Amanda in the centre with her training buddies, waiting to start the Ironman
Nothing can stop Amanda Hoar once she puts her mind to accomplishing something. That is the conclusion I must come to when I hear her stories of her amazing athletic feats. Few people can say they have completed a full Ironman, never mind transforming from a non-swimmer to a competent triathlete in one year’s time. Amanda successfully completed the Mont-Tremblant Ironman this past summer – August 18, 2013 in 13.5 hrs.
Amanda was a bit naive perhaps, when her friends convinced her in the summer of 2012 to sign up for the Mont-Tremblant Ironman for the following August, before she had even started training. She knew the distances involved in the event. Still, who can fully understand the commitment and energy that is required in training for a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and a full marathon (42.2km) run? Amanda was about to get immersed into the triathlon world and learn all the little tricks of the triathlon trade. I was shocked as I listened to her describe it all!
Amanda’s first swim workout would have probably defeated most of us, and made us question the likelihood of ever completing an Ironman. Wolf, her coach, told her to do one lap. “FYI, a lap means swim there and back.” This is how little Amanda knew. Decked out in her “Stongman” Swim cap that she had borrowed from Wolf with a huge #1 on the side (“I felt #1 on the inside”), Amanda set off with full confidence. After swallowing a bucketful of water she finally made it to the far end of the pool and was confronted by a lifeguard yelling for her to “Get OUT” while holding a life preserver. Amanda insisted that she needed to go back to the other end, as her friends were waiting for her. The lifeguard, not impressed, insisted on walking alongside her, as she made the treacherous journey back. Amanda may have overestimated her initial swimming abilities. Her arms weren’t even making it out of the water and she was half drowning. That first swim workout was quickly adjusted from doing lengths, to having Amanda hang on to the edge of the pool while learning how to do one arm strokes and how to breathe while swimming.
I assure you Amanda has learned how to swim since that first workout, and she now completes 3km swim workouts with ease. Impressive!
Cycling was also a new sport for Amanda. Her experience in this department consisted of a recreational bike without gears and rear pedal brakes. But, she thought, how hard can cycling be? Amanda of course needed to learn how to change gears without falling off the bike; brake with hand brakes; clip and unclip her feet from the pedals (without falling off), and eat and drink while on the bike (without falling off). After practicing some of these elements with experienced cyclist Wolf Sr., Amanda headed out for the first time – for a 50k ride! Amanda was “tagging along with the Big Kids”, as she describes her experienced triathlete buddies. Her goal that first day was “to not fall!” Fortunately, her mission was accomplished!
There are many other tricks of the trade when it comes to cycling. Amanda was so excited the first time she managed to eat at the same time as cycling, and not fall! Her training friend, Bernard, says he has never seen someone so excited. She does not lack energy or drive! Amanda filled me in on several other skills long distance cyclists need to have – like “peeing while riding”. What?? Did I hear that correctly? My peeing in the woods on a long run is nothing compared to this! Yes, I had heard correctly. Amanda elaborated: “You know those two water bottles on the bike? Well, one is for drinking and one is for rinsing.” She also gave me two tips: it is easier to pee when riding downhill; and it’s easiest when it is raining (I could have figured that one out). Other cycling tips she shared were: to wear padded cycling shorts (I still need to invest in a pair of these); and use specific cycling ointment to protect your special parts. This is all new to me…
Running was definitely the easiest sport to pick up. Amanda has an athletic background, having rowed for a couple of years. Now she just had to channel that energy into running forwards and learn how to pace herself for a long event. Amanda’s first race was the “Around the Bay” race in Hamilton (March 2013) – a 30km, hilly race. She had a pace partner who ran with her and had to slow her down at the outset in order to get her through the 30k effectively. Another mission successfully completed.
A typical week for 28 year old Amanda means juggling multiple workouts of three sports around her full-time work schedule in the school board, as a communicative disorders assistant. Amanda swims Tues, Thurs. Friday mornings (5:30), cycles Tues, Thurs. evenings and long rides on Saturdays. Run workouts are Wednesday evenings, Thursday runs off the bike and long runs on Sundays. Amanda states: “The best part of training for the Ironman was sharing this experience with my friends. Having them teach me about what they are so passionate about. Barb always stayed after practice with me if I needed extra work. She is very supportive!”
Once Amanda has an idea stuck in her head, she is going to go for it. She has a drive to do her best and she admits that she is very competitive. Amanda achieved her goal. She completed the Ironman in 13:30:13. Many people doubted; some even called her a “freak” when they first heard of her ambitions. (“Don’t you know that many people who have done triathlons haven’t even done an Ironman?! And you haven’t even done a triathlon!”) Amanda proves to us that when you set your mind to something and give it your all, you can do it!
I had the joy of riding with Amanda and the Trysport racing team on Saturday. I set off on what I thought was going to be a 90 min ride and returned home 4 hours later. Another helpful piece of advice from Amanda: “Always bring along more fuel than you think you’ll need; workouts tend to be longer than expected!” It was a great ride and I understand Amanda’s passion and drive. Amanda plans to keep training and get quicker. She is pulling back her distance to do the half Ironman so she can focus on speed. I look forward to training with her and seeing what new and exciting feats are in her future.