By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Best advice not taken
Photo supplied Amy Hoppenjan of Monroe tears through the cycling portion of the 2008 Danskin Womens Triathlon Race at Pleasant Prairie. Over 3000 women swam a half mile, biked 12 miles, and ran 3 miles. The Chicagoland race is the fifth of eight Danskin Triathlons nationwide as the Danskin series is in its 19th season as the longest running and largest multi-sport series in the world.
MONROE - Making her mother worry was never more rewarding for Amy Hoppenjan.

The 40-year-old guidance counselor called home immediately after finishing the 2008 Danskin Women's Triathlon Race in Pleasant Prairie, Ill. on Sunday, July 13.

Just a couple months ago, Hoppenjan's doctor advised against taking part in the event, as she'd just gotten over a nasty bug that gave her symptoms not unlike those associated with mononucleosis.

About a month before the race, the lethargy gave way and Hoppenjan used a mind-over-matter approach to train rapidly.

Finally, after swimming half a mile, biking 12 and running a 5K, all in under two hours (1 hour, 57 minutes), Hoppenjan called with good news.

"(My mother) was kind of worried about me doing it because the doctor told me not to," Hoppenjan said. "So I called to say, 'Hey, I didn't die!'"

And then the cell phone bill got a little out of hand.

"Afterwards, you can't wait to tell people to try this," Hoppenjan said. "If people are like, 'I can't do the swim portion,' well take a noodle; wear a life jacket for God's sake."

Last winter, a close friend of Hoppenjan's urged her to try the triathlon and, in a way, pay it forward. Like her friend, Hoppenjan took control of her health just over five years ago. She fixed her diet and got on a regular exercising schedule.

"I decided enough was enough," Hoppenjan said.

But no workout ever had the same resonating effect she experienced at the Danskin.

"It was just women getting together, cheering each other on and high-fiving and 'You go girlfriend!'" Hoppenjan said.

The event generates awareness for breast cancer, as well as lifelong bonds.

"It was more about the cancer and the comraderie," Hoppenjan said.

She was amazed to witness a staple of the circuit, a 60-year-old woman who deliberately finishes last in every race in which she participates. She marveled at the spirit of a 79-year-old cancer survivor who completed the swimming portion.

"It was more exciting watching the last competitor finish than watching the elite athletes finish," Hoppenjan said. "You don't have to be the best; get out there and do something. Push yourself."

She'll be back at the Danskin next year and would love to go with more recruits. In the meantime, as she tears around town and students see her doing her thing, she keeps paying it forward in her own way.

"We have to model this for our kids," Hoppenjan said. "I'm not a small person. I'm a healthy person; a big-boned person. I'm a healthy person and that's what's important."