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Grateful for the right to play

A glorious autumn morning meant only one thing -- a run at Chestnut Ridge Park. The lower loop is just under four miles and includes lots of hills, including the locally infamous "Mother" or "Big Mother" or another juxtaposition with profanity if you're having a really bad day.

Running a rather easy pace with my friend Sue, we chatted and she brought up an article she had recently read about an marathoner who was struggling to overcome injuries after being hit by a car in a crosswalk. Her recovery has been painful. A good day is when she can walk 50 feet, let alone run a mile, and a brain injury causes her to go from normal one day to withdrawn and repetitive the next.

As I looked at the clear blue sky, drank in the crisp air and noticed the artistic patchwork of colored leaves, a sense gratitude enveloped me. Yes, I struggled mightily up "Mother" and felt slow and fat. But my outlook quickly changed. How lucky I was to be able to run at all. Yes, we would all like to run faster. We'd all be happy to win our age group and some of us would be happy to win an overall race. In the end, none of that matters if you don't have the basic physical ability to participate -- whether its a fitness run for fun with friends or the the Turkey Trot or training for a marathon.

Filled with gratitude, my bike was calling me. Time to get in my hour on the bike trainer, doing one-legged drills in my basement. I slapped on my iPod and caught up with an old episode of "Only a Game" -- sports talk NPR radio style.

The final story on the show featured the organization Right to Play and it's work in Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. This particular piece featured teams for girls-only. There was an under-12 girls soccer team but soccer and a basketball team for those over 16. The girls in this particular camp wanted to play soccer (or football as it's called every other place in the world). Why? Because they loved to play. They loved the game. And they faced a number of barriers to just playing. We're not talking about winning any championships here. Not even talking about winning many games. The girls wanted to play.

The group Right to Play describes itself as a humanitarian organization that uses sports as a way to improve health, education, skills and foster peace for children in countries affected by war, poverty and disease. They work with boys and girls and see sports as a way to help children grow in multiple ways.

For the girls in the story, they have physical limitations of space. They also have cultural limitations where many parents are nervous about their daughters playing sports, fearing injury both physically and socially, where modesty for women in public is partly a religious tenant.

Right to Play is sensitive to those fears and creating safe spaces for girls to do what all children should be able to do -- play.

As I peddled away on my bike trainer, again, I felt fortunate to be able to create my own space to explore the joys of movement and reap the benefits of exercise and physical activity. I know that I am a better version of myself because of running, swimming and cycling. 

And so I begin the new week in gratitude, for the health, the freedom and the space afforded me in order to participate in the sports that bring me joy, passion and peace.

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

The smiles of Deena Kastor

Last week marked the return of Deena Kastor to the marathon when she ran in Chicago.

The 36-year-old American won the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics and was gunning for another podium finish in 2008 when she broke her foot five kilometers into the race.

Kastor The emergence of Kara Goucher on the American marathon scene has taken some of the spotlight away from Kastor, as she has spent the better part of the last few years recovering from her injury and dealing with returning flair-ups in in her foot.

But Kastor still has her eyes set on the next Olympics

"The fact that my Olympic dream was basically broken is keeping me in the sport until London in 2012," she told the Canadian Press before the Chicago race. "I'll try to fulfill a brighter medal than bronze. In that way, it has kept me in the sport."

It's not just her drive for gold which makes Kastor a likable figure in running but the demeanor in which she seems to approach life.

And the way in which her stories can be relatable to the rest of us who have slugged through a distance event.

Take one of the problems she had at Chicago last weekend.

She, um, needed to pull of the course for a bathroom break.

It was her first marathon since pulling out of the race in Beijing and the world-class runner had knots in her stomach. And she didn't get to the bathroom before the start of the race.

"It was just bad timing," she said in an article on Runners World. "You never want to go to the start without going to the bathroom first, but that's what happened to me today. I was battling it the whole way but finally at 35K I had to pull off the course and visit a porta potty."

How many runners have been there, done that?

Raise your hands.

OK, you don't have to raise your hands, but most runners have had unfortunate bad timing when it comes to using the bathroom. Or finding a bathroom. Or using a porta potty only to find that there, um, is no toilet paper and well you actually really needed toilet paper.

For Kastor, the race had other problems, like having her water bottle accidentally knocked off the table (elite runners have their own "aid" stations where they can have their own hydration supplied). She decided to return to retrieve it choosing the calories and hydration over keeping contact with the lead group.

