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Feature
Beyond the crawl
Reflecting on Julie’s Moss’s iconic IRONMAN finish — and what the legend is up to today
By Sarah Wassner Flynn
 


When I was a couple of miles from the finish line of my very first half-IRONMAN last June, my quads and calves seized suddenly, rendering me unable to move forward without searing pain. Instantly, a vision flashed in my mind: that of Julie Moss stumbling toward the finish line of the 1982 IRONMAN World Championship, her body, wracked with cramps, crumbling to the black pavement as she walked — then crawled — down the chute. I first watched the clip as a kid, long before I became a triathlete or could even comprehend what an IRONMAN was. But that grainy, dark footage is ingrained in my memory, a gritty example of the power of mind over matter. So, as I grimaced with my own pain on the side of a twisty country road, I thought of Moss and told myself that I had to get to the finish line — even if I had to crawl.
I finished the race (slowly, but on both feet). And, as it turns out, I’m not the only person who has drawn inspiration from Moss’ unforgettable finish over the past 35 years. Far from it. That raw, somewhat frightening, but ultimately triumphant 90-some seconds have been solidified among the most iconic moments in triathlon and immortalized Moss as a legend in the sport.


And it also dramatically changed the trajectory of her life.


 


EARLY DAYS
You could say Moss entered the triathlon scene at just the right time. With the running boom at its peak and marathons becoming more popular than ever, endurance events like the IRONMAN were just starting to emerge from the shadows of obscurity. In 1982, the IRONMAN World Championship, in its fourth year, had enough buzz surrounding it to garner the attention of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” which sent a camera crew to film the race.


It also piqued the curiosity of Moss, then a 22-year-old self-proclaimed California girl, who aimed to complete the grueling race as part of her senior thesis for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on the physiological aspects of the triathlon. Back then, Moss had to spell out triathlon to her professors because they’d never heard the word. She herself hadn’t raced a triathlon, although she did grow up surfing in the choppy Pacific Ocean, making her comfortable in open water. She was a natural runner and had two marathons under her belt. As for the bike?


38 | USA TRIATHLON | WINTER 2018

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