Interview With Protriathlete Lewis Elliot

GOTRIbal:Tell us why you took on this crazy, fun endurance sports lifestyle?

Lewis: I grew up competing in all sorts of sports, at 7 years old my father had myself and two brothers racing local 2 mile running races.  I’ve always been very active. After a few years of being on the US National Cycling Team and a brief stint as a college soccer player, I found myself a career as a pro triathlete. There have been many highs and lows over the last ten years racing professionally, but I’ve never really thought about doing anything else.

 

GT:  What are your favorite distances to race?

Lewis: I enjoy all distances from sprint up to Ironman.  I’m probably most suited to the Half Ironman distance.  Lately, I’ve gotten into 100 mile endurance mountain bike races, which are a new challenge and a BLAST to compete in!

 

GT:Who have been major forces for you in maintaining your involvement in multisport?

Lewis: My father was my originally motivator, he and my late mother were always my biggest fans and supporters.  He always encouraged me to chase my dreams even if it sometimes looked less financially rewarding or even acceptable from a societal point of view.  The older I get, the more sense he makes to me.  As far as more recently, my good friend Preston Miller has kept me going and more-or-less on a good track.   Preston is the founder of Tri-Scottsdale which is my local club in Arizona, he has been quite a mentor for me in my approach to multisport, personal relations, and business.

 

GT: What experience do you remember the most in “paying it forward”?

Lewis: I’ve gotten more help over the years than I ever could mention in one interview, those people know who they are.  I’m now at a point where I try to do the same for others as much as possible! Even though it’s cliche to say, I find the giving back VERY rewarding.  I’m always looking to do the little things that in some way may make a big difference in somebody’s life.

 

GT: You work in an entirely different industry, specifically as a model for Ford. How did you get involved?

Lewis: I do work as a model with Ford as well as a few other big agencies in various markets.  I did work in that industry freelance here and there for a couple years, doing lower-pay work including a two week stint as an extra in NYC on the set of the movie Zoolander.  (Seriously, I know…)  I have always been interested in the entertainment industry and wanted to be an actor or a guitar player, and I can do both at a fairly low level.  Modeling, although not my initial dream, I figured was a great way to make a little money and meet some cute girls.  Fortunately for me, that was the case, and both well beyond my expectations!

I would say that I got my “break” signing with Ford when I was 23.  I was good friends with a well-known model and ultra-marathon runner named Scott Alan who lives in Fountain Hills, Arizona.  Scott really went to bat for me and helped me get signed with Ford and I started getting decent work right away.  Most of it was in newspapers and magazines in things like,”Dillard’s, Back To School” ads, where I looked a lot like a high school kid!  I enjoyed it, and I could really use the money as a young, aspiring, pro triathlete, financially it’s very challenging!  In 2011 I booked two International TV commercials as the lead roll in the “Pro-Form Tour De France Trainer” ad and also the “Pearl Drops” tooth whitening product ad, which was a final scene spoof on the movie “Love Actually” shown mostly in Europe. ….

Interview With 4x World Ironman Champion, Chrissie Wellington

Got your copy yet? GOTRIbal ambassador and four-time World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington shares her life story thus far in her new autobiography, “A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey.” As you may already know she’s taking the year off from competition to promote her book and focus on causes close to her heart, including expanding the message about GOTRIbal. In fact, she’ll be chatting live with GOTRIbal members on Facebook, May 12 at 2:00 PDT. Excited? Can’t wait? Me neither. So I asked her a few questions in anticipation of the live chat.

Kara: How. Do. You. Do. It?

Chrissie: Physical talent is nothing without a willingness to practice and I believe that professional triathlon is a 24/7 job. When in full-time training/racing mode, I devote my life to it. It is not just about when you are in the pool, on the bike or running. You need to have all your ducks in a row, taking into account rest and recovery, nutrition, hydration, massage, physical therapy, sleep and so forth. And, of course, getting the body in shape is only half the battle – all the physical strength in the world won’t help you if your mind is not prepared. This is such an important part of training; the part that people don’t put in their log books; the part that all the monitors and gadgets in the world can’t help you out with. I believe I was born with a high level of self-motivation, drive and stubbornness – but these traits and characteristics can also be honed and developed. Mental preparation is one of the main keys to success, and I invest a lot of time in strengthening my brain, as well as my body.

