JEN AN­NETT’S JOUR­NEY

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - MARKETPLACE - BY KEVIN MACKIN­NON

IT’S NOT SUP­POSED to work this way. Triathlon is sup­posed to be a life­style. A fit­ness ac­tiv­ity. In Jen An­nett’s case, though, it might be what’s keep­ing her alive. She has epilepsy, pos­si­bly brought on after she was hit by a car while train­ing for the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kailua-kona, Hawaii, in 2008. Two years after the ac­ci­dent she had her first grand mal seizure – at home while putting Christ­mas presents away. She came around on the couch when her hus­band called her, ask­ing why she hadn’t picked him up from work. She sounded drunk on the phone and had a lump on her fore­head she couldn’t ex­plain.

The next day she had an­other seizure – this time at the bank she worked at. She was talk­ing to a client and the next thing she knew she was on the ground with paramedics in front of her. Sud­denly the “spells” she’d been hav­ing for the last two years made sense. An­nett had epilepsy. Over the next few years she would bat­tle through a va­ri­ety of med­i­ca­tions and, de­spite pre­dic­tions that she wouldn’t be able to get preg­nant and have a healthy baby, she did, even though she had a grand mal seizure five and a half months into her preg­nancy. She had more seizures after her son was born, too.

The treat­ment op­tions for her epilepsy weren’t great. She was put on a va­ri­ety of med­i­ca­tions and put on the wait­ing list for surgery, which would be at least two years. In 2013 she de­cided to re­turn to train­ing and rac­ing. She signed up for Chal­lenge Pen­tic­ton and went back to work in May. Jug­gling moth­er­hood, train­ing and work was a chal­lenge, but she still man­aged to fin­ish third in her home­town event.

After the race she backed off her train­ing, only to find that sud­denly the seizures were back – she had four in one day that Oc­to­ber. Her driver’s li­cense was sus­pended, mean­ing she had to get her son to day­care ei­ther on foot or on a bike. The doc­tors maxed our her dosage of her med­i­ca­tion, leav­ing her “a to­tally dif­fer­ent per­son.”

“I was tired all the time and had no mo­ti­va­tion to do any­thing,” she says. “I didn’t even want to play with our lit­tle boy. Our re­la­tion­ship be­gan to get stressed be­cause of my lack of in­ter­est. I was just so tired all the time.”

She kept with her train­ing, though, and the next year had her best re­sults ever – in­clud­ing an­other third in Pen­tic­ton, a per­sonal best.

An­nett con­tin­ues to race – and race well. In June she fin­ished sec­ond at Iron­man 70.3 Vic­to­ria and looks to have an­other top fin­ish at the world’s at home in Pen­tic­ton in Au­gust.

“I truly be­lieve that the mind is the strong­est part of our body,” she says. “I, by no means, have been a ‘happy-go-lucky’ per­son through th­ese last few years. I have had my mo­ments where I just want to give ev­ery­thing up. I just keep telling my­self what I have ac­com­plished and about the amaz­ing life that I re­ally do have with the per­fect fam­ily. Some­times that’s what it takes – to just take a step back and ap­pre­ci­ate the things that are good, in­stead of dwelling on the bad.”

An­nett is liv­ing proof that strength, de­ter­mi­na­tion and a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude al­lows you to achieve vir­tu­ally any­thing. She’s also a walk­ing in­spi­ra­tion to those with epilepsy – prov­ing, too, that it doesn’t have to rule your life.

Things are pretty good for Jen An­nett. And boy does she ever de­serve that.

ABOVE Jenn An­nett at Iron­man 70.3 Vic­to­ria

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