She finished the marathon in 2:28:50 for sixth place, well off her American record of 2:19:36 that she set in 2006.

Yet Kastor was reportedly all smiles after the race.

Why? When so many things went wrong?

Simply because she finished the race. With injury and recovery nothing is a given and she got through the 26.2 miles. She battled through her bathroom issue, pace issues and other race-day gems. Kastor has an actual race performance under her belt -- and now the training can be tuned into her strengths and weaknesses from that performance.

Sometimes we have to see where things fall apart so we can move forward. Because often things are only catastrophic if we view then that way. We can frame a "bad thing" as a learning experiences or even turn it into a positive experience -- one of getting through setbacks to finish, even if the outcome isn't what we were hoping for.

And at the very best, we can have some good stories to tell if we keep smiling and our sense of humor.

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

Worlds of friendship

The snooze button was calling. Unusual dreams kept me from a productive night's sleep and the knowledge of a cold, scrapping-the-ice-off-the-car kind of morning was not calling me forth to the pool.

But my friend was.

I promised her I'd be at the pool for my morning workout. And in the grand scheme of life and friendship, had I sent her a text that I wouldn't make, she would have been just fine with swimming on her own.

Something about the knowledge that another person is waiting on you helps get you out of bed. The swim wasn't brilliant or spectacular. In fact, it was my first swim ever with the accessory of paddles for a drill and my arms and shoulders burned during those sets.

Getting the work done and starting the day with a friendly face however, set the tone for a productive day.

It was about 12 hours later when we had planned to meet up for a strength training workout. Upon arrival, she was upset about a problem with her cell phone and about as annoyed as I have ever seen her. We chatted about the issue then went on with the business of lat pull downs, leg curls and core work chatting about other topics -- some a continuing saga of important issues in our lives, some just fun and frivolous.

Afterwards, she thanked for the workout and said she felt better.

"I was cranky when I got here," she said.

Mentally I noted that at a run we did earlier in the week it was me who was cranky and whinny until we completed the work.

It's widely accepted that exercise helps improve your mood. Some days, a good solitary run or bike ride is exactly what I need to soothe my soul.

Other days though, it is training with a group that brings out the best in the workout. 

And that's when a tweet from Gail Lynn Goodwin gave me a reason to reflect:

Don't let those that "don't get it" keep you from following your dream. Build your tribe with those who support you.

It's not just that I'm faster when I run with Sue or Karyn or get motivated to get out the door because someone else is waiting on me that group training has been a key for me.

It's that I receive support and encouragement in profound ways from people who understand where I'm coming from and where I want to go. It's an energy we create together which opens up doors of possibility.

In reality, we are constantly building our own tribe. It's not about surrounding yourself with "yes" people but about surrounding yourself with people who understand what you're about, who encourage and support you. It's those who will run with you at 5 a.m., lift weights with at 8 p.m. and pace you through an important race. It's those who will understand when you want to run by yourself and when you need to run with them to vent about relationships or work or family or life.

It can take time and patience to find that tribe. Members of it may come and go and come back again. And frankly, as adults, it can be difficult to make new friends as we're caught in our normal routines, family lives and established circles.

But going outside our comfort zone to look for new members of our tribe can be infinitely rewarding.

And so another quote stumbled across my laptop, courtesy of Colleen Cannon from Women's Quest who quoted author and diarist Anais Nin:

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until the arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

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

The goodness of the donut

To me, it is one of the happiest places on earth. In fact, it's so happy that I took a friend of mine on an impromptu field trip there over the weekend to try and cheer him up.

Because really, who doesn't get cheered up by a trip to the cider mill.

There was the smell of cinnamon and sugar and apples lofting through the air. We picked up a donut and some fresh cider and enjoyed one of the delight's of autumn.

It was a pretty simple outing, but came to mind when reading through this week's newsletter from USA Triathlon.

An article by Bob Seebohar, a sports nutritionist and elite triathlon coach, tells athletes to not try to lose weight in the off season.

That's right -- forget trying to lose weight.

The idea of the article is not lose sight of good nutrition, but to not become fixated on counting calories. Instead, he suggests learning the difference between your physical and habitual hunger and allowing yourself to enjoy "fun" foods. You may overindulge at first, but Seebohar says that's OK, because it's part of the learning process. 

"This has nothing to do with will power," he writes. "It's about getting to know your body, supporting the role that emotions play in eating and allowing yourself permission to eat according to what your body is telling you."