Kara:You have come closer to competing head to head with the men than any other women in triathlon, even setting an example for sport as a whole for the potential to break gender barriers. What does that mean to you?

Chrissie: While it is true that my performances have narrowed the gap between men and women, it would be extremely disrespectful to my competitors to take full credit for this. The women’s field is so incredibly strong and deep – now more than ever before. Mirinda, Julie, Catriona, Leanda, Rachel, Caroline, Mary Beth and many others are taking Ironman distance racing to a new level. Natasha Badmann is still winning Ironman races at age 45. Truly inspirational! That’s what sport is all about. Like a snowball, success breeds improvement in all those prepared to rise to the challenge. And I love that. The deeper the field, and the stronger the competition, the harder we are forced to work, the better we have to get and the deeper we have to dig, in training and racing. For example, knowing that Rinny had already run a 2.53 marathon at Kona definitely put a huge firework up my backside and I don’t think I could have secured my fourth crown without her breathing down my neck, coupled with the desire to overtake the great athletes up ahead.

So yes, I think many of the pro girls are breaking down barriers and showing what is truly possible. Hopefully we are a shining light that every single woman around the world (and men!) can look to for inspiration – demonstrating what strength, power, confidence and femininity really mean, and showing that gender is no barrier when it comes to taking up, and being competitive in, endurance sports.

Kara: You speak candidly of battling eating disorders as a teen and in college. Will this now become part of your platform and mission, or do you simply want to serve as an example for other women who are working to overcoming their own issues?

Chrissie: You’re right – the relationship I have had with my body has changed over time, and hasn’t always been an easy one. For some of my young adult years I disliked many aspects of my external body. I compared myself, self depreciatively, to others. I would stand in front of the mirror, my mind full of criticism at the image that stared back at me. I ignored the fact that I had a body that enabled me to achieve the highest academic grades, to play sport, to climb mountains and to live my life to the full. I took control of my body and punished it for what I thought it lacked – suffering from bulimia and anorexia. That was around 12 years ago. Today, I have a very different relationship with my body. I try not to judge my body on its external appearance, but for what it does for me, day in day out. Further, I see my body as a unique combination of my mother and father, and those two people are my shining light – to criticize my body is to criticize them – and that is something I could never do.

Like I said above, my autobiography was the place where I really publicized my problems and how I managed to overcome them. In terms of whether this will now become part of my platform and mission, or whether I want to serve as an example, I don’t necessarily see the two as being separate. My objective, or mission, has always been to try and inspire and encourage people to achieve their goals and overcome their fears and personal hurdles. In publicizing my battles with eating I hoped to hold out a light to other sufferers around the world, so that they know that they are not alone and give them confidence that this illness can be overcome. I also hoped that the relatives and friends of those suffering from eating disorders/disordered eating could also draw on my words to better understand the illness and how they may be able to help their loved ones. Hence, the book (and subsequent, follow-up articles like this!) are hopefully serving as a platform through which I can continue to convey these really really important messages.

Kara: You have said, “…with my four World Championship victories I have the platform I dreamed of to combine sport and development work and bring about positive change.” In what capacity do you plan to get back to development work?

Chrissie: I have always been passionate about development issues, even when I was a child. I think I drove my parents mad trying to organize trash collections and yard sales! Of course I made that interest and passion my career when I became a civil servant, working for the UK Government and also took the sabbatical in Nepal. Not long after I started as a professional in February 2007, I remember saying to Brett (Sutton), “I feel so selfish. All I do is swim, bike and run – and it’s all for me.” And he replied, “Chrissie, just you wait. Before long you will be able to affect change in a way you never thought possible.” His wise words have come true – I have the platform that I always dreamed of to combine my two passions in life – sport and development.  Sport has a tremendous power – and can be a force for considerable change.  It is empowering in its own right, but can also be a vehicle for raising funds and awareness for incredibly important causes.

