Wassner triathlete twins take New York

As resident New Yorkers, identical twins Laurel and Rebeccah Wassner are anomalies among professional triathletes. After all, the city lacks the lung-busting altitude and endless mountain trails other triathletes thrive on in, say, Boulder or Tucson. It's certainly no picnic navigating a bike through the midtown masses. Besides, where can you store bike and the rest of your gear in a tiny apartment, anyway?

Still, Laurel and Bec (who just so happen to be my older sisters) say they'd never live anywhere else. As the reigning Nautica New York City champion (Bec) and runner-up (Laurel), they're gearing up for what they hope will be a repeat performance on their home turf at the 2011 race Aug. 7. A few weeks before the race, my sisters and I grabbed coffee at a cafe near their Tribeca apartments to chat about why, as triathletes, they heart N.Y.

Sarah Wassner Flynn: Why live in New York -- besides being close to me?

Rebeccah: Well, having you and [older sister] Aliza and our niece and nephews all so close is definitely a plus. Also, my husband John's job is here. I was planning to move when we first met, but he told me he'd make me a better deal if I stayed. There are so many great things about living in New York that I would definitely miss if I didn't live here.

Laurel: Plus, we were here for other careers before triathlon. I worked in magazines as a photo editor and Bec was working at Deloitte as a CPA, so there were a lot more options work-wise. Besides, I wouldn't be able to function without the diversity, energy and creativity New York provides.

Sarah: Yeah, but how do you manage to get your mileage in without having to eat exhaust for breakfast?

Rebeccah: We have to maximize on the mornings, before the city really becomes alive. For example, this morning, we were out the door by 5 a.m., on our bikes headed up to Central Park. The park opens up to cars at 7, so we have to be finished before then or else it becomes too hectic.

Sarah: And it's not like you're alone when you venture out at 5 a.m.

Rebeccah: Not at all. Central Park is filled with driven athletes who are all doing the same thing we are. This city is teeming with triathletes -- and really fast ones, too. Every morning in the park is like a party: I see so many people I know and we can get in awesome training rides and runs all before 7:30 a.m.

Sarah: Where else besides Central Park do you train?

Laurel: Another great thing about living in New York is that we have access to world-class facilities. I do most of my swims and runs at Chelsea Piers Sports Center. It's a USA Triathlon-certified training center and one of the fastest triathlon teams in the nation, Full Throttle Endurance, is based there. I'll also pop in to New York Athletic Club for a swim.

Rebeccah: I love to run on the path next to the West Side Highway near my apartment in Tribeca. It's a nice, flat stretch of pavement that goes for miles along the Hudson River. The scenery is spectacular and there's always some great people-watching to do.

Sarah: If you didn't have to work out today, what would you be doing?

Rebeccah: Probably rock climbing, hiking, or stand-up paddling in the Hudson. I can't sit still! Plus, trying out different kinds of activities gives me a mental break and a chance to spend time with friends outside of triathlon.

Sarah: I can vouch that your life isn't completely consumed by your sport, which I appreciate!

Laurel: It's very important for me to get in enough time with friends and family -- even if it is just squeezing in little things, like talking baseball stats with our Dad or buying my nephews ice cream. It helps keep everything balanced. As a cancer survivor, I overcame a lot of obstacles to get to where I am today, and I am very proud to have achieved my dream. But at the same time, it's important to remember where I came from.

Sarah: So, the Nautica New York City Triathlon is right around the corner. As the reigning champion and runner-up, do you feel any pressure to repeat last year's results?

Rebeccah: No pressure, just excitement. It's my favorite race -- not just because I've won it two years in a row, but because we have home-field advantage and we have so many friends out there, either racing or cheering along the course. [Race director] John Korff does such an amazing job organizing everything and really putting on an awesome event.

Laurel: Finishing second to Bec last year was the most memorable moment of my triathlon career to date. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for days afterward. Of course, this year, I'd love to have as great of a race -- or better!

Sarah: Sounds like fighting words to me ...

Laurel: People always ask us if we're competitive with each other. The honest truth is that we are individuals first and of course, we each want to win. But I will always be happy for Bec if she does well, and I know she feels the same about me.

Rebeccah: I'm going to have to watch my back this year. Laurel has yet to beat me in a major race, but she's getting close. I'd love to see her win, but she knows more than anyone that I'm not going to make it easy on her!

Keep up with the Wassner Twins at wassnertwins.com, or follow them on Twitter (@laurelwassner and @becwassner).

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