Two McLean woman have spent the past two months training for triathlons, something neither ever imagined attempting and yet feel confident in accomplishing.
For Jean Jacobi, a mother of two, her goal was competing in the Reebok Women's Triathlon in Naperville, Ill., in June.
"My friend Cheryl Bearss of McLean encouraged me to do this," Jacobi said. "She had never competed in anything athletic, so she convinced me to do this with her," she said.
Jacobi has been a member of the Curves for Women gym in McLean, a circuit training course consisting of several stations, each lasting about 30 seconds, which help to build endurance and strength.
"I received tremendous positive encouragement from all my Curves ladies," she said. "So many gave me useful advice, even though they had never competed in a triathlon," Jacobi said.
Her goal for the triathlon was just to complete, which she did, finishing 1,494 out of 1,671 women. She finished 257 out of 288 compared with women in her own age group, she said.
"I felt exhilarated when I finished," Jacobi said. "The endorphins were amazing. I was so very proud of myself. Right before crossing the finish line, I remember thinking will this ever end," she said with a laugh. Jacobi said she plans to train more for the same event next year, but is considering a triathlon in Richmond later this fall.
"I was awed by the number of women with cancer who were competing," she said, adding that the Reebok Triathlon raised money for ovarian cancer research.
For Katie Naeher, training for the Outback Big Lick Triathlon in Hudleston, Va., began as a joke.
"My boyfriend and I are decently athletic but I decided to really focus on getting in shape this year," she said.
"My boyfriend jokingly said we should sign up for the triathlon and I said sure," she said, adding that he was surprised and didn't believe her at first. "He's been teaching me and keeping me motivated while I train," she said.
BEFORE RETURNING to James Madison University, Naeher has spent the summer training at Curves and the Spring Hill Recreation Center in McLean, working out for half an hour, swimming up to a mile at the gym in a 25 meter pool and riding 11 miles on her bike. "I can run about a mile and a half on the treadmill now," she said.
Whether she'll be fully ready to participate in the triathlon on Sept. 24, she wasn't sure, but there was another event on Oct. 15 she was interested in signing up for, she said.
"I've never pushed myself this hard with anything physical," Naeher said. "If my boyfriend thinks I can do this, it's really helpful. I work harder when he's around. I'm a little scared about this but I hope it'll be something I can do," she said.
Jacobi has been a source of inspiration and encouragement, she said. "Jean has been so great, telling me how it was for her and how much fun she had, which has made it easier for me to believe I can do it," Naeher said.
Women at Curves have done all they can to encourage their two athletes to do their best.
"We're really proud of them," said Christine Naeher, a Curves member for three and a half years and Katie's mother. "Jean is just tickled the she's been able to accomplish this. Even my daughter is wondering if she can do this, but she's been able to accomplish a lot already."
Christine Naeher said she's been encouraging her daughter to focus on finishing the event, not setting a certain placement as a goal. "It's a goal she set for herself and I think she can do it," she said.
SEEING THE women train for the events has been "impressive," she said. "Jean has two kids and works full time," she said. "It's really incredible that she's been able to do this."
For gym owner Deb Allard, having two of her members competing in triathlons is a new measure of the success of the program.
"Jean would typically come in four or five days a week and work out for up to an hour," Allard said, adding that the circuit typically takes about half an hour to complete. "Katie was doing the same thing to train for her event."
These are the first two members of her gym to tackle this kind of event, she said, although teams have been organized for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in recent years.
"They are both outstanding examples of women who are out there doing it," she said of Naeher and Jacobi. "They're both full of energy. We're so proud of them."