Linda Banks is an architectural designer and the owner of Banks Design Associates and Simply Home in Falmouth. After participating in her first Tri for a Cure in 2014, she became an avid triathlete. Tri for a Cure is an all-female triathlon that raises money for the Maine Cancer Foundation.
A Triathlete is Born
Last year I was going through a tough time professionally and personally. I suffered from some heartbreak and had a difficult client very far away: I like to say it was the perfect storm. I was at my all-time heaviest, 40 pounds heavier than I am today. I happened to see one of my friends from Maine magazine, and I said, “Wow! You look great. What are you doing?” She said, “Oh, I’m training for the Tri for a Cure.” I said, “What exactly is that?” This was 15 months ago. I don’t even think I could spell the word triathlon at that time. She said, “If I can do it, you can do it.” I said, “Maybe someday.” She said, “We’re sponsors and have one spot left.” I signed up the next day.
Tri for a Cure was appealing to me because I’ve had so much loss in my life from cancer. My mother passed away from ovarian cancer and lymphoma on the day that I graduated from high school. She had been sick since I was two. My boyfriend in college passed away. My office manager passed away. One of my best friends, Gene Siskel, the movie critic, passed away. I have really learned to appreciate every minute I spend with the people I care about.
Training with the Ladies
When I started training two months before the Tri for a Cure, I was embraced by the group of women at SheJAMs—a training group that’s non-confrontational and non-judgmental—and by Julie Jordan Marchese, who founded the Tri for a Cure with the help of Meredith Strang Burgess. I ran across the finish line, number 500 out of 600. With Tri for a Cure, everyone cheers you on, and you can’t make a mistake. You can never finish last because Meredith volunteers to finish last every year, which actually was a beautiful safety net for me. People of all shapes, sizes, speeds, and capacities do triathlons. It’s not just skinny, fit, smart, handsome people. It’s all kinds of people from every walk of life.
The Day Job
I work a lot on the weekends and I can be found in my studio into the wee hours, as we provide both architectural and decorating services. Often, we have jobs under construction from here to Blue Hill to Martha’s Vineyard to Jackson Hole. My perfect job is when we are actually hired as both the architect and interior designer on a house—and we also do everything in between.
Athlete on the Go
I find one of the greatest things about doing triathlons is that I can train almost anywhere. It’s tough to bring my bike on the plane, but I’ve done it. I think running is the most portable. And there’s always a place to swim. When I went to visit my daughter Emma last year in England, I swam at the pool down the street. Because I work all the time, I feel it’s okay to take an hour in the middle of the day to go for a run or get up early to swim at the hotel where I’m staying. I was at a trade show in October, and I put on my running gear along with a backpack, ran to the local YMCA two and a half miles away, swam for 50 minutes, and then took a taxi back to the hotel.
Making a Plan
I would be nowhere without my coach, Carrie McCusker. She’s got it all. She is a mom and an award-winning triathlete. She sat with me for two hours yesterday at Coffee by Design, and we planned my race schedule, talked about my form, figured out how to lace my sneakers in a more comfortable way, and adjusted my helmet. Every week she emails me a schedule via TrainingPeaks, a mobile fitness app for endurance athletes. I can make adjustments to make things work with my schedule. It’s flexible. Like everything else in life, you pick your priorities. I train as much as I can but could always do more. Triathlons have opened my eyes to a whole new world and living in Maine is the perfect place to experience the art of swim, bike, run.