I can still remember the day I met Colleen Fossett at a spin class at Future Fitness.  It was the first week of April, 2010 and winter was getting me down.  I was looking to redirect my energies to a new fitness goal.  I was sitting in the class and this girl was sitting next to me and we started chatting.  She told me that a few of her friends had started a triathlon club for women and she told me I should join.  My initial reaction was “Are you crazy?  Look at me!  I was in marching band, not sports!”  I always wanted to be an athlete.  I’d look at all the people in high school on track, softball, tennis, etc and I’d be secretly jealous that they were so fit.  My husband, Brian loves to exercise and be outdoors.  Running, biking, tennis, you name it.  Back in the day, I begrudgingly went to Wissahickon Drive and Kelly Drive and rode my bike in the early, pre-kids part of our marriage and attempted to be athletic.  However, I could only go about 5 miles on the bike or a half-mile jogging before I’d poop out.

When I first moved to Woolwich, Brian and I went out on a bike ride .We were heading down Kings Highway and my mind wandered for a split second and my tires went into the railroad grooves and I flipped over my handlebars.  Needless to say, that was my last time on my bike………….until I met Colleen.  She inspired me to get back on my bike and get over my fear of falling off again.  My kids were almost 5 and 3 and they would soon be riding bikes themselves.  I couldn’t let them know that I was scared or else they would never get on a bike.  So, I borrowed my husband’s old mountain bike, because I felt safer on the thicker tires. I’m happy to say that I didn’t fall.  I’m still slightly hesitant when I ride (especially going downhill) but I can do it.  So, check one, I could ride a bike.  That’s one-third of the triathlon. 

Next, let’s discuss running.  I ran my first 5K prior to joining the tri club.  Of course, running is a relative term, given that it took me 40 minutes to finish. I like to call my version of running a “wog”, in between a walk and a jog.  So I did the Dragon Run in Swedesboro and I came in second.  Second to last, that is.  But, I finished, and I figured I did better than all the people that were still in bed that morning! So I knew I could do the 5K.  If you are keeping track, that is now two-thirds of a triathlon. 

Onto the swim.  Unlike most first-time triathletes, I wasn’t worried about the swim.  Mostly because it’s pretty easy to be calm when you swim with your head above water.  Not the most efficient way to do it, but it gets the job done.  I decided to do the Splash and Dash before SheROX last year in Marlton Lakes with my fellow MHWTC member, Colleen Cassidy.  I completed the swim, keeping my head above water the whole time.  My neck hurt for a week after the Splash and Dash.  So, I had to learn in roughly 3 weeks how to swim with my head in the water prior to SheROX.  But completing the Splash and Dash gave me the confidence that I could now do all three events separately. The real test would be doing them together. 

August 1st was a gorgeous day.  The weather gods were good to us initially for the swim and the rivercast was green!  Colleen Cassidy and I jumped in the water in the buddy wave and we were off.  It wasn’t an easy task, but I ultimately did SheROX with my head in the beautiful Schuylkill river.  Next up was the bike.  I jumped on the mountain bike and rode the double loop course.  The weather was starting to get dark, but I wasn’t worried.  Until the rain started.  I was about 3 miles from the end of the bike portion when it started raining.  As a person who was consistently riding about 12 mph throughout tri season (due to my HUGE fear of falling off my bike), I was riding 22 mph for the last 3 miles of that race due to yet another fear of getting struck by lightning.  As I pulled in into transition from the bike, I heard my name.  I looked up, and in the pouring rain was my husband, both my kids and my parents.  That was the biggest surprise and just what I needed to get through the very wet run portion of the 5K.  There is nothing better than having friends and family there for you during these events.  Due to a nagging IT band injury, I ended up walking a good portion of the 5K.  But as I finished the last quarter mile, I saw my family again at the finish line.  My kids came running out to me and we all ran and crossed the finish line together.  I was wet, exhausted and thrilled to be able to call myself a triathlete.  Brian caught the bug and we decided to “tri” the Marlton Lakes triathlon a month later.  He loved it and we are both signed up to do it again this year. 