My desire to work a lot more actively with all of my chosen charities was a key reason for my decision to step back from full-time training and racing for a little while. I have an amazing opportunity to use my platform to raise funds and awareness for causes that are important to me, and simply felt that I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to do whilst also trying to be the best athlete I could be. The charitable work will focus on those that I am already actively supporting, such as the Blazeman Foundation for ALS, Girls Education Nepal, Janes Appeal, Challenged Athletes Foundation and well as helping to grow GOTRIbal.

I haven’t made any firm plans as to what this work might be yet, but includes participating in charity Challenges, such as the 1000km ride I just completed for Janes Appeal; organizing specific events (such as ‘Runs with Chrissie’ in the UK) promoting these organizations in the media; attending clinics, events, races and so forth; auctioning items of memorabilia, as well, as working directly with some of the beneficiaries of these charities, as I did with the Challenged Athletes Foundation in San Diego after Kona, and more recently in March this year. I am also fortunate to be able to use other projects (such as the recently launched coaching and motivational downloads I made with Audiofuel) as a vehicle to support worthwhile causes. The world truly is our oyster, and I really look forward to being able to see what is possible.

Karen Tamson – Member Highlight

In this interview, Member Karen Tamson shares some golden nuggets on how to stay active and healthy in endurance sports like running, cycling, swimming or triathlon, even as we approach our 50’s.

Please share how you got the ‘bug’ to start playing endurance sports like triathlon or running?

As I was reaching the big 40, I felt the need to run a marathon, just to prove to myself that I was not getting old. I was determined not to let age get the best of me.  I ran my first marathon at age 39 at the Houston Marathon and I finished in 4:25.  I learned many things that day and since then have run 8 marathons and many more half marathons.  It gave me such a sense of empowerment and feeling of accomplishment when I crossed that finish line. It did not matter what my time was, it was the feeling that I got from it.  At age 44, I was ready for a new challenge.  I decided to do my first triathlon.  I bought my first road bike at that time and had about 6 weeks to get used to the bike.  I had a swimming background in high school and college and with my running background , I thought as long as I can keep myself upright on the bike, I should be fine.  It was a Sprint Triathlon on South Padre Island, Texas and even though we lived right there on the bay, it had been years since I had swam in open water.  Surprisingly, it felt very natural to me and I really enjoyed it.  I finished the swim while passing many others and hopped on the bike.  At the turn-around I heard something drop off my bike, and realized that it was my bike pump.  I thought for 2 seconds “Should I stop and pick it up?”  The answer was an emphatic “NO”!!  I was in the groove and there was nothing stopping me at that point.  The run was difficult, but I knew I only had 3.1 miles to go to the finish line.  I realized when I started running, that I still had my bike gloves on.  Oh well, at least I didn’t leave my helmet on like someone else I saw. I could see the finish chute within eye’s distance.  I sprinted to the finish line with all my might, leaving nothing behind. When I crossed that finish line, I knew that I was hooked on this new sport of triathlon.  I checked the results and I actually WON the Masters division.  It was a great feeling!!  Since that day, I have learned a lot, but the feeling of crossing that finish line is always the same…FABULOUS!!!

 

What things made you nervous, fearful or anxious in the beginning?  (C’mon! be honest with us!)

I thought I would be nervous swimming in the open water, but after doing it a few times it felt very natural.  I think from my college swim team days and also playing Water Polo on the Men’s Team (They didn’t have a women’s team), it had given me a great experience on how to be comfortable even in rough water.  I think that the whole bike mechanics thing scared me the most.  I felt very comfortable riding the bike, but I was scared to death that I would get a flat far from home with no rescue services and have to fix it on my own.  After watching many videos and trial and error, I now feel confident that if and when I do get a flat, I can fix it.  I do still carry my phone with me for those times when 1 extra tire is not enough or something else breaks that I cannot fix. I also carry my I.D. with me along with emergency numbers and I always let my husband know where I am going.

 

What are 3 specific things you’ve experienced (funny or otherwise) that are great about doing endurance sports as a 40+ age athlete?

