Beyond the Finish

The U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series held its annual sprint race in Naperville this month. The field consisted of professional tri-athletes competing in the elite division followed by over 2,000 other women wanting to tackle the 800 meter swim, 14 mile bike, and 3 mile run.

Naperville’s own Jennifer Garrison crossed the finish line first in a time of 1:01:48. Garrison finished just ahead of Wheaton’s Nicole Voelkel who was the first out of water and who led Garrison up until about a mile left on the bike. But Garrison wasn’t going to let an out-of-towner beat her on home turf.

“I did a lot of anger management during the bike,” Garrison said, “If someone was next to me they would have been scared because I was talking to myself and breathing real anaerobically trying to catch her because it’s my race. This is my hometown.”

Garrison has won the women’s triathlon here in Naperville 4 out of the last five years. The year she didn’t win Garrison was 3 months removed from giving birth to her second child and still managed to finish the race third.

Perhaps more impressive than the competition is what the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series does for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

OCRF is the beneficiary for the series and has collected just over a million dollars in eight years from participants. This year the Naperville Race alone raised over $38,000.

“Many of these women are doing it in honor or in memory of family,” OCRF representative Lindsey Weeks said, “They’re doing all they can to spread the word about ovarian cancer.”

One women in particular, Darlene Steffen, had an ovarian tumor removed in 2004. Steffen also ruptured a spinal disc in 2007. After essentially learning how to walk and swim again Steffen entered into this year’s race and completed the course. Steffen’s commitment to raise $500 for OCRF got her a triathlon goodie bag which consisted of everything from equipment and apparel for the race to coaching from a pro tri-athlete. In this case it was Jennifer Garrison who trained Steffen to do the race.

“Darlene is definitely the most beginner I’ve ever coached,” Garrison explains, “as a coach it’s beyond rewarding, it’s like when your kid learns how to walk, it’s just one of those feelings.”

“If I can do this, anybody can do it,” Steffen said, “I think with the right coaching, the environment, the mentoring, anybody can do it if I can do it.”

Steffen detected her ovarian tumor early in its stages and thus is an advocate for early detection.


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