Michelle Rosowsky was engrossed in the Olympic triathlon coverage on Aug. 4.
Well, for an hour, anyway.
The clock struck 5 a.m., the TV went off and out the door she went to compete in her own event, the Fronhofer Tool Triathlon in Cambridge.
They announced the Olympic results at Fronhofer, and in the parallel universes, Rosowsky and the top American in London, Sarah Groff, each finished fourth.
On Oct. 22, it will be the 45-year-old Rosowsky, a mother of two who lives in Niskayuna, who will represent the United States in a world championship triathlon.
It all came together last year for Rosowsky, when she finished 13th at the USAT Age Group National Championship in Burlington, Vt.
That qualified her to compete in the age-group portion of the 2012 International Triathlon Union World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand, and she and her husband, David, will be on their way next Thursday.
“It’s just super-exciting,” Rosowsky said. “I’m a huge fan of the Olympics, and because of the fact that this is an Olympic year and I was rooting for Team USA, this is sort of the Olympics for age groups and amateurs.”
Rosowsky received her navy-blue Team USA uniform in the mail last week and will be one of about 10 women who will compete for the team in the 45-49 age bracket. Team USA will send a total of about 150 triathletes to the worlds, which is highlighted by a race for professional athletes.
The ITU world championships will be contested at the Olympic distances — a .9-mile swim from Queens Wharf, a 24.8-mile bike ride and a 10k run.
Rosowsky’s training for all three legs requires not only dedication, but supreme organizational skills to fold workouts into a week that includes caring for her 8-year-old daughter, Melissa, and 6-year-old son, Leo.
She also does consulting work from home for Texas A&M University, writing learning outcome assessments, and writes the newsletter for the Birchwood Elementary School PTO.
With that in mind, Rosowsky maintains an Excel spread sheet that plots her workout schedule, and even then, “I usually scribble along the top, ‘There are too many meetings on Tuesday, so the long ride’s going to be on Wednesday,’ ” she said with a laugh.
“I’m a triathlete; I keep track of everything.”
Rosowsky’s training regimen takes 16-18 hours per week.
She’ll do workouts in two of the three legs each day for a total of 9,000-10,000 yards in the pool, over 100 miles on the bike and 30-35 miles running.
If she wants to get in a long run, she’ll join the Willow Street AC on a 12-miler.
“Running, I favor quality over quantity,” she said. “I race all different distances, but my favorite is the Olympic triathlons, which I’ve done the most. It’s the best combination of an endurance event, it’s a 21⁄2-hour race, so you can’t redline it the whole way. But it’s still all about speed.”
Rosowsky’s father was an international businessman, and she actually was born in Thailand and has lived all over the country.
She was a swimmer in high school who graduated from the University of Maryland. She met her husband in Oregon 11 years ago, and they moved to the Capital Region when he took a job at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he’s the dean of the school of engineering.
With three sports disciplines to maintain and two children, Michelle Rosowsky needs all the help she can get pulling all these strands of activity together.
“It takes creative scheduling,” she said. “My husband is wonderfully flexible. He works very hard, but if he can help me get in a key workout, he’ll do whatever he can. And my youngest kid just started kindergarten last year, so it’s a lot easier now during the school year.”
Rosowsky has been competing in triathlons at a high level for 22 years, and has held an All-American ranking (top 5 percent in age group) since 2005.
She’s won the North Country Triathlon the last two years, along with top-level finishes overall in races like the Lake George Triathlon. Last year, she finished third in her gae group at Ironman Lake Placid.
The crowning achievements, though, were a 13th in her age group at nationals last year to qualify for the 2012 worlds in New Zealand and a 10th-place finish at Burlington this year, which means she’s good to go for next year’s worlds. The 2013 event will be held in London, site of this year’s Olympics.
“It’s great to have the national championship within driving distance, and it’s a gorgeous setting,” she said. “Burlington has everything, hills, flats, the water was super choppy.
“The thing that’s most different about it is you’re used to passing people or being passed, but you get to the national championship, and there were four women in my age group that all finished in two hours and 21 minutes. If I had been 35 seconds faster, I would’ve been sixth instead of 10th. That’s how packed it is. You get out there and realize that a little hesitation or a little dig-a-little-deeper can make a big difference.”
That will be the case in New Zealand, too.
Rosowsky is going there without any grand expectations of where she’ll finish, which in one sense will make it a little more relaxing.
At the same time, she doesn’t want to squander this opportunity, so it can be a tricky equilibrium to maintain.
“One thing I’ve noticed is that as you get faster, your expectations for yourself get higher, and it’s harder to keep the fun aspect,” she said. “I’m sure athletes deal with this in every sport. Just the balance, to remember that it’s fun, and it’s just for you, so it shouldn’t be a high-pressure, stressful thing that you don’t enjoy. I don’t think I’d be in this sport as long as I have if I didn’t think I was managing to keep it fun.”
One method of achieving that is to mix up her season with a race that perhaps has some quirky element to it to break up the routine.
This year, Rosowsky competed in the 50k North Face Endurance Challenge in the Catskills, a race that doesn’t have a bike leg, but requires a certain amount of portaging, of sorts.
“Gorgeous scenery, and it’s crazy, you have to swim with your shoes shoved in your shorts, you have to run with your cap, you swim in three different lakes,” she said. “It’s point-to-point, so you never come back to the same place and have to carry everything you need. It was crazy and fun and gave me something to look forward to all season. It was epic.”
Part of the New Zealand plan includes enlisting Rosowsky’s octogenarian parents to fly cross-country from Washington to watch the kids while she and David are on the other side of the planet.
Michelle Rosowsky has even managed to work around two pregnancies without much disruption in her triathlon seasons.
“My son was born in May, and I was able to do a couple races at the end of the season, but I was still breastfeeding, which made some of the logistics somewhat complicated,” she said with a laugh. “I have pictures of me sitting in the shade of a tree with a blanket over my shoulder, and I’m still all sweaty with my race number.
“And that was so much fun. There’s nothing like coming across the finish line and having your husband hand you a little baby.
“You feel like you have everything.”