Category Archives: At the Races

Home Victory

Posted by on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 @ 11:18 am | Leave a reply

Visualize what you want to happen in a race, and as Detroit native Mike Andersen discovered, it might just come true.

MikeAndersenmarathon

For professional runners, we know there are moments that you dream of—running in the Olympics, winning a big event like the New York marathon and, winning a race on your home turf, in front of friends and family. The latter is the victory that took Mike Andersen by surprise when he won the 37th Detroit Free Press / Talmer Bank marathon on Sunday, October 19th.  “You have to plan a little bit, but you don’t really expect for it to happen,” he said of his run.

For Andersen, who won the race in a personal best of 2:24.54, it was his second time running this race (he placed third in 2011) and only his fourth time running a marathon. As a member of Newton Running Elite Andersen wasn’t confident that the race would go in his favor since his training runs have been limited in recent months. He works full time at the Running Lab in Brighton, Michigan, coaches cross country at nearby Milford High School, and he and his wife (also a Michigan native), welcomed a daughter into the world last March. Although the 27-year-old Andersen’s time still isn’t quite fast enough to reach his goal of qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016 (he’ll need to run a 2:18 or faster), Andersen says he’s on the right path of dropping time.

We caught up with him this week to hear the details of his win.

“The craziest part about the race is that I didn’t take the lead until mile 26 and I wasn’t in the lead group. From step one, I was in third place. The first two guys went out fast and I just focused on my pace, my rhythm. At mile 15, I was 2 minutes back …at mile 19, I was down to a minute and 15 seconds, and I still couldn’t see the leaders. The next mile, I cut it down another 30 seconds and I hadn’t changed pace. I just stayed consistent.

I had some friends out spectating and I kept asking about fourth place, I was worrying about that more than winning.

At Mile 22, you come off of Belle Isle and the gap was now down to 45 seconds. Here, we were running along the riverfront and there are a lot of turns between mile 22 and mile 24. So, I still couldn’t see anything.

When we finally came back to a straightaway, I could see second place and I closed that down quickly. I was 29 seconds back. I could just see first place now on straightaways. A former coach of mine was biking the course and he would pop up from a side road and get a count on first and yell out encouragement like ‘your only 20 seconds down.’

The race finishes with a right hand turn up a hill that takes you to 26, and then an immediate left hand turn for the final .2 miles. My old coach said if you’ve got a move go now, he’s tired. The last thing he said is ‘7 seconds.’ I thought in 7 seconds I can be right there. I saw him [Zachary Ornelas] at the hill and I made up my mind to pass him quickly and go for it. As I passed him, he gave me a look of ‘nice job,’ he was a defending champion and had gone through some injuries of his own.

So then my only focus was to turn left and go as hard as I could. I glanced to see how far back he was, and this crazy elation came over me for the last 100 meters. I was fist pumping and starting to cry.

I kept thinking, stay on your feet. I had 50 meters to go and I couldn’t believe I was going to win the race. Getting to break the tape, it really was overwhelming—to test your self and have it come out perfectly, it’s amazing.

My mom had my daughter (who was born in March of 2014) at home, but my wife Katie was there and my dad, too. Before anyone came into view near the finish, the announcer said, ‘the defending champion is about to make the turn. Oh wait, we’ve had a change,’ and as they said my name my wife started screaming. They ushered her up to the front to greet me at the finish line. It was one of those things where she was probably less surprised than I was. You know how you’re your own worst enemy. She said, ‘you’re going to do great. You’re fine, you did everything.’ But it’s hard to believe that for yourself.”

———

What’s next?

“This race was a huge confident boost. I have PRed every time, but I keep learning more about myself. I was definitely on top of fueling and figured a lot of things out training wise. I didn’t train as many miles or as crazy as the others. But I was more efficient with my time because I’m a dad now and working.

It’s not about the watch, but figuring out where your limits are and being able to test them. To get to an Olympic trial time, I think if there is a race where there are more people at my level they may pull me along and help me drop time. And then if I can find a 4-month chunk to train more seriously that may lead me to a faster time.

Marathons to me are still crazy, it takes a lot mentally to prepare for one. I don’t want to rush into the next one.”

We know you coach high school kids, what do you tell them?

“I am probably the more empathetic one (of the team’s three coaches), who puts things in perspective. The biggest thing I show is that it’s not just one day that makes you a good runner it’s an investment over time. Maybe someone isn’t at the front, but over a year you can move up by putting in an honest effort.

Personally, I don’t have bad races because I don’t think of races as this negative thing, I think of racing as a reward for all the hard work you do. Running in general is like that and there are so many pressures in life, running is the last place you should be stressed out. If you allow yourself to relax and enjoy it you will probably go faster than if you’re concentrating on every single step.

You also have to allow yourself to visualize success or it won’t happen. If you visualize it, it’s more likely to happen. At the Bolder Boulder, my Newton teammate Nik Schweikert was reading “A Champion’s Mind.” Three weeks ago, I texted Nik and said what’s the name of that book, I’d like to get some motivation. Nik sent me the book and that’s where I got the idea to visualize success. Even though I’m here in Michigan, the Newton team still played a big part in letting me run that well.”

And what Newtons did you wear?

“The Distance III, that’s what I reach for pretty much every day. They offer a nice compromise between weight and protection when you get to the later miles.”

