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One ridiculous drill

The drill was slightly ridiculous.

Or perhaps it just looked that way.

Thankfully there were few people at the pool and the far lane was open with no one nearby. That meant I could look ridiculous, uncoordinated and splash all over the place without disturbing anyone else.

Swim workouts are cycling through a series of drills all designed to help with some specific aspect of the stroke -- or the kick.

This particular one was dubbed the "water polo drill." New to me, I faithfully looked at the video clip before heading off to the pool, took a deep breath and tried it.

And ... this is hard.

The drill involves swimming for half a length of the pool with your arms wide and head out of water -- like a water polo player (hence the name). For the second half of the length, you are supposed to put your head down and swim to the wall without taking a breath.

But swimming with my head out water was difficult. It hurt my neck. And my shoulders burned. And I had trouble keeping my face out of the water. Then came the second half -- and holding my breath during multiple strokes is something I'm not very talented at.

So that didn't work so well.

I tried though. I kept at it and did as many as I could, regardless of how ugly they were. Once I felt myself completely losing form, I moved to other drills.

The idea behind the water polo drill is to keep your arms wide and prevent them from crossing over in front of your face. That's what I concentrated on the entire workout, even as I moved onto other drills and laps of plain swimming.

Frankly, there was some frustration and a big dose of, "I just can't do this." That's a line of thinking that hasn't crept into my brain in some time. At least not with the kind of power that had me considering just getting out of the pool and telling my coach in no uncertain terms I just can't do that drill.

But that was a choice I was making. I chose to believe that I couldn't do the drill. Then I chose to believe the drill wasn't helping me at all.

The great thing is that we get to choose again.

Instead of choosing to focus on what was difficult and painful, I shifted my thinking to what was positive and possible. My stroke was getting better, just by trying new things. My catch would be wide. The stumble of the first few times would mean that I could get better at it. My shoulders were getting stronger.

Perfect? Not even close. Not even close to a perfect attitude when I finished the hour workout and got out of the water.

But it was better.

I made it through. Survived. Modified when needed to. The session was still useful and successful and the world still rotated on its axis. 

There are times after difficult workouts where the thought occurs that my skill level might be regressing.

But is it possible to regress? After learning and living and being aware, can we really move backward?

Or does all movement bring us closer to our goals, our dreams and ultimately hour happiness?

If it's in how we think that creates our reality, I choose to believe that we're always moving forward, regardless of how ridiculous it may look at the time.

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

Race report: Linda Yalem Safety Run

At the first mile marker, I had regretted my wardrobe decision.

This is what folks like to call a "teachable moment." While checking the weather forecast and deciding to definitely go with a short-sleeved running shirt, the overnight rain and chance of showers prompted me to wear lightweight capri running tights.

What I failed to take into consideration -- the humidity.

Yep. Should have worn shorts or a plain old running skirt. This was uncomfortable.

Also uncomfortable -- my shoulders, which presumably ached a bit from my first week back in the gym for strength training, and my core, which at times felt like someone had punched me in the gut.

Ah, the 5K. It can be the most difficult event to actually try to race. Training to finish a 5K is a reachable goal for anyone. But always wanting to try and go a bit faster, try to set a new personal record, well, that can fun, challenging and a bit frustrating. Particularly when your training has been focused on longer distances.

Still, when my friends Karyn and Jessica decided to run the Linda Yalem 5K Safety Run, I jumped at the chance.

It's the official off-season with lower-key workouts. This was a chance to run a 5K just for fun, with good friends, with no heart rate monitor or numbers to record for testing purposes. It was a chance to run for a good cause. Yalem was a sophomore at the University at Buffalo in 1990 when she was attacked and killed on the bike path near the campus.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the safety run which highlights ways in which people can be safe when running.

And while the message is simple, it's powerful, and a great reminder for those of us who from time to time forget key items that can keep us safe on the roads and trails. Like not running alone, varying your route, not using earphones and trusting your intuition about a person or an area.

The actual race takes runners around the roads of the UB campus. Students from all walks of life volunteer and line the route with signs and cheers to help the 1,500 or so participants get through the course. They were pretty amusing at times, from witty signs to general cheering. It was notable spirit for college kids at 9:30 on a Sunday morning -- in cool temperatures and a drizzle that turned into rain.

