called one of the main triathlon media groups in South America (Mundotri.com) and told the publisher the truth. He made me the cover magazine guy telling my story: “The Triathlete in a Suit – Find Time to Train!” To my surprise, I never received so many messages, phone calls and interview requests. I became the local hope that, even with a hectic working life, you can reach your sports goals.

Craig: What have you learned over the years by balancing family, career and triathlon?

Guto: That they all need to work together! I discovered that being a triathlete made me a better banking professional and also a better husband and father. I can see things faster and wiser, not losing time with those emotional riots that we have to deal with when not training. Obviously, the opposite is also true: My banking job taught me a lot how to respect and fix my limitations. I always say that probably I found the Greek’s concept of “Source Mind, Source Body” applied to a real life.

Craig: What have been some of your most gratifying accomplishments as a professional triathlete?

Guto: For sure, being a world ranked 70.3 Ironman pro triathlete and being able to race the 2010 World Championship in Clearwater, FL. The road to get the spot was rough.  It was one of the most hectic moments of my banking career and I was not training for a half distance event. Me and my coach (Alexandre Blass) decided to race just two weeks prior to the event. Going to the WC was my longtime dream, more than going to the Olympics (especially because the 70.3 distance is not part of the program). But I knew there were better athletes to get the 3 Brazilian spots. The day before the race was a mess. My wife missed her plane and I went to the airport at 11pm to get her. I did not sleep much and my wetsuit broke the zipper lock just 5 min before race start (had to borrow one from a spectator). That race I faced all my fears. Was above the “red zone”, physically and mentally, for the whole race. I was 5th in a very tough international field (2010 – 70.3 Ironman Brazil). When I crossed the finish line, I was completely dizzy and did not realize I was the third Brazilian. Somebody came and said: “You got the WC spot!”  It seemed like a dream. I collapsed to the ground and my wife came along. That was the best hug ever. Both of us, crying and happy. She asked me: “How are you feeling, you got it!!!” I just had the strength to hug her very tight and say: “Honey, we did it. We are in the World Champs!!!”

Craig: How has your wife, Claudia, helped you realize your dreams?

Guto: She loved me since day one. Claudia helped me understand the ghosts and fears I face everyday while dealing with that dual life. And getting the kids involved to understand that dad is not a superhero, just a guy that dreams big and fight for it – day in and day out. I really hope that my daughter, Luiza (6 years old) and my boy Antonio (3 years old), understands that we can face any challenge and be successful, doing it our own way. That will be the best legacy I’ll leave for them.

Craig: What is one of your most crazy triathlon travel stories?

Guto: The funniest was the first time I came to race in the USA. It was 2006 and I had a sponsor from LA which told me I had to come to race the Malibu Triathlon (they were the main sponsor for the race). The problem is that I had just started a new banking job, and couldn’t take vacations to travel (at that time there was only one 24 hour flight from Sao Paulo to LA!). So, I left the bank on a Friday at 6-ish pm, got a 3 hour traffic jam to the airport and almost missed the fight. I had a connection at NYC (JFK Airport) and my flight got delayed to the gate! So I had to run a 1 mile dash to not miss the plane connection. I arrived in LA on Saturday, 2:30pm and had to go straight to the pro meeting, but MY BIKE DID NOT ARRIVE! I told my sponsor that I would give up and only watch the race, that stress was too much for me. But he came up with a plan: Get me to Agoura Hills, rent a bike and all the necessary equipment. So there I was, at 7pm renting a bike that wasn’t set for my bike fit and going to the hotel to sleep. At 3am my phone rang and I thought it was my ride to the race site. The hotel receptionist said: “Sir… There’s a bag…a big bag for you here”. I said: “MY BIKE”! I went down, assembled it and left (late). Got into T1 almost by race start time (Malibu is famous for its pre-race traffic jam) and as soon as I arrived at the start line, they “shot the cannon”!  I ended up being third and went back to my hotel (biking, 15 miles) to pack up my bags and straight to LAX. Got the flight back home and arrived in Sao Paulo on Monday, 6am and straight to work!!! When I sat at my desk, my boss asked the famous question: “Hey Guto, how was your weekend?” I told him: “You tell me” – LOL!

Craig: How did triathlon help you get a visa to move to the USA?

Guto: Triathlon gave me the opportunity to get what is called “an extraordinary ability visa” for all those things that I’ve achieved. My goal is to race and be within the community sharing my knowledge and passion, helping the sport to grow in the US. I arrived in June 2016, but on my first day in San Diego I had a terrible bike accident (broken collarbone + surgery) at an abandoned bike lane (El Camino Real towards Torrey Hills). Those first few months were terrible, I had to skip a lot of races and events on my calendar to focus on my recovery. But it was a good opportunity for the city to hear our requests. Everyone deserves to be safe while riding your bike.

Craig: If you could waive a magic wand over the sport of triathlon, what would you like to change?

Guto: I would love to see people doing it again for the sake of the challenge. That’s what made me start doing this sport. Now, it’s all about showing off in social media. We used to go to races to meet friends and laugh. Racing was not about winning or losing.

Craig: What are some of your favorite destination races?

Guto: The 70.3 Hawaii Ironman, because Kona is Kona whatever distance you’re racing! It’s magical: the atmosphere, the pristine nature, the many challenges (wind, heat, grass) you face during the race. And, of course, Lava Lava’s Waikoloa sunset drinking a post race beer, watching the most amazing sunset in the world.

Then Santos International Triathlon, in Brazil: It’s my wife’s hometown and also for its almost 30 years of history that helped many of the Brazilian triathlon icons to rise as international stars.

Last, but not least: The Malibu Triathlon.  My first race in US and also where my body always performs well. I still have that overwhelming feeling from the first hectic race day. Everytime I go there, even to get my kids to play at the beach, I feel an amazing vibe.

Craig: What is your favorite benefit of your TCSD membership?

Guto: For sure the barbecues! Not only because everyone has the chance to share their special recipes, but because that’s what makes triathlon special for me: Sharing experiences, no matter if you’re a pro or a newcomer to the sport. You get to know so many overwhelming stories.  That’s what fuels my passion.

Craig: Who are your sponsors?

Guto: Forca Dinamica, Mormaii, Velofix San Diego and Join.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Guto: I always think that the best is yet to come. I want to go back to World Champs and also be among the top 5 in the main non-draft triathlon races in the world. And for sure: Keep inspiring people to keep doing this sport, even dealing with a hectic “real life”. As I like saying: Life is real, not ideal!

Craig: Guto, thank you for sharing your story.  I have a feeling you’ll find success at anything you set your mind to.  Brazil’s loss is San Diego’s gain.  TCSD is lucky to have you among our members.  Good luck to you!

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.  Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

Posted in 2018, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TCSD Conversation: February 2018 – Jack Shannon

Jack at his first Ironman 70.3 at St. George, Utah with wife Cheryl and kids Sarah and Patrick

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with Jack Shannon.  Jack has been leading the Pannikin Ride for a few years and is an instrumental member of our club.  I’m certain you will enjoy getting to know Jack.

Craig: What sports did you participate in when you were younger?

Jack: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I’m a life long soccer player, starting at age 7, playing on both club and school teams. I was also on the swim team in elementary and middle school.  I credit this time swimming with my comfort in the water as an adult. Moving to San Diego six years ago I took up the year-round outdoor sports of surfing, biking, running, and swimming.  I found many coworkers who shared my love of the outdoors who joined me on multiple lunchtime, nighttime and weekend events.

Craig: What circumstances led to your first triathlon?

Jack: Triathlon, what are you crazy? At my core all I ever wanted to do was ride my bike and see the sights along my ride. So, when I moved to San Diego in November 2011 I bought a mountain bike, started riding to and from work and on the trails including Peñasquitos, Anderson Truck trail, Black Mountain, Calaveras and Elfin Forest. Two years later my mountain bike got stolen and my friends talked me into a road bike as a replacement. I rode my new bike all around San Diego and formed a bike club where I worked. It was then a co-worker/TCSD member Steve Folio talked me into signing up for the Pendleton Semper Tri in August 2014. I was still skeptical about Triathlon until the last minute of the race. I recognized 3-4 competitors running ahead of me and it was then I told myself, I’m going to beat them. I picked up my pace and then sprinted the last 100 meters passing several competitors at the end.

After the Semper Tri race, two of my high school buddies saw my Facebook posts and challenged me to enter Ironman Boulder 70.3. The rest is history.

Craig: What was your first introduction to TCSD like?

Jack: My first introduction was the Pannikin Ride. Again, Steve Folio recommended the ride because it’s a great ride and I lived in the La Jolla village. I joined the club and started riding with the Pannikin Ride in late 2014. The athletes on the Pannikin Ride recommended participating in the TCSD Duathlon on March 7, 2015. I remember trying to keep up with Doug Small and Markus Hofmann during the final run. I think I came in 4th place.

Craig: What is the Pannikin Ride and when did you start leading it?

Jack: The Pannikin Ride is a no pressure, fun 15-mile bike ride with 1000 feet of climbing. The ride starts and ends at the Pannikin Coffee shop (7467 Girard Ave, La Jolla, California) every Tuesday and Thursday.  We meet at 6:15am, ride for about an hour and 15 minutes, and then head to the Pannikin for a chat before work over coffee and/or breakfast. I’ve been leading this ride since June 2015. My predecessors are awesome people like Thomas Johnson, Brian Flora, Ryan Georgianna, Sandi Smith and Janis Intoy. I think it safe to say the Pannikin Ride participants have contributed over 3000 accents of Mount Soledad.  The views of San Diego and the ocean from this spot are breathtaking!

Craig: How has taking a leadership role in the Pannikin Ride enhanced your TCSD membership?

