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Dispatch: Project Penny (Challenge Penticton), Chapter Three

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Aug 22, 2013
  • Updated Aug 22, 2013 at 8:58 PM UTC
Julia enjoys a group ride with daughter Chloe during taper week.


No one is as shocked as our three editors that “Project Penny” race day is almost here–on Sunday they’ll tackle the Challenge Family’s debut North American race, Challenge Penticton. As the three friends and SOAS Racing teammates make their final preparations for an all-out endurance adventure, they share their battles with nerves and life-balance, as well as their confidence and excitement for the big day.

Name: Julia Polloreno
Title: Editor-in-Chief
Age: 35

Race week. Funny how stringing together two seemingly innocuous words has the Pavlovian power to create a fleeting yet fierce knot in the center of my gut. The work is done, and now I just have to trust that I’ve done enough, and that everything I need to have a successful race lies within this head and heart.

I’ve had some distractions this week, which has helped shove the race nerves into the back of my mind. They’re still there—masquerading as irritability and moodiness—just not so forthright. Instead I’m more anxious about my son’s first week of Kindergarten, a seminal moment that’s come with a fair share of tears (he’s cried too). This morning I watched him amble toward his classroom, backpack as big as his five-year-old frame, choking back tears. It sucked. I’ve been telling him that it’s time to be brave, to be excited for the adventure instead of afraid. I guess you could say it’s our theme this week.

Being a mom with a big triathlon goal has been, on the whole, an awesome and gratifying experience. I’m proud of the journey, the discipline I’ve mustered these past months, the balancing act (cliché, but true!) of it all. But I’d be lying if I said I never felt selfish or guilty about the time it’s required me to spend away from my two kids. “It’s temporary,” I’ve been telling myself before each long ride and run. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by people who have been super supportive of my goal, namely my husband, Lance, who is flying to Penticton for literally 24 hours just to be there for me on race day. And my twin sister, Jennifer, who listens to me whine about my #triathleteproblems and offers the generous perspective of “your kids will think you’re a bad ass when they understand what you’ve accomplished.” I couldn’t have come this far without them in my corner.

As I was compiling some beginner triathlete tips for a project at work earlier this week, one of the pieces of advice was to always remember why you’re doing triathlon in the first place—to have fun. It was a healthy reminder of impeccable timing. The work is done; it’s time to get this swim-bike-run party started.

It’s been seven years since my first and only Ironman, and in that attempt I treated it more as a cautious experiment than a race. I’m curious to see how I’ll do this time, with the years of SBR memories committed to my legs, and the confidence of experience. My Challenge Penticton (aka Project Penny) cohort Jené shared an encouraging note she received earlier this week, and it contained this quote from Emily Dickinson:

“We never know how good we are until we are called to rise.”

I love this notion so much, I printed it out and pinned it to the wall of my workspace. It reminds me that race day is just a big opportunity to rise to a challenge that will give me a new insight into myself.

So, my new purpose is two-fold: to just enjoy the experience (I heart you, Holly and Jené, for already making this all so worthwhile), and seize the opportunity to be good, however that’s defined by my body and mind come Sunday.

Also, a parting thank you is due to Stephanie Swanson of SOAS Racing, who surprised us with custom Project Penny gear in addition to designing our kick ass kits. Team SOAS will do you proud, Steph!

RELATED – Dispatch: Project Penny (Challenge Penticton), Chapter One

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