This is part of the Arete Community Series leading up to our 2018 team launch.
We will be featuring Arete members from various chapter on the blog and social media in the next two weeks. Our teammates join us for various reasons: to chase personal best times, reignite their passion for running, or to lean into the challenge and satisfaction of racing. Although each of us show up for Arete for real life running community connection, each running story is different, authentic and inspiring.
In our lead up to announcing our 2018 chapter launch locations and dates, may these stories of our teammates inspire and excite us in our running and beyond.
Becky Gibbs Lavelle is a former professional triathlete, mom, and Director of Jenny’s Light: a foundation created in memory of her late twin sister who suffered from post-partum depression (learn more here: jennyslight.org). Becky was Arete’s top finisher at the recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. A phenomenal athlete and wise & humble lady, we’re grateful to share the road with Becky.
Tell us a little about your athletic background and your rise to professional and Olympic triathlete.
I grew up swimming. I started when I was 9 years old and swam competitively through high school (5-time MN state champion in 200y IM and 100y breastroke), then earned a scholarship to attend LSU where I was an NCAA All-American in 100/200y breastroke and 200y IM. When I graduated in 1998 I knew I was done swimming, but I still wanted to compete in something… and triathlon became the perfect fit!
My brother introduced me to triathlon in 1994 and convinced me to try them during the summers in college. I did a few each summer and by ’98 I decided to try to make a living at it and I turned Pro. I had no idea it would become my job for the next 15 years! But I really enjoyed traveling all over the world competing in World Cup events and then qualifying for the US Olympic Trials in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Unfortunately I was injured and couldn’t compete in ’00 and ’04, but in 2008 I was named the Olympic Team alternate (qualified 4th and there were 3 on the team!). I still traveled to Beijing with the team which was an awesome experience!
The Olympic style racing (draft-legal bike) wasn’t really my favorite type of triathlon. I loved Olympic distance and half Ironman non-drafting events. Some of my most memorable wins were at Escape from Alcatraz (2006), Chicago Tri (2008), LA Tri (2008), Wildflower Half Ironman (2007), Pacific Grove (8x!), Lake Stevens 70.3 (2009) and Rev3 Florida Half Ironman (2012, the last race of my career!).
You co-founded Jenny’s Light after your twin sister’s tragic death. Do you mind shedding some light on your inspiration and work this organization your created?
I lost my twin sister Jenny and my nephew Graham in Dec 2007 to postpartum depression. I can’t even explain the shock and incredible sadness I felt when this happened. My family and I decided that we did not want this to happen to anyone else. The fact that we felt so uniformed about ppd, we thought there must be SO many other people who don’t know enough about postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorders in general.
We wanted to honor and remember Jenny, while also helping others. Jenny’s Light (jennyslight.org) was created in 2008 and our mission became “to improve and save lives by increasing awareness of all perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression.” We’ve raised over $300,000 in 9 years and our biggest fundraiser has become the annual Jenny’s Light Run I put on every year in Los Gatos. We’ve given grants to many other organizations around the country who are in line with our mission, we’ve distributed informational cards to hospitals/clinics worldwide and we’ve helped so many women realize that they are not alone, they can get better and there is help
How did you handle retirement from professional athletics? I imagine it was a transition to go from spending most your day hours training to assimilating to a new life routine. Do you mind sharing what that experience was like?
It was quite a change! Gone were the days of sleeping 10-12 hours a night, taking naps whenever I wanted to and only having to worry about how/when I trained, what I ate, what races I had coming up and when my next massage would be! After having the best year of my career in 2008 I was ready to start a family, but unfortunately I miscarried in early 2009. I then decided to race one more year and thankfully I got pregnant and had my daughter the following year. I was 35 at the time and still felt like I had a few more racing years in me so I competed again in 2011 & 2012, traveling and racing 20+ times each year. I knew it would probably be my last hurrah so I really tried to make the most of it! It was hard juggling training and taking care of a baby, but it forced me to focus on quality over quantity and get the most out of every workout that I could fit in. I had some of my best races after the birth of my daughter.
In 2014 I had my son and I knew at that point I was done racing professionally. I was almost 40 years old and I felt like I did everything I wanted to do in the sport. My life became taking care of my children and raising them to the best of my ability. It was a good change, but also a big adjustment. It’s amazing how quickly your days can fill up being a stay-at-home mom! The main thing I missed was being so fit. I realized pretty quickly that I needed/wanted the endorphin high that swimming/biking/running gave me and I always knew I would continue running to maintain some sort of fitness (even if most of that running was with a baby jogger!).
What was the greatest highlight(s) of your professional athletic career?
Being an Olympic Alternate! I was especially proud of that because I qualified during the toughest year of my life, less than 6 months after losing my twin sister.
What was the greatest challenge of your professional athletic career? Probably the same thing… having to grieve the loss of my sister while training for the Olympic Trials. She was my biggest fan, and I always kept in mind that she would have wanted me to continue training and racing and pursing my dream. I wanted to make her proud, and I think I did.
What piece of advice would you give a young girl who has dreams of becoming a professional runner or triathlete? Never give up! There will always be ups and downs, but if you have a dream you have to go for it. Hard work, dedication and listening to your body are all so important.
How did you find out about Arete? Melissa McConville! I signed up for her She is Beautiful Race last Spring, met her at packet pick up (it turns out she had done the Jenny’s Light run before, too) and we also realized that we live pretty close to each other. We met a few times at a local park and she told me about the exciting new team that she was helping to start… I wanted to sign up asap!
What’s your favorite part about training with a group of women who aren’t professional athletes but still give it their all? Melissa told me about the team at a perfect time. I had been running solo for about 3 years, with no real goals/races planned and I felt like it was exactly what I needed to motivate me to race again. 95% of my triathlon training was solo too, so the idea of a training with a group of like-minded women sounded really fun! I love the dedication and camaraderie of everyone in the group. It’s great to see people motivate each other, work hard, reach their goals and have fun doing it!
What are your running goals for the end of 2017/2018?
2017: Complete my very first marathon at CIM, and get as close as I can to 3 hrs!
2018: I haven’t thought too much about 2018 yet, but I’d like to try some races that I’ve never done before…Santa Cruz half marathon, SIB Santa Barbara, Monterey half marathon, Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, to name a few.
Favorite place to run: Nisene & Pacific Grove (along Ocean View Blvd)
Favorite pre/post run meal: Before a run peanut butter & banana slices on toast is usually a go-to (and coffee of course!), and I love chocolate milk after a long run, followed by a burger or pizza!
Best race memory:
Triathlon: Winning Escape from Alcatraz after finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th in previous years.
Running: It was fun winning She is Beautiful Santa Cruz this year! I love the energy, vibe and race course there.
I never leave the house for a run without my…new Road ID bracelet (thanks to Michelle!)… and I must have my hair in a ponytail!
Thanks for sharing so much of your story, Becky!
Find out next week how and when you can join Arete in 2018 in our current and new chapters! Until then, follow along as we learn more about the women who make up the heart and soul of our running squad.