 

Share

Officially An IRONMAN!

Posted by on Monday, October 20, 2014 @ 7:59 am | Leave a reply

The  2014 IRONMAN® World Championship took place last Saturday (October 11), and among the more than 2,100 contenders, was America’s most decorated Olympic short-track speedskater, Apolo Ohno. Finding himself in a very different setting than the 40-second sprint races he was accustomed to as a short-track speedskater, the 32-year-old Ohno had put in the hours of training, but hit the course with only one IRONMAN 70.3 and one sprint triathlon under his belt. That didn’t stop him from finishing in 9.52.27 [1:00:29 swim, 5:07:15 swim, 3:36:41 run], blowing away his own expectations for the day.

Friends say Ohno has the ability to step into a very different gear when he competes, and he did just that in Kona. And just like in his speedskating races, his dad was there in Kona to cheer him on.

We spoke with Ohno before the race and then we caught up with him again, after the race.

2014 Ironman World Championship

When we asked you about what might be the toughest part of the race, you said getting through the point everyone talks about, when you think you might quit. Did that happen?

Never. It was very strange. Throughout my entire training, people had told me that you’re going to go through these emotions, and start asking yourself if you can do this. But in my entire life of speedskating, I never woke up and didn’t want to go to practice. So, I didn’t allow that to enter my brain on Saturday. I focused on what I had to do now, at that moment. I was very much in a fighter mentality and ready for anything.

I ran through options in my mind. I knew I couldn’t defeat the island—option 1 would be for me to defeat the island and that wasn’t going to happen. Option 2 was for me to be defeated and I wasn’t going to let that happen. Or option 3, I could strive to be one with the island—you’re out there all alone and you’re so tired and you have nothing left and for me it was a very spiritual experience.

At the start they used these tribal drums before the first wave went off. It was this really cool moment for me and it stayed with me throughout the entire run.

You knew running would be the toughest challenge for you, but you finished in 3:36.41. An impressive finish considering you did 3:25 in the New York marathon a few years back, without the swim and bike.

I knew this was the big stage and I had to give everything I had. The swim was consistent and on the bike I was strong. The run was the most difficult. I think it [my time] would have been better, but at mile 25, I had to take a quick detour [a bathroom dash].

I was very happy with the run but the place I had to take my mind was very interesting. I went through some interesting conversations in my head. I knew I was going to hit the wall, I knew that would happen and I knew sometimes at those moments you can summon the most strength. It was super intense, the fight I had to give, not letting down, telling myself, ‘I can do this. I am going to be strong.’ Crossing the finish line was a very cool moment.

What words did your coach, Newton athlete, Paula Newby-Fraser, have for you before the race?

Before the race, Paula said, your initials “AAO” stand for, “Adapt, adjust, overcome.”

How does this rank in your experiences as an athlete?

Everybody was so incredible and I feed off of people’s energy. It was uplifting and inspiring. While I was out there it got pretty emotional for me, very spiritual, very deep, my brain and body were cooked. There is no other place on the planet that you can experience these things while doing something like that.

This is something I can take with me for the rest of my life and I’m very proud to have this, I have it for life.

How did the triathlete community compare to other athletic experiences you’ve had?

I will tell you the endurance world and the triathlete world is very unique. You have to jump in and experience it for yourself, it’s so exciting. I was very blessed to be welcomed with open arms.

How did the finish feel? Did people recognize you?

There were so many people. It was amazing as I was finishing, everyone shouting ‘Apolo, Apolo.’ And then I went back and saw my friend finish, and then I saw the countdown to midnight, I got the whole deal. I didn’t want to miss a minute.

After the race, do you still love your Newton’s?

I’m wearing them. They are awesome.

In 2013, former NFL wide receiver Hines Ward, completed the IRONMAN. He encouraged you to do it. Who are you going to encourage to follow in your footsteps?

I don’t know. That’s a good question. I set the bar. I’ll get someone else.

Now what?

A week in Hawaii—I’ll do some work, and get my legs recovered and just take it in. Spend some time with my journal— the experience was once in a lifetime.

Share

Kona For Kenny!

Posted by on Thursday, October 2, 2014 @ 2:23 pm | Leave a reply

It was a plan six years in the making, Newton Running Company employee Kenny Withrow wanted to qualify for Kona, and he wasn’t going to stop until he got there. On August 3rd, Kenny blew through the field at Ironman Boulder to grab his slot for the big dance. How does a person execute a plan so flawlessly when so much is on the line? We weren’t sure either, so we sat him down and asked him a few questions.

Kenny_Kona

Q: How long have you had your eyes on a Kona slot for? What was your motivation for getting there?

A: I’ve been wanting to race Kona for 6 years now. IRONMAN Boulder was my 3rd IRONMAN. I sat down with my Coach (Eric from EK Endurance Coaching) last October and said “I wanna go to Kona”. Since that conversation every swim, bike and run has been geared towards IRONMAN Boulder and snagging a Kona slot.

Q: What do you think will be the hardest part of the race mentally for you?

A: Being patient during the bike. Knowing that the race will really begin once I get my feet on the ground.

Q: What shoe have you been training in? And what shoe will you be racing in?

A: My shoe of choice post IRONMAN Boulder was the AHA. Leading up to Kona I’ve been training in the Distance III and Distance Elite. My weapon of choice for Kona. Drum roll please…….The Limited Edition Distance III ;) So Fresh!

