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Ironman Race Results

Congratulations to local Ironman Finishers both in Kentucky and British Columbia this weekend.

At the Ford Ironman Louisville competition, Dave Schieber, 44 of Buffalo, finished in 10:36:59 while Jennifer Sylvester, 35 of Kenmore, finished in 11:48:42.

Other local finishers from Western New York included:

Barry Dunston (35, West Seneca) -- 12:39:29
Derek Dunston (33, Niagara Falls) -- 12:39:27
Tim Kirst (40, Boston) -- 14:42:40
Marty McKenna (37, Olcott) -- 11:15:44
Allen Mercer (33, Cheektowaga) -- 16:01:47
Jon Metz (41, Williamsville) -- 11:55.30

For complete Ironman Louisville results click here.

At Subaru Ironman Canada, Kevin Meitlicki was the only Western New Yorker present. The 44-year old from Lockport finished the race in 13:26:08.

For complete Ironman Canada results click here.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Ride report: The Niagara Escarpment

The name is slightly intimidating -- the Niagara Escarpment.

It was formed millions of years ago through ice ages and erosion. The most significant part of the Escarpment comes in the way of Niagara Falls.

And this would be the primary riding route for the weekend's long ride.

In search of more hill work, the training ride headed to Niagara County. A friend of mine created a ride which would start out relatively flat (to warm up) as the route moved north and west. Then, it zig-zagged east to include four passes of the Escarpment.

The thought of four climbs of this natural wonder of the world was, in a word, daunting.

But this was prime Muskoka training territory, especially for area triathletes. And with the race two weeks away, it was time to just tackle whatever the day would bring.

While the roads were familiar, the layout of the route was new and neither my friend nor I were completely certain where potential store stops would be (important primarily for access to water). So when opportunity came by, we took it, including a stop 18 miles into the ride. The small building on a corner was a local restaurant, which appeared nameless from the outside. Clanking on the floor in bike cleats early in the morning I asked if by chance they sold bottled water. They didn't but were kind enough to let me top off my water bottle from the faucet and use their rest room.

The mental note was already made -- post-workout refueling would occur here.

Then came the first climb up the Escarpment.

Challenging. Granny gear. Pull down the arm-warmers. Spin up around 6 miles per hour.

Whew.

But hey, that really wasn't so bad.

And so went the next four passes.

It wasn't that the climbs were easy just that they weren't daunting. They were doable. 

The idea is that on race day when those hills of Muskoka present themselves on the bike course (which by now have taken on mythical proportions among participants) it won't be anything new. There is no type of hill which that course can present me which I haven't already climbed at some point -- from short and steep to long and steady and every combination thereof.

The notion isn't to prepare to hammer up the hills. The physical challenge is only part of it. What's more important is what's going through my head.

And today, those climbs were literally fun. Short and steep and plentiful in the middle of the ride.

The crest of each brought a smile. Not because it was over, but because there was a sense of accomplishment, of improvement and of joy.

During the ride, we spotted three other local triathletes training for Muskoka out doing their hill work on the Escarpment. Later, we crossed paths with two more. It almost felt like a communal training camp.

Off the bike was a 30-minute run which actually felt great.

"Why are you so surprised you're doing well?" my friend asked.

Good question.

The answer is formulating.

But in the meantime, there was that return to the little restaurant for our breakfast recovery meal. There's little time for philosophy over a stack of homemade pancakes.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Ironman Sunday

There are not one but two Ironman races this weekend, each featuring some local racers tackling the 1.2 mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.

Ford Ironman Louisville is popular among some local racers. Among those Western New Yorkers in the field:

Barry Dunston, 35, West Seneca
Derek Dunston, 33, Niagara Falls
Tim Kirst, 40, Boston
Marty McKenna, 27, Olcott
Allen Mercer, 33, Cheektowaga
Jon Metz, 41, Williamsville
Dave Schieber, 44, Buffalo
Tammie Smeltz, 41, West Seneca
Jennifer Sylvester, 35, Kenmore

Also today is Subaru Ironman Canada in British Columbia where local triathlete Kevin Mietlicki (42, Lockport) is competing.

Race coverage can be found at Ironman.com

Meanwhile Muskoka prep takes on another long, hilly bike ride, this time dodging rain along the Niagara Escarpment. 

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

The cost of running

How much does it cost to take up running?

The easy answer is in the outlay of money. You need to buy a pair of shoes. And the debate over what kind of shoes ranges from dealing with stability and performance to minimalist shoes. You probably also need socks. Perhaps a pair of shorts, a top and for women a good sports bra. And if you want to then race, there are entry fees.