Jack: The Pannikin Ride is a bonding experience for TCSD members, visitors and friends. We discuss races, workouts, family and even work. The most common email questions I get are centered around the ride difficulty and time the ride ends. Like I mentioned earlier the ride is a fun ride, there is no pressure, you are encouraged to go as fast or as slow as you wish.  As a leader of the ride occasionally I switch up the route to add variety, we may go to Kate Sessions Park or Fiesta Island. Lasting about 60 to 90 minutes, the ride is meant to be short and sweet!  For me it is the best way to start the day in beautiful San Diego. Taking this leadership role has enhanced my knowledge of the San Diego area. Looking from the top of Mount Soledad I feel like a tour guide pointing out places like where we swim at the Shores, the Miramar airstrip, Cabrillo, Downtown San Diego, and even as far as Dana Point (on a clear morning!).

Craig: You also volunteer in other ways to support triathlon.  What else do you do?

Jack: For me swimming comes naturally, but I have found that is not how most people feel, so this past year I started volunteering as a swim buddy.  Whether I was there to help with a fear of the open water, a beginner who just needed help with technique, or to give a boost of confidence. I have met some truly amazing people who trusted me to help them.  I really enjoy being a swim buddy and would encourage anyone who loves swimming to volunteer.  It is easy.  Just contact – Tom Washington (crimelabtom@yahoo.com) or Ian Kelly (iskbydand@att.net).

In 2018, I will continue to volunteer as a swim buddy at the KOZ events and as swim catcher at Oceanside 70.3. Something new I’m getting into is volunteering as a bike leader for local half marathons/marathons. My first event is in Encinitas coming in March. There are many ways to volunteer, and many races depend on volunteer help. I found out about opportunities through TCSD and race websites.

Craig: What is your favorite part of TCSD membership?

Jack: Since I’ve been volunteering at quite a few triathlons this past year, I’ve really come to love the club races. The aquathlons are my favorite events the Tri Club has to offer. They are a great excuse to get out of work early. Summertime at La Jolla Shores is an amazing place to gather with friends, swim in the State Marine Reserve (aka The Shores) while you bob-n-weave around beachgoers and tourists.

Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?

Jack: Well, at the time it was completing the Semper Tri back in 2014. I don’t remember training except for riding my bike every day. I really didn’t know what to expect from my body. I didn’t think I would even finish the race so at the end when I was able to sprint across the finish line I was very proud of myself. Now I think back to Ironman Boulder 70.3 in June 2015. That race was the original mark that made triathlon a fulltime hobby. My friends challenged me and I achieved my fastest time to date; 6 hours 3 minutes. That’s my greatest accomplishment and the goal to beat!

Craig: Who have been some of the most influential people in your triathlon life?

Jack: One reason, I moved my family to San Diego was for a healthier lifestyle. My wife Cheryl has been there every step of the way: encouraging me in my training, making sure I have all my gear for races and waking up at the crack of dawn on race days so she and the kids can support me. Cheryl will find me multiple spots throughout a race always cheering me on and ringing the cow bell. More cow bell, please! Cheryl’s support goes beyond the races. She’s a passionate cook and healthy eater.  She keeps our family happy and healthy.

Doug Small is my technical guide to everything triathlon. He has shared his knowledge and specific tips more times than I can count. Now, if only I would listen I could improve my times.

Craig: Who has been the most influential person in your life?

Jack: My Dad has always been there pushing me to do the best I can. To be honest, I’m not sure I truly listened to him until I was nearing the end of my college career. I cared for school but I never consistently tried to do well in school until my senior year in college. But throughout college during winter and summer breaks I would come home and work for my father. He worked for a construction company supervising the labor force and was able to hire me on part time. We didn’t work side by side but I witnessed his skills and his interactions with crew and it was then I gained a new respect for him and for hard work. I guess that’s when I partially matured. My professional career and my work ethic are a direct result from what I learned from my Dad. Love you Dad.

When I was young my Dad was there encouraging me at my soccer games, at my swim meets and to take those long bike rides with my friends. Those are the memories that stick with me and those are the actions I try to emulate with his grandkids. Especially with my son now that he has joined the Cross-Country team and Track team in high school. He hasn’t started doing triathlons, yet, but there’s still time!

Craig: If you could waive a magic wand over triathlon, what would you like to change?

Jack: This is not necessarily a change but I’d like to have a big race come to San Diego. The Tour of California started in San Diego a couple years ago which was an awesome experience. So, I’d like to see Triathlon Nationals, Triathlon Worlds or even an ITU cup race take place in San Diego.

Craig: What are your future athletic goals?

Jack: Well, my main goal is to go under 6 hours in a 70.3 race. I don’t have a race picked out yet, so I’ll keep working out on the Pannikin Ride and with the TriClub! Go TriClub! After that (or in the meantime) I also enjoy long adventurous bike rides. I usually do a Century ride once a year and one day I’ll get up the nerve to ride my bike from Temecula to Palm Springs over the Santa Rosa Mountains. The route is not bike friendly with little to no bike lanes but the scenery is spectacular. In addition to the Temecula to Palm Springs ride, I’d like to ride around the Salton Sea again. Back in November 2014 a couple friends and I circumnavigated the desert sea. 115 miles in about 8 hours. Very windy and challenging, but lots fun.  As an extension to traditional triathlon I hope to one day get back into mountain biking and participate in an Xterra Triathlon.

Craig: Jack, thank you so much for sharing your story and for being such a good volunteer.  It is volunteers like you who get the most joy out of their TCSD membership.  I have a feeling you are going to see your Ironman 70.3 finish time start with a “5” very soon.  You got this!

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.  Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

Posted in 2018, TCSD Conversation, Triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TCSD Conversation: December 2017 – 2017 World Championships

Andrew Shore at Ironman Hawaii revealing gender of their baby to wife, Dena.

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

For this edition of TCSD Conversation I spoke to our members who raced World Championship events in 2017.  My hope is that more of our members will race the qualifying events.  This is a great way to see the world.

These are the members who answered my questions with their World Championship results.  Some of them raced more than 1 World Championship.

Holly Stroschine: ITU Draft Legal Sprint Triathlon – Rotterdam.  23rd place F40-44.

Raja Lahti McMahon:  ITU Draft Legal Sprint Triathlon – Rotterdam.  33rd place F40-44.

Melanie Willard: ITU Draft Legal Sprint Triathlon – Rotterdam.  30th place F30-34.  Xterra – Maui.  14th F30-34.

Scott Ehrlich: ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon – Rotterdam.  16th M65-69.

Rachel Hayes: Ironman 70.3 – Chattanooga.  112th F40-44.

Andrew Shore:  Ironman – Kona.  148th M35-39.

Al Tarkington: Ironman – Kona.  6th M75-79.

Julie Dunkle:  Ironman 70.3 – Chattanooga.  16th F50-54.  Ironman – Kona.  11th F50-54.

Mike Plumb: ITU Long Distance Aqua Bike – Penticton.  5th M55-59.

Al Torre: Ironman 70.3 – Chattanooga.  34th M55-59.  Ironman – Kona.  70th M55-59.

Scott Endsley: ITU Long Distance Aqua Bike – Penticton.  11th M60-64.

Wendy Endsley: ITU Draft Legal Sprint Duathlon – Penticton.  10th F50-54.  ITU Long Distance Triathlon – Penticton.  7th F50-54.

Niels Vande Casteele:  Ironman 70.3 – Chattanooga.  8th M30-34.

Judi Carbary: ITU Draft Legal Sprint Duathlon – Penticton.  3rd F65-69.

Craig Zelent: Ironman 70.3 – Chattanooga.  42nd M55-59.  ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon – Rotterdam.  41st M55-59.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to qualify for your World Championship race? 

Holly: My biggest challenge was CHILDCARE.  Flying the kids to another state for my dad to babysit, so I could compete at Nationals was just a small part of it.  Kids are wonderful, but on a daily basis, they create challenges, from finding time to exercise, to having someone watch them so you can train at your preferred pace.  With a husband gone a lot for work, and family far away, this makes for very creative parent/child workouts.  Thank goodness my kids like to be “Lifeguards” for me on a paddleboard when I swim, make sure I don’t pass out when running circles around them at the track, and aren’t bothered by the sound of my bike trainer interrupting “Family Movie Night.”

Raja: Usually my biggest obstacle is my swim. I’m not a fish by nature so the swim is a challenge for me. This time, however, in order to qualify for Worlds in 2017, you need to be in the top 8 in the age group at Nationals in 2016. Top 8 is not very many spots to begin with and I was recovering from a broken tail bone 4 weeks before Nationals. For 4 weeks prior to Nationals I couldn’t do anything, not even swim! A week before the race I was able to start running… and gingerly sit on a bike seat. So my fitness was not where I wanted it to be and I had no idea how I was going to race in that condition. I guess the pain of injury can be distracting from other race pains, and somehow I managed to podium at National Championships in 2016! Needless to say, I took the spot and did the happy dance.

Melanie: I think the biggest obstacle, for me, was financial.  After all, it sounds expensive…and it is! But that’s what credit cards are for, right?  You only live once, life is too short to pass up opportunities like this, and {insert additional cliches here}…I knew I had to commit and just figured out a way to make it happen. No regrets. Once the season ended, I committed to working 6 days to make up for it.  Again, worth it, 100%.

Scott Ehrlich: I got hit by a car in 2014 and broke 3 bones. In 2017, I had to take 3 months off from running during prime season (June-August) due to inflammation in my hip.  I managed to get running again only 4 weeks before Worlds.

