The book TRI the Journey is a collaboration between Libby Hurley and Betsy Noxon. Libby and Betsy met in spring of 2008 when Betsy signed up to train with Together We Tri. Betsy's life was transformed that season with her trianing journey- she met incredible women who inspired her and felt elated and empowered reaching her goal of completing a triathlon. She loved all three sports and the athlete within her was unleashed!
Libby's years of experience as a triathlete and founder of the training program, Together We Tri, along with Betsy's adventures as a newbie to a seasoned triathlete and background as an experienced writer, together brought the reality of the book to life. Their intention is to reach out and inspire as many women as possible.
Here is the story of how Libby dove into triathlons and the origin of Together We Tri as presented in the book;
by Libby Hurley
IN MAY OF 1997, I STOOD AT THE ﬁnish line of the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, watching men and women of all shapes and sizes cross the line. Earlier in the day these athletes were taken out by boat to Alcatraz Island to complete a one-and-a-half mile swim in 53-degree water, then a one-mile run to transition, and ﬁnally, an 18-mile hilly bike ride followed by an eight mile run. Part of their run included the notorious sand ladder—a combination of sand and about 400 uneven log steps. As I cheered each person across the ﬁnish line, a ﬂame inside me grew hotter by the minute. I wanted to be out there with them, raising my arms in victory, screaming with exhilaration, and rejoicing. Many of the athletes wept tears of joy, and I cried along with them. I wiped the tears from my eyes, turned to my husband Craig, and said, “Next year I’m doing this.” He looked surprised for a moment, then hugged me and said, “Go for it, hon.” A year later, I did enter the Escape From Alcatraz triathlon. My performance wasn’t fast, nor was it pretty, but I ﬁnished the course. With that event I unleashed an inner athlete who’d been screaming at me for ten years.
Years earlier I was a fast, strong, swimmer who took to the water before I could crawl. During grade school I awakened at ﬁve o’clock each morning for a swimming workout, then returned in the afternoons for more training. I went to the state championships every year and broke several state records. Coaches told me I had Olympic potential. Although I never reached that potential, the positive experience with swimming gave me a spark that wouldn’t die. Watching Escape From Alcatraz fanned that spark into a ﬂame.
Reality Sets In When the reality of the triathlon challenge sank in, I felt excited and terriﬁed. Who was I to think I could become a triathlete? I hadn’t swum in years. I didn’t even own a bike, and I disliked running. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the triathlon. What if I could do it? During this time I worked as a physician’s assistant in neurology, so I asked medical friends how to go about training. No one had a clue. I knew plenty of runners and swimmers, but no triathletes. To ﬁgure it all out, I collected books on triathlons, bought a bike, and started swimming, biking, and running. I had no idea what a transition meant—much less how to set one up for race day. Although I felt conﬁdent I could make it through the swim, I had no clue about strategies for climbing hills on a bike and shifting gears to save your legs for the run. I had no concept of proper running form, but I jumped right in and tried to ﬁ gure everything out along the way. I now realize nutrition is the fourth event, but on that ﬁ rst race I knew nothing about refuelling during training or on race day. I drank water at my transition and on my bike, but nothing else. It’s a wonder I didn’t pass out from dehydration. After reading several books on triathlons, I still felt intimidated and clueless. But, I persevered. As I began my training adventures, I bought a new pair of running shoes and logged every workout. Initially I exercised four days a week, switching between running, biking, and swimming. As I began running, I literally shufﬂed two minutes, then walked for two minutes. Before long I was running a mile, then two, then three. I kept adding minutes each week until I built up to the eight miles I needed for race day. My bike was a stranger to me at ﬁrst, but after doing the same slow build, starting with a 20-minute ride, then a 30-minute, and eventually two-hour rides with hills, I began to enjoy my workouts and the pride I felt with each accomplishment. I was getting in shape, shedding pounds, and felt like an athlete again. I started to believe I could pull this off. I logged countless hours of swimming, biking, and running before race day ﬁ nally arrived—bringing anticipation, fear, and six trips to the porta potty. Before joining the other competitors on a boat that would drop us off in front of Alcatraz, I received a start time for my wave, had
my arms and legs marked with my race number, and set up my transition. During the boat ride I stared at all the other athletes and asked myself, “What am I doing here? How did I get into this?” Everyone around me looked like super heroes. Was I ready for this?