I started off running with Karyn and Jessica, but after a mile they dropped me. Well, I dropped back. That start pace was a bit much for me and two weeks of enjoying mostly strength training and short easy runs, plus a bit too much of the off-season excused junk food had me a bit on the slow side. Speed work had not been on my agenda for quite some time. Racing with pacing for endurance events had been my calling card this summer. The short stuff? Yeah. It's harder than I remember.

In the end, my time was about a minute off my personal best. And that had me slightly disappointed. But it does mean that for the past two weeks I got adequate rest and have a starting point for 2010 training. Being disappointed is OK. It means I want to get better. And for the record, the disappointment didn't ruin the day. Because in the end, it was some pretty good laughs with some pretty good friends.

And that's the best part of the race report.

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

Back to the weight room

The day before the Muskoka race, a panel of professional triathletes gathered for a Q&A session and perhaps one of the best questions asked was about strength training.

What do these pros do when it comes to strength training?

The best answer came from one of the guys who noted he was too competitive to go the gym and strength train since the amount of weight he would be lifting would pale in comparison to the amount the guys who lived in the gym year-round could lift.

That elicited a hearty round of laughs.

But mostly, the professional triathletes add some strength training in during the off season. Most of them (at least the ones on this panel) disliked traditional weight training. Some opted to do strength building exercises within the three sports, like swimming with paddles or running hills. Everyone did core work and some of the women noted they added pilates to their routine.

Strength building for them was mostly seen as an injury prevention and general health maintenance.

And something they didn't quite enjoy.

So it's a bit off the beaten path when I tell you that I actually enjoyed my past week of off-season training, filled with strength training and drills.

The warning was stark in my training plan. "Remember we are back to basics here," my coach wrote. "The next three weeks will be very boring. Use this time to work on good mental and physical habits."

Granted, I completely complained about the one-legged cycling drills (more on that later) but quietly, I've enjoyed the focus on drills and strength. It might be because it's the first week and the repetition hasn't set in just yet. Repetition is boring. It's supposed to be. It's supposed to be the same simple thing, over and over again, until it becomes ingrained in your brain, or in your body, or both. There's a reason why I can say hello to Marie France and ask how she's doing in French -- because that's how every single French class in high school began.

But to be honest, there's something about the basics that I find appealing. There's something satisfying in that low-level soreness from pushups and bench presses. There's something satisfying in repeating finger-tip drag drills in the pool or surviving five sets of one-leg bike drills. Performing the basics means slowing down. It means being thoughtful about what you're doing. 

It's actually a nice break from trying to hit target paces and zones. It's simple and yet it feels like progress is being made.

Which is something to remind myself while doing one-legged bike drills again today.

It's about slowing down and working on my pedal stroke, about focusing on technique which will make me a faster cyclists once the spring rolls around.

When I take my time in the gym, it won't be about lifting more (or as much) as someone else, but about getting my body stronger and more fit.

There's nothing like drill work to take you back to the basics of sport -- working to become the best athlete you can become, regardless of where that may rank you among others.

And there definitely is something satisfying in that.

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

The other cycling Armstrong

The remake of the movie "Fame" opens this weekend and children of the 1980s might remember that one-hit wonder by Irene Cara and the chorus which implores listeners to "remember my name."

That particular line comes to mind when reading about Kristin Armstrong this week.

Because while it's easy for people to remember her name, they probably don't really know who she is.

Kristin Armstrong, in fact, is the best American female cyclist. And unless you make podium picks for the Vuelta with your friends on Facebook, you may have never heard of her.

She is not related to Lance Armstrong. Nor is she Kristin Richard Armstrong, Lance's ex-wife.

She is Kristin Armstrong -- 36 years old, from Idaho and a world and Olympic cycling champion.

And if you enjoy getting on the bandwagon, you have one more opportunity to do so.

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Kristin Armstrong is retiring from professional cycling after the world championship road race on Saturday. This after Wednesday becoming the World Champion in the Time Trial for the second time in her career. She goes out on top with not only the Rainbow Jersey but with a gold medal from the Beijing Olympics and countless other wins in time trials and stage races.

She earned the respect of the other cycling Armstrong, Lance, who gave her a shout-out on his Twitter account yesterday ("Congrats to Kristin Armstrong!!!"), linking to the story of her winning the time trial.

