30 Apr Staying Vertical with Amy Marsh
On Tuesday, April 18th, Amy Marsh visited High Five Events’ HQ to chat with William Dyson. Amy, a professional triathlete, had her successful professional career cut short by an Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis. She spoke with William about how she and Brandon (her husband) have handled the last three years, why she registered for the Rookie Tri on 5/7, and why you shouldn’t call her involvement a comeback. She also dishes out advice, talks about her motivations, and aces the rapid fire section at the end!
William Dyson – Your last race was in 2014. Why are you competing in the Rookie Tri?
Amy Marsh – I won IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh on 6/1/14. I had two 5th place finishes in 2014, IRONMAN European Championships (7/6/14) and IRONMAN 70.3 Calgary (7/27/14). I knew something wasn’t right as I wasn’t feeling my best. I figured it was related to all the racing and training. I went to the doctor to get checked out and received my Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis. Competing in triathlons professionally quickly took a back seat and handling my diagnosis become my primary objective. One year after my stem cell transplant I did a 5K as a goal race. This June will be the two year anniversary of my transplant and the Rookie Tri is my new challenge.
WD – You’ve said you want to finish your career on “your own terms.” What does that mean to you?
AM – I planned on ending my career in 2015. I didn’t want cancer to be the reason why I had to stop. I had a couple more races on my scheduled, but the diagnosis forced me to take a long break. I want to retire on my own terms. This isn’t about competing professionally, rather for the fun of it. I want to be done when I feel like I should be done.
WD – After the Rookie Tri, what race is next on your spring calendar?
AM – It really depends on how I feel after the Rookie Tri. The doctor said I could swim in open water about a month or two ago, so I haven’t really been looking anywhere else. If I feel good after Rookie Tri I’m going to look at completing all the Sprint distances in the Texas Tri Series.
WD – #dontcallitacomeback; why not?
AM – I don’t want people to think I’m back racing professionally. This is more Amy Marsh having fun with the races, really enjoying the experience, going out on my own terms. The last couple of years of professional racing weren’t as much fun for me. Some of that could’ve been related to my illness, but who knows.
WD – Acute Myeloid Leukemia. What was your initial reaction to those words?
AM – My original appointment was supposed to be on Christmas Eve. I got a call and they asked me to come in the day before, on 12/23. I figured they didn’t want to work on Christmas Eve. They told us, me and Brandon (husband), the news. We also had his mom and dad on the phone with us. Initially I thought, this isn’t good. I was in disbelief. My first question was, “Will I lose my hair?” The doctor said I needed to pack up and go to the hospital immediately. My husband and I cried the whole way home. I had just swam that morning and thought, guess I can’t do my bike workout tonight! We were like the proverbial deer in the headlights, everything became a huge blur. The next day was Christmas Eve, I was hooked up to chemotherapy. I made sure to not look at the Internet at all the negative outcomes of this disease. I ended up being in the hospital for 45 days and then spent the next eight months in and out of the hospital.
“Don’t let life’s occurrences dictate what you can or can’t do.”
AM – It means everything. He was my rock the entire time. I didn’t have many visitors because folks weren’t allowed to visit. If they did visit they had to wear gloves and a mask. He remained by my side the entire time and stayed positive on a daily basis.
WD – How are you training mentally for your first race since 2014?
AM – With a laid back approach. I sold my tri bike and have actually been riding my road bike. I want minimal pressure and to truly enjoy the experience.
WD – Physically?
AM – Professionally, I was training 15-20 hours a week. Right now, I’m “exercising” six to seven hours a week. I’ll swim twice a week, run three days a week, and bike one or two days a week. I lost 10-15 pounds of muscle and haven’t really gained that back. Out of the three, swimming came back the quickest for me.
WD – On a scale of 1 – 10, how excited were you to hear that you could swim in open water again?
AM – Pretty excited, I’d say a nine! It was funny because the doctor said it has to be “clean, open water” and I thought to myself that there isn’t really “clean, open water” in Texas! In the end, that clearance is what got me thinking that I could register for and complete a triathlon.
WD – What advice would 2014 Amy Marsh give to May 7th Amy Marsh?
