Posted by: Joe Nuss on Dec 01, 2008
By Richard Jones
Ashley Milano is a planner. She always knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
"Three years ago, I was planning my wedding. I was a bride," she said. "Two years ago, I was planning my husband's funeral. I was a widow. A year ago, I was angry and depressed and felt betrayed by my god and my universe. I was a victim."
Two days before the Ramblin' Rose Triathlon, a women's only event held in Charlotte, N.C., Ashley said she was no longer a victim.
"This year, this week, I stand here as a confident, joyful woman, who, in less than 48 hours, will be a triathlete."
Over the previous two years, Ashley said she had had to think about a lot of questions no one ever wants to face. Once she did, however, she found that the answers were there to lead her on to a happier life.
Through friends and Tri It For Life, a non-profit group based in Charlotte, N.C., dedicated to encouraging women to a lifetime of strength through multisport training, Ashley found a goal to shoot for.
"I thought people who did triathlons weren't just weekend athletes. To me, it was something that you'd read about in a magazine or see on television," she said. "Now, I am a triathlete. When I thought about that, I realized that if I could do a triathlon, I could do just about anything."
Ashley said the method she found best for training for her triathlon is a method she thinks will help her to continue with triathlons and other exercises in the future.
"I think by being able to do this race, I was able to take a really big goal and break it down into much smaller goals and then achieve those," she said. "Doing this just sort of slipped in on me and, the next thing I knew, I was a triathlete."
After having gone through months of training, Ashley said she's learned something about herself that she believes is also true of most other people.
"This sort of reminded me that I could be pretty tough or pretty stubborn. I think I would want other folks to do something like this because it would give them an anchor for other things in their lives that would get a little crazy," she said. "This would help you to remember that you once did something even tougher."
While Ashley said she is proud of herself for achieving something as strenuous as a triathlon, she does not want to rest on her laurels. She said she knows that a problem many athletes like her face is the winding down of their athletic endeavors once they have achieved one goal.
"You can start doing all the work and maybe even slowing down a bit, but I think that before too long it really does begin to change you," she said. "It makes you want to work harder and be more willing to listen to the advice from others and their encouragement."
It was that encouragement that Ashley feels will be most successful in helping her to continue working to become a better athlete.
"The spirit of these women in Tri It For Life was almost infectious," she said. "That's what will keep people going. I can't do this sort of thing for you, but I can be with you while you learn and get better. I think this ministry of presence is lacking in a lot of places in this world.
"I love that you've got people working with you and getting you through the hard parts. Even if I were the last person in the in a group exercise, there was always someone there to make sure I wasn't the only person crossing the finish line in last place. I loved having someone there with me."
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