Armstrong actually came to cycling late. She was a triathlete who was told by her doctors that she had developed osteoarthritis -- a condition where the cartilage in joints wears down over time, especially in hands, hips, knees and spine. Running was out. But cycling was in. And so began her career with a bronze medal at the 2003 Pan American Games. By 2006, she was the gold medalist at the same event.

According to an article in the New York Times, Armstrong is sticking to her retirement plans -- unlike so many high level athletes from Lance himself to tennis star Kim Clijsters who retired, had a baby, and returned to win the U.S. Open this year.

Armstrong wants to have a family and is interested in becoming a sport director to help develop a new generation of female cyclists.

Perhaps in her retirement, she'll be able to widen her circle of fame. Or even more importantly, help grow the sport of cycling in the United State, particularly for women who, in typical sporting fashion have fewer competitions, prize money and sponsorship opportunities than their male counterparts.

Granted, none of that seemed to slow the career trajectory for Armstrong.

It's just a shame we're getting to know her upon her retirement.

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

When I'm old

It was my great aunt's wake and the debate in my mind was this: would my grandmother and her sister be (a) hugging each other in the afterlife, (b) fighting or (c) ignoring each other. In all probability they probably would be doing option (d) -- cycle through a through c, play bingo. Repeat.

That's how the women in my maternal line roll.

My great aunt died at age 90 over the weekend. She was my maternal grandmother's sister. The two of them spent the majority of their life (well, at least the part of their lives where I existed) fighting with each other. Together, they combined passive-aggressiveness, guilt and stubbornness into a finely tuned piece of art such that the traits should be retired from human consciousness for the rest of time. (Not that I learned a sense of hyperbole from either of them, either.)

Death has a way of refocusing your thoughts, shuffling them around and bringing old ideas and memories to the forefront. And so I thought a lot about my grandmother the past few days. And with that came a great sense of gratitude.

That bike ride on a hot, misty evening was a gift. So was the slow run early in the morning. Even those sore shoulders from the return to weight training counted as a gift.

It was really just a simple observation of gratitude -- one for my health and the other for my passion.

I train and compete in triathlon because I can. Because I have the health to do it. It might be part of a chicken-and-egg syndrome. Am I healthy because I train or can I train because I am already healthy? Either way, the two play off each other. And I am in position to let the wealth grow in both -- a position too valuable to squander.

But in answering the question, why do you do triathlon, it's not just because I physically can. It's also because, well, I want to.

Health, wellness and sports have always been a huge part of my being. They are among the things I'm passionate about. In training and racing, I've found a perfect match for my passion and desire on multiple levels.

And while basic health was on my mind so too was the thought of passion.

My great aunt, well, I don't know what she was passionate about exactly but the way in which she and my grandmother used to alternately love and hate each other shows that they both had oodles of it. Perhaps misdirected, but they certainly had passion.

For me, in this moment of my life, my passion is for running, cycling and swimming. My passion is in training and all the things it gives me in life -- a circle of friends whom I adore, health, strength, focus, opportunity.

Perhaps the specific outlet of my passion will change in a few years. But the specifics aren't what's important. It doesn't much matter if your passions lead you to an Ironman or to finishing a 5K. It doesn't much matter if your passions lead you elsewhere, perhaps to another educational degree, a new language, a new style of cooking a new hobby or business opportunity.

What matters is enjoying what you do, have a sense of gratitude and dream even bigger.

When I was deciding about some big races to enter, some big goals and big dreams that frankly scared me in their bigness, my friend Sue offered me some great advice. She told me that when I'm old and in my rocking chair, what kind of stories do I want to tell? What kind of life do I want to have to reflect back on and life over again?

It couples nicely with a quote I recently stumbled upon:

When I'm old, I don't want them to say of me, "She's so charming." I want them to say, "Be careful. I think she's armed."

It might just be a pretty good description of my grandmother and her sister.

And it's something that I'm aspiring to.

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

Early morning runs

My brain tried to make it miserable.

It thought about the early hour. About the darkness. About the uncertainty of how to dress for the early, dark September run.

It thought about the soreness in my shoulders from last night's return to the weight room and strength training.

It thought about how this body had not run in over a week -- since surviving the final 13.1 miles of the half Ironman.

My brain really wanted to dread the cadence checks and the easy pace of the 30 minute run.

Funny thing, though.

My body wasn't listening.

