USA Triathlon News Blogs My Story Nine years ago, I hi...

Nine years ago, I hit bottom. Triathlon saved me.

By Tracey de Blank | Dec. 15, 2020, 4:01 p.m. (ET)

tracey de blank

Nine years ago, I hit bottom.

I was 45 years old, and for many years I had been a mom, teacher, wife, daughter, sister, chef, and driver to my family. I showed up — for everyone but myself. You can only run on an empty tank for so long before the car dies.

I was eating unhealthy food on the go, stressed, and for the first time in my life depressed. On the day I hit bottom, the depression felt like a blanket had been thrown over my head and I couldn’t breathe. I have a lot of faith, but really wanted God to take me home.

God pulled me out of the pit by teaching me about His grace, but change wasn’t instant. My husband has always been my biggest support, and he made some major life changes to free up my time. I had no idea what to do, so I started going back to the gym.

Fast forward a couple of years and a friend told me she bought a bike because she was doing a sprint triathlon with her daughter. I thought “how hard can that be?”

I called another friend who decided to join me, bought a bike with a cracked frame off Craigslist, a bathing suit, and some running shoes. We signed up for our first race not having any idea what to do. On the fourth lap in the pool, I choked on water. I couldn’t catch my breath, and was almost last out of the pool, with only three walkers behind me.

My friend waited and we started off on the bike when she got a flat. She couldn’t fix it so I kept going. The race director helped her and we crossed the finish line together, second and third from last, absolutely hooked.

I felt a spark come back and a joy that had been gone for a long time.

I started Master Swim at our local pool, got a better bike, and trained six days a week. In 2015, we did an IRONMAN 70.3 (full disclosure, I missed the run cut off time) but we have never looked back. Those times alone on the trail and in the pool are so key because I’m showing up for myself. You can’t be there for everyone else if you have nothing to give.

In 2019, I competed at the Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, – my seventh year competing in triathlon. When people ask my why I get up so early to exercise, I tell them it brings me life and fills the tank so I’m not running on empty ever again.

I thank God everyday for this gift of triathlon.