For many readers and writers of aSweatLife, training for an endurance sport is an average hobby. From marathoners to ultramarathoners to triathletes – the team is full of inspiriting people, but I’ve never really trained for anything in my life.
As a fan of mixing up my workouts, I naturally said, “yes.” when aSweatLife Ambassador Clorissa Comer asked if I wanted to go swimming. So, I joined her in the pool, way out of my comfort zone with my Amazon-Prime-ordered swim-cap and goggles in tow. In our pre-swim locker-room chat – I learned that Clorissa too was in training – not for her first, not for her second, but for her third triathlon.
My immediate thought was that she was another endurance sport lifer, like many other friends I’ve made in the past few years. I couldn’t possibly relate to her fitness journey, especially since she was opting for the Olympic distance triathlon this time around.
And then Clorissa shared with me that until three years ago, she never envisioned herself participating in this sport.
Call me narrow-minded, but I just assume that you either live for an endurance sport or you wouldn’t go near a sign-up page with a 10-foot pole.
“I had zero desire to do a triathlon, ever,” Clorissa said matter-of-factly. “It never crossed my mind. I even told one of my friends the year before my first one, after I had just finished a 10K and she asked, ‘What’s next – a triathlon?’ and I said, ‘No, are you crazy?'”
And yet here she is, three years later, as excited as ever about the next distance up in the sport. So, what gives?
Team Bright Side, that’s what. Tracey Scheppach started the group after her son was diagnosed with leukemia. And after five years, it’s now a full-fledged charitable organization with 501(c)3 designation. Each year, more than 100 people participate in the Chicago Triathlon to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research.
Clorissa was initially drawn to Team Bright Side because she had colleagues by her side, but after meeting Tracey and learning about what she’d built and why, Clorissa was all in.
“I just kept thinking, who takes that kind of news and turn it into such an inspirational thing?” Clorissa said, recalling the diagnoses and causes that drew team members in.
“I just felt a connection to the team without a particular reason. Then my aunt was actually diagnosed with lymphoma, so it became a bigger thing for me. I was even more involved,” she said.
And over these years, Team Bright Side pushed to meet a lofty fundraising goal: $1,000,000. Now, with more than 100 members taking on the Chicago Triathlon Sunday, August 27, they’re around 82 percent of the way there. An achievement that’s made even sweeter by the fact that Team Bright Side’s 501(c)3 designation allows it to direct the funds.
As all of these facts unfolded, one thing was clear: Clorissa was passionate about being a part of this team – part of something bigger than any individual that makes it up. And if you hear it for yourself, you’ll be in search of the sign-up page too.
“It really is this greater cause, it’s what we’re all here for,” Clorissa said. “There’s a competitive part in all of us, but we’re actually all here for the charity.”
Here I am, thinking that if I ever wanted to compete in any kind of endurance sport, I’d have to be very serious, but Clorissa set the record straight. Team Bright Side is full of serious athletes who are gathering together over a seriously important cause, but they’ve found a way to truly brighten up a tough, individual sport and make it a team effort.
Do they care about their times? Sure, even if it’s for charity, there’s still a little pride on the line.
“We’ll tease with each other about wanting to cut our times down, but we’re not those insane athletes out there that are trying to PR every time,” Clorissa said.
But the team is driven by more than just the numbers.
“We’re just going to be happy seeing each other,” she said. “We wear the same thing on race day so we can find each other on the course, and there’s this amazing sense of community to be able to ride and see someone you know on the team and shout out to rather than spend four hours racing by yourself.”
Find out more about how to volunteer, donate or sponsor Team Bright side here, and even cheer Clorissa and the rest of her group in purple by check Chicago Triathlon 2017 Athlete Guide for where to watch (page 21).