October 2018 - ATHLETE PROFILE
Career: School Psychologist, Ichabod Crane High School, Valatie
Family: Husband, Andy Ruiz, and Cats, Osa and Rio
Primary Sport: Triathlon
Hobbies: Gardening, handler for therapy dog (Willow), spending time /vacations with family, hiking, snowshoeing, fat biking and anything outdoors!
By Fran Vincent
I had heard about Beth Ruiz before I ever met her – an intensely competitive and successful road cyclist, who quickly worked her way to becoming a Category 1 elite bike racer, and a local cycling legend. During my first encounter with Beth, in the fall of 2011, she lived up to that reputation. She was doing recovery rides and I was doing my best just to stay on her wheel. She was quiet, intense, focused, and… completely intimidating. As I tried to mimic every gear change and cadence adjustment she made, I considered starting a conversation. Would she engage? Would I disrupt her focus? Or would she get annoyed and leave me in her dust. I saw her as a fierce competitor, an absolute expert, a machine.
Fast forward to May 2017 and I’m encountering a completely different version of Beth. She’s wearing a borrowed wetsuit that’s at least one size too big and getting ready for an open water swim session with the Bethlehem Triathlon Club. “I don’t swim very well,” she informs me in a humble but unapologetic way. I doubt her at first, but this turns out to be an honest and accurate assessment. I watch her navigate to the first buoy and know that she has some work to do. I see her as a humble beginner and an eager student, very much human, and not at all machine-like.
In the worlds of triathlon and cycling, where so many of us are hyper-competitive, Type A data-lovers, it is rare to find someone like Beth who is so comfortable with such strikingly different roles. She has the discipline, intensity and competitiveness required of great winners, as well as the patience, openness, and humility required of great students. When you combine the ability to balance these qualities with a sweet, honest, and down-to-earth personality, you get the Beth Ruiz who I have come to know over several years of training rides, drives to swim practice, and kitchen table conversations. You also get the Beth Ruiz who is quickly making a name for herself in the world of triathlon!
It was Beth’s openness and ability to be honest with herself that prompted the need for change. She admits that her love for riding never diminished, however, she was starting to feel the grind of over ten years of weekend travel from March to September, and needed some space to enjoy her summers and life. Her initial decision was to take a short break from bike racing, which led her to enter some local duathlon (run/bike/run) competitions. With a robust aerobic engine, strong climbing legs and a fierce competitive nature, it wasn’t long before ability and drive took over and Beth found herself on top of a new podium.
Beth appreciated the individual aspect of duathlon, which is very different than the tactical team strategies of bike racing that didn’t always come naturally to her. She also relished that she could race in a specific age-group category, as opposed to competing against an open field of women. She had found her new hobby, except for the fact that there was a strong drive from within to master something new. Enter triathlon!
For most beginner triathletes, learning to swim in open water with thrashing bodies swimming over, under and around you can be a daunting task. This was Beth’s biggest challenge, as well. She credits most of her swim improvement to the instruction she’s received through Excel Aquatics in Albany. Knowing that the swim was her biggest limiter, she diligently attended challenging training and swim sessions throughout the winter months. She makes it look easy, but I can attest to the frustration and anxiety she sometimes brought onto the pool deck with her. It’s through hours of stroke drills, numerous open water swim practices, and meaningful mental pep talks from coaches and fellow triathletes that have gotten her where she is today.
On September 9 at Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid, she qualified for the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France. She proudly broke her forty-minute mental barrier for the 1.2-mile swim in Mirror Lake, by finishing it in 39:25!
When I asked Beth what keeps her motivated, she quickly responded that “It’s the benefits I get from working out! Exercise has become part of my core. It keeps me sane and happy.” With Beth, I truly think that’s where the magic lies. While she does use a heart rate monitor and a power meter during workouts and races, she admits that she rarely looks at a download, and doesn’t always save her data. With the help of her husband, Andy Ruiz of Ruiz Racing, she challenges her body with quality workout sessions that will benefit her the most, including recovery. A typical training week isn’t measured in hours and “training stress scores,” it’s more a matter of trust and intuition.
Regarding diet and nutrition, Beth eats a clean, healthy diet with few restrictions. On long rides she’s more likely to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in her back jersey pocket than powders and gels. During races, she listens for her body to tell her what it needs, and doesn’t use a formal fueling plan.
One of the many things Beth enjoys most about triathlon is the camaraderie among the triathlon community. During her first race, she was shocked by the encouragement and support she received from fellow competitors. “Am I supposed to do that?” she asked. It was a completely different culture than what she had experienced in bike racing. In addition, she appreciates all the advice and inspiration she’s received from local triathletes, who help her to navigate through a sport that was completely foreign to her. Her advice to anyone starting out is to ask questions, seek help with your limiters, and to get as much guidance and support from others as you possibly can.
There are many moving parts in the sport of triathlon, and this strategy might not work well for the beginner who is trying to master three sports, while striking a balance between work and family commitments. Beth’s approach to training, however, can be a good example for us all. Perhaps if we follow our intuition a little more and try not to get so caught up in numbers and structured workout plans, we too might find a healthy balance between the fitness benefits of triathlon, and the rest that life has to offer. Her approach to training combines the perfect combination of humility, intuition and intensity.
It will be interesting and fun to see what the future holds for Beth. For now, she is hoping to have a good race at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France next September. Beth says she has no immediate desire to complete a full Ironman anytime soon, but I’m going to keep my eyes open for the next time this sweet, honest and humble triathlete decides she has the hidden drive to try something new!
Fran Vincent (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a retired middle school health and physical education teacher, USA Triathlon Level I coach, certified personal trainer, spin instructor, triathlete, and owner of Vincent Multisport Personal Training.