One Is Better Than Two

Greetings, friends! Its finally happened: The long anticipated merging of our two mediocre blogs into a Gestalt-like one. Figuring Jesse’s mom needed a break from switching from page to page (hi, Melinda!), and not wanting to lose Amy's three readers in South Korea, we have decided to keep our friends and family updated from the same internet home. This blog is a collection of pictures, recaps, and ramblings from a pro triathlete and elite runner. Jesse has been racing triathlon since 2007, turned pro shortly after, and has posted several top-10 Ironman finishes. His eyes are on Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman Chattanooga, and Ironman Arizona in 2014. Amy is a former division one swimmer turned triathlete turned elite runner. In 2011, she decided to stop cycling and swimming in pursuit of marathon glory. She has since won several races, including the 2014 PF Changs Rock n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. Her sights are now set on qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


by Amy

The inspiration to travel to Slovakia came from a single youtube video. After multiple viewings of this, we knew our Eurotrip would be ending at the Oravaman Triathlon:

We didn't know Jesse would end up being one of the stars of this year's promotional video. The full length hasn't been released, but the preview is AWESOME (even if you don't know Spanish, French, and Slovak). Link is here.

It took us two days to get to Zuberec from Tuscany. More specifically, we took two HOT Italian trains, a flight to Vienna, a sketchy bus to Bratislava, and 4 hour rental car drive to Zuberec. The views were well worth the travel:

view from Orava castle

Course preview...oh Sh#%
Peter, the race director, took hospitality to a new level. He gave us a room in the host hotel, which included breakfast and dinner every day. He was always there to answer our questions, helped us navigate our way around Slovakia, and suggested some great tourist spots for post-race celebrating. In addition to taking care of us, he put on a stellar race. From the opening ceremonies, to the awards and DISCO the following night, every participant stuck around to celebrate Oravaman. This was a stark contrast from many American races, where many people leave right after the race in order to get back to work the next day (including us!). It was fun to take the time to properly celebrate, especially after such a challenging race.

our home in the mountains for a week

Still climbing?!?
Ridge Run!

Power hiking to 3rd!
Challenging, in fact, would be an understatement. As Jesse V said in the promo video, Oravaman is truly the most grueling and beautiful race he's ever completed. This is coming from a guy who has done over 15 Ironmans! Oravaman is slightly shorter than your typical 70.3 Half Ironman Distance. Jesse V's half ironman PR is a 4:08. His Oravaman time? 5:48. The race has over 10,000 feet of climbing, and trails that don't look runnable, including summiting a huge peak. It was enough to make the podium against a strong field. To recap the race let's just say this. He made the move from 4th to 3rd power hiking up a mountain at 25min a mile pace. I don't know if you have ever been in a power hiking battle, but in the moment it feels pretty ridiculous!


Top 3 Men! - Yes 2nd place is wearing a shirt that reads -"I was in Miami Bitch"

We spent our last night in Europe celebrating in Bratislava. After some awesome Thai massages and Tapas in the capital city, we decided it's an underrated hidden gem. Let's just say we searched for international school jobs in Slovakia as we enjoyed beers overlooking the river that night.

Bratislava shenanigans. Sad it was our last night in Europe!

Now it's back to normal life. Jesse V has a new job (!), is Ironman training, and coaching his athletes to their best performances. I'm still working as a school psych, and am officially marathon training. I'm grateful to be healthy and to have another chance at the OTQ this fall!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

EUROTRIP Part 3: Italy

The Eternal City - An obligatory stop on our way to Tuscany!

We sucked at being tourists in Italy. Despite the above picture, we hardly saw the sights of Rome and Florence. We drove through Pisa without taking a leaning tower selfie. That's not to say we didn't see a lot of the country's beauty. Our selfies just happened to feature the running and riding trails of Tuscany instead. By the time our plane landed in Rome, we were ready to train! Despite our housing plans falling through two days prior to our arrival, we had found the perfect place to swim, bike, and run...

