Many people go for a run or a bike ride after work to get in shape or stay in shape. They make the trip to the gym a part of their daily routine. For Dr. Amy Wood, the bike rides, runs and even swimming amounts to almost another job. There are nights when she doesn’t return to her home in Stevensville until almost 10 p.m., and that is after putting in a full day at Active Care Family Chiropractic. You see, Wood has added another dimension to her already hectic life, triathlons.
A triathlon is a race that consists of swimming, bicycling and then finishing the race with a run. Many are familiar with the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. That race consists of a 2.4-mile open water swim, a bike ride of 112 miles and finishes with a 26.2-mile marathon. Although this race is extreme, the races that Wood has competed in are not a walk in the park by any means.
The 31-year-old Stevensville resident says she has always been active. For years she competed in tennis tournaments throughout the Northwest and was even a member of the University of Montana tennis team and the lacrosse team at the university. She is an avid skier, both downhill and cross country, and mountain bikes and hikes throughout the summer.
So what prompted this already active athlete to push herself? “My best friend said she would quit smoking if I did a triathlon with her. I ponied up and did it but guess who didn’t quit smoking.”
Wood ran her first triathlon last May in Missoula at the Peak gym. That race involved a 500-meter swim, 12.4 miles on the bike and then a 3.1-mile run. She enjoyed it so much, she ran in the Zootown Triathlon later in the year. This spring she competed in the Grizzly and the Peak again. The swimming in these particular triathlons is done in a pool.
“You can swim 50 meters and then hang on (to the wall) if you need to,” said Wood, who claims she wasn’t that great a swimmer to begin with.
Never one to limit herself, Wood stepped out of the pool and into the pond this spring. She bought a wetsuit and began training in the open water. In this case, it was the Frenchtown Pond. Even with the wetsuit, she said she and her partner (she never swims alone) could only stay in the water for a short period of time before the cold water made it dangerous.
“I think it was 42 degrees the first time we were in there,” she said. “And it was really slimy. They’ve started circulating the water so it’s cleaner now.”
Wood figures the water was probably 55 degrees the last time she swam there last week. She opted to move to the open water because she entered the Pacific Crest Triathlon in Sunriver, Oregon. That event features a 1,500-meter swim in the Wickiup Reservoir so she had to get used to swimming in open water.
But the swimming is only one third of the competition. Wood has always ridden bicycles and been a runner. She said the running by itself can be boring but with the bicycling and swimming involved, training is different every day. After riding her mountain bike in the first three triathlons, she purchased a bicycle that is designed for racing and feels that has helped her performance. In the first triathlon with the new bike, she shaved 16 minutes off of her time. Her practice rides involve trips from Missoula to Turah or up around Blue Mountain where the elevation changes help with the training.
In addition to the physical training, this lifestyle has prompted her to eat much healthier now. She says she eats a lot of protein, especially right after a race, and a lot of carbs to fuel her before a race.
“I’ve cut out the crap. It wasn’t too hard, after correlating a cookie to throwing up after swimming,” she adds with a laugh. She says she has probably dropped 15-20 pounds and toned up considerably.
Typically, training for an event takes about eight weeks with the workouts becoming more strenuous closer to the races. Wood estimates she spends 10 to 12 hours a week training with one day of rest. But the long hours of training have taken their toll. Wood was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in her foot and was not able to run this weekend. Dr. Tom Currier, a veterinarian from Stevensville, ran the marathon leg of the triathlon.
The Pacific Crest Triathlon not only marks the first time she has competed in open water but also it will be the first Olympic length triathlon she has competed in. In addition, approximately 6,000 athletes signed up for the three-day event. In addition to the Olympic length race, there were nine other events. With this many competitors, there were about 100 to 150 people in each heat, more than most triathlons she has competed in. She said she was a little nervous about the splashing and congestion in the opening moments of the swim but looked forward to the experience.
Wood and Currier competed Sunday morning under the team name ‘Get Lost.’ Wood’s swim time was 36 minutes and she completed the 28-mile bike course in an hour and 44 minutes. Currier finished the 10K run in 48 minutes.
There are two triathlons here in the Bitterroot this summer. The Lake Como Triathlon will be held July 23. It involves a 1,500-meter swim, 12.6-mile bike ride around the lake and 7.7-mile run. The Bitterroot Classic will be held on August 27th. It involves a 750-meter swim, a 20K bike ride and 5K run.