A lawyer and a triathlete from Canada, Michelle Ball doesn't just race for herself, she also races for a cure for cancer with Ironcops.¬† Meet Michelle Ball:
KK: As a kid what did you dream of doing when you got older?
MB: "When I grow up I want to be ______" was an annual question in my "Elementary School Daze" scrapbook.¬† Every year after Grade 1, I filled in the blank space with "lawyer."¬† Barely seven years old, had I known only that my Dad was a lawyer where we lived in Estevan, Saskatchewan so I wanted to be one too someday.¬† Twenty years later, I joined the Department of Justice after graduating from UBC Law School. I am presently counsel with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
KK: With such a busy career, when were you able to fit triathlon into your life?
MB: As Crown Counsel, I work with police and other enforcement agencies to carry out prosecutions under federal laws. ¬†I have been involved in many different types of cases but invariably the work has been interesting and immensely rewarding. It has also been demanding. For years in a prolonged arduous trial, I toted boxes and briefcases between the office, courthouse, truck, and home. I was exhausted yet not sleeping. I lived in Vancouver with so much to do yet I was struck by how little I did but work. In the fall of 2003, determined to regain my fitness I walked into Lady Sport, a local running store, and ran out with my first of many pairs of Mizunos.¬† Summer 2004, I was struck again - alas this time by a taxi.¬† Although crushed to bench my running shoes, I was given the medical nod to cycle and swim.¬† So I tuned up my old high school Bianchi and peddled away.¬† I bought a new Speedo and dove into a public pool.¬† In 2005 I started to run again with an Ironcop in training.¬† The new road I was on turned into a highway ... to Penticton .... where I witnessed an incredible event about which I previously knew nothing.
KK: Penricton, Canada is the home of Ironman Canada, what did you think when you first witnessed people crossing the finish line?
MB: Ironman Canada (IMC) is unbelievably motivating and inspiring.¬† The community and athletes support each other in accomplishing a goal that seems by description impossible:¬† SWIM 3.8 km, BIKE 180 km and RUN 42.6 km. At IMC in Penticton, I saw proof that anything is possible.
KK: You are actively involved with a local charity. What is the name of the charity and how did you get involved?
MB: I also discovered that Ironcops for Cancer is a group of police and friends dedicated to help find a cure for Cancer while training to compete in Ironman Canada.¬† When I signed up to compete in Ironman with the Ironcops, I combined two lofty goals with little clue about the details needed to obtain them.¬† At that time, I had yet to run more than a 10 KM race or compete in a triathlon. I still had to buy a wetsuit, get a real bike, sign up for swimming lessons, learn about endurance nutrition, figure out how to train for three sports, manage a busy and stressful career, fundraise for cancer and find time for family and friends.¬† This was a lot to learn to balance.
KK: What motivated you to get involved with Ironcops?
MB: What kept me focused? ¬†Cancer has taken the lives of several family members including all four grandparents.¬† Given genetics and statistics, I believe it's simply a fact that my chances of getting cancer are high. Perhaps there will be a cure by then but maybe not.¬† And if not me, there will be members of my family or close friends, colleagues, friends of friends....¬†¬† So, while I am healthy, I figure I should do my bit. It's a thrill to report that with the help of hundreds of people and their generous donations, the 2006 Ironcops for Cancer team raised over $1.3 Million dollars for the Canadian Cancer Society.
KK: Having a strong support crew is an important element when training for an Ironman. How does your family show their support?
MB: I'm also delighted to report that I have a 2006 finisher's medal after successfully completing the Subaru Ironman Canada course in Penticton. The best thing about the race was that loved ones were there to enjoy it with me. Amidst the crowd, I managed to see and hear both my parents during each transition. My Mom was cheering for me like she has done countless times in my life. A few meters further I saw my Dad who was smiling so hard that he had tears in his eyes.¬† I beamed back to thank them for being there, then and always. I could not have done what I have been able to do but for their love and support and that of so many other people in my life. I had so much fun that I smiled for the entire 11 hours and 6 minutes of what could have taken up to 17 hours.
KK: Congratulations, I understand you won yourself a spot into Kona.
MB: As a bonus I got one of the coveted slots for the Ironman World Championship in Kona in October. I knew that it was the original Ironman but not much more. I learned that upwards of 50,000 competitors attempt to qualify from the US and countries around the world for the 1,700 age group spots. I was told that many people are years on the triathlon road solely to get to Kona and that qualifying are the chance of a lifetime.¬† Who am I to pass up such an opportunity? So I also have a 2006 Hawaii Ironman World Championship finisher's medal.¬† Totally unexpected from when I started this journey; and further proof that anything is possible.
KK: What are some of your personal accomplishments?
MB: In 2007, the triathlon road took me further than Kona.¬† I was excited to be added to the 2007 Canadian National Long Distance Triathlon Age Group Team.¬† Although continuing to train and fundraise with the Ironcops 2008 team, in July 2007 I flew to France to complete in the ITU Long Distance World Championships in a Triathlon Canada Team uniform.¬† In 2008, I again competed in Tri-Can reds in both the Olympic and Long Distance World Championships in Vancouver and the Netherlands respectively.
KK: Now that you have been doing triathlon for a while now, what are some of the benefits to the sport?
MB: I think triathlon is a great sport and would love to see it grow.¬† The fitness aspect is only part of it.¬† The real strength of the sport lies in how it teaches one about oneself and how to manage all facets of life.¬† Another key feature is the connection one makes with others also involved whether they be supporters or other athletes.¬† Life is complicated and we encounter so many roadblocks and little challenges on the way.¬† But taking each challenge as it comes and helping or accepting help from others is sure to lead to success.
KK: Would you ever give up your career for triathlon?
MB: Training and fundraising are spare time efforts when not engaged in my regular prosecution duties.¬† If you met my colleagues, you might think that all of us are training for Ironman. Like police officers, prosecutors are independent yet accountable, dedicated and principled. All put in long hours, working under enormous stress and strain with barely time to recover beginning the next trial. Why?¬† It certainly is not for money, fame, and glory.¬† In a rarely credited but invaluable role, we work to promote the high standards and principles in the administration of criminal justice; to support the rule of law, to maintain the balance of the scales of justice.
MB: Lofty goals?¬† Yes.¬† And so is competing with the Ironcops for Cancer members in Ironman Canada. So is finding a cure for cancer.¬† And all are possible.
KK: Life balance is very important; how do you balance family, friends, career, training, racing and fun?
MB: I absolutely agree that balance is important and it's possible to achieve but you have to include your family, friends, and workplace as much as possible.¬† This does not mean that your spouse must also be a triathlete.¬† They may not run, bike, or swim.¬† But it does mean talking to them and ensuring that they support your goals and understand the process of how you intend to obtain them.¬†¬† Be organized, set schedules, and priorities, but be flexible.¬† You may have to change your priorities on a day-to-day basis.¬†¬† If the emergency meeting is more important than the swim session, do not worry about missing a workout but be glad that you were needed at work.¬† Along with the suggestion that triathletes have obsessive tendencies, I often hear the phrase "Triathlon is a lifestyle".¬† And it is just that.¬† It is a lifestyle, not your life.¬† In training for and competing in triathlon, you'll learn a lot about yourself and gain a fresh perspective to even better enjoy all aspects of your life.
KK: What advice would you give to someone just starting off in the sport of Triathlon?
MB: There are lots of good tip lists for first timers that cover topics from self-seeding an open water swim start to laying items out for speedy transitions to saving some energy for the run. The advice at the top of my list is to focus on form, not outcome.¬† It's the process or how you get to the finish that is more fulfilling than rank or time.¬† Break down the course and complete each part the best that you can. Before you know it you are at the finish.¬†¬† Along the way remember to thank the volunteers - you wouldn't be able to do the race without them. Most of all - have fun.¬† If it's not fun, why do it?
KK: What do you have in store for the 2009 season?
MB: I just got confirmation last night that in 2009, I am going to travel to Australia to compete for Canada on both the Olympic and Long Distance World Championships which are on the Gold Coast and Perth. What an incredible way to get to see the world.