After hours of panicked internet searching from our Zurich homestay apartment, Jesse discovered Poggio all'Agnello - a resort on the Tuscan coast that happened to be the official training center of the Italian Triathlon Federation. With it's gorgeous 50-meter pool, proximity to the ocean, and endless running and cycling routes nearby, it was easy to see why! After a few email exchanges with the very hospitable resort staff, it was confirmed that they could accommodate our last minute 2.5 week stay beginning in two days. They also casually mentioned that Valeria Straneo, Italy's top female marathon runner, would be training at the resort as well. Clearly, I was sold! 

The pool at Poggio all'Agnello

I was on lifeguard duty while JV ocean swam.

mid-run beach stop!

miles of dirt roads and rolling hills

JV approved cycling routes

one of our favorite meals - tuna carpaccio and Tuscan red
Life at Poggio followed a predictable train-eat-nap-train-eat routine , which was much desired after a hectic few weeks of travel. In our spare time, we walked to the beach, tried the local food, wine tasted, and relaxed by the pool.

Reggello-Vallombrosa Hill Climb
To break up the monotony of relaxation (it's a tough life), we rented a car for a few days to meet up with our dear friends VB and Rich in Florence. After having a blast running the Wylandlauf in Zurich, I was hoping to find another race to replace what would be a solo weekend workout. Luckily, the 39th Annual Reggello-Vallombrosa Hill Climb (2400 feet of climbing in 13 kilometers) was being held just outside the city, and everyone was up for the challenge. 

Exploring Florence after the hill climb

As we were settling in for a pre-race dinner at the hotel restaurant, we noticed a couple setting out for what looked like a course preview shakeout run. The woman resembled a professional runner, and I could tell she was going to be tough competition. As I shoved pizza and pasta in my face, she demonstrated her perfect running form with drills and strides in the plaza in front of the hotel. Shit, I thought. I'm not going to win this race. I decided to set a time goal to keep me motivated. A quick scan of previous years' results showed that the female winner was around 58 minutes, which is just over 7 minute/mile pace. Knowing the course was similar to running up Mt. Lemmon, I had my doubts that I could sustain that either. Fuck it, I thought. I'm just going to run up this mountain as fast as I can, sans Garmin. When race morning came, that became sans shirt as well (my first time ever racing in just a sports bra). It was very hot and humid! When in Rome...

Jesse and I lined up near the start, listened to a lot of yelling in Italian, and waited for the gun to go off. It was a relief when it did, as the pack thinned out quickly when we began ascending the mountain. I could see pro runner chick up the road, but focused on maintaining a sustainable effort for an hour of climbing. Much to my surprise, I caught up to her within a couple kilometers. We ran together with some men, one of whom had really bad body odor, for several more kilometers. Between getting swarmed by bees (seriously), inhaling bad-body-odor-man's stench, and trying to get my body up the mountain, I was ready to be done around the 8k mark. I focused on getting through one kilometer at a time (so much better than miles!) and tried to open up my legs on some of the flatter sections. I moved ahead of pro runner girl on one of these sections, and never looked back.

Knowing that the race should feel like Mt. Lemmon, I had a feeling it was going to flatten out at the top since some of the beginning climbs were so steep. Around 11k, I was so happy to see trees (shade!) and a flat road. I broke the tape in 58 minutes, doing exactly what I had doubted I was capable of the night before. It's fun to surprise yourself, especially when the result is this:

A great return on the 10 Euro entry fee investment: Wine, cheese logs, salami rolls, pasta, jars of sauce and honey, an entire leg of prosciutto, a race shirt, chalice, flowers, and necklace. Winning. Pro runner chick is on the left - despite our limited knowledge of each other's languages, we became great friends!

road trip stop in Vinci

up for the challenge of eating all the salami before the end of the trip...

After the weekend, we returned to the resort, tried to eat as much prosciutto and salami as we could, and logged tons of training hours in preparation for the final, most-anticipated leg of our Eurotrip: Slovakia for the Oravaman Triathlon!