The Athlete.

I’ve been blessed with many things and my athleticism is at the top of the list. My Father was thrilled that his second child was a girl, but he certainly taught me how to not throw like one. In the 1960’s, my Father was offered a pitching position with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He instead made the decision to pursue a career in law, instead of professional baseball. Much of my athletic prowess I owe to my Dad-genetically of course-but also because of the important lessons he taught me through sports, that I still apply to my daily life.  Like, Don’t Quit.  Ever.

As a child growing up, I remember being outside all the time and playing sports frequently.  We had a basketball hoop in our driveway-there were weekly games, and one-on-ones, but also many foul shooting contests.  We played stickball in the street, wiffleball in the front yard and rode our bikes all over the neighborhood.  There were dodge ball games, swimming games at neighbors and one year my Dad even flooded out our back yard in the winter to turn it into an ice hockey rink for the kids.  Needless to say, I grew up on sports.

I started running at a very young age, during the 70’s running boom,which was a bit unusual as my parents were not runners.  I remember doing some local 5 and 10k’s and was always the youngest finisher at these races.  From an early age, I just loved to run.  As I got into junior high school, I was disciplined enough to keep to a weekly run schedule.  In High School, I joined the Cross Country and Track teams, but my focus and discipline began to wear off during my high school years.  I was a bit more consumed by boys and parties.  As a result, my senior year I had dropped from the organized school sports and just enjoyed  running on my own.

By the time I got to college, I really had no interest in organized school sports and just continued to run on my own.  Boys and parties in college once again distracted me and after several years, I decided to drop out, get a job and save money to move out West to CA, which was a plan of mine since I was a kid.

Once in CA, I found myself thinking about triathlons-everyone seemed fit out West, the weather was nicer and easier to get out in year round.  I made the decision to train for a triathlon end enlisted the tutelage of my brother.  I bought my first bike for  $40 at a thrift store, it was a turquoise and white Panasonic and it weighed 40lbs.  I had no idea what I was doing.  My brother offered some basic training tips and advice, but other than that I was on my own. He bought and sent me my first farmer john wetsuit, which I promptly put on backwards at the race. Probably the only other woman at the race came over and said to me rather sheepishly “I think the zipper goes in the back”.  I made all of the classic mistakes and learned from them.  In preparation for the race, I  did as much running and cycling as I thought I needed and skipped the swim training entirely.(which is NOT RECOMMENDED)  I had never really swum and hate being cold and wet.  I never once did a swim prior to my first triathlon and I do not recommend it.  The water was so cold, I was hyperventilating.  I almost got pulled from the water and was the second to last out of it. I do not like not being good at things, so after that race, I dilligently began to show up to the pool and I taught myself how to become a great swimmer.

I knew early on as a new triathlete that I was interested in doing and Ironman distance race, so I started to plan right away to build up my endurance through my training, tackling one task at a time: a ½ marathon, full marathon, ½ Ironman etc.  I raced as much as I could and placed well in most of the races I competed in.  I did well enough over the years to have been nationally sponsored by PowerBar, Cliff Bar and O’Neil andI was a trail blazer for women in sports-specifically triathlon.

In 1995, I did my first Ironman race.  I was already hooked-but it was after the first one that it truly became a lifestyle for me.  I went on to compete in 10 Ironman distance races and eventually set my sights on a race called Ultraman.  Ultraman is an invite only event-they invite about 35 athletes from around the world to compete in a 3 day stage race on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was one of about 5 women that were invited to participate in the event.  Day one includes a 6.2-mile rough water swim, followed by a 95-mile bike ride. Day two is a 175-mile bike ride around the Big Island and the final day is a double marathon run of 52.4 miles through the lava fields.  I truly don’t know what I was thinking.  But what I do know is that in training for that race, I learned a lot about myself, what I was capable of and how strong the body,  mind and spirit can become when they are all working together.  It is humbling to this day to me to think about that race and what I accomplished there.

After Ultraman, I continued to race and in 2005 qualified for the World Championship Long Course Triathlon in Denmark.  It was a great experience to race in a foreign country with such amazing athletes from all over the US.

Since Worlds, I have done a few races here and there, but have (for now) officially retired from racing.  I still swim, bike and run-but not with a regimented training schedule and an agenda.  After so many years of disciplined training, it’s been a nice transition for me.  With all of the women that I coach, attending so many triathlons throughout the year, I still feel immersed in the sport-even though I don’t compete anymore and perhaps I feel even more inspired watching the women I coach cross the finish line than I ever did crossing the finish line myself.