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Dispatch: Project Penny (Challenge Penticton), Chapter One

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Jun 27, 2013
  • Updated Jul 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM UTC


Name: Holly Bennett
Title: Editor-at-Large
Age: 45

I last raced the iron-distance at Ironman Canada in 2010. Since then, I’ve been either injured or sick too often to train for much of anything, much less anything that long. But when Challenge Penticton was announced as the Challenge Family’s first venture into North America–conveniently at the same time that I was getting back on track health-wise–I wanted on board immediately, to be part of the inaugural Challenge experience on the storied course and to share the inevitably good time with Julia and Jené.

Step one was to choose a coach, and I had my eye on Julie Dibens. I figured “Dibs” would be a perfect mentor for me for a number of reasons:

  • She’s a ridiculously strong athlete.
  • She’s an experienced coach.
  • She’s a caring friend.
  • She cracks me up.
  • She scares me just a little.

Dibs doesn’t actually scare me, but the idea of working with her badass biker self does. Who better to kick my butt out of my comfort zone and especially help me improve my cycling–an area where I seem to race all right, but never really push myself hard enough in training? I wanted to know how much harder I could go. More importantly, I wanted her help custom-crafting a program to accommodate the various race and travel commitments I intended to work into the 12-week training window in the lead up to Penticton. I do have experience training for iron-distance races–I’ve finished five thus far, two with the help of another amazing athlete, coach and friend, Michellie Jones. But this time my schedule was loaded with obstacles–and I was fully flummoxed as to how to proceed.

I met Dibs for coffee and handed her a stack of papers–a three-month calendar outlining my commitments over the next 12 weeks. For example, smack in the middle of those three months I would spend two weeks in Europe sans bike, racing the swim and marathon portions of a relay at Challenge Roth, followed by a few days in Belgium indulging in a frenzy of waffles, chocolate and beer. And I wanted that marathon to be a good one. Add to that two additional travel jaunts (one international), plus two sprints and a half-iron-distance race, and you have a picture of the chaotic summer within which I planned to train for Penticton. I also fessed up to the fact that until mid-May 2013 I hadn’t been on my bike since mid-October 2012. Dibs didn’t even flinch. She was excited to help me figure out how the heck to pull this off. Away she went to write my training plan with a start date of June 1st. And as I pen this (nearly four weeks in) I couldn’t be more pleased with my progress and the new ways I’m learning to push myself.

Beyond being a devotee of Dibs’ training, I also intend to focus equally on my mental powers during this particular race build. I’m normally a pretty optimistic person, but I plan to flex my positivity muscle more than ever. Because while I believe our bodies are capable of amazing things–things even beyond what we’ve actually prepared for on paper–I also believe these amazing things can only be realized when propelled by an intensely strong and positive spirit. I’m storing up the good (and doing a spin doctor routine on the bad) aspects of every tough training session and practice race. I’m obsessing on how other people I know navigate adverse conditions­–and gleaning all I can from their experiences. And I’m keeping stock of motivational morsels that come to me in messages from friends. At the moment, I’m especially enamored with two nuggets I’ve saved since I last raced in Canada.

One day during my 2010 training, I lounged in a deck chair contemplating the sunshine and the importance of that afternoon’s swim. I’d already logged a solid ride–did I really need to rally to the pool? I texted Michellie: Just how important is this swim?

Her response was simple: It’s a choice.

I swam, of course–churning out a session I’ll always remember because of how strong I felt, a rare moment for me in the pool.

Prior to the race, I received a good luck message from Linsey Corbin, who I first met earlier that year and whose friendship and immutably positive personality I’ve come to cherish since:

Think of race day as opening little presents you gave yourself in training. The hard workouts are presents that you’ve wrapped up–then on race day you get to open them all along the way, like gifts to yourself!

These are some of the thoughts that will fill my head as I continue on this training and racing adventure, choosing to head out the door earlier and earlier each morning and seeing what gifts I can wrap up each day. Because what is triathlon, what is this lifestyle we all adore and that has brought so much more into my own life than a collection of medals can convey, if not a choice–and the best gift ever?

RELATED: Athletes React To Challenge Penticton

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