Random AG Emily Passini
Written by: Herbert Krabel
Date: Thu Mar 22 2012
Slowtwitch: Emily, welcome to slowtwitch.
Emily: Thank you very much. Itís good to chat with you!
ST: Is this the first time you heard about this site?
Emily: Definitely not, Iíve visited the site many times for training and racing information. Honestly, Iím a flattered that you would want to interview me because Iím not a pro-triathlete. Iím just your average, weekend warrior.
ST: Average weekend warrior is actually good here, we have been called out that we are featuring too many fast random age groupers.
Emily: Triathlon is an intimidating sport to many people. And I think thereís this perception that only the elite athlete can participate, but thatís simply not true. Anyone who has the determination and dedication can finish a triathlon. In my opinion, finding the time and committing to the training is really the hardest part.
ST: Most folks seem to be smitten with triathlon when they first stumble upon it, but that wasn't quite true for you.
Emily: It was definitely not love at first site for me. Shortly after I finished my first half marathon in 2002, my aunt said to me, ďYou know how to swim. You should do a triathlon.Ē I did a little research, and I found a sprint distance race about 45 miles from my house. I had about 6 weeks to train for it. Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing. I remember doing some laps in the pool; riding my mountain bike around the neighborhood; and continuing with my regular run schedule. Basically I made every rookie mistake possible Ė no open water training, no bricks, no transition practice, no consideration for nutrition and the list goes on and on. Race day was pretty much a nightmare. I panicked in the open water forcing me to do the breaststroke for most of the distance. My transition from swim to bike was chaotic. I remember sitting down to put on socks. The bike leg was just plain terrible. It was a 13-mile stretch of open highway with zero shade, and I didnít even have a water bottle with me. By the time I got to the run, mentally I was done. My legs were cramping and there may have been a tear shed. When I finally finished I said, ďI will never do that again!Ē
ST: Did you actually blame your aunt for roping you into the sport of triathlon or did you put the blame square on yourself?
Emily: Oh no, that blame is squarely on my own shoulders! I signed up for the race, so I accept full responsibility.
Emily: In hindsight, it probably wasnít that bad. But, at the time, my only experience with endurance sports had been the half marathon so I really had nothing to compare it to.
ST: Were you dead last?
Emily: Thank God, no! I was second to last in my age group. And I believe there were a handful of people who finished after I did.
ST: But if you did indeed finish last, would your boyfriend George think differently about you?
Emily: That wouldn't make one bit of difference to him. First or last, he would still be proud that I did the race.
ST: That is an important message to remember, but to this day I always tell people when they consider doing a triathlon that they wonít be dead last. And to this day I have not met a person who actually finished dead last. So thanks for keeping this streak alive.
Emily: Youíre welcome! To be honest, I donít think my ego could take coming in dead last.
ST: But the 7-year itch got you back, is that correct?
Emily: Yes, and once again it was my aunt who got me back into the sport. She has been very influential in my athletic career/hobby. She was a marathon runner as well as a producer for the X-Games on ESPN. She got me into running and eventually into triathlon. I came back to the sport in 2009 because of her. At the age of 51 she was diagnosed with an aggressive from of cancer, and she eventually passed away in the spring of 2009. I wanted to do something to honor her memory so I joined Team in Training and trained for the Nationís Triathlon while raising money for cancer research. I ended up raising over $7000 and was one of the top 50 fundraisers nationwide for that event. Crossing that finish line was definitely a very proud moment and itís when I totally fell in love with the sport.
ST: We assume you no longer compete in triathlons on a mountain bike.
Emily: You are correct! Today I ride a very comfortable and light Cervelo P2. I strongly suggest that no one else compete on mountain bikes. It is just torture. Even if itís your first race, you should Ė at the very least - borrow a road bike. Youíll be so glad you did.
ST: Have you found a bike shop you like in Washington?
Emily: I have. Last year when I made the decision to upgrade from a road bike to a tri bike, I went to Bonzai in Falls Church. They were extremely helpful, and they made sure I ended up on the right bike.
ST: Is a road bike also still in your quiver?
Emily: I do have a road bike. Itís a bike I bought off of Ebay in 2009. Itís not the fanciest piece of equipment, but it does the trick.