A few minutes into the run, my friend Sue asked, "Do your legs want to go?"

Oddly enough, my answer was yes.

My legs wanted to go.

They felt a bit neglected over the last week. With much surprise to my brain, my legs felt fresh. Hitting my basic cadence checks was rather easy. And while yes, my shoulders were a bit sore from strength training overall, that 30 minute run felt .... good.

My brain gave up trying to fight it.

Because for all the thoughts and dread and worry it tried to give me, nothing really took. Not one of those negative thoughts felt real. 

What did feel real was the opportunity to run again. A basic run. Nothing fancy. Nothing crazy. Just a moderate heart rate zone and attention to form, specifically a high cadence and good arm movement.

And when the 30 minutes passed, everything felt good. My body. My soul. Even my brain decided that it was a good run.

These next few weeks are about structured off-season activity which means scheduled training, but lighter in intensity when it comes to biking and running and with an emphasis on drills, form and strength training.

Before my runs this week, I'm supposed to practice my arm form in the mirror.

The basics of arm form correction are demonstrated in the following YouTube video.

And as unusual as it sounds, the drill-like practice is something I enjoy. Repetition is supposed to be boring -- and after a week of arm pumping in the mirror I'm sure it will get old fast. But it's the key to correcting form, perfecting technique and getting better at little things. There's something comforting in that -- in working on small things and polishing the pieces.

These are the things which will make me stronger. Which will make me believe I'm faster, regardless of what the clock or standings say.

These are the things that make all those negatives concocted by my brain meaningless to my body and soul.

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

Evaluation time

For the better part of a year the list hung from the refrigerator door.

Some days, it blended into the background amid other flyers, announcements and photos that can create the collage of our life.

Other days, it jumped out at me, bold and colorful both inspiring and intimidating.

And now, the list comes down for evaluation.

My list of goals for the 2009 triathlon season.

All in all, it was a pretty darn good year.

The goals were divided into three sections -- the big list, the medium list and the small list with the idea that the goals were actually a ladder, the small and medium ones helping to achieve the big ones. I suspect that for next year, I'll frame the goals differently and give different definitions to "goals" and "outcomes." But more on that later.

Right now, it's time to look at what we've got.

Actually, the big list is pretty easy. There were just two items on there: the Buffalo Marathon and Muskoka 70.3. Check and check. The goal was to complete them to the best of my ability and to learn from them. Perhaps my biggest learning opportunity came in the marathon, where I abandoned my nutrition plan for no apparent reason. It also was a chance to realize how important mindset is. It's one thing to intellectually understand the mind-body connection. It's another to feel it work. Granted, the marathon gave the opportunity to see the mind-body connection from a positive and negative standpoint. 

It also taught me that outcome-based goals can cause more problems than they're worth. I entered the marathon with specific pace goals and a finish time in mind.

Well, when you throw away your nutrition plan you can throw away your pacing plan.

By the end, it didn't matter how fast or slow I went. The marathon is about something much bigger than yourself. And that finish time? It gives me a goal for the next time. It gives me a base of understanding about my body, my mentality and where I can go from here.

Muskoka 70.3 was also a in-it-to-finish event. Time goals? I was specifically told by my coach not to have time goals. As a first-timer on an exceptionally hilly and challenging course, it's difficult to predict times. After all, who knew how my body would react to running 13.1 miles after a hilly 58-miles on the bike and a 1.2-mile swim?

The theme for Muskoka was enjoyment and celebration. That was a big check mark.

A few days before the race, a couple at the beach offered a good reminder: "You're healthy enough to even consider doing this," a fellow triathlete said. "That's the important thing."

While getting my pre-race anxiety under control is a goal for next year, it's reminders like that -- about my health and my ability to tackle endurance challenges at all -- that keep me grounded.

The medium list of goals were more specific outcomes. First came improving in all disciplines, especially swimming. Failing to have the quantitative data to prove that came true, qualitative it feels deserving of a check mark. My swim is much less panicked. There was only one rest on a kayak this year --- in the first race of the year at Keuka where the cold water and lack of open water availability caused a bit of a panic. Overall, the swim felt better and the realization that I can indeed swim became strong. It became a given.

After learning how to swim 22 months ago where my time in the pool was spent bobbing up and down and floating on my back, this new mental state in the water indeed was an improvement.

My running and cycling? I felt like they were better for sure.

