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 professional triathlete and passionate 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 Wales in 2017. Amy is a former division one swimmer turned triathlete turned 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. After just missing this goal in 2016, her sights are now set on qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


by Amy

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
  -Calvin Coolidge

trying to get aero thanks to my "sponsor," Jesse V's old triathlon gear!

too tired to lift my arms after 2+ hours of swim, bike, run
So, I won a triathlon last weekend (Jesse did as well, making it an all around great day for the Vondracoles). This probably makes it appear that my training has been seamless since I last announced I'd been swimming and biking as part of my altitude traincation. The several weeks between that blog and the Mountain Man tri, however, were full of ups and downs. Failed workouts at altitude, having to take days off with foot and hamstring pain, and exhaustion while adjusting to the Tucson heat were some of the low points. Without getting overly dramatic, I'll share that I seriously considered quitting competitive running around the beginning of August. The emotional roller coaster no longer seemed worth the ride, and my goal of running in the 2020 Olympic Trials looked impossibly far away. The temptation to run "for fun" was appealing, as a way to keep doing what I loved without the frustration of continual setbacks.

I often joke that I am a self-help addict, but it's 100% truth. Whenever I'm frustrated, sad, or seeking answers (or let's be honest, even when I'm not), I'm usually leaving the "personal development" section of the library with an armful of books. This slightly embarrassing fact has actually helped me through many low points, including those recent weeks when I pondered my future in running. One of my favorite reads this summer was Peak Performance, particularly the section that encouraged me to select my core values. The idea is that by knowing your values, you can develop your purpose, which gives added meaning to your pursuits in life. As I read over the list of suggested values (such as enjoyment, enthusiasm, and spirituality), I tried to clear my mind of any outside influence and ask myself what was truly important to me. In a moment of clarity, the word Commitment jumped off the page. Perseverance wasn't listed, but I'd later add it as my own as well (in fact, it's probably my top value). The others that stood out most included Consistency, Positivity, and Achievement.

I don't think my values are any better than anyone else's values. In fact, "enjoyment" and "kindness" probably would have been "better" picks from the list in Peak Performance (I swear, internet world, I am a nice person and I have fun too!). They just are what they are, and they explain why I'm still chasing my goal of the Olympic Trials Marathon at age 33 after several unsuccessful attempts. So I guess this is as good a time as ever to announce that I'm targeting a Fall marathon and going after the 2020 Olympic Trials cut. The window to qualify will finally be open, and I can't wait to give it my all. Because I happen to agree with Calvin Coolidge: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.


BONUS - If you're like me, you might appreciate some of my recent reads/movies watched that depict persistence. I have many more examples, but these are ones I've thought about lately:

1) Diana Nyad -  her goal was to swim the 100 miles from Cuba to Florida. She first attempted at age 28. After several failures and nearly everyone around her giving up on the idea, she completed the swim at age 64. Her book, Find a Way, is one of the greatest examples of perseverance I've ever read.

2) Camille Herron - Herron is a runner I've admired for a while. She trains hard and remains relentlessly positive despite having endured injuries that would have caused most runners to quit. She's averaged over 100 miles per week for years, and it recently paid off with her win at the Comrades Marathon.

3) Ray Kroc - After several failed attempts at other business ventures, Kroc encountered the McDonalds brothers and transformed their restaurant into the empire we know today. Let's be clear, I'm not a fan of McDonalds or all of Kroc's business tactics, but the movie depicting his life was oddly inspirational. If you want an example of persistence paying off later in life, you might like it too. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Three weekends, Three races

by Jesse
finishing race #1, an extremely hot 5k

Racing on back to back weekends is always a challenge, both from a recovery standpoint and when considering how to structure your training between efforts. Yet, it goes without saying that Jesse loves a challenge. After all, he did once complete his two fastest Ironmans two weeks apart (Ironman FL and AZ back in 2011).

