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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Tri, tri again: Treading water on the road to Troika

This is the third in a six-part series called “Tri, tri again,” as a 57-year-old sportswriter trains for his first triathlon. The journey continues…

The way I was splashing, there must have been a shark in the water.

In Nine Mile Falls. In April.

I was flailing more than swimming, which was why I drove all the way to Stevens County in the first place. The trip was worth it: After 20 minutes in Annie Warner’s one-lane indoor lap pool, I was splashing less, moving faster and gaining some confidence with every stroke.

Good thing, because the Troika Triathlon is less than seven weeks away. Now I have a fighting chance to get out of the water alive.

That’s because Warner, a pro triathlete, has the expertise to spot my mistakes and the patience to help me learn from them. She also had the good taste to suppress her giggles as I gurgled.

I learned to correct some beginner’s mistakes, by raising my waist, thereby dropping my head and actually gliding through the water instead of flailing. I learned to lengthen my stroke and fine-tune my breathing.

Warner offers personal lessons – for a fee, yes, but also for the “inspiration of seeing people do something they didn’t know they could do.”

Years ago, that was Warner. Her father and older siblings did triathlons before it became popular. She went on to swim at Northern Arizona University, then rediscovered her triathlon roots after graduating in 2003.

And like many newcomers, she found a helping hand in Marla Emde, the founder of Emde Sports in Spokane and the founder of the Valley Girl Triathlon in Liberty Lake.

“I always wanted to do different disciplines,” said Warner, who began chasing the professional dream.

She raced in the United States, Canada, Australia and Costa Rica.

In 2005, she married Pete Fisch, who built their lap pool in Nine Mile Falls. Warner continued to chase the triathlon dream until a disastrous bicycle crash in 2011 at the Elite Nationals in Buffalo.

Warner, now 35, landed head over heels, compressing her vertebrae and spending months in rehab. She was back on the pro circuit the next year, but still suffered pain and never felt comfortable in close-quarters bicycling.

Eventually, she realized that she wanted to “enjoy exercise the rest of my life. I didn’t have to be fast.”

Now she helps others get up to speed, working part time at Fitness Fanatics in Spokane Valley and the rest at her lap pool. Warner’s clients come in two categories: people just starting tris, or people who know how to swim but want to get faster.”

I’m not sure what category I fall in at this point. Swimming is tough. I should have seen Warner a bit sooner, since I have to incorporate different breathing techniques into my swim. It will pay off, I’m sure.

For good measure, I’ve enrolled in swim lessons at the YMCA in Spokane Valley.

This is week five of my 12-week training schedule. The “build phase,” they call it. Six days on and one day off. For me that means 12 training sessions, usually combining a swim and an indoor bike class, or a run and weightlifting session.

Along the way, I’m getting help from old friends and new, which is half the fun.

Coming next: Part four, in for a penny …

Wordcount: 578
Tags: triathlon, troika

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