TriCenter’s Host, Ann Wessling’s Big Challenge

Ann Wessling Photo
Ann Wessling - Tricenter Host

How did you get into triathlons?

Well my dad was a high school English and history teacher, and later my principal and superintendent. My mom is a teacher and my brother was in the marching band. So when I showed interest in athletics, they all looked at me like I had four heads. [laugh]

One day, the summer before my freshman year, I borrowed some goggles and a cap and I just jumped in the water at the high school swim practice.  I had no idea there was a reason that lane one was for the fastest people, that lane eight was for the slowest swimmer. I was very out of my element. So I winged it!

So when my mom picked me up that day, I told her there was no way I was going to be able to do it, it was just way too hard. Unbeknownst to me, my mom called the coach and told her that I did not know how to swim. If I would have known that, I would have been mortified! And so the next day, my mom made me go and the coach pulled me aside and made the day all about the stroke and showed me how to do it. I ended up swimming varsity all four years. So it was basically about perseverance and I didn’t want to look like an idiot.

In college, I ran my first half marathon. I had run seven miles in the past and I didn’t think 13 was too bad. So I asked my dad to drop me off at the start.  So he took me to the start and I asked, “Can you pick me up at the finish”? And he said, “Well, aren’t you just going to run home?” And I said “No, I am going to run a half marathon, there is a finish line.”  He said “Why don’t you just detour and run home?” I told him about the finish line activity and that I paid for it. He yelled “You paid for this?” He just couldn’t believe it. Needless to say I had to find my own way home because he wasn’t really interested. Like zero interest!

So I told my parents I was going to do a Half Ironman and of course to them that was just asinine. So my parents don’t really know anything about it. But I have done 2 half-marathons, an Olympic distance triathlon and a Sprint distance triathlon. And I am going to attempt the big Grand Columbian Triathlon in September.

What inspired you to do the Ironman distance triathlon at the Grand Columbian race this September?

Well, because I didn’t have so much support at the finish line, I didn’t really have those wonderful experiences that made me say to myself “Wow, I would really like to do that again!”

Ann Wessling Competitor Magazine Cover shot
May 2011 Issue of the Competitor Magazine

I will tell you that the only reason I have decided to do this is because two years ago I went to Kona, the world Ironman Championship to host TriCenter. While I was there I participated in this Ironman tradition called “Adopting an Athlete.” What you do is go outside of town about a mile or so at about eleven o’clock at night and you find those last few athletes that are just struggling to finish. Midnight is the cut-off to complete the race.

And I met this guy who was 79-years-old. His name is Lew Hollander and is a physicist from Oregon. And he told me that night that he had never come this close to not finishing. He had a particularly rough day and was struggling.

Well the day before I had done the Underpants Run in Kona, which is a tradition where everyone runs a mile in their underpants. So I looked at Lew and said “You know Lew, yesterday I ran around in my underpants. So there really isn’t much I wouldn’t do to get you to the finish line in time.” And Lew, kinda chuckles to himself and pats me on the back and says, “We don’t have enough time for that, Sweetheart.”

Well, he changed my life. When I got home that night I called my husband and said I want to do an Ironman. This man is 79-years-old and he didn’t start doing them until 20 years before. And now every year he is out here. He is convinced it has added 20 years to his life. I said, if he can do it, I can do it. Right? Well, talk can be cheap.

Why did you choose the Grand Columbian as your Iron distance?

I looked at a lot of races and I think a lot of smaller groups put on good races just as well as the high profile ones.  I wanted to do the lake swim, I prefer the lake not because of the waves, but because I hate saltwater. It is just not refreshing to me and the swim is my favorite part so I want to take it all in. So it is because it is a lake swim in a beautiful part of the country. I mean it looks absolutely beautiful!

I know a lot of people choose Florida or Arizona because it is fast and flat. But I just want it to be really pretty. And I wanted it to be a small independent company that still offers this distance. Not everybody can be Rock N’ Roll; it is important that there are options.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge at the Grand Columbian Triathlon?

I love to eat McDoubles from McDonalds. And I really like pie and that sort of stuff so I certainly could do better in the nutrition area. According to my husband, that is something I have to learn. I don’t drink until I am thirsty, I don’t eat until I am hungry. And I can’t do that with the Grand Columbian. I did pretty good with my 70.3, taking in the calories that I needed, in the form that I needed and drinking enough water. But nutrition is probably my biggest hurdle.

And making sure I pay attention is my other biggest challenge. I am a little ADD [laugh]. What I always say about triathlons is that they are perfect for someone with ADD. “Oh, you don’t want to swim anymore? Go ride your bike! Oh you are sick of riding your bike, go for a run!” [Laugh]

Image: Ann Wessling on Tricenter
Ann Wessling on Tricenter

Tell us how you got the gig at TriCenter and hosting the Rock N’ Roll events?

They contacted me because of a recommendation they received. It was just a little web show they were going to do once a week. When we started we were in the back storage room of the Competitor Group offices.

And pretty soon it was, “Okay would you want to come help us out? We are going to host a party in Las Vegas before the actual [Rock n’ Roll] race.”  I said, sure I would try it! Then after that, they told me they working looking to change the face the program because 60% of their runners were women and they only had men as announcers. So here I am.

Check out Ann’s triathlon coverage at TriCenter.

Volunteer