Since we last talked, Jesse not only completed back-to-back weekend races, but he threw in a third half-marathon the following week. Here are his race reports:

Meet Me Downtown 5k
This night time 5k is one of my favorite SAR races. It takes place in downtown Tucson, and the race ends at a beer garden with an always fun after party. This probably draws people in who would otherwise skip a race that, without exception, seems to be on the hottest day in May. This year, we lucked out with a very cool 93 degrees! In typical triathlete fashion, I rode the 80 mile version of the shootout before resting and attempting to recover for the race that evening. Our informal but awesome LTTC (Lucas Tyler Track Club) has won the team competition the last couple of years, and I was excited to once again be on it! With our two star runners out of the race, there was more pressure on me than I would have liked. The gun went off and I found myself just off the back of the front pack. I looked up the pack and Robert Scribner wasn't that far ahead of me. I could have bridged up and stayed with them, or tried to run a smart race. I decided that they were just bit fast and backed off and ran my own race. This left me solo the entire time, which was not ideal, but I ran a 16:46. I was happy given the heat, and left feeling ready for the next two weekends of races!


Deuces Wild Triathlon Festival - DeuceMan
On June 3, I raced the half ironman at a long standing AZ event, Deuces Wild. We rented a Top Step Training house for the race which was possibly a tad too awesome. In hindsight, I could have been more mentally prepared for the task at hand instead of distracting myself with socialization. Either way, it was great to have Laura, Josh, Sarah and Sarah racing the Olympic, as well as Dan Zamora in the half!  I love the vibe at Deuceman, as it feels more like an Xterra or Wildflower than your typical Ironman event. It was also great to know I was in the hands of, who always put on a stellar event. We took off on the swim and immediately James Haycraft and I opened up a gap on the field. Halfway through I convinced him to let me take a pull and we traded pulls all the way home. It is always fun to race with a friend, and I was hoping we could ride in similar fashion. I even tried stalling as I tripped over a giant mat exiting the swim, but my fastest leg in triathlon (T1) proved a bit much and I had a small lead out of transition. The first three quarters of the ride is FAST, and even with lower power I felt like I was flying. Then you turn a corner and realize why: You've basically had a downhill tailwind for the first 38 miles. Turning into an uphill headwind made the last bit of the race feel like a death march. When I began running, I remembered that Sean Anderson warned me that the run course was challenging. I appreciated that, as it somewhat mentally prepared me for the hills, heat and elevation, which in combination made for one of the hardest run courses I've ever set foot on.  I was happy to cross the line for the win, in 4:20, just three minutes off of Lewis Elliot's Course Record. Of course this means I'll need to give it another shot next year! All in all it was a fun race experience, and good practice for racing solo.

Podium with Zamora and James!
Steamworks Half Marathon
Right after Deuces Wild, we headed up to Durango for our summer traincation. Unlike the past few summers, where we've had a blast moving around between different states and countries, we really wanted to stay put and train hard in one spot this year. At over 6,000 feet elevation, and home to my previous training grounds, Durango was the perfect choice.  At Amy's urging, we decided to meet the running scene by jumping into a local half marathon! The last time I ran this one was in 2008. I ran a 1:26 then, and this year I was happy to run a 1:20. I was even more excited for Amy who won the women's race! We took the bus out for this iconic, small town, point to point race. We arrived just in time for a short warm up and panic pee before the gun went off. Amy was running the race more as a progression run, which was smart. I, however, was planning on running with the lead group as long as I could. The first mile was a controlled six minute pace, which proved to be too slow for the leader (who didn't seem to know the mile markers were not accurate). The eventual winner and I decided to stay with him as he blasted the second mile in 5:21. NOT IDEAL. Three miles in, I was in survival mode, and our group was down to two. By mile six, Kyle the winner had a few yards on me, and I couldn't bridge the gap. I was happy to get second, and see some familiar faces at the post race beer and pool party!
mid panic 5:21 mile

Now that the races are over, Amy and I are getting settled into training in Durango. It is great to be back on my old stomping grounds with some good old friends around and new friends to be made! I am finally getting used to the altitude, and the dogs seem to appreciate the cooler temperatures as well!

Run with a view
Happy 3rd anniversary!

group riding!
And an Addy