Why I Tri? by Denise Hovland
Why I Tri? This is a tough question as I am not quite sure when people have asked me. There are many appealing things about doing triathlons from cool bikes to gadgets to staying fit to the thrill of racing to getting to know and being inspired by some amazing people within Raise the Bar. However, when I really think about it, I do it for me. More on that later.
How I got into triathlon…I blame credit my friend, Tess Gaeke. Tess and I have known each over for some 20+ years and through the years, we have done a pretty good in convincing each other to do this race or that race. Prior to our discovery of triathlon, we had done several long-distance bike rides, 5k’s, and half marathons together. However, I cannot say I really trained very well for these events, it was more of doing it for fun and just to finish. Thanks to my husband, Loren, who goes to the gym every single day, I have been consistent about going to the gym. Although I can’t say that I put much effort into working out back then.
In 2007, we happen to be biking around Lake Washington and stopped to watch a group of women at Genesee Park that were going doing a practice run through of a triathlon (later discovering that is called a “brick). There were women of all shapes, sizes, and ages that were training for the Danskin Tri. As we watched, we both came to the consensus “we so totally could do this”. Fast forward to 2008, Tess through one of her Starbucks friends secure an entry for both of us through some special program that Danskin had. We ventured down to REI in Seattle that spring to see a presentation by Mary Meyers about the Danskin race, Triathlons, and her training program. It was during that presentation, it dawned on us that swimming was involved in this event which neither of us had spent much of our adult life doing. We made the leap and signed up for a few of Mary’s pool workouts at the Mercer Island pool and an open water clinics figuring that would get us ready. Sorry, Patty and Kathy at the time we had no clue what RTB was all about at that time.
Aside from the few Mary Meyers swim workouts, Tess and I did one practice run through of a triathlon by biking, running, and then the swim a week prior to the big event. With that one practice, we were ready to go!! When the big day arrived, I remember standing there in the swim start looking out across the lake and seeing the buoys and thinking what did get myself into? The next thing I know, I was headed into the water and it was go time. All the swim workouts went out the door as I went with a combo dog paddle/water polo swim with occasional moments on my back. I was so totally exhausted by the time I got out of the lake, but I was stoked as I survived and now only had the bike and run left. I finished with a decent time, it was thrill just to pass people on the bike and run given that they had all pretty much passed me on the swim. I managed to finish with a decent time and I was hooked!! Despite sucking at the swim, it felt great to have accomplished such a feat!
We decided to up our game in 2010 and attended RTB’s beginner swim clinics. I think what impressed me most about RTB was Patty’s keen ability to recognize people in their “street clothes” despite having never seen them outside of the pool in their swimsuits and caps. I happened to run into her at the Seattle bike expo after the first or second beginner swim class and she recognized me in my “street clothes” even remembering my name. That’s what made me join RTB. Patty, Kathy, Brad, etc. have always made RTB a friendly, “safe”, comfortable, and fun environment. There is no pressure. They are very good about encouraging and giving you that nudge you may need, but they leave it up to you how much you want to put into the sport. That same spirit seems to be carried out throughout the team. Everyone on the team has always been helpful in providing tips and encouragement. It is great to be part of such a supportive team.
I tri for me. This sport has done so much for me. It has made me more in tune with my own health. While I would go to the gym on a regular basis, I was pretty much a couch potato after coming home and on the weekends. I had no energy whatsoever. Now, I am up every morning at 4:30am during the week hitting the gym and can make it through the weekend without having to take a nap (well, almost every weekend). I work out with a purpose now. I can keep up with Loren when we go hiking, sometimes even passing him. As I get older, I see the benefits of staying fit and the rewards it will reap down the road. It’s also helped me with my asthma. I used to just suffer through being congested and unable to breath very well because that’s how it is with asthma or at least that is what I was led to believe. This was impacting my ability to progress much with triathlons and I wanted to take it up a notch. Sprints, no problem but I really struggled with Olympics. It finally drove me to push my doctor to refer me to a specialist who was able to nail things down and resulted in surgery to remove nasal polyps. Man, I felt like a million bucks after that recovering from that surgery. So much so that I decided I wanted to do the Lake Stevens HIM and managed to talk Tess into doing it with me. I realize the importance taking care of my asthma allows me to keep going in this sport. Finally, triathlons have given me a greater sense of confidence which has carried over into my career. When self-doubt creeps into my mind, I think back to triathlon and my accomplishments that allow me to push that self-doubt out of my mind. That is why I tri.
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