You Are an Ironman

An interview with Jamie Moore

written by Adam Spafford
photography by Margaret Janicki

 

Every four years, we marvel and cheer as athletes from around the world compete in the Olympic Games. Although the majority of us won’t compete at such athletically elite levels, it doesn’t stop us from challenging each other — and ourselves — to go faster, lift heavier, and push further today than we did yesterday. Local marathoner and triathlete Jamie Moore tells us what keeps her moving.

The Lakelander: Please tell us about yourself and your athletic history.

Jamie Moore: I grew up in rural southwest Virginia on a tobacco farm. I was the fat kid with glasses. If a ball came toward me, my thought was to tuck and save the glasses at all costs. I still think that way. When Mom would send me out to play, I would sneak a book out so I could read instead of get all sweaty. No one would have ever thought then that I would compete in endurance sports now.

On a serious note, I was seeing the effects of lifestyle on peoples’ health during my childhood and teenage years. I never saw my paternal grandmother healthy. She was bedridden and died when I was five. I just assumed everyone had a hospital bed in their living rooms. Not long after that, my maternal grandmother starting having heart attacks and strokes. My dad also had many health issues related to unhealthy lifestyle choices and died at 54. Not only was I watching my family members get sick and eventually die, I was seeing the impact this was having on everyone who had to care for them. When I was a teenager, the light bulb clicked — lifestyle impacts your health.

When I was 14, it was time to get ready for bathing-suit season. I tried running to lose weight. It was slow going, but the love for running was born. I did my first 10-miler for my 18th birthday and first 20-miler for my 22nd birthday. In college, I ran track two years and cross country four years. I have run 10 marathons. I have been running for 37 years. In 2000, the bug to start doing triathlons bit after I realized a very pregnant lady had been ahead of me for 22 miles of the Marine Corp Marathon! The only problem with this plan was that I did not really know how to swim “on top” of the water. So, at 35, I got in the pool to learn. Trust me, my stroke is not a thing of beauty!

As with any endurance athlete, you start at the short distances and the next longest distance calls. I did my first Ironman distance race in 2010. I have completed four IM distance races and tons of shorter distance triathlons. My husband is a great support and wonderful “pit crew.” He has spent an awful lot of time driving me to races, loading and unloading my stuff, and hanging out in nasty weather just to cheer me on. Not everyone would be OK with: “I’m going to bike 100 miles. Be back in seven hours and then we can go out to eat!” His support is greatly appreciated.

TL: Why do you think you were drawn to marathoning and triathloning as competitive sports?

JM: I have limited depth perception, so anything involving a ball is totally out. By nature, I am not fast, but I am blessed with endurance. I call myself a plow mule — slow and steady gets the job done, plus I am too stubborn to quit. I like the challenge of the longer-distance races. I am OK with being in the middle or back of the pack. I love running and training for triathlons. It is just a part of my life no different than brushing my teeth. What a wonderful way to relieve stress and be fit. And another plus — I have met the nicest, kindest people.

TL: Professionally, you are a dietitian, a clinical nutrition manager with a master’s in public health. How has that helped your athletics?

JM: It has made training much easier given that I have a good understanding of nutrition and food composition. With the longer distances, it is so important to get your carbs, calories, fluid, and electrolytes in balance. Calculating those values is second nature for me. Since I like to bake, I will often make my own training bars. My husband calls them Sprocket Rockets. I’m not sure if that’s because they make you go faster or that they are just really heavy!

TL: The public is inundated with warnings about obesity, heart disease, sedentary lifestyles, and what to eat or not eat, and at least some of this information must be inaccurate because it’s contradictory. What would you say is the most significant change someone can make, and what are some things you see as big misconceptions regarding nutrition?

JM: There are so many misconceptions floating around, it makes my head spin. And everyone has an opinion. “Carbohydrates are bad for you and make you fat” really gets my blood pressure up. The current gluten-free craze will fade out just as the oat bran fad of the 1980s did. People seem to think that it’s safe and realistic to lose 20 or 30 pounds in a couple of months just because they saw it on a TV show like the The Biggest Loser. It just isn’t realistic or safe and often leads to yo-yo dieting. I do understand why people get confused; they are bombarded with information. Here is a truth that will not change: eating too many calories coupled with inactivity will eventually lead to unwanted weight gain. Weighing too much and not moving will put anyone at risk for developing a disease or unwanted health condition.

“You just don’t realize how amazing your body is until it is need of recovery – very humbling.”

If you want to eat better, you really need to make it important in your life. Plan meals, snacks, and grocery trips. Focus on eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meat (if you want to eat meat), low-fat dairy products, dried beans, and healthier fats. Pay attention to portion sizes: nuts are good for you, but do you really need a whole can? Moderation and common sense are points to focus on. I could ramble on for days!

TL: You had surgery in December 2015 that sidelined you for a while. Those of us who are active and have faced recovery from surgery or injury know it’s often difficult mentally, too. How did you prepare to recover? Did you change anything nutritionally during recovery?

JM: It was a hard, scary time that involved a few fits of crying. I went from training for an ultramarathon to trying to figure out how to get out of bed. You just don’t realize how amazing your body is until it is in need of recovery — very humbling. I had to approach the thought of recovering like a training plan for a race. Many weeks of rest with phasing back in activity, exercise, and training again. Those first “jogs,” I thought I had developed asthma, but it was just things healing. The same thing happened when I started swimming again. Realistically, it will be six months to be back to “normal,” and I have a couple of months to go. I can’t imagine what recovery would have been like if I had not been “in shape.”

From a nutrition standpoint, I did focus on getting more protein to help with healing. I could not eat much at a time, so I was eating small amounts throughout the day. Given the decrease in my activity level, I made an effort not to go crazy with comfort foods like ice cream or holiday cookies. When laying on the couch for hours, it is certainly easy to pack on some pounds.

TL: What’s your proudest athletic achievement? And what’s your ultimate athletic goal?

JM: Crossing the finish line at Ironman Florida and hearing “Jamie Moore — you are an Ironman!” My ultimate goal is to still be running and doing tri’s when I am in my 80s. If you don’t dream it, you will never achieve it.

TL: Any final thoughts?

JM: I am signed up for Olympic distance triathlons in August and October and an ultramarathon in January 2017.

Running and triathlons have been a wonderful passion and addition to have in my life. It has been a blessing to be healthy enough all these years to able to participate and to have wonderful family and friends to support me. I hope everyone has something so fulfilling in their lives.