Barnard Triathlete Endures
Triathlete Danielle Bean has no coach, no sponsor and no cutting edge equipment. None of that stopped her from competing for Team USA at last week’s World Triathlon Grand Final.
Bean, 33, joined nearly 600 of the nation’s top triathletes in London on Sept. 11-13, competing in the aquathon (1-kilometer swim, 5K run) and the sprint race (750-meter swim, 20K bike and 5K run) in the women’s 30-34 age group.
The former Woodstock Union High and Bridgewater (Mass.) State University multi-sport standout placed 42nd in her division (261st overall) in the aquathon and 77th in her class (493rd overall) in a spring race featuring 765 competitors.
A Barnard resident and National Guard officer, Bean had been a successful endurance athlete since she was a college student in the early 2000s at Bridgewater State, where her swimming coach persuaded her to participate in a triathlon.
“I said, ‘What the heck is a triathlon?’ ” Bean recalled in an interview Friday. “I grew up doing a lot of outdoors stuff around Barnard and Woodstock, cross country skiing and things like that, but I think especially back then triathlons (attracted) a very small community of athletes.
“I never heard of (a triathlon) growing up in Vermont.”
Bean was hardly unaccustomed to giving unique athletic pursuits a try. At Woodstock, she became the Wasps’ first female football player, playing running back and defensive back for four years. Her best sport was lacrosse, for which she was recruited by Bridgewater.
Bean never swam competitively until her freshman year in college, but still excelled in sprinting events for the Bears.
Once convinced to give triathlons a try, Bean took to that swimmingly, as well. She garnered a number of podium finishes during her first summer of competing, adding some impressive marathon results to her resume, as well.
“It was like a switch was flipped and all of a sudden, I was doing really well with endurance (events),” said Bean.
“The training was a lot different, because I was used to training for power and speed more so than (stamina). So I had to kind of balance it out, because I still had to train for power for lacrosse.”
Bean enlisted in the Army after college, receiving combat medic and physical therapy training while on active duty from 2003-07. When she wasn’t overseas — Bean was deployed twice, once to Iraq and once to Germany — Bean stayed active while participating in various 5- and 10K races staged by the Army for its officers. In 2006, she was selected for the Army’s “A” 10-mile running team, helping it compete against teams of soldiers from other military branches, as well as civilian teams at the prestigious Army 10-miler in Washington.
At her peak, Bean could run a mile in 5 minutes, 50 seconds. Yet after finishing active duty and entering the Army Reserves in 2007, Bean was burnt out on competing.
“I ended up back in Vermont and a lot of personal troubles kind of took over and caused me to put training on the back burner,” she said. “I told myself, ‘I’m retired,’ and stopped training.
“It was kind of sad, because I was still doing really well when I stopped. It hadn’t been that long since I’d won a marathon in my age group.”
In 2011, Bean got her competitive juices flowing once more. She joined the Underhill, Vt.-based National Guard Biathlon team that winter and, in the summer, competed in triathlons in Vermont. She qualified for the Age Group National Biathlon championships in Burlington two years in a row.
She qualified for the Age Group championships for sprint distances last year, but almost didn’t make it to Burlington. While dry-land training on roller skis in Underhill, Bean fell when speeding down a large hill. She slid 15 meters and suffered severe a road rash that nearly caused her to miss the Age Group qualifiers a month later.
“You can’t run a triathlon with unhealed wounds, but mine healed over just in time,” Bean said.
She went on to finish first in her age group in 1 hour, 18 minutes, 34 seconds, punching her ticket to London. “I was still in a lot of pain (from the road rash) and I couldn’t really sit. I think the only reason I went so fast is because I wanted to get off the bike so bad.”
Without a sponsor and still riding the same basic road bike she’s had for six years, Bean is determined to continue competing as both a triathlete and biathlete.
Her times today are slower than her college and active-duty days, yet she won’t let that her deter her ambition.
“Don’t get old,” she said with a laugh. “I look at my times now and just think, ‘Wow that’s awful,’ but the goal is to keep going until my times are better than they were before.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.