June 5, 2013

Whitfield County Superior Court clerk pushes the edge

Do you think you could swim for 1.2 miles, bike for 56 miles and run for another 13.1 miles in less than seven hours?

That’s what Amanda Brown did while competing in her first triathlon, the Ochsner Ironman 70.3, on April 21 in New Orleans.

Brown is a law clerk in Whitfield County Superior Court Judge Jack Partain’s office who graduated from the University of Georgia Law School in 2012. She said it’s been a personal goal for a long time to get in shape and compete in a major triathlon.

So, at the beginning of this year, she started intensive training for the Ochsner Ironman 70.3, a long course triathlon.

“I wanted to set a goal for myself and have something to work toward and not have a letdown at the end,” Brown said. “That’s one reason I picked this big distance in the first place, because I felt like I needed to scare myself into training — because if I picked a small race, I’d be like, ‘Oh, it’s just a 20-mile bike ride, a 10-mile run, I can do that.’ But this distance I thought, I’m gonna die if I don’t train!”

In preparation for that one very grueling day, for four months Brown swam at the Dalton High School pool, did a lot of running along the Pinhoti Trail and at Red Top Mountain south of Cartersville, and cycled in The Pocket area in Walker County.

She even competed in a mini-triathlon in Tennessee as a tune-up, “but it was really short,” she said, “300 meter swimming, 2.5-mile run, and 10-mile bike.”

By the time the Ochsner Ironman arrived, Brown already knew she could swim the 1.2 miles, bike the 56 miles and run the 13 miles required because she had completed all three tasks while training, “but I’d never done them all together, so that was sort of what worried me,” she admitted.

She started the competition with the 1.2-mile swim in South Shore Harbor Marina. That portion of the triathlon had been canceled the previous two years because of choppy waters in Lake Ponchartrain, prompting the move to the relatively easier conditions in the harbor.

Still, it wasn’t that easy.

“The open water scared me because I had never really swam in open water before, at least not any distance,” Brown said. “It wasn’t quite ocean, but it was connected to the ocean, so the waves weren’t as big as they would have been in some areas. It was still hard to see — I wasn’t ready for that. We were all wearing neon caps, so I was just looking for neon caps in front of me and then eventually you could see the yellow buoys you were going towards to try and stay in a straight line.”

Next up came the bike ride, which was “beautiful,” she said. “We (rode) through a nature preserve, and New Orleans is a great place to bike as well.”

While the city was flat, it was also very windy, “which I wasn’t used to either,” Brown said. “Here it’s much hillier, but you don’t have the same kind of crazy wind. We biked over the Mississippi River so that was really pretty.”

As she reached the third part of the competition, she was just trying to make it to the finish line, Brown said.

“But running is probably my strongest event of the three,” she said, “so it wasn’t really a problem to run the 13 miles at the end.”

The last four miles, however, her legs were really hurting but she “just pushed through it.”

By the time she reached the finish line, she had a hard time walking, but the support of her parents (Lee and Danuta Brown) and a friend from Dalton (Caitlin Pyne, who works in the Public Defender’s Office) proved to be a big emotional boost.

“They were all waiting for me at the finish line,” Brown said. “It was great. People took pictures and I sort of stopped and sat down and then I got up. I had a really hard time walking. One of my legs, the quad muscles were really sore.”

She said completing the event was a big confidence booster.

“You know what kind of adrenaline rush you get after doing something like that,” she said. “It just feels really good. It’s a huge feeling of accomplishment. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it or my bike would break down. My bike is not a really nice bike so I was afraid of that happening, or not being able to do the swim — the cold water, the open water, I wasn’t used to either.”

“But,” she said, “it worked out!”

Brown clocked a time of 6 hours, 49 minutes, 56 seconds, taking 45:30 for the swim, 3:37.42 for the bike ride and 2:16.47 for the run. She finished 994th among some 1,900 competitors and was 44th in her division (females 30-34).

To show what kind of competitors the event draws, Andreas Raelert of Germany edged out Trevor Wurtele of Canada by five seconds to win the title, crossing the finish line in 3:46.4. Haley Chura of Atlanta was the top female finisher, crossing the line in 4:18.20, more than two minutes ahead of runner-up Amy Marsh, who couldn’t overcome having to repair a flat tire about halfway through the bike ride.

Brown was glad with her choice for her first triathlon, which ended in New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park, which is located in the city’s “French Quarter” area.

“It was just a great experience,” she said, “being there in New Orleans — a great, fun city. It was a beautiful day, and people were cheering all along the bike ride. When we’d ride through an area that was residential, people were outside cheering. And the French Quarter was a beautiful place to end. It was just a super fun event, everything about it.”

So are there more triathlons in her future?

“I’m giving my legs a little bit of a break now,” Brown said, “but I definitely want to keep doing stuff like this. It was just an amazing feeling — the training, being in that kind of shape, and then going and competing. It was all just really fun.”

She might even compete in what’s considered a full ultra distance triathlon: 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and a marathon (26.2-mile) run at the end.

“I think I might be able to,” she said. “Before starting this, my thought was I could never do that. I could never even run a full marathon, much less with a 100-mile bike ride at the beginning.

“But I’m not sure now — I might try it at some point.”

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