By Alex Wilks, Special to Peace Arch News
Every race for White Rock triathlete Jessica Annesley leaves her with a new strategic ingredient that she didn’t possess before.
“This race marks the start for so many more races, and although it is a shorter distance, every distance teaches me so much,” said Annesley, 19, of the upcoming North Shore Triathlon, which is set for May 18 at the Ron Andrews Recreation Centre in North Vancouver.
“It means a lot to me to be able to push myself and always build upon my previous capabilities.”
The event – the 26th annual – is being held this year in the memory of Tim Jones, a paramedic who dedicated 25 years to North Shore Rescue.
It is a charity-driven event in which athletes compete to win money, which they then donate to the charity of their choice. The race, limited to 350 contestants, consists of a 750-m swim, a 17.6-km bike ride and a 4.9-km run to finish it off.
Annesley began her athletic career in high school, as a competitive runner in both track and field and cross country. When she was 16, she competed in the Run for Water, a 10-km race in which she placed first in her division, and was also third overall among all female runners.
However, despite her early success, a tibial stress-fracture – a crack in the tibial leg bone – ended her running career just two years later, at 18.
“The doctor told me to get a bunch of books and rest, but anyone who knows me knows that’s impossible” said Annesley.
Her injury prompted her to research, and find a sport that would not aggravate her leg as much as running. In the meantime, she used the stationary bicycle at her gym to stay in shape while her bone healed.
“Biking in a stationary place got boring,” she said. “I figured swimming would be my new calling.”
Swimming did not come naturally for Annesley, however.
“I sucked at swimming, but I still remember the day I swam one lap with no break and how proud I felt. Soon after, I did 15 lengths in a row,” she said.
She began swimming every second morning at 6 a.m., and improved rapidly over time. It was then that competing in triathlons became a goal.
“I figured I can run, I can swim, (so) I need a bike and I can tri,” she said.
Triathlons are grueling endurance tests, but Annesley felt they’d be a fit for her personality.
As a runner, she was one to suffer anxiety problems before each race. But over time, she learned to overcome those feelings with an inner drive and competitive spirit that allowed her to focus for long periods of time.
“I’ve always been competitive, but my main competitor has always been myself,” she said, adding that competing is “a love/hate relationship that takes dedication.”
“It’s not one race, it’s not just over at the finish line. It’s living it every day.”
Annesley is also inspired by her father, whom she remembers competing in Ironman events when she was growing up.
Conversely, he’s inspired by his daughter, as well.
“I am proud of her amazing progress despite a serious injury, and I look forward to meeting Jessica at the finish line many times over,” he said.
Before her first triathlon last year, he even surprised his daughter with a new triathlon bike – a 2012 Ridley Phaeton T Shimano.
“I admire his achievements, and (I’m) just following in his footsteps,” Annesley said.
Though she has personal goals for the North Shore event, the 19-year-old says what matters most to her is that she’s found a new competitive outlet.
“I’m not great, there’s many athletes way better than me, but that does not matter,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter where I am when I start, what matters is where I am when I finish. And as of right now, I do not see a finish.”