Rachel: I wouldn’t say I had any challenges in qualifying for the race. As soon as I knew the race was on US soil for 2017, I was going to do what it took to qualify. I qualified early on at Super Frog in September 2016, but would have also earned a spot at Oceanside 70.3 and Santa Rosa 70.3. The biggest challenge for me was to stay healthy for the race once I did qualify.

Andrew: The biggest obstacle for me was having the near perfect race against the competition on race day.  I have been trying for Kona for nearly 8 years, and have been steadily improving in my chances each year.  Over the last 2 years, my focus was entirely on qualifying.  Last year, I had my first DNF due to non-mechanical reasons.  I had to re-evaluate my ambitions this year to ensure I enjoyed the race as well as qualifying.  This year I was able to overcome everything that came at me during the race and perform at my own high expectations.

Al Tarkington:  The biggest obstacle this year was my wife, Steve, suddenly losing her hearing four months before Ironman.  She has been my biggest supporter over the years, from assisting me with nutrition on long rides, doing all the driving on training days, changing her schedule to fit my training, going to strange places to qualify.

With her hearing loss, the tables were turned, and I spent a great deal of time doing the communicating for her, plus driving and attending numerous doctors and audiologist  appointments.  My training program was no longer of importance, became of second importance.  She qualified for a cochlear implant, however she could not fly after the operation.  So we scheduled the surgery for three days after we returned from Kona.

The best news isn’t that I completed Ironman in Kona.  The best news is not that I was the oldest athlete to finish in Kona this year.  The best news is that Steve now has a cochlear implant and she can hear again!

Julie: This was my 6th kona and it is not one big obstacle.  It is the consistency from January – October:

  1. Strength and mobility regularly.
  2. Eating a clean diet when I really want that glass of wine or to binge on cookies.
  3. Going to bed at 8-9pm regularly.
  4. Planning my social life around my training. Workouts come first.
  5. Doing the workouts I least want to do, but know they are the ones that count.

Mike: After qualifying for Team USA at the USAT Long Distance Nationals in Miami last November, during my annual year-end physical the doctor found a lump on my thyroid. After ultra sound and 5 biopsies they still could not discover whether the lump was benign or malignant. The decision was made finally to operate and remove it to find out for sure whether I had cancer or not. Surgery was finally scheduled for June 28th, 8 weeks before the World Championships. They removed the right half of my thyroid and then it was a long two weeks waiting for the results to come back. Luckily, the results came back clear, the tumor they removed was benign. Further testing also showed that my half thyroid was functioning perfectly and I wouldn’t need to go on any medication to help it function.  With that clearance I was finally able to really concentrate on the preparations for the World Championships.

Al Torre: The biggest obstacle was making the time to train between family and work obligations to get fast enough to qualify. It was a balancing act that I had to optimize to give me the best chance at succeeding. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a very supporting wife that allows me to pursue the dream.

Scott Endsley: Wendy and I were both challenged with pre-race physical issues. Despite Wendy’s neck and shoulder traumas, which allowed only two total bike workouts for the year, she still had one of the fastest bike splits in her race. She is a monster on the bike, still doing 1hr 3min 40k bike splits at 50+!! Talk about gifted!  I was happy to average over 20 mph for the 75-mile hilly Canadian bike course with my rehabbed 2nd knee replacement.

Niels: Pulling the trigger and signing up after qualifying. IM70.3 WC races are often left aside with the goal set on Kona. However, it’s a fantastic race and you’re competing against the best in the world. Since the location rotates every year, each edition is unique and worth doing. If you can physically and financially: think 70.3 AND 140.6: I raced IM Louisville 5 weeks after which resulted in a 9:14 PR, 3rd in M30-34 and top 10 amateur overall.

Judi: My biggest obstacle to overcome were several injuries from an accidental knee sprain and 32 years of racing.

Craig: My neck has given me problems over the past 3 seasons, especially with my bike training.  After 30+ years of racing and nearly 300 triathlons, my body has a lot of miles in it.  My little pin head is too heavy to maintain the aero position for any length of time.

What was the best part of your World Championship experience? 

Holly: The best part of my experience was meeting so many kind, compassionate people.  Turns out, having your bike and luggage lost by the airlines is a great way to make friends.  You know someone’s going to be a friend for life when they give you a clean pair of socks, or let you borrow their wetsuit (which may or may not get peed in).  Sure enough, we keep in touch, and are thrilled for a reunion in 2018.

Raja: The Draft legal bike leg was a complete adrenaline rush. I had never done a draft legal race before, so not only was this race going to be my first experience doing a draft legal tri, but it was in Rotterdam, almost in the rain! I am not a strong swimmer, so I knew I was not going to Rotterdam with any grand expectation. In draft legal racing, if you can’t get out of the water with the top athletes, you don’t have a chance. I’m a strong cyclist, and a draft legal race allows weaker cyclists to ride with stronger packs. A strong cyclist has zero advantage in a draft-legal race. During the bike leg, I was able to connect with another American and a Brit, and the 3 of us worked together better than most road cyclists. I have done some velodrome and road racing, so riding in a pack is not foreign to me. The 3 of us hit that course in perfect rotation, each one of us thinking, “oh geez, I can barely stay on her wheel, damn she’s strong!” So my moment of honor was having the fastest American bike split in my age group and the 7th fastest bike split in the world in my age group.  

Melanie: For ITU, I’d say the travel made it all worth it. I never was able to travel much before triathlon, and I love seeing different parts of the world, especially Europe (this was Rotterdam). I soaked up (literally, it was raining) all training leading up to the race, and met some great people! In Maui, I was happy to survive the race itself. I’m not a strong swimmer and felt like I had a 3 out of 10 chance of finishing that race. It was only my 4th Xterra, less than a year from my first mountain bike ride, and a pretty challenging open water swim…yikes! I got creamed in the warmup swim…smashed by a wave so hard that it took both my swim caps, my goggles, AND my ponytail holder (I looked like a combo of Cousin It and the Swamp Monster staggering to the beach at that point).  But I lived, and figured I got the worst of it out of the way so it was all downhill from there.  Those who’ve raced Xterra know how deceiving that thought can be, but it got me through the swim (eventually).  I knew it would be very liberating if I was able to pull it off, and it was!

Scott Ehrlich:  What a great year of training and racing with all my tri buddies throughout 2017. I’m so grateful for all their support. Many thanks to Christopher W, Christopher H., Rachel H., Michele S., Kevin K., Doug S., Myles D., Travis R., Tim R.,  Darren O.   Oh, and I was seriously motivated by those cool Team USA uniforms.

Rachel: The best part of the race was how much I underestimated what it meant to be there and be a part of it all! This was my first WC and going in, I was thinking about it like any other race. As soon as I arrived in Chattanooga, I realized this was not like any other race…this was the best of the best competing. The whole athlete experience was amazing. Just the realization that I was competing at the WC level was enough for me. To put it in perspective, 171 of 264 women in my AG went sub-6 hours on a very tough course in Chattanooga compared to 31 of 190 in my AG that went sub-6 at Oceanside!

Andrew: During the race, my wife and I did our baby’s gender reveal.  We went to a local running shop a couple days before and purchased a blue or pink hat without us knowing the color.  I then gave the bag from the running shop to my handler in transition who put it in my T2 bag without me seeing it.  I ran the entire marathon with a smile on my face knowing I’d be having a baby girl next March.  It was the first time in my race career I thoroughly enjoyed the run and even stopped to kiss my wife!

Al Tarkington: This year, with all the distractions, my goal was simply to finish within 17 hours.  And, if I could run across the finish line (unlike last year when my leg cramped and I fell across the line), that would be a plus.  This year, my wife encouraged several of our friends to come to Kona and watch.  It put additional pressure for me to finish, but it was very special to see our friends who waited until late at the finish line.

Julie: The last 100 yards down the magical red carpet on Ali’i Drive in Kona.  I cry every time…it is magical, amazing and makes the entire day/year of pain and suffering worth it.   I have goose bumps even typing this.

Mike: The best parts of this World Championships experience were returning to Penticton to race again (home of the old Ironman Canada course), having one of my best ever long course races, and getting to share the whole experience with my wife, Jennifer, as it was her first trip to Penticton. Placing in the top 5 in my division at a World Championship was also a major highlight as well.

Al Torre: The best part of the Ironman World Championship was having my whole family in Kona for the race. They helped me tremendously with preparation and taking care of the little things that can easily overwhelm you when traveling to a race like Kona. Having them all at the finish line and getting my World Championship medal put around my neck by my wife was fantastic!

Scott Endsley: The best part of our World Championship was my wife’s courageous and go-for-the-gusto decision, two days after her top ten finish at duathlon Worlds, to register for and compete in the “open” class for the long course triathlon world championship held that same week in Penticton. To fully appreciate this decision, we triathletes must imagine the following true facts:

  1. Willingly, without provocation, signing up for a very expensive long course race, two days before it is held, with no anticipation or planning to do so, two days after competing at another world championship race.
  2. Needing to borrow someone’s opposite sex wetsuit for a 2 mile open water swim with less than 500 yards average swim week training for the last 50 weeks leading up to the race.
  3. Two times on any bike total for the year before the race (only spin classes were attended), and Wendy used a man’s bike for the race that she had not ever used before.
  4. And for the 19 mile run, she purchased new Hoka’s the day before the race, which would have worked well if she had not misunderstood my directions to dump water on her head to stay cool, but not in the shoes, on mile 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, etc. Her feet were so wet and soggy by race end, her feet were completely, and I mean completely, covered with blisters, heel to toe!

Thank goodness for some of us that our enthusiasm can be tempered with a pre-race plan from experienced coaches like Craig Zelent. Despite it all, Wendy not only finished her first long course race, but finished 7th!  Now that’s amazing!

