Evotri Origins

This page documents each of Team Evotri members' entry into athletics and eventually triathlon. We hope you find it entertaining and a glimpse into the start of our triathlon lives.

Jump to: Chris, JP, Sarah, Sara, Stu, Rob, Michelle, Charlie

My earliest triathlon memories are fuzzy.  I recall awaking in a secret Canadian laboratory where my skeleton had just been replaced by Zipp carbon fiber and adamantium.  My blood was transfused with Espresso flavored Gu.  I had super powers such as the ability to relieve myself at race pace without breaking stride….

Actually, when I signed up for my first sprint triathlon in 1992 I knew exactly zero other people who had ever done one.  The sport was much smaller back then and I was in the summer between Jr. High and High School.

I had been on a summer swim team since age 9 and had started running track in 5th grade. In track, I was quickly pegged as a distance runner, but since we were a very small school I volunteered to do a little bit of everything including sprints and throwing shot put.  I still contend that they should handicap gradeschool shotput by weight since I only weighed like 3 times more than the shot put.

My shot put career was short-lived.

Due largely to the abilities of my teammates, I actually ran the 4X100m relay in the grade school state track meet.  I started Cross Country in 7th grade and was immediately one of the better runners (albeit on another small team).  For a time I held the 7th and 8th grade cross country 2 mile records, but those are long gone.  I ran in the state xc meet in 8th grade finishing with a high 11 minute 2 mile I think.

Back in the pre-internet days people always learned about races at the local running store.  In my case this was the awesome and still thriving Running Central in Peoria, IL.  They had a huge row of paper entry forms that I always picked up when I went in.  In the summer of ’92 I picked up entry forms for two “sprint” triathlons: Tri-Tremont and Canton Bi-Tri Classic.

Tri-Tremont was first and there was no kids division so I did the same distances as everyone else 400m pool swim, 13 mile bike, 5k run.  I don’t recall if I won my age group, but I definitely placed.  Moreover I was hooked on this concept of doing 3 really fun sports as part of one race.  Later that summer I raced the Canton Bi-Tri Classic and this race did offer a shorter distance kids race.  I had lots of success over the years at Canton. I think I won the kids race every – or almost every - year that I did it. As far as I know my record for the kids distance still stands.  This past year was the 20th anniversary for Canton. One of the triathlon accomplishments I am quite proud of was winning this event (2010 and 2011) that helped get me started.  This coming summer will be the 20th anniversary of my first race at Tremont.  The event went away for a few years, but has been brought back.  One of my goals for 2012 will be to go back to this race that got me started and try to win it 20 years later.

For the first half of my triathlon career, I literally never trained for the bike leg.  I biked some as a means of transportation, but never really for fitness.  I mostly relied on my swim/run fitness to carry me through all my early triathlons.  I ran and swam competitively in High School (Metamora High School) and in college (Augustana College).  During this time I never raced more than 1 or 2 triathlons a summer and never longer than sprint distance. It wasn't until I finished undergrad that I stepped up to longer races and began focusing on triathlons.

I was a late bloomer of the latest degree. In fact, at 26 I am just now figuring out exactly how to shave and I get carded like I'm Justin Bieber begging for margaritas at an Applebees. My golden years of athletics were elementary school. But damn, they were good. I was dominant at soccer, the mile run, and just about everything you could imagine... I was like the Michael Jordan of North Creek Elementary.

But it couldn't last.

The testosterone of an 8 year old can't compete in modern high schools and I was left in the dust. But I simply couldn't let sports go. I bounced around from tennis, to golf, to soccer, searching for dominance but the well had run dry. I was pissed and turned to candy as my escape from my sporting woes. I ate more candy than you could possibly imagine. I regularly scarred my taste buds with the strongest candies. Altoids and warheads were consumed by the gross. Twenty dollars worth of candy in one sitting was a Saturday morning routine. Turns out I have an addictive personality. Chubbiness soon followed. Meanwhile, my little sister was completely ruining the state at cross country. She was a scrawny little baby and was making everyone look stupid at these races. She was also getting faster than me...

As any prideful big brother would do, I took up running. I ran in the dark because I was completely ashamed of both my blubber and my waddling speed. Seriously. I kept running at night and soon I was enjoying it. I ran for two years and still sucked at soccer, but I was starting to do ok at the practices where we ran.

I decided to forget about soccer and see if my sister's mojo would rub off on me. I joined to cross team. I got so excited and I was running pretty well in the summer. I put in a huge running summer for me and totaled 500 miles in something like 2.5 months which was astronomical compared with my usual running.

I ran well in one meet and then over-trained myself and was completely mediocre. But I had gotten just slightly faster than my sister and I had found something that I liked.

Then came the fateful day. My friend Jessie and I were sitting at her computer talking about Michigan State and surfing around on the internet. She found this thing called triathlon and taunted me saying, "I bet you can't do this". Bullshit. I would at least try.

