Working in the sports medicine field, we are able to see exceptional athletes on a daily basis. In our Athlete Spotlight, we will be focusing on athletes of all ages, specialty, and level. During injury, physical therapy, or off-time, athletes tend to lose their sense of self, or purpose. Understanding how others are able to be proactive and Achieve their goals is important to the healing aspect we treat everyday.
1) Tell us about your most recent win, "redemption," in Arizona.
Ironman Arizona (2.4 mile swim/ 112 mile bike/ 26.2 mile run) was one of the best days of my life as a triathlete! From a results perspective, it was a huge success- I finished in 9:59:34 seconds, which was a big personal record, my first time under ten hours, and good enough to take the overall amateur title. We faced challenging winds, which made for a tough day, but everything came together at the right time for me and I couldn’t be more thrilled. From a personal perspective, it meant even more because just 5 weeks earlier, I’d had one of my worst days -- I collapsed during the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii and was unable to finish. I approached Arizona cautiously and without big expectations – I just wanted to finish what I had started in Hawaii, so to come away with a win was a shock and very much felt like redemption.
2) What is the biggest hurdle you have had to overcome as an athlete?
I’ve been an athlete in some form since age 7, so the hurdles have been numerous, but two stand out. First, just recently, was my collapse at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in October. I went into that race feeling incredibly prepared and fit, and with great confidence after winning my age group at the 70.3 (Half Ironman) World Championship in Canada in September. And despite all that, I collapsed 15 miles short of the finish line. It was devastating and very scary because despite lots of testing and doctors visits, we’re still not sure what caused the collapse. Lining up in Arizona 5 weeks later to try again required a lot of soul-searching and courage, but that’s what I love about sports—we can experience the lowest of low, but also the highest of highs—and few things in life are so exciting or enriching. The second major hurdle was a major knee injury & subsequent (microfracture) surgery in 2010, caused by playing in a recreational soccer game. I was told by my physician that I shouldn’t expect to ever run again, but I didn’t like that answer and set about to prove him wrong. After diligent rehabilitation and a careful return to activity, I barely think about the knee any more (but am very careful to promptly address any pains that I feel).
3) How have you valued physical therapy, your home program, and training in keeping you healthy?
I could not be doing what I’m doing without Achieve Ortho! I believe one of the biggest keys to success in endurance sports is consistency in training. Being able to put in week after week of training, over years, without losing time to injury is essential. But let’s be honest, Ironman training is really hard on the body! So, I’ve been coming to see Gina, Taylor, and the crew regularly for almost two years now, and they’ve been able to quickly nip in the bud any small issues and niggles before they become big issues requiring time off from training. As a result, I’ve been able to consistently pile on the hours of swimming, biking, and running I’ve needed in order to reach new levels as an athlete.
4) How did you transition from short distance to Ironman? Any advice for those thinking about the same path?
I did jump into long-course triathlon fairly quickly, doing a Half Ironman in my first year as a triathlete. However, I didn’t try Ironman until I’d put in two good years of training and racing at the shorter distance, built a good, solid base of miles, and enlisted the help of a coach to make sure I was training in a way that would allow me to get to the starting line healthy and excited. I think my biggest suggestion to someone contemplating an Ironman is to not go at it alone! Surround yourself with a support network—get a coach or train with a group aiming for the same race, find some training buddies (6-7 hour rides are a LOT more fun with company), have someone help you with nutrition, ask questions of everyone you know (or don’t know) that’s done this distance. Most of all, listen to your body and address issues that arise early. I’ve seen way too many people start Ironman races while injured and have absolutely miserable days because they didn’t address the small pains when they first popped up. That’s why having the team at Achieve Ortho as a resource is so valuable!
5) You are a perfect example of perseverance through struggle (i.e. continued training, and success). Describe the ride. What pushed you? Who pushed you?
It has been quite a ride! I started triathlon in 2010, became “serious” in 2012, and have steadily progressed ever since then. I have traveled all over the country (and even the world) to race and train and have met so many
amazing people along the way. Looking back, it’s hard to even recognize the person I was before this sport came into my life. But yes, there have been serious struggles, too – DNFs, bad races, illnesses, etc. I’ve had some really low lows! But those lows really make the highs feel extra satisfying. I’ve always motivated by my own internal drive to be the very best I can and to maximize my potential….that deep desire has helped me to get back up every time I have been knocked down. But I’ve also surrounded myself with an amazing support network- my family, who have become Triathlon Super Fans; many, many friends and training buddies in Naperville, Chicago, Madison, and across the country; my long-time coach, Elizabeth Waterstraat; the team at Achieve Ortho, who have been more than just PTs but also friends; and so many others. It takes a village and I’m so lucky to have mine!
To learn more information about Amanda, please visit her blog, The traveling athlete: