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Posted: December 12, 2006

Triathlon: Desiree Ficker - The Real Thing

Austin’s Desiree Ficker (Photo: - www.flickr.com)

To desire: “To long for, to wish for, to aspire to.”

Blonde hair, sculpted abs, a high-octane smile and teeth as white as crystalline quartz, you couldn’t imagine calling Desiree (Ficker) by any other name.

And after Saturday’s NBC Ford World Ironman coverage, where she finished second only to Michellie Jones, the poster girl from Austin, Texas has proven she can go all the way with the very best in the sport and has instantly become a household name in triathlon circles.

A latecomer to the sport – she only started 7 years ago - Desiree spent 2006 building herself up to becoming one of the sport’s elite, pounding through Texas gently rolling hill country that another Austinite, Lance Armstrong, made famous.

Desiree at Penticton (Photo: Steve Bower, Runners Web)

Ironically, she opened the year the very way she closed it, finishing second, just off the pace set by Australian Michellie Jones. In March it was the California 70.3. On October 21st, it was the Hawaii World Ironman Championship.

Ficker credits her breakthrough year to her affiliation with Tri-Dubai, where she trained with teammates Normann Stadler, Cameron Brown, Tim DeBoom, Lisa Bentley and Joanna Lawn. As the rookie of the team, she felt she had to live up to the team’s reputation and high expectations and she said she didn’t want to let them down in Hawaii.

She didn’t have to worry. She beat both Bentley and Lawn, carrying home the American flag in a remarkable second place finish in the race of all races. Since then, her weeks have been filled with a whirlwind tour of media interviews and calls from some companies interested in attaching their name to the Desiree brand. But despite the crazy schedule, the engaging 29 year-old took some time to speak to us at the Runners Web:

Runner's Web (RW): How has life changed for Desiree Ficker since your breakthrough performance in Hawaii?

Desiree Ficker (DF): “In some ways I still don't think the realization of it, or what it means has actually hit me. I still feel like I am the exact same person so it is strange to be getting extra attention all of a sudden. In some ways, the attention is difficult for me because I don't really look at what I have done as being that great. There’s still a win to go after. My value has gone up some, yes, and that is nice but so far I have not had a bombardment of offers to be honest. I am open to them though, for sure!”

RW: Can you take us through the race?

DF: “I felt pretty strong throughout most of the day. There were several tough spots where I just had to bear down and wait out the suffering.”

Austin’s Desiree Ficker (Photo: - www.flickr.com)

“The first few moments in the swim were very tough. I was getting kicked and punched repeatedly until things spread out and calmed down. Once I could get into a rhythm, I actually began to enjoy the swim. Once out onto the bike, I was feeling good and confident. I felt better throughout the bike ride, which was encouraging. I tried to focus on getting in enough fuel so that I could run a good marathon.”

“A second rough spot in the race came in the first few miles of the run. My legs were as heavy as lead and I was having doubts that they would ever come around. I kept telling myself to be patient, to wait out that dreadful feeling and after a few miles I really came back to life. I was having a good time reeling in women one by one and in the last 6 miles it was an all-out dog fight between Lisa Bentley, Gina Kuhr and me. I really had to dig deep in those last few miles and trust the training I had done up until that point. Luckily, my body responded and I was able to pull away from them.”

RW: What was going through your mind coming down the final stretch along Alii Drive?

DF: “Until the last few minutes, I was never totally confident in my placing or that my body would hold out all the way to the line. I was really pushing my limits in the last four miles, knowing that some strong runners were right behind me. Once I was in the finish chute and realized I was going to place second, I had a rush of overjoyed elation rush through me. It was an indescribable moment, really.”

RW: You’ve said you always looked up to Natascha Badmann. How did it feel to pass a six-time Hawaii Ironman champion?

DF: “I was surprised to see Natashca so soon on the run. Up until that point, I have only been passed by her on the bike and could never catch back up to her in the half Ironman races. This year, I passed her at mile 10 and she was not feeling very well. I have to admit, the moment gave me Goosebumps.”

RW: What Natasha say to you when you went by?

DF: “We ran together for a little bit and when I pulled ahead, she said: "Good job, Desiree. Keep up this pace and you will be better!" She is amazing.”

RW: You’ve often mentioned that Peter Reid was instrumental in helping you get ready for Hawaii. What did he do?

DF: “He was wonderful to me. Anytime I had questions he was there to answer them and most of all, to encourage me. The fact that he believed in me the entire time was probably the best thing he could have done for me.”

Austin’s Desiree Ficker finishes second (Photo: Lynne Bermel, Runners Web)

RW: How did the Tri-Dubai training camp in Kona this July prepare you for the race?

DF: “The camp was huge for me in many ways. I got to see how my teammates trained, and they are all so accomplished. I also had a chance to experience the course in a new, relaxed way than I would if I had only seen it on race day. I battled the wind several times on the Queen K Highway when we were out there and I found I gained confidence.”

RW: What was it like training with Normann Stadler and the rest of the team?

DF: “It was just great. There are many different personalities in the group but we all had a great time laughing and talking. Although we worked hard during the day, we still had plenty of time for lovely dinners at night. We were also fortunate enough to stay at the Hilton Waikaloa, which is a small paradise within itself! I feel very fortunate to be a part of such an amazing group. They are to be respected in their actions both on and off the race course.”

RW: When not training with the TriDubai team, what is a typical training week for Desiree Ficker?

DF: “In season during my peak weeks, I train around 30 hours a week split between the swim, bike and run. I rest a lot and take time to take care of my body.”

RW: What are your plans for next year?

DF: “First and foremost, I plan to return to Kona next year. Secondly, I plan to race Ironman Austria and also compete in some other 70.3 races.”

Best Performances

 10K - 34:20
 Half Marathon- 1:15
 Marathon- 2:57 (on 5K training!)
 Half Ironman- 4:19
 Ironman - 9:24

Motto: “If it’s hurting me, it’s killing them.”

© Copyright 2006 Lynne Bermel

Lynne Bermel, a former world-ranked pro Ironman competitor, is a senior marketing & PR consultant living in Ottawa. She is also a freelance writer and TV sports show host. You can reach her at: lynnebermel@rogers.com.

You can access previous columns by Lynne at: LB_Columns


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