Niels: Seeing my lovely wife Djohara at mile 10 into the run screaming that I’m in 12th place and that I should “Belgian the funk up” and catch at least three guys in front of me to finish in the top 10. Ouch!

Judi: The best part of my world championship experience was seeing my longtime Team USA friends and meeting new ones, as well as travelling to a new beautiful destination inaugural multisport world championship event.

Craig: For Chattanooga, it was seeing 2 of my old college friends who live in nearby Nashville.  And for Rotterdam, it was how God continues to shine on me.  It rained 90% of our time in Rotterdam leading up to my race, but on race day it was beautiful.  My prayers were answered!

Who has been the most influential person in your success as a triathlete? 

Holly: VERY tough question.  I have not had a coach, no family “Tris”, and I don’t personally know any pros…  Soooo, YOU Craig, have been a wonderful influence, racing at the World Championship level in Sprint and Olympic distances.  I know you do longer too, but that’s not my point.  With my bad knees from torn ACLs and meniscus, 5 surgeries and related arthritis, I have always been interested in doing longer races, but the knee problems make me stop at Olympic.  One time you told me something along the lines of “Good for you!  I envy those like you, who can race fast in the sprint.  Not everyone should go long.”  If you’d like a simple answer, I will say “I am inspired by sprint and Olympic distance athletes who strive to be faster, without succumbing to the pressure to go further.”

Raja: A number of people have had key influences for me.  Firstly, Michellie Jones. I haven’t done a lot of racing (or even training) since having my son in 2012. She is so down to earth, yet motivating. She said in her little Aussie accent, “I think you should try to qualify for Worlds”.  I looked at her like she was dreaming. “I don’t have time to train” I told her. “You think I can qualify off minimal training?” All she said was “Yes.” She helped me with short workouts I could cram in on the trainer, and even would take me running on occasion. I’m always impressed she can run like a normal person, not just a gazelle all the time. She had me doing cords to get some swim strength up, and always had words of encouragement and support. In Rotterdam she would meet me in the pouring rain to go ride the course, “you need to learn how your bike handles in the rain, on wet cobbles.” So off we’d go in the pouring rain. Not just an easy ride, she and I practiced riding hard, rotating and drafting and making note of sketchy turns, of which there were a lot! Without her help, I probably wouldn’t have found the extra gear and inspiration. She’s an amazing mentor.

Other people of importance are Sergio Borges, whom I trained with prior to having my son. He’s inspirational and I’m glad to see he’s back in San Diego coaching after his coaching position in Thailand.  He has always remained completely supportive, even after I stopped training. Lesley Paterson, aka “The Scottish Devil”, is also someone I admire and have had the privilege of training with in the past.  Whenever I”m in pain, I still imagine this little Scottish Devil sitting on my shoulder and telling my legs to go “shut it”.

Last by not least is my husband David McMahon. We qualified for Worlds together, so this was a special trip for us. He’s always been a long course guy and qualified for Kona in 2011. He’s been doing triathlon a lot longer than I had, but we met at a masters swim class, and had triathlon in common from the beginning. I finally convinced him to go for Nationals, and he qualified in the Olympic distance. Being able to race together after having our son has been a real treat.

Melanie: I’m very happy to have such great people around me to learn from and train with.  My coaches, Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall, are such wonderful people and a plethora of knowledge in all things sport and psych related (cuz let’s face it, we can all be a little nuts at times).  They push me to achieve personal bests which I never would have thought were possible.  I’m getting mountain bike lessons from Tammy Tabeek, and she’s definitely kept me from killing myself with this new challenge.  Her skills are off the charts, and I would have never had the confidence to tackle the technical aspect of mountain biking without her.  Great training buddies are also a must!  Erynne and Sean Hill (Rehab United) are great people, and I’ve had a blast hanging with them and experiencing new trails with a fun group of peeps.

Scott Ehrlich: All my tri friends have motivated me with their perseverance, grit and determination.  Of course, my foundation is the support and love of my partner and husband of thirty years – Frank.

Rachel: My coach, Juliano Teruel. Doing the work to compete in triathlon is not the hard part. 2017 has been a tough year with injury, having had to take a divided 4 months off running for the year prior to the race.  It was the coaching beyond just the day to day training when I couldn’t run that he was instrumental with…keeping my head in the game and focusing on getting me to where I could actually finish the event.

Andrew: I have two major bosses in my life, my wife and my coach, in that order.  My wife, Dena, is amazing and allowed our entire schedule to revolve around my workouts while I tried to achieve this lifetime goal.  She encouraged me the entire time and pushed me out of bed when my motivation started to wane.  I could not have done this without her.  Secondly, my coach Michellie Jones made sure I was doing the right things and not overdoing anything.  In the three years I’ve worked with her, I’ve learned so much about myself and pushing through any limitations I thought I had.  Without her guidance, I don’t think I could have qualified for Kona, won a local race, or done any of it without ever being injured in the process!

Al Tarkington: This question goes back to the previous question.  My wife has been number one in my triathlon endeavors.  She has supported me in both success and in failure.  In scrapes and injuries.  She has lived with and sometimes suffered through my training schedule.   She has been with me and stuck by me in Ironman events around the world, Brazil, South Africa, China, New Zealand, and others.

Julie: My husband, John, for working around my crazy schedule and supporting me in every way!  My coach, Mike Ricci, for pushing me, challenging me and supporting me in every way.

Mike: While I have had many influences over the course of my 33 years in the sport, my biggest influence right now is my wife Jennifer. She motivates me and inspires me every day. We both live the triathlon lifestyle and push each other to not only train but to enjoy everything both inside and out of the sport.

Scott Endsley: Every triathlete I meet, with their own unique stories, challenges, and adventures, including my wife, motivates me to keep going, and racing, into my 40th year of being a triathlete, in 2018!  My parents and God, of course, who gave me the jeans, and the genes, influenced my triathlon success the most.

Niels: My coach Scott DeFilippis: local and professional triathlete. 

Judi: My longtime Team USA friends are my motivation for qualifying and doing world championships.

Craig: Lots of people over the years, but over the past 10+ years 1 person has really stood out.  My wife, Laurie, loves to train and race and she encourages me, by example, to get out the door and train every day.

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.  Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

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Bonfield Express 5K Turkey Trot

Bonfield Express: Craig, Debbie, Tera, Ben from L-R with Patrick getting a free ride.

Thanksgiving: Debbie, Craig, Cindy & Mom

On November 23rd I raced the Bonfield Express 5K Turkey Trot in Downers Grove, IL.  This was the 3rd consecutive year I have done this race.  The previous 2 years I ran 19:32 and 19:36 and won my age group.  This year I ran 18:57 and placed 2nd out of 374 men age 50-59 and 54th out of 5,315 overall finishers.  I got crushed by a guy named Paul Neumann who ran 16:46.  I don’t think it was the same Paul Newman from the movies, salad dressing and auto racing fame.  One of my University of Illinois Delta Upsilon Fraternity brothers also did the race – Steve Barczi placed 4th in our age group.

I was joined in the race by my sister Debbie, her son Ben, his wife Tera and son Patrick.  We had a great time and it was the start of a wonderful family oriented 4 day Thanksgiving visit back home.  I stayed with my Mom who is doing well at the age of 96.  These visits to see Mom are priceless to me.  Later in the day we celebrated the epic Thanksgiving dinner at Katy and Jeff Emerson’s house.  The next day we got together with my cousins Randy Jacob and Donna Goffron, along with my Mom, sisters Debbie and Cindy and Cindy’s husband Jim.  Also on the trip I saw my friends Bruce McNair, Chuck Carey and Paul Winans.

Living the life…

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TCSD Conversation: November 2017 – Anne Quadrini Rogers

Anne with 87 years young Sister Madonna at 2017 USA Triathlon National Championships

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I have known Anne Quadrini Rogers for a few years, but got to know her much better from our trip this summer to USA Triathlon Nationals in Omaha.  Anne is one of my favorite people in TCSD and I think you’ll enjoy getting to know her, too.

Craig: What was your athletic background when you were younger?

Anne: I’m the oldest of four kids and was 4-1/2 when the youngest was born. I think for my mom’s sanity, she always had us outside running around. I was also a tomboy, so I’d rather be outside throwing the football or riding a bike than be inside playing with dolls.

When I was swimming at a community pool while in 4th grade, someone mentioned to me that if I swam a certain number of laps, I could swim a mile. I was so intrigued, I did it that day. An endurance athlete was born!

I played soccer, softball, and even a little bit of basketball growing up. Soccer was so competitive in high school that I opted for drill team. Friday night football was life in Texas, even in Dallas. Drill team was the squad that did dance routines with high kicks and splits during halftime and cheered during the game. Practices were 2 to 2-1/2 hours a day during football season, requiring dedication and efficiency to keep up with our studies at my challenging college prep school.

Craig: The military has been a constant theme in your life.  Your grandpa, dad, and husband Charlie have all been in the military.  How has that shaped you?

Anne: My Daddy was in the Marines before he married my Mom. Even though he was no longer active when we were born, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” We made our beds with “Marine corners”, woke up early every day, even during vacation (lots to do everyday!) and stayed active in sports and life. Discipline was expected.

In addition, my Mom’s dad was a Marine during WW II, and my wonderful husband Charlie was in the Army when we met. My first job after getting married was as a civilian in the Army Corps of Engineers in West Germany, where Charlie was stationed at the end of the Cold War. I also was active with the officers’ wives group. So yes, the discipline, dedication, and efficiency of military life has rubbed off on me.

Craig: In getting to know you, I have detected a lot of Texas A&M pride.  What is so special about the Aggies?