It can add up depending how much you want to spend but at it's base, running is a relatively inexpensive sport.

At least that's what I thought.

Until I read a commentary from economist Justin Wolfers.

The piece ran on NPR's Marketplace this week. In it, Wolfers points out that the true "cost" of something isn't just in the outlay of money, but in the outlay of time. It's something economists call the "opportunity cost."

The time you spend doing your hobby, whether it be running or gardening or reading, is time you could be doing something else -- like making money or finding ways to save money.

Wolfers estimates his 16-hour a week running program comes at an "opportunity cost" of several thousand dollars.

In the end, he concludes his running time is worthwhile, that it has value to him. The decision to run, he said, is a "no-brainer."

The commentary caught the eye of Mark Remy at Runners World who offered his own response, noting that for runners it's not a "zero-sum thing. An hour spent running isn't an hour 'lost,' it's an hour invested."

There are plenty of times when the thought "those are two hours of my life I'll never get back," have crept into my mind. But running, cycling and swimming are hours that bring no regret. It's not just the increased health and fitness but the general sense of well-being. Coaches refer to them as intangibles and fitness activities can certainly help bring about a sense of focus, clarity, productivity and strength.

Really, the question is what is the cost of not being active? What is the cost of not pursuing your passion and joy?

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

The link between happy and healthy

There are certain expectations when visiting the exhibit Body Worlds. You expect to learn more about how the body works. You expect to see displays of the human body, from its cardiovascular system to the skeleton to muscles.

The exhibit currently at the Buffalo Museum of Science focuses on the heart and so but also takes visitors through the rest of the body, particularly demonstrating the complexity of muscle and bone in movement.

You don't have to be training for the Olympics to get the message -- your health depends on exercise, not just from a weight-maintenance standpoint but also from a properly working body standpoint.

But among the unexpected was the educational panel on happiness.

The premise of the piece was that if you were happy, if you were an optimist, you had better health.

My friend with me questioned the cause-and-effect offering.

"Maybe they have it backwards?" he said. "Maybe being healthy is what makes you happy."

Ah, the classic "chicken and egg" syndrome.

Which comes first?

We love to have black and white answers to those types of questions. But in reality, perhaps they're not exactly cause and effect.

What if happy and health were a mosaic and a continuum?

What if being happy helped you have better health? And in return what if having better health (and hence feeling good) made you happier?

Yes, it's circular.

And not very helpful for our Point A to Point B mentality. How does one become happier? How does one become healthier?

The best answers are usually individualized and not straight forward. I don't think most of us are looking for "quick fixes." Instead, we're looking for simple ,direct fixes -- if I do X then I can achieve Y -- with measurable results.

But rarely does it happen in the kind of systematic way we're looking for.

Happiness and health seem intertwined but in rich and nuanced ways. For all the anatomy and science of the Body Worlds exhibit, there are connections between the mind and body that can't be shown physically.

It's what makes any athletic journey -- whether its a simple fitness routine, training for a 5K or training for an endurance race -- so rich and unique. Because the parts intertwine, overlap and the cause-and-effect aren't necessarily connected until weeks, months or years later.

Does being happy make you healthy? Or does being healthy make you happy?

Ah, like world may never know.

Then again, it may not need to. The two go hand-in-hand. And whichever way is your entry point, you're bound to find the other.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Practicing the the technical skills

By the fourth or fifth time, it was getting monotonous. But that's what repetition is supposed to bring, I suppose, particularly when the skill is becoming a bit easier.

With the Muskoka 70.3 race a few weeks away, preparation isn't just about getting in swims, bikes and runs.

It's also about practicing for anything that can happen on race day.

Like a flat tire.

The rules of triathlon include a big stress on not receiving outside assistance. In simple words, anyone involved with the race can help -- other races, officials, volunteers -- but anyone spectating or cheering you on can not. So your mother can't hand you a new bottle of gatorade and your father can't pull over and help you change a flat tire.

Granted, much like the famous line from A Street Car Named Desire, I have often relied on the kindness of strangers. Many times fellow racers will pull over and help others who are having mechanical bike issues. It's part of the beauty of the sport, the community that wants everyone to do his or her best.

But it helps if you can help yourself.

And so, the past few weeks my friend and I have been practicing changing a flat tire.

The principles are rather easy, as explained in the following video from the guys at Performance Bikes:

But knowledge and practice can be two different things.

I've had numerous guys at bike shops and friends go through the finer points of changing a flat tire. I've even practiced with them once or twice.

But until I started trying to do it regularly, it was like trying to remember how to find the area of a parallelogram -- knowledge that was in my brain somewhere but dusty and incomplete.