Also on the medium list was a sub-2:15 half marathon in Miami. Running the ING Miami Half Marathon with good friends was a great introduction to distance running. And I finished the race in 2:09 -- pleased even though I felt I could do something faster. Which is why this race is on my list again for 2010.

The only goal not achieved was a sub-25 minute 5K. I did run a PR in the Loughran's Alumni Race but still am off that 25-minute mark. This is not a worry. Training for the marathon and Muskoka involved distance, not speed work. The primary goal wasn't that 5K time and so we sacrificed that outcome in order to achieve something else.

Ah, but that sub-25 5K is coming. I just don't know when.

The small list goals were daily ways of being including reducing negative self talk, having good every day nutrition without getting compulsive about it and keeping things simple -- realizing that nothing hinges on one thing.

Some days these are the toughest goals. They are the ones completely in our control. They are the little things that make a huge a difference.

It's about controlling your attitude and your work ethic.

Will it earn me a podium spot at a triathlon or road race?

Perhaps.

But not necessarily right away. Nor is a podium spot necessarily the goal.

It's about becoming the best athlete I can be. It's about honoring where I came from, where I'm at and where I'm going.

it's about living the life I've imagined.

And letting that imagination take me places I've never dreamed.

Perhaps that's the true beauty of goal setting -- not in reaching the preset desired outcomes but in laying out a path that can take you to place you never knew existed.

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

The Nutella recovery

The Nutella never tasted so good. The chocolate-hazelnut spread lightly melted as it spread across my morning whole grain toast.

Oh yes, I could sing odes to Nutella. Along with the other "junk" food I'm indulging in this week. For the record, it's not a gorge fest but rather the addition of treats -- things given up while training for Muskoka. Granted, I probably didn't go much faster as a result of passing on donuts and ice cream for a few months. But it did help me improve my overall health and helped me mentally believe I was putting myself in the best possible position for race day. And so came my little sacrifices.

This is the time period now to enjoy.

Welcome to active recovery and the off-season.

For three days I did nothing. No swimming. No biking. No running. No strength training. Heck, not even much stretching.

Yesterday became the first day back to activity. The practice of active recovery is to engage in low-intensity workouts in the days following a difficult race. The idea is to physically (and psychologically) maintain some fitness while allowing the body to recovery from the punishment of the race (and the training leading up to it).

Light and low intensity means no running for a few more days. But it did mean getting back on my bike for a light 30 minutes. Moving the legs around felt good. Very good.

Then came 30 minutes in the water for a steady swim. I enjoyed the movement in the water, the feel of the glide -- and it all came without wearing my cherished my fins. Perhaps the best part of the active recovery in the pool is swimming for enjoyment instead of for results and the complete confidence that inspires in a still-learning swimmer.

The weekend brings more low-key bike rides and easy swims. Next week officially launches a four-week structured off-season. The key is to get enough rest for the body and enjoy my downtime, without inhaling an entire package of cookies or jar of Nutella during a Law and Order marathon. 

Then again, nothing ushers in the transition to fall as much as taking a long bike ride to get donuts and cider.

It's a great chance to celebrate the accomplishment, take in the changes, and start to dream and plan for next year.

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

The inexact science of compression socks

Members of the Buffalo Triathlon Club were perched in their typical spot on the Ironman Lake Placid course -- one one of the final hills leading toward the Olympic Oval. It was there a friend and I decided we could construct an Ironman drinking game -- take a swig every time you see someone wearing compression socks.

Never before had I seen so many runners wearing the high socks created to help improve circulation.

And this year, they came with some controversy.

Apparently, there was talk of banning compression socks. The "official" word was said to be that compression socks -- or knee socks or medical tape -- that covered the calf and hence the body marking of your age group, would be deemed illegal by the World Triathlon Corporation -- the company which runs the Ironman race series and next month's Kona World Championships.

However, last week, the WTC reversed its ban on compression socks and instead will eliminate body marking on the calf.

According to an article on slowtwitch.com, about 25 percent of the Kona field last year (416 athletes) wore compression socks during the bike and/or run. (The count in 2007 was 82 and in 2006 was 16).

Which leads to the debate about compression socks -- are they just a fad?

The answer seems to be mixed.

Search for articles in Runners World and you find competing evidence:

In December 2008, there is a link to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning which concluded that "stockings with constant compression in the area of the calf muscle significantly improved running performance."

