One day not too long ago, Tucson Tri Girl (TTG) Kay Wolferstetter and the incredible minds that be with the club, asked me to write a Biography of sorts on my triathlon experiences and how TTG helped serve as a positive influence in my triathlon endeavors. I will say that I was struck with gratitude by this request and quite taken back by this wonderful opportunity. So thank you all for thinking of me and allowing me to share this story. I hope these words impart some insight into my thoughts and appreciation toward TTG, even if it is the littlest of bits…

I will start by asking a few few questions. How many of you grew up in an environment where you had a reliable and enormous abundance of supporters to push you to perform at your best potential? How many of you had people in your lives that created opportunities for you to test your fullest and deepest strengths, abilities, and skills? How many of you had genuine, loving, and compassionate adults in your life that were mindful of creating positive growth experiences in preparation opportunities for adulthood? Contemplate those questions for a moment and then realize this, and so much more, is what TTG does for Women in Triathlon and beyond.

That being said, when I attended my first meeting with the TTG back in June of 2014 I felt totally out of sorts and ill-equipped to be among this group of very skilled and knowledgeable triathletes. I was pretty nervous and shy being such a novice to the sport. I had tried one triathlon many years prior with a friend who convinced me to sign up for a Tempe Town Lake Sprint Triathlon back in 2000 or so. All I remembered from that experience is that I though I would drown in that disgusting lake and nobody would ever find my body. I had only trained in a pool up until that time and had no idea how difficult it would be swimming in choppy water with so many other people encircled around me in what felt like bubbling vegetable soup. I think I drank half the lake and had serious abdominal issues for 2 months following this event. Needless to say I never embarked on or even thought about trying to do another triathlon until I met my now husband while he was training for and then completed the Brazil Ironman back in 2011. I started swimming, biking, and running with Rob as our relationship blossomed to help support him in this endeavor. I had always been an avid road and mountain biker and ran “A LOT” with the Tucson Women’s Soccer League. I grew up swimming, biking, and running all the days long as a youth in the New England area and Rob and I would spend time together swimming, biking, and running as fun and healthy outlets to spend time together outside the stressors of our professional lives and to be with friends. This grew to a point where I became and felt more comfortable with the idea of putting all three elements together and felt ready to make a real go of triathlon and put my heart and mind into it.

In the midst of Rob's and my group cycling rides..... wait..... everybody, hold your breath..... NO..... you will not believe it..... wait..... wait..... its coming..... hold on to your seats everybody.....dun du du du daaaaaaaaa! I met Carolyn Audilet…..I know, Right!!!!!! What a shock to you all……and guess what happened after that……dun du du daaaaaaaaaaaa! We became Facebook friends.....I know, another shock…..and I learned about the Tucson Tri Girls through some of her postings……I know right……such a rare opportunity….. HAHAHA.....all fun aside.....Carolyn (((((AKA Race Arizona Brainstorm))))) would post things like "I’ll be riding from my house out to Udall pool, swimming 2500, running 3 miles and riding back home if anybody would like to join…" I was like “hell ya.” What sounded more perfect than to start my day off with a bike, swim, run, bike….. that lead to me joining Carolyn at my first TTG meeting that wonderful June day back in 2014 and started me off on my Road to Arizona Ironman 2016. This is how my triathlon races went:

1. July 2014 - 4th of July Sprint at the U of A (no longer in existence)

2. August 2014 Flagstaff Mountain Man Olympic

3. September La Mariposa Sprint

4. October 2014 Patagonia Lake Olympic

5. Bike Racing January 2015-March 2015

6. February 2015 TTG Triathlon Clinic with Brian Grasky Tucson Endurance Center

7. March 2015 Oro Valley Sprint

8. May 2015 Sahuarita Olympic

9. May 2015 Esprit De She Sprint

10. Qualified for USA Triathlon Olympic Competition

……For most of the rest of 2015 I had to take off due to my mother being very ill and knocking my training focus and energy out of wack……

Except that my husband Rob had qualified for and entered in the NY Marathon in November 2014, but you may remember that year it had been cancelled due to the destructive storm that had whipped out the entire city. Gratefully, they allowed Rob to re-enter the 2015 race; so he signed up. You earn something like that and there is no saying no; you have to do it! Right!!! I raised money for the NY Youth Running Organization (because there was no way I was going to qualify for this race and not lucky enough for the lottery☺) to be able to run with him. I figured if I was ever going to do a marathon this is the one to do and I wasn’t getting any younger. Turns out I was right, it was a perfect day and an experience that I will never forget! (Right Donna Pierson – wasn’t that like your 75th marathon that I was lucky enough to share with you?☺ ) However, the first thing out of my mouth after crossing the finish line with Rob goes something like this “there is no way in heck I could ever swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles prior to running a marathon..... you have to be nuts to do something like that!"..... rrrrriiiiiggggghhhhhttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Turns out, not so much… By December one of my best buddies and co-workers in the world convinced me that it would be a great opportunity for me to sign up for Arizona Ironman 2016 with Smile Train. Scott Kadous was right, as this was the extra encouragement that provided me with the necessary purpose and focus it takes to take on such a steep endeavor to help provide assistance to children born with cleft lip palate.

