A Wicked Perspective on USAT National Challenge Competition by “Wicked” Courtney Connolly – TriCoachGeorgia

(As seen by TCGA’s “Wicked” Courtney Connolly)

Long distance triathlon racing season normally ends late in the year.  Endurance athletes often take a long break, gain a few extra, and then start back as it begins to thaw. What if you don’t want a long break? What if you realize that the key to improvement is consistent training? What would you do then? I used to take a break come back to normal human living for a bit. Maybe walk the dog more, more time to clean the house, spend time with loved ones. Now this doesn’t appeal to me as much. I have found a better thing to do with my time.

I am not an “off” season athlete.  As I have progressed, I have learned that I prefer to maintain a certain level of fitness throughout the year. In 2018 I completed my Ironman and fell in love with 140.6.  This is my place right now, as I love long course. The long hours, the alone time, the mental grind, I love all of it. So that brings into question at the end of my season, what do I do?

Bring on the USAT NCC or the National Challenge Competition. This was designed to keep triathlete’s training during the “off” season. Typically, the NCC starts in December and ends at the conclusion of February. Each month teams across the nation compete in a discipline either swim, bike or run. Then an overall is awarded each month and at the end of the three month period. TriCoachGeorgia has performed spectacularly in the competition the past few years as a team and on the individual level. This competition is a blessing for the long course athlete and for camaraderie amongst your team, which is rewarded by throwing down miles and yards. It’s quite simple and fun, especially with a team that is hungry!

There is a certain strategy required.  It’s basically a game of Triathlete Survivor. In order to play you really do need to Outwit, Outlast and Outplay the competition. Lucky for me my coach, Coach Slayer, is a genius at all of it as he used it to KQ.  We use NCC as part of my aerobic base building. These three months give my body the aerobic conditioning I need to get a jump on IM training for my race season.  Go slow to go fast so to speak.

I am not a naturally gifted athlete like some, so it takes work for me. This competition really sets me up nicely for my race season. I also may never be an Ironman podium finisher like many of my teammates but NCC levels the playing field. It’s not about speed – it’s about endurance.  You can go head to head with the pro’s and actually do quite well if your endurance allows. In fact, in the 2018 competition, I was honored to place 2nd female overall in the nation, a huge feather in my cap as I am proud to be known as a grunt.

It also takes certain level of discipline and dedication to make NCC work for you. You can do your regular training and use it to keep yourself accountable with your team members. Some go for gusto with above and beyond work. I have been known to be on my bike at 3am and I have put in 25 plus hour weeks of training on a regular basis during these three months. The key, I have learned, is live to train consistently, even if that means easy but long days rule the time period of the challenge.

Some have asked me for advice.  It is quite simple.

  1. ALWAYS listen to your coach – (if you have one… and keep them informed on how you feel).
  2. Monitor yourself closely for niggles.
  3. Remember safety, health, and your mental well being comes first.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be different.

On our team we go by the saying, Reap what you Sow. NCC is a prime example of this. The TCGA team fully intends to Reap in 2019. Thanks for reading and see you out there this year.


Tri Your Hardest – by DeadPool aka Kyle Roberts – TriCoachGeorgia

My story has two major changes in my life that defined who I am today. The first big thing that forever changed my life happened on January 8, 2011 and that was the day my mom was killed. My wife at the time and I were expecting our first child, a boy, named Jackson, and that morning we had maternity photos to take and then get home because my mom and aunt were throwing us a baby shower. I’m an only child so you can imagine how excited my mom was when she found out she was having a grandchild. We had a great day with the photos and the shower and being able to spend time with our close friends and family. After the shower was over my mom and aunt were going to go to dinner and I told my mom that I would see her tomorrow, not knowing that those would be the last words I would ever say to her. Around 1 o’clock A.M. I heard a loud banging on my door and it was my dad who could barely stand and when he came inside he proceeded to tell me that my mom and aunt were hit by a drunk driver on the way back home and that my aunt died on the scene and my mom died at the hospital. A sense a shock came over my body but I knew at that time that I would have to keep calm because my dad needed me and I was his rock at the time. We then drove to the hospital to collect my mom’s belongings and to see her one last time before the funeral. After we left the hospital we went back home and I told my dad to get some rest because now my cousin and I had to go drive over to my grandparents and tell them that they had just lost their two daughters who that had just seen less than 12 hours ago. I have to say that was honestly the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I do not wish that upon anybody. Trying to find the right words to say to a parent that they not only lost one child but two and at the same time you are talking about losing your mom and aunt. My grandparents came back to our house to stay and the next few days were a blur with people coming in and out all day long. After the funeral it seemed like time was flying by because 6 weeks later Jackson was born and happiness was restored to certain extent but the only thing missing was my mom who would never see the day when she could hold my son and kiss his tiny head for the first time. After Jackson was born I was so busy with him that my mind was focused on him and not the accident and for awhile that helped but all good things end.

The second part of my story involves my struggle with alcohol and how I used it to cover up my loss. I had always been someone who drank but after my mom died I started to use it as a crutch to mask my pain and I felt that sometimes the only way for me to release my feelings was to drink. The thing about alcohol is that for awhile it really does help to a degree but your problems are still there the next day. In order to hide everything I would just drink every day until I passed out in the chair because I felt that was the only way to get to sleep without my mind constantly thinking about the what if’s or if there was something I could have done differently. After awhile drinking 3 cases of beer a week began to take a real toll on my marriage and I decided that if I was going to get better I had to quit drinking and seek out some real help. January 2013 was when I quit drinking and started going to celebrate recovery meetings to first fight my alcohol problem and then once that hurdle was crossed I could focus on making my mind better. I have been sober now for 5 years and to be honest I don’t miss it because I know that if I would have continued my life would have taken a far darker path.