Anne: In 8th grade, I decided I wanted to be an engineer (just like my Daddy!), and since “my blood runs maroon”, Texas A&M was the obvious choice. The traditions, discipline, and loyalty of A&M drew me there, and it was the only place I applied to (much to my Mom’s concern.) Going from an all-girls high school to a male-dominated major was quite a change…which I certainly enjoyed. Texas A&M started the 12th Man tradition of standing during the game, ready to help our team (with player E. King Gill in the Dixie Classic in 1922), and no matter how the game goes, the Fighting Texas Aggie Band ALWAYS wins halftime!

I participate with the San Diego Aggie Club, so that I can be with others who understand what it means to be an Aggie. The most important tradition is Aggie Muster, celebrated by Aggies all around the world on 21 April, San Jacinto Day (commemorating the day of the final battle in the war for Texas Independence.) Any Aggie who has died over the past year will be remembered in a solemn ceremony on that day. Celebrations off campus often also include a social and BBQ, of course.

Craig: What was the inspiration that led to your first triathlon?

Anne: After graduating from Texas A&M, I moved back to Dallas. In my spare time, I became very involved in cycling. My favorite race was the “Hotter than Hell Hundred”, in Wichita Falls…in August. Once again, it was me and the guys. But my competitiveness and determination came out, and I loved passing the guys, especially going uphill. Fast forward several years, and I had twins. No more cycling for me.

When my twins were getting older, I started running. Again, being the competitive person I am, I joined a few friends in a challenge of five marathons in five months…and ended up with a stress fracture in my foot. No running for 8 weeks. Back to cycling and swimming! I decided I couldn’t let all that cross-training go to waste, and I convinced my good friend Janet to do a triathlon with me. On 10-10-10, we did “The Day at the Beach” at Hermosa Beach.

As Janet and I stood on the shore, looking at the angry, choppy ocean, we both realized we hadn’t done any open water swimming! Although I could swim all day long in a pool, I couldn’t do freestyle in that choppy water. I briefly panicked, thinking I can’t DNF in my 1st Tri. I finished that whole swim doing the backstroke! Janet and I somehow finished the swim together, so we jumped on our mountain bikes and started the 3-lap bike portion. Each lap, we passed these teens volunteering on the course. Every time we cycled past them, they’d yell out, “And that’s the way we roll!” That has since become a mantra for Janet and me. As I crossed that finish line, I knew I had found my sport. It was hard, but I felt like a kid, going from one sport to the next. I had become a Triathlete!

Craig: In 2017 you raced Olympic Distance Nationals in Omaha for the first time.  What was that experience like?

Anne: I had the opportunity to race USA Tri Nationals in Omaha. What a fantastic experience! One that I hope I can do again. Even though I knew I wouldn’t finish anywhere near the top, I was still happy to be there. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting Sister Madonna Buder, the Iron Nun. At 87 years old, she is still a ball of energy!

I enjoyed volunteering with Craig Zelent and Holly Stroschine at packet pickup-the energy from everyone was high. People were excited to be at Nationals!

The swim for me didn’t go as planned (I had a fight with my goggles, and lost), but the bike went well. I had fun cycling past all those cornfields, as well as up the one hill in Omaha.

Even though I hadn’t placed in the race (no surprise there) I went to the awards ceremony. Awards were given out to the top 10 in each age group (Congratulations, Craig!), starting with the 85+ age group. What an inspiration to see the athletes in those older age groups. They all looked so great! I want to be like them when I “grow up”!

If I am ever lucky enough to qualify for Nationals again, I plan to go.

Craig: You completed the HITS Ironman in Palm Springs in 2015.  What was that experience like for you?

Anne: When Janet and I did our first Sprint Tri together, we marveled at those athletes doing Olympic distance. We eventually did our first Olympic together (LA Tri Events), as well as our first Half Ironman together (Vineman). Our plan was to do IMAZ together, but I ended up not being able to volunteer the year before. So, she did IMAZ, and two weeks later, I did the full distance at HITS Palm Springs. I had done several 70.3s by then, but I knew the training would be more. Boy, that was an understatement! That month of peak volume was definitely a challenge. Since I knew the course would be flat and windy, I trained mostly on Fiesta Island. 25 laps around is not only physical training, but also mental training!!! My schedule had 4 weekends over 100 miles. On the third one, I struggled just to get to 76 miles. My body needed a break. I broke down crying, and called Charlie. I asked him if I came home, could we go walk on the beach together.  He was so understanding and supportive of me. I had my little breakdown, but the following weekend, I was strong and ready to go again.

For the race, we stayed with some good friends who have a desert home in Indio. My cheering crew was ready with signs and cowbells. Since the race had many laps for each leg, I was able to see my cheering squad several times throughout the day; they worked hard, too!

Although my favorite sport is cycling, I was so ready to get off my bike. I saw Charlie at T2 and happily exclaimed, “All I have left is a Marathon!” That statement made perfect sense to me at the time!

One of the best things was, on the first lap of the run, I saw Janet. What a wonderful surprise! She was holding a “140.6” sticker in her hand and said, “All you have to do is run a marathon, and this is yours!”

I did the Ironman Shuffle and made my way across that finish line. Years of leading up to the point, all the training, the dedication, the sacrifices, and I crossed that line. Wow!!! I did it!!! What an amazing feeling. I’m actually getting teary-eyed just thinking about it now.

Craig: What athletic performances are you most proud of?

Anne: I remember sitting in a Tri club meeting when I was still living in the Pasadena area. Our own Bob Babbitt was the speaker at the meeting. He asked for those in the room who had completed a full distance triathlon to raise their hand. The lady next to me raised her hand. She looked like a “normal” person, not a super athlete. It was at that moment I decided to one day do an Ironman. So, many years later, after much training and sacrifice, when I crossed that line in Palm Springs, I felt so proud of myself. I had done it!!!

A non-triathlon athletic endeavor of which I am very proud was hiking up and back Mt. Whitney in one day. I was part of a group of 11 women, and we called ourselves the “Badass Mother Hikers.” The day before we summited, many hikers had to turn back because of bad weather. Our group started at 3:00 am, since we wanted to make it to the top well before noon, when the storms typically roll in. The hike started great, and the sunrise was beautiful. We were doing it!. But the closer we got to the top, the heavier the clouds became. At one point, due to the ice on the trail (in July!), we all had to put crampons onto our hiking boots. I normally like to do things myself (I get that from my grandmother Antoinette, after whom I am named). But at over 14,000′ elevation, I just couldn’t function well enough to get the left one on. A passing hiker asked if I would like him to help; my first thought was No! But, I relented and let him help. We finally made it to the top! (All 11 of us made it, but not all together.) By then, the storm had rolled in. Here I was at the highest peak in the continental US, and I could see maybe 50′ away. After the requisite photos, we “hurried” down the mountain. That was almost harder than going up, especially because of the hail and rain; the trail had become a river. It was dark again by the time we reached the bottom, but we had done it. What an amazing feeling!

Craig: What is the dumbest or funniest thing you have done in your sporting life?

Anne: Well, the dumbest was not doing an open water swim before my first Tri. One of the funniest and also dumbest isn’t Tri-related but does involve my first time wearing a wetsuit. My company was doing a team building day, which included surfing lessons. I was having the hardest time putting on my wetsuit. Turns out, I was trying to put my legs into the arms! Oops!

Craig: You have identical twin boys at Purdue now.  How did having an athletic mom impact their lives?

Anne: God blessed me with twin boys…and not girls. Being a tomboy growing up, I wouldn’t have known what to do with a girly-girl! My sons played every sport out there while growing up; they had endless bounds of energy. Where did they get that from? While still in elementary school they started water polo, which became their sport, even playing for Purdue.

Thomas and Brian were on the Rose Bowl Water Polo team. For those who don’t know the area, The Rose Bowl Aquatics Center was built for the ’84 Olympics, with two full sized Olympic pools. In addition, the road around the Rose Bowl Stadium is,very conveniently, 5km around. There are also about 10 roads leading down (read, hills!) into the Rose Bowl area. In other words, a great place to train while your sons spend hours at water polo practice!

I was that crazy Mom who, during the weekend-long tournaments, would have to run or cycle between games. One of the parents once asked my sons what it was like to have such an athletic Mom. They looked at her quizzically and responded, “It’s normal.”

Since water polo was so demanding, Brian and Thomas had to be very efficient and finish most of their homework before practice. Sometimes, I would catch them drifting off task or starting to bicker with each other. That’s when I would shout out, “Drop and give me 20!” Pumping out 20 push-ups would get their blood moving and change the dynamic to help them refocus. Charlie, who had been in the Army, thought it was funny that I was the one playing drill sergeant. Maybe it came from the Marines in my family (Daddy, Grandpa, cousins), from A&M, or from Charlie, but push-ups seemed like the most logical (and effective) thing to redirect them. And it worked!

During Thomas and Brian’s senior year, they did a sprint triathlon (LA Tri Series) with me. Due to their water polo background, they were 1st and 3rd out of the water! Then they jumped onto their heavy mountain bikes and sped along. Although they did well in the race, despite their lack of experience and proper equipment, they decided they much preferred water polo. But now that they have a Tri under their belt, when they get older, they can jump into the sport more easily, knowing they have already completed one.

I always went to cheer on my boys in their games, so when I asked them and Charlie to cheer me on for my first marathon (Pasadena), they happily obliged. My sons surprised me and made the most amazing signs. As I was hitting the wall at mile 23, wondering why I was doing this to myself, I turned the corner (literally) and there they were, waving their wonderful homemade signs. Oh, that was the best thing! It gave me the boost I needed to finish that race. I still have those signs!

Craig: What have you done as a volunteer for TCSD?

Anne: Although I haven’t held an official position at TCSD, I volunteer as often as I can. I enjoy helping with set up at our awesome club races and events, especially at check-in: what a great way to meet the other members! I also like helping at the expos so I can tell other people about our amazing club.