OK, so my body may not have been telling me to eat an apple spice donut. Or was it? Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year, in large part because of the culinary treats.

I pulled out my binder of information from a Women's Quest retreat and reread the information on nutrition. The guideline from these group of former professional triathletes?

Part of it is the 80-20 guideline, feeding themselves the best food 80 percent of the time with a 20 percent margin to enjoy yourself. Into everyone's life a little dessert must fall (or french fries or movie theater popcorn) and denying yourself the treat ends up making you feel worse than if you had a serving. And the self-denial will likely lead to a binge -- an entire dozen of donuts -- which also will make you feel bad.

And why should food make you feel bad?

So did my body tell me to eat my donut treat?

In a way, yes. Not because it craved the fat or sugar but because it was something I enjoyed and got to share with a friend.

Was it emotional eating?

In a way, yes. But if fueled me in a productive, fun way and I was able to enjoy it in moderation, without wanting a second or third donut or feeling bad or wrong that I ate one to begin with.

And it's the offseason.

Time to enjoy and celebrate.

Pass the apple pie.

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

Swim test day

My mouth is suddenly dry. My heart catches in my throat and my legs feel jiggly, unstable.

It is 400-yard test day in the pool. And I'm nervous. 

The workout is simple: a very easy 800 yards to warm up then swim a hard 400 and record your time. Rest for a minute or two and do it again. Finish up with a 200 yard cool down.

Oh, but no fins. For any of it. Not even the warmup.

Yes, my Zoomers may be a slight crutch of mine. And while I know I can swim without them, I can't swim as fast without them. They contain magical powers that turn me into a swimmer ... one that is still pretty slow even with the magical flippers on my feet.

But I had to push those thoughts out of my mind. That's not what today's workout was about.

Today's workout had a purpose and the sooner I directed my mind to that purpose, the sooner I would calm down, get to work and enjoy the endeavor and hence the rest of my day.

The purpose was to record a performance indicator for my swim. It's a baseline. It's a starting point. It's a number I'll put on my refrigerator along with my last 5K time. Those are the times I want to drop. While I'm working toward "big" goals at the half marathon in Miami and 70.3 races in 2010, I don't set those goal times and work backwards. I see where I'm at in the shorter distances, in things I can replicated, and use that to indicated what I can do in any given race situation.

It doesn't matter what my time is. Doesn't matter if it's fast or slow. Because it isn't really fast or slow. It's just my time, and my time alone. I'm comparing myself to myself, not to others. 

My warmup 800 takes forever, but I settle in.

My first 400 I go out fast in the first lap and second guess myself for part of that speed. I have to do eight laps (or 16 lengths of the pool) and while the goal is to swim as fast as I can, I still wonder about pacing myself. I swim hardest on the even number laps with the intention of allowing myself to ease up on the odd number ones if I need to. 

I don't. Perhaps I relax a bit mentally, but I don't ease up my swim pace.

It is hard. My arms are tired. My shoulders burn. My legs aren't used to the kick without the extra help of the fins. My lungs don't quite burn but there's definitely a sensation going on there.

I hit the wall, stop my watch, note my time.

My usual first thought upon looking at my time (any time, even a PR time) is often some version of "well, that stinks."

That thought entered my mind as I neared the wall on my first 400.

But I wasn't going to let it stick around.

I wasn't going to let my mind think negatively. Or at least not let the negativity fester until my 400 swim time became a referendum on my worthiness as a human being. The downward spiral is easy to get into. And I wasn't going to take that particular trip today.

Two minutes later, I was swimming another hard 400. Everything ached a bit and I felt slower.

And I was. By 10 seconds. But that's no concern to me.

My numbers go to my coach. They go on my refrigerator. And we see what we can do next time.

As for this time, there already is that valuable lesson. I pushed hard in those 400s. It was tough. It hurt. Occasionally I had the inkling to just stop, call it it day, for no real reason other than it was hard.

That's one of the gifts of athletics -- forcing yourself outside your very literal comfort zone. It physically can be uncomfortable when you're training. And for many reasons, that's the point.

Once you leave your comfort zone and then return to your normal state, well, your normal state has changed. Because you're no longer quite the same person. You've stretched your boundaries and even though it was painful at the time, you survived. Indeed, you learn you can leave your comfort zone and not only survive but thrive on the other side.

Those 400 swim times will be posted next to my 5K time. I now have something tangible to work toward and a reminder that no matter how difficult the task may be, there is nothing that will break you unless you let it.

