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“That finish was so drawn out and so graphic, and I think it connected and resonated in a way that people felt like they were on this journey with me.”
 


She squeezed in most of her training into the three weeks she spent in Kona leading up to the race, riding a $400 10-speed and wearing a bulky skateboarding helmet.
“Two weeks before the race, I rode the entire course, after riding 35 miles into town,” she recalls. “It was an informal time trial, and I did pretty well. That gave me the confidence to believe this was something I could get through.”


 


BREAKING DOWN
Still, Moss never saw herself as a contender for the win. She barely knew her competition — which included the likes of eventual winner Kathleen McCartney, who wound up passing Moss in the home stretch — but preferred it that way. “I was in my own little bubble,” Moss says. “All I knew is that I had to finish the race to complete my thesis. I just wanted a date with the finish line.”


So it took her by surprise when she found herself in the lead with just about 8 miles remaining on the run. Until then, the day had gone rather flawlessly for Moss, with one exception: Her fuel. The Snickers bar she planned to eat on the bike had melted in her cycling jersey, leaving her with a sticky, gooey inedible mess. Along the course, she snacked mostly on oranges, some bananas, and took sips of Coke. After nearly 11 hours of pushing her body to the limit in the heat, her glycogen levels were depleted.


“The pressure to defend this leading position forced me to push harder than I would have on my own,” she says. “I couldn’t sustain it. I was breaking down, hard.”


 


INSTANT CELEBRITY
So there she was, lithe and freckled with her blond hair tucked under a blue and white trucker hat, her gait growing more stunted until she slowed to a walk. The camera crew stayed trained on Moss’ every stride, no doubt expecting her to float into the finish line with the same indomitable grace she had displayed all day. Instead, they captured one of the most memorable meltdowns in sports. Moss, refusing to give up even though her body had, even though she eventually lost her substantial lead to McCartney.


For better or for worse, history had been made.


“That finish was so drawn out and so graphic, and I think it connected and resonated in a way that people felt like they were on this journey with me,” says Moss of the iconic footage. “Watching me struggle, and then get passed … they felt my pain. And it made people question to themselves, ‘What would I do?’ It fascinated people. It inspired them.”


Moss may have finished second that day, but she was soon catapulted to the forefront of the burgeoning sport.


 


—— Continued on page 40
USATRIATHLON.ORG | USA TRIATHLON | 39

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