I figured it would at least be a good way of meeting people and so I went to the first practice of the MSU triathlon club. It was then that I discovered I could ride a bike pretty well and I hit puberty. The perfect storm. I had found my sport.

I had been dating Steve for 2 years by the time we went off to college. We were high school sweethearts but had decided to go to separate colleges. He was going to a small art school, and I was at a different university. As luck would have it, those schools were just under 4 miles apart. I had run cross country and track my last 2 years of high school and had loved it. Though I was definitely a middle-of-the-road runner, I loved that the more work I put into it, the more I would get out of it. They were sports where "favortism" didn't really come into play. The numbers spoke for themselves. If you could post them, you were on the roster. I loved the objectivity of it. I still ran when I went off to college, but I had decided that science majors and college sports didn't mix. I really missed the team environment, but I kept running for fun. On Fridays, Steve worked in the art gallery at his school. I used these days as my long run days. I would run the 4 miles down to see him and the 4 miles back. One day, I added a couple of miles. The next week, I added one more. The day I ran 16 miles, I decided I would sign up for my first marathon.

By the summer of 2003, I had run 3 and was training for my 4th marathon. I was sitting in my house and just happened to turn on the TV one Sunday. They were airing the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon on TV, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Though I had been running, I hadn’t given triathlons much thought. After watching the program, I vowed that I would be there in 2004 to race the Olympic distance race. I signed up a couple of months later and started training. It wasn’t exactly easy. I had never met anyone who had done a triathlon, so I basically learned all I could from books (I had quite the library of tri books by then). Wouldn’t you know…after all that training, my timing chip fell off my ankle during the swim. I managed to screw up my watch’s lap function during T1, so I don’t really have any idea what any of my splits were. I also lost all of my nutrition during the bike, which resulted in me almost losing my cookies at the end of the race. During that first tri, I thought about Ironman. Oddly enough, it was the M dot tatoo on a woman's right thigh that planted that seed. I saw it when I was on the run, and I thought to myself, I could do that someday. After that first race, I was hooked. I knew that more races were in my future, and in 2006, I realized my Ironman dream for the first time. The rest, as they say, is history!

My entry into the sport of triathlon was now ten years ago. I was 23, out of shape, and missing the competition that I got growing up as a swimmer, a fastpitch softball player, and a musician. In all of those disciplines, I competed often, and was never the best or most talented but definitely was driven to make myself better. It resulted in some little perks that largely mattered only to me; like a hard-fought third place medal in the 50 freestyle in 1988 summer league, several scores of "I" at my district Solo and Ensemble contest in very difficult pieces, or batting cleanup on varsity as a sophomore. Seemingly silly little things that no one else would really notice, but to me, were proof that working hard could sometimes make up for a lack of amazing talent.

After college, I entered the so-called "Real World." Not the MTV version. The REAL ONE. The one with bills and 168 students and rent payments and WOW-this-is-not-what-I-thought-it-would-be's.

I drank a lot of coffee. I called home quite a bit. I consumed quite a bit of junk calories in the form of Skyline Chili and Graeter's Ice Cream.

I wanted to push hard again.

I think I read about triathlons in some fitness magazine that I read while probably eating ice cream in the summer sometime. Something called a "sprint distance." Well, I thought, that can't be TOO hard...I know I can swim that distance. I can probably ride a bike that far if I really try. And I have completed a 5K -- once. I called up my buddy Shannon, who was totally hardcore and usually up for anything in the form of a challenge, and we picked out a race.

We did it, and little did we know we were well on our way to a new hobby. A new sport.

And really, a new life.

I dropped 35 pounds within the year. I was on such a high from my local sprint triathlon that it led to other things: ending an unhealthy relationship, backing away from the ice cream (oh, who am I kidding--backing away from a DAILY habit at least and introducing a little thing called moderation), and really changing the way I dealt with stress into one focused on fueling myself with positive stuff and exercising away the negative stuff.

I signed up for a marathon, trained, and completed it in 5:14.

I then did a MS150 Charity Bike Tour.

And after that, I got a really crazy idea to do an Ironman.

Since that first race in 2001, I re-met and married my best friend, had two children, put on a BUNCH of baby weight each time and back down again, all while training and racing through every step along the way.

I'm still not the best, but I'm still getting better.

I'm proud that my children know what I do and "do exercises" like Mommy does. I hope that my love of triathlon and of fitness and health will help them deal positively with whatever challenges come their way. I've helped train students to get to the finish line of their first triathlons, and love watching where it takes them. This summer, I will be starting a Mom's group to train for a local triathlon, and I am literally giddy with excitement.

And through Evotri, I've been lucky enough and feel honored to be introduced to some of the most positive, inspiring, amazing individuals in the universe, all while being supported by unbelievable sponsors and opportunities.