The tire change can be slightly daunting. In my case, it was a fear of doing some serious damage to my bike along with the fear of failure. Sometimes you can throw in the fear of looking stupid for good measure.

Point is, the fear would always hold me back unless I kept practicing.

Each time got a bit easier. Each time came with a bit more confidence.

Each time came with a bit more patience.

The practicing continues. Yesterday were back tire repetitions. Instead of changing the tire, the practice was taking the back wheel on and off, getting the alignment between the brake pad right and the chain back on correctly.

Next up, more work with CO2 cartridges which can be tricky to use to inflate a tire out on a course (or even a leisurely Sunday bike ride).

Just like each time tackling hill workouts or swim intervals brings increased strength and confidence, so too does rehearsing the mechanical skills.

Because each time I realize, there is one less thing I can not do.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

The power of the tribe

The scene in the film instantly brings a smile and a knowing nod.

A group of women were discussing running and described their conversations this way:

When they're together, outside of running, they talk primarily about, well, running. But on the run? Well, they talk about pretty much anything but running.

Many (if not most) people subscribe to the Vegas rule on group runs -- what's said on the run stays on the run.

It's one of the most powerful aspects of sport, the ability to find an accepting community. Discussions range from personal relationships to work environments to health issues and while women in particular may come together for training, they stay together for the intricate nature of the support and encouragement they receive from a diverse group.

It's that sense of building a community which drew Tanya Maslach to create the organization GOTRIbal.

A resident of San Diego, she is part of a vibrant triathlon community but after eight years as a triathlete, she wanted to connect with other female athletes across the country and across the globe.

She surfed the Internet one day but found nothing.

And so, she decided to fill the void.

GOTRIbalnow.com went live in January and now has 620 members in 20 countries.

"We just added Switzerland yesterday," Maslach said.

The free social networking site is aimed at women triathletes, helping them navigate through athletic andPicture 2  life waters whether they be entering their first sprint tri or training for another Ironman.

"The conduit for the journey is sport," Maslach said. "When someone is doing their first 5K or their first half marathon or their first half Ironman, whatever it is, the lessons are the same as for those doing their 20th Ironman. We're all learning a little bit more about ourselves in that process. What's so cool is that those lessons really apply to anything in life. We're just using the journey of sport to start that conversation."

The conversation may start about conquering fears of the open water swim start, but the forums on the website have allowed women to connect over issues they might not be comfortable discussing in other settings -- issues of anxiety and business and relationships.

And while the online community is growing, so too are "tribes" around the country and the world. The idea is that GOTRIbal can help women connect in geographic locations where the tri community may not be particularly active.

The venture has two-time defending Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington as its ambassador. Wellington is an eager supporter of the organization as she tries to use her platform to bring the ideas of health, fitness and confidence to women around the world.

And for women, the concept of team, community or tribe can be a vital component. There is comfort and power in knowing that other women, even those in the same race, want you to be successful.

As women gain experience and confidence and life lessons through sport, it reaches even deeper into their lives while their support network continues to grow.

"The problems they face in business are a lot of the same problems you face in sport," Maslach said. "You think you can't start a sport because it's too expensive. The business is too risky. I'm not smart enough to start my own business. I'm not strong enough to do a triathlon. The reasons cross both boundaries. And what we're showing you is that those are just excuses. That you have a tribe, a network of people, that care about you. Money and emotional and physical challenges are all hurdles meant to be overcome.

"When you let them become barriers, then you stop moving forward."

P.S. Because there seems to be interest, let me clarify that there are no "product placements" in this blog and that there are no goods,services or discounts received in exchange for a mention in this blog. 

--- Amy Moritz
 Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Playing with the pros

The superstars of triathlon were in New Hampshire last weekend for the Timberman 70.3 triathlon. Chrissie Wellington, the two-time Kona World Ironman Champion, defended her title at this event as did Andy Potts, himself a world champion at the 70.3 distance.

Also in the field was Eddy.

Eddy, a 51-year old former smoker, was competing in his first Half Ironman race.

And he had an amazing day.

"I had my bike racked across from Chrissie Wellington and Andy Potts," Eddy wrote in his race report. "Pretty cool. In what other sport do you get to suit up with super stars?"

"How fortunate I am to be able to do this," he continued. "Whatever the day may bring, so be it."

Eddy completed his first 70.3 race, was pleased with the day and ready to try to improve for a next time.

In a few sentences, Eddy captured what can make triathlon so special and enjoyable.

First is the opportunity to play on the same field as elite athletes. The elites go off in the first wave, both in tri and major city marathons, but you're on the same course and, for the most part, suffering the same pain. The specific outcome may be different but significant parts of the journey are still the same. We all battle fears and doubts. We all struggle with pacing. We all have issues getting our nutrition and hydration just right. And we all learn a little bit more about ourselves with each effort.

