Volume 76, Number 3 | June 7 - 13, 2006

Quentin Ball

For a break, former tennis player tries triathlons

By Judith Stiles

When Quentin Ball heard that a giant dead sewer rat floated by a triathlete during a swim in the Hudson River last year, she cringed, but only hesitated for a moment before deciding to participate in the Nautica triathlon in New York City, to be held on July 16.

“My goal is not to drown in the Hudson and to finish the race without having to stop,” said Ball over coffee, which she has refused to give up while in training.

Coming off 15 years as a tennis player culminating at Vassar College, Ball was attracted to the pure challenge of preparing for a triathlon — in which the pressure of rankings and scores, as in tennis were nonexistent — as a new athletic endeavor.

“Frankly, serious tennis sucked all the fun out of it for me and I got burned out,” she said thoughtfully. Toward the end of her days in competitive tennis, Ball spent six months in physical therapy trying to stave off surgery on her knee. She had accumulated a lot of scar tissue from old injuries and one day, when she was simply running on a treadmill, her knee gave way, resulting in a torn ligament and four meniscus tears.

After inevitable reconstructive knee surgery in 1999, she began a year and a half of intensive physical therapy, which gave her plenty of time to reflect on her future in sports. Soon after her recovery, she decided to seek less competitive athletic activities, so she trained to hike in the Andes. After a two-week hike and climbing 16,400 feet in the mountains of Peru, she decided next to pursue the challenge of training for a triathlon.

The 2006 Nautica New York City Triathlon consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim in the Hudson beginning at 99th St. down to 82 St. where she will transition to a 40-kilometer bike ride along the West Side Highway. The triathletes will exit Manhattan on the Henry Hudson Bridge, and then after continuing on the Mosholu Parkway, they will circle back to Manhattan, but unfortunately not far enough Downtown for Ball to make a pit stop at her apartment in the West Village.

The final leg of the triathlon is a run through Riverside Park and Central Park, finishing on Dead Road, where hopefully Ball will not be dead tired. The minimum age for participants is 18. As Ball has done, anyone can join the Central Park Triathlon Association of New York, which meets Wednesday evenings and Saturdays for 11 weeks of training.

“I showed up to work out thinking I looked all sporty in my track pants and Puma hoodie and everyone else in the class was all jazzed out in their bodysuits and aerodynamic helmets, plus I had a borrowed rusty hybrid bike,” said Ball, laughing about her funky sports fashion sense. But it’s not the clothes — or the rankings or trophies anymore — that drive Ball to train for such an event. It is the pure love of challenging herself physically and mentally to achieve something so exhilarating.

How does she feel after vigorously working out during the two months leading up to the event?

“I feel like a million bucks and when I finished a long run in the rain this morning, it was like I had eaten a ton of sugar,” she joked. “Seriously, two days a week we do an intense 45-minute run uphill and downhill in Central Park, and then on another two days I swim about 45 minutes to an hour,” she added. Ball has no particular dietary regimen, sticking with her vow not to eat anything whose ingredients she can’t pronounce. To record how many laps she runs on the track, she puts pennies in one pocket and transfers one to the other pocket, each time she completes a lap. No high-tech wristwatches for her.

Bill Burke of Premier Event Management and John Korff organized the Nautica N.Y.C. Triathlon, which began as part of the city’s bid to host the Olympics. Ball is one of 2,800 entrants in this summer’s race. She does not know what sporting event awaits her after the triathlon, however she is sure when July 16 is all over, she will take a break and relax. Her only big plan for July 17 is to “go to the pool and just float.”

For more information on New York City triathlons visit TANYC.com.

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