Becoming a Triathlete
My name is Marijo. I’m a triathlete. I am a triathlete. At times, I still feel weird telling people that. Not only because this is still a relatively new aspect of my life, but also because it is different from what I have been; what I have known myself to be. I am a Sign Language Interpreter, I am a mother, I am wife. Each of those labels I proudly accept. But a triathlete? I still struggle with that. You see, three years ago, I weighed in at 241 lbs. As you might expect, I was woefully out-of-shape. I hadn’t ridden my bike since college. I couldn’t even run to my car. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bathing suit.
In 2013, I decided to walk through the doors of Weight Watchers, for the umpteenth time, to take back my life after already losing 10 lbs. with My Fitness Pal. This time it was going to be different. I focused on small, obtainable goals. So, I wouldn’t think about the 120 lbs I needed to lose. Instead, I would think about losing one pound at a time, and what I would need to do, each day, to help me achieve that goal. This time, the journey included working out as well as changing the way I eat. Again, only small, little goals. I didn’t promise myself that I would work out four times a week; 2-hour, sweat-intense sessions. Instead, I started slowly. I attended aqua aerobics with the seniors at my health club. Granted, I was the youngest person there, but I was moving, and getting my body used to moving again. I even got into doing Zumba, which I am sure was quite amusing to watch, because I have no (read none) sense of rhythm.
Eventually, I started running. Well, actually, I started walking and jogging … slowly. I would tell myself, “You can walk to the fire hydrant. Then run to that drive way. And then, walk again.” I signed up for my first 5K race, the Brookfield Zoo Run, in 2014. That kept me motivated to keep working out and eating right. I loved having a race to keep me focused on my goals.
After completing a couple more 5K races, my friend, who is a cyclist, asked me to be the runner on her triathlon relay team for that year’s Esprit de She race. Reluctantly, I said yes. I did it, and had so much fun; the energy, the camaraderie, the need to endure was so intoxicating that I was immediately hooked. I wanted to do all three sports! So I signed up for an I Tried a Tri race that summer. I bought myself a new bathing suit, with a cute little skirt, and found my 25 year-old bike in the back of the garage. I did the “Try-Tri” race, and knew there was no looking back!
In 2015, I signed up for the ET Naperville Sprint Triathlon. That’s where I met Coach Joe LoPresto, Founder and Head Coach of Experience Triathlon. I was just one of the hundreds of people in transition at the beginning of the day, and he came up to me, with a big hug and a smile, and reminded me to HAVE FUN. I’m not lying … here is the picture!
I completed the Chicago Triathlon Super Sprint right after that, but that was really scary! I started to think that if I planned to do bigger and more challenging races, I needed to be around people who really know this triathlon business. So I took ET’s Master Swim class with Coach Sue Astra, and their six week Triathlon Training Class. I got to meet and work with three wonderful ET coaches: Coach Sarah, Coach Ryan and Coach Jim! I learned SO much during those six sessions, and to have access to three experienced triathlon coaches was invaluable!
This year, my biggest goal for the season is to do my first Olympic triathlon: Tri-Rock in Lake Geneva this September. Just thinking about it, I knew I could easily freak myself out. As my anxiety level was increasing, I realized I couldn’t prep for a big race like this alone; I needed to work with a Personal Coach. I had met Coach Jim during the tri training class. Coach Joe thought it would be a good fit for us to work together. I agreed and he was right, of course! In just the first month of working with Coach Jim, I have become much more knowledgeable and prepared for my races. I love the daily, personalized workouts. When I have questions, and I have many, I have easy access to contact him. It’s great! An incredible resource!
My most recent race was the ET Lake Zurich Sprint. In terms of achieving my goals, my goal in ET Lake Zurich was to beat my time from last year’s ET Naperville Sprint (which was my first), and I did by 10 minutes! My run time for this race was faster than any of my stand alone 5K’s! And now, I am considering doing my first Half Ironman next year… at the tender age of 55! Anything is possible, if you BELIEVE!
So, here we are. I have lost a total of 81 lbs. My goal still is to lose at least 30 more lbs. But, one thing I have learned about training for tri’s is that it’s not about calorie deficiency, but rather healthy eating and fueling your body to perform better. In the meantime, I have become healthier, faster, and more confident. And… gosh darn it…
I AM A TRIATHLETE!