In this podcast, we talk to one of the best paratriathletes in the world, Patricia Walsh.  She’s currently representing the United States in Rio, and is an all around amazing person!  


We cover a ton of content in this podcast, to include:

• Para-triathlon

• Her TED Talk

• Getting a STEM degree as a blind person

• The competitive fire she has, and how it drives her to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to!

 

  

Blog written by: Brian Perry

 

So there I am, in a bar with teammates and the legendary and current Leadership Director of Team RWB, Joe Quinn.   There’s just four of us there, sitting at a table, waiting for the rest of the crew to join us.  I was young in my endurance journey and none of my clothes fit, but I felt great.  What I didn’t feel great about was my career.  I was explaining my story to the group when Joe snapped back with a way to help me get out of this rut. His response had a surreal impact on me. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone in New York … or in my goals.  I was about to ride the RWB wave from my first half marathon to an Ironman.

“I would like 9:30, but just under 10 would make me happy,” I planned with my 4th coach in 2 years.  In the world of ironman triathlon, this is Kona-qualifying fast; a feat similar to the esteem of a Boston marathon qualifier, yet much more elusive.   In other words, you better want it bad, really bad, and you better be ready to hurt.

My athletic performance over the past two years had slid to levels of “do you even lift, bro?”  Leading up to the Ironman, I knew the training I was doing was not up to par with my pie-in-the-sky expectations.  Ironman had fallen low on my priority list and I didn’t have my typical edge.  This is dangerous for such an event, and even more so for my pride. It is an impeccable accomplishment, and should serve as your main focus from the time you start training for it.  I was just trying to squeeze it in.

My warmup race at 70.3 Syracuse was not a good day.  I was average in the swim, got a flat from my rented bike, and WALKED a lot of the half marathon.  Perfect execution. Either way, Ironman Lake Placid was happening and I had to make the best of it.  In the days leading up to this epic race, there was a lot of angst in the house, with everyone trying to eat whatever magic they thought would serve a PR on game day.

Ironman

The swim starts and I am being trampled.  Awesome.  Right away I look at the life raft and think, “It could all be over.”   Then I remembered Sarah had bought me an Ironman mug, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to use it.  After the first loop around, things settled down, and I was able to settle in a rhythm.  I lost my Garmin in the water, but I knew I could pace myself reasonably well on the bike.  I remember finishing the bike and yelling at Sarah to get me a vegan sandwich from the only place in town.

And then it happened.  I started eating at a couple of the stops along the course, splurging on Gatorade, pretzels, and whatever else was available.  My stomach turned and my day just got increasingly longer. I met a friend along the way and we suffered the rest of our Ironman journey together.

The best part of the race was at the end – entering the finisher’s oval and Betsy handing me Old Glory to take across the finish line. For me, the most powerful moment was crossing the finish line, and the crowd cheering at a fever pitch. Of course I got emotional, briefly, and I chalked it up to the energy and atmosphere; but really this whole athletic journey was necessary for me.

In the end, I now have a different type of glory.   Mostly that it was finished.  Over. Complete. I am an Ironman.  What really matters was that I pushed forward in my life and can reflect back on some incredible memories of the past two years and the awesome people I’ve met along the way.  There could be a day that I seek a revenge performance.  For now, I am content to cheer you from Boston while I sip from my new Ironman mug.

I am happy to be writing about yet another brilliant event geared toward helping our nation’s combat veteran athletes.  The Team Red, White & Blue Tri-Camp took place on 12-15 April in Austin and was by all measures a remarkable weekend.  Fourteen veterans attended the triathlon training camp which was hosted by Coach Derrick Williamson and professional triathlete and military veteran Jessica Jacobs, and featured guest professional triathlete and military veteran Jessica Meyers. (more…)

Now that everyone has seen the triathlon light and signed up for a race, what can you expect on race day?  Triathlons require a little more planning and gear compared to running, and race morning is typically more involved.

The night before the race: Set out your gear!  I stress this with running as well, but it is vital with triathlon!  With 3 events, it is easy to forget something important, like goggles or running shoes.  I like to make a list and mark things off as they go into my bag.  Goggles, bike shoes, gloves, and helmet, socks, sunglasses, running shoes, a visor or hat, sunscreen, water bottles and nutrition, an extra tube, and a towel are the main things you will need.  Most triathlons supply a swim cap for racers (each age group will wear the same color), but bring one just in case, if you require one to swim.

The morning of the race: You are well-rested, perfectly trained, and had a balanced breakfast.  Now, it is time to head to the race site!

