TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I recently met up with one of the TCSD’s Race Director’s, Ann Kelly, and talked triathlon. In a very short time Ann has really become a great ambassador for the club and the sport. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know this lady.
Craig: What was your sports background before you got involved in triathlon?
Ann: I started swimming on a competitive swim team when I was 5, well take that back, I was a “water baby” at the YMCA when I was 5 months old so it feels like I’ve always been swimming. As a native San Diegan, we enjoyed all the opportunities afforded us with year-round swimming. Plus, I’m certain my mother wanted to keep an energetic kid busy doing some kind of exercise, so I was in the water almost every day. During my younger years, I was also being shuttled to dance classes (we did mention energetic kid). I specialized in ballet and danced for over 10 years, first with the Civic Youth Ballet and then the San Diego Ballet. When I was 19, I auditioned for several shows in Vegas and won a contract to dance with the production of Hello Hollywood Hello at the MGM Grand in Reno. When that contract was over, I enlisted in the Navy and had the opportunity to play for the Navy Southern Region Women’s and Co-ed Volleyball teams. Commanding Officers liked to have bragging rights and we were celebrated at my airfield as we won quite often.
Craig: What was it like to be a Vegas showgirl?
Ann: As mentioned, I was 19 years old and because I became too tall to continue to be a ballet dancer, I was told to look at Vegas for dance opportunities. I had someone tell me that getting a job as a showgirl was harder than breaking into the music industry, but that didn’t stop me. I headed off to Vegas and won my contract. I moved to Reno about 2 weeks later and started with my new dance team. The main stage used for the production was half the size of a football field and had multiple moving stages where the bottom would drop and another stage would appear. There was also a scene where a huge waterfall would come out of the ceiling, made a river across the set, and emptied into a reservoir next to the orchestra pit. The work itself was absolutely brutal. The sets were gigantic and the costumes had to be huge to not look tiny on stage. My largest costumes were extremely heavy because of the steel “boning” used to construct them. It’s not all feathers and rhinestones although that’s an integral part of the look. Not only was I required to walk and display these costumes, but for the rest of the show, I was required to dance in over 10 routines, the last routine being the kick line you see the Rockettes do, over 100 kicks! Each show lasted 2 hours and we were required to do 2 shows a night, 6 nights a week. At the same time I was taking 15 units at the University of Nevada, Reno. Ahh, the energy of youth! To this day, I’m always amused at how showgirls are portrayed in movies and TV. We were made up of very professional dancers and singers and had no time to be “arm candy” in the casino. So the next time you see a showgirl draped on a high-roller, giggle because it’s a Hollywood fantasy.
Craig: What was your first triathlon like?
Ann: I attended Steve Tally’s Triathlon 101 and as a result of his energy and encouragement, I volunteered for the March 2008 club race. I then did the April 2008 club race and then my first official triathlon was the Spring Sprint in May of 2008. I was energized and excited and for some reason, I wasn’t truly nervous. It was probably because I trained with several TCSD people and had an opportunity to join open water swim groups and practice transitions. I remember to this day starting the swim and looking down and seeing tiny jellyfish and a few fish in the water. For those who are squeamish about sea creatures, this was very non-threatening. I loved how clear the water was and amused myself by watching the fauna during my swim. I think that made me relaxed and confident for the rest of the race. I had my dad and his wife in attendance and they were an incredible support team as they followed me every step of the course. I recommend this race to anyone starting out.
Craig: You and Brian Wrona have been the TCSD Race Directors for the past couple of years. And going forward you and Alex Wong will do that job. What is involved with putting on a TCSD race?
Ann: I would like for members to realize how much work is expended by putting on a race. Permitting is coordinated with the cities and areas in which we participate, lifeguards and their teams are in place, city police check with the cars and then close the island for us, even street sweepers on Fiesta Island have to be rallied to make sure the course is clear. Not to mention chasing down lost parents trying to get their kids into the Boy’s Club trying desperately to get out of there before we start. There are two storage lockers which house all the equipment for the races and we have to shuttle equipment back and forth before and after the races. Tables, pop-ups, supplies, are all packed into the club van. One item of note, has anyone ever picked up one of the cases of bike racks? Those are so heavy! The race directors and volunteers usually load 4 of those monsters into the van and then offload them after the races. Even Costco runs are done so that the athletes have food and water. The timing equipment is extremely delicate and the timing team takes care to set that up for the athletes. And many, many volunteers come to our rescue to help us set up everything required to put on a successful race. This is all very serious and intense behind the scenes, but we do mix it up by having themed races like the Halloween race with the spooky tent, the Retro race, and our April Fool’s race where we…………(you’ll have to see).