Continue with race preparation course:

1. November 2015 we ran the NY Marathon (first marathon ever)

2. January –February 2016 Cycling race training with TTG

3. March 2016 Oro Valley Sprint

4. May 2016 Sahuarita Olympic

5. June 2016 Deuces Festival 70.3

6. August 2016 San Diego Conference 70.3

7. October 2016 GABA Tumacocori Century Ride

8. November 2016 Ironman Arizona

Looking back I am amazed that I was able to accomplish the list above and hold/attend/be present at my very hectic full-time job and family needs/events in the process. It all was such a whirl wind looking back and took great focus, scheduling and planning.

I could not have made it to this point if it were not for the help of all the amazing folks who run, manage and are members of the Tucson Tri Girls. Here is a list of a few things that the TTGs are responsible for helped me advance and improve upon my triathlon skills from a total beginner to a triathlete capable of completing an Ironman.

1. Swim - Robin Evans-Kremer was very helpful in providing guidance with my cross-over stroke, kicking with legs straight (not bending my knees) and building courage and confidence in open water swimming etc. I had intense breathing issues that I had to overcome if I was ever going to accomplish the 2.4 mile Ironman swim (or any open water swim for that matter). As luck would have it, this ended up being the most enjoyed and best part of my IM. Amy Dillon and Pam Kallio were also paramount in helping me find the right wetsuit for the open water swims. As far as accountability goes, I would swim with Michelle Keilin-Smith, Natalie Pike, Amy Dillon, and Carolyn Audilet on occasion and attend the U of A morning drills with Robin/ITri and run the Quad area afterward with Natalie Pike to follow. I miss those days. This was some of the best times of my training experience as I loved the camaraderie with all the gals at the pool and runs. I also attended each and every Patagonia Lake practice swim during the two years leading up to the event. Those swims were paramount in my ability to conquer my open water fears. I give an enormous amount of kudos and a BIG thanks to all who helped with these events! 2. Bike – I attended Robin Evens-Kremer and Grasky (Tucson Endurance Performance Center) transition clinics, TTG Group Cycling events and tri-biked with fellow TTG gals Christine Clayton, Jeneane McComb Catlin, and Natalie Pike. Pam Kallio and Tri-Sports were paramount in helping with proper nutrition along my weekly bike training plan and race day needs. If I would change or add anything (just that one thing in my overall training/race day needs/improvements) I would definitely, without a doubt, hire and pay the price for a professional nutritionist. This is the one thing that held me back in the final leg of the run course at IM and TTG has a great source of options when it comes to finding a nutritionist that specializes with triathletes. 3. Run – I attended many of the TTG local Tucson and Sedona sponsored event runs. However, most times I had to start my runs from my home with time demands from work and family. If I could have changed anything with my run schedule I would have made time to attended Bobbie Calero Wednesday 6:00 a.m. run drills at Catalina H.S. or the Reid Park Evening runs with ITri.

Being a member of the Tucson Tri Girls provided a solid and reliable foundation of triathlon knowledge, skills, and confidence builders to help me become an Ironman. I know that I would have never made it to that level without having joined this awesome group of compassionate, caring, and genuine athletes to help push me, but mostly encourage me, to that point. I cannot even count the number of complements and encouraging words and advice I received from all the members of this group.

One thing that I think helped make a huge difference in the year we completed the 2016 Ironman was the fact that we had 6 awesome ladies with TTG supporting each other and crossing that finish line together that year. Jeneane McComb, Christine Clayton, Pamela Hoyt, Michelle Keilin-Smith, and I toughed it out that year, overcame many training obstacles along the way and crossed the finish line together. Who could ask for a better group of strong, capable, and inspiring women to share in this journey?

All that said, there is one gal that stands out in this group who, whenever on my mind, always somehow creates an overwhelming amount of strength, power and courage in my heart just at the thought of her presence in this world. Some people just have that effect on you for some reason and we don’t always know why. Her name is Gloria Vasquez. I remember Gloria joining TTG not long after I joined. Gloria was even more of a beginner than me and I would watch her face her fears and challenges as she embarked on her personal journey with triathlon. I could see the dedication, determination, and domination in her eyes whenever I would see her at the meetings, training events, and race days always giving it her 110 %. I am so truly grateful for her presence as an example of generosity, strength, and constant encouragement instilled within the embodiment of TTG.

This is what I love about and what is so great about TTG. Everybody matters, everybody is accepted, everybody fits in no matter where you came from, where you are right now or where you want to be down the road with your athletic goals. TTG helps you find that place with a sense of comfort, acceptance, well-being, safety, and always a smile to greet you. TTG creates the opportunities to challenge you skills, provides the resources to improve your skills, and, above all else, has genuine people to support you each and every step of the way. No matter what!

In closing, thank you Tracy Wood, Susan Johansen, and Amy Dillon for being at the start of the swim, along the bike course, and at the finish line at Ironman Race day. Special kudos to Tracy for running with me along the final stretch of the course when my belly was tied up in knots and didn’t want to co-operate. That is what I call Massive Support and Massive Action and that is what I consider TTG to Triathlon.

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