Whitney Handy is an group athlete (22 years old) and is well known around the Triathlon circuit for her podium finishes at most races this year.¬† Whitney also qualified for Kona at Ironman St. George and for Clearwater at the Boise half last month.
EJG: Whitney where did you grow up?
WH: I grew up in West Windsor, NJ. It is about 10minutes away from Princeton.
EG:¬† What brought you to San Diego?
WH: I came to San Diego to attend the University of San Diego. I always knew that I wanted to go to college in California, and when I visited friends in San Diego, I immediately fell in love and knew I wanted to move out here.
EJ: How did you get into Triathlons?
WH: My friend Suzanne signed me up for the NJ State Triathlon while I was studying abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico the summer after my freshman year. I started training in Mexico and after that first race, I was hooked. When I got to San Diego, my roommate, Liz Barlow and I decided to sign up for Mission Bay and eventually wanted to pursue the sport further. Chris Berg, who I went to high school with, gave me Felipe's information and I've been a member of Breakaway Training ever since.
EG:¬† Did you do triathlons before you came to San Diego?
WH: The first triathlon I did was in NJ.
EG: During school you swam on the swim team, did you win any national competitions?
WH: I did not win any national competitions. I held some school records, but those were quickly broken by younger, faster swimmers. Swimming is something that I have done for 12 years and it is always a love-hate relationship!
EG:¬† What was it like racing in St. George to your Kona winning slot?
WH: Racing in St. George, I really did not know that I was first in my age group. I looked up the other athletes in my AG before and knew that I was up against some strong runners. Two girls passed me on the run, so I thought that I was in third place. I had no idea that they were on their first loop of the run while I was on my second.
EG:¬† At what point in the race did you realize you would qualify for Kona?
WH: Getting out of the swim, I thought I was in first place, but the swim is just the beginning of the day, so I did not set my hopes too high. I was almost 100% sure that not anyone passed me on the bike, but I still was not positive. When I saw the girls pass me on the run, I wasn't too upset because they were really moving ... a lot faster than me, and I was just happy to be close to finishing an Ironman so I really didn't know till after the race.
EG: What was your preparation for Ironman St. Gorge like?
WH: Training for St. George was awesome. I love logging in long training hours, I love all of my training partners, and I just really had a blast. I was exhausted and there were days when I just wanted to lay in bed, but the experience was amazing. There were plenty of weeks that I had about 30 hours of training, but it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment and a whole new understand of what my body is capable of.
EG: Tell us a little bit about your Ironman St. George experience.
WH: Weird thoughts go through my head while I am racing... and they usually are on repeat. During the bike portion of Ironman St. George, "Ima Be" by the Black Eyed Peas was running through, but I decided to change it to "Ima G" G being for (St.) George, of course. I will get on to my other lyrics when I get on to the bike section... but first I want to give a HUGE shout out and thank you times a million to Elaine for coming out and being the best Sherpa for Liz and I. E drove the whole way to Vegas and without her, Liz and I would have been literally clueless. It was so nice to have someone there to coach us and to help ease our fears before the race. Hearing, "you'll be fine!" and "you're ready" is nice, but Elaine gave us some REAL advice, and didn't sugarcoat anything. Her bluntness was greatly appreciated on the course, because if I just believed "you'll be fine" I would have been QUITE pissed during the race when I really wasn't "fine." Elaine told us that parts of the race are going to "suck and you're going to want to quit," but to stick with it. Aside from her great advice and help packing all of our special needs bags, driving, answering 48758957 questions, she also provided Liz and I were much needed entertainment.
RACE DAY: 3:44am - Elaine wakes Liz and I up - oh my gosh, we slept through our alarm! Kathy, Joey, and Christiane were expecting us at 3:45. Luckily we packed everything the night before. I luckily got to see Mama and Da before I got in the water. My mom started crying when she saw me, so I started, too! At that moment, I realized what I was getting myself into and that there really was no turning back now.
EG:¬† How did you feel on the swim?
WH: SWIM - 58:28 I started in the front but to the right so I wouldn't get tackled by some of the men. I saw Beth right before the cannon start, and she encouraged me to line up closer to the front. I was super lucky that I didn't get pummeled or kicked, I eased into my pace nicely right away. I held back a lot, because I wasn't sure how my legs would feel on a hilly bike course if I really swam hard. I also didn't look at the swim course before the start of the race, so I had no idea where I was going. I followed some dumbass who led me in the wrong direction a couple of times and then I realized that I am the dumbass for blindly following him and not even sighting. Oh well, I know what to work on for next time.
EG: How did you feel on the bike and the run?
WH: BIKE - 6:25.53 My greatest success with the bike was being able to pee two times while still riding! I have never been able to do that before, so that was pretty exciting and it also told me that I was doing a good job maintaining my nutrition. Going into the second loop, I got really lightheaded and dizzy, so I immediately shoved down a Bonk Breaker and a couple of GU chomps. Problem solved. Coming out to the race site 6 weeks prior helped SO much because I knew when to expect the hills. Er, mountains. After the first loop, I thought that the bike wasn't all THAT bad. I took those words back REALLY fast after only 10 miles into the second loop. I made up some words to some songs from the movie Clueless, and lol'd when people would ride by me and hear me. The bike had a lot of ups and downs, but overall, I was in good spirits because so many of the athletes were very supportive.
