Saturday, July 23, 2016

BOOYAH!! Interview with SUTC President Amber Blair

Amber Blair is the current president of the Southern Utah Triathlon Club (SUTC) and one fast athlete herself. Read on to learn about this awesome club and its fearless leader.

Thanks for the time, Amber, and best of luck to the entire SUTC this season!

What’s the history of SUTC, and how has the club evolved over the years?

SUTC was founded 10 years ago in 2006 by Rob Gray. There have been 4 other club presidents since him that have done an amazing job in growing the club. It is like a family and we love getting together to train, race and party! We continue to grow every year as people move to the area and see how active the area is and also are introduced to triathlon through watching IMSG 70.3.

It was heartbreaking to hear about Braydon Nielsen’s passing in a car/bike collision a couple years ago now. What legacy has he left on SUTC?

That was such a sad time. It happened right after I joined the club, so I didn't know Braydon personally, but he left behind his trademark "BOOYAH" which is something he would say all the time and is now what we yell to each other out on the race course as a way of saying "good job, keep it up" and to me it also reminds us to race with a good attitude and to never give up on our dreams just like Braydon, who always had a smile on his face and kept pushing toward his goals!

What would you say are the “crown jewels” of southern UT racing? When SUTC teammates travel to race is it typically south, out of state, or venturing north like you did for the Utah Half?

The biggest crown jewel is obviously Ironman STG 70.3. There are also the sister races of Sand Hollow and Kokopelli triathlon that have a good turn out. The SHAC and Trick or Tri sprint triathlons as well as the Road Rage duathlon put on by the City of St George are great beginner or training races also.

The members of SUTC travel just about anywhere for races. We love to do races together and support each other. We always have a good showing of usually over 30 athletes at Ironman Oceanside. We've also had some good groups at Ironman Florida, Arizona, and Texas and I think we'll have a good group going to VineMan in 2017!

On that note, really the objective of Utah Tri Buzz is to be a source for triathlon information (and hopefully a little hype/inspiration) for the state… would you say SUTC feels “connected” to the tri scene up north, for example via the Ryan/Rory Duckworth connection, SG 70.3, etc., or more independent?

I think we are pretty connected to the tri scene. Having the Ryan/Rory connection has been a great way for us all to come together as we've worked together to put on a Tri Camp in April the last couple of years to get some good training in before IMSG 70.3.

There are a lot of people from all across the world that come here to train, not only for IMSG but because we have great weather, lakes, and an all around active community that makes it appealing to many athletes.

From your perspective what impact has the Ironman brand had on triathlon in St. George?

For me, the Ironman brand brought a lot more light to the triathlon world. I knew about triathlons before and had a desire to do one some day, but being able to watch it right here, gave me more of a push to get into the sport and I'm sure it does the same for others.

What’s the bigger advantage for a local at SG 70.3 a) acclimated to the heat b) can attempt to tame the Snow Canyon climb and Red Cliffs Parkway thru repetition c) can read the clouds and know when a freak desert storm is going to roll through

I think we have a definite advantage with being able to acclimate to the heat and ride the course a lot. I mean, those hills are no joke and don't get any more flat the more we ride or run them, but they do make us stronger.

No one can read the clouds and see a crazy storm coming! Not even Justin Bandley, who predicted "perfect weather" for race day to our club this year.

What’s your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon?

I was not an athletic person at all until almost 7 years ago when I decided I wanted to lose some weight and ran my first 5k. I ran my first marathon in 2010 and was quickly addicted to running but took some time off in 2011 to have my third baby girl. I started running again 5 weeks after she was born. I ran a lot of races in 2012 and started to get burned out of just running. I wanted to do some cross training, so I signed up for my first sprint triathlon in May 2013, bought a bike, wetsuit and all that fun stuff, then worked my way up to an Olympic and Half Ironman less than a year later. I fell in love with the sport of triathlon and it has driven my husband and family to be more active too. My husband just signed up for his first half Ironman in Oceanside and my oldest daughter says she wants to grow up to be a triathlete too.

I noticed a picture of you at Ironman Texas… speaking of freak storms, what was your experience on that crazy day?

That was my first full Ironman and I loved everything about that day, even the freak storm! I went into the race with the word "Enjoy" as my biggest focus and that's exactly what I did. The day started out warm and humid- seriously 100% humidity- making for a foggy swim. The bike course was shortened (only 95 miles) due to some flooding in the area a few weeks prior to the race that washed out some of the course. The bike ride was warm, but the first part of the run was when I really felt the heat. The storm hit when I was about 15 miles into the run and I was so happy to cool off. 

The race actually ended up being stopped for a few minutes because of the storm. Although I wasn't taken off the course, I did take cover for about 6 minutes before going on to finish my last lap of the run. Even though the lightning made me jump a few times because it was so close and the hail hurt as it was being blown into our faces, I was smiling and laughing through it all. I think attitude is a big part of getting through any race. I had my best race ever that day, feeling better than I ever expected to while racing a full Ironman, and left wanting to sign up for another one ASAP!

Any other races on the schedule this year?

I don't have any other triathlons on my schedule for the rest of this year. I'll be running the STG marathon and focusing on getting stronger on the bike and swim for the races I've got planned for 2017 which are IMSG 70.3 and VineMan. 

What would you say are the broader goals for SUTC as a club and for you personally over the next couple years?

I would like to see the club grow in number (it's always fun to train/race/party with more people) and just continue to strive to live up to our mission statement which is:

To provide an environment for every member to reach his or her potential and to promote the growth of triathlon in Southern Utah.


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