Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Second At Mont Tremblant Gets Amber Ferreira into Kona!

Amber competed this past weekend up at Ironman Mont Tremblant. As I mentioned before, she needed to do this race to qualify for Kona, despite having won Ironman Lake Placid three weeks prior and coming in third in Ironman Texas earlier this year.
Amber after Ironman Lake Placid
With all the work to qualify for Kona, I am sure there are some of you out there wondering why is it so important that Amber would be willing to suffer through another race so close to Placid.

The obvious reason I'm rooting for Amber to go to Kona is that it is amazing there! Lava rock and volcanoes contrast with lush rain forests, 13,000 foot peaks, the most vibrant sea life, and great coffee are just some of the reasons I want to go back... Oh you were wondering about racing in Kona....

So Kona is the Super Bowl for triathletes both professional and amateur. For professional athletes, getting to Kona will likely open up a world of sponsorship opportunities. Anyone you know who has qualified for Kona has definitely put in lots of hours of training. The difference between professional and age-groupers is night and day in regard to how you qualify to race at Kona. Age-groupers qualify by placing high enough in their 5 year(for example 30-34) age group at an Ironman race. The more people in a specific age-group, the more Kona slots that age-group gets(and as the argument goes, the more competitive). If you remember back to Amber's first Ironman in Wisconsin, she came in second in her age-group but because, at that time, she was in the 25-29 age group, they only took one woman so she missed out. Meanwhile the 35-39 male age-group took something like 13 or 14 men. It's a bit of a crap shoot in terms of qualifying and certainly isn't easy. However, that stands in stark contrast to how professionals qualify for Kona.

Qualifying as a professional for Kona involves a year of planning. This is because no matter how well you do, if there are 35 females who have more points than you, you won't be sipping coffee at Lava Java come October. The easiest way to qualify for Kona is to have already been to Kona and place fairly well(this is because the points there are, in my opinion, unfairly high-double that of the next largest point race-rewarding Kona participants but making it challenging for up and comers to get a spot at the big dance). Obviously this is an impossibility for any pro trying to get to Kona for the first time. The other two options are to race either obscure races without a lot of competition and cherry pick points or race locally as often as possible and hope you have enough points. Unfortunately for Amber, she doesn't have sponsors who will fly her to Australia or Brazil to cherry pick points, she she has had to race exclusively in the US. This means considerable competition at most of her races.

Luckily for her, this past weekend was the least competitive race that she had entered all year. If she finished the race, she could pretty much guarantee a Kona spot. Can you picture Amber taking it easy? No, neither can I. I wasn't up there as I spent the weekend with my family at the Cape, but from my understanding, Amber was the first out of the water, first off the bike and held the lead on the marathon for 21 miles. She was eventually passed and finished in second place which is very impressive considering it was only 3 weeks after Ironman Lake Placid.
Danny rocking his Maverick Multisport shirt with his niece rooting Amber on
Side Note: This is really the first Ironman that Amber and I both have done(my other Ironman, St. George, Amber sat on the road for 45 minutes so while I technically beat her, it wasn't a fair fight). While I was well rested going into Mont Tremblant, Amber was in less than optimal shape. And yet, Amber still beat me by OVER AN HOUR! That girl is a freak.
In the time it took Amber to ride 112 miles, Danny caught 15 blue fish-which is more impressive?
So anyway, back to Kona. Amber will now be competing with the top 35 professional triathletes in the world vying for a placing high enough to perpetuate returns to Kona as well as get much needed sponsorship assistance to help defray the costs of competing on the world stage(and maybe cut down on the hours she works and coaches athletes).

Side-Note: I'm not 100% sure on this but I bet when the Kona pro list comes out Amber will be the only one on it that works a full-time job in addition to racing at this level. Simply amazing!

Up Next: Hopefully nothing but recovery for Amber for the next few weeks and then one last build to Kona which will be on October 11th this year.

If you haven't read it yet, Amber has posted her Ironman Lake Placid Race Report.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ironman Mont Tremblant 2014 Preview

Wow, it seems like we just wrote about Amber's amazing finish at Ironman Lake Placid and it's already time for her next Ironman. Next weekend, Amber will be racing Ironman Mont Tremblant in hopes of securing enough points to make the final qualifying round for Kona. She is right on the cusp as it is and just missed qualifying in the first round of selection. A top 5 finish at Mont Tremblant will likely get her to the Big Island in October.

If you may remember, Amber finished 4th at Mont Tremblant 70.3 in 2013 and I retired from triathlons after a horrendous 2012 Ironman. The half and the full, although on separate times of year, are the same course with the full Ironman just doing everything twice. So Amber should have some recollection of the course and be prepared for the surprisingly tiring rollers on the second half of the bike. What she didn't have to contend with for the 70.3 was the winds on the highway part which reportedly have the tendency to pick up as the day goes on. Just another reason for her to ride harder and fast.