Ah, but in January 2009 came a study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports which said that the "socks seemed to have no effect on the athletes performance or recovery, though the sock-wearing athletes reported less muscle soreness."

The conclusion from John Smith, an assistant professor kinesiology at Texas A&M as quoted in a piece on AOL Health, is that compression socks won't hurt you, but they may not help you.

Perhaps compression socks are something to play around with in the offseason. For sure, my calf muscles are often tight, particularly after biking. Then again, if I concentrated on my form and didn't point my toe when I pedaled as much as I do, or if I was more faithful to my yoga program, perhaps I wouldn't need the fancy socks.

Or, perhaps the fancy socks combined with better technique and flexibility training would make my recovery time faster and more productive.

More likely, whatever I believe will happen by wearing compression socks (or not) probably will. One thing that as come clearer through training and racing is that life is often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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

Reflections on Muskoka

It was the designated general swim warmups and the Wassner twins were getting their gear together. Rebeccah and Laurel, from the New York City area, are professional triathletes who competed in Sunday's Ironman Muskoka 70.3 race.

As they were preparing for the swim one of the twins asked, "Where did you get your swim cap."

"It was in my packet. Wasn't yours?"

"No."

It's one of the beautiful things about triathlon and something that really hit home this weekend. The pros may have sponsorship and be full-time athletes, but at heart, they really are just like us common age-groupers. (For the record, Rebeccah finished second and Laurel fifth.)

Heck, even Craig Alexander, the defending Kona World Champion, lost his timing chip after the swim. And while officials tried to flag him down in transition, Alexander was too focused to notice. It was fellow competitor Richie Cunningham who took the timing chip out on the bike and handed it off to Alexander.

Alexander won the Muskoka event in 3:58:04 while Mirinda Carfrae took the women's title in 4:24:48. (For a complete write up on the elite race check out this article.)

Other items of note from Muskoka and race day:

  • Canadians enhanced their reputation for being friendly. Yesterday, I noted how much I loved the town of Dorset, which welcomed triathletes emphatically and in style. I received several cyberspace welcomes, including from the blog My Muskoka and Bondi Resort. In fact, Nancy of Bondi Resort was a volunteer on the bike course. She noted in a comment where she would be and, sure enough, as I approached the turn onto Dwight Beach Road, I encountered two enthusiastic women giving directions and cheering on the athletes. I shouted if either one of them was Nancy and one responded that she was, I replied that I was Amy from Buffalo. She ran along side my bike, welcomed me and said I looked strong. Seriously, how can you help but smile at that?
  • Another moment of pleasantry came at the run turnaround. An older gentleman was sitting on a chair in his front yard watching the runners start out on the final 10K of the day. As I approached he started talking to me. "Good afternoon. Where are you from?" I told him from Buffalo. "Well, welcome to Muskoka." It was like having my grandfather say hello. And it carried me through the next 4K.
  • There were several new experiences for me in the swim, from the aggressiveness of some of the other swimmers to the experience of the wetsuit strippers. But another first for me is, well, a bit of a delicate topic. For those not part of the triathlon world, the wetsuit can act as, well, a temporary bathroom. It's something that everyone does, but something I've never been able to master. And trust me, I tried. I just figured it was some mental block I'd never quite get over. Until Sunday. When in last chance swim warmups I, well, let go. And while it may sound silly to those not in the tri world, this was exciting to me. In fact, it was one of the first things I told my friends and family as I came out of the water. I knew it would be a good day from that moment on. Seriously.
  • Back with friends reliving parts of the race one thing became clear -- we all suffer at the same points. It didn't matter if someone did the race in five hours or just under nine hours, we all hated that big hill on the run. We all had stories from the bike course. It's one of the things that makes endurance sports unique. Heck, if Craig Alexander was there chatting with us, he probably would have said how difficult that hill on the run was or that the bike course was challenging. It doesn't matter how fast you are -- a tough course is a tough course.
  • Speaking of the pros, at least three of the first athletes off the bike were assessed penalties for missing the dismount line. And so spectators starting yelling, "Get off your bike!" An official commented that he never heard fans collectively help the athletes like that before.
  • Any Lowest of the Low fans out there? I started singing "A Letter from Bilbao" on the bike course when passing a highway sign with the milage to the town of Lindsay.

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

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