My Triathlon Story is a Little Different from the Norm by Jennifer Adams
My triathlon story is a little different from the norm. I just started this sport this year, 2014, at age 37. I’m a mother of two young girls and I have Multiple Sclerosis. Due to leg injuries that have plagued me from overuse, it was suggested that I give triathlons a shot. I’m a runner and back in the day I used to be a swimmer.
Let me define back in the day for swimming: When I was in 7th and 8th grade. I swam on the JV Swim team. I was young, but could hold my own against girls that were a couple years older than I was. Then, in 9th grade, I gave up swimming to run Varsity Cross Country. Let’s be honest, getting your ‘Letter’ as a freshman was pretty cool. I ran when I was a sophomore, and then gave up sports all together. My father had died and I was starting to lose my way. My senior year didn’t help things. I had a medical issue that was assumed to be the onset of MS, but wasn’t confirmed. 6 years later I had a severe episode, that’s when I was officially diagnosed. Sometimes life hands you lemons and you fall apart.
It was a great many years later that I decided to get my health back in order. By this time I had a young daughter and wanted to feel better about myself. I was doing great and then I became pregnant with child number two. The pregnancy triggered a major relapse. It started with massive tingling throughout my entire body (except my head), then my hands seized. I could not use them. None of the attempts to stop the exacerbation were working, so I was told to ride it out. My hands slowly came back but the tingling is still present. Then I had a serious health scare that had me knocking on deaths door almost a year later. As I lay in the bed after having emergency surgery, I promised myself that I was going to be around for my daughters. Once I got the okay from the doctor, I started to run. Let’s be honest, it was more like a walk/jog combo. But I was moving, so I went with it. Eventually I ran. And then I did what I always thought the impossible… I ran a half marathon. Unfortunately, I was plagued with stress injuries in my legs from over training. A couple friends of mine were getting into triathlons and I was jealous. I could still swim, and I could run, but man, I was afraid of the bike. Not to mention that the thought of transition terrified me. I would watch YouTube videos, but I was still intimidated. After running for 2 years, a dear friend who I met at my first half marathon did something extraordinary. She set up an appointment in January of this year for me at Tom’s Pro Bike and said, “You’re going.” I purchased a bike at Tom’s Pro Bike, because I was going to do this thing. I was going to do it. Now, you have to understand that I had not been on a bike since I was 16. My husband was out of town on a business trip, I called him up and told him the good news. He thought I was crazy.
To ease into getting used to the bike, I used the stationary trainer. I familiarized myself with clipping in and clipping out, changing gears and the different hand positions. I rode at least once a week for a month, and then I did the unthinkable. I registered for ECC Kats Sprint Triathlon put on by Score This! In April I went out on the bike for the first time. That.was.not.fun. I was terrified and kept thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” But, I made myself ride. I made myself swim. I made myself run. I made myself do bricks. And I practiced and practiced.
The day before ECC Kats, a great friend came over and taught me transition. We used sidewalk chalk. I took pictures. I was going to be awful, but at least I was going to look like I knew what I was doing.
Race day, I can’t eat. I barely slept. What am I doing? I am waiting for my turn to swim and it’s taking every ounce of self-control to not break into tears. Once in the water, my mind went blank. I was on autopilot. I did the race, the whole thing. I didn’t stop, I didn’t fall, and I finished. It wasn’t my finest hour, but I was a triathlete. And then I registered for PAIN. And I finished that one, too! Heck, I took 3rd in my age group! I did a total of 7 Sprint Triathlons this season. In my last one, I opted to fundraise. And guess what, next year I’m planning on doing all intermediate distances and one half-iron distance. Sprints are too short and too fast paced for me.
I’m not the model athlete. I’m not tiny, I’m not fast, and I’m not young. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give high 5’s and cheer everyone on – EVEN the competitors in my age group! Don’t believe me, go ask them! I anticipate an ice-cold beer at the finish line (that’s my vice for a race well done), and I’m known to talk about that beer while I’m racing. I’m not letting the MS define me; I’m defining my MS. I’m on a mission to break the stigma that is associated with the disease. The greatest compliment that I receive is hearing the shock of those I tell. Every story is different, but if this one helps give people the push to do something, anything to get them moving, then I’ve done my job. Never let a disability stop you or define you, let your actions do that instead.
Get more info about the ECC Kats Triathlon: http://ecckatstri.com