The women's pro field for this race is the smallest Amber has to contend with. She will be one of only 8 females racing. However, with Tine Deckers, winner of Ironman France; Sara Gross, winner of Ironman Brazil; the ever speedy Beth Shutt, 2nd at Ironman Wisconsin and always a threat off the bike; and Melanie Burke, 2nd at Ironman Cairns a podium spot is not a guarantee(although I think it's likely).

The Mont Tremblant Female Pro Start List:
1.    Sara Gross
2.    Amber Ferreira
3.    Tine Deckers
4.    Beth Shutt
5.    Melanie Burke
6.    Sarah Graves
7.    Kelsey Withrow
8.       Sharon Gallant

Factors that may limit that podium finish include that Amber will not have a Sherpa for the weekend nor her cheering squad she had at Ironman Lake Placid. Still recovering from Lake Placid, she will need all the help that she can get. If you send go up and cheer her on, she would greatly appreciate it. If you've never been, it is a beautiful venue and well worth the trip. If you can't make the trip up to the Great White North, at least send her your good vibes.
The race starts at 6:39am on August 17th! Be sure to follow her!!!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Recent Media Exposure for Amber Ferreira

If you missed my last blog post, Amber won Ironman Lake Placid! She has been experiencing a huge amount of media exposure and hopefully some of this can net her some good sponsorship deals(most of Amber's competitors don't have to work because of sponsorship deals with local companies... meanwhile Amber works 25+ hours as a PT, plus another 10-15 coaching/training and then she has to put in the 20-25 hours/week for her own training). If she can snag some sponsors who can help defray the costs of traveling to competitions, I would really love to see how well she can do in the future.

Here are just some of the articles, audio and videos that feature Amber:

Level Renner(article)

WJJY- Nazzy in the Morning! (Audio from radio interview)



Concord Monitor( short article)

Concord Monitor(feature article)



NBC News(article)


Want your company's name on Amber's singlet? Contact her!

Up Next: Ironman Mont Tremblant on August 17th! Stay Tuned for Race Preview.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Amber Ferreira Wins Ironman Lake Placid

There have been numerous studies looking at how intrinsic factors(i.e. inner drive) are more effective motivators and are better at sustaining high levels of performance than external factors(societal and economic amongst others). Amber has always had that inner drive; motivated purely by the love of competition and physical activity. Training partners flaking out of workouts, having to resort to doing 10+ mile training runs in negative zero temperature or spending 4+ hours on the trainer staring at a cinder block wall, she had that drive. She did triathlon because she loved it and because it helped her focus and sort out any other problems in her life.

Triathlon, however, is a cruel mistress. This year instead of viewing it as the source of joy that she had for so long, she started seeing it as a hindrance impacting other aspects of her life. While not letting on that anything was wrong(have any of you ever seen her without a smile on her face?), she was struggling with whether she even wanted to continue to race competitively on the Ironman circuit. Two days before Ironman Texas, she still wasn't sure whether she even wanted to race. She spent more days than she'd like to recall questioning everything that she had committed to.

This inner struggle had nothing to do with triathlon itself but rather personal issues that made her question her life's path. And this was the first time since I've known her where her inner fire seemed gone. But while she may have wanted to quit, she also did not want to let anyone down so she kept on training and encouraging others to live healthy and fulfilling lives. No matter how badly she was feeling herself she always supported others and was a positive light for so many people. She may not have necessarily wanted to race, but she saw the value of inspiring health and wellness in the population so she continued to encourage and support others long after she wanted to be done herself. 

It was these same people(many of whom are probably reading this blog now) that kept her in the game. By helping others she also was helped. Whether it was a hug, positive words of encouragement, or people traveling hundreds of miles to watch her race, she began to use these extrinsic motivators to keep her from quitting and to work even harder so she wouldn't disappoint.

Now this might not be a long-term solution for dealing with other aspects of life that needed attending to, but it worked for the short-term and allowed Amber to re-evaluate what she wanted both as an athlete and an individual. These past few months have been a blessing in disguise as she is likely now to live a more balanced life while still being a competitive athlete. And luckily, it appears that while Amber's inner fire may have burned a little less brightly for a bit, it was not extinguished and will burn brightly once again. I hope you will continue to join her on that journey.

