Archive for April 2nd, 2010

Q&A with Amy Marsh

Austin’s own Amy Marsh placed first in the women’s division at last month’s Ironman China. Marsh, who moved to Texas from Minnesota in 2001, became a professional triathlete last year and has already won two full Ironmans. She is a member of the professional Team TBB but trains here in Austin when not competing around the world. Marsh talked with us on the phone this week to give us some more insight on her career, her future and the triathlon scene in town.

Austin triathlete Amy Marsh. Photo credit goes to Team TBB.

Actively Austin: You won the second Ironman race of your pro career about three weeks ago in China. Talk about what that was like.

Amy Marsh: My husband and I were in Asia for about six weeks training with an international triathlon team in Thailand. Originally we were planning to do a half-Ironman in Shanghai, but my coach [Swiss-based triathlon coach Brett Sutton] saw what good shape we were in and advised us to try the full Ironman. We had about two weeks notice beforehand, and then we went out there and raced— it was quite a surprise to win. The conditions were brutal. It was extremely hot over there and the wind on the bike was very strong—wow, it was intense. But afterwards I was very excited to win and definitely surprised.

AA: You were born in upstate New York, attended college in Minnesota and then moved to Austin in 2001— that’s quite a trip. What was it like coming to Texas and how’s the triathlon scene here?

AM: At the time, my parents had retired to Texas and my brother was going to grad school at UT. I came down here to start coaching a swim team in 2001 and I haven’t left since. Now that I’ve made it here, I won’t go back to the cold. The triathlon scene is great too. There are a lot of athletes that live in Austin. I usually swim at UT with the Masters group.  I also bike and run around Town Lake, but I mostly do that sort training on my own.

AA: Your husband, Brandon Marsh, finished ninth in the men’s division at Ironman China. What’s it like having a spouse who is also a triathlete?

AM: We train together. Our schedules aren’t exactly the same all the time, so we’ll have different workouts. But it’s kind of nice knowing that someone is going through the same kind of pain as you. We understand what the other one is going through. If one of us is having a bad day, the other one understands.

AA: And what is your training usually like?

AM: Before going to Asia, I would average about 18 to 20 hours a week between swimming, biking and running. In Thailand it was 25 to 30 hours a week in. Now that I’m back I’ll probably stick with 25 to 30 hours per week. The triathlon season is year round, but for North America it’s March through October, so I just kicked off my 2010 season and am looking forward to getting faster.

AA: So what are your immediate plans? When’s your next race?

AM: In two and a half weeks I’m going to go to New Orleans for a half Ironman. Then, two weeks after that, I’m doing another half ironman at Lake San Antonio in California— it’s called the Wildflower. After that I’m not sure. The last race of the season is the Ironman in Hawaii. It’s the biggest triathlon and the final race of the season for most triathletes. I hope to be a little bit faster by then. It’s hard to compare times because courses are so different, but the race in China was good preparation.

AA: So thinking about a return trip?

AM: Well, I don’t think so. Thailand was great, we loved it. It was my first time in China and I don’t know if I’ll go back. It was definitely an experience.

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Donnie’s Friday Focus: Jimmy Clay back-nine


Last Friday I focused on how to maneuver your way around the front-nine at Jimmy Clay. This week, we’ll continue our navigation through the back-nine to complete your successful round.

#10 par 5 495 yds.
This par 5 is not very long, but it’s going to be a three-shot hole because of how the green is positioned (more on that in a minute). Therefore, anything in the fairway off the tee will do. There is a small pond on the left of the fairway, but don’t go too far right or you’ll end up O.B. in the driving range. No matter how hard you hit your drive, it’s still very difficult to reach the green in two. The green is extremely elevated, not very large and rolls sharply off the front and back all the way down the hill. You’re going to be hitting a long iron or fairway wood on your second shot. If you think you can get it elevated, with a high enough trajectory to be able to stop it on a small green, more power to you. I know I can’t. So I take a mid-iron and place my second shot at the bottom of the hill, leaving me a wedge up to the green. The putting surface slopes from back to front, so it’s best to be on the front of the green putting uphill. Just make sure you get it on, don’t flirt with leaving it short and rolling all the way down the hill.

#11 par 4 411 yds.
This is a fun driving hole because if you hit it far enough, you’ll catch top of the hill and roll for a while. It’s always fun to tell people you hit a 300+ yd. drive, even if you did get a little help from a hill. There are thick woods marked by white O.B. stakes on your right so stay center or left unless you want to be hitting your third shot from the tee-box. Your approach is fairly easy. It’s downhill, to a flat green that slopes from back-left to front-right with no real run offs. The only threats around the green are two front bunkers, but neither one is deep and both are easy to get out of.

Sharp run-offs cause a lot of problems around the green on the long, par 3 12th.

