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WORLD TRIATHLON CHAMPION BAKER IS RUNNING AFTER NEW CHALLENGES

On a cold, blustery Wednesday when most people would be content to stay warm indoors, Erin Baker also took a day off. She only ran outside for an hour near the University at Buffalo.

For Baker, the world's top female triathlete, it was almost like a walk around the block, a break from the five-hour training days she's used to. She was here to speak at a UB Medical School sportsmedicine seminar.

When Baker goes to work each day, it's swim, bike and run, a ritual that has helped her win the world triathlon championships six times and this year, the Ironman New Zealand, Ironman Canada, and the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

It was the second time she crossed the finish line first in Hawaii after a mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a marathon run, or 26.2 miles.

But life at the top of the triathlon world is getting a little stale for Baker, 29, a New Zealand native who trains half the year in Boulder, Colo., with her husband Scott Molina, one of the top five male triathletes.

She wants to be the best runner in the world, the Olympic champion at 10,000 meters representing New Zealand.

"I'm certainly not satisfied with winning everything," she said about her triathlon career before she spoke at the Buffalo Marriott to a gathering of the country's top sportsmedicine specialists. "It bores me. Not in the bad boring sense. I really love competition and I want again not to be the best at something.

"I want to get up in the morning and think, I'm going to train hard today so I can beat such and such."

In a day of selfishness among elite athletes, Baker's move to running is certain to cut into the six-figure income she makes from winning triathlons and landing commercial endorsements.

"I think it's the same for a woman in all sports," she said. "You have to be the absolute best to make a good payday. And so I certainly am not looking at this to be a great financial reward."

But then Baker also doesn't plan to stick around long if she can't be competitive in
running. "I'm just not going to be mucking around," she said.

The world record for 10,000 meters is 30 minutes, 13.74 seconds. She thinks she is capable of doing it. No woman has broken 2 hours and 20 minutes in the marathon. She thinks she can do that.

Baker, who gave the Marriott audience a taste of her saucy humor, doesn't brag. She just knows from all those thousands of miles she's covered swimming, biking and running, what she can do, all 5-foot-5, 120 pounds of her.

She took off a little time from triathlons last year and won the highly competitive Bix 7, a 7-mile road race at Davenport, Iowa, against a world class field. She ran a 2:49 marathon as part of the Ironman Canada, beaten only by a man. She was the third woman finisher at the Pittsburgh Marathon while training for triathlons.

Running could only be a break in a schedule that sees her ride a bike each day between 40 and 90 miles, swim for a hour and run for a hour, sometimes twice a day with track workouts.

But she's looking for a break. And after the Olympics, if she makes them, she and her husband may start a family. She'll eventually return to running and wrap a few triathlons around it.

"I don't want everyday of my life to think swim, bike, run," she said of the future. "I won't wait around with running if I'm not any good. I'll just say I tried it."

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