-First is packet pick-up.  To participate in triathlons, a membership to USA Triathlon (USAT)  is required.  You can purchase a one day pass for $10, usually with race registration, or an annual membership for $39.  Go to www.usatriathlon.org for more information.  You will need to bring your annual member card and a photo ID to packet pick-up.  You will receive 3 numbers in your packet – a sticker for your helmet, a number for your bike, and a bib to wear during the run.

-Next is body marking.  Take your number to the nice people holding Sharpies.  They will write your race number on both thighs and arms, and your age at the end of the calendar year on your calf (I had a 31 on my leg at my last race, despite it being a couple of weeks before my birthday).  Tip: Fast Orange is a great product for removing permanent marker or bike grease.  It’s found in the automotive section at stores like Walmart.

-After you are all marked up, take your numbers for chip pick-up.  You will wear your chip on a band around your ankle for the whole race.  They sell dry fit bands for roughly $5 or races will provide disposable bands for you to use that day.

-Set up your transition area.  This is very important!  You want to have everything you need, arranged in a manner that makes sense to you.  You will have all of your required gear, like shoes, helmet, etc.  Anything else you want to bring is based on preference.  I cannot run without gum and Chapstick, so I leave those out at my transition area.  I bring 2 towels, one to briefly dry off with and another to set all of my gear on.  Just remember – be mindful of those around you.  There is a limited amount of space for hundreds of triathletes, so use as little space as possible.

-Remember where your transition area is located!  It sounds silly, but when you are running through the transition area after the swim and bike, it is very easy to pass your transition and have to backtrack.  Some people will bring balloons or old swim caps to put on the end of the rack to make their location easy to spot.  Whatever works for you!

-Now, it’s time to start!  If you are doing an open water swim, be mentally prepared to hit and be hit.  With that many people in the water at once, it is just going to happen.  On the bike, drafting isn’t legal in the triathlon world, so either pass or stay back.

Triathlons are a great way for runners to try something new, get some awesome cross-training, and most importantly, have fun!

Happy training!

Jennifer

We’ve all been a little bored with running at some point.  Running 4 or 5 days a week, week in and week out, can only last so long.  With triathlon season starting, why not TRI something new?  Triathlons can be intimidating .  You mean I have to swim, bike, and then I get to run?!  However, the cross training can lead to great advances in your running. 

The swim – I hear more people voice concerns about the swim than any other portion of the triathlon.  However, swimming is a great addition for runners.  It is low impact, requires efficiency, and works different muscle groups than running.  Triathletes typically swim freestyle, a stroke most people can already do at a basic level.  Not a swimmer?  There are swim clinics, like Total Immersion, as well as personal trainers, that can assist with perfecting your stroke.  Gear required – a swimsuit and some good goggles (easy enough, right?).   A sprint triathlon swim can vary in distance from 300 meters to 750 meters.      

The bike – when I first got a bike, I thought “I’m a runner.  I’m in shape.  I should easily transition to biking, right?”.  WRONG!  Yes, biking requires a strong cardiovascular system and legs, but it is also very technical.  It just takes practice!  However, biking is a great way to improve your running.  It strengthens leg muscles and improves cardiovascular fitness, but is low impact. ( I recently PR’d in a half marathon, while running only 2 days per week, but biking 3 days).  Cycling requires considerably more gear and time than running or swimming.  However, it is worth the investment, if you can do it.  Not convinced you will like it?  Consider borrowing or renting a bike for your first triathlon to make sure it is something you want to continue.  Going to buy a bike?  Ride them first!  Don’t choose based on what you’ve read online or which bike has the best paint scheme.  Be prepared to spend a couple thousand dollars.  Put your money into the frame – you can always upgrade wheels and components later.   Remember, most local bikeshops have weekly group rides for cyclists of all levels.  And don’t forget your helmet!  A sprint triathlon bike is often 12-15 miles. 

The run – you are not going to be able to run 5 days per week anymore and that’s OK!  If you are swimming and biking regularly, you will not lose running fitness.  You just have to be more picky about how you will use your time to run.  No more ‘junk miles’.  Continue with one long run per week and make the other runs high intensity, like tempo runs or intervals.  Gear – you already have this!  A sprint triathlon run is usually a 5K.  

There are a ton of great sources for information on getting started with triathlon, like beginnertriathlete.com, The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel, and many local running stores will offer triathlon training groups. 

Fight off those summer running blues and TRI something new!  You’ll love the challenge and will  be surprised at how much better you feel.

Next time: what to expect on triathlon race day!

Happy training!

Jennifer