Being fit is a great feeling, but the thing that I liked most of all about joining the tri club was the opportunity to meet over a hundred new women in the greater Gloucester County area.  It’s hard to make friends sometimes as an adult, and this club gave me a chance to meet some really great women.  During the offseason, I talked about the tri club to a few of my friends.  Three of my friends ended up joining, Christine Venuti (last week’s blogger), Barbara Kappler and Marla Curran.

            This year, I transitioned to a new road bike (love my red Dolce) and I can’t believe I ever rode a mountain bike. Since I will never be a running speed demon, I decided to go for endurance and I completed the Broad Street Run alongside my fellow MHWTC triathlete and training partner, Marla Curran.  Our race, the Queen of the Hill, was by far my best triathlon for all 3 events.  SheROX started well, but I was one of the many that got a flat tire.  But, I was still able to finish.  Still on the calendar of events this year are the Marlton Lakes triathlon, the Dragon Run in Swedesboro (where I am pushing myself to try and finish in 35 minutes or less), the End Duchenne Bike Tour in Woolwich and Run the Bridge.  On the wish list for next year are a half-marathon and an Olympic triathlon.

I have met even more amazing women this year than I did last year. All this training helped me to lose over 35 pounds since January 2011 and I now have the energy needed to keep up with my kids and my husband. I feel so much better about myself than I did 18 months ago.  So I guess this band geek is somewhat of an athlete.  I don’t need to finish first, I just need to finish.  Thanks to all the ladies in pink that keep me motivated when I really need it.

I work full time.  I have 4 busy little boys under 8 years old.  I have no time to myself.  I have no time for the gym.  I have no shortage of excuses when it comes to exercising.  To be honest, I have never worked out on a regular basis for more than a 3-month stretch in my life.  I have never played organized sports, and I am very clumsy.  Gym was my least favorite class in school.

The MHWTC was introduced to me last year by my friend and fellow member, Traci Hoolahan.  She encouraged me to join, but that same week I found out that I was pregnant with our fourth child.  While triathlons sounded like fun, I figured it wouldn’t be a good time to start intense exercise.  See, another excuse!  Last summer was the hottest on record, not a fun time for a pregnant woman.  I didn’t go outside.  I was always tired.  I couldn’t keep up with the kids.   And I was really starting to get tired of making excuses.

Then I started meeting the women in the Tri Club around town.  Women with all different levels of athletic ability.  Women who are all supportive of local businesses, charities, and especially one another.  Then I found out another close friend of mine, Heather Scheckner, was a member, and she encouraged me to join too.  Wow, exercising could be social, too!
So I joined the Tri Club this January.  I didn’t plan on actually doing a triathlon this year.  I figured I would just take my time getting in shape and learning about triathlons from the other members.  Maybe I would go and cheer the ladies at the finish line.  Besides, the club even supported a good cause!

Shortly after the season kickoff meeting at Carolina Blue, that cause hit home for me.  My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I spent time going with her to several doctor’s visits, hospital visits, chemotherapy infusion visits, and in the back of my mind all along, I knew I had run out of excuses – I was going to do a triathlon this year and raise money for ovarian cancer awareness and cure.  No one should have to go through what my mom and so many other wonderful women have gone through.

I joined the gym.  That was a huge step for me – I swore years ago that I would never join a gym again, because I never use it!  Then I actually started to go, just twice a week – baby steps.  Each time I went I increased my distance on the treadmill, and within a month I was able to go 3.1 miles.  I was so proud of myself that I registered for a 5K in March – just to see what it was like.  I’ll tell you what it was like – it was like 28 degrees that day!  And Traci wanted to kill me for dragging her out in the cold with me.  But I finished, and it gave me such a rush that I started to add swimming to my running routine.  I registered for a swim class.  The most important thing I learned in that class was that I had no idea what I was doing and that swimming was really hard!  So I started swimming more, determined to learn how to swim.  I started to feel great – I had a lot more energy, and my stress level was down.  Most importantly, I was really having fun!

