Featured Athlete, June 2019 - Janet Lapp

A woman standing beside a plane
June 20, 2019

D3 Staff



Janet decided to become a triathlete at 74 and promptly qualified for the Sprint Worlds in Lausanne, Switzerland!  She has an excellent attitude about her training and while her Coach (Julie Dunkle) sees her optimism through examples such as 'despite the weather, Janet was all in for her workout.  Unfortunately, she slipped in the rain doing hill repeats.  She was fine and came back with this humorous hashtag in her TP comments: #icrashwhenitrain.

Janet has a Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal, is a professor, researcher, clinician and RN.  She is also a professional speaker with Fortune 100 clients hiring her for leadership and motivational speaking.  

This Sinaloa family can’t afford bottled water, kids sick with water borne disease, that’s one of our filters that will provide clean water for up to 25 years.

And if that doesn't keep her busy enough she is a pilot and volunteers to fly on medical and rescue missions.  These flights have taken her from South America to Africa to Mexico.  She has regular missions to Mexico through the Liga International (Flying Doctors of Mercy, which she is a long time member of).  She is proud of the contributions she made to start a community health-clean water program and a micro-finance program that is working pretty well.

As we reached out to learn more about Janet, she shared some gratitude and reflections about her short time racing triathlons:

Many things have been helpful. The triathlete community is awesome - positive, a forward-driving tribe that often sees no limits, pushes through no-matter-what, most importantly reaches out to help others. I’ve seen athletes share equipment, food, assistance during a race even when it means losing some time - that inspires me. They usually don’t know how awesome they are.

Coach Julie is a gift.  Whenever I feel like blowing off a TP workout I visualize her tagline: No whining, no complaining, no excuses, and know I’m not going to get sympathy. She sets me up for workouts I can’t do, that are impossible, then I go do them. How does she know? No matter how trivial my question she’s there, with patience.

Leslie Myers got my nutrition on the right track! The D3 Coach Chats have been useful! Coaches aren’t just athletes, they're magicians.  I look forward to meeting others on the D3 team. I have to give a shout out to the Tri Club of San Diego too, their clinics, beginner workouts, and volunteer coaches. I’ve learned so much from their groups.


What attracted you to triathlon?

Hayley 7 years ago in México.

My then 18-yr old granddaughter, Hayley, was in a near-fatal plane crash while volunteering with me in Mexico. Coma, body broken, told might not be able to go to college or certainly not run (back fused). So she finished her degree, took up marathons to better handle her post-injury moods, then triathlons - now 25 she's done one Ironman, a few 70.3’s and I'm her sherpa for Whistler Canada. If she can do it with a relentlessly positive and loving attitude, anybody can.  She is my inspiration.

First race!

I wanted to try one out just for the experience, to see what she experiences. So without training, I’m ashamed to admit, I did Rock the Bay Sprint September 2018 and found it super fun, interesting and maybe a great way to get in shape. I can walk the run and still get a first place medal. This is a cool deal.

Now it’s harder than I thought to get fit and go fast (surprise!). My body is falling apart (e.g. knees) so I go get patched up and keep moving. I’m doing another 3 Sprints and maybe one Olympic before worlds in August and am registered for the Indian Wells 70.3 in December which might or might not happen. Just have to keep moving.  

You travel quite a bit for work and volunteering.  What triathlon gear do you always take with you on your trips?

For hotels (work) - easy - all have pools and fitness rooms. Take swim and workout gear. Mexico not so easy - the streets are minefields.

Trusted friend. Been flying abut 40 years, women represent about 6% of pilots. Time that changed!

You are a pilot.  Will you fly yourself to the Sprint Worlds in Switzerland?  If so, please share some details of what that is like (your bike, the plane, the responsibility of flying and then racing!) … if not, do you have advice about flying that other traveling triathletes can benefit from?

My plane's a humble little 300hp single engine 6-seater, flying to Switzerland would be a haul. But my bike fits in the back of the plane and it’s easy to get around locally, e.g. I’ll fly to the 70.3 in December. I’ve competed in tennis tournaments in the desert over 3-4 days and flown over and back every day, that’s easy - it’s a 20-min flight versus 90-min drive. But triathlons of any distance extract a huge physical and mental toll and I wouldn't fly the same day. Flying the easy part, racing is hard.

Advice about flying? Triathletes are savvy about the effects of altitude/flights - even if pressurized to 8,000’. But over the years traveling so much - this is what I’ve learned:

a. Dehydration is the most damaging - it’s sneaky. Constantly drink at altitude. Be no fun and don’t drink alcohol. Effects of dehydration linger.
b. Be neurotic about protecting from germs.
c. Random dysharmonic overstimulation of noise and glare exhaust. Be antisocial - wear shades and noise-canceling earphones.

I understand you have an amazing car ~ a Porsche.  Are there any comparisons between that car and your bike?

Think they’re both well made - I wish my bike would go faster.

You volunteer in a unique way, flying yourself and physicians around the world to help with medical and rescue missions.  Are there any special messages about those experiences that you would like to share with the triathlon community?

One change I’ve seen since starting training is how inwardly focused I can get - planning food, workouts, measuring results. All about self. The gift of volunteering is a sense of perspective - of removing self from center and focusing on a larger pattern. I would think it would be a good balance for any athlete to spend time giving to others through volunteering, either in or outside one's own culture. Even making a point to regularly help out at races.

Please share anything else that would help us get to know you better (training, racing, humanitarian).

I meet so many (non-triathletes) my age who have let their dreams slip - filled with "if only's" and "I wish” - this is the message I wish I could share:

  1. Just start. Do something. You’ll never feel like it. If you do only those things you feel like you’ll do nothing of use to anyone. Nothing worth while is easy at first.  Don’t wait to be inspired and then move -  move first and that will inspire you. Register for a race. Train or not. Do the race and see what happens.  
  2. Be bad at it. You don’t have to be good (see #1 above). Stop saying “I can’t swim” or “I have bad knees” … those are excuses that will haunt your future self. In fact, it’s best to be very bad because the growth will amaze you.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone but your past and future selves. I gaze longingly at the first Masters lane at the pool “how do they DO that??” then jolt back and say hey “six months ago you couldn't get to the end of a pool without being out of breath - good for you."
  4. After you start (see #1), it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter how slow, or how long you rest, what you look like. As long as you’re moving forward most of the time, pretty soon somebody is going to show up and put a medal around your neck.

This sport is such a gift for anyone and I’m grateful to have discovered it. It’s engaging, absorbing, welcoming, challenging. Thanks to Coach Julie for her support.

Congratulations, Janet!  We are proud to share your story.

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