I had hoped to race in Pucon but I wasn’t quite ready and I have been itching to race. I am finally injury-free so I wanted to get racing and New Orleans was available!
You’ve suffered some disappointments these past couple of years due to a running injury. Can you tell us about it and how it’s healed? Since running is usually your weapon of choice, was this a mental/emotional blow to you?
This running injury was huge but it is just part of our sport. Yes, it was a big emotional blow but when you race professionally and race often, it is expected. I have raced 33 Ironmans – I loved every single one of them – but racing that hard and that much takes its toll and the toll was a chronic heel injury. As elite athletes, injury is part of our job description. I actually have had a healthy, injury-free career aside from the past few years and given the difficulty of our sport, that is a huge compliment to my therapists and doctors who have dealt with me day to day throughout my 20 year career! I have only had to skip one race (Hawaii Ironman 2001) due to injury. My heel is really quite good now. I have taken a lot of time off from running and I can now finally run in my normal Saucony running shoes (the Hurricane) instead of modified versions. I will never likely go back to the crazy number of running days I used to run, but I will run shorter, sharper and more efficient sessions and take that speed through to the marathon.
This past winter, you spent several weeks training in Clermont. While there, you swam under the guidance of Sara McLarty (an ITU star and very strong swimmer). Did you learn anything new from her expertise that you can carry with you into this season? And how did you decide to use Clermont as your winter base?
Although you suffer from Cystic Fibrosis, you’ve still enjoyed an extremely successful tri career! How do you manage this disease? Has it ever affected you on race day, or is it more a matter of keeping it under control on a day-to-day basis?
In the past, it has only affected me when I get sick and so I am very careful to eat well, sleep well and stay healthy. Yes, it has affected me on race day – I was very ill when I raced the 2004 Hawaii Ironman – I was on some very strong antibiotics that week and then for another 3 weeks after the race. I am usually require a treatment of antibiotics about 3 times per year and and so it does have impact on my training and racing. Ironically, the antibiotic that I take to control the kind of bacteria that my lungs grow – pseudomonas – is a terrible (yet wonderful) antibiotic called Ciprofloxcin. This antibiotic causes Achilles tendon rupture and so it has definitely contributed to my Achilles tendon issues and this chronic heel injury. But, I am extremely blessed to have been able to race as a professionally and balance my health. I always say that you have to be the best you can be with what you have and who you are.
Recently, CF has had a bigger role in my life. For the past year, I have tried not to take that nasty antibiotic – Cipro – in hopes that my heel wouldn’t get any worse. But in the interim, my lungs have gotten a bit less healthy and I suffered a few more infections last year and unfortunately that made for a tough day at Subaru Ironman Canada and Subaru Ironman Muskoka 70.3. As it turns out, I now have to inhale an antibiotic called Tobramycin for 20 minutes twice per day with a nebulizer and a compressor. I will only have to do this until my tests show that I am pseudomonas free!! I am hoping that will be in May or June. Again, I am so thankful that the doctors at St. Mike’s Hospital are so thorough and take such good care of their patients!
You’ve also enjoyed being on the other side of the camera at some of the biggest events, including Kona last year, as a commentator for Canadian media. How have you enjoyed this experience? Have you learned anything from watching a race unfold, as opposed to being part of the action?
I love doing the television commentary for triathlon – any kind of triathlon – ITU and Ironman. It is fun to watch the athletes perform and as an athlete, I have a huge appreciation for what they are feeling and like to think that I can offer an empathetic interview as well as a celebratory one after the race is over! Having watched the races unfold, I can see that what we do is pretty amazing.
I see you’re on the start list for the Rev 3 Triathlon, a new race being held this June in CT, and boasts none other than Heather Gollnick as its marketing director. It also has a pro start list that’s deeper than many IM races! What attracted you to this event?
Naturally, I want to support Heather and her venture. But more importantly, this race is treating professional athletes like professionals with a great prize purse and great media. That is so important and athletes need to reward race organizers for doing that by attending those events.
Before it was disbanded, you were a member of Tri Dubai, a team of some of the best triathletes in the world. Do you still keep in touch with your former team mates? Did it make a difference for you racing as part of this team, versus racing on your own?
Yes, I do keep in touch with our athletes and our organizers and managers, Franko Vatterott and Tony DeBoom. I loved being part of this team – it is such an individual sport but we were truly a team in that we shared our knowledge, cheered for each other and shared in the victory. We all were top ten in Kona in 2006 – that was amazing for us as team. Dave and I keep in close touch with Franko and we are always thinking up new strategies to develop the ‘super team’ concept for triathlon.
As a multiple winner and native Canadian, IM Canada is obviously very special to you! But it’s been argued that racing an IM that late in the season can hurt your performance when it comes time to race Kona. What’s your take on this theory?
Personally, I rebound pretty quickly from Ironman and racing an Ironman with a proper taper and recovery, is actually easier than just training through to Kona! The only tough part is getting oneself up mentally for two events so close to each other. I usually bounce back from IMC stronger and go faster in Kona.
You’re known as a very healthy eater. What tips can you share for eating healthy food when you’re traveling to a race? Do you have any go-to restaurants in certain places, where you know you’ll get a healthy meal? And do you have any sinful treats that you eat occasionally?
When I am traveling, I bring the necessities with me – my organic cereal, some organic brown rice cakes, a few tins of tuna for quick protein, some almonds, Power Bars and Power Bar Protein Bars and some tea bags!! When I arrive at a race, I go to a grocery store and stock up on fruit and cottage cheese and then I am set. I have protein and carbs and fat right in my hotel room! If I travel to a race with Dave, then we’ll just look for a restaurant that can satisfy both of us. Generally, I cannot eat enough at a restaurant so I have to supplement later. I do not eat pasta or other simple carbohydrates so it does make eating out a challenge. PF Changs is a favorite – they serve brown rice and veggies and wild salmon which is pretty much my ideal meal!
Sinful treats to me probably aren’t sinful to anyone else! I love chocolate ice cream and I will have a scoop every night. But Dave will laugh his head off and tell you that it is Soy ice cream and it doesn’t count. I don’t normally eat bread but sometimes after a race, if I feel like have a big sandwich on homemade bread, then I will have it. Something ‘naughty’ for me is something prepared or processed. Generally, I don’t eat processed foods except for Power Bars but they have to be processed so they are easy to digest during training.
What’s the rest of your season look like besides the races mentioned above? Will we see you in Kona this year?
I will race in St. Croix and Florida 70.3 in May and then Rev3Tri and Subaru Muskoka Chase in June. I had not planned to race an Ironman this year but I cannot believe how good my heel feel so you never know. And if I do, then it will be in June or July. If not, then I will continue to race the 70.3 circuit. I would really love to race the New York City Marathon or the Boston Marathon competitively, so those goals are always in the back of my mind.
-by Betsy Delcour