I haven’t been on a bike in at least 15 years.  I didn’t even know what a road bike was.  I started to do research and broke down and bought a bike.  And after riding that new bike twice (yes, twice), I decided to register for the Riverwinds triathlon, just to see if I could do it.  Everyone said it was a perfect tri for beginners!  It was windy and freezing cold, but I got up at the crack of dawn, set up my transition area and jumped in the pool.  I didn’t have to stop at the end of a lap to catch my breath this time.  And I heard someone else in the club yelling, “Go Christine!”  No one ever cheered me on in a sport before!  Those two words got me through the entire bike ride.  Then I started to run, and there was Colleen with her camera with more words of encouragement.  While I ran, countless women with MHWTC shirts yelled over to me, “good job!”  I finished it – and it was so fun!  That’s when the addiction began.  I registered for Queen of the Hill and SheRox, and even registered for the Bridgeton Tri at the last minute, “just to get one last one in before SheRox”.

I began to observe the other triathletes.  What inspiring people!  I will never forget how everyone stopped to cheer the little 79 year-old man as he ran across the finish line at the Bridgeton Tri.  My eyes welled up with tears as I saw a blind woman jump on her bike at SheRox.  The woman who ran past me whose hair was just growing back after finishing chemotherapy was absolutely amazing!  I have been moved and inspired by so many people this year – who was I to make up so many excuses not to work out?

My family has been affected positively by my new interest too.  My husband has been so supportive of me – he has walked miles with all four kids to see me cross the finish line with “Go, Mommy!”  and “Duh, Winning!” posters in hand.  I overhear him bragging to other people, “My wife is a triathlete!”  My children want to play outside more. They want to play more sports. My 8-year old likes to go running with me, and is bugging me to take him on a long bike ride.  He wants to do a triathlon too!

I would just like to thank every single MHWTC woman who ever offered words of encouragement during a run or a bike – you all got me through this season.  Mostly, thank you to Traci and Heather for convincing me to tri! This year has been a whirlwind.   If any of you told me that I would be here today, writing a blog about my experiences with 4 triathlons under my belt I would have said you were crazy.

Yesterday, my mom finished her last cycle of chemotherapy, and she has done well.  I can only pray that the efforts of groups like ours will help to increase awareness and save more women, including my mom.  I’m all out of excuses!  And I’m officially addicted!  Who knows what’s in store for next year?  Will I overcome my anxiety and get clipless pedals?  Will I attempt an Olympic?  All I know is that one day I want to be that little 79 year-old running across the finish line as everyone stops to cheer.

I’ve always wanted to “Blog”.  That is, until someone gave me the opportunity to do just that.

What on earth do I say?  As I was thinking about my written stream of consciousness, it made me think about how I came to call myself a “triathlete”.  Yes, me.  My name is Stacy and I’m a triathlete! 

I’ve always been the type of person who gets bored easily.  I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.  If you saw my closet full of gear you’d think I had my Captain’s License for sailing or that I had dived around the world.  I can proudly say I’ve propelled others into what I hope will be life-long passions.  I convinced my sister to take sailing lessons with me and now she owns her own sailboat.  I convinced a friend of mine to take scuba lessons with me and now she’s a Dive Instructor and Dive Master.  Me?  Well, I’m on to the next thing, of course.

Then, after many years of piddling through interest after interest, I was asked to join some friends in doing a triathlon…..Of course I toasted to this brilliant idea over holiday drinks, secretly thinking, “Hell, No!  Are they nuts?”  As it turns out, they aren’t nuts, but they have a lot of guts.  (Get it?  Heh, heh)

Then, I got a mysterious email about a month later from someone named Colleen.  Who’s this Colleen person?  It had an attachment:  The Couch Potato Workout.  Uh oh.  Didn’t they know I was just getting caught up in the holiday spirit? They don’t think I’m actually going to do a triathlon, do they?  “The Couch Potato Workout”– How fitting!

I have always been an active person.  I’ve always enjoyed the gym, going to classes, etc.  However, it had been more than ten, yes TEN years since I had worked out.  My cute little figure was no longer little or cute.   I had become everything I swore I wouldn’t become!  I needed to do something and here was this rare, beautiful, cockamamie, and unrealistic opportunity to get myself moving.

So, I got up one early February morning, went to the gym, and got my rear end on the treadmill.  I did it the next day and the next day and the next day.  I decided to commit myself.  I left out some important details, however.  I wasn’t a runner, I’m terrified of water, and I didn’t know how to swim. I could splash around a pool, but I couldn’t have done a stroke of freestyle if you said a shark was chasing me.

