Area triathlete recalls: ‘I was a heart attack waiting to happen.’ Not anymore!
By Bryan Bonato For Sun-Times Media August 7, 2013 7:12PM
Laurie Robbins of Vernon Hills celebrates as she crosses the finish line after a recent race. | SUBMITTED PHOTO
MEET LAURIE ROBBINS
Lives in Vernon Hills
Grew up in La Salle, which is in the northwest quadrant of the state
Works as a senior claims analyst at pharmacy benefit management company Catamaran
Lost 189 pounds without surgery
Favorite part of triathlons: Swimming. Least-favorite: Biking.
Started in May 2011 and was 189 pounds lighter by March 2012.
Updated: October 7, 2013 4:56PM
Laurie Robbins did not request bib No. 189 when she signed up for the Iron Girl Women’s Triathlon that will be held on Sunday morning at Prairie Springs Park (home of the RecPlex) in Pleasant Prairie, which is just across the state line.
As the 46-year-old who is a resident of Vernon Hills is want to say: “It’s not something I wear on my sleeve.”
Indeed. While she has lost 189 pounds, it’s what she’s found that’s way more important: good health, a positive state of mind, and an exciting outdoor activity.
Which is why, when she crosses the finish line on Saturday morning, the smile on her face will be broad enough to stretch the length of the 3.1-mile running course that is the finishing leg of the triathlon.
“I don’t go around telling people, ‘Hey, I lost 189 pounds!’ but I am very proud of myself for doing it without surgery,” she said. “Not that surgery is bad, but it wasn’t an option for me. My insurance company wouldn’t pay for it, so instead I had a number of personal trainers that kicked my butt.”
Robbins actually started training to become an athlete — again — in May 2011.
“I actually did my first triathlon in August 2011, back when I was still just starting out. It took me, oh, 3 hours and 1 minute to shuffle my way across the finish line,” she recalled. “I’ve been able to shave that down to, most recently, 1 hour and 48 minutes. It’s amazing the difference 189 pounds can make.”
She’s very excited about Saturday’s race, finding the fact that it’s a women’s-only event — sponsored by the Athleta women’s athletic-wear company — to be an appealing alternative to coed races.
“I think it can be less intimidating. It’s definitely very supportive. Instead of a coed event where the men might get the majority of the attention, I think it’s nice to not just be there in the background, but it’s also something I need to get over.” Robbins said.
She does have goals for this and future triathlons, not necessarily based on time, but on distance.
“I’d like to keep improving my time, but I also want to work up to an Olympic triathlon. What I’ve been doing so far are half the Olympic distances.
“I will never be an Ironman, but maybe one day I’ll be able to do a Half Ironman. And now that I’ve said that, I know some people who will try to hold me to that,” she laughed. “I have a girlfriend, Anna Clausen, who I know will say, ‘See, you said it. Now you have to do it!’”
Back in the day, she was involved in softball, volleyball and cheerleading in high school. “It wasn’t until I had my son that I gained a lot of weight. Not because of him, but along with the change in routine, I was coping with postpartum depression.”
So, what set things into action back in May 2011?
“I was having blood work done at my cardiologist and the results were, let’s say, less than favorable. I was a heart attack waiting to happen,” she said. “I cut out carbs and stuck with fruits, veggies, and protein, and that helped me get me on the right track.”
As for the exercise schedule, well, she started out making a big splash.
“I started with swimming. I didn’t feel comfortable just working out in the gym, so I started out in the pool. Of the first 100 pounds, I lost a big chunk of it by swimming,” she said. “At that point, it was time for me to join a bigger gym, so I was able to start working in other types of exercise.”
And now, on Saturday, she’ll become an Iron Girl.