So to that tired, stressed, overwhelmed, out-of-shape 23-year-old girl who clicked "REGISTER" on the Fairport Harbor Triathlon website in 2001? Thanks for everything.

I grew up swimming in the summers and moved to most-of-the-year-round in high school. I even tried a half-season of track freshman year, but always thought of myself as a swimmer and didn't go back the next year. I continued competitive swimming in college, until I transferred back to UW-Madison and gave it up for good. I was in college now, and it was time to party. And party I did. And yet I ate like I was still swimming off thousands of calories a day.

In 2003, while working the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin from 10 PM to Midnight, I saw people that based on their body types, had no business crossing the finish line. I could totally do that. "I could totally be them," I said to myself. But did I? Nope.

That following year, I can remember two distinct moments that flipped the switch and got me to rethink what I was doing. The first was on a friend's boat, I took my shirt off to get in and heard a chuckle at my body. "What?" I said. "You look like one of us, now. Fat and normal." The other moment was any regular morning, getting ready to go to work. I sat down and bent over to tie my shoes but it was too uncomfortable. I had to bring my shoe up to me and tie it from there. It was time to lose some weight.

I promised myself that if I could lose some weight, I would sign up for the Ironman. I never gave it a thought that I hadn't ever done a race outside of Crazylegs (several times very hung-over/drunk from the night before), let alone a triathlon. Since The South Beach diet was all the rage at the time, my wife and I committed ourselves and lost weight. I started to run and lost 20 pounds in a month and ready to sign up.

But all along there was something more. It was something deep down that has been nagging at me to go through with it. There's an overwhelming emotional desire to finish. I had thoughts of glory, turning the last corner on the run, buoyed by the cheers of thousands lining that final stretch. I wanted to cross the finish line. But there was 140.6 miles that had to be completed before that last turn. I spent quite a bit of time questioning that desire, wondering if the pain will be worth it. The debate in my head kept leading back to a memory my brother Mike and I had a long time ago.

One summer night, Mike and I biked to the gas station, loaded up on candy and ended up in a field where he said he would come "to chill." I must have been downtrodden, because we discussed a lot of different motivational things, but there was one quote he said that sticks with me to this day, "There is always a first in everything you do." It's that simple. No matter what you do, you have to suck it up, develop the courage and do it the first time.

And throughout my training, on the good days and bad, I kept remembering my brother and that quote. My first race turned into my second, then my third, and so on. And while my first Ironman has stayed my only Ironman, I can't imagine where I would I be without taking that first step.

I watched the doctors walk from the end of the hall towards us. It was late, we were the only people left in the specialty clinic. After hours of testing, Abby slept in her stroller, exhausted from countless blood tests, spinal taps, and scans. The test results were in. As the doctors walked closer, they all looked to the ground, never making eye contact as they passed us and walked into the room. Nothing needed to be said. I knew the results. I will never forget the words that came out next. "I’m sorry, your daughter has Leukemia. We need to get her into surgery tonight, and start her on chemotherapy tomorrow."

That’s how it started.

I was a runner since a very early age. I qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics in cross county 2 times when I lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I continued to run, not for competition, but for the love of being free in the park. I loved running and still do to this day. I continued to run, but not competitively as I was a golfer. That was my sport. I played at least 18 holes every day from the time I could swing a club until college. I qualified for State each year, but never won. I also swam and qualified for State in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:05.

I never really rode a bike when growing up. I had a bike, but it was never tops on my list. I had the run, and I had the swim. (My two teammates Rob and Chris do heckle my swim stroke, but that is another story).

So how did Leukemia get me into triathlon? As soon as my daughter was diagnosed, people wanted to do something to help. How? Very simple – Team In Training. I had many friends and family train and run marathons in honor of Abby. It was so cool to see them train and run for her. After months of seeing this, it was my turn. I signed up, raised a ton of money, and ran the Rock & Roll Marathon San Diego.

After running 9 marathons it was time to try Team in Training Triathlon. I had done a few triathlons but wanted to do a Team in Training Triathlon. I signed up and did Chicago. From that day I was hooked. I have since done Ironman Wisconsin and other Triathlons.

While I plan to get do more Rev3 and Ironman events, I have put long course racing aside until my children are in college. I’m only 2.5 years from being empty nesters – my wife and I have already agreed that the day they are both in college, I will sign up for long course again!

The best way I can summarize my entry into triathlon was because of A Midlife Crisis. That's all I can think of to explain it.

When I was 35, I was a mother, wife, and nurse practitioner. My girls were 5 and 7 and both in school all day. I was working part-time during the evenings and on weekends. To make a long story short, with everyone being gone during the day and me sitting at home I had TIME on my hands. What is the saying? Idle hands are the devil's workshop. Well, I felt like I was living like an evil elf in Santa's workshop!

