Elaine’s Story: I’m a member of the “Sisterhood,” women between 45 and 60 or so who meet together twice a month to support each other, learn new things, grow in faith, etc. We are based at the First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor. We were on a “Flygirlz” trip last year together at Niagara Falls doing a bicycle wine tour (among many other fun things) when Kim G. began talking about the Tri Goddess event. A number of us “women of faith” who are trying to improve our health and age as gracefully as we can decided to give it a try and set a goal of competing in this all-women event in June. We had Eva come and talk with us last January and we were even more inspired to give the event a try (tri!).
We have now encouraged each other via our meet-up site, in church, on Facebook, and in training this spring. I believe there are four of us registered for Tri Goddess — Laura F., Linda L., Cathy P., and me. Kim, unfortunately, will be on a church youth group service trip and cannot participate. Thank you for the inspiration!
Stacey’s Story: I hate running. I put up with it in my office lunch group because it’s social, and I’m likely as not to bail at the 3-mile mark. I’ve done a few 5Ks and even did the 5+10K Turkey Trot as a challenge (I walked a lot of it). As a contrast, I grew up loving open-water swimming. I bike 3.5 miles each way to work if it’s above freezing. I cannot remember a time before I had a bike to ride, nor can I recall a time when I couldn’t swim. Sometime late last year, it dawned on me: why on earth haven’t I tried out a triathlon yet?
I looked around a little. I didn’t want a race race but rather something friendly where I could bring my trusty commuter mountain bike and not look like the odd man out. I found the Tri Goddess race and it seemed like the perfect fit! It’s time but geared toward making first-timers like me feel welcome. I signed up in February after failing to convince any of my friends to join me. By March 1, I knew I was pregnant with my first child. I’ll be quite a bit slower and a bit heavier than I was expecting to be, but I finally got my race buddy!
Letty’s Story: My 7-year-old son learned how to ride a bike without training wheels before I learned how to ride a bike. Go ahead and take a second to laugh. I grew up on 10 acres with three horses and a gravel road in the country in western Pennsylvania. I played with Barbies, did ballet, did gymnastics, and did a lot of reading growing up. After my parents divorced, my mom and I moved to a new home. I was 16, so I got my driver’s license. I never had the opportunity to ride a bike around the neighborhood because a car was much cooler… so I never had the chance to ride a bike.
Fast forward several years. After having my third child, the weight was not coming off as quickly as it should have from walking, so I decided to try running. I hadn’t run since I did one year of track in high school (I wanted to quit track, but my mom made me stay with the sport until the season was over). When our third baby was about six weeks old, I started alternating walking and running for a few minutes each on the treadmill several nights per week. I told my friend and college sorority sister, Rachel, that I had started running, and she suggested that we run a 5K on Labor Day. I took up her challenge and finally, in mid-August, I was able to run for three miles straight. On Labor Day, I ran my first 5K in 33:20, just 12 weeks after my third child was born.
I caught the running bug! I began doing some 5K races, I did the Pittsburgh Marathon on a relay team in 2010, I did a 10K, etc. In the spring of 2010, my huband decided to do the Akron Marathon, and I decided to do the half marathon along with him. Soon after I’d decided to do the half, I found out about a group of women called the Mighty Tri Girls, who train for triathlons at all levels. I emailed the coach, Sue W., and she told me about a fall half-marathon training group. I began training with them that August.
Sue encouraged me to join the Mighty Tri Girls, and I had to break the news to her that I had never ridden a bike. In Sue’s positive fashion, she encouraged me to do it and told me she would teach me. That September, I ran my half (running the first eight miles with my husband) in 2:11. It was a great experience! And now, onto the hard part: riding a bike. In October, Sue gave me my first lesson at a local park. She ran alongside me, holding onto the back of the bike. I felt as though it were possible for me to ride!
I joined the Mighty Tri Girls in February 2011. Sue did a six-week swimming clinic for us every Sunday. It was so much fun to meet the different ladies coming from all different backgrounds, all with different goals and reasons for doing a triathlon.
My next bike lesson with Sue took place one crisp March day behind the Sheraton near my home. We could have been on America’s Funniest Videos. Sue once again ran alongside me, this time hanging onto the seat of the bike. The lesson went well, and we planned to meet the following Thursday. The next week was warmer and more productive. Sue began to let go of the seat. At one point, she ran beside me, which scared me and I crashed! I told her not to tell me if she were going to let go. The following week, we met again, and I discovered I could actually ride alone! Starting was the hardest for me. I couldn’t have done it without Sue. She was so patient with me, and her positive encouragement meant more to me than she will ever know.
Being able to ride alone, I began doing brick workouts — biking, then running — in May. We started our open-water swimming that month as well. I was still facing some of my fears biking, such as turning and passing runners on the trail. I was still anxious the first few minutes of each ride, but the anxieties lessened each time I got on the bike.
In August 2011, I completed my first triathlon in 1:49 in Columbus, OH. My husband and children were there, and my two oldest crossed the finish line with me. Since then, I have completed seven half marathons, a 10-mile race, two sprint triathlons, and many 10Ks and 5Ks. I try to do at least one half marathon and one sprint triathlon per year now. I think my children are learning about hard work paying off and how important exercise is in our lives. My oldest has done two 5Ks with me, and he wants to do a kids’ triathlon this summer.
I am looking forward to Tri Goddess Tri in Ann Arbor this summer with all of my Mighty Tri Girls!
Thanks to people like Letty Henry, Jeanine Solo, Rebecca Sexton, and Sue Waldrop from the Might Tri Girls, I have learned to ride a road bike and will nervously be showing off this newly learned skill at this, my first tri. Did I have to learn what clipless pedals meant? Yes. Have I fallen? Of course. But will that stop me? Thanks to these women who guided me, taught me, pushed me, and even waited up for me a few times while I walked my bike up a hill, no. I will bike (hopefully I’ll make it out with photos rather than scars to prove it). And with that, I am ready for my first triathlon, my first competitor bike.
It’s not a great story. It might not have been much to overcome for many. But for me, biking was my challenge. My fear. My “how can I possibly compete in a triathlon” question that ran through my head. And I am so excited to prove to myself that I can do it! I can ride a road bike!!
This spring, I read an email from the American Lung Association, announcing they would be charity partners of Tri Goddess Tri. I signed up immediately. What better way to honor my dad, raise money for cancer research, and challenge my body?
This year, I’m returning to the sport of triathlon. Each month during the racing season I am participating in a triathlon, raising funds for ALA. I also partnered with Fight Cancer Shirts to make personalized training gear. Thank you, Tri Goddess!
Do you have a story to share with us regarding what inspired you to register for Tri Goddess Tri (or what inspires you to swim, bike, run, or all of the above? Submit your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and you may see it featured here!