After I quit drinking I knew I had to find something else to help me work through my grief and I saw a local 10k was being held February of 2014. I had played soccer all my life so running wasn’t anything that was new to me but it had been awhile since I had done it so I was a little out of shape. My first goal was to run for an hour without stopping and it did not take me very long to get that down. I realized that instead of signing up for the 10k I was going to sign up for the half marathon instead. I think I only ran that distance one time before the race but I was able to post one of my best times at that race even compared to my races I did after that. After that I got bit by the running bug and thought this is such a great way to help my stress levels and all the thoughts I had racing through my head. After that race I decided to step it up again and entered my first marathon that December and even surprised myself with how well I did. I did countless more half marathons and 10’k’s after that and even did the Marine Corps Marathon in 2016.

I’m all about pushing myself and seeing what’s the next thing I can do to push my body to its limit and decided triathlons would be the next thing. About a year and a half before my mom was killed we were at dinner talking about the 70.3 in Augusta and how awesome that would be to do because we lived on the bike course and would watch them come by every year. I remember telling my mom that I would love to do that someday and of course she told me to do it. It took a little while and year after watching the bikes come by I decided to sign up for it in 2017. I bought a bike and joined my local tri club here which is Tri Augusta and met some really great people that gave me all the info I wanted and were a great group of people to train with. I remember doing my first sprint July 2017 and thinking to myself after the swim that I was crazy to think I could do this but my mom’s voice was always in my head telling me I could do anything. I did the Augusta camp that was hosted by Tri Augusta and Tri Coach Georgia and when I saw everyone from TCG I thought I want to be a part of that because my first thought was their kits are freaking awesome. After I got to know some of them I realized that I wanted to race for them and do my best to represent them. One of the first people I talked to was Harvey a.k.a. Slayer and I said to myself this guy is crazy as hell but then after awhile I came to call him my friend along with so many other people in that group. After Augusta I decided I was going to do an Ironman in 2018 and signed up for Ironman Florida and ended up signing on to be coached by Estevan Price a.k.a. Emanboom and from the start I was getting good workouts every week from him that I knew would take me to the next level. I know since I started with him my bike has improved greatly and my swim and runs have also improved as well along with me losing around 20 pounds and turning my body into something I could have only dreamed of. When we first talked about goals for Augusta we decided that 5:30 would be the number to reach and I ended up doing it in 5:30:42 which I was happy with but I plan on going a lot lower in 2019. My goal for Florida in my head was 12 hours and I ended up doing it in 13:18:16 and for that race I wanted to show my kids that if you have dreams and goals in life you can do anything you want to as long as you work hard and have the mindset that it can be done.

Basically in the last 7 and a half years my life has been a whirlwind of ups and down but in the end I know that my mom is looking at me and saying that she is proud of me and there’s always that little voice that says “you can do this” no matter what the situation is. In the beginning my mom’s memory was my only inspiration for doing things but now there are so many friends and family members out there who now give me the motivation to push through and they will always be there to support me.

Rest, Assess, and Act: Ironman goes on the Shelf – by S’later aka Missy Hatchett – TriCoachGeorgia

I thought this year would be the year for me to work up the age group placements at the half ironman distance. I set my schedule up for four maybe 5 of them. It all started in California in December of 2018. However, things changed for me there on the first one of those races.

The Ironman 70.3 at Indian Wells was a blessing, a realization, and a turning point for me. It’s always important to me to stay wide open to my life experiences and to listen to my heart and soul. I consistently try to work on being flexible with all things that come my way in life.  And Indian Wells and life had some curveballs for me that day last month.

Although I had a PR and had a lovely time out in Palm Springs, I realized the weeks surrounding the race and coming through that coveted finish line taught me many lessons. Most importantly, the race forced me to take a look at where I am, where I want to be and what my goals will be for 2019. I decided my original plan wasn’t right anymore. I figured it would be good to get that out there to show others they aren’t alone if they wanted to forego long course racing for a year or forever!

I’m putting Ironman on the shelf for now. Life for me now is all about striving for balance. I “do triathlon” for FUN and sometimes I lose sight of that.  However, that doesn’t mean I had to give up triathlon. It just meant a change was in order, and that change was not going to be things I valued. I love training, my team, my coach. So they are staying.  I love having challenges/goals. I found ones that are more in line with my current needs.

I am grateful for support systems and being healthy. But, life was getting out of whack.  I needed to rest, assess and act. After my recent experiences, long thought and great talks with my husband Tommy and my coach, I realized Ironman doesn’t define me and it absolutely OK to take a step back and still have a fun, successful and great year of triathlon (short course) and running races. My calendar includes olympic distance triathlons as the feature races, with a sprint distance triathlon here and there. And, for good measure, I am including my favorite and fun trail and road races. If something else pops up, I am open to it too!

Now, anxiety will dissipate, goals are set, working with Coach Slayer and training will continue and Family, Work, Grad School, etc will balance out. Most importantly, I will have fun and still be a part of this great team to support everyone and hopefully race together in some of these events.

I am psyched up about 2019! I am at ease with my decisions.  I will continue to listen to my soul and try to avoid Crossfit. That shit kills my body LOL. Anyhow, if you have a similar dilemma I hope you too will have courage to put Ironman on the shelf for as long as is needed. Thanks for reading and best wishes to y’all!