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

Race report: Cross Country at Beaver Island

The differences were noticeable as soon we pulled into the state park.

It was more than an hour before the scheduled race time and a good number of people were already running around, warming up for the race while other set up tents to check in, house extra clothing and prepare the post-race goodies.

This was a different type of Sunday run -- my first cross country race.

And I was clearly in it for the experience.

My friend Sue likes to run in the Upstate Cross Country Series -- five races on trails in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and the Finger Lakes -- and she invited me to come along to the one hosted by Checkers A.C. in Beaver Island State Park.

I had about a 40 minute run on my training schedule for the day, so I thought why not and dragged my friend Karyn along for the ride. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, if a bit crisp with that pesky Grand Island wind. Karyn and I thought, well, what the heck. Let's try something different.

All three of us were race-day registrants and the $10 fee was more than reasonable and increased to $15 if you wanted a long-sleeved t-shirt. Unlike a road race where you get a big bib number to plaster on your chest (or attach to your race belt, which, by the way, is a pretty good way to pick out some of the triathletes at road races) our numbers were produced on small pieces of paper, just tags which they could easily rip off after crossing the finish line.

"This is different," Karyn said. "Our first new experience at this race."

We jogged back to the car in order (a) keep warm and (b) decide what amount of clothing we were going to wear.

Back at the race site, we bumped into a friend, Mary, who was with the Greater Buffalo Track Club. 

Difference No. 2 -- the cross country atmosphere is team-oriented. People came affiliated with track clubs from the region to compete in the team competition. In fact, as I found information about the race on the Internet Saturday night I frantically texted Sue to see if I could run since I wasn't with a team.

And yes, you can.

All three of us signed up as individual runners. That was until Mary asked if we wanted to run for them. 

Team competitions require a minimum of five runners. They are broken down into men or women (no co-ed, at least not at this race) and further broken down to open, masters and veteran age groups. Greater Buffalo Track Club needed one more woman to be a complete team. Sue joined them.

And Karyn and I?

Well, we said, we don't want to bring down the team. We've never done this before and we're really just out for our Sunday run.

That's OK, we were told. They take the top five finishers. We just would give the team numbers.

OK, we said. Sign us up.

And then Vicki Mitchell walked by our tent. The cross country and track coach at the University at Buffalo is also the coach of the Checker's club and was making the rounds with an announcement.

Difference No. 3 -- the race would start 15 minutes later than scheduled because there was a long race-day registration line.

I'm sure this has probably happened at a road race. But I don't recall.

The cross country race was laid back. It was about clubs scrambling to find enough people to complete teams and individuals roaming around looking for teams which needed runners. It was about trying to keep warm before the start of the race.

Karyn and I had one goal: Not to get lost.

We lined up in the back of the pack for the start and realized we were at a loss.

Teams from outside the region started doing cheers. They did little sprints back and forth from the starting line. They clapped rhythmically, in unison. It was that "team" thing again and even though Karyn and I were officially on the roster of a team, we weren't really part of a team.

Difference No. 4 -- the pre-race cheer. I told Karyn we needed to come up with our own cheer. In the pressure of the moment I blanked, but it was duly noted we need a pre-race ritual at cross country events.

The race began and Karyn and I settled in at the back of the pack. The 6K course was two loops curling around the grass along one of the roadways then heading into a field, along a trail and back out again.

Let me say I have never thought any athletic event to be necessarily "easy." Everything involves skill orBeaver_island  fitness and rarely in a serious moment would I ever say, "hey, I can do that."

But never also did I truly realize how different cross country is to running on the road.

Your pace is slower in the grass and on trails, despite the fact you may be working harder. You use more muscles to try and keep yourself steady and stable and centered.

Work? Yes.

Fun? For sure.

Since we were only in it for the experience and for a good run on a nice day, Karyn and I were just fine with our position in third-from last. We ran. We chatted at times. We were in it to have fun, and that we did, including getting a bit muddy and wet.

After the race came cider and bagels and sore muscles. 

Really? Sore muscles after a 6K? Yes. Really.

And worth every ache.

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

The joy of Ironman Kona

The great thing about technology is the many forms in which you can stay connected.

OK, granted, this is only true for those times when you want to stay connected. Otherwise, it's a downright pain in the butt. Saturday, however, I wanted to stay connected and keep my eye on what was going on at the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

Universal Sports apparently was airing the event, but last I checked my cable service provider was not providing that particular service. Clicking on the "watch live" option on Ironman.com, my laptop informed me that it was missing something it needed in order to play the video feed. 

