A couple weeks back during the TriRock Philadelphia Tri Olympic Race, while Redshift's own Stephen Ahnert and Scott Poff were locked in an epic battle, Brittany Ballard was winning the female 25-29 age group in impressive fashion. This was Brittany's first race using the Switch Aero System, in fact, she only installed the system about a week before the race.
Brittany on the podium at the TriRock Philly Tri
Brittany, who is originally from Texas, teaches math and computers at the Franklin Learning Center High School in Philadelphia. We caught up with Brittany a couple days after the race and talked about her win, Redshift gear, and how she got into the sport.
Brittany at the pre-race expo showing off her Switch Aero System
RS: How did you get into triathlon?
BB: I actually did my first triathlon when I was in high school! I began running and swimming competitively and when I was 17 (over 10 years ago) I did my first race at the YMCA in Athens, TX. When I went to undergrad, I took a break from triathlon. I ran cross country one season at school (Trinity University in San Antonio, TX) and swam two seasons. I got back into it once I moved to Philadelphia five years ago.
RS: How many races have you done?
BB: Honestly, I have not kept track….It’s been several! But I stick with Olympics and Sprints, not long course.
RS: Why did you decide to get the Switch Aero System?
BB: I have a nice road bike that I purchased a couple of years ago. I love that bike and having been seeing my race times go down ever since I bought it; plus, I get a lot of use out of it, say, if I want to go on a bike ride with my fiance and a group of friends. That being said, at tri’s, I would see a lot of very expensive TT bikes zoom by me, and this would be very frustrating. Being a teacher, I love my job, but I don’t make the kind of money where I can just go spend several thousands of dollars on a bike. So I began researching how to convert a road bike into a TT bike. I read that not only do you need the aero bars, but you need a seat post that will push you forward. That’s when I came across the Redshift Switch Aero System! It seemed like the perfect setup for me because I could easily convert between a road bike and a tri bike. I read about it and researched it, but sat on it for a while and just continued pushing myself in training. A week before Philly Tri, I found out that Breakaway was carrying the Switch Aero System and that other people were having success with it. Since it was only a week before the race, I was very nervous about having it installed and trying to figure out how to handle the bike being in aero position. Coach Todd did not have any doubts about me being able to race in aero, so I went ahead and did it, and I’m very happy I did!!
RS: Tell us about your race experience
BB: I was a little nervous a few days leading up to the race. I got my bike with the aerobars installed on Thursday. I practiced riding in aero while I was at RPM on the indoor computrainer Thursday evening, and I also practiced on Friday by riding my bike to the expo. Finally, I did some easy spinning on West River Drive Saturday morning, and then I felt comfortable and confident about handling the bike in the aero position.
Because they do time trial starts (6 athletes start every 10 seconds or so) at the Philly Tri it is difficult to tell your position in the race among your division. You just have to give your best on each leg and then see where you end up in the results. My wave (F25-29 and Aquabike) was the next to last to start our race. Besides having to maneuver myself around a lot of swimmers who had started before me, I had a good swim. T1 went well for me too, although I still need practice getting my wetsuit off. When I grabbed my bike off the rack, I didn’t see any others in my section off the rack, so I knew I had a pretty good start to the race. I felt great on the bike portion! I rode in my aerobars as much as I possibly could--it was very comfortable and I could feel that it as making a difference. Still, I didn’t know exactly how fast I was going because my bike computer wasn’t working. So I just focused on passing as many people as I could and hoping that I wouldn’t get passed by very many others. I think only two people ended up passing me, neither were in my division. After dismounting and running into T2, I did not see any bikes in my section and was pretty sure I was 1st in my division. But you never know, someone can still finish several minutes behind you and have a faster time than you with those time trial starts. So I knew I needed to run hard! Unfortunately, my hamstrings and glutes were more sore than usual. I had anticipated that this might happen. I knew that the new forward position on the bike would work different muscles, and I had only been training with the new fit for a few days. But I know as I continue training with the new fit, my muscles will adapt! So, I just relied on my running background and focused on holding good form.
Nobody had passed me during my run, so I was hopeful that I at least placed in the top 3 of my age group. When I got my ticket with my results printed, the first thing I saw was a “1” next to division place. That made me very happy! So then I looked at my final time, and I had gotten my Olympic Distance PR by 15 minutes! Most of the improvement I had made was on my bike split, so I was very happy! This was a very memorable race for me as it is the last triathlon I have planned before I get married. To be able to win my AG and have such a huge PR made it that much more special! Thank you guys for designing such a cool product that helped me with my bike split!!
Approaching the finish line
RS: What other races do you plan to do this season?
BB: For triathlon, I am planning to do the North East Triathlon in late August, which is USAT Mid-Atlantic Regionl Club Championships, with the Breakaway Racing Team. I am also highly considering doing the Nation’s Tri in DC in early September. Both races are Olympic Distance. I also like to participate in local 5k’s and 10k’s throughout the year.
RS: Tell us a bit about your training
BB: For cycling and running, I train a lot with the Breakaway Racing Team (which is through the Breakaway Bikes shop in center city). I do a lot of their RPM classes in the evenings and go to track sessions with them on Wednesdays. Coach Todd has been really pushing me and helping me get stronger on the bike and run! Breakaway Racing Team has been a very fun and supportive group for me to be a part of! For swimming, I go to the YMCA. I usually do sets that are about 2000-3500 yards, about three sessions per week. I still incorporate a lot of things other than freestyle like butterfly, IM, drills, etc…. I think sometimes as triathletes we tend to focus so much on freestyle, but doing the other strokes makes you an overall well-rounded swimmer!
Congratulations to Brittany! We hope she has many more wins.
Brittany with some of her winning teammates from Breakaway