Meet Bree Wee: Pro Triathlete, Surfer girl, and Mom
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
I want to introduce you to some awesome Mom’s and Dad’s as I write these letters to you. I’m doing my best to balance being a husband to your mom, a good dad to you kids, and an athlete, but there are some amazing people in the world who are doing these things too. I think it’s important for you to meet them.
I remember seeing the picture of this woman holding her son after crossing the finish line at the Ironman. She had Hawaii on her suit and he was wearing a Hooters tshirt. I loved it. She was doing her thing. Racing Ironman. Being Mom. Living. That image stuck with me over the years as you kids came into my life. I knew I wanted to be the kind of dad that sought out my kids and family first – even during huge personal accomplishments. After all, no one gets there alone. Certainly not in Ironman racing.
I had a chance to talk with Bree recently. After packing up her surf board and moving from Florida to Kona, HI to teach school and chase bigger waves Bree soon discovered the sport of triathlon. In her 3rd full season in the sport Bree competed in her first Ironman. With the support of her family, community, and her super coach Paul Regensburg, Bree not only finished her first Ironman Hawaii in 2007, she set the 25-29 age group record in 9:47 and broke Kate Major’s overall amateur record set in 2002! She was the top age group finisher and 13th overall.
In her rookie season as a pro she earned podium finishes in both Ironman (2nd IM Japan) and 70.3 ( 3rd St. Croix) events. She also claimed her 2009 Pro Kona slot with a 4th place finish at Ironman Florida. In 2010 she was 3rd at Ironman Louisville and 2nd at Ironman Hawaii 70.3.
She’s still doing awesome…chasing the pro dream, but I wanted to know about the “mom” side of Bree Wee.
1. Tell me about Kainoa’s name. What does it mean? Why did you decide to name him that?
Bree: Kainoas name is Hawaiian and like most Hawaiian names it has a couple meanings. His means “strong”. I fell in a bike accident on Maui during a race, felt super sick thinking it was from hitting my head, went to the doctor and he told me I was 3months pregnant and have one strong baby for being just fine after that wreck. Now he is my strength!
2. Racing as a pro now there are sponsor obligations and such. What measures do you take to keep family time your top priority amid all of the training and travel?
Bree: Kainoas dad and I are divorced so the travel races I try to plan during the weeks he is with his dad. He knows I go away for a race, but he is too busy with his dad to feel like mom is gone. It really helps me.
3. Does Kainoa travel with you to races?
Bree: I LOVE taking Kainoa to the races, he learns so much and our adventures are priceless memories! He has been to Portland, all the islands, Florida, Kentucky, and Japan on race trips. I’d like to take him everywhere so he could experience all the world I’ve grown to love. One day…
4. Is that stressful or has your family learned to enjoy the journey?
Bree: Personally, tri-life is more stressful for me than family. I get homesick very easily even in beautiful spots on Earth-home is where the heart is, right!? At the end of everyday though, I am THANKFUL for the journey!
5. Does your family play a role in your race selection?
Bree: Kainoas schedule with his dad plays a huge role, its easier to leave the island knowing he isn’t home with me on that week anyway. I have lots of family in Florida too so I try to make it to a race there every year too.
6. What’s life like on Kona? Most of us assume it’s paradise.
Bree: Life in Kona is a total dream for me, its simple, its mostly peaceful, and it is small so knowing the community is pretty special. Like everywhere on Earth though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I’ve found paradise in very unlikely spots!
7. Do you have any advice on how to involve your kids in your love for the outdoors?
Bree: So easy to get kids outdoors, just go and make it fun. Children are quick to enjoy things their parents enjoy if you introduce it at a young age.
8. Away from triathlon what does your family do for fun?
Bree: Outside of tri we beach a lot. My son and my boyfriend and his 2 sons all surf, so we spend a lot of time in the water. Hikes, camping, sunsets are pretty popular on our list too.
9. You have to eat a clean diet most of the year. Does your family follow your diet as well or do they do their own thing part of the time?
Bree: We have a garden and LOTS of farmers markets so eating good is pretty easy, but of course we cave into spam musubi (a favorite of all 5 of us) and for the most part everyone eats good. Mikes boys love salad, I was shocked the first time they asked for it! Mike eats better than me and Kainoa makes smoothies on his own everyday. Good food can taste good and we have discovered that!
10. What life lessons do you hope Kainoa takes away from your career as a professional triathlete?
Bree: To never, ever be afraid to chase a dream and to know that we are so much more than a race result. To travel and see the world, meet people, and be brave despite how big and scary life looks.
11. What do you hope Kainoa will remember about growing up with a pro triathlete as his mom?
Bree: That she was first and foremost his mom. Always.
