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Lance back in the game

It was in Vanity Fair that the news first seemed to be confirmed: Lance Armstrong intends to return to the world of professional cycling and compete for his eighth Tour de France title.

Apparently inspired in part by Dara Torres' Olympic run, Armstrong, 37, said in the Vanity Fair web-only article "Older athletes are performing very well. Ask serious sports physiologists and they’ll tell you age is a wives’ tale."

Lest you doubt the veracity of Vanity Fair, Armstrong did confirm his intentions to CNN and the Associated Press.

Of course, in the Vanity Fair article, he also hints at running for governor of Texas in 2014.

Then again, can you dismiss anything Lance says he wants to do?

Sometimes it can get tiring when athletes retire, the unretire and return as shadows of their former selves. Knowing when to go out is perhaps the most difficult decision a healthy athlete can make. For better or worse, Armstrong's return to pro cycling will certainly add attention to the sport, particularly in the United States where we tend to eschew the finer points of international sports.

The J-Lo triathlon watch

This weekend marks the annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon. And if you haven't gotten your daily dose of celebrity news, check out this story in the L.A. Times on famous people participating in the triathlon. This is the event that J-Lo is doing an touting on morning talk shows across the land, though at times she seems to have an attitude about her journey that's a bit, well, off-putting. Then again, that's par for the course.

Online, Self magazine is blogging about J-Lo's triathlon training.

You can also see her interview with Good Morning America where she talks about gaining weight during her pregnancy and deciding that while eight-months pregnant she wanted to do a triathlon to raise money for The Children's Hospital of Los Angles.

The Summer of Tris

How can it be that my first Summer of Triathlon is already coming to a close? It seems like just last week I was overnight shipping a neoprene swim cap, fearful of the June water temperatures at Keuka Lake for my first ever foray into the sport.

But now I'm down to my last triathlon of the season -- the Finger Lakes Triathlon held at Canandaigua Lake on Sept. 21.

This will mark my sixth sprint-distance tri of the summer.

And I think it's safe to say I'm hooked.

I have always enjoyed exercising and working out. I just never had any real direction with it. Granted, I am a female and so dutifully would use exercise as a weight management tool, but that reasoning never really felt completely right with me. I never really wanted to work out in an attempt to be a size 6. I wanted to work out because it felt good. It made me feel strong. It made me feel powerful. But for me, working out without an end goal made it too easy to procrastinate, too easy to slide into a slump.

Which is partly why I've become hooked on tris. There is always another race to prepare for. Another goal to achieve. If I feel like sliding, all I have to think of is "Finger Lakes" and I'm back on track, getting into the pool or on the bike or out the door on a run. My goals for races are modest, but they're concrete enough to me to keep me motivated on days when the cookie jar and a Law and Order marathon are calling.

And if my final tri isn't enough to keep me on task this month, I've also registered for my first half marathon -- at the Run for the Grapes in St. Catherines. This news prompted my brother to threaten to drive from Binghamton to Buffalo to beat some sense into me if he hears I've signed up for an Ironman. Rest assured, dear brother, you can save your gas money. I'm on awe of the "Ironpeople" but not on their playing field. But running 13.1 miles seems like a challenge I can get my head around.

I never would have thought that back in June.

A lot can change in a summer if you stop obsessing, enjoy yourself and let life come to you.

On her way to Kona

Diana Sardes of North Tonawanda was already set to go to Hawaii as a spectator for the annual Ironman World Championships.

Now, she's going as a participant.

Sardes, 56, qualified for the mother of all triathlons with her finish at Ironman Louisville last weekend. She finished the race in 15 hours, six minutes and 31 seconds to take third in her age group. Her trip to Kona came after the first and second place finishers in her age group passed on the invitation.

Since any race with the words "Ironman" are not in my vocabulary, I stand in awe of anyone who can put his or her body through the grueling 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run let alone do it fast enough to qualify for anything.

Ironman Hawaii, or Ironman World Championships as the trademark would tell us, will be held on Oct. 11.

The science of the Olympic analysis

As my affection for Michael Phelps probably helped underscore, I am a huge fan of the Olympics.

And now, among the postmortem analysis of the Olympics comes a series of postings from the research guys at The Science of Sport blog.

Among the tidbits is a breakdown of the medal counts and a look at why China may have won so many gold medals (51 to be exact). By their tally, 1 in 11 Olympic athletes went home with a medal.

Additionally, the pre-Olympic concern over air pollution never seemed to affect the performances of the athletes particularly when you consider that four of the six distance running events included Olympic record performances.

Running into Buffalo

The doubt was growing in my mind as race time approached.

What the heck did I think I was doing? Running a 5K is one thing. Heck, even a sprint-distance triathlon is one thing. But running a 15K? All at once?

Once again, I found myself asking exactly when, where and why I thought it would be a good idea to sign up fro the Fleet Feet 15K Run into Buffalo.

It was the last day of my vacation and the official end to summer. And I decided to slightly torture myself.

A 15K is about 9.3 miles and I was told to think of it as running three 5Ks ... all in a row.

Somehow that thought didn't soothe my mind.

I had never run this distance before. Not even in a training run. So I had no idea what to expect.

My plan from my coach: Take a nutrition gel about 45 minutes into the run.

That was the grand plan.

The idea for me was to go out at a really easy pace. Typically, I do warm up before I run a 5K, usually with a light 10 minute jog. This was a 9.3 mile run which I wasn't exactly racing, so I used the first two miles as my warm up. I started out slow. By the time I got to the third mile, I just wanted to try and hold my pace.

An option available to me was to walk when I needed to. In fact, one of the suggestions was to walk for about a quarter mile after each water stop. Of course, I didn't do that. I did walk through each water stop, coming to slow/stop to take a few sips of water then dump the rest over my head. But my walk breaks were probably about 30 seconds each. In hindsight, I probably could have picked up my pace at the end and finished with a better time if I had taken a longer walk break, but I wanted to prove to myself that yes, indeed, I could run this distance with minimal interruption.

By the time I hit the sixth mile the math finally computed in my brain -- I was on my last 5K of the day and much more than halfway through with the run. I began to realize that not only could I do it but I was doing it. And I think I smiled for the rest of the run.

I felt great with my slow but steady pace. It wasn't until the final mile when I started to feel a bit of discomfort, but that's perhaps the best time to get that feeling since the cheers of other competitors and onlookers gets you through the finish line.

In my first 15K, I finished in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 22 seconds. I ran 10 minute, 15 second miles which, considering my 5K pace is usually around 9:40 or so, isn't all that bad.

I met a woman once who told me that if you can run a mile comfortably, you can run any distance.

It all goes back to the basic truth that biggest distance to conquer is the one between your ears.

My coach closes all her emails with a quote that reads, "She believed she could ... so she did."

It's amazing what you can do when you tell that little nagging voice of doubt in your head to just shut up.

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