When a superstar athlete decides that a sport may just be causing more harm than good, cross training (and triathlon as a result) often comes along.
That’s the case for Jonette Murphy of Rapid City. Murphy, our featured T3 athlete of the month, grew up in Hoven, South Dakota. Those who follow high school sports know that in the ’90s, the girls’ track team in Hoven was a force to be reckoned with. And while Murphy dabbled in track, she never really saw herself as part of that legacy. “I put my time in,” she says. Shortly after finishing college, she purposed herself to train hard and, in her words, be really good at something.
So, like many triathletes, she found her footing. She began running marathons. A lot of marathons. Seventeen, to be precise. Since she was serving with the National Guard, she took advantage of their sponsorship opportunities and raced with them. But consistent activity in just one sport can wear a body out, and Murphy began to recognize this principle. “They (the marathons) were just getting hard on my body.”
So, she started to teach herself to swim. Like most farm kids, Murphy could keep her head above water, but she needed to learn to move more like a fish. She spent a lot of time in the pool and took advantage any swim instruction she could read or watch online. She started to bike around Sioux Falls, and she found tri-legend Kathy Grady as a mentor in those early years.
Murphy’s first race was the long-running Hot Springs tri. She tackled the sprint distance, and, like with many of us, a spark of interest led to a flickering fire of desire. She continued to dabble in the sport as she went to anesthesia school, where she earned her degree as a nurse anesthetist. Then, upon completing school, she bought a tri-bike and signed up for Ironman Wisconsin. And the spark that led to a flame turned into a roaring fire for the sport.
Jonette claims she’s a one-and-done Ironman, but even that single endurance event changed things in her family. Her husband, Brendan, was also a runner at the time, and seeing Jonette complete an Ironman inspired him to do the same. The next couple of years involved Jonette continuing to train for local tris and Brandon completing two different Ironman 140.6 events.
In 2011, Jonette felt the urge to take the sport even more seriously. So she hired a coach and began training vigorously for half ironman distance race. However, life shifted a bit when a month before the race, she discovered, after believing she and her husband couldn’t have children, that she was pregnant. Since she had trained up until that point and her body was used to the stress of training, her physician encouraged her to continue training and to complete the event. So, she did.
Not only did Murphy put up some respectable numbers for a 70.3 during her first trimester, but she also went on to complete the inaugural Outland Challenge the following August further into her pregnancy. And then in January, miracle baby Mason was born, and Murphy once again resumed her training.
Murphy’s location in Rapid City offers her some unique training opportunities. In particular, she enjoys riding through any one of the variety of canyons around the city. Additionally, after adding Mason to their family, the Murphys moved from an area outside of town to a house right on the bike path, offering Jonette the opportunity to do some fast brick workouts with each bike ride she completes.
Her training is paying off. Murphy continues to make her presence known in the South Dakota triathlon scene. According to Grady, “She’s racing crazy fast this year.” And it’s true. Murphy herself admits that right now is the healthiest she’s been in a long time. We see evidence of this as Murphy consistently finds herself among the top five women in many of the races she’s competed in.
Regardless of her speed, Murphy notes that the best part of this sport isn’t just finding a place on the podium or even beating her old times, but it’s continuing to connect with the competitors who perpetuate the sport and make it so fun. All of these things together lead Murphy to drive a few hundred miles from her home in Rapid City, cross the river, and compete on the east side of the state on a fairly regular basis.
With her competitive times and constant smile, we are certainly always glad to see her.