I sat down recently and talked triathlon with Amanda Benedict. In 2005 Amanda finished her first Ironman distance race at Vineman with a time of 12:53:54. Amanda is very involved with the Triathlon Club of San Diego as she is the Club Liason, leads weekly club workouts and is the former newsletter editor.
CZ: What was your sports background prior to triathlon and what were your greatest accomplishments?
AB: Well Craig, unlike many of the incredible athletes you have profiled in your Ironman Interviews, prior to triathlon, I was neither a runner, cyclist, nor a swimmer. I was a soccer goalkeeper. My focus was to play in the Olympics and I was working my way through the Olympic Development Program. Unfortunately, I topped out at the Regional level (one step below the National team) and when I suffered a second shoulder dislocation in college, my goalie career ended. In high school, I also "ran" on the Varsity track team for four years - however, my events were long jump, triple jump, and the 100 hurdles, and I played one year on my high school's football team. In college, I got really into weight lifting and aerobics and I continued that long after graduation. I eventually started competing in fitness competitions and competed on the professional level for two years.
CZ: How has your weight training and fitness competition experience transferred to triathlon?
AB: Those experiences have really helped me with making the transition into triathlons because I have a strong knowledge of my body's mechanics, how different training and nutrition affect my strength, and how to set up training and nutrition programs for myself.
CZ: What was your first triathlon like?
AB: I was lucky, my first triathlon was part of a college course I was taking at UC Santa Barbara. They actually have a 2-unit course on The Principles of Triathlon Training. We had a book, class lectures, and a "lab" component where we would practice training techniques. As part of the final, we had to race in a triathlon. I chose the Carlsbad Triathlon. I had great fun. Having grown up on the beaches of San Diego, the surf entry was no problem, and I really enjoyed the bike even though I was riding a mountain bike. The tough part for me was the run…humm, that sounds familiar...that is still the tough part for me! One funny thing is that my Mom was so nervous during that race. She was frantically watching the lifeguards pulling people out of the water that she didn't even see me exiting the water. I had to scream her name to let her know I was ok. As soon as she saw that I was back on land, she said she was relaxed for the rest of the event. She still does not watch the swim portion of my races.
CZ: What prompted you to take on the challenge of racing an Ironman?
AB: I think like many of us, I have watched the Hawaii Ironman coverage for years. Every year I would watch the race, I would cry at the stories, get goose bumps as I saw people finish, and I would tell myself, "Someday, I am going to do an Ironman." My "someday", came during 2005 when I finally got the courage up enough to give it a try. And boy, am I glad I did. Completing Vineman Full is something I will not soon forget.
CZ: Tell us your most important workouts that gave you confidence as you prepared for Vineman?
AB: While training for Vineman, I would say my most important workouts were my Sunday swim/runs. I generally did my long bike rides on Saturday and my rest days were on Mondays, so on Sundays, I was usually pretty tired and I really had to talk myself into going for that long swim followed by my long run. Running is my most challenging event, so by doing my long runs on a day when I was already physically and mentally tired, it really helped prepare me for race day.
CZ: What was your actual Vineman race experience like?
AB: Race day was incredible!! At first, it had all the signs of a nightmare. I was so nervous the day before that I could not relax. Also, I had new (yes brand new) shoes, new race wheels I had never ridden on before, and a new outfit to wear. All the things I was taught not to do on race day! Then, on race morning, when I walked my bike into the transition area, I noticed that the tire was going flat and that my bike computer did not work with my new race wheels!! I was a nervous wreck at this point. But, I pumped up my wheel (no spare!), crossed my fingers, and walked to the swim start. Luckily, as soon as I hit the water, everything just started to click. I put myself into the mindset of "it's just another long training day - let's go have fun". Throughout the race, I concentrated on that mantra - the focus was to train hard and have fun. And I did! I had a great split on the swim, beating my goal time by over ten minutes. On the bike, without a speedometer, I had to focus on my heart rate, cadence, nutrition, and saying 'Hi" to everyone I passed. At the end of the bike, I was told that I was the 5th woman in! Wow! That really motivated me for the run. As I may have mentioned, the run is my struggle point. Well, I put a smile on my face at the start of the run and kept it there all day. I was having fun and I planned on keeping it fun. The night before the race, I decided that I could mentally survive the run if I ran in intervals. So I set my watch for a 20 min run, 1 minute walk, interval. Every time my watch beeped, I ran for 20 minutes. When it beeped again, I walked for 1 minute. I did that throughout the whole run and it worked perfectly! Of course - I did slow down a couple of times to pet a cute dog, cheer at the fans, and swing dance with Eric at the aide station at mile 25. I really pushed that last mile and was able to finish the day just under 13 hours - beating my goal time by 1 hour and still smiling!!