Q: Number one thing running through your head when you’re mid-way through the bike/run on race day?

A: The Swim: Is that a shark?

The Bike: I swear that was a shark!

The Run: “How far until the next aid station?”

Q:What are your main concerns racing in Kona?

A: The humidity!

 

For more information on Kenny, check out his fundraising page -https://www.rallyme.com/rallies/886/kenny-to-kona

 

Share

Inspire Your IRONMAN Boulder Athlete To RUN BETTER WITH Our #RUNFORIT VIDEO WALL

Posted by on Friday, July 25, 2014 @ 2:51 pm | Leave a reply

RACE CHIP-TRIGGERED PERSONALIZED CHEER VIDEOS FOR MILE 20 OF THE RUN!

More than 3,000 athletes will take on IRONMAN Boulder in our hometown on Sunday, August 3 and Newton Running will be there to help them Run Better – especially when they really need the support: at mile 20 of the run course.

We’re inviting athletes’ friends, family members, coaches or other supporters to record a short, personalized “video cheer.” We’ll play the video, triggered to an athlete’s race chip, on a jumbo screen at mile 20 of the run course – just when they’re digging deep and doing some soul-searching to keep it going those last 6.2 miles.

If you’re in Boulder for race weekend and know someone racing, come visit the Newton #RunForIt video booth and record a FREE cheer video for an athlete. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, July 29 10am-6pm Newton Running Lab
Wednesday, July 30 10am-6pm Newton Running Lab
Thursday, July 31 9am-5pm IRONMAN Boulder ExpoBoulder High School1604 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO
Friday, August 1 9am-5pm IRONMAN Boulder ExpoBoulder High School1604 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO
Saturday, August 2 9am-5pm IRONMAN Boulder ExpoBoulder High School1604 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO

 

 

 

 

Share

Steady Stephen

Posted by on Sunday, June 1, 2014 @ 5:17 pm | Leave a reply

Stephen Pifer’s running genes might just be the key to his consistent success, year over year

Stephen Pifer has running in his genes and it shows. He has been a natural from the moment he stepped onto the track in 1997 at age 13 and broke an 18-year-old school record with a 5:07 in the 1600 meters. Although his math teacher was quick to point out to him that the 1600 meters is not a mile (technically it’s 1609 meters), he’s been breaking records ever since. He has competed twice in the Olympic Track and Field trials for 1500 meters and most recently, the soon-to-be 30-year-old qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials for marathon in February, 2016 with a time of 63.44 in the half marathon. He’s also been consistent. He’s run a sub-4 minute mile for 9 years, and hopes to make a decade of running sub-4s later this year.

You don’t have to look far to see where Pifer’s running genes came from. His grandfather started the running program at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. His uncle was an All American at the same university and still holds the school record for the 800 meters. He went on to run marathons and eventually became Pifer’s high school coach before moving to Colorado to continue coaching. Both Pifer’s parents ran track in high school, too.

But before Pifer could commit to follow in the family footsteps, he had some things to do. He played soccer and basketball. In his freshman year of high school he made the Junior Varsity basketball team and basketball was his passion. But in this same year, his uncle recorded the Footlocker HS Cross Country Nationals.  Pifer watched the race and decided he wanted to go to this meet. His basketball coach was none too happy, when Pifer told him mid Freshman season that he was quitting to focus on running.

By the time his senior year rolled around, Pifer was a five-time school record holder and a two-time All-American in the Distance Medley Relay and the mile. That year, he became only the 6th man in Illinois’s history to win the Cross Country, 1600-meter and 3200-meter State Titles in the same year. And yes, he finally made it to the Footlocker HS Cross Country Nationals where he placed 14th.

This was good enough to land him a scholarship to CU Boulder where despite a rookie mistake that sidelined him for most of his freshman year, he garnered strong results. “Freshman year things went up and down. I got hurt running on the Mesa Trail. It was a Rookie mistake, trying to be a showoff. I watched my teammates go to the Nationals for cross-country.” But things picked up from there.

1458474_651862388197823_623068786_n

Pifer became an All-Conference finisher (Big 12) four times and an All-Regional finisher three times in cross-country. He made Nationals and was an individual All-American four times. Although his team won two national titles, winning the Big 12 Conference in 2008 as a team was the highlight of his time at CU. “Not to take away from the NCAA championships, but winning the Big 12 title as a team was the best. We had a good group. It was a real team effort.” He credits the coaches for fostering this team spirit from the get go. “As Freshmen, we had a dodgeball team to try to tie everyone together. We were the ‘Track Whackers’. We had long jumpers and shot putters, we all knew each other and that synergy we developed led us to win over these powerhouse schools.” It was on the CU track team that Pifer met his future wife, Laura Zeigle “a stud runner in her own right,” he says.

From CU, Pifer headed to Portland in 2009, to run for one of the larger shoe companies. Where some runners struggle outside of college, Pifer still felt he was part of a team and as a result he had one of his best years yet, including a 4th -place finish in the 1500 meters at the USA National Championships. It was during this time, he and his wife started a family. “I was in a position where I didn’t have to work another job. I could train and hang out with my family and then go train again. It was pretty awesome.”

