This story ran in the Daily Gleaner on Oct. 14.
Donna Trites celebrated her 48th birthday Friday and as per usual, the weekend celebration plans will revolve around running.
Specifically, Donna and husband Brian will watch daughters Hannah, Emily and Nicole compete in high school and middle school cross country races, part of another busy weekend for their active family.
The atmosphere will feature competitive events, some socializing at the finish line and plenty of fresh air, all components which led Donna to running as a university student in the early 1990s. They are aspects which fueled her love for the sport and ultimately to represent Canada on the World Triathlon stage.
“I am happy I am able to get out and do this,” she said, noting she has no plans to stop anytime soon. “I feel very lucky and I never want to take it for granted. It is such a lifestyle now, I am not sure what I would do if I didn’t do this.”
It was the social side of things that got Donna, a dental hygienist, and a group of Dalhousie University students into running in the first place. On a bit of a whim to celebrate the end of a grueling school year, they entered the 17-leg Cabot Trail Relay.
With a collection of running rookies, profs, local dentists and others in the dentistry community to fill their roster, they tackled the demanding layout and much to their surprise – and delight – they posted a top-10 result.
It built a base that led them to return many times.
“It is not a race that many people would start with but it was a lot of great fun.”
It also prompted Donna to move toward other aspects of racing – particularly triathlon. In 1992, she took part in her first event, when the national championships were staged in Pugwash.
As the old story goes, she’s been going strong since.
Among her greatest memories are the three times she represented Canada at the World Age Class Triathlon championships – once in Germany, another in North Carolina and then after a break, the most recent in Chicago in 2015.
“Those are big races. You line up with the best in the world and they are memorable,” she explained. “People are there with race suits on from every different country. Everyone is very deserving to be there because you have to qualify to get there, so those races are significant.”
Depending on the year, and her various responsibilities, she will race quite often and over time has fashioned a successful resume, with titles in many events she’s entered.
As far as running goes in comparison to swimming and cycling, she does not take many breaks. Overall training can range up to nine or 10 sessions per week, some that reach four hours if she is gearing up for major events.
Just three weeks ago, she successfully completed a half Ironman in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which for her, signaled the end of the triathlon season.
She finished the 1.9 km swim, 92 km cycle and 21.1 km run in 5:23.21, good for 21st place in the field of 856 women and 213th overall in the race of 2,469 competitors.
Yet, she keeps going, including last weekend when she was the third woman and 14th overall at the Dam Run 10 km in Perth-Andover.
“A lot of training goes into that and I always say, I need a little bit of an off-season but then I still jump into racing,” she said. “It is my favourite time of year to run and I do not want to miss it. I’ll take some running time off in January and February.”
She raced the Dam Run, in large part, because her daughters wanted to tackle the 5 km course to prepare for this week’s races.
Donna figured since she was there, she’d compete as well. Given her family’s interests and schedules, that represents a familiar refrain, where she’ll seek out runs in areas they travel.
All these years later, she relishes the discipline and demands of training, pushing herself as hard as she can and enjoying a great sweat-producing, muscle-pounding race.
She also loves the other aspects, ranging from the social and meeting many people from outside the region to seeing parts of the country, the world and even New Brunswick she may not otherwise have seen.
“Look at last weekend – an hour and half drive to Perth-Andover and it was absolutely beautiful running along the river,” she said. “It was gorgeous and I thought –
‘This is a fantastic day. I get to come here with two of my teenagers and it is what we do for fun. It does not get any better than this’.”
Trites Orthodontics sponsors the kids run as part of the Fredericton Marathon and Donna plays a leading role in the administration of that program, which has grown to include participation from approximately 500 runners.
It’s a giving back she also enjoys.
As for 2018, she’s already signed up for the Mont Tremblant half ironman triathlon in June, an event she’s always wanted to take part in.
“I have heard so many great things about it and the venue is spectacular,” she said. “I’ll do as many races as I can.”
Kevin Barrett’s column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com