Craig: What other volunteer roles in the community have you found to be particularly rewarding?

Anne: Volunteering has always been an important part of my life, with my parents setting the example. My high school’s motto was “Serviam”, Latin for “I will serve.”

Teaching Sunday School at church, volunteering with Junior League of Pasadena (Junior League is an international women’s volunteer group), and being president of my running club were all great. But my favorite positions involved volunteering with and for my sons, including reading to their class in the library, helping out in the classroom, and of course, being the official “Water Polo Mom”. I didn’t realize how much I had been volunteering until my sons’ senior year. I was invited to the “Terrific Titan” luncheon (their high school’s mascot was the Titans) under the guise that my friend was receiving the coveted “Terrific Titan” award, for exceptional volunteer service. As they started reading about the background of the person receiving the award, I soon realized, I was the recipient! What an amazing honor!

I am proud to say, the tradition of “Serviam” has been carried on by my sons, who volunteer at their church and with their fraternities.

Craig: What is the best thing you get from volunteering?

Anne: I think volunteering is such an important part of our society, from schools, to our awesome TriClub, to the amazing acts of volunteering during the recent hurricanes in our country. And although volunteering is mainly to help the recipient, it also helps the volunteer. One of my favorite volunteer memories was years ago, when I was working in the Junior League Thrift Store during Christmas time. A man came into the store with a handful of crumpled bills and some change, looking for a gift for his wife. We looked together searching around the store and found the perfect gift. He was so excited. But I think I got more out of it than he did. It felt so good to see the smile on his face!

Craig: What role does God play in your life?

Anne: God has always played an important part in my life. Again, my parents were great role models for my siblings and me. My Mom was the Director of Religious Ed at my church for 15 years. Everyone knew the Quadrini family, which meant we had to behave at church! No easy task for siblings about the same age, who might have to preferred to chat and giggle during Mass.

I am so grateful to God for all the opportunities I have had, and for being able to make it through the challenging times in my life as well. I was very ill many years ago and ended up in the hospital. I consider the day I entered the hospital as my “Living Day”, and I want to live each day to the fullest to show my thankfulness.

One of my mantras while I race is the verse from Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” During the run, I pray for people, especially those who cannot do what I am doing. My strong, powerful Daddy had a stroke last year, and I often pray for him and dedicate my run to him.

Craig: What do you do for a living?

Anne: I was educated as an engineer, and truly enjoyed all the technical work I did. When I got my MBA, I learned that those crazy people in Marketing actually had a reason for having us Engineers do (or not do) certain things. But then I started working with my husband Charlie, who is a financial advisor and wealth manager. We have our own firm, Azimuth Wealth Advisors. “Azimuth” is a quantitative measure of direction. The term is used both in Field artillery (Charlie’s job in the Army) for finding the direction to safely fire weapons and hit the distant target, and in the cellular industry (I was an engineer at Verizon) for designing the cell sites.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?

Anne: I would love to make it to USA Nationals again. And, as an even higher goal, I would love to represent the USA in Worlds.

Craig: Anne, thank you so much for telling us your story.  Your family and friends have been very blessed to have you in their lives.  TCSD is part of that fortunate group of people.  I am sure I will see you again at Nationals and probably Worlds.  That is assuming you can break yourself of the habit of putting your legs in the arm holes of your wetsuit.

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.  Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

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K1 Speed

Craig & Rochelle icing down after the crash

On Friday after work my department went out to K1 Speed for a team building event.  If you are not familiar, K1 is indoor go-cart racing.  We had done this once before and it was a lot of fun.

There were 10 of us so the track was pretty crowded.  The 1st race was just a practice race.  The 2nd race would determine pole position for the 3rd and final race.  I did pretty well in the 1st race – I had the 4th fastest lap and the fastest average speed for all 12 laps.  My big challenge in that 1st race was Rochelle Hernandez.  She was excellent.  I just could not get around her.

The 2nd race started innocent enough.  Lots of fun.  John Castro and I had an epic duel.  It is really hard to pass someone on the narrow track, but we must have passed one another 5 times within 2 laps.  We were having a blast until the major pile up happened.

Just ahead of John and I another duel was going on between Atapana (Pana) Faumuina and Rochelle.  Pana bumped Rochelle and spun her around.  Now she was going the wrong way on the track.  She had John and I bearing down on her and not enough time to get out of the way.  John narrowly missed her as he snuck thru a gap before it closed.  I had no idea any of this had happened.  Rochelle and I collided head on.  I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I do think part of my cart went up over hers and then I t-boned into the wall.  Game over!  They immediately shut down all the other carts.

I will be fine, but it was the worst whiplash I have ever had.  Thankfully you are required to wear a big motorcycle helmet.  That protected my face and head.  But my neck, left knee, left foot, sternum and right shoulder blade took a beating.  I did manage to bike the next day, run the day after that and swim today.  My body does still have a few aches, but I’ll be ok.

Rochelle blacked out for a few seconds.  She definitely hurt her neck, too.  The scary thing for her is that she had been in car accident years ago and still has some pins in her neck from that accident.  Upon seeing her at work today, she thinks her neck will be ok, but her back is jacked up.

Needless to say, neither Rochelle nor I did the 3rd race.  We tapped out.

K1 Speed is a lot of fun, but I’ll never do it again.  I had no idea that it was that dangerous.  You can graze the walls and not get hurt.  It makes you feel bullet proof.  And then there is my mentality which is to race all out.  Not a good combination.  By the grace of God, I think I will stick to triathlon.

Living the life…

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LA Tri Series Legends Triathlon

Men’s 55-59 Podium: 1st place Craig, 2nd place Tim Fier, 3rd place Steve Vasques

On October 15th I raced my final triathlon for 2017.  This was the LA Tri Series race at Bonelli Park in San Dimas.  We had a gorgeous day as the temperatures were in the 70’s at the start of my race and the 80’s by the time I was done.  I had a very good race as I won my age group so I ended the season on a high note.

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was counterclockwise in a fresh water lake.  The biggest challenge was going to be a bit of glare from the sun in 1 direction.  Thankfully I had no problem with that.  The water was pretty warm, but we were able to wear wetsuits.  My swim time was 24:31, putting me in 2nd place by 0:22.

The bike course was 3 laps for a total of 21 miles.  I have done this race a number of times, but it always seems a bit different.  I think this year’s bike course was shorter than usual.  I was A-OK with that as my bike training has lacked for the previous couple of weeks.  The course is hilly and bumpy on some of the climbs.  My bike split was 1:09:41.  I believe this time also included both transitions.  I was still in 2nd place, but had lost some ground.  I was down by 2:51 going into the run.

The run course was 9.6K (5.95 miles).  I really enjoy it as 30% is on trails and it offers plenty of elevation changes.  I had a great run as my split was 38:14.  This was the best run by nearly 7 minutes so I was able to win by just over 4 minutes.  My finish time was 2:12:28.  I was 1st out of 15 men in the 55-59 age group and 10th out of 158 overall finishers.  I am pleased to say I did not get chicked, but I was only 45 seconds faster than the fastest woman so it was close.

It was a great day, but I made a mistake.  Last year at the finish line I enjoyed the delicious free lasagna.  This year I packed up my gear right after the race.  By the time I got back to the food, all that was left that appealed to me were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I had 3.  It is possible that they did not have any lasagna this year, but I’ll never know.  One of the perks of being fast is first crack at the finish line food.  Oh well, you live and you learn.

To see my race photos, click on this link:  https://captivatingsportsphotos.shootproof.com/gallery/17legendstri/search?q=183

Living the life…

 

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TCSD Conversation: October 2017 – Diane Ridgway

Diane and Don Ridgway

TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent

I had the pleasure recently of talking triathlon with TCSD member Diane Ridgway.  Diane has accomplished a lot in her endurance career from ultramarathons to Ironman.  Diane recently won her age group at Ironman Wisconsin and is already qualified to race Ironman Hawaii in 2018.  I know you will enjoy getting to know Diane.

Craig: What sports did you participate in before triathlon?

Diane: It all started…  I admit it, I was a confirmed tomboy who constantly berated the fact that I was born too early—before they let girls play everything.  So, I participated in lots of park softball, basketball, volleyball and anything else I could get into.  Constant motion was my middle name.

Finally, in high school, I was allowed in sports.  I went to school at the International School Bangkok in Bangkok, Thailand where my father was stationed with the Navy for three years.  There I lettered in volleyball, basketball and most importantly track.  I ran all the distances (we only went up to the 800) and even ran hurdles once as no one else would.  My coach would ask us to run a mile warm-up and I would complain bitterly that I was a sprinter.  Years later when I was doing ultras I used to wish he could see me then.

Craig: When and how did your endurance career get off the ground?

Diane: I didn’t really get back into sports or running at all until a couple of months before my 30th birthday.  Working and raising 2 boys was my focus until then.  That is when Don and I got married and I had someone to help me.  He was a Navy SEAL so being in shape was his daily routine. I decided I would like to try running (as I couldn’t describe my body as baby fat any longer) and that running was something I could do early in the morning without taking time away from my family.  So early morning runs became the routine and other days I could run on my work lunch hour at a doctor’s office in Coronado.

Craig: What were some of the first races you did?

Diane: It took entering a race to decide I really liked running.  I did the Coronado Bridge 10K run in 1979 when it went from Coronado over the bridge and ended at Chuey’s restaurant in Chicano Park.  I had only run 3 miles until then.  At the 3 mile mark every step after was “now this is the furthest I have ever run”.  60 glorious minutes.  The same year I did a few other 10Ks and such and podiumed almost every time.  And a race junkie was born.