My First Race
When the start gun began ﬁring, athletes jumped into the icy water in waves, and my wave was getting closer. It was now or never: The moment of decision. Should I stay on the boat and wallow in fear, or take a leap of faith that I was ready and could make it to the end? When the gun went off for my group, I jumped into the freezing bay with a rush of emotions. Here I go! My day is here! Hello, inner athlete! The water was shockingly cold, even in a full wetsuit and a thermal cap. My heart raced as I came up for air and began swimming. I panicked through the ﬁrst few strokes and gasped at the rush of flailing arms around me, but then I found my stroke—the familiar rhythm that brought me blue ribbons and gold medals so many years ago. Midway through the race I turned on my back, stared at the sky, and thanked God for this journey and the moment given to me. I gave the heavens a big smile. I laughed out loud. I was on my way to becoming a triathlete, achieving the ﬁ rst goal I’d set for myself in decades. Right then, in the middle of the bay, I knew I’d never feel the same about challenges I might face during my life. I had taken a leap of faith and was lucky enough to be part of something remarkable.
The Race: My Personal Victory
I ﬁnished the swim and ran with pure joy to my ﬁ rst race transition. And although I lost my bike in the crowd and ﬁnding it took much longer than expected, nothing fazed me. I was doing this. The weather was a perfect 68 degrees and sunlight peeked through the clouds. I took my time and enjoyed all the athletes around me, wishing them all good luck. I remained in awe as practically everyone passed me. Some of the hills were more than challenging, but I kept going until after 18 miles, when I made it back for my ﬁ nal leg of the race. All along I saw smiling faces encouraging me to do my best, dig deep, and keep up the good work. The run was challenging, and as we headed out, I couldn’t help noticing other athletes sprinting to their ﬁ nish. I could hardly wait to be there.
By the time I reached the famous sand steps on Baker Beach, the steps were more like a sand slide. I took a moment to look at the Golden Gate Bridge, wondering if I would always view the bay differently, knowing I’d swum in that water, biked along the border, and run on the beach. The ﬁ nal two miles were ﬁlled with gratitude, tears, and prayers. I sprinted the last 100 yards as the announcer called my race number and MY name. Spectators gave me high ﬁves and cheered for me when I neared the end of the race. The delight and awe on their faces reminded me of my own emotions a year earlier.
Now it was my turn. I ﬁnished in the rear of the pack, probably one of the last to cross the line, but I made it. I searched for Craig among the crowd and ﬂ ung myself into his arms, sobbing with joy. At that moment I felt my chemistry change. I, Libby Hurley, was a triathlete who’d overcome much and accomplished even more. I was empowered, transformed, and beyond grateful that God gave me this opportunity to shift my life is a new direction. In the days following this personal victory, I wanted everyone around me to feel the joy I’d experienced. I couldn’t keep this amazing accomplishment to myself. I had to let other people— especially women—know they could do this. Triathlons aren’t for super-human athletes; they’re designed for regular folks who want to feel healthy, strong, and accomplished. I needed to take the fear out of this venture and make it more do-able. I wanted to help others change their lives through the journey of triathlons. I developed a passion to tell anyone and everyone: “If I can do it, so can you!”
Together We Tri Is Born
Together we Tri (TWT) was born after Craig and I moved to Chicago in 2000. During our ﬁrst year we trained 16 athletes, many of whom became our close friends. This journey changed all our lives. Now, after 10 seasons of training athletes with the best coaches around, we’ve touched the lives of over 6,000 people and watched amazing transformations. Our athletes and their stories continually inspire me. We help them put it all together, train smart, and cross the ﬁ nish line. We have athletes who win their age group and athletes with arthritis who become stronger by doing full body, tri-focused training. We have moms, daughters, and grandmas. We have people just like you—folks with a goal to feel better and try something they never imagined they could accomplish.
After thirteen years of racing, I’m still celebrating the gift of triathlons. I am continually delighted to have my family cheer for me and all our athletes at each race. I feel privileged to be part of so many transformations. Craig has been my biggest supporter and watched me evolve into the confident mother of three amazing children and a competitor in three Ironman races. In my younger days, the thought of completing a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a marathon of 26.2 miles seemed completely out of reach. Now this accomplishment belongs to me – and it’s mine for the rest of my life.
On race days, my husband, children, parents, and sisters hold signs that say, “Libby, you are my Ironman.” Now I know how to train with the best of them. I know a little about belief and a lot about desire: you can do anything you put your mind to.
Life is truly remarkable. I feel so blessed I was on the sidelines in 1997, where I received the nudge to TRI the Journey. I hope this book will inspire you to do the same.