Accomplished Rancho Santa Fe triathlete races globally with eye on Kona

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Rancho Santa Fe resident Marisa Rastetter is a national cover girl. One of the top female triathletes in the country, Rastetter landed the cover of USA Triathlon Life magazine after two stellar finishes this fall in national and international competitions.

The 36-year-old recently raced for the United States at the International Triathlon Union World Championships in Budapest, placing 11th in the 35-39 age group, missing 10th place by .04 seconds. Two weeks later she raced in the U.S. Nationals Short Course Triathlon and finished 10th, qualifying her to compete for the U.S. team at the 2011 world championships in Beijing.

The 10th place finish was particularly impressive given that Rastetter flew from Paris, France, to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the race, jet-lagged and a bit out of shape after two weeks abroad where she had no bike or swimming pool to practice in.

“I always tell people if you’re interested in doing any kind of event, sign up for a race because that is going to motivate you to get out of bed, turn off the TV and train for it because you have an event looming over you,” Rastetter said. “You don’t have to train 20 hours a week like I do, obviously I’m trying to win the race. When I have a race I don’t even think about sleeping in. I don’t watch TV, I don’t know any of the shows. I’ve never watched ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”

Rastetter has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for five years and works as a lawyer. She is an attorney for a nonprofit San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, running legal clinics for low income clients with HIV and AIDS, While the nonprofit position carries a lighter work load than a large law firm, she was responsible for 600 cases last year—and still had time to train for and race in 15 triathlons in 2009, and 10 in 2010.

The season is over for now and traditionally triathletes will take about six to 10 weeks off. Even in her time off from training, she is still hiking, taking Pilates, and doing a little running because she might run a marathon in January,

“I’m doing very little but I still have to do something,” Rastetter said. “It feels weird not to do anything.”

Rastetter did her first triathlon in 1999—only spending a couple of days training and having never even rode a bike for more than 10 miles, even though the distance of the ride of a sprint triathlon is 12 miles

Despite not having trained, “I had a great time,” Rastetter said. She had caught the bug.

Now with a coach to guide her, Rastetter trains seven days a week during triathlon season, logging about 15 to 20 hours a week.

“Moving to the Ranch has been amazing, it has great cycling and great running.” Rastetter said. “I love doing my long runs through the Ranch.”

Rastetter said her coach is a big advocate of the treadmill for running training because the runner takes less of a pounding on the machine but she much prefers running in the beautiful surroundings of Rancho Santa Fe.

Rastetter swam competitively in college so she is very comfortable in the swimming portion of the race, often exiting the water in first place

“I try to hold on from then on,” Rastetter said. “I’m a strong cyclist but running is my weakness, generally I’m able to hold on.”

She loves races in the ocean, especially when there are big waves she knows will intimidate her competitors but won’t bother her at all.

Rastetter races all distances of triathlons: sprint, Olympic, half-Ironman and Ironman. The Olympic, the distance of her two most recent races, is .93-mile swim, swim, 24-mile bike, and 6.2 mile run.

The Ironman, which is 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles bike, 26.2 mile run (a marathon) is, in a word, “painful,” Rastetter said. One Ironman she raced in Canada put her in the hospital for five days.

“I haven’t had a good Ironman,” Rastetter said, reflecting on the Ironman in Utah she did this year on a new course they described as “hilly” but she said was in fact “outrageous.”

Her favorite triathlon was the Los Angeles Triathlon in 2009, where she came in first place in females overall, her first overall win. The race started in the ocean off Venice and finished to a large crowd in downtown LA.

“That was pretty special,” she said.

Her biggest “quest” is to get to Kona—the Hawaii site of the Ironman. Athletes have to qualify to race there and Rastetter has never made the cut. A flat tire the last try cost her a spot by one minute and 30 seconds. During another try she “bonked the last three miles of the run and three women passed her — all three ended up getting in.

“Hawaii is the thorn in my side,” Rastetter said. “Hopefully one day I’ll make it there.”

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