In the final part of our interview series with US pro triathlete, Ali Brauer, we reflect back on her progress in 2021 – and look forward to her aims for the 2022 season.
In what will only be her second season over the middle distance format, can she make another leap forward in performance?
Learning to trust the run
Given her injury background, Brauer has very limited running miles in her legs in recent years. So much so, that literally every race she started would equal her longest ever run…
“I’d never run a half marathon before my first 70.3, so that was majorly stepping into the unknown. Every time I do a race, it’s like my longest and fastest run ever. I just don’t have the history of running, so I don’t yet have the durability.
“Especially earlier in the season, I was getting to 10k in the half marathon and thinking ‘oh no, I can already feel it.’ It did progressively get better throughout the season as I was racing myself into shape a little bit, so by the end of the season I wasn’t hitting the wall until about mile nine… but there are still so many gains to be made, just from gaining durability and being consistent. Even if I keep at low miles, I think I’ll run faster just by being consistent.
“I’ve definitely dealt with some paranoia when it comes to injuries – always this fear that I’m going to get injured. It’s been a process of relearning to trust my body again and trust that I can actually handle what I’m doing now, and the farther I get from these injuries, then I might be able to handle more.”
Debut podium in Memphis
Her first major podium came at IRONMAN 70.3 Memphis in October, a race that was broadcast live by IRONMAN. While happy with the performance, the result didn’t have the same satisfaction as you might expect at first glance.
“Memphis was a really good experience being able to swim with Ellie (Salthouse) and then being able to work with Jackie (Hering) on the bike, because they are two of the top athletes in the world and it being my first year, it’s great to just get that experience racing those athletes.
“I wish I could be closer on the run, but obviously that’s not where I’m at right now. Memphis was kind of an odd feeling because I was about 15/20 minutes ahead of fourth coming off the bike, so I knew that if I just finished and ran my own race I was going to podium. In a sense, it felt quite anti-climactic.”
A turning point in California
Still with questions to answer to herself, Brauer got the battle – and the podium – that she wanted in early December at IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells.
“I was really pleased at Indian Wells that I was able to podium in a deeper, more stacked field where it actually came down to the wire. I was actually getting chased down on the run and managed to hold them off, which was really a turning point for me.
“It showed me that I really can compete in the sport and that I do belong here and that whatever happens, I know I have what it takes to succeed. That really validated my decision to stick with it and put everything into this.”
2022 race plans
“Right now I’m electing to hold off racing until probably May at the earliest. I raced so much last year that I didn’t have the consistency of training as I’d have to take off so many days from running after a race as a precaution. With those easier weeks, all of a sudden my training volume is up and down so I and my coach decided we could benefit from a consistent few months of training again before I race.
“There’s a couple of possibles. The White Lake Half is PTO-compliant, so I could get points from that. There’s also the North American Champion Champs in Chattanooga.
Eyes on Utah
With her run still a work-in-progress as she builds up her durability and consistency, Brauer’s big goal for the year comes in late October.
“It’s so late this year, the end of October, so I realised last year that by that time of the year I was starting to feel mentally burned out. This year I want to be really smart in choosing my races. Maybe not race quite as much, but because of that, I’ll be more mentally primed by the time 70.3 World’s rolls around because it is such a big race.
“My goal at World’s will be to truly compete on the swim and the bike and obviously the run will be what it will be right now, but I don’t think it would be out of the question to shoot for a top 10 to 15 finish, so that’s kind of what I’m looking for.”
Ali Brauer TRI247 interview: