We’re beyond excited to welcome Ginna Irwin as our female Athlete of the Year for 2016.  Ginna is the perfect ambassador for our organization, as you will see in her first blog post. She also happens to be a rockstar athlete. You can support Ginna here, and remember to follow her journey using #IMforT4S.

A little bit about me:

I grew up in Ann Arbor, MI (Go Blue!) and was a very active kid.  A huge part of my upbringing was swimming, and was on a swim team for as long as I can remember.  I also did several other sports including field hockey as a huge passion.  This led me to Indiana University for college, where I played Division I field hockey for 4 years.  After college, with various stints working in outdoor education, I found myself in Madison, where I got my masters degree in Physical Therapy.  I then found myself working in South Carolina as a school PT, as well as Michigan, but made my way back to Madison where I am in my 5th year as a Physical Therapist with Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District.

My history in triathlon:

My history in triathlon is very short. I have done 4 total, and only one of each distance.  In 2014, myself and 2 friends did a sprint triathlon “just for fun”.  I just showed up race day and there we went (we were the only people without wetsuits).  It was fun, and all I remember is at the end I said “if I ever do one again, it would be longer!”.  Well, longer indeed.  I have two very good friends that did Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, I thought they were crazy, but together we watched Ironman WIsconsin in 2014.  I was inspired by the day, by the athletes and fans, and by the atmosphere.  Still thinking the idea was crazy, I signed up the next day for 2015.  Last summer, I did 1 olympic distance (Cap View), 1 half iron (Door County), and 1 iron distance (Wisconsin).  I had a blast at the races, but honestly had the most fun training for the races!! Ironman Wisconsin 2015 was a great culmination to the hours of training I did, but more than that it was so great to see all my friends and family along the way.  I could not have asked for a better showing of love than to see them out cheering for me!

Why I chose to partner with Tri 4 Schools:

I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin this year with a new goal in mind.  I loved my experience last year, could not have asked for better- but wasn’t quite sure I would do another iron-distance, or at least not the next year.  And then I found the Tri 4 Schools athlete of the year program.  My career has been devoted to helping students in public education.  Within this setting, specifically my role it to help students become more able physically.  And I love to train.  It just makes sense that I can combine these passions together for a greater cause.  I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin purely to support the Tri 4 Schools mission, and to be a role model to my local community.  Students asked me last year about Ironman, and I can’t wait to continue their interest and knowledge this year as I represent Tri 4 Schools.  Last year, I also coached with the Tri 4 Schools organization a school program called Exercise for Achievement.  This is how I learned of the organization, and felt the strong desire to be able to support their mission even more.  I feel very blessed to be an ambassador, and love that I am directly working with the kids that Tri 4 schools supports!

What I am most looking forward to:

I look forward to the whole journey.  I look forward to supporting Tri 4 Schools along the way, through funding as well as positive energy that I put toward the program.  And honestly, I look forward to pushing my body physically and mentally again.  I look forward to expanding the Tri 4 Schools community, but with students and adults as I help spread the word about the programs they offer.  And I look forward to starting and ending this journey in Madison, WI.

What do I think my biggest challenge will be?

The biggest challenge lies in the unexpected.  I have never done a significant fundraising campaign for myself, and it’s out of my comfort to ask people for money.  However, this also excited me- as I believe strongly in Tri 4 Schools, and have seen the impact first hand that it makes on students in the schools.  I feel my passion and connection will fuel my fundraising and I’m excited to see what can happen.

Closing remarks:

My faith is a huge part of my life, and feel that my faith has been strengthened through triathlon.  When I think of the hours devoted to training, the anxiety about fundraising, and the craziness that happens in life (both along the way and during a race)- I am always reminded of my favorite verse: “Be strong and courageous, do not be weary, do not be afraid, for the Lord you God will be with you always.” (Joshua 1:9)  My strength lies in Him, and He has blessed me with your support! Thank you all for being a part of my journey.

Good luck, Ginna!  We can’t wait to be a part of your team this year!