It was also during this time that his uncle, who was still coaching in Colorado, showed him a pair of Newton shoes. “I thought they looked crazy.” He appreciated being up on the ball of his feet, but he wasn’t sure about this new shoe company. But then a college friend went to work for Newton and a few years later as Pifer’s contract drew to a close, he says, “I noticed Newton was still around. I figured they’re obviously doing something right.” The next thing he knew he had landed a job with the company as a tech rep in Florida.

Having become used to getting free shoes in college, he said, “I had to look it as though it wasn’t me buying the shoe, because I go through a pair once every 6-8 weeks.” But now when he considers durability and dollars per mile spent, he says, “I get way more miles out of my Newtons than I did for any other shoe I’ve ever worn.”

614852_668750163205711_9094855204691423539_o

Having recently relocated to Colorado for Newton. Pifer was psyched to be chosen to run on one of the Bolder Boulder elite teams with his fellow Newton teammates Tyler McCandless and Fernando Cabada. Now, as he looks toward the ensuing Olympic marathon trials, he says, “Consistency is definitely something to be proud of. People get injured if you’re overdoing things. I am not getting faster, but I’m not getting slower. Hopefully, I can PR, I’m not ruling that out.”

As for his boys, between his wife and him, one can only assume the running genes found their way to them as well. But Pifer will let them find their own way to running, just as he did. “If they want to do it, I think they’ll have the talent,” says Pifer. For now, he says, they’re doing jumps on their scooters, rock climbing and hiking, and taking advantage of everything Boulder has to offer. Pifer adds, “We’re just having fun.”

 

Follow Newton Running Elite

Facebook

Twitter

Share

Run Hard. Pray Hard: Danielle Duhon & The Boston Marathon

Posted by on Sunday, April 20, 2014 @ 5:41 am | Leave a reply

 “Run fast. Pray hard.” That’s Danielle Duhon’s running motto. It’s what got her to the Boston marathon in 2011 and what is taking her there again this year. “Boston is like the average runner’s Olympics,” she says.  “Running Boston in 2011 was one of the greatest running experiences I’ll ever have. The crowd support and the privilege of having qualified and getting to run that course, is something I’ll never take for granted.” She adds, “It was such a blessing and an honor to be there, even if I never qualified again.”

danielle-chairdivision2

            The 43-year-old has qualified for Boston every year since, but traveling for a race can be expensive. Not to mention she works the night shift as a nurse and has three young daughters, the oldest of whom is disabled. But this year, is different. “I didn’t go back in 2012 or 2013. The reason I’m going back this year is because of the events of last year. I decided it was important for me to go back and show my support for the city after the events of last year.”

Aside from running alongside the more than 35,660 participants who also are running Boston this year, she’s headed to the race with her sister and seven of her girlfriends. All of who qualified. “It’s amazing we all qualified and got in. I think it will be really special and an honor to run for the people who can’t run this year. For those who lost their lives and to say ‘thank you’ to the city.”

But Duhon hopes this won’t be her last time running Boston. She has another goal in mind for which she will rely on her motto again, as well as the words of triathlete, Jessie Thomas, “Your best performance can come in spite of your biggest doubts. Always give your self a chance to succeed.” Duhon would like to run Boston again pushing her 14-year-old daughter in her new running chair. “My oldest daughter is handicapped and we just raised money to buy her a pushchair. My goal is to qualify for the push chair division. I am small and she weighs more than me, so it will likely take me more than a year to get there. I think she would be ecstatic. She just waves like she is in a pageant when I push her in races. It will be a tough road, but my goal is to give her that experience, however long it takes me to get there.”

Danielle-Chairdivision

As she looks toward her next goal, and even her ensuing race, Duhon credits Newton for her ability to still run at all. When she first began to marathon train, she would get injured every time she increased her mileage—stress fractures, IT band issues, Achilles tendinitis—you name it, she had it. In March of 2009, she ran her first marathon in New Orleans in a time of 4:07. “I was injured again afterward and went in search of a new shoe.” That’s then she was fitted in the Newton Distance. That summer, she began to increase her mileage and remained injury free. In December 2009, she ran her second marathon in a time of 3:41, giving her the qualifying time for Boston. “Nine months later and 26 minutes off my time. What? The only thing I changed were my shoes.”

Fast forward to today and she’s gone through about 12 pairs of the Distance U and is headed to Boston for the second time. For the next few days, she’ll tuck away her thoughts on running it a third time with her daughter and try to just savor the moment—a change from the first time she ran Boston. “Last time I ran Boston, I wanted to run my fastest time and I didn’t enjoy the race as much as I would have liked, because I was looking at my watch and trying to PR. I missed my PR by 3 seconds and I came home disappointed.” She adds, “This time I promised myself I wouldn’t run for the time, but would enjoy myself more and soak up every single moment of this race. Especially with everything that happened there last year, we owe it to that crowd to enjoy every single second.” Then, she’ll get back to running fast and praying hard to make her next goal happen.

 

 

Share

Experience Spartan World Championships With a 14 Year-Old

Posted by on Monday, October 21, 2013 @ 2:18 pm | Leave a reply

I sat on the steep hillside with a 5-gallon bucket of gravel between my legs, protecting it from spilling. This was just a temporary stop to collect my strength as I climbed up the Killington, Vermont ski run. It was a brutal reminder that ski slopes are for skiing down and that is it! This same obstacle was my biggest challenge at my first Spartan Beast several months ago in Utah. The sight of a bucket now makes me cringe. Descending the hillside, with my bucket in my arms, I thought I might actually cry. As I dumped my gravel into the bin at the end, successfully completing the obstacle, I said to myself, “Pull yourself together, you still have a long way to go.”

