My Decision to Tri-Harder and the Support that Keeps Me Competing

By Cheryl Burns | Nov. 15, 2019, 11:52 a.m. (ET)

burns with friends before the swim

As I reflect on the experiences I have had and the ones that lie ahead, I realize that timing is universal, allowing me to grow immensely. My early years of racing, winning, breaking records, and driving myself to try harder and be the best were actually lonely times for me. I don't think I would have given it much thought, but as I headed to a Worlds Age Group Championship, I recognized I had been touched by countless people.

My husband Patrick, who has supported all my crazy adventures, posted my finish at Nationals and the next thing I knew, Scott Kindberg from the Post Journal wanted to interview me. My friend Chris Knisley immediately jumped in and said "You're going to Worlds, Australia! We are going with you!" Chris immediately began putting together an itinerary and Pat started with the logistics to make it happen.  The Jamestown Cycle Shop got behind me, and I began feeling like a pro. Owners Mike and Randy from the Cycle Shop were so pumped, they ordered me a beautiful Trek Madone 9.0. Talk about a sleek, fast and comfy ride! They were able to get a hold of their Trek rep and came through with a draft legal helmet designed with the newest concussion technology.

A former track and field student of mine, Sabrina Barrett, began a GoFundMe page culminating an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. All these incredible people pitching in, and this is just the beginning of the list. My neighbors, Bev Ungerer and Kait Hagel, have pitched in a number of times to take care of our farm while we headed to competitions and I could not have better reassurance for our animals' wellbeing.

Burns Blog Photo 2

My swim coach, Jan, is an avid swimmer and is so graceful and fast in the water. She gave 2 hours, once a week, to make me a fast swimmer. The school where I teach, Cassadaga Valley Central, supported my venture without hesitation. Co-workers like Karen Reynolds sent cards, donations, bought shirts/fund raised and gave great encouragement. Friends from spin classes where I taught, pitched in as well. I even have to thank WJTN for an hour-long radio spot on "The Time of Our Lives" to talk about my endeavor. Andrew and Russ were wonderful hosts.

Even though I placed 4th overall at Worlds, people, many people, told me how proud they were of me. For the first time in my life, I felt this was sincere and true even after the sting of not winning. Life changing. The second life changing revelation was the amount of support it takes to do something really big like this. I allowed people to help me. To reflect on the amount of people that jumped in was overwhelming, amazing, humbling, and I felt very fortunate. I am forever grateful to all: the local news and radio, Cycle Shop, itinerary planners, PA (she made me feel like a pro!), our school, former students that raised money, and of course my husband's family. They compounded the overall excitement of the whole experience."Tri-Harder" was the logo on a shirt made by the cycle shop as a fundraiser for the Age Group World Championship Sprint Triathlon in Gold Coast, Australia 2018. Their generosity and support in combination with family and friends, made this event possible for me. In fact, the whole experience of triathlon has been life changing in 2 ways.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family, I never steered to negative choices. The details are crazy – mentally, emotionally, and physically painful as so many have and will endure. My escapes were always healthy, but I began to realize I worked out to extremes. Injuries were inevitable with how hard I ran every workout and every race in search of being the best. The setbacks no kept me from running so hard, and certainly did not allow for half or full marathons. I found triathlon to be a way to train healthier and compete on a highly competitive level.

The challenges of Multisport, every event having many encounters depending on conditions, allowed for exciting experiences. Anything can and will happen. Triathlon is the greatest way to fulfill a strong, conditioned body while feeling like a national or world champion. It is also a big way to bring so many together, whether they compete or not.  Thank you USA Triathlon! Tri- Harder in 2020!