AM – Enjoy the process. In 2014, I was more results oriented, I wasn’t patient. Through the last three years I’ve learned to be patient and enjoy the little things more.
AM – We were always together, 24/7. We get along well and shared household duties. We understood that if we weren’t in the same race, one of us would pick up the slack when needed. It made for a great partnership. Now things are much simpler!
WD – Besides finishing your career on your own terms, what are your future athletic and life goals?
AM – Stay healthy, continue exercising, and be able to register for an event if I so choose. I want to be fit enough to do anything I come across.
WD – What motivates you on a daily basis?
AM – Staying fit. I have a group that I swim with that I really enjoy. Brandon and I go to the gym twice a week. We enjoy working out together, enjoy staying fit. It’s become a part of our life. We really enjoy going on bike rides to places where we’ve never been.
AM – Find help, find someone who went through it. I found a friend who went through something similar. We swam together in college and had conversations about what was ahead of me. LIVESTRONG was also a huge help. Always remember, you don’t have to go through this alone.
WD – What was going through your mind when you won 70.3 Raleigh?
AM – Absolute excitement. The field was good and I won the race on the run. I normally get passed on the run, but I started the run in third and did the passing.
WD – Swim, bike, run; you have to choose one.
AM – Swim.
WD – Favorite place to swim, bike, and run in Austin?
AM – Swim – Rollingwood; bike – through our neighborhood and back up 360; run – Town Lake.
WD – Favorite non-swim, bike, run activity?
AM – Golfing.
WD – How do you relax and unwind?
AM – Watch movies. Since we don’t train professionally, the weekends are full of extra time!
WD – Favorite in-race (training) hydration/nutrition.
WD – Favorite Austin restaurant?
AM – True Food Kitchen, but we visit different restaurants to find new favorites.
WD – Describe the perfect post-race meal (in Austin).
AM – Something salty. Plain burger and fries.
WD – Morning or evening workouts (swim, bike, run)?
AM – Morning. I’ve learned it’s not as likely to get done if it’s in the evening.
WD – Solo or group workouts (swim, bike, run)?
AM – Swimming with my group; running on my own; biking with Brandon or our group of friends.
AM – Visits are always based around food. We take them for Tex-Mex or BBQ, usually Chuy’s or Salt Lick. I take my tri friends to Barton Springs.
WD – If you and your husband could go anywhere in the world for one month where would you go?
AM – Thailand. We trained there for a couple of months and loved it.
WD – Do you sing out loud when you’re alone in your car?
AM – Nope.
WD – Amy, thanks for swinging by our office. It was an absolute pleasure interviewing you and learning more about your accomplishments in life. You have a glow about you and while you might be done racing professionally, you will continue to have a grand impact on this world. We’re excited to have you participate in the Rookie Tri with us and look forward to 5/7! Best of luck!
AM – Thanks for having me. I enjoyed speaking with you and look forward to the Rookie Tri on 5/7. It’s definitely been a long road and I’m excited to get back in the water to finish my career on my own terms. While it might seem like I’m coming back, don’t call it a comeback!
Staying Vertical is an interview session with various individuals within the endurance community hosted by William Dyson, High Five Events Communications Manager. Staying Vertical will showcase the perspective of runners, triathletes, sponsors, partners, event producers, and volunteers to understand what makes them tick. We will highlight their involvement and give the endurance community an inside look at the individuals that are just like you and me.
Awards and Recognitions –
2014 – 70.3 Calgary (5th place – 4:21:13)
2014 – IRONMAN European Championships (5th place – 9:06:33)
2014 – 70.3 Raleigh Champion (4:21:39)
2013 – IRONMAN World Championship (17th place – 9:35:29)
2012 – IRONMAN World Championship (10th place – 9:38:15)
2011 – Challenge Vichy IronDistance Champion
2011 – IRONMAN Brazil Champion
2010 – IRONMAN World Championships – 11th Female and 2nd American Female
2010 – Rev3 Full Rev IronDistance Champion
2010 – IRONMAN Lake Placid Champion
2010 – IRONMAN China Champion
2010 – USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year
2009 – IRONMAN Wisconsin Champion (Rookie Pro Ironman Debut!)
7x All-American – University of Minnesota (swimming)