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-start line

Show Time

I had no idea this race would be so hard. Standing at the start line, I felt welcomed amongst my new Spartan family. I appreciated the cheers and well wishes from my fellow racers as my name was called to the start line of the Spartan World Championships. I found myself standing amongst some of the world’s greatest athletes. There were Olympians from around the globe as well as Xterra, USTAF and Trail World Champions, Professional Obstacle Course Racers, Adventure Racers, triathletes and marathon winners. This talented group of athletes, including the Spartan Pro Team, will be featured in the NBC Sports Network TV special about the World Championships on October 19th.

Given Spartan’s history and the presence of NBC TV, most of us assumed we were about to embark on the toughest, most grueling 13-mile course ever designed by Spartan. Little did we know how humbling the day would be—the steep climbs, cold water and grueling course would sideline even some of the world’s most fit athletes.

Climbing & Descending

The first part of the course was mainly a steep never-ending trail climb up the hills of Killington Ski Resort. I was happy with my selection of running this course in my Newton Distance. I knew there would be a lot of serious climbing so I chose to stay on the lighter side with my shoes. I had done my last Spartan Beast in my Newton All-weathers. The unique lug design of Newton shoes is not only great for forefoot running but also provides great traction on these difficult courses. Spartans were once again falling, slipping and sliding on the steep descents and I was able to keep my footing. There were a few walls and round hay bails to climb on our way up, which is always fun.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-wall traverse

Living and training at 7,000 feet in Park City, UT, as well as only carrying 98 pounds on my small frame, was a great advantage on the first part of the course. I was surprised to find myself hanging with many of the elite females for the first six to seven miles. It was only when we encountered the heavy obstacles, that their more adult bodies became a huge advantage for them.

Two-thirds My Weight

Upon reaching one of the few black diamond ski runs at Killington, I peered up the steep slope.  As far up the mountain as I could see, it was just a stream of racers carrying something. As I approached a pile of sandbags, I quickly realized there was only one size. Many of the weighted obstacles at Spartan Races have female and male sized weights. This was the World Championships, though, what was I thinking. There was no time to stop and think. This was a race!

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-60#sandbag carry

As a competitive athlete, you learn to improvise as you go. I wasn’t sure how I would handle this heavy obstacle but knew I just had to get moving with it. I grabbed my sandbag, tossed it up onto my back and began the long trek. I would alternate carrying the weight on one shoulder, then the other. When both shoulders got fatigued, I would place it evenly across my upper back and neck.  The one thought I had the entire time was, “Why is a 14-year-old girl carrying what a grown man is carrying?” At the time, I had no idea I was carrying 60 pounds, literally two-thirds my body weight. All I knew was, “It was heavy”.  It was only after the race, that I had learned the actual weight we were all carrying.

Burpees & Perseverence

The Hercules Hoist gave me my first set of burpees. A cement bucket is hooked to a pulley system.  You must use a rope to pull the bucket up to the top. As I started to hoist the bucket up, I would quickly find myself being pulled up in the air as the bucket returned to the ground. “You got to be kidding me! I’ve done this before. This cement bucket must be heavier than my last race.” After being lifted off the ground several times and only getting the weight half way up, I realized Hercules would win today. I immediately started doing my 30 burpees.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-rope climb

During the entire race I was reminded, “I had it easy.” I was not carrying a tumor, like my new friend, Iram Leon. He is 32 years old and living with an inoperable brain tumor, yet not letting it slow him down. I had two healthy legs unlike the amputee that crawled up the entire Killington ski slope on his hands and knees or like the female amputee who stood at the start line with me. I was able to just be at the event, unlike my dad and many others that left this world too soon. It wasn’t hard to put my pain aside and persevere.

Having previewed the course the day before, I knew the water obstacles would come at miles seven and ten. Seeing all the water on this course, I also knew I wanted a shoe that had great drainage, not one that would hold water. I had poured water in my Newton trainers prior to the race to see how quickly it would drain out. Unlike many Spartans, I was not intimidated by the water, but rather excited. As a two-time triathlon national champion, I had been battling it out in the water since I was five years old. I didn’t take into account, however, how much wearing shoes affected your ability to swim. I was especially glad I didn’t wear a hydration pack like so many did. It would have been yet another thing to weigh me down as I swam across the frigid water and climbed up the rope climbs.

Tarzan & The Tyrolean Traverse

The Tarzan Swing was nearly impossible! I heard of only one female who made it successfully across. This obstacle consisted of ladders and ropes suspended from a bridge in the middle of a lake. After swimming out and climbing up to the top of the bridge, there were about five or six little ropes. One had to swing across these ropes to get to the bell. I made it across two ropes then fell about ten feet into the lake.  As I swam to shore, my only thought was, “I think I’m turning into an ice cube.” As I crawled onto shore, it was burpee time again.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-barb wire

Next up, the Tyrolean Traverse. Imagine a rope suspended across water; a kids dream, an adult’s nightmare! I may have moved slower than Sid, the two-toed sloth, but I made it! I hung below the rope with just my knees and elbows draped over the long rope that spanned the freezing cold, irrigation pond for the ski resort. There was no way I was going to fall off that rope, swim to shore, do 30 burpees and then have to reattempt it again. It was pretty intimidating seeing Elite men wrapped in a foil blanket at the edge of the water, hypothermic and unable to continue on. Today, the Tyrolean Rope would separate the winners from the losers. All I could think was, “Just hang on!” I have some great rope burns on my arms to show for my effort.

