Andressa Ericksen started triathlon last May, and has progressed immensely. After having participated in many races over the summer, she decided to register for the 70.3 IRONMAN in Cozumel, which took place in September 2016. She finished in 8th place out of 48 people in her age group (25-29 years old). A nice revenge for the young athlete from Quebec who suffered from disordered eating for a few years. Andressa tells us about her journey with humility.
" My advice for women would be to give themselves the chance to overcome any challenge. The pride this brings us is much greater than our desire to fit into the standards conveyed by advertising."
Näak: Tell us about your journey. When did you start triathlon, and what motivated you to do it?
I've always been active and I've always loved competition. Before I started triathlon, I played hockey for roughly fifteen years.
My journey with triathlon began last May. Before that, I was mostly strength training on my own, just for fun. I didn't have any sport objectives, no concrete goals, and I needed new challenges.
I discovered triathlon rather by chance, I didn't even know in what order all three sports took place! Everything was new for me, and it's exactly what I was looking for.
I contacted a club, I learned how to swim, I bought a triathlon bike, and... I was in! The start was quite chaotic, I had no structured training plan and, and I didn't know what to focus on. I was so passionate that I always wanted to do more.
Näak: What was your preparation before Cozumel?
I signed up for the 70.3 in Cozumel on a real whim in the middle of summer! I hadn't even completed an Olympic triathlon yet, I could barely line up 150m of swimming or maintain an average speed over 30km/h on my bike.
I also had a mean periostitis, which was stopping me from running. When I realized that the big day was approaching rapidly, I contacted specialists such as Benoit Lussier (from l'Institut National du Sport) and Bart Rolet (a qualified trainer, and director of Bart Coaching).
With their help, I prepared myself as much as I could in 1 month for the 70.3. I followed a last minute training plan to prepare for the race, and I put all my effort into it.
Näak: Tell us about the 70.3 in Cozumel. What makes it unique?
The heat and the landscape are the two main characteristics of this course! It was roughly 38 degrees Celsius on race day. It was bearable on the bike, but a completely different story during the run!
The swimming course is beautiful, and because I'm a horrible swimmer, I had lots of time to take it all in! Swimming in the ocean is a completely different experience; the water is salty and allows you to float much more easily, and therefore swim faster than usual! It's definitely an advantage for athletes who, like me, have difficulty floating!
The cycling route extends over a large portion of the island of Cozumel, and runs along the ocean coast for several kilometres, which makes it really special. The view is beautiful, almost overwhelming. As for the running route, it is mostly in the village where several people gather and lots of cheering can be heard.
The experience of participating in a triathlon abroad is incredible, and I plan on doing it again.
Näak: How was your race?
Swimming was my weak point (ask my coach!). But, this section of the race turned out better than expected. I finished 10 minutes earlier than I had planned in my race plan.
I'm quite comfortable on my bike, so my main plan was to conserve energy in order to be able to run after that.
It was my longest running distance ever, and I didn't know how my legs would react. My main success was that I didn't run out of energy that day.
Näak: What were the main difficulties of the race, and how did you overcome them?
I made multiple mistakes before, and during the competition. My bags for the transition zones were not packed properly. For instance, I forgot to untie my running shoes. Hence, I lost time in T2.
I chose to wear swimming goggles that were not tinted, thinking that the sun wouldn’t be a problem so early in the day. Result: I had to do the last hundred meters behind a swimmer that I thought had a good line!
With the heat, I was afraid that I would get dehydrated. So, I drank too much water, which gave me cramps and made me feel heavier, especially in the last portion of the run. My speed was really affected by that.
In order to minimise the impact of running on periostitis, I decided to run with socks in my shoes, which I don't normally do. It was like running with shoes that are too small. I had lots of pain in my feet.
Näak: What did you eat before, during, and after the race?
The night before I left for Mexico, I realized that I didn't plan my nutrition for the race. Luckily, I managed to contact Minh from Näak in order to get some Näak energy bars that night. There was no way I was eating anything else on my race day. I had already tried the bars during the Triathlon Esprit de Montréal, and multiple other times too. I knew how my body would react, and at what frequency I needed to consume them.
The morning of the race, we woke up very early. I ate a banana and peanut butter before leaving for the race.
A few minutes before the swim, I hate half a Näak bar, and I finished it during my first transition. When I was cycling, I ate 5 bars in total... 1 bar every 30 minutes.
That being said, my energy level remained stable during the entire race. In T2, I had a couple caffeine blocs, and I didn't have to eat during the run. The bars kept me 100% full.
I didn't have any weakness episodes, and my nutrition plan will be exactly the same for my next race. In addition, even with the incredible heat, the texture and the taste of the bars stayed the same.
Just like Andressa, try Näak's cricket-based energy bars to maintain your energy level during your trainings and competitions. Click here to order.
Näak: Do you have a mantra or a favourite quote to stay motivated?
I once heard a trainer say about a professional triathlete: "He's capable of hurting himself.". I often think about that phrase during a race. It reminds me that we can support much more pain than we think when we overcome the psychological barrier that we impose upon ourself in regards to pain.
Näak: What advice would you give women who are starting out triathlon and who would like to participate in a half-IRONMAN?
Beginning in triathlon is a rather frightening experience. Personally, I didn’t practise any of the three sports, and I didn’t know where to start! You hear a lot of things, you don’t know what or who to believe.
It is important to surround ourselves with people we trust and, if possible, who have experience in the field. There are a number of groups that you can join in order to be accompanied in your first steps. It makes the experience easier.
I don't have the physique of a triathlete, and I received comments in that regard when I first started. It is very tempting to compare ourselves to the big stars of the sport like Gwen Jorgensen or Ashleigh Gentle, and to think that we cannot perform because we do not have the same body as these champions. However, many women with very different bodies are also successful, and it is very important to remember this.
"Triathlon has had a very positive impact on my life in general. My attitude towards my physical appearance has drastically changed, and I have gained a lot of confidence in myself by realizing what my body was capable of doing."
I stopped worrying about little things, and I learned to appreciate what I had, rather than wanting what I didn’t have. Previously, I always tried to keep my weight under control, often in an unhealthy manner.
It was a real obsession that led to eating disorders in my case. Triathlon allowed me to realize that the important thing, when it comes to my body, is to know what it is capable of doing and not what it looks like.
I now find it much more rewarding to know that I can make a sustained effort for several hours and endure heavy workouts, rather than aim to get into a certain size of pants.
My advice for women would be to give themselves the chance to overcome any challenge. The pride this brings us is much greater than our desire to fit into the standards conveyed by advertising.
Näak: What are your goals for next year?
My goal is to participate in 3 or 4 half IRONMAN races next season. Eventually, I’d like to finish within five hours for that distance. I also want to start my season with the Drummondville sprint triathlon. That’s where I did my first race, and it was a disaster. I just want to go back and see how far I’ve come in just 12 months.