But while the play with the pros factor has elements of coolness, perhaps the greater offering is the opportunity for continued growth.

There are few athletic arenas for adults to explore, but if we embrace life-long learning, we embrace the notion that sport can not only enrich your life and your health but open doors and windows of opportunity not otherwise available.

Those who take up running or swimming or triathlon or tennis are allowing themselves to be put on a path of discovery. It's an environment in which you can stretch your imagination, stretch your goals and get out of your comfort zone while still fully supported.

For some, the journey is a one-time thing. They compete in a triathlon or run a half marathon and decide that they've extracted from the experience what they needed to. Or, perhaps, that particular journey just didn't fit them.

For others, the journey continues.

And this sparks questions. Haven't you had enough? When does your special quest end?

These aren't really questions. They're judgments. We ask them of each other. We ask them of ourselves.

Often, we feel the necessity to justify our passions. There must be some specific outcome that we are striving for. There must be some measurement. There must be some way to quantify success, to note the end of the journey.

Oh, there are times when it's so easy to get caught up in the numbers. We want to hit certain paces or have certain finish times or place in the top 10.

So often we want those things because it helps us justify why we're doing something.

There are many different paths to joy and self discovery. For me, and many like me, I find endless amounts of joy and discovery through my adult athletic journey. It is about becoming not just the best athlete I'm capable of (regardless of where that "ranks" among others) but about becoming my best self. It's about stepping into who I am.

Being a triathlete doesn't define who I am.

Instead, triathlon is a means for me to discover definitions, try on new ones, discard old ones.

There are just a few weeks left until Muskoka 70.3. And while my training plan is currently in a high-intensity mode, the build for this race has been months in the making.

Whatever the day may bring, so be it.

Because each day we have the opportunity to explore and create and define for ourselves what we want and who we want to be.

It is through triathlon that I've fully realized I have that choice.

And in my personal journey, I'm acquiring the strength to step into those choices and be the person I want to be -- without apology.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Choosing the questions

"What do you plan to do with one wild and precious life?"

The quote from poet Mary Oliver resonates loudly some days. It's akin to another favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, "Do one thing every day that scares you."

Both are having their moments of shouting through the chatter these days.

And both are opening doors to opportunities and windows to insights. They are inspiring a flood of positive imagery and feelings of peace -- things which at first don't feel very natural. Worst case scenarios and anxiety are my traditional emotional M.O. along with nagging questions of "what if" that give voice to doubt and fear.

The exercise of writing down the "what ifs" can be productive, especially if you turn the tables on the what ifs. Because in my experience anyway, when you actually start writing down the what ifs and thinking them through, they sound, well, quite ridiculous. The thoughts just don't feel good. They no longer fit to who I am or what I'm about.

The traditional "what ifs" are exposed as frauds.

And wouldn't it be scary (thank you Mrs. Roosevelt) to think big, grande, positive what ifs instead?

The forum on the website GOTRIbal has become one my favorite surfing sites and one of the threads is from a woman doing her first half Ironman in September. She is nervous about making the swim cutoff.

I can relate. I also have my first half Ironman next month and doubts about hitting cutoff times fester in that negative part of my mind.

While getting great advice on what she can do in the coming weeks to improve her swim time, there's another important piece.

We can think, "What if I don't make the swim cutoff?" Or, we can think, "What if I win my age group?"

Are either of us likely to win our age group?

Um, no.

But that's not the point.

There is great power in the types of questions we ask -- the ones we ask ourselves, the ones we ask other people, even the rhetorical ones.

A friend gave me a copy of the book QBQ! The Question Behind the Question by John G. Miller. The book focuses on personal responsibility and believes in asking questions that start with "what" or "how" instead of "why." It's similar to the performance edge for athletes discussed by sports psychologist Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter (see this archived blog post for more info) where she encourages athletes to ask questions that lead to positive actions -- What can I learn from this? How can I use this situation to my advantage? -- instead of why questions which lead to negative responses and, more often than not, self pity.

And so it doesn't matter for me and my GOTRIbal friend what actually transpires during our half Ironman swim.

It's all in how we choose to frame it. What questions we choose to ask ourselves. What comfort zones we're willing to step out of and former limits we're willing to expand. What perspective we want to stand in. Because my worst day -- whether it's in triathlon, at work or in my personal relationships -- may be the ideal day for someone else.

By doing something each day that scares us, that pushes us a bit out of comfort zone, we're able to grow and expand and learn and laugh and smile. The outcome no longer matters.