12. You recently expressed your disappointment about a DNF at Rev3 Knoxville on your blog. You went on to say that watching Kainoa at swim practice reminded you that sport is supposed to be “fun.” How does being a parent keep your athletic goals in perspective?
Bree: I have to really, really watch myself around him. He is totally learning what it means to come in first and last and when I have race go opposite of what I was hoping for I must be careful to remind him of the good that came out of it, that I enjoyed it, and utmost it means something to have the courage to begin and the guts to finish even if not first or last. He reminds me daily to have fun…
13: This is excerpt from your blog after Knoxville: “ It had me hoping for a payday so I could fly myself to Japan 70.3, it had me hoping for a payday to pay rent, it had me hoping for a payday so I could take Kainoa to Oahu for a local race, it had me hoping my sponsors would be stoked and keep me on board, it had me hoping…..you get it. Races always fill us with hope. And REV3 races always pay well, pretty deep too, so it had me really thinking I’d at least be making the money to fly my bike home.” These are real world concerns. The kind of things that “regular” triathletes across the country think about too. What don’t we know about being professional? To us it all seems like glossy magazine pictures and exotic race locations.
Bree: There are a few very hardworking, fortunate professionals that do have the glossy life, some are friends and I LOVE the stories of first class flights from sponsors, being paid just to show up at a race, etc. That is far, far from my reality no matter how hard I work and try. That said, being professional often means more simple things, like starting first, getting free entry to races, cool home-stay options, shorter meetings pre-race, good bike rack positions…little things, but I like them. It can also mean not knowing what your earnings are, I do miss knowing what mine are. However, this dream is a HUGE opportunity that I was fortunate to have happen to me and I take the good with the difficult just to experience a dream for this moment in time.
14. You mentioned in another blog post regarding goals and desires that “If we aren’t enough without them, we’ll never be enough with them.” Can you tell me why that quote meant something to you?
Bree: Havent you heard of the man that won the lottery then killed himself? Its like that, you don’t always have all you want just because you get one thing you want, so you better be thankful with what you have on the way to working for your goals. Obtaining them is like the cherry on top when you land them!
15. Favorite “family movie?”
Bree: Cool Runnings
16. Kainoa’s favorite race destination?
Bree: Oahu or Florida
17. What is your typical pre-race meal?
Bree: Fish and Rice
18. Before turning pro you were a school teacher and considered turning pro as a surfer. If you weren’t a pro triathlete now what would you be doing?
Bree: hahah, I wish I was good enough of a surfer to “consider” pro, that would be a DREAM job but I’m far, far from that possibility. If I wasnt racing pro you might find me in the class room, I love teaching! Id love to be a travel photo journalist too. Secretly, I want to be one of the aunties that has a booth at the farmers market. That would be so much fun!
19. You got to ride with Lance Armstrong and Jimmy Riccitello recently. Excluding those guys, three people you’d love to hang out with for a day?
Bree: Id like to go for a horse back ride with my birth dad and grandpa, that is sort of a big dream of mine. I grew up on horses with them and dream of those days often as I cant even remember the last time I saw them. At this time of you asking, Id also have to say Mike. He is working off island on Maui for 4 months and a full day with him would really, really mean a lot to me. He comes home when he can but its short, never enough time for me.
20. Favorite band/artist?
Bree: Right now (my mood for music changes weekly), I’m into Christina Perri.
21. Favorite sports team?
Bree: Kona Aquatics. Let me guess, that is not what you meant, but I cant help it…the youth of that team always impress me!
22. One song that gets you fired up to race?
Bree: Set the World on fire. Its from Bethany Hamilton’s Soul Surfer movie. I just love her and that sound track motivates me to be like her in some ways.
23. On your blog you list Isiah 30:15 and an Erma Bombeck quote as among your favorites? What role does Faith play in your life.
Bree: I am a God loving girl. I’m not as vocal as Ryan Hall but I don’t hide it. My mom and older sister were super Jesus freaks growing up and I was so against any religion, fell asleep in church, and thought they were really weird. On April 7th 1998 in Costa Rica that all changed. I met a local man that touched my life in a way I cant explain and just began to believe in something bigger than myself, than this life.
24. Final word of advice for average age groupers, especially moms, with limited time who are juggling family, triathlon, and a full time job…what’s the most important thing that we do to progress as triathletes without taking away from our families?
Bree: Find ways to include family, they want to be part of your journey too. If you plan a beach day, run there and have them meet you with your bikini. Also go at their pace sometimes including them on your swims, bikes, runs, and finally-do not pressure them to do a triathlon!!! Keep it fun and let them find their own fun it if and when they are ready.
Thank you Chad… lots of aloha!!
I hope you kids enjoyed meeting Bree Wee. You can learn more about her and follow her adventures on her blog.
TriFatherhood.com Pro Interviews are sponsored by Rev3 Triathlon