Sigh.

So I went to the live chat coverage where officials from Ironman continuously posted updates on the pros race. It's kind of like reading the old-fashioned ticker that delivered news into newsrooms, when radio announcers didn't travel with baseball teams but recreated the scene in the studio with the help of the facts from the stream of telegraph updates.

And despite lacking in visuals, the descriptions and continued updates still gave me inspiration as two of the most intriguing races developed.

Craig Alexander won the men's race, but he was in 10th place when he came off the bike. He pounded out an impressive run. He and German Andreas Raelert were running side by side, stride for stride, in second place trying to catch leader Chris Lieto. Alexander pulled away and at Mile 21 of the marathon passed Lieto and took his second straight Kona title.

On the women's side, defending champ Chrissie Wellington continued to dominate. Eighth out of the water,Chrissie  she flew on the bike and at one point was within 11 minutes of the lead men. Her run was solid and though she slowed a bit at Mile 17, pushed through to not only win but to set anew course record in 8 hours, 54 minutes and 2 seconds.

The race became for second place in the women's field and Mirinda Carfrae of Australia, a specialist in the 70.3 distance, ran her way onto the podium.

Carfrae and Alexander were both at Muskoka this year. Perhaps that's one of the things that makes this sport so interesting -- you have the ability to race with the world champions throughout the year and ask them questions about their training, nutrition and advice at open meet-and-greets and even if you just catch them walking around the grounds.

You discover that even though they're accomplishing amazing physical feats, they're really not so different, struggling with what to eat, adapting to weather, pushing back the mental demons in their heads. Heck, during the play-by-play of the race, Chris McCormack, one of the best in the Ironman biz, was walking during the marathon.

Stuff happens to all of us.

We learn each day, each race, and try to be a little better next time.

And if there is any doubt or pain, there is always the image of Chrissie Wellington's big smile to recall, the one that believes her journey through triathlon is about more than winning races, but about being an ambassador for living life to its fullest.

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

Going the (ultra) distance

While the eyes of the triathlon world will be focused on Hawaii today and the Ironman World Championships, another grueling competition is underway in Virginia -- the double and triple Ironman.

That's right, take the distance of the Ironman: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run, and multiply by it by two or three and you have this weekend's race. The double began this morning at 7 a.m. while the triple started yesterday. Both events have time limits come Sunday night.

Lockport native Sam Pasceri is currently on his quest to complete the triple distance Ironman. (Check out the story on him in today's Buffalo News). He completed the double last year.

And when interviewing him before this year's race, he asked the question, "So when are you going to do an ultra."

Not likely in my book. But the ultras are growing in popularity. The double and triple Ironman has about 40 total athletes this year and race director Steve Kirby is thinking of adding two more races to meet the growing demand. The ultra triathlon movement grew in part out of the ultra running movement, which while small has gained in popularity, or at least the romantic notion of running 100 miles in the desert has. It's more one of those things that sounds like an amazing adventure, but one you'd rather watch a documentary on the Discover Channel about rather than participate in yourself. 

But for those with more modest goals, say 50 miles in the Northeast, there is a Western New York Ultra Series complete with its own series standings and runner of the year awards. So if people think you're crazy for that marathon, well, you can show them crazy.

At times there is debate if ultra running is actually detrimental to your health. (Actually, there's always a debate as to weather marathon running is detrimental to your health, too). 

For Carl Pegels, a veteran of 40 ultra events and countless marathons, the long distances don't have to be harmful.

"If you know how to run a marathon and you know how to take care of your nutrition during a marathon, you will stay healthy," said Pegels, a one-time race director for the now-defunct Buffalo 50-miler and a professor emeritus in the school of management at UB. "I believe both ultras and marathons are not destructive in terms of health at all. I am convinced that doing the training and the care required to get ready and the actual running of an ultra enhances your health."

Of course there is one other important trait to have.

"By the way," Pegels said. "You also have to be somewhat obsessive."

As of Saturday morning, Pasceri was cycling through his loops on his triple Ironman. His friends serving as his race crew are updating his progress on twitter at www.twitter.com/SamPasceri.

For those interested in the Ironman World Championships, look for live coverage on www.ironman.com beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. NBC's packaged production of the race is scheduled to air on Dec. 19.

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

Building goals from the bottom up

The list came down from the refrigerator the week after Muskoka.

The goals for 2009 were completed and all but one -- a sub-25 5K -- were accomplished.

