Just a few weeks before her 25th high school reunion, Jody Orfield scheduled an intake appointment with a personal trainer. She was tired of being tired and living with arthritic joint pain and Crohn's disease. Forty pounds overweight, she couldn't find any clothes in her closet that fit to wear to the reunion. But when she got there, she reconnected with her best friend from high school and got inspired to train for a triathlon. Now she has six triathlons under her belt, she's 40 pounds lighter and her Crohn's is in remission. To cap off her season, she will run the Twin Cities 10-mile before next Sunday's marathon.
BAND GEEKS TO TRIATHLETES: When I got to my reunion and reconnected with my high school best friend, Kim Gorman, I saw her and said, "We were band geeks together and now you're an athlete?" No way -- this is so cool! She was officiating at the YWCA Women's Triathlon that weekend, and she said I should come see it. But I couldn't even go. It was fear that was keeping me back. [Still], she and I just started talking, and I asked her to tell me more about the triathlon thing. I tucked it in the back of my mind, and on the intake form at the gym I wrote that within a year I wanted to complete a triathlon.
FURTIVELY FIT: Knowing the old me, I knew I was never going to follow through, so I didn't tell anyone [about my goal]. But I really connected with my trainer, Todd Stebleton, and just over the course of a few months, I made a lot of changes. Before then, I thought I was working out hard and I really wasn't. When I went to my first session, the client before me came out beet-red, covered in sweat. I said, "I haven't paid -- can I leave now?"
TRY-ATHLETE: Both Todd and Kim believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, and that was the key to my first race. Kim and I raced the Buffalo, Minn., triathlon together. It was amazing. The pictures are really funny of me. I'm literally dancing across the finish line. I was smiling and waving at everybody -- not very competitive. But that's OK. It was fun and all about the experience. This year all my pictures are serious. I just hired a tri coach, and I train six days a week. It's a balance of swimming, biking, running and strength training. It didn't hit me until this year's YWCA Women's Triathlon, how far I've come, until my husband and I started walking around Lake Nokomis [to warm up]. It came back to me that a year ago, I couldn't even walk around the lake.
TRIFECTA: We all know about [balancing] diet and exercise, but I think the third piece is emotional stuff, and that's the piece I had never tackled before. I did a lot of emotional housecleaning, and then everything fell into place. Sometimes Todd pushes me so hard physically that I have emotional meltdowns.
(NOT) DEFINING JODY: I was diagnosed with Crohn's in 2004 but I'd had symptoms since 1990. It was taking over me, defining me, holding me back. I made huge diet changes, and it took away all my joint pain and my Crohn's is in remission. It's my big thing: Don't let whatever disease you have define you. For a long time I didn't even tell people, because I didn't want to be defined by the disease. You're still who you are. You just happen to be living with Crohn's. I'm Jody who is a triathlete who has Crohn's.