I have always thought that it was really cool to have our age stamped on the back of our calves for racing and our race numbers stamped on our arms.  It’s is a great way to know more about the people around us while we are racing.  I have to say that it feels pretty good when I pass someone on the bike or run, that’s half my age (not that I’m competitive or anything).  It’s also a great way to give a ‘shout out’ to those racing in their 60’s and 70’s.  It is a guaranteed way to bring smiles to everyone!  Other funny things that I am experiencing, goes along with the aging process.  Now that I am nearing 50, my body is changing and I am feeling some of the symptoms of menopause.  My cycles are irregular, my temperature control is way off and my eyesight is getting bad.  Luckily nothing has stopped me from training and racing the way I want to.  My husband has learned when to give me a wide berth and he is tolerant of me opening all windows for the cool breeze and then minutes later covering myself with a blanket for warmth.  We laugh together about how his eye sight has gotten better with age and I need glasses just to find my glasses. I am very lucky to have such a supportive husband.  I can honestly say that my symptoms are very minimal and I attribute that to staying active and positive.

GOTRIbal Interviews Janelle Hansberger

On September 25, 2011, a group of five ladies crossed the finish line of the Ramblin’ Rose Sprint Triathlon in Charlotte, North Carolina. The mini-team looked like a weekend girls’ trip, a gaggle of good-looking ladies leaping into a 250 yard swim, 9 mile bike, and 2 mile run.

In the middle of the group was a svelte blonde woman with a prosthetic running leg. The woman is Janelle Hansberger. And Janelle is ridiculous.

By ridiculous, I mean that Janelle is ridiculously smart, talented, and inspiring. The first time I met her, I wanted to pinch her and see if she was made of magic fairy dust. I have never met anyone like her.

Only a year ago, Janelle lost her leg below the knee. A typically deadly bacteria infection called necrotizing fasciitis had taken root in Janelle, and she began to suffer extreme complications, including sepsis and organ failure. Within a few days, her left leg was amputated below the knee.

The limb loss was a tragedy. But the tragedy saved her life.

At the time of her illness, Janelle’s marriage was on the rocks and divorce was inevitable.  A month later, she found herself juggling single motherhood on one leg. The limb loss – an obviously poignant symbol of the failed marriage.

Janelle was a runner prior to her amputation, but decided that swim and cycling might also be fun. After her recovery, an amputee friend introduced her to the founder of The Getting2Tri Foundation, Mike Lenhart.  The Getting2Tri Foundation is an organization that focuses on providing coaching and support to disabled, including amputee, athletes in the sport of triathlon.  Janelle attended one the G2T camps only six months after her amputation.  Only a year after losing her leg, Janelle crossed the finish of the Ramblin’ Rose triathlon with her friends.

I asked Janelle when she began mourning her limb loss. When did she first get angry, yell and use the “F word” in inappropriate places like elevators and parking lots?

She laughed, “I never had time to be angry. I have two young boys. They needed me. I had parents and a sister who scooped me up and supported me at every turn. I am alive. I am well. I am blessed.”  She paused and said again, “Alive. I am one of the few people I have known to survive this illness. Why would I be angry?”

This is Janelle.  A single mother of two boys, a survivor and now, a triathlete.  A woman who finds immeasurable gain from a tragic loss. Way to go, girl.

Member Highlight On Jen Small

GT: Jen, where do you hang your helmet these days?

I live in a small town called Biddeford, Maine. We are close to everything-the beach (2 miles), Boston (90 mins), the moutains, the lakes.

It is a beautiful place to live, to raise a family and to train. I love it here! I am also excited to say that Revolution 3 Triathlon will be coming to my own back yard in 2012!! They will be hosting a half iron distance race in Old Orchard Beach on August 26th and I could not be happier to live right here, right now!

 

GT:       How did you start your endurance sport journey?

In 2007 after many years of being unhealthy, overweight, miserable, depressed, hating life, I had enough. I hit my own personal ROCK BOTTOM. It was time to take action. It was time to take control of my life and my health. I wanted to be a Mom, I wanted to live a happy life and I was sick of feeling sick all the time. I quit bad habits (being lazy, smoking, drinking, eating garbage) and started taking baby steps (literally) to a healthy life. I could only walk at the beginning but I wanted to be that “fit girl” I’d see out running. I started running in 15-20 second increments and just kept going from there. The first time I ran a mile without stopping was a very memorable moment. You would have thought I just ran a marathon.

