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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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