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“I Had No Intention of Running Unless a Bear Was Chasing Me” – Hillary Crabtree

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Eight years ago within a four-month period, my best friend, my mother and my aunt were all diagnosed with breast cancer.   The happy news is that they are all still here and in remission.  However, my best friend’s outlook on life changed after that experience.   As she put it, “WE are not going to put off tomorrow what WE can do today.” On her bucket list was to do a triathlon.   I repeat, on HER bucket list was to do a triathlon.   I thought she was insane and it was just crazy!   However, on New Year’s Eve in 2010, she asked me if I would complete a triathlon with her in 2011.   How could I say no?

As a little background, at that time, I was a serious couch potato.  I was your typical overweight, computer sitting, no time for exercise – workaholic.   I had no intention of running unless a bear was chasing me.  I had not been on a bike in years and had not been in a pool to lap swim for over twenty years.  I did Pilates once a week.  That was it.  However before that clock struck 2011, I had found Endurance’s  Ramblin’ Rose website and signed up for a women’s only sprint triathlon for the fall of 2011.

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I stumbled onto Tri it For Life when looking for a training group in Charlotte.   A client had completed a session of Tri It For Life the year before and was raving about the program.   I did not have anyone to train with at home as my friend lived elsewhere and so I figured why not – a twelve-week program that I had to pay for would make me accountable.   I would make myself show up and at the worst, would meet some more women in Charlotte.  It was better than training alone.

Tri It For Life is a 12-week mentoring program that empowers women to become first time triathletes.  Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones wanted to create a community of women who took time for themselves to improve their health so she started it in 2006.   To date, well over 1500 rock star women have completed Tri It For Life and their first Ramblin’ Rose triathlon.   In 2015, I will be the President of this wonderful non-profit.

I do not think I truly understood at the kick-off how much Tri It For Life would change my life.  There were people cheering and chanting.  In fact, some of them seemed more than a little zealous and kept talking about drinking some kool-aid.  What did I get into?  They were more than a little crazy.

But each training event I attended I was drawn in a little more. I met people who inspired and awed me.  Every type of woman was represented from every background.    Every shape, size and age.  There is Barbara who at 70 places in her division every time she does a race – because, really, there were no other 70 year olds doing triathlons.   But Barbara was out there succeeding with a smile. Elizabeth who broke her foot while waiting to do the Ramblin’ Rose Rock Hill race, but she finished.   She had to walk instead of running most of the way, but when she saw that finish line, she flew.  Carol who cried at the thought of getting in the water and now is training for a half iron man with an open water swim just a few years later.   Kristie started out complaining after riding her bike just three miles, and now is trying to convince me to ride 150 miles at the 24 hours of Booty charity ride… So many stories I could share….  For me, I finished the Ramblin’ Rose Huntersville in 2011 with my Tri It For Life family and all of the other amazing women competing in the Ramblin’ Rose race.  My friend and I completed the Ramblin’ Rose Chapel Hill triathlon two weeks later – crossing that finish line together. To my absolute surprise, triathlons were a blast and I had found my passion.  Not only do I strive to complete my own triathlon training, but I also encourage other women to take the same crazy journey as a mentor with Tri It For Life.

So, now I have an amazing community of zany people who encourage me to do more and be more than I ever thought.   I lost 35 pounds. I got healthier. Surprisingly, I get up at 6 a.m. to workout just because I can.… sometimes earlier.   I am in master swim classes, bike classes and sometimes run.  Since 2011, I have lost track of how many triathlons and bike rides I have completed.   I know it was tons of sprints, many more Ramblin’ Rose races, international triathlons and last year I completed the swim and bike relay of Augusta 70.3.   I am determined to love running one day, but that is another battle.   I will never be first.  I will be at the back of the pack.  However, I will finish in the time allowed and I AM a woman triathlete.

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At the heart of it, I learned that you have to live today.   You have to challenge yourself now.  You can do the unthinkable and become a triathlete.   Then, to your surprise, you can do it again and again.   And you can convince others to do it too and watch them exceed their own expectations.   I call it empowering crazy.   Because it’s just amazing the person you can become if you challenge yourself and Tri It….   So, I said yes to crazy that New Year’s Eve five years ago… and that has made all the difference.