Athlete of the Month: Angela Willoughby

Our Athlete of Month series is to recognize one of our clients for their ability to make triathlon a part of their overall lifestyle. The ‘award’ is not based on performance, fitness, or experience level. It’s just our way of giving a high-five to our clients since we know training for triathlon is no easy feat.

Athlete of the Month – June: Angela Willoughby

Angela Willoghby, Triathlete

Angela Willoghby, Triathlete

Meet Angela: I am an Executive Assistant for Specialty Sports Venture, which is the rental and retail division of Vail Resorts, we sell the “stuff” that allows you to have fun! I love my job because I get to work with some of the best people in the bike, ski and golf industry. I relocated from Iowa to Colorado as a child and have been here since 1980. I have been married to my very supportive husband, Grant, for 14 years. My mom is my number one fan and just relocated from Florida to Kansas last year– so it is great to have her so much closer. My dad still lives in my hometown, Council Bluffs, Iowa. My older sister was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes (Type I) at the age of 7 and passed away in 2000 at the age of 29 from complications. She has been and will remain an inspiration to me. There are many times when I am training hard or struggling and I think of my sister and remember that I do this because I can! I have no illusions about my future races– I will not make the podium, I will not take first in my age group (for a long time…) and I probably will never qualify for Kona, but I do this because I can and because I enjoy the process. I don’t have to train, I get to train and that is a big difference! Someone told me at my very first 5k that you do not have to be better than the person next to you; you just have to be better than you were last time. I work with Coach Lee Gardner and Trismarter because he understands this and gets me to be better than I was last time.

I have been an age-grouper triathlete since 2010. I wasn’t athletic as a child, teenager or even young adult – I didn’t find my inner athlete until 2007. Although I have had a gym membership for 20+ years and worked out consistently, I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to enter races; I wanted to compete; I just wanted to participate in life instead of sitting on the sidelines watching others. I started working out with a trainer, doing boot camp style classes and really started watching my diet. Over the next 2 years and a lot of hard work, I lost about 30 pounds and was feeling like I was ready to take it to the next level. I entered my first 5K with my best friend in May 2009 – it took us 46 minutes to complete it but we were hooked. We immediately signed up for our next 5k, 10k, and even a half marathon that summer.

My New Year’s resolution for 2010 was to do a triathlon. At that time, I hadn’t been on a real bike in over 20 years and I had never swam a lap in my life but I went for it. I signed up for Tri for the Cure, which is a women’s sprint triathlon in Denver in August. Through Tri for the Cure, I found an all-women’s triathlon training group and joined in January. It was a great introduction into the sport and was so inspiring to be working with some well-known coaches. All the training served me well and I was able to complete my first triathlon – my goal was to simply finish and come across that finish line with a smile on my face.

I continued training but was self-coached through the off-season. The following year I signed up for two sprint triathlons, one in June and one in August. I was diagnosed in April 2011 with Celiac disease and an allergy to the protein in cow’s milk! I was really struggling with my diet: what I could and couldn’t eat, how to fuel for training, etc. It is so tough finding foods without any dairy, wheat, barley or rye!

Sprint Triathlon Finish

Sprint Triathlon Finish

On June 19, 2011, I finished the Boulder 5430 Sprinttriathlon – but just barely! It was not a good race for me, no energy, GI issues, and just felt bad the entire time. When I came across the finish line, I didn’t even know if I wanted to do another race. But, luckily when I went to load all my gear in my car there was a business card and flyer from Trismarter! They offered coaching, as well as nutrition services. I called Trismarter the next day and signed up immediately with the T2Lose program because I really needed help with my nutrition just as much as I needed help with the training.

I think the training immediately took me for a loop – my prior training used to look like: Monday – ride 1 hour, Tuesday – swim 30 minutes – and now the training had intervals, splits, etc. It used to take me almost as long to read and understand the workout as it did to actually do the workout but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. My nutrition was coming along too – I was feeling better and performing better every week. Needless to say, my August race was a much better experience and again I was hooked on triathlons.

The 2011 race season wasn’t even over yet and I told Coach Lee that I wanted to sign up for the Escape from Alcatraz on June 10 2012. This race is notoriously tough – it is a 1.5 mile swim, from the island back to shore, then a hilly 18 mile bike, and an 8 mile trail run. I am sure he thought I was crazy but told me to sign up for the lottery, which wasn’t picked until October at the earliest and January at the latest – but we proceeded with the training as if I were already accepted. On October 4, 2011, I was chosen from the lottery. I was never so excited and scared at the same time but I knew we had a plan, a schedule and I would be ready!

Over the off season, Coach Lee had me training on average 8 -10 hours per week working on technique, endurance and trying to build some strength and speed – I always tell people that I have endurance but I have no speed! I can go go go but just not quickly (we are working on that)! The training that Lee has set up for me has been different because it is specific and done for a reason – it’s not just logging the junk miles! I even had scheduled recovery days, which was something unique for me – at first, I had a tough time taking a day off but quickly realized that they were there for a reason. I also had scheduled testing to see how I was progressing. At first, the tests would stress me out but I quickly learned to trust the process and trust the training.

Early spring, Coach Lee transitioned me to start training for Alcatraz specifically and my training bumped up to 10-12 hours per week, still completely manageable for someone who works full time but has to be dedicated to getting it done. Sometimes that means I get up at 4a, so I am in the pool by 5a (my least favorite when it is cold out); other days it means I am on the bike trainer at 8p and some days it means both! Part of my training had to include getting ready for the cold water of SFO Bay – it is estimated to be 55 degrees on race day! I was one of the first people in the Chatfield Gravel pond on opening day May 5th – brrr…that was cold. I quickly learned the neoprene sandwich cap technique and come to trust that my face and hands would go numb quickly and the muscles would remember what they needed to do! My favorite workouts have become whatever is scheduled on Saturday when I can get out to the gravel pond and swim, then bike or run or do all three!

Escape from Alcatraz Finish

Escape from Alcatraz Finish

Race day quick approached and before I knew it, I was in SFO at the athlete meeting. The other great thing about Lee is he always schedules time to talk to his athletes right before the race – answer any last questions, have a backup plan and give some quick assurance and positive reinforcement. I had two goals for this race – race safe and finish. Goal attained!! The race was tough, but when the time came to jump off that boat, I felt completely prepared and ready to go!

The 2012 race season isn’t over yet (Boulder Peak is July 8th and Tri for the Cure is August 5th) and I am already thinking about what I want to do next year!