OCT 2015 - ATHLETE PROFILE
Family: Husband, Kevin LaDue, Mountain Biking, Snowboarding; Daughter, Ruby LaDue, 11 years, Freestyle Skiing; Four dogs: Bandit, Roxy, Freckles, Teddy
Residence: Tupper Lake
Occupation: Middle/High School Teacher, Cross Country Running Coach and Motel Proprietor
By Mim Frantz
Amy Farrell and I met up at a picnic table along the shores of the lake. When we met, she was taking campy iPhone photos of her daughter, Ruby, who was hamming it up while sitting on a goose sculpture. We found a brief window to meet as she had come from Tupper Lake, where she had worked a full day as a teacher, followed by an afternoon of coaching the cross country school team, inserted a quick interview, then was heading to pick up her daughter’s friend, and off to the college pool to get in her swim training.
This is a typical day for Amy, which also starts out with an early morning distance run or bike ride. When she is not training, teaching, being a ski mom, or walking her four dogs, she is running the motel she owns and operates with her husband, Kevin. It is a busy life she admits, but one that she quite consciously chooses. “It is nuts, but I really love what I do, all of it,” she remarked while making a funny face and giggling a very familiar, humble, and self-effacing cackle.
The demands of her already busy schedule have ramped up these days, as her training for the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on October 10, is taking up much of her time and focus. In 2014, she accomplished a career highlight winning the women’s age group 35-39, and now she has her sights set on defending her title.
Currently, her training is going well and she has a great deal of confidence coming off an overall women’s win at Ironman Lake Placid this past July. “It was a great race for me, the pieces all fell together,” Amy recalled. “It is so inspiring to race here because you can really feel the energy and support, seeing a person you know every mile of a marathon is really special,” she added.
Her fan base included her supportive parents, her personal bike-mechanic husband Kevin, daughter Ruby, family, friends, students, and the runners she coaches. This was Amy’s first time returning to race IMLP since 2002 and she had a lofty goal to win. She felt nervous announcing that to the world and joked that a local reporter, “coaxed it out of her.” She admitted, “It was a little too revealing to put it out there as a goal, not knowing who was going to be racing and, I was far from a shoe-in.”
Although Amy did have the women’s lead for much of the race, she was passed at mile 23 by fellow elite racer, Hayley Germack, who gained a significant lead. The day was hot, Amy had been pushing hard and was doing everything she could to catch her, but it wasn’t looking good. With less than half mile to go and the finish line nearly in sight, Hayley collapsed with heat stroke and a 105-degree temperature, and ended up with a DNF. Soon after, Amy ran into the bustling finish line of an enthusiastic hometown crowd at the Olympic Oval, to be crowned the Women’s Overall Champion.
Anyone who knows Amy, or has seen her race, has cheered for her as simply, “Ruby’s Mom.” This tradition started about eight years ago when professionals started putting their names on their race jerseys. As a joke, she wrote “Ruby’s Mom” on her own jersey in black sharpie. Hearing people yell, “Go Ruby’s Mom!” made her race day and she has done it ever since, either in sharpie, puffy paint, or in her now sponsor design suit by Coeur.
Keeping it light and not taking herself too seriously is what has kept Amy going as a competitive triathlete throughout her 20-year career. While other racers boast on social media about their new vegan or paleo dietary experiments to give them the nutritional edge, Amy posts regular pictures of her staple favorite, pizza, and jokes about places she knows along her rides to stop for a slice. One of her favorite highlights of the last year’s World Championships in Kona was participating in the Underwear Fun Run, and meeting Olympic speedskater Apollo Anton Ono, and proudly posting a selfie of the two of them pre-run in their underwear.
She also laughed out loud at herself when describing her first triathlon in her high school years. Despite being a competitive swimmer and runner, she raced with her ten-speed bike from Ames department store, and came in second. “I didn’t even know how to put air in my tires. A girl from California won – she had clearly done a triathlon before,” she joked.
Amy is originally from Ogdensburg. As a swimmer and runner at Ogdensburg Free Academy, she had some natural talent, drive and remarkable success with setting school records, and qualifying for State Championships in both events. She later attended St. Lawrence University and ran both cross country and track and qualified for Division III Nationals in track in both the 1500 and 3000-meter distances.
After graduating, she was determined to pursue triathlon competition. She bought her first racing bike and set out to train for an Ironman Kona qualifier. In the meantime she had her first job as an adaptive physical education teacher and was coaching a boy’s high school swim team. She remembers either swim training with them or coaching them from the deck while riding on her stationary bike trainer.
After earning her spot through a half Ironman distance finish, she moved to Lake Placid to work and train in an atmosphere with other competitive triathletes. At her first Ironman Kona in 2000, she was fourth in her age group but had a challenging race, where wind gusts blew her off her bike and left her with a mild concussion, and bloody road rash for a dramatic finish.
The next year she had a successful racing season and competed in Ironman Lake Placid and qualified again for Kona, but the wind was brutal. Thirty miles into the bike race Amy had a self-proclaimed anxiety attack with fears of being blown off the bike again and pulled out of the race. Despite the disappointment, her successful season earned her first offer at a Pro-Card from USA Triathlon where she was now racing for money and had also acquired sponsorship contracts.
During her first season as a pro, which included her wedding, she placed top-five in all of her races, and was balancing the training and race schedule with a her full-time teaching career. However, in her first race in the second season as a pro, she did not post a favorable finish and remembers being riddled with fatigue, only later to find out she was pregnant.
After giving birth to Ruby she focused on raising her family and continued to work as a teacher. She took a five-year hiatus from racing and trained for fun and for “sanity” doing mostly self-described, “baby-jogger running.” The baby-jogger running kept her going strong enough to transition to a 2008 quest to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, which she only missed by one minute in two separate qualifying races. Over the next several years, leading up to the current season, she has worked to balance the demands of teaching, coaching, family life, motel ownership, training, racing and traveling. There have been many ups, downs and races in between, but so far this 2015 season is proving to be her most successful to date.
She credits her longtime coach, Julio German, with keeping her on track and trusts him implicitly. She states, “Most competitive athletes, especially triathletes, are very Type A. I don’t think of myself as Type A (looking to Ruby, beside her, who nods to affirm). I love what I do and I am disciplined. I have faith in my coach and in the programs that I follow. I know what I need to do, and I do it.”
Coach Julio added, “Our relationship is very cohesive with mutual respect, understanding and open communication. She is a gifted athlete for sure, but the talent only takes you so far. It is the work ethic for sure. She goes 150 percent to make sure she gets to where she needs to go. The woman is up at 4am for a three-hour bike ride, teaches a full day, coaches after school, spends time with Ruby, and then goes out for a ten-mile run in the dark.”
He continued, “I have been working with Amy for the last four years and the one thing that has remained constant is her humility. She is as humble and as hard working as anyone I know. Despite all the success, she has remained grounded, and it makes her such a pleasure to work with.”
For Amy, it is her attitude, and not her accolades, that makes her who she is. For those that know her, and have had the privilege to laugh with her, she is a genuine, spirited, fun-loving human being – that makes you want to cheer, “Go Ruby’s Mom!”
Mim Frantz (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Lake Placid is a freelance journalist, event coordinator and yoga instructor. When she’s not writing, planning or in a warrior pose, she can be found enjoying outdoor adventures with her husband and three young sons.