Ask a person why and how they got involved in triathlon, and you’re probably in for one hell of a good story. As I’m becoming more involved in the sport and getting to meet and know more people at races, I am just fascinated by the personal journeys that bring people to triathlon. You’ll see everyone from the weekend warrior mom of 5, to the first timers there on a bet, to the 85 year old man that can still kick your butt all the way to the finish line; I get chills even just sitting here thinking about it! The stories are truly one of my favorite things about endurance sports. This is how my journey began:
I was a pretty athletic kid but never very serious about any of it, involved in tennis, track, swimming, horseback riding, and briefly one season on the C team of my middle school basketball team. I was also a musician, and as high school neared an end I pretty much gave up athletics to pursue my career in classical music. I earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music Performance, and for the last 10 years of my life music has been my main focus and career. Aside from riding my horses, there was no athletic activity in my life besides walking up and down the stairs in our condo. I wasn’t overweight but I certainly wasn’t in any sort of good shape. In mid-December 2015, I went on a Friday afternoon and took my horse for a ride on the trails by myself. We got all the way through our ride and were about 50 yds from home, when my saddle started slipping because I’d forgotten to cinch down my girth. It scared the horse (or maybe pissed him off!) and as he began jumping around I knew I was coming off. Rather than fall and risk breaking an arm (the death of a musician), I decided to jump off. I jumped, landed on my feet, and instantly cracked the inside of my right ankle.
I’d never broken a bone before. Little did I know, but that was the beginning of a long few months of darkness and mild depression. I’d never been incapacitated, had my freedom and mobility taken away, and forced to have another person (my wonderful and amazing husband who took care of me selflessly!) have to do almost everything for me. When I was healed, I swore to myself that I would never take my body advantage again, so I googled “fitness class near me” and up popped a free class voucher for Orangetheory Fitness. I signed up, took my first class, and was so sore I could hardly walk for 3 days. As someone who thought that it wouldn’t be so hard, I was totally impressed and excited for what was to come. That summer, I signed up on a whim for my very first 5k race, not expecting anything at all. I ended up winning my age group of about 50 ladies and was presented a dinky little medal. I cried. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and “winning” something for the first time since I could remember. Music is art; art is subjective; and I realized that I had spent so much of my life being judged and never feeling good enough even though I was accomplishing great things. This little medal meant so much to me! I was hooked.
Only a few months later in October of 2016, I ran my first half marathon. I cried then too! I continued to be so overwhelmed with joy and pride at these things that I was accomplishing – me, myself, my 2 legs, all the hard work that I put in to accomplish something I didn’t even know was possible. The next weekend I ran a trail race and placed well – I was really getting in a groove!
The next morning, my husband and I went for a trail ride just like we usually do on many Sunday mornings. Not more than ½ mile from home, my horse tripped unexpectedly and fell all the way down, throwing me off him and rolling over on my left leg that was caught in the saddle. I knew the moment I got up that I had just broken my other ankle. I called my mom, bawling my eyeballs out, and said to her, “I don’t want to do this again!” I was completely devastated. I knew what I was in for, the dark place that was going to be so hard to avoid and was broken hearted to have to be sidelined just as I was getting better at running.
Fast forward a few months and a plate and 8 screws later, I was back to rehabbing my 2nd broken ankle. I started running again, built my strength up slowly but surely and I was more determined than ever to challenge my body. The husband and I were taking a vacation in Grand Cayman, and I thought I would look up if there were any races going on that weekend. Sure enough, the Flower’s 1-mile Sea Swim was happening. I hadn’t swum in years, but I was confident that whether I would swim, float, or doggy paddle, I could swim a mile. I signed up, bought a race suit and pair of goggles in Florida on our layover, and that weekend I swam my first mile ocean swim! I had so much fun that when I got home, the next logical step had to be triathlon.
I begged my husband and as a former triathlete himself that has been hit by 3 cars on his bike, he said “No way in hell you’re riding a bike on these streets!” And he has a point – traffic in Los Angeles and Orange County is no joke. But I never give up, and certainly not that easily. I found a free local “Give it a Tri” program that rented bikes, wetsuits, and had weekly classes; more importantly, they rode on the bike paths! Success! Now what was my husband going to say? I pleaded my case and finally got him to agree to it. Even better, he didn’t want me to ride my bike alone on the streets while training at home, so he came out of retirement and joined me on my adventure. September 2017 was my first sprint triathlon – the Long Beach Tri in Long Beach, CA. I didn’t cry that time, and I realized those broken ankles weren’t for nothing.