Advance to September of 1980 when the SEALs allowed some women to do the Superfrog, a Half Ironman they created to get SEALs ready for the Ironman in Hawaii.  I had never done a triathlon, but I had now been running for a year and a half and thought “Hey I know how to swim and bike why not try one?”  It was a new adventure that went well and I finished and definitely decided it was fun (except for that swimming part). The run is by far my favorite part.  Repeated the Superfrog in 1981 with Kathleen McCartney who went on to Ironman fame.  Little glitch that year when the water temp dropped to 52 and wetsuits were not allowed.  I got a severe case of hypothermia and had to be dragged to the SEAL team showers to spend 45 minutes thawing and unlocking my jaw. My support crew, Don, took me back to the transition. There I got on my bike and managed to actually catch up and pass some people and then pass more on the run.  Of the 52 entries, 37 had some degree of hypothermia.  Wetsuits were allowed the following year. As a side note, we heard that they had created a Diane Ridgway Guts and Glory Award. It was awarded each race to the racer who overcame the worst obstacle and still finished.   I was very proud to be as tough as some of our nation’s best at triathlon.  That particular award no longer exists.  I am so pleased that the Superfrog’s tremendous military flavor and support continues and expanded under the Ironman umbrella.  This is a credit to the original race director/participant Navy SEAL Moki Martin.

A couple of weeks later I did the Chuck’s Steakhouse Tri on Fiesta Island which at that time was in the format of run, bike, swim.  I really hated that and everyone and their brother passed me on the swim.  That particular race had Jeff and Scott Tinley 1st and 2nd.  So, I feel a part of triathlon’s early beginnings in San Diego.

A few months later we moved to Panama after 5 months in the Monterey Bay area where Don attended Spanish language school.  I got to attend also and used the rest of my time running.  What a great area to run in!  I have never since run in such a beautiful area.  I did my first marathon that year, the Salinas Valley Marathon, which Sally Edwards of early Ironman fame won.  I came in second with a 3:03 and enjoyed a huge banana split after. I had now been running for 3 years.

Panama was another great experience.  I joined the Isthmus Roadrunners, a local running team, and we put on quite a few runs and the first ever triathlon with my urging.  We swam in an inlet off the Panama Canal with the water so dark you couldn’t see anything including your hands, biked nearby and then a dirt road run.  We had people come from as far away as Columbia for the Primer Triatlon de Panama. Trophies were very expensive so I took some of mine and replaced the women runners with men and took off the plaques and presented them. It was very well received as people loved trophies.   I competed in the Marathon of the Americas for the two years we were there.  It was run on the Atlantic side and started at 330 AM due to the heat. It was totally, I mean totally dark.  Don rode his bike with a headlamp to show us the course.  You could see all the crabs scuttle out of the way and everyone jumped when a stick was spotted thinking it was a snake.

We moved to Virginia Beach for a couple of years after that and then to Honolulu for 7 years.  I kept doing running races and a rare triathlon. Getting to Hawaii in 1984 really stoked the triathlon juices though and everyone, of course, knew the Ironman.  I hoped to do it someday but wasn’t sure I could swim that far. The day after I qualified for my first Kona in 1989 (which was only 6 weeks before the race) I went down to the ocean to swim two miles to be sure I could do it in the cut-off time.  I was just finishing the bike portion when Mark Allen and Dave Scott were ending their run on the Queen K at the top of Pay and Save hill. That was inspiring but I just wanted them and all the media trucks out of the way so I could finish the biking. I successfully completed the race on minimal training and decided I definitely wanted to do it again someday when I had trained for it.  That didn’t happen until 1991 when I placed 3rd after exiting the water in 30th.  Swimming is still my weak part.

Craig: What advice would you share with someone who is sitting on the fence and has not jumped into endurance sports but wants to?

Diane: After a half marathon trail run in Colorado I had a guy point to my t-shirt and say “I would like to do that someday but I don’t think I can.”  I was wearing a Leadville 100 shirt, which for those of you who don’t know, is a 100 mile trail run around the mountains outside of Leadville, Colorado.  I told him, “well that is your first problem.  Don’t say I am not sure I can do that.  You can.”  Positive thinking is the most necessary aspect of endurance events, whether short or long.  He said that he worked full time and I said so did I. I agreed to meet with him and talk and he ran the race successfully the next year and the next, and the next…

The thing is, we are all busy, but if you really want something you can find time.  And it is never too late to start.  Remember I had never run until I was 30. I would love to see more women in older age groups especially.  During the time we lived in Colorado (we moved here 2 years ago) I was doing ultras and Ironman. I used to run 18 miles to work one day a week and had to leave my house at 330 AM to accomplish that.   But I needed the mileage and it was a way to get it aside from using time I could be spending with my family.

Craig: How have you involved your children and grandchildren in your sporting life?

Diane: Throughout my athletic career I have kept my family first and arranged training around their schedule.  Sometimes I drove them to this or that practice and ran while they were practicing or had them ride their bike along me running.  They needed little encouragement in sports and were playing soccer when they were 5 and 6.  That’s the norm now, but it wasn’t 40 years ago when soccer was in its infancy here. They participated in all the team sports and decided running was fun also especially when they began winning the under 12 division.  Then came the 13-19 year age group and they lost interest as they could not be competitive with a 19 year old.

As adults they have occasionally still participated in runs and I finally got to do the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon with my oldest son, Burt.  That was really a thrill, though I didn’t see him again from the time we jumped off the boat until the end of the race.

We get together in other pursuits as well.  A thrill of a lifetime came this last June when my sons Burt, George and I summited Kilimanjaro together despite all the altitude sickness that we encountered.

Kids and grandkids have come to Kona to cheer over the years of competing there and the one who is not there is always tracking on the computer and calling to report when I should be at a certain spot as it is easier to track someone when you are not there.

Now in San Diego my two grandsons have both turned into runners. My oldest is competing in cross country for San Dieguito Academy.  We have two years in a row done the Children for Children 5K.  Three generations in the race! I am still looking for a triathlon we can do as a team. A team event is another way to get started and get your family involved. Don and I have done duathlons where he biked and I ran, for instance.

Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?

Diane: What am I most proud of?  Really and truly, what I am most proud of is that I am still doing this athletic business and enjoying it and so is my family.  My mother would say,” Aren’t you getting a little old for that now?” but my boys say, “Oh boy we’re going to Hawaii again.” and my husband says, “that sounds like a fun race.”

Craig: What have been some of the most challenging races you have done?

Diane: Most challenging:  to me this can have two connotations, really difficult, and those that aren’t the hardest physically but there are contributing factors that make it more difficult mentally.  A couple of years that I did Kona I was also doing 100 mile trail races. I had Bob Bell ask one year which was harder.  Well, a 100 mile trail run is harder than the Ironman for two reasons.  It takes a lot longer and it is all running.  It is however easier to train for as it is only one discipline.

On the physical note, the Hardrock 100 in Colorado in the San Juan Mountains would have to be the hardest.  100.5 actual miles, 33,050 feet of climbing, average elevation over 11,000 ft and you go over thirteen passes between 12,000-13,000 ft and one 14er. River crossings, scree fields, boulder fields, sometimes snow fields and often hours without seeing anyone and just trying to find the trail markers.  You have 48 hours to complete it.  The race directors describe it as ”a graduate level challenge designed to provide extreme challenges in altitude, steepness and remoteness.”  It is run in a circle, clockwise one year and the reverse the next. I have done it each way.  The first year I took along a camera and kept telling myself it was an adventure run (I didn’t know how truthful that was!) At that time only 39% finished within 48 hours.  It took 42 hours running thru most of two nights and included falling asleep while running and hallucinating comic book covers in the bushes. Superheroes of course!  But it is the most beautiful run I have ever done; wildflowers, old mining claims to say nothing of the mountains.

Mentally, Kona 2014.  My knee gave out at the energy lab and I had to walk, run the rest of the way.  I was recovering from a bad bike crash in January of that year and had not been able to get in the amount of training necessary.  But, I started—so needed to finish.

Craig: What have been some of your favorite destination races?

Diane: Favorite destination races are usually because of the other opportunities around the venue.  Don and I joke that we find a place we would really like to visit and surely there must be a race near there.  That’s taken us to Ironman France where after the race we hopped on the train with only a backpack each and spent 5 days in Italy in the Cinque Terra region.  Ironman New Zealand where we toured the South Island and bungy jumped before the race and Powerman Zofingen where we got a train pass and traveled around Switzerland and into France for hiking and wine and cheese tasting after the race.  Mt. Tremblant for the 70.3 championships was another wonderful area to tour.

Craig: A couple of years ago you crashed at Ironman 70.3 Chile.  What happened and how badly were you hurt and how long did it take to recover?  Then you had back surgery last year and how long did it take to recover from that?  Why do you think you were able to recover so quickly?

Diane: In January of 2014 I had a bad bike wreck at the Ironman 70.3 Chile.  A lady getting her water bottle turned into me and I went straight down.  I had 11 rib fractures in 7 ribs so some were broken in 2 places and a broken collarbone and hematoma in my lung.  I was in the hospital in Chile for 8 days before they would reluctantly let me fly home and then went straight back into the hospital in Denver for another 7 days. I had my lung drained of blood twice (once before leaving Chile) and finally had to have surgery on it to scrape it out and then surgery on my collarbone. The hospital trauma team in Chile were impressed with my fitness and said this trauma called a “flail” chest is often associated with mortality in older people.  But then they couldn’t believe I was the age I was. The surgeons in the USA were super.  They were impressed with my fitness level and wanted to get me back into full competing mode and so recommended the lung surgery. But I was sidelined from everything for 3 months and then was allowed to gradually start doing things as pain permitted.  So, getting ready for Kona that October was a challenge.

