Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?
Angela Naeth is not at all bothered she's been caught in the line of fire of the rice throwers who surrounded the medal podium this season on the 70.3 Ironman world triathlon circuit.
The 28-year-old from Prince George finished second no fewer than seven times in her comeback season as a professional triathlete and more than anything that served as reminder what she will have to do to make that climb to the top.
"I lost a lot of them in the swim," Naeth said.
"That made me really realize how much I have to focus on the swim this winter. When you're down anywhere from three to six minutes from the leader, it's really hard to make those gains. In a lot of those races I was up against the top dogs in the sport -- Chrissie Wellington (the Kona Ironman champion), Julie Dibbens, Mirinda Carfrae -- the ones who are above everyone else.
"That puts into perspective where I need to be and it just fires me up for next year. It's definitely going to be hard work this winter."
Naeth capped a scintillating season a week ago in Clearwater, Fla., where she placed seventh overall in the 70.3 Ironman world championship. The 70.3 designation represents the sum of the three distances in miles (1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1 mile run). The flat course took away some of the advantage she usually holds on the bike and her ride turned into a nightmare when she and Melanie McQuaid of Victoria veered off course.
"The bike went well and I tried to push hard at the beginning but unfortunately made a wrong turn when the referee went left and a police officer told us to go left, which cost quite a bit of time in the end," said Naeth. "After about two miles, the ref caught up to us on his motorbike and told us we were going the wrong way. That kind of fired me up and I went harder than I should have but that's what I had to to do, and I worked hard on the run and ended up seventh."
As a rookie pro in 2008, Naeth posted eight top-10 finishes and ended up eighth overall in the 70.3 world championship.
While she suffered physically, emotionally and financially while taking the entire 2009 season off to recuperate from stress fractures in her legs, it was a necessary process to get her back to where she left off in her rookie season. She made up for lost time with a busy race 2010 calendar that left her very little time to relax. The 70.3 world championship was Naeth's 10th half-Ironman distance race and third in six weeks. She also took part in a Olympic distance race, a duathlon, a few bike road races and a swim-bike event.
"I wasn't ready to race in 2009 and this year was more about experience and that's why I raced as much as I did this year," she said. "I just tried to race as much as I could and still recover some."
While convalescing at home in Prince George, she took a job as a therapist at Victoria Physiotherapy while working as coach of a small group of local triathletes.
Naeth's strength on the bike gave her the fastest split cycling time in seven of her 14 races. That's got several bike manufacturers and parts suppliers interested in sponsoring her.
Now that her season is over, she plans to return to Prince George for Christmas, then return to Tucson, Ariz., where she'll be training for her next race in early Spring.