As my workouts cycle through base training and strength training, it was time to sit down with my coach and discuss what we wanted for me for 2010.

The amazing thing about this genre of sport -- whether it's running, cycling, swimming or triathlon -- is that there are so many rich possibilities. There are so many events, some races some just big celebrations, which can make comprising a schedule rather difficult.

But 2010 has me excited. Excited because I've hit a new level in my own fitness which will only continue to increase over time. And while I don't have the scientific data to back it up, I'm pretty sure fitness is cumulative. Especially if you develop consistency. Which is one of the things training and racing has given me. Without goal races and markers along the way, I would lack the desire to consistently take care of my body and my health -- body, mind and spirit. That may be one of the greatest gifts I've received from triathlon.

In preparing for next year, the way in which my coach and I defined goals has changed. 

Because goals no longer involve times or results.

Goals are only things I can control. I can control my attitude and my mindset. I can control sticking to my race plan and sticking to my nutrition plan. I can control the little things -- what I do everyday, what I do in workouts, how I allow my body and mind to rest.

The next thing is to develop some targets -- things like paces and split times for events. You have less control of these things, particularly when having to factor in the terrain of a race course, but if you stick to your goals through your training, they are easier to meet and even predict.

Outcomes are what most people get hung up on. They are based solely on your race time, where you placed in your age group, if you won a Kona spot, if you won or lost. Outcomes, well, you have almost no control over what the outcome is. Too many things outside of yourself factor into the outcome. If the focus is solely on the outcome, the possibility of failure and disappointment is greater. If the focus remains on the goals, what you do in your daily training, then you set yourself for the best possible outcome.

So for 2010, my goals are consistency in my training and developing good mental chatter while I'm running, swimming and cycling. My goals include good nutrition, both in my daily life and around workouts and racing.

There are some targets that my coach and I are looking for. The first comes on the run as I prepare to return to the ING Miami Marathon to run the half marathon in January. We will develop other targets for the swim and the bike throughout the winter. And my targets will change as my technique and fitness improve along with my speed and endurance. Specific targets, specific outcomes, for races later in the year can't be posted on my refrigerator just yet. They have to come closer to the race. We build the season one week at a time, not from the finish back.

My planned major races for 2010 include Ironman Lonestar 70.3 -- a half Ironman in Texas in April -- and the Mussleman -- the half Ironman in Geneva, N.Y. in July. 

I have a few half marathons thrown in there along the way along with some 5Ks and some races for fun.

First up, Miami 13.1.

I have a target for that race. But the target is mine alone. Only three people know what I'm trying to hit in that race -- my coach and two of my best friends.

Because it's not about getting that specific time.

Too many variables can enter the equation -- from illness to injury to weather to, well, life.

Instead, it's about putting in the time, the energy, the focus, during my training which will put me in the best possible position to have the outcome I want.

It's building from the ground up, not imposing will from the top down.

And always about enjoying life.

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

Breaking the rules of the road

The rules can sometimes get muddy. Or confusing. Or be ambiguous to start with.

And as clear cut as running a road race may seem (or even the basics of a triathlon) there is always fine print.

So discovered the women's winner of the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee, Wisc. last weekend. Cassie Peller of Franklin, Wisc., crossed the finish line first in 3 hours, 2 minutes and 9 seconds but was disqualified and had to forfeit the $500 prize for accepting aid outside an established aid station.

According a story in the Journal-Sentinel, Peller took water from a boy and his dad who set up an impromptu aid station on their front lawn. She also took a sip from a friend's water bottle as the friend jumped in to join her around mile 19.

"There were several other people that took aid," she told the Journal-Sentinel. "I had some friends running the marathon who said people around them were doing the same thing. I can assure you I had no intention of gaining any kind of unfair advantage."

Rules are rules and particularly enforced among the "elites" or people in line to win a race. You often won't see the same kind of enforcement vigilance among the age-groupers whether it's a road race or a triathlon.

Did she deserve to be DQ'd?

During my experience at the Buffalo Marathon, several neighborhoods had their own unsanctioned water stops and my friend, Sue, jumped in to give me a pep talk. While that "aid" certainly helped me solider through a difficult stretch of the marathon, it didn't give me any advantage, particularly when I'm in it to finish, not to win it.

Perhaps I take it as a learning experience though, and try to be more vigilant next time I run a long race. Because I want to be in it to finish, and have the satisfaction that I played by the rules as I did it.

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

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