I had always enjoyed school. But when I was 20, medical school was not where I wanted to spend another 4-8 years of my life. That was then. At 35, I started questioning what I wanted to be for the REST OF MY LIFE. And probably for no other good reason than I had to stay busy and challenged, I decided I wanted to go back to school, pick up the classes that I needed for medical school, and then matriculate to medical school. I took several semesters being the overachieving nontrad that the traditional students HATED. However, I was traveling 3 hours a day to and from school. That gave me a LOT of car time to think. Getting into med school, meant that I would have to move my family at least 3 hours away from everything they knew and ALL family for 4 years. Then, I would have to move them again for a residency of 3-4 years. Not to mention new jobs for my husband and significantly reduced finances Was it fair? Was I asking too much? Who was really going to benefit from this?

When the dust cleared, I couldn't do that to my family. After a lot of bawling and carrying on, I knew I had to do something. I was full of pent up energy and bitterness. I knew if I didn't do something with the negativity it would eat me up inside. And a caged up, overachieving woman is not a pretty sight!

So, I started going to a local gym. I was not an ex-college or high school athlete with only 1 year of high school swimming and 2 years of track. I started by lifting weights. After a few weeks I was getting bored and found myself looking at the treadmill. I asked myself why I couldn't walk a little. So I did. Then I asked myself if I couldn't run a little. Painfully, I did. I HATED running with a passion! I literally couldn't run one block without feeling like I would die. I distinctly remember telling people how much I disliked it. But, I found when I was done exercising, I felt better. The exercise freed me of so much stress and anxiety. Life looked and felt better and if this was all I had to do, it was worthwhile!

Soon, it was spring and I figured I needed to add something to my routine. Out came the Fleet Farm Murray mountain bike. A few months later, I found myself at a small, hole-in-the-wall, bike shop buying my first Trek road bike. I knew absolutely nothing about bikes or what I was getting myself into. I bought one that was on sale and looked pretty! Now it was summer and I needed another challenge. I had heard of these things called triathlons and knew it was comprised of a swim, bike, and run. I didn't know in what order, what equipment was needed, or even where one was held. So, I got on the internet and found one; Pardeeville, WI. The proclamation then went out to my husband that we were going and off we went. I'm not sure what was going through his mind at the time, but I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm nuts, so he just went with it.

I knew nothing. I had never even talked to anyone who had done a triathlon. Really, to this day, I can't say what possessed me to just think I should pick up and go. However, I do think of that race as one of the best things I ever did for myself. It was a sprint. I swam in a swimsuit. I think I put some bike shorts on over my suit in T1. I had toe straps on my pedals and wore my running shoes. You can bet there were no aerobars on my bike and a simple odometer was the biggest piece of technology I owned. I distinctly remember the run about killed me. At this point, I STILL HATED RUNNING. I am pretty sure, I was in more pain during that 3 mile run than the last 5 miles of any Ironman I've done. My lungs were on FIRE and my legs felt like they were going to fall off! But guess what? I LOVED IT! I LOVED IT! I LOVED IT! I LOVED IT!

I loved the competition. I loved the burn. I loved how I felt when it was over. I loved knowing that I had control of something in my life and where I could to take this. Improvement was doable if I wanted it. And that improvement was not going to have to come at the cost of my family's well-being. It fit with the lifestyle that I wanted for my children. This was me. Triathlon was something I quickly fell in love with.

Triathlon in a way did 'happen to me'. It crept up on me. I wasn't looking for it. Thankfully, though, I was open to the process and where it could take me and I've been on a FABULOUS journey ever since!

My start in triathlon was actually very random and by chance. In 2004, my wife and I went to a Christmas party and learned about the Hawaii Ironman lottery system. Having had a little too much to drink at the party, we went home and decided to both register for the lottery. This actually made zero sense because neither of us had ever done a triathlon before. Didn't even have a bike. Couldn't even swim.

And guess what?

She won a spot. She had 6 months to go from zero tri background to full Ironman distance. HAWAII Ironman, no less.

Within a few weeks she had joined a local tri club. When she explained her predicament to her fellow triathletes at the meeting they immediately took her under their wings and worked their hardest at trying to get her trained. It was this incredibly supportive, incredibly generous, incredibly kind behavior of triathletes that really sucked us in to the sport - we've seen it time and again.

She went on to train very hard for the next 6 months and did complete the Hawaii Ironman in 2005. At the time our four daughters were aged 13, 12, 10, and 8. I started my triathlon experience as an Ironmate, doing everything I could to support Lisa in her effort to do Hawaii. She would later repay the favor in 2008 when I completed Ironman Florida. We've also gone on to be race directors for a local triathlon which supports outreach efforts in our community.

We're now very careful about what we do when we're under the influence...