RUN (yog? shuffle? run/walk?) 4:54.49 Is that a cute time? Bahah what social suicide with a run split like that, but I'm actually not TOO unhappy with it. ¬†When I got out on the run course, I actually felt pretty good. I promised myself that I would run at least the first 6.5 miles. When I got to the run turn around, I told myself that I would run the first half marathon. Done. When I turned around to go do the second half, that's when my will started deteriorating and my run turned into a shuffle. ¬†¬†Once I got to the huge hill, I broke down and began to walk. I made it the first 16 miles without walking, but just the sight and steepness of the hill made me want to puke. I walked up it and then tried to shuffle my way to the next aid station. Basically, the next 10 miles were a mix of a run/walk. Looking back, I wish I ran the uphill and walked the downhill because my quads were on FIYAH!!! I knew (from athlinks) that the girls in my age group were all good runners and I was so bummed because I figured they would catch me on the run.¬† I convinced myself that I wasn't really trying to go for Kona anyways, so that it was ok. I ended up passing Vanessa right before the turn around, so I didn't see that she had another lap so I pushed on hard to the finish.
FINISH - 12:25.30 After my first half marathon, I was on pace to finish around 11:55, but my run killed it. As always, my run will be the focus of my training, and hopefully it will continue to get better. After the race, I called my coach Felipe and he told me that I was the first finisher in my age group. I didn't believe him because I knew what strong runners I was up against and I made him check like 5 times. I didn't tell my mom that I finished first until Felipe was SURE that Ironman.com didn't mess up.
EG: ¬†You also won a slot to Clearwater for the 70.3 Championships in Boise.¬† Tell us a bit about your race in Boise.
WH: First I would like to note ¬†that I apparently do not resemble a triathlete. I learned this three times during the trip. The first happened when the bike transport man asked if I got into Kona via a lottery slot. The second was when a waitress told me that I should arrive to the finish line early to get a good spot to what the athletes finish. Last, but NOT least, was some fool on the side of the run course who apparently was tracking my run and told me that he "KNEW I would make it!
Boise was more of a difficult mental race for me. Since it was so soon after St. George, I was nervous about how my body would react to racing again so soon. I did not have a stellar race in any of the three disciplines, meaning that my swim, bike, and run times weren't great, but I am happy that I was able to do what I needed to do on the race course to qualify for Clearwater. SWIM - 29:21 Ew The swim was uneventful, the 60 degree water actually felt nice because it was so hot out. The winds picked up during the swim which made the water a little choppy, but nothing too horrible. I was in wave 10, so I had to weave in and out of a lot of swimmers. BIKE - 3:02.xx Once again, not the split that I was ever expecting, but given the circumstances (i.e. WIND) I guess it was alright. I was most nervous about the bike because even the day before, my legs felt tired.¬† When I got on the bike, I didn't feel great, but I didn't feel horrible.¬† ¬†I finally made it to the turn around and there was NO wind. Without the insanity of 27mph winds, I was actually able to hammer on the bike. That lifted my spirits a lot. I still was tired on the hills, but luckily there weren't too many of them on the course. Overall, the course would have been relatively easy if there hadn't been insanium in the cranium winds. ¬†RUN - 2:08.xx I knew it was going to be a long run ¬†when I immediately started counting down the miles from the get-go. It's never a good sign when my first thought was "where the HELL is that god forsaken mile marker!?" .¬† The rest of the run was pretty much uneventful and was happy to see the finish line.¬† ¬†I finished the race in 5:45.02. It was cool to win my age group and secure a spot to the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida.
EG: What do you eat the night before a race?
WH: I have been working with this amazing nutritionist, Kim Mueller, who is helping me prepare for race nutrition. I have no problem telling people that I learn as I go and that I am completely clueless in some aspects. Kim is helping me learn what foods will help fuel me for the race the night before and even days leading up to a big race. I've learned the hard way that chicken Parmesan and noodles the night before a race may not be the best thing to eat!!!
EG: What do you want people to know about you?
WH: What I want people to know about me is that I do triathlons because I enjoy racing and I enjoy reaching new limits with positive people. I love learning new things about the sport each and every day and I am always more than willing to help others through my experiences and mistakes.
EG:¬† Do you think you will go pro one day?
WH: I like to take triathlons one day at a time. I may have a great race one day, and a horrible one the next. I don't want to take anything for granted. I decided to do Kona and Clearwater World Championships this year because I never know how I will race next season. If I can continue to post good results in the following years, going pro would be an ultimate dream. Right now, I know there are many, many things that I need to work on before that comes a reality, but I am confident in myself and my coach that if that is something that is possible, it can come true with lots of hard work!!!