Identity Established: Triathlete, Runner and Mother

Patty Carrel wasn’t into sports as a child. With parents who were engineers, Patty’s summertime activities were more academically focused. “I never thought I could run a mile. Five miles just seemed impossible.”

Patty’s come a long way since then – longer than five miles, in fact. She is not only a three-time Boston qualifier, last fall, in Madison, Wisconsin, but Patty also qualified for the IronMan World Championship in Kona, Hawai’i.

Patty CarrelHow did she go from not being able to run five miles to running 26.2 miles – and a Boston-qualifying time – after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112 miles? For Patty, it’s been about setting goals and then putting in the work to achieve them.

Patty made it her goal to run a marathon before she had her first baby. She accomplished that and then qualified for Boston at her second marathon.

She picked up cycling before her second baby, when she made it her goal to do a Half IronMan. That didn’t go strictly according to plan. Upon completion of that race, she remembers having to nurse her second child.

Before her third child, Patty made it her goal to do a full IronMan. And she hasn’t stopped since. Patty ran, raced and did triathlons throughout all of her pregnancies. “It kept me sane,” she insists. “I did races, but not competitively… After my third, I got competitive.” Now, she has her own cheering section every race, made up of her supportive husband and three young daughters.

She’s a committed wife and mother who finds value in racing: “Competing gives me an identity, outside of being a mom. And that’s important.”

“Swimming is not my strong point. Nothing is my strong point. You just have to be okay at it all… [For triathlon,] you have to be really regimented about your fueling… [To get to Kona,] you have to fine-tune it.” For someone who claims to not be strong at any one event, Patty is a solid runner, getting to Boston with a qualifying time almost thirty minutes faster than required. In fact, Patty’s marathon pace at the end of her IronMan triathlon still gives her an almost ten minute cushion to qualify.

This will be Patty’s third Boston Marathon. She describes her first experience there as “unreal.”

At the time of her first Boston Marathon, Patty was living in Boston. She discovered that living there provided a huge advantage. “You can pace it much better.” Her training runs were on the actual course.” The advantage to training for Boston in Boston goes beyond the physical. “You can soak in much more of the excitement… Training runs, even six weeks up to the race, are sponsored. Saucony is handing out mittens. Pros are out there cheering. There are water stops and fuel at aid stations.”

The excitement is palpable. “It’s not like Chicago Marathon; in Boston, the whole town comes out and celebrates the marathon.”

Patty CarrelEven the years she’s not running, she always tracks the marathon. “I always run on the treadmill and watch.” Patty is excited to be returning to Boston to run, especially in this year’s race, which she anticipates will be much more emotional. This year’s Boston Marathon, however, is not her “A” race. Instead, Patty has her sights set on Kona in October. “I’m training for Boston Marathon as a triathlete; Kona is my ‘A race.’ I’m a triathlete first.” This means that Patty has spent most of this winter not just running, but also swimming and cycling. “I always did a run after finishing the CompuTrainer at Higher Gear.”

Unlike most triathletes, however, Patty likes to find people to train with. She loves the sense of community within the sport. “I like training with people, so I try to find people. While many of her runs were solo, she also did some with the Evanston Running Club and Precision Multisport.

Patty discovered, “Triathlon really built my love for riding.” Counterintuitive to most triathletes, Patty also prefers to ride with a group. For cycling this winter, “I would use Higher Gear’s CompuTrainer Studio on Saturdays.” And she doesn’t limit her training partners to other triathletes. “I love riding with road riders. It’s harder.” She adds, “Triathlons have a tendency to suck the joy out of everything… You have to be committed to your plans, to your ‘A race.’ With road riders, you race a little, have fun and have coffee afterwards. Triathletes don’t stop.”

Patty also found that riding with road cyclists, has helped her “build better handling skills.” She breaks it down: “Triathletes learn how to ride in a straight line, how to pedal, while road riders learn how to ride a bike.”

As far as running versus cycling, Patty notes that you “use different muscle groups, but both work pretty well together… They’re not mutually exclusive… Cycling helps running, with building an overall aerobic base.”

“If I only have an hour, it’s a toss-up, though usually I’ll pick a ride.” Patty adds, “It’s awesome being on a bike.” Then asks with all honesty, “Why is it so much nicer being on a nice bike?”

The advantage to running is: “You can run in anything. You don’t have to be as prissy about conditions.” She acknowledged that there are people who do ride all winter long, even in tough conditions, but pointed out that with riding, there’s a threshold. “You’re out there two hours max. Running in tough conditions, you can go longer.”

She has learned that cycling is more challenging in that “it takes a long time to be good.” It does have some advantages in her opinion. “You cover more ground on the bike.” Also, “There are way better clothes for cycling.”

Patty points out the ways that the cycling and running communities are often tied together, supporting each other. For the Boston Marathon, specifically, there are cycling clubs that follow the marathon.

After this year’s Boston Marathon, Patty will take a week off before she jumps back in to training for Kona. Beyond that, what is in Patty’s future? “The Leadville 100 on my bucket list.” She also says that she’s never done a race just for fun. “Maybe I’ll do a fun run. I’ve made it a goal to do a Turkey Trot.”

Wherever Patty’s cycling, running or trotting takes her, we look forward to cheering her on as she continues to grow as an athlete.


Meet more Higher Gear customers who are running in the 2014 Boston Marathon:


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Joy Sherrick Boston Marathon 2013


Joy Sherrick is a two-time Boston-qualifier and a Boston Marathon 2013 survivor. She will be returning to run Boston in 2015. Joy runs, but she also bikes, swims, strength trains, practices yoga and plays soccer. She is a fitness coach and Higher Gear’s own fitness guru. She is also her IronMan husband‘s biggest cheerleader.



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