Tyrolean Traverse- Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013

Pushing Beyond

The Spartan World Championships pushed me farther, mentally and physically, than I have ever been pushed before. However, with this being said, I know I have not reached my limit. There is always a take home lesson I learn from every race; whether it is a triathlon, a marathon, an aerial skiing competition or a Spartan Race. Spartan reminded me how crucial the mental component of a sport can be. Even if your body wants to give up, you can usually mentally keep pushing on and many times your body will recover. If you give up mentally though, it is over immediately.

Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013-fire jump

For many, crossing the finish line on Saturday was the end of their race weekend. Placing first in the world in the 19 & under open division and 28th amongst the elite females was perhaps my greatest accomplishment ever. However, the most important race to me was actually the next day. For the first time, Spartan offered a charity race. Beat up and exhausted but willing to do it all again, my team of five athletes, Team Winter, set out Sunday morning to try to capture the Spartan Charity Race Title. Our team raced for the 1 in 6 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the cancer that took my 40 year-old-dad from me when I was only 9-years-old.

We were expected to navigate a two- to three-mile course, with the fastest three times from each team counting. Seeing some of Spartan’s best obstacle course racers smiling at the start line Sunday and getting their “Spartan On” for something bigger than themselves was a great sight. These guys and gals went out with revenge and were ready to give everything they had left for their cause. Although Team Winter took 2nd place by only a few seconds, we were proud to stand on the podium as one of the top five teams in the world. Each team took prize money home for their charity and most importantly raised awareness for their cause.

Finish Line Spartan Vermont Beast World Championships 2013

Spartan World Championships was great training as I headed into my sixth marathon on October 12th on New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island—my second to last continent on my world marathon tour for prostate cancer awareness. Keep following Newton for my next race report!

Never Give In!

Sig

Join Team Winter or make a Donation!

Share

Twice As Nice!

Posted by on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 @ 12:21 pm | Leave a reply

On September 26, it was a cold morning in Lake Tahoe as Ironman participants entered the water. A fog hovered over the lake as warm air hit cool and frost covered the bike seats. Perfect racing conditions, according to Chris McDonald, who crossed the line in first place in 8:55.14, capturing his 6th Ironman victory. Lake Tahoe is a tough course and winning it is worth its own accolade, but what makes McDonald’s win all the more impressive is that just 28 days earlier, on August 25, he garnered a win at Ironman Louisville, making him the first triathlete to win back-to-back Ironman races.

We caught up with McDonald, recovering at his home in Austin, Texas before he heads to Kona to cheer on his peers. He won’t be racing Hawaii this year, but it’s on his radar for next season.

Could you describe these races? They were very different.

Both are strength courses. For Tahoe, there are a lot of people who say it’s too hard. I think it’s one of the most picturesque Ironman courses I’ve ever done out of all of the North American races. You have the two climbs, and when you’re at the top, you look out and you get this full view of Lake Tahoe. And then the finish is in Squaw Valley and you run up through the village, with this big stone face that is the ski hill. It’s beautiful.

Louisville, it’s just the place where I won my first IM and it’s my home away from home. Winning means a lot because I’ve won it 3 times and I know the town well. I know the restaurants and people recognize you, so you feel good.

The low temp in Louisville was 15 degrees warmer than the high in Tahoe. Louisville was 90+ degrees. The low was 75. I think the low in Tahoe it was recorded at 29 degrees. There was frost and ice from the dew on my saddle on my bike when I got out of the water. They forecast it to get up to 70, but it never did, the clouds never broke off. The water was 63 degrees—it was beautiful. It was twice the air temperature. But because of that there was a thick layer of steam on the water.

What’s significant about the double win?

I have tried to do it twice before, because no one had done it. I tried in 2008 to do it in Louisville and Wisconsin. I won Wisconsin, but I came second in Louisville. I tried in 2011. I won Louisville, but I was second at Revolution 3 Cedar Point. This year, when I saw the date for Lake Tahoe, I thought ‘I have to do this race.’ It’s bound to be freezing cold. It’s above 6,000 feet at altitude. I wanted to do it for those reasons. I had raced in Louisville four times. I thought, ‘I’ll go back and try to get that title back and go to Tahoe,’ even though I had never been to that race. I was motivated especially once I won Louisville again. Every time I’ve done two races close together, I generally perform better in the second one.

I was happy to get two Ironman wins in a year, let alone so close. I love the fact I was able to do it, but it’s not like I ticked the box and said I’ve done everything now. I’m just as motivated for races I might choose to do for the end of the year. And what I might do next year now that I have a jump start on points for Kona next year. I like to race. It keeps me satisfied.

Chris McDonald

After winning Louisville, did you have any trouble motivating so quickly for Tahoe?