What matters instead is what you choose.

And so, what is you choose to do with your one wild and precious life?

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

Ride report: Hills, dogs and rain

It was a day for adventure. At least that's the tactic for framing a challenging day that seems to produce the best results.

The combination of distance and climbing would be a challenge -- around 54 miles with about 3,500 feet of climbing around the Southern Tier. The weather could be challenging, too, as the forecast called for about a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms.

But, it would be an adventure, right?

In more ways than one.

The group bike ride of the Niagara Frontier Bicycle Club was unfortunately not well attended. This, from experience, is unusual. There were four of us and the ride leader was on a tandem bike so my friend and I were on our own with cue sheets, hydration and nutrition for the long ride.

And the adventure began immediately.

To paraphrase a line from Ghostbusters, where does this hill go? It goes up.

And up and up and up.

The accompanying photo is the very beginning of the ride. Forget a chance to warmup. On the bike and on to a 500 foot climb followed by a series of similar climbs.P8230063

Ah, but the plan worked well. Easy gear. Spin up the hill. Take your time. It's was a day planned for bike riding, a day planned for training. There was no hurry.

A difficult way to start the journey, for sure, but it instilled a sense of accomplishment and confidence at the top.

Not a bad way to cruise along some rolling hills toward Franklinville, the first scheduled store stop about 20 miles into the ride to replenish water.

And while some of the hills were obviously steep and difficult, others were rather deceptive, including a gradual climb with a incline at the end that was much more challenging than it looked upon approach.

"That last hill," our ride leader said at the store stop, "it didn't look like much but boy it hurt."

It is always somewhat comforting to know you are not the only one suffering through optical deception.

The ride continued and the route reached another challenging portion, beginning with a very short, very steep climb. The thought process was simple -- deep breath, relax, gear down, pedal in complete circles. At one point it became a great opportunity to practice "cutting the road" -- basically zig-zagging across the steep part to cut the incline a bit. For some reason, this seemed liked a good thing to do out of the saddle. The thought of having to walk the bike came through loud and clear but was quickly followed by its antonym "you can do this."

Once over the steepest grade, self-congratulations was put on hold as the road continued to climb. Another crest, another turn and another climb.

It seemed endless.

But one pedal stroke at a time kept the bike moving forward. It wasn't quite the high cadence that Chris Carmichael suggests, but that was the goal -- easy gear, keep turning the pedals, keep making complete circles.

And the climb was done. Slowly, yes, but consistently.

And the feeling was good.

Reliving and comparing notes about the climb as the route turned to gentle downhills came the next opportunity for adventure/challenge.

Charging dogs.

Two of them came out and rushed the bikes.

And one of them grabbed my left calf with his mouth.

We kept pedaling (and I'm pretty sure I let out some rather unproductive, but completely reactionary, screams) and got past the dogs.

However, I was bit. Not badly, but the skin was broken.

Pulling off to the side of the road, my friend had a small first-aid kit with him to clean up the bite. He went back to the owner and exchanged information. She was very apologetic and helpful.

Looking for an experience? First time bit by a dog.

There still was half the ride to finish. And while the calf was a bit sore, it didn't hurt. The antiseptic cleaned out the small amount of blood and the ride soldiered on.

The route flattened out as it stretch to Great Valley and Humphrey allowing for a nice break from the hills and a chance to gain a bit of speed.

Ellicottville offered the final store stop and a quick bathroom break before finishing off the final 13 miles of the ride.

Which is when the rain came.

The rain provides its own set of challenges. Climbing is more difficult because of the wet roads. Descending is scarier because of the wet roads and wet brakes. Seeing the road becomes difficult because sunglasses get sprayed with water, however taking them off poses the challenge of flying dust and gravel in your eyes.

And then there's just the fact of being wet and cold.

The pace slowed down over those last few miles as safety was obviously of more importance than heart rate zones or average speed.

Just when there are only a few miles left in the ride, the route takes its final climb on Snake Run Road -- long and painful.

In a way, it was perfect training both physically and mentally for the 70.3 race in Muskoka. That bike course, it's been reported, has its toughest hills in the last five miles. No time to shut the mind down and coast in to the transition area. You have to work the entire time. This was excellent preparation for a similar scenario.

Pretty it wasn't, but it certainly was entertaining. 

Because rides like this aren't just about the physical aspect of duration and elevation, although that plays a huge part in it.

Rides like this are about the adventure, about the challenge. It's about surviving charging dogs and rain. It's about sharing the moment with a dear, sweat friend and making a few new ones along the way.

It's about realizing that no matter what the universe may throw at you, you indeed are stronger than you believe.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz.

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