But, then, as I was getting back into competing and feeling good my back started giving me trouble and I was having leg numbness and finally foot drop on the left.  Laminectomy and fusion was recommended for a severely crooked lumbar spine pinching off the nerve.  I did not want surgery and tried to hold it off with a couple of injections but finally couldn’t even walk a block.  The end of July 2016 I had a laminectomy and fusion of L4 and L5 and S1 with rods and pins.  They said I would need to wear a vest brace for 3 months and then could start running in 6 months and be ready to start really training in 9 months. Well, that was just not going to work at all. I started walking a lot and finally convinced the doctor to let me ride on the stationary bike as long as I wore the vest. I then pushed the envelope a little more and asked to be able to do spinning classes if I wore the vest and didn’t twist. Finally, he agreed to let me run the Turkey Trot which was 4 months after surgery.  My first running at all.  Whew, was that tough but I was determined to get back to my old self.  To make a long story short I competed in the Oceanside 70.3 and came in 2nd only 8 months after surgery.  I went on to climb Kilimanjaro in June and do Buffalo Springs 70.3 two weeks later, 11 months after surgery, and then Ironman Wisconsin.  I am my surgeon’s poster child.  I attribute most of the quick recovery to the fact I was in good physical shape before surgery and very determined to get back to “normal” after.  Once again, my adage of if you want something enough you will figure out a way.  Drawback to the surgery is less flexibility making me even worse at getting out of my wetsuit.  If only I wasn’t such a wimp and could just skin it!

We have heard lots of elite athletes talking about their comebacks and it is no different for the rest of us—determination and starting out with our bodies used to being challenged and fit. And we feel we know our bodies and what they are capable of.

Craig: What kinds of things do you and Don like to volunteer for and why do you like to volunteer?

Diane: I have always tried to volunteer where I could because it is my sport and my event whether it be running or triathlon or snowshoe racing or burro racing all of which are in my repertoire.  I feel we should all “pay back”.  Both my husband and I volunteer for various events and various portions of the events.  This past weekend it was an Xterra triathlon in Laguna Beach where we were in the transition area. Last year it was an aid station for the Superfrog that gave me a true insight into how hard those volunteers are working.  Three of us working an aid station everyone went through 7 times.  I was probably just as exhausted as the athletes by the end.

Please remember to thank them when you race and volunteer sometime yourself for the fun and satisfaction of doing something for your sport.

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership?

Diane: TCSD is the first time I have belonged to a Tri Club.  I enjoy the camaraderie and the meetings especially.  Just having all the others around to tap for ideas even if I don’t join many training events. No matter how long you have been competing there is something to learn.  I think it is especially beneficial for people just starting out.

Craig: What are some of the more humorous situations you have found yourself in during your athletic career?

Diane: Humorous situations.  Which one was funnier?  the rain storm that hit during the bike portion of the triathlon that created so much flooding in the transition area our gear floated around so we had to be running around looking for our running shoes.  Or was it the snowstorm that hit during another triathlon where our hands were so cold we couldn’t unfasten our chin straps on our helmet, nor feel our feet for the run.  Or the snowstorm that hit during a 50 mile trail run where the volunteers told you to” really fill your water bottles” since the water at the next aid station is frozen and the oranges and cookies looked so forlorn with their little covering of snow.  Or the 20 mile snowshoe race where the temperature was -15 with the wind chill and my water bottles froze so I was reduced to eating snow (not very hydrating).  Or maybe one of the years I did Alcatraz and the fog totally rolled in just as we started the swim so we couldn’t even see the shore.  Then the fog horns started and I was thinking “what am I doing?” Or finishing a race and starting the sprint to pass one last person to the finish to find it had been moved 400 yards further away than the previous year.  Or a burro race my burro wasn’t really into and kept pushing off the trail into a ditch.

In my case, the more ridiculous the conditions get the more humorous I find them since you might as well laugh because it is better than crying.

Craig: Who has been the most supportive people or person in your life?

Diane: There is no question that it has been my husband Don.  From encouraging me in the beginning, to being by my side pushing me to be the best I can and doing whatever is in his power to make that happen.  When I really started getting addicted (yes, this is the correct word) to the training and the lifestyle he continued to be supportive.  If he had not, I would not have been able to follow my dreams because I think it would have affected our family negatively.  Though he does not do the training, except biking with me often, he knows that I need to do the training for racing and he loves to go to the races.  He is my bike mechanic and packs it up if we have to fly, and will be anywhere along a course to cheer me that he can reach.  During my ultra-career, this sometimes involved racing over dirt roads all times of the day and night to get to a drop station with my gear.  He would spend a couple of hours getting there and then I would be through in 5 minutes or so.  When I have been injured he has been there to help me through the rehab process whether with words or his laid-back presence. He is the first to try and hold me back to follow doctor’s orders, but also the first to admit that I might not listen. Spectators and other athletes at events have said that I have the best “athletic supporter” there is and he fully deserves the title.  We are Team Ridgway.

Craig: What are your future goals as an athlete?

Diane: Most immediate goal is doing well in Kona in 2018 in my new age group.

There are lots or races out there I have not tried, Challenge Roth being one, as that would be another destination race with good vacationing opportunities.  I’d like to learn how to mountain bike so I can do an Xterra.   And I would like to be part of a group that encourages and supports others getting into the sports of running or triathlon.  I feel I have a few tips I could pass on though I could never coach like you, Craig, just pass on some of the things that worked for me.  But not being technology inclined I just say they are tips.

I love to race and am always open for suggestions and love new challenges.  So Challenge Roth might be next or maybe Machu Pichu or…

Craig: Diane, thank you for sharing your story.  I am proud to be friends with you and Don.  TCSD is lucky to have you among our members.  Good luck to you in Kona next year and beyond.

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.  Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or tricraigz@yahoo.com.

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ITU Triathlon World Championships – Rotterdam

Craig & Laurie (WINNAAR) showing off finisher medals.

Dutch girl Laurie and Dutch boy Craig should get a room!

Enjoying the windmills.

On September 17th I raced the ITU Triathlon World Championships in Rotterdam.  This was the 23rd race where I have represented Team USA in a World Championship over my career.  I am very proud of that accomplishment and very thankful for all those international opportunities.

We arrived to good weather in Rotterdam on the 13th, but then it was wet 95% of the time thru the 16th.  The rain really stressed me out because I knew the bike course was narrow, had some cobbles and had a lot of turns.  The bike course would be a nightmare if it was wet.  I can think of about 8 different World Championships that I’ve raced in where it rained leading right up to the event, but on race day the weather was great.  Thankfully due to the power of prayer, God blessed me once again in Rotterdam with clear skies and 68 degrees on race day.  Amen!

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was held in Rijnhaven Harbor.  The water temperature was 60 degrees so it was brisk, but manageable.  The harbor was very calm so it was just like swimming in a lake.  I swam pretty well as my time was 24:33 which put me in 17th place.  We had a very long run (0.6 miles) to transition.  I covered that ground pretty fast, but there were a lot of cobbles so it was hard on the feet.  I made the bad decision in T1 to put on a jacket for the bike and this cost me some time.  My T1 time was 6:05 – 62nd best or not so good.  It was warm enough that I did not need that jacket.  Skipping it would have given me a good T1 time.  Ugh!

The bike course was 2 loops for a total of 23.6 miles.  Holland is one of the flattest places on Earth and Rotterdam is no different.  The only hills were on the bridge crossings.  We went over the beautiful Erasmus Bridge twice.  Holland is known for its gorgeous architecture and this is illustrated by the Erasmus Bridge which I think looks like a harp.  I was timid on the bike.  The road conditions were ideal, but I was never comfortable.  My skills on the bike are fairly limited and that was apparent on a flat, technical course with so many turns.  There was 1 section we had to do twice that was on a steep temporary ramp built over some stairs with a very sharp turn right after you came back down the ramp – I still can’t believe that!  My bike split was only 1:13:35 which was 97th best (really not good) and it dropped me down to 73rd place.

The run course was 2 loops for a total of 5.67 miles in Westerkade Park.  For as much as I disliked the bike course, I loved the run course.  75% was on trails and it was much better for spectators than the bike course.  I ran very well; probably because I was so motivated after my poor bike to do whatever I could to minimize my embarrassment.  I had the 2nd fastest run split on the day with a time of 36:24.  My finish time was 2:22:47.  I placed 41st out of 111 in the men’s 55-59 age group and I was the 7th out of 14 Americans.  I am very pleased to say that American Lee Walther placed 1st as he edged out a British guy by 3 seconds.  My good friends Kyle Welch and Steve Wade placed 4th and 51st, respectively.

To see my race pictures, click on this link  http://www.finisherpix.com/gallery/photos/en/EUR/2213/21522

At the same time I was racing, my wife Laurie was running her 245th marathon – the Bikse Natuurmarathon.  Laurie was the overall female winner and her prize was a tech t-shirt that says “WINNAAR” across the chest.  I think it is so cool!  She is the only woman on the planet with that shirt.  Her greatest challenge was returning the rental car after the race.  It took her 2 hours to find the correct garage, even with gps.

After Rotterdam we went to Amsterdam to be tourists where we really enjoyed ourselves.  On one day we took a 5 hour tour that encompassed a windmill tour, cheese factory tour, wooden shoe factory tour and a boat trip.  On the next day we toured the Rembrandt house, Anne Frank house, Van Gogh Museum and took a canal boat cruise.  We were both especially moved by the Anne Frank house.  It is amazing to think that 8 people hid from the Nazi’s for 2 years in that tiny 500 square foot space.  Personally setting foot in the Secret Annex and trying to minimize the sounds of your foot steps just as the 8 did was very sobering.

Living the life…

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