Like so many others, triathlon has been an adult-onset discovery for me. I grew up playing anything with a ball -- soccer, basketball, lacrosse, recess football, you name it -- and was always the girl that could outrun the boys. Running for sport was something I picked up later in life and was my "bridge" to triathlon. I ran collegiately at the University of Wisconsin from 2011-2012 in both cross country and track, then ran on the elite road racing scene for a few years after I exhausted my NCAA eligibility. One of these running races offered a Trek road bike to the male and female winners, which I saw as my "golden ticket" to get involved in triathlons. Long story short: I won the bike, and the rest is history.
My "why" for triathlon has changed drastically over the years. From my first season in 2013, I welcomed the new challenge triathlon offered mentally and physically. My body responded incredibly well to the new stimulus biking and swimming provided, and my fitness skyrocketed as a result. This rapid improvement fueled my fire even more. I set my sights high for 2014, registering for four USAT age group national championship races. By the time the season rolled around, I was anxious and ready to put all that hard work to the test. The success that ensued lived up to all expectations, but I found myself wanting even more as the season started to come to a close. After the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Championships in Edmonton, I decided I would take the leap to becoming a professional triathlete -- all while sustaining a full-time job as a clinical pharmacist.
I didn't stop. My body was starting to tell me to, but I didn't listen. I kept training, even harder now because I thought it was what pros did, I thought it was what I had to do. My "why" for triathlon had changed from a new, fun challenge to a necessity. It was a job. It took the fun out of it. I lost my drive and passion. That "new stimulus" that I discovered back in 2013 was now ravaging my body since it wasn't new anymore. I didn't have easy easy days, I didn't have recovery phases, and I didn't know how to take a day off if I needed it. The worst part is, it took me two full years of being a professional triathlete to figure this out. All the while, I was doing more damage to my body than I could ever imagine at that moment. In the spring of my second year as a pro, my body completely shut down. An easy swim, bike, or run became the most arduous task. I dropped out of two 70.3's (New Orleans and Chattanooga) in 2016 and stopped structured training altogether.
Fast forward to June of 2016. Mentally refreshed from stepping away from training for a month or so, I was itching to get back in the game. Physically, I still had a lot of recovering to do. My new coach, Shea Rankin, and good friend/training partner, Laura Aykroyd (2017 Ironman Louisville overall female AG champion) implemented 12 weeks of metabolic efficiency training as a means to get my body back to health and prepare for Ironman Wisconsin that year. I was prescribed 100% aerobic training and ate a low-carb, high-fat diet. I didn't have a goal to lose weight, but within a few weeks of this new diet and training, I lost 8 pounds of inflammation from my body. My body shifted from running on glycogen for energy to stored fat, and I returned not only to physical health, but mental health as well. While I wasn't at optimal performance status for Ironman Wisconsin in 2016, I committed to the experience of Ironman and had an absolute blast on that day, finishing as the 9th female pro in 10:25.
After IMWI in 2016, I knew my "why" for triathlon had again changed. I loved every moment of that race -- not for the "professional status", or the results, or even being able to call myself an Ironman. It was the fact that I worked hard for something, with others along the way, and took in the EXPERIENCE of the race with my friends, family, and the whole city of Madison, WI as my endearing alma mater. I wanted to continue along the path of enjoying triathlon again in this way, which I knew did not require a pro license to do so.
I have since returned to the amateur ranks and have put fun on the forefront of every race. Every individual that this sport has brought into my life has been one that I may have never met if it weren't for triathlon. I'm beginning to cherish and be so grateful for that. My "why" for triathlon is one of experiencing a true mental/physical challenge with people that I love -- aka having fun. It allowed me to race at my best in 2017 -- winning my AG at Wisconsin 70.3 and overall female titles at Muncie 70.3 and Ironman Wisconsin.
I'm always looking for new people to join the party. Next time you see me out training or at a race, let's have some fun out there together! After all, what is life without a little fun?