It was a HUGE deal for me. I lost a bit of weight then we discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, Lola – this journey took on a whole new meaning and gave me all new reasons to be the woman I wanted to be and then some.

After 42 long weeks of pregnancy and an unscheduled c-section, Lola was here!! (Oct 2008 so just three short years ago!) My parents and husband invested in a BOB Revolution stroller so I could be active with the baby.

Once I started running outside, running took on a whole new perspective for me. It was no longer a way to burn calories. It was my escape, my quiet time, my time to reflect. After 14 months of hard word, I shed 100lbs and started running local road races. I fell in love with racing. It was more about racing myself-setting goals, working hard to achieve those goals and then raising the bar higher and higher. I got into triathlon in 2010 and that was it for me. Instant love. It was that “thing” I was missing. It has ignited a fire inside that I cannot explain– It’s my passion.

 

 

GT: What’s your favorite memory of the journey so far?

There are so many amazing moments! Timberman 70.3 was a very important event for me. First, it was the culmination of 6 months of training, I never dreamed I would do a sprint triathlon never mind a half iron distance. I went into that race not to race but to enjoy the day and celebrate all I had accomplished since starting on this road. I said goodbye to that miserable fat girl once and for all out there riding those hills. It was closure for me. I was able to let go of all kinds of hurt that held me back for so long.

I was able to embrace the woman I have become and celebrate the NOW! I crossed that finish line stronger than I ever thought possible. It was also my re-birth in a way-saying goodbye to one aspect of myself and saying hello to this new person that evolved. It was proof that I can do anything I want to do.

Then, to have Chrissie give me my medal-well that was just the icing on the cake. This amazing woman that I SO admired-not because she wins but because of all the good she does for the sport, her attitude. She is just awesome!!!

I knew that she was usually at this race and I had said to myself that all I wanted out of that day was to finish strong and get my medal from Chrissie.

And it happened. Literally, a dream come true!! I remember telling her that too (and I may or may not have told her that I loved her!! lol)

 

GT:       What’s been the greatest benefit of your journey?

Of course, my daughter!! I can be the Mom I wanted to be and always be a positive role model in her life.

But also while my physical being has changed the greatest change has been my mindset and the emotional growth. I have learned to love myself and accept that there is NO perfect. I believe that everything happens for a reason although we might not understand it at the time. Those dark, miserable years were terrible but that journey brought me here. I don’t think I could appreciate HERE so much if I did not know how awful THERE was.

I discovered that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for being and having that self-confidence is a wonderful feeling. KNOWING that you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to do!

 

GT: How do you Pay it Forward to others who may not believe it’s  possible to take on such an active lifestyle?

I am turning my passion for health and fitness into a career and I will be testing for my ACE PT certification soon. I believe that my own personal journey gives me perspective on things that are certainly different than someone who has always been fit and active.

Right now I am helping several people in my community on their own journey to a healthy life (gratis). As a stay-at-home Mom, my budget is very limited and I know I could not pay a trainer or nutritionist when I started so I have giving these people the tools they need to be successful in their own life.

I also write a blog about my life and my journey. I want to inspire and motivate people to take that first step no matter what their circumstances are, it can be done.

GT: Why GOTRIbal for you?

I know that the friends I have made in the triathlon community are just wonderful people! I have been welcomed with open arms into my local tri community and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by such great people. I have also made contact with so many triathletes across the country and the world online. It is an exciting time for triathlon as the sport grows and I want to be able to connect with others, of all levels to talk about training, encourage one another and keep the passion growing. I know what tri has brought to my life, I would love to see others experience that same joy. I just want to share the love and inspire others to chase their dreams!

I am living proof that it can happen.

GT:    Share with us one goal you have for yourself in 2012 that you never thought you’d have as a  goal 5 years ago.

I will be doing at least 3 half iron distance races next year-possibly four-and I have some pretty specific time goals in mind for a couple of them!