The honesty, and saving grace, of triathlon

I had no intention of buying shoes at the Ironman Lake Placid expo but my training compadre Nick wanted to try on a variety. Since he played the role of my personal lifeguard while I swam my first 2.4 miles earlier that day, I figured shopping with him was the least I could do. And in reality, I wasn’t complaining.

Good thing. Because not only did I end up with a new pair of kicks from K-Swiss which I am loving in my training right now, but I had the opportunity to meet professional triathlete Amanda Balding. Balding, sponsored by K-Swiss, was helping them at the expo and sold me on the virtues of the new shoes. A native of Australia and engaged to pro triathlete Luke McKenzie, Amanda not only races professionally (including gearing up for Ironman Wisconsin) but runs ABM Sports Management, helping other triathletes (including her soon-to-be-husband) work out the non-training aspects of being a professional athlete.

But more than selling me great new running shoes, Amanda was engaging, enthusiastic and supportive and took the time to answer some questions from someone training for her first Iron Distance. Meet Amanda Balding both here and on GOTRIbal.com.

How did you get started in triathlon and Ironman?

Amanda: I was sick with cancer and in recovery, I was pretty much lying on the couch, feeling completely sorry for myself. I was watching Ironman coverage. I had done a triathlon before along time ago. I figured if survived this I would do something I actually loved and wanted to do in my life. I got better and basically booked with a friend of mine to do the first Ironman UK. Wtih 5 1/2 weeks of training, I did the Ironman and I loved it. It was fantastic.

Why do you love the Ironman?

Because it’s so truthful. It’s such an honest sport. You’re there racing as hard as you can. Something can go wrong or everything can go right. It all comes down to you. It all comes down to how much you want to get over the line. You have to leave yourself out there on the course. I like the honesty of it all. It’s amazing that you meet all these really incredible people. I’m a a really positive person and in this sport you get to be around a whole huge family that’s like that. Ironman is such a rewarding experience for me. Perviously in my life I tended to hang out with the naughty crowd, doing things that were not necessarily the best for my health. It’s crazy the way that Ironman saved me from myself.

My first Iron Distance is coming up next month. What are your tips?

During the month leading up into the final part, you should have two more weeks of hard work and approximately 10 days to two weeks of taper. Practice your race nutrition and practice one day wearing your race kit so you can find out where it’s rubbing in spots and add lots of lube. Don’t try anything new on that day. If you haven’t practiced it in training and don’t get any funny ideas.

Have fun. It’s so important to have fun. The first Iron Distance event you do will never come back again. The first one is special. take your time going down the finishing chute. Definitely as you get to the finish line, get yourself together for a fantastic finishing photo. You never get that one back.

It won’t be pretty. It always hurts. I’ve never done an Ironman that doesn’t hurt, but have fun and honeslty enjoy it.

How do you mentally get through the dark moments of a race?

I have a tattoo on my left hand, but I’m not saying you should go out and get a tattoo before your race. Draw with a black marker affirmations like “I believe.” It gets really rough at spots. At 95 miles on the bike, you’ll be like “Holy crap get me off this bike.” Don’t worry because you’ll be off the bike in a second and then have the marathon. And during the marathon you’ll think, “Oh my God this seems so far.” But it’s not. You’ll get there. Just think, “I can do it.” You will see people at races who have one leg or who are 150 pounds more than we are, and we know we can do it because they can do it.

Use a marker to write a word you believe in or a person that you’re thinking of, who is going to be watching and waiting to hear how you did. You will inspire them. Or just be yourself. I can do it. Write in your arm. There’s really nothing you can’t do.

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~ by amymoritz on August 4, 2010.

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