Craig: What makes the beginner races so special to you?
Ann: They are so CUTE! Ok, not a very athletically/studly/PC answer but anyone who has been there understands, although they might not admit it in those words. Remember the time when you were first doing triathlons? There were questions, and nervousness, and maybe no one around to ask, and you had a cruiser or mountain bike, and no wetsuit or a surf wetsuit (like my first year)? That’s the beginner race! We welcome and celebrate all of it! All the giggles and smiles and breathless swimmers, to the high-5’s coming off the bike, to the running buddies and having friends and huge families there to cheer for their loved ones coming through the finish. You can’t ask for a better “happy pill”. We even had a proposal at our last race! The beauty of the beginner races is that we’re contributing to the success of new triathletes by facilitating participation in an environment that is safe and blissfully fun.
Craig: What is your favorite part of being a TCSD member?
Ann: Meeting all kinds of wonderful people from diverse backgrounds. I can go to races and feel a sense of unity and that I’m part of a community. I have amazing friends that I’ve met through the club. The other favorite part is that there are TONS of things to do at various levels of ability. I can go to the TCSD website or Yahoo groups and find others who are interested in working out or doing something social. It’s not always about tris (although our common ground is triathlon) but I’ve discovered other interests such as trail running and mountain biking (my new obsessions) through members of TCSD.
Craig: What is the dumbest thing you ever did in a triathlon?
Ann: Oh my gosh, I will never forget this! I did the club race in April of 2008. Mind you I’m a brand, spankin’ new, wanna-be tri baby at this point. I’m all excited to get out there and practice what I’ve learned and I’m all set on race day (can you see what’s coming?) So the swim is awesome because…I’m a swimmer. Now, onto the bike. I’m somewhat comfortable because “it’s like riding a bike” huh? So I’m tooling around the bottom loop on Fiesta Island having a blast and I lost count of the loops. No sweat, but I can see people finishing the run. Gads! So I come into transition and realize I’ve done too many loops. So I try to bail on the run and someone yells “get your*&^% on the run”. Not one to be influenced “insert cynical tone here”, I start out on the run. Mind you, the run has not been practiced. I did mention this was my first race right? So I’m out on the run coming around the backside and I see people running out towards me. They’re coming to get me and to accompany me back in. When I got back to transition, the timing mats were gone and most of the people had packed up. BUT, that didn’t discourage me. I counted my laps the next time and made it a promise to always welcome the last racer in!
Craig: What has been your most favorite triathlon experience?
Ann: This year’s San Diego International Triathlon. I finally heard my name coming across the finish line. This was my first serious race after finishing nursing school and it just seemed like the perfect finish to an epic month.
Craig: Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?
Ann: It’s really hard and limiting to note just one person who has been inspirational in my life as I’m a compilation of many people giving me love and support throughout my years. I’m going to say my inspirational people are my father and my son. My mother passed away 10 years ago this year and these two men have been my “rocks” ever since. They have supported me through my initial years in triathlon and then, 2 years ago encouraged me to go back to school to become a registered nurse, all the time giving me guidance and perspective. I love you Dad and Ryan!
Craig: What do you do for a living?
Ann: I assisted a wonderful woman as a swim buddy during her Encinitas race several years ago. After a few months, we ran into each other again and it was like a homecoming! After talking a bit, it was discovered she worked in an emergency room and she asked if I was interested in a job. I’ve now been an emergency room technician for over 3 years and it’s because of a relationship I made during a race. You never know who you’ll meet when you come out and play with the club!
Craig: What are your future goals in triathlon? (Among other things, please mention Honolulu Marathon in December, Half Ironman is on your bucket list, Xterra, San Diego Running Institute series – 5k, 10k, 15k, ½ marathon.)
Ann: The Half Ironman is on my bucket list. Noooooo Ironman on the horizon, but I love watching it. I will be participating in the Honolulu Marathon in December. I’m also finishing up the Dirt Devil Racing series which has been challenging and fun! Now that I’m finished with school, I’m ramping up my races so you’ll see me out there more often. There’s nothing better than getting out of the house and participating in activities with people who are supportive and positive. That’s what this club has given me and what I love to contribute back to it.
Craig: Ann, thank you so much for sharing your story. We are so lucky to have you as a Race Director and mostly as a friend. Congratulations on finishing nursing school. If I get sick, I’m going to request you for my nurse. Good luck with the rest of your race schedule this year!
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.