#12 par 3 185 yds.
I find this to be the most difficult of the four par 3’s a Jimmy Clay. It’s the longest, 185 yds. from the blues, and is well guarded for a hole with no bunkers. Deep woods guard the right hand side of the hole and the green rolls of the right sharply down the hill and into the thick trees. If you leave you tee-shot short, the green slopes from back to front and also runs off the front of the surface. If you’re near the fringe, your ball will roll all the way down the hill. If you go long, make sure you don’t go left and long because there is a small pond that will come into play. Basically, you’ll find that any tee-shot, other than on the green, will be a rather unpleasant place to try and get up-and-down for par.

#13 par 4 376 yds.
This hole is all uphill. It’s not terribly long in terms of yardage, only 376 yds., but it can feel like a par 5, especially if you’re hitting into the wind. There’s no real trouble off the tee. Get as much distance with your drive as you can. Your approach is uphill to an elevated green guarded by two bunkers and features a sharp run-off the front-left of the putting surface. I always get my distance and grab one club higher than what I would normally hit to make sure I get it up there. Once you get there, you’re probably going to be in the middle or back of the green putting downhill or across the green with a quick right to left break. I’ve had a lot of three putts on this green from being too aggressive and rolling all the way to the front of the green. Be firm, but be careful.

#14 par 3 174 yds.
This par 3 is almost as long as #12, but the surrounding area around the green is flat. Meaning you won’t be punished as much for a miss-hit as you were on #12. There are trees on the left and right of the green, but nothing too thick where you can’t find your ball. The green itself is narrow and two-tiered, sloping from back-right to front-left. The two front bunkers are not deep and because the green slopes toward the front, bunker shots to the middle of the green are easy to stop. The only place you really don’t want to be is in the trees on the left. You’ll have to clear the front-left bunker, but you’ll have no room to land it because of the narrow green. Go too far and you’ll find yourself in the other bunker.

#15 par 4 358 yds.
This is one of those holes where players who can hit a draw will be at a definite advantage. The hole isn’t an extreme dogleg, but if you can cut the corner around the trees, you’ll have a wedge left into the green which is important on this hole. The green slopes off three sides, front-left, back-left and back-right. If you didn’t hit a draw and are on the right hand side of the fairway, not only will you not have a wedge in your hand, but you’ll also have to clear a front bunker and stop your ball on the green before it reaches one of those run offs. Don’t get frustrated on this hole. Play smart around the green and take your par. You can get your birdie on #16.

#16 can be a turing point in your match if you play it the right way while it frustrates your opponents.

#16 par 5 526 yds.
If you’re trailing your buddy with three holes to go, this is where you can make up some serious ground. I play this as a three-shot hole, so your drive doesn’t have to be perfect. Just hit it firm. The green is tucked in between a back-right bunker and a front-left pond. The surface is small, and slopes sharply down into the pond. I don’t recommend going for this green in two, but you should encourage your buddy who’s in the lead to try it. Take a mid-iron and place your ball by the cart signs in the fairway leaving yourself 100 yds. into the green. No matter where the pin is, land your third shot on the front-right of the green. Your birdie putt will break right to left but trust me, it’s better than being in the bunker or on the back putting downhill toward the water. This is an easy birdie hole if you play it smart. Let the others pound their chests while they bomb their drive and go for the green in two. You’ll get the last laugh when they miss the green and have difficulties stopping the ball on the surface with their third shot.

#17 par 4 399 yds.
The drive is wide open on this hole so just give it a rip. The problem lies in the area around the green. The green is guarded by two front bunkers and rolls of the front of the putting surface. You’ll want to clear those obstacles, but don’t go too long. The back and back-right of the green roll off all the way down a hill. If you’re down there, you’ll face an almost impossible chip back up because of the green’s slope from back to front. If you’re not on the green, the bunkers aren’t a terrible place to be. It’s a lot easier to get up and down from the bunker than it is if you fly the green and have to pitch back up to it.

You'll need two perfect shots to be on the 18th green putting for birdie.

#18 par 4 420 yds.
In my opinion, this is the hardest hole on the course. You have a very narrow landing area in between trees that line the left and right of the fairway. A small pond on your left comes into play if you hit driver and if you spray your ball right into the woods, you’ll have absolutely no chance of reaching the green in two. Grab a fairway wood, or any other long club you know you can keep straight, and aim to land your drive in the middle of the fairway where the tree lines come together. If you did that, you’re still not home free. Your approach shot is long to a Y-shaped, elevated green that drops off all sides, especially the front-left that rolls into the water. You don’t want to flirt with the water or the front-right bunker so long is better than short. The green does run off the back, but it’s better to be dry than wet or in the sand on this hole. Par is an excellent score on this hole. Birdie is something to celebrate.

Next week: Donnie’s final focus on Lions Municipal G.C.