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Trio of Kitsap women compete in Danskin Women's Triathlon
Many of the 4,500 participants in this year’s Danskin Women’s Triathlon aren’t in it to win titles or to improve their rankings.
Many of the 4,500 participants are there to support breast cancer research, or to race in memory of someone, or to show that despite battling a horrendous disease, one can face and overcome their fears if they’re willing to.
That’s why Shannon Doran is racing on Sunday.
A near drowning experience at 10 left her afraid of the water for many years, but it wasn’t until she started training for last year’s triathlon that she began taking on her fears.
“It was one of those things that I just decided to do,” she said.
To get past that fear, she depended on the support of her two friends Holly Christy and Ashley Endres to help her out, but it wasn’t until she watched “Harry Potter: The Order of The Phoenix” two weeks before the triathlon that she got two words – “Expecto Patronum,” which is what a Hogwarts student is taught to use their positive feelings to conjure a “Patronus” or a protector that takes on the shape of an animal – to help her get through the water.
“As soon as I started (in the water), I kept saying ‘Expecto Patronum’ and the image that kept coming up for me was a lion,” Doran said. “Every time I would put my hand in the water, I would roar in my head. It was that image and that strength that came to me.”
Now 26 pounds slimmer and with a renewed sense of confidence, Doran and her two roommates are taking part in the 16th annual triathlon at Genesee Park and Lake Washington in Seattle.
Starting at 6:45 a.m., triathletes take part in a “super-sprint” triathlon – a half-mile swim, a 12.4 mile bicycle ride and a 3.1 mile run/walk.
But participants don’t need to be “super” athletes to take part. With an emphasis on supporting participants (the motto is “Finishing is winning”) its an event that doesn’t add any extra pressure on first-time participants. Rather, the emotion supplied by triathletes is all one needs to get motivated.
“Coming across that line (last year) was so emotional,” Doran said. “It was so awesome to find these guys... and after a few minutes Ashley said ‘I’m going to do this next year.’
“Being there is what did it,” Endres said. “The group of women that participate is really diverse – every age and body type you can imagine.
“And there are so many women, who are still fighting breast cancer, that are doing the race with you,” Doran continued. “That’s part of why its so emotional – no matter what you’re struggling with, it’s nothing compared to the fear they deal with every day.
“That’s what made me cry like five times watching this whole thing,” Christy said. “Seeing the people who didn’t grow up like I did and don’t have the body type I do and who had to do it with a 120-pound pack on their back and braces on all their joints.
“It was so much harder for them to do it, and when I saw them doing it with a look of elation, it just made my heart break open and cry for joy for these people,” she continued.
Like many who participate, Christy said she’s racing in memory of her aunt, who died from breast cancer several years ago.
While Doran and Endres weren’t athletes growing up – “I did lots of sports but I did them all badly,” Ashley said – Christy was a soccer player for many years and was teammates with former U.S. women’s soccer standout Brandi Chastain at Santa Clara University.
But a broken leg ended her career, and it took a lot to get back into that competitive athlete mindset.
“Sports and athletics have been my life,” Christy said. “(But) once I was done with that career, I didn’t have a competitive streak left. It had been beaten out of me because it was hard. It was a hard life.
“Now I want to support my friends and do something that’s good for a lot of other people.”
The three friends have supported each other through their training with the local triathlete group Kitsap Tri-Babes over the past year by keeping each other motivated – each one claims the other person keeps everyone in line – and they inspire each other as well.
“I love them both dearly,” Christy said.
They plan on finishing as a team as well.
The three are racing under the name “Team Banana,” which was picked out after Christy’s mom met Shannon and gave her the nickname “Shanna Banana.”
“My mom’s a complete character – she has to give everyone a nickname,” Christy said.
They and their respective family members also plan to wear shirts showing off their team name – even Endres’s dad is flying in from Virginia to support the team.
That kind of kinship has made working out easier.
“The comparison this year in terms of training has been so much fun being with them,” Doran said.
“We’re at such different (athletic) levels, but we’re not competing with each other,” Endres said.
Throughout the process, all three have learned a little something about themselves as they worked to get themselves in shape.
“This was completely inconceivable to me before a year ago,” Endres said. “(But I found out) I have a lot more determination than I thought I did.”
“I’ve learned that I have an athlete in me,” Doran said. “People my whole life have told me that I’m strong and an inspiration – I’ve heard that a lot. But I never felt it. I never believed in myself until I did (the triathlon) last year.
“Now I know what kind of strength I have.”
“I think it’s really inspiring to be part of these guys’ journey toward this finish line,” Christy said. “I’m very proud of them. They’ve worked really hard and inspired me.”