I still remember telling someone at work, “I’m doing a sprint triathlon next summer!”  She took one look at me and said, “That’s a bit of a lofty goal, don’t you think?”  To this day, I tease her about that comment.  It was definitely the sanest perspective of the situation, I’ll give her that.

Well, February turned into March and the months kept rolling by.  Then, something amazing happened.  At the beginning of May, I ran a 5K race!  WOW.  This is where I needed to be in order to be ready for the triathlon in August.  This might actually be possible!  Then, I started swimming.  Well, maybe not “swimming”, but paddling in the water and I was able to do it for longer and longer and longer periods of time.

I was starting to feel good.  I got my heavy hybrid bike tuned up and joined these triathlon club rides on the weekends.  Yes, by this time, The Mullica Hill Women’s Triathlon Club had been formed and I was a proud member!  I didn’t feel like I belonged, but everyone else made me feel like I did.  And that meant A LOT to me.  It was a safe environment to reach this “lofty” goal of mine! 

Again, the months kept rolling by.  I road my bike, ran, and practiced open water swims in some of the murkiest lakes I’ve ever seen.  By now I’m thinking that I might actually be nuts.  Who willingly gets into these bodies of water?  I’ll tell you who:  me and about 100 other women residing in and around Mullica Hill.

On August 1, 2010, I jumped in the Schuylkill River with a HUGE smile on my face.  I smiled even more when I realized I didn’t DROWN as I climbed back out of that river.  I smiled even more when I didn’t fall off my bike, and when I crossed that finish line after running the entire distance, I was overwhelmed with such elation and pride.  I DID IT!!!!!!!  That feeling gives me goose bumps even today.

A year later, I have done three additional triathlons and ran the ten-mile Broad Street Run.  I now have a beautiful road bike that I absolutely love to ride; I enjoy my early morning runs and have aspirations of doing an Olympic Triathlon next summer. (Notice I didn’t mention my love of swimming-let’s not get ahead of ourselves here!)

 I’m setting a good example for my children and my daughter asks if she can do a “triafalong” with me someday.  I’ve met amazing people, made some dear, dear friends and guess what?????  I’M NOT BORED!  It’s a miracle! 

 It might have taken me “30” years to figure it out, but I think I’m on to something here.  It’s not a fluke.  My name is Stacy and I’m a triathlete!  For life!

“I did it! I did it! I did it!!!”  That was my Facebook status update after completing the SheRox Triathlon yesterday. Being able to say “I did it!” is the reason I Tri and the reason I:

  • Completed a mock-tri during one of the worst heat waves of the summer. Many thanks to Colleen and the other volunteers who ensured we were well hydrated during the workout – whether by Gatorade, cold wash cloths or super soaker water guns.
  •  Purchased and learned how to ride with clips. Only two falls so far, so I count myself lucky. Many thanks for the words of advice dispensed during the Wednesday night Rodes Ride – my rides are continuing to improve.
  • Woke up at an ungodly hour yesterday morning. Who knew there is more than one 4 o’clock each day? Again, props to Colleen for the last minute advice on dealing with the weather and how to prepare.
  • Hauled my gear and my bike for more than a mile to the transition area. On the bright side, I was completely warmed up by the time I got my bike set-up.
  • Walked around barefoot in a field FILLED with goose poop. This became a non-issue once I got ready for the swim – switched my glasses for my goggles and voila! the poop disappeared.
  • Stuck my toe in, let alone MY ENTIRE BODY, to the Schuykill River. The best part of this stage was the men assisting with swim exit!
  • Rode over 15 miles while soaking wet. Beautiful course, but the hills, oh, the hills!
  • Ran over 3 miles with my shoes filled with water. Not much to say about this one – if I passed you on the run, I apologize for the obnoxious sounds my sneakers made.

As the newest member of the MHWTC, I want to thank each of you. Your warmth in welcoming me, as well as your smiles, thumbs-up and words of encouragement, give me the courage to Tri and Tri again! And your support enables me to say “I did it!”