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Athlete Spotlight: Diane Johnson

Athlete Spotlight: Diane Johnson
November 6, 2019 Michael Harlow

Diane Johnson was one of Coach Michael’s first athletes when she joined Team in Training in 2005, of which Michael was the volunteer coach.  Diane has continued racing ever since, though it was her two daughters that largely participated in us over the past 10 years.  Diane recently joined our adult team with Erin as her coach when she qualified for Team USA and wanted to represent her country well.  Together, they have achieved goals she did not think possible.  We highly encourage you to read Diane’s story in her own words below as it has some incredible pieces of motivation…


Tell us about your journey to endurance sports.  How did you get started?

I had never been an athlete. I was all about the books in high school and didn’t understand the value of it until much later in life. Wayne (my husband) and I joined the local YMCA when we moved to Midlothian and met Ro Gammon who talked us into the Ukrop’s 10k training team. I had a secret desire to run a marathon but thought it was impossible. After doing the 10k, she talked us into the marathon.  I subsequently got into triathlon because I heard about Team in Training and my stepdad had recently died from an aggressive lymphoma. I didn’t want to run another marathon, because I felt like it should be a bigger challenge. I went to an informational meeting in 2005 where Michael was the volunteer coach. He was starting up a little business called Endorphin Fitness. I talked to him, told him I couldn’t swim a lick, and he told me he could get me through that 750-meter swim.


When was your first race?  Tell us about it. 

So Breezy point sprint was my first triathlon.  I finished that swim with a wetsuit, in a blistering 3:44/100 pace (that’s 28 minutes!).  My family thought I’d drowned; it took me so long. My bike split was decent at 17.3mph, I had bought a used Schwinn for $100 and had toe cages.  I was looking forward to the run, which has been my strength and ran a 9-minute mile.


What is your greatest accomplishment in the sport?

I can’t name one thing, because each race that has been “a big one” whether it was finishing my first of each distance, qualifying for Boston, or going to Duathlon Worlds, each meant something special to me.  I cried when I finished the swim at Patriots Half, it felt like such a big moment for me, overcoming my fear of that swim, and just not knowing if I really could finish it or not.


What is your biggest goal right now? 

This is a tough question. Things I might like to try to do: Break 3:30 in the marathon, maybe (a big maybe) one more Ironman and break into the top 20% in my age group. I’m usually a low 30s kind of girl (my swim hasn’t improved that much).  I did break into the top 15 in a Half Ironman, thanks to Erin my coach 🙂


What motivates you? 

Training keeps me sane.  Having a race in the books keeps me pushing. And knowing someone is going to see if I got out of bed and worked out today.


Outside of training and racing, what are other important things in your life? 

Friends and family. I have a wonderful family, (including in-laws!) and great groups of friends-tri friends, book club friends, med school friends.  Spending time with them all-venting, laughing, hanging out- that’s what life’s about.


How has training and racing impacted the rest of your life?

It gave me a confidence that I never had, and that’s what made me see the value in it.  My daughter had extreme social anxiety when she was young, and I feel strongly that every kid needs something that they’re proud of.  It doesn’t matter what it is, they just need something. Michael’s passion is kids, as most EF athletes know. We had tried several activities, and Marisa didn’t click with anyone.  With Michael, she came out of her shell a little bit. Over the years, I watched her confidence grow, to the point that she seemed a different kid.  Michael might wish that she hadn’t felt quite so comfortable. 😉  At any rate, seeing how much sports helped her, I think it should be in every kids’ life. And for that, I want to put in a plug (this is of my own doing!) for the Live Red Foundation.   Read about it, if you haven’t. It’s important.


Why did you choose to train with Endorphin Fitness? 

Well as you read above, I met Michael when he started out and always felt that I’d come back to EF if I ever wanted a coach again. I did triathlon for fun, I’m competitive with myself for the most part (we can’t help but compare ourselves to our compatriots).  Both of my kids were training with Michael on the high-performance team, and after I qualified for Du Worlds, I felt like I was representing my country, I should be the best that I could for that race.


What do you love most about training with Endorphin Fitness?

The support from coaches to fellow athletes. Great people are in this group.


Anything you would like to add?

I continued sprints for a long time, being limited by my swim.  It took 3 years to get the confidence to do an Olympic, 5 years to do a half, and 6 years to do a full Ironman. I think triathletes should build up more before jumping into the long distances. Try to never say “I’m only doing a sprint/Oly/half”.  A favorite quote, I don’t recall where I heard it–“does Usain Bolt say ‘I only do the 100m’?”

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