No. Because I knew no one had ever won IMs back-to-back, which was motivating. And, I was able to race Louisville my way. I’m not cocky, but I wanted to be able to not run too hard, so I could save myself for Tahoe. I got a good lead on the bike in Louisville, so I could hold a little bit in reserve. I like to race a lot, I haven’t raced a lot this year, it was just the way the year panned out and I didn’t travel that much. So, I was motivated to go race. That’s what I do all of this training for. I love the training, but I love to race more.

What about Kona?

I’m ready to race in Kona next year. I don’t want to go unless I feel like I can legitimately race it. I didn’t plan 2012 to accumulate points in the back end of the year. The way the KPR points work, if you don’t have 2-3000 points in the bag before the end of the previous year you’re hooped. As fair as it is, they heavily weight it for people who do Kona to go back the following year.

For Hawaii, you have to be so mentally fresh and willing to suffer if you want to do well. It’s more about being mentally switched on than physically. Everyone is fit and ready, it’s who is prepared to suffer mentally.

What was your most satisfying race this season?

The best satisfaction out of any race would have to be Coeur D’Alene. You have to have a little bit of luck go your way to win. I had that in Louisville and Tahoe. But in Coeur D’Alene, I got a flat and was 23 minutes at the side of the road before I got a spare. I was 28 minutes back on the bike by the time I was done. I was well out of the race, but then I broke 2.50 for the first time in the marathon. I had a good solid marathon and ran back into 5th place, which was personally satisfying for me.

What’s on deck for next year?

Ironman Texas, maybe 70.3 Monterey and 70.3 Galvaston, and then a break to get married [Newton note: CONGRATULATIONS!]. Hopefully I’ll have enough points for Kona. There are so many races now you have to really pick and choose because you could race every other weekend, year-round if you wanted. It’s hard to pick your schedule.

Share

Weathering the Storm with Triathlete Chris Legh

Posted by on Saturday, October 12, 2013 @ 2:53 am | Leave a reply

The rains began the week of September 9 in Colorado, and they did not stop. By Wednesday evening, residents in the small town of Lyons, Colorado (with a population of just over 2,000) were being asked to evacuate their homes. Among those living in Lyons were triathlete, Chris Legh, with his wife and two daughters, who split their time between the small town and their native country, Australia. At this point, Legh was just one month out from competing in the 35th Annual Ironman World Championship—a race he has said will be his last as a career triathlete.

As the severity of the flood revealed itself, Legh’s first reaction was to forget about Kona and to just help out. But as the National Guard moved into help, residents were asked to leave. There wasn’t much they could do. In Boulder, the roads for riding and trails for running, were now damaged and closed, and many swimming facilities were shutdown. This was no longer an ideal place to train. Legh and his family went first to a friend’s place in Vail, Colorado, before deciding that their best move was to go straight to Kona. We caught up with him in between training in Kona.

Can you tell us about Lyons and the flood?

Our house was better off than most people. For us, it wasn’t a really bad situation, but we realized we were stuck in town and couldn’t get out. A lot of people in town were really messed up. Main Street survived quite well, but the two main businesses that were hit hard (The Fork and St. Vrain Market, Deli & Bakery) are owned by two of our really good friends. We lived in Lyons for 8 years and we were there before the market and the Fork were upgraded. They are iconic places in town.

Everyone has to deal with mortgages and make sure their businesses survive. We just learned that the Montessori School our youngest daughter goes to will be shutdown for good. And our other daughter’s school has been temporarily moved to Longmont.

What were your thoughts on leaving?

I hated it. I knew people needed help. I almost lost my motivation to train because I wanted to help. But the only thing really that made it easier to leave was when I realized I couldn’t do a lot, we pretty much had to leave. It wasn’t possible to stay. But we all hated leaving our street and our town. I love the community.

What were your options?

Initially we went up to Vail. We had an option to stay up there and figure out what we were going to do. We were very lucky. Then we decided to head to Kona. I almost didn’t want to tell people I was going to Hawaii because it really doesn’t seem that important right now. But since I couldn’t help, I figured I might as well go do my little race.

Why is this race a big one for you?

It’s likely this is going to be my last race. I mean, it’s probably the last time I will call it my career in a sense, in terms of it being my occupation. I’ve been racing professionally for 22 years, I’ll always do something. I’ll never stop competing in something. But in terms of it being my occupation, this is going to be my last race.

Hawaii was the attraction for me to get into the sport. I had the itch to come back and race it one last time. Luckily, Melbourne Ironman went well for me. Then I did Coeur d’Alene, Calgary, Lake Stevens, I just had to chase points for a couple of weeks.

Pulmonary edema has limited your racing, how are you feeling about it?

No one can give me an answer. I can be racing as hard as possible or by myself and it can happen. In the Melbourne Ironman earlier this year it didn’t happen. No one can give me an answer. It’s happened everywhere with no correlation to altitude. At Vail, I’m fine. It’s bizarre to know there’s a good chance you can’t reach your potential. I’ve raced long enough to accept it if it happens. Fingers crossed it doesn’t.

What are your expectations for Kona?

If I have the problems I’ve had in the past, it won’t be an ideal ending. If I’m racing well, I’ll have a smile on my face. Then I’ll walk away having enjoyed being here. I’m at a point in my career where I enjoy it and realize there is no real consequence in my performance. It’s a nice place to be. I’m sitting here now in Kona and I love it. I’ve been here and hated it.

