Zwift Tri Academy has rolled around again, and with so many amazing athletes with inspirational stories to tell, it’s hard to pick out individuals from this year’s crop. But we'll still do our best! Over the coming weeks, Zwift Tri Academy Success Stories will focus on athletes whose stories will encourage and motivate you to compete and complete this year. It’s time to meet Angel.
Angel was born and raised in Louisiana, where she still lives with her husband Loren and 6-year-old son Lenox in Bossier City.
She grew up in a low-income neighborhood and her childhood was tough, sometimes living with her grandparents during particularly hard times.
At school, Angel was always keen to try new sports. She played softball and soccer and ran track and cross country, although she says she was not a particularly good distance runner. Thankfully she says her best sport, pole vault, only required her to run 80 meters!
Angel often dreaded her Monday night 6x200m interval sessions. But eventually she became comfortable with being uncomfortable when running. She explains that “the reward for hard work was worth the temporary pain.” Indeed it was, as she gained a college scholarship for her pole vaulting!
Home and Work
She describes her job as being far from 9 to 5. As Director of Student Activities & Recreational Sports at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, she is responsible for overseeing the direction of all student organizations, student life events, a student food pantry, recreation programs, and a fitness facility. She says she has a fantastic staff and the job is very rewarding.
She is particularly proud of setting up the university food pantry. “Now I get to watch every day as we help lessen students’ financial burdens, which allows them to better focus on academics.”
She has been married to Loren for 14 years and describes him as her rock.
She explains, he “has seen me through some dark moments. He understands that training is not an obsession, it's therapy for me dealing with the weight of a sad and disadvantaged childhood.”
In 2009, Angel’s cousin started racing triathlons and she spectated a few of his races. As a former collegiate athlete, she says she was “looking to channel my competitive drive towards a healthy outlet.” She explains that she cheered at a famous local sprint race, River Cities Triathlon, and was sold. She stood amazed at people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities willing themselves towards the finish line.
“I knew triathlon was what I wanted to do and knew it would be more than a phase.” She began using the gym’s spin bike and watching swimming tutorial videos. Angel’s old high school cross country coach mentored her and, with entry-level equipment, she started racing locally.
Over the next few years, Angel stepped up her training and was able to podium at many races. She has now completed several 70.3 and two full Ironman races, clocking a 10:51 at her last full before getting pregnant in 2014.
More importantly, Angel states, “I found my people. My community of like-minded weekend warriors who shared a spirit for pushing our personal limits. Through triathlon I’ve made lifelong friends, many that I consider family.”
Life is Fragile
In 2015, 6 weeks after giving birth, Angel set out on her first training ride on the open road. “12 miles in, I was hit from behind by an SUV going about 55mph. By the grace of God, I escaped without broken bones, only a nasty road rash and torn shoulder ligaments.”
After a long road of surgery and physical therapy, she was back racing. “I look back at the accident as a way of slowing me down and a reminder that life is fragile and precious - especially when you have an infant that depends on you.” Renewed focus brought a faster Angel than before and recently her journey came full circle as she finished first female at River Cities, the race that originally sparked her fire for triathlon.
As a working mother, time is precious and Angel has settled into a rhythm training for the 70.3 distance. In September 2021 she raced the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in St George, Utah.
Indoor Training on Zwift
After seeing Zwift mentioned on Slowtwitch in 2017, Angel got set up with a magnetic dumb trainer and a speed/cadence sensor. It was frustrating, to say the least. A year later Loren bought her a direct drive trainer for Christmas.
“I had it set up and ready to Zwift within an hour. He's barely seen me since!”
Angel explains that she has never minded indoor training and finds it to be the most effective way to get a controlled, focused workout. “Not to mention, there is zero percent chance of getting hit by a car.”
She says she could write a book on reasons to love Zwift. It allows her to spend more time with her family, and not having to prep gear or commute to the start of a ride saves hours.
“I can stumble from the coffee pot to the treadmill. I love what Stephen Cousins does with Film My Run. I've joined a few times and it's a great experience for the Zwift community. I can watch my son build legos or help fold a paper airplane while on my Sunday long ride. I can find a ride or run to fit my mood almost any time of the day.” She says she is a better wife and mother when she can swim, bike, and run.
Shortly after joining Zwift, Angel started riding early mornings with the Tuesday Kinetic group. The camaraderie and dad jokes make her day, she says. “I love the course options, the graphics, the banner jerseys, the chatter, the badges, and the fact that every avatar is a real person training somewhere in the world with the same motivation to be the best version of themself.”
Zwift Tri Academy
This year’s Tri Academy will be Angel’s 3rd time in the program and she says she looks forward to it every year. For her, it fits perfectly into the off-season and keeps her focused. “I fangirl out at the previous winners and their Kona experiences. I have dreams of competing at Kona one day myself”.
But she signs up for the Tri Academy for much more than a chance at a team slot. “I've found the workouts have always been the right intensity and frequency to be challenging yet achievable. The on-screen prompts are perfect to keep you engaged with every pedal stroke or step.”
Angel joined the Zwift Tri Academy Ladies Facebook page where they celebrate each other's goals and accomplishments. “I've become so proud of complete strangers!”
This year she wants to dig into the workouts and try to boost her FTP going into 2022. Every year she feels the Tri Academy has proven its worth early in the subsequent training season. “I'd love for as many Zwift ladies as possible to join along so we can support each other,” she says.
“I live life remembering my ‘why’. I have a ‘why’ that applies to my family, my career, and my training. Everyone's ‘why’ is different, and there are 1000 reasons to say why not, but all we need is to focus on the one reason that keeps us going.”