CZ: You have been a regular at the Auburn International Half Ironman the last couple of years. What do you love about that event and why would you recommend it?
AB: I love Auburn International Half Ironman for many reasons. The racecourse is incredibly beautiful. The race is up in the mountains above Sacramento and the views are incredible, the air is clean, and the water is crystal clear. Yes, it's hilly and the water is chilly, but that just adds to the fun. It is the most challenging & scenic racecourse I have seen. Also, at Auburn, there is a small town feel to the event. The whole city practically closes down on race day. The police are out in force keeping the roads clear and it seems like the race director, Brad Kerns, has everyone in the town volunteering in one way or another. But, perhaps the highlight of the weekend, is the "TCSD Circle of Trust". At Auburn, there is free camping right at the finish line. So, all of us from TCSD who are camping will circle up our tents at the campground with the cookout spot in the middle. We share food and just hang out before and after the race. We have a great time telling stories, joking around, and relaxing all while sharing the Auburn experience - it really makes for a great weekend.
CZ: If you could wave a magic wand over the sport of triathlon, what would you like to change?
AB: Humm, that's a tough one Craig. I love the sport of triathlon. One thing I would not change is the people. I have met the best people through this sport. I am constantly amazed by how giving people are in TCSD and how its members really go out of their way to help each other out. But, if I had to fix something, I would fix the Ironman situation. Currently, you have to sign up for an Ironman event a year ahead of time and pay a huge entry fee. However, things can happen over the course of a year and that entry fee is non-refundable and non-transferable. I would like to see a rule change where athletes could transfer their entry fee (perhaps with an administrative fee) to another Ironman event if they are going to be unable to participate. It is such a shame to see an athlete train so hard to prepare for an Ironman and then a month out from the race suffer a bike accident. That athlete not only has to deal with the pain of the injury, but also the pain of having lost $400, a coveted Ironman race spot, and knowing that they will have to wait another year before having the chance to try to race in an Ironman again.
CZ: What injuries have you had as a triathlete and how have you worked thru them?
AB: Injuries seem to be attracted to me! (He, He, He) I used to bang myself pretty good in soccer, so I am relatively used to training with injuries. Since starting triathlons three years ago, I have had a couple broken bones, a mild concussion, laybornthitis, and a pulled hamstring. I hope nobody reading this takes this to mean that triathlons are dangerous -- I am just injury prone! I broke my wrist during the bike portion of Mission Bay Triathlon. While that was healing, I concentrated on my running, which was a great thing for me. The mild concussion (the result of another small bike mishap) really did not set me back any. However, the laybornthitis (an inner ear injury brought about by heat exhaustion) set me back for a couple of months. That injury was brought about by not properly hydrating, eating, or replacing electrolytes during a very hot Half Ironman. After that incident, I pay careful attention to my nutrition and supplementation on long training days & race days.
CZ: What do you do as the Club Liaison?
AB: As Club Liaison, I am the go to person. I work with Bob Babbitt from Competitor to help promote events. I am the contact person for all of the club workouts. I answer questions from newbies and those interested in joining TCSD regarding which workouts would be good to try, and I lead 4 club workouts each week. I am currently trying to develop a safety program to teach club members more about safe training, the laws, and basic first aid skills to help lessen injury and accident rate.
CZ: What are your future triathlon goals?
AB: My future goals are wide spread right now. After practicing law at a non-profit organization for the past six years, I recently branched out and opened my own law practice, so 2006 will in large part be dedicated to getting my practice up and running. My race goal for this year is simple - to have as much fun as I had when I raced Vineman Full. That day was what triathlon was all about - pushing myself hard, positive thinking, enjoying the moment, and taking the time to really treasure how lucky we are to be participating in such a great sport. I hope to be out there smiling at the Ford California 70.3 in March, the Spring Sprint, Auburn International Half Ironman, San Diego International, Solana Beach Sprint, and Imperial Beach Sprint. I was lucky enough to be selected on the B&L Bikes Triathlon Team for 2006, so one of my goals as a B&L team member is to represent their store by being a good ambassador for the sport of triathlon. Luckily for me, that means more smiling, more petting the cute dogs I see on my long runs, and more helping out my friends on the race course.
CZ: Amanda, thanks for sharing your story with the TCSD. We wish you the very best as you embrace the career and triathlon challenges for 2006.