Over the holiday break I had the chance to get a swim session in at the local YMCA with my dad. It was my first swim training session since September, and my plan was to complete 1000yds in under 20 minutes. I didn’t quite make it under 20 minutes, but I was satisfied with my session (and I wasn’t that sore after the fact either).
After the swim session I spent some time in the sauna. When I walked in, there was an older gentleman sitting on the top row. Not one to shy away from conversation, I asked him how much time he spent in the sauna every day. He told me that he spends about 45 minutes in the sauna each day after he works out in the gym. In total, he told me he and his wife spend about 3 hours at the Y every day.
As we spent time talking, he asked me what I was currently training for. I told him I’m focused on competing in a few Olympic distance triathlon events this summer, increasing the distances from this previous one. He told me that when he was younger (I’m guessing this gentleman was in his late 70’s – early 80’s) he would train five days a week, but that he never competed in power lifting or Olympic lifting meets. I asked him if he was familiar with those two sports, and he said that he followed power lifting through reading the old Powerlifting USA magazine. I told him I used to have a subscription to the magazine when I was in college and shortly after I graduated.
I usually get anxious after sitting in the sauna at around the 30 minute mark, but on this day the time was flying by. Before he left the sauna, he asked me what gave me the inspiration to train as much