So, if Kona is your last race, will you return to Lyons?

We were enjoying Colorado, but that’s the shame of it. We’re from Melbourne and Lyons was my one chance to live in a small town. We’ll go back to Lyons after the race, if we’re able to get back to Lyons. We’ll pack and fly home to Australia.  We’ll come back next year, sooner rather than later and finish off the school year.

But going back to Australia and the beach isn’t a bad option.

Do you have any words for Colorado right now?

I hope things improve. I know a lot of the family situations aren’t fantastic. I hope the businesses can survive and we can have our great little town back. More people need to ride out from Boulder when the roads are open to visit and support the town.

Share

A chat with 8x Ironman World Champion, Paula Newby-Fraser

Posted by on Monday, October 7, 2013 @ 10:10 am | Leave a reply

With the 35th Annual Ironman World Championship just weeks away, we reached out to former 8x Ironman World Champion, Paula Newby-Fraser, to find out how the world of triathlon has evolved and to get her advice and predictions for this year.

O

How has triathlon changed from when you competed?

I’m not sure the formula is different, but it looks a lot different from when I competed simply because there are more athletes competing in triathlon and a lot more opportunities to race. It was very easy to narrow down the competition when I competed because there were only a handful of us.

When there were only a handful of triathlons, you simply went and did the big races. Now, the challenge is to pick and choose a few and focus on just doing well at those. But because there are so many races, there’s a lot more noise out there. I think it’s harder to say this is what I’m going to do and ignore the noise.

Did you have a formula you followed each year?

Yes. I would say okay I will do this, this, and this race, the rest will be local, shorter events and then I will go to Kona. And then the next year I would hit repeat. I would do shorter races, probably 2-3 longer international races and then go back to Kona. You can do that now, but there are distractions and opportunities and more athletes bidding for the top positions. There is a lot more talent in the field than in the late 80s and early 90s.

Has the landscape changed for training?

The landscape has changed significantly in terms of training. There seems to be more of a trend to do more training. Now, there are these communities, teams and clubs that get together and go into training camp a lot and in Boulder there is this hardcore group that just trains and trains and trains indefinitely for months on end. There are a lot of athletes who spend a lot of time training and I think one thing that goes on with camps and coaching and social media, and the evolution of everything around triathlon, is it sucks a lot of athletes into higher, faster, stronger, more, more, more. And the exposure to one another through clubs or social media keeps everyone pushing the envelope a little bit more and a little bit more.

Certainly in the late 80s and early 90s it was very insular, you could pick your path and it was easy to avoid getting pulled out of it. It was more rumor and story if you heard someone doing something. You couldn’t track someone on a training ride app where you can go and literally see what people are doing. Apps and social media can allow for a certain amount of overload and questioning. When you were insular, you decided what you were going to do and you got on and you did it. I didn’t spend a lot of time second-guessing what I was doing.

Do you have any predictions for this year?

It was interesting watching the 70.3 championships. The field was so big, but when all was said and done, it was the same people at the top. I don’t think you will see a significant change—history is always a good guide. Usually, there is one real breakthrough performance. Maybe there will be one or two new faces in the top 10, but the top contenders are consistent, and smart, and focused, that’s why they are at the top. This is barring any significant events—there are always a few injuries or unforeseen circumstances.

What advice would you give these Ironman athletes?  

To me when people ask if I can give them my one piece of advice, I tell them it is all in how you handle the chaos of your mind. If you can direct that into the current moment of what you’re doing, it can definitely calm a lot of the chaos that goes on around competing in triathlon. There is a lot of the meditative process in training, but when it comes to competing people’s minds get a bit scrambled and chaotic. They forget that they have trained in the heat, or trained through good and bad situations. People get lost in races. So don’t get lost in the race, know that you have the capabilities to handle challenges the same way you have in practice. Everything becomes so magnified in competing, when it doesn’t need to be at all.

What’s it like for you to be a spectator at Kona?

I love to go to Kona. I love to watch it now. There’s a certain predictability, but always a certain excitement. It’s always my favorite race to watch. There is so much anticipation and somehow there is always a little bit of drama where you see such an acute level of excitement. It reflects the fact of what the sport has to offer, you’re watching the best athletes and physical talent and mental capacity. The women’s race last year was epic. It wasn’t a surprise to see the women fighting for it, they are the women who you expect to be up there, but the way it all unfolded was so interesting. It’s always by far my favorite race to watch.

Do you ever wish you were still out there competing?

I stopped wishing quite a number of years ago. I know what it took to be out there, year in and year out. I am inspired when I see athletes, but I don’t want to push myself that hard. I know how hard it is and I know how hard they’re pushing.

I don’t consider what I do training. I consider it more active lifestyle exercise. I work out every day, but there is nothing in particular that I do or that I’m training for. I always feel like I’m fit enough to jump into a half marathon or something like that. Being fit will always be a part of my life. But now, I’m just training for life.

When you look back, do you have a favorite race?

I don’t know that there was one, I was very blessed at having a number of races that were as flawless as you can get when I went to Kona. I look back and I am proud of my career. There were a lot more positive than there were negative, that’s a great batting average to have. And, I don’t say it was a sacrifice—that means you gave something up. I was doing what I wanted to do, it was my career and I loved it.

Share