Oh yeah, she also had a race this past weekend. A little old thing called Ironman Lake Placid.
Danny and Amber morning of the race. Ready to kick some butt
Amber stayed in Lake Placid while I was in the town of Jay, supposedly only twenty minutes outside of town. However, after nearly 40 minutes of driving, I realized I was duped. I arrived in time to greet Amber and Andrew Fast as they were about to warm up for the swim. Amber was thirsty and asked me to get her a water. After running this way and that(otherwise known as with my head cut off), I finally found a water bottle(I apologize to whatever TriClub I took that from). I run back to give it to her before the start of the race. Only, instead, I was stopped by a large burly fellow, who wouldn't let me through.
Security Guard:Only Athletes past this point
Danny[flashing his VIP badge]:I just have to drop this off with my athlete, Amber Ferreira
Security Guard: Not a chance. Nobody gets through.
Danny:Come on man, she is a pro and needs this before the gun goes off.
Security Guard:Nobody gets through.
Danny: Seriously, you're being ridiculous, this is for a PROFESSIONAL triathlete, let me through!
Security Guard: Not a chance, never heard of her.
Danny: Listen you [expletive], you will hear of her when she's standing on the [expletive] podium!

I then proceeded to run past him, and skirt the throngs of age-groupers to get Amber her water. Only to have her take a sip, say Thanks Danny and get back in the water.
The life of a sherpa.

I then settled in for the long day ahead. I watched Amber get out of the water, in third place and ham it up with the fans as she run to the T1 transition.
Amber exiting the water
Amber hamming it up
A blurry view of Amber
Amber's first sponsor, MC Cycles, owner Myles Chase and her sister Deidre, joined me as we drove the course cheering Amber on. By the time we saw her the first time, the heavens opened and it was pouring rain. In addition to thunder and lightening. We saw her right around mile 20 in 1st place(she caught the first two racers in the first 20 miles!! crazy!). 

It continued to rain as we drove to the second spot to view Amber, around mile 45. She had over a 2 minute lead on second place and another five on third. Things were looking good but it was really early in the race and so many things can go wrong. Breath was being held.
We saw Amber once more on the bike around mile 66 and she looked strong and apparently felt good enough to break her aero position to say hello. At that point she had almost a five minute lead on 2nd!!!!

While Amber continued biking, Myles, Deidre and I drove back into town, had lunch and had time to get a good parking spot. Yes that's how much you can do in 46 miles of riding. Or you can take over a two hour nap or watch a two hour movie... The point is: riding 112 miles is bloody long and the sad fact is you still have a marathon(26.2 miles ALWAYS) afterwards.
Amber headed out on the marathon with about a five minute lead on second place. I'm not sure she was running scared but I was certainly scared. She has never led an Ironman after the bike and while her run is good(she is a runner after all), she seems to struggle with GI issues during triathlons. And yet, at mile 12 she was still looking strong and had actually had gained over a minute on second.
Is that Amber smiling at mile 12 of the marathon??? Of course

Due to the nature of the out and back course, after mile 13, I didn't see Amber again until mile 24. I can tell you that that hour and 10 minutes were probably some of the longest in my life. I sent out as many good vibes as I could (as I am sure many of you did as well) and soon enough I saw Amber returning... I waited another four and half minutes just to see if another racer would be on her heels but didn't see anyone so I headed to the finish.
Having Audra Tassone, the run director, as a friend was immensely helpful as she let me into the finish line chute so I could see Amber as she finished. I am sure she will describe how she felt when she writes up her blog, but I can tell you that it was definitely a tear-producing moment.
Watching Amber weep as she crossed the finish line was heart-wrenching and made me realize just how close she was to giving it all up and how bittersweet this victory was for her. She deserved this win and I hope that it was the spark she needed to get the fire inside blazing again. 
She couldn't bask in the glory for long though because shortly after she finished(probably because she sat down to give an interview), she became light-headed and I had to help her to the medical tent. The nurse with us said I could come in but I was stopped... by the SAME security guard from the morning! Unbelievable. He took one look at me and said no way is this guy going in... After a few minutes of awkwardly sitting across from him waiting for Amber, I apologized for my furtive behavior and we got to talking. Come to find out he had been on duty since the night before and was exhausted. He was impressed with Amber's finish and said he now would recognize her name. He also in no uncertain terms, said that if I tried sneaking by him again he would not hesitate to knock my [expletive] to the ground.
It goes to show that you can assume somebody's motives by their actions but you never really know how or why someone is acting the way they are. Just while I was sitting and waiting for Amber(who by the way was sipping on copious amounts of chicken broth and geting the royal treatment-day spa-esque), I saw at least five athlete coaches or family members pull the same crap I had and also treat this guy badly. It reminded me that the way others treat you is their karma but the way you respond is yours.

I apologized again, this time more sincerely, and helped Amber back to the hotel. Along the way we stopped at Starbucks where she was treated like a celebrity and had her coffee paid for. If only we could get her a Starbucks sponsorship!
UP NEXT:  If Amber is to pursue Kona dreams, she will need to be on the start line at Ironman Mont Tremblant. We will see. Either way, I know that she would love your support and kind words. Next time you see her, make sure you let her know how much you have been inspired by all that she does. I know that I have.