It is interesting that I should be asked this question twice in this year in such a way that I am forced to ponder just why do I tri. Generally when I am asked it is a work colleague who is asking because they believe I am hurting myself and should stop but when asked to reflect on this choice in a sincere way it makes me smile and feel joy inside.
The simple answer is because I want to stay alive and active as long as I can and this is the best and funnest way I have found and the people involved are amazing.
Stepping back into a time machine shows me as an incredibly athletic young person. Going to school prior to Title IX left me having to participate in sports with boys or on my own with family and friends but I loved to run, ride bikes, play tennis, skate board, play baseball and flag football. My father and his father played semi-pro baseball so obviously that was my passion. Into adulthood I continued all of these activities except skate boarding. It fell out of fashion for a while. Baseball gave way to slow pitch softball. After having children I kept running, playing tennis and snow skied but eventually as a single parent going to school and later working full time I found myself simply walking. I had several back injuries from lifting at work, one of which made it difficult to walk and stand but with the help of a very special Chiropractor walking became easier and I was eventually able to resume more normal activities. Since I could no longer work as a floor nurse with lumbar disc issues I found myself working at a Wellness Clinic where walking and exercise was not only encouraged but required so during my 30’s I walked a minimum of 3 miles at least 5 days a week and rode my bike regularly. I did the STP twice, both times in 2 days but on my mountain bike and I was proud of this accomplishment. Then it was 1994…everything started changing quickly.
I woke up one day and my short term memory was gone. My fatigue level was so severe I had trouble crossing a room. I was eventually diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. This is a devastating diagnosis. No cure, no medications had been approved to treat it and no one knew what caused it. It meant I would live a life of chronic pain and disability. It was a real battle. I suddenly had handicapped plates on my vehicle and needed them but this wasn't the end of my story. I fought back with the help of a good doctor and supportive family and turned in those handicapped plates several years later.
I was only going to do just one. That was all. I wanted to see if I was able. I took drop in swim lessons at the Covington Pool during the Spring of 2005 and did the Heartzone training. Patty Swedberg took me out into Lake Morton because I was having trouble with my freestyle breathing. A few hints and body smashes later and I was ready to go. I completed my first Sprint triathlon. It seemed I wasn't able to do just one. I also completed the Black Diamond Sprint that year as well. I pledged to do Danskin every year I was alive.
It hasn't been easy for me to continue in the sport. Prednisone is a wonderful drug but using it for frequent asthma attacks and severe pneumonia combined with brain surgery it can cause bone to die in the femoral heads (avascular necrosis). Two surgeries and six months in a wheel chair left me with only 12 weeks to train one year. The following year I had to break my vow. One of my hips collapsed and I had to have a hip replacement. All was well and the next year I completed Danskin again. Two years after my first hip was replaced I had to have it replaced again. A reaction to the metal ions in the hip caused muscle tissue to die and severe pain. I have had 19 surgeries in 22 years. It seems an autoimmune disease (Undifferentiated Ankylosing Spondiloarthris), which causes early arthritis and tendons vulnerable to tears is the culprit.
Those of you who know me can attest that I’m not a competitive athlete and in fact I seem to be starting over every year. It is frustrating but I will keep doing it. Patty once called me the “Eveready Bunny”. It was such a compliment. It is all of you who keep my batteries charged and trying to tri.