Emily: Ha! No Ė definitely not for sprints.
ST: Looking back at 2011, was any race particularly memorable?
Emily: The highlight of 2011 was definitely finishing my first 70.3. I made that race the focus of my training Ė and pretty much my life Ė so crossing the finish line felt pretty damn good. The race didnít go exactly as I had intended, but they never really do. My goal this year is to learn from the mistakes I made in 2011 so that I become faster and stronger at the 70.3 distance. The end goal is to race a 140.6 in 2013, so I see this year as building towards that distance.
ST: What 70.3 race is on your calendar this year and how did you pick it?
Emily: Iím signed up for the Skipjack in Cambridge, MD. Itís a modified half-Iron distance race on September 29. The bike leg is actually 65 miles, and the run is 10 miles. I chose the race because I wanted a longer bike leg. Cycling is my weakest of the three events. I donít enjoy being on the bike, plus I have an irrational fear of crashing. If I want to get serious about doing a 140.6 next year, I have to find a comfort level on the bike. I figured the Skipjack race was a good starting point. In addition to Skipjack, Iím doing the National Harbor 70.3 as part of a relay team on August 5. Iíll be doing the run leg.
ST: You live in the DC area now, but before resided in Nashville. There is the thought that when you lived long enough in the South with the milder winters it is quite tough to move further north.
Emily: The transition from the South to the Mid-Atlantic was pretty tough at first. The South is so laid back, and there are many open spaces. And here in the DC area there is a ton of traffic and people are always on the go! As far as the weather goes, the two winters Iíve experienced here have been pretty tame. Luckily I moved here about a month after the blizzard of 2010. Good timing on my part!
ST: How about restaurant and cultural offerings? How do they compare to before?
Emily: From a cultural standpoint you canít get much more diverse than DC. There are so many things to do and see around here. Itís pretty amazing to be able to live so close to so many museums and national landmarks. But, Nashville will always hold a special place in my heart. It really is home to me. Thereís a great vibe and sense of character in the city, and I think the restaurant scene is pretty amazing. In fact, my college roommate and her husband recently opened their very first food truck in Nashville Ė a play on gourmet BBQ. So if youíre ever in Nashville definitely check out Smoke Et Al!
ST: What is your favorite eatery in Washington?
Emily: Thatís a tough question. There are so many great places to eat in this city! I love FireFly in the Dupont Area, Chef Geoffís, Ping Pong Dimsum and Matchbox.
Emily: Iím currently the Senior Director for Public Affairs at a small, boutique consulting firm in DC. I provide clients with counsel on grassroots mobilization, third party outreach and coalition building. Prior to my current job, I spent over 10 years in campaign management, community organizing and grassroots advocacy. Iíve worked on over 100 political campaigns in more than 15 states.
ST: Does it leave you much time to train?
Emily: Finding time to train is always a struggle Ė especially when youíre training for the longer distance races. But, Iíve found that if you plan ahead you can almost always squeeze in the necessary training. Iím pretty obsessive about putting all of my training and races into my Outlook calendar so I can plan around it. Iím also not adverse to getting up really early to knock out a workout. In fact I prefer it that way.
ST: How are things with Team Z?
Emily: So far, things are pretty good with Team Z. I joined the team about a month ago just as they were gearing up for their spring marathons and races, so Iíve been enjoying the taper and recovery weeks before I really start into my own 70.3 training! Team Z is a pretty large group in the DC/MD/VA area with over 500 team members. The variety of training and coaching sessions they provide is pretty incredible. If you wanted to do every single one of your workouts with a group of teammates, you could. Thatís how many daily/weekly sessions they offer. Iím really looking forward to a great racing season with them!
ST: Anything else we should know?
Emily: In addition to my love of triathlon, Iím a bit of self-professed social media geek. Iím absolutely obsessed with Facebook, Twitter and writing for my own blog. When I started training for the half-Ironman last year, I began blogging about my training and the whole 70.3 experience. I never expected people to read my blog, but they do! Engaging with other endurance athletes in the digital space has been a great outlet for training tips and racing advice. I would love it if some of your readers checked out my blog: wholeironwoman.com.
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