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. 


  1. I was thrilled to see Amber running in first on Mirror Lake Drive on first loop of run - she looked equally good running up from Mill Hill on second loop on her way to win - her running was awe inspiring. So pleased she ended on top of podium - especially because of mean security guard. Congratulations! I have been following your blog for several years - one of the best. Anne Patterson

  2. Hard but very, very well earned. Congrats, Amber. And Danny, nice write up. Amber, find that inner balance and the rest will take care of itself. Triathlon, especially Iron distance, takes a lot out of a body and mind. Find a way to keep balanced and you'll continue to excel. But it's hard and there's a fine line. One look at other professional triathletes shows this, as not many stay up at that level for too long.

  3. Nice work up there by the whole Ferreira team! Great racer, great sherpa! Just glad to hear that Danny wasn't sent to the medical tent too by the security guard! Nice work and congratulations again! Hopefully that fire is burning bright once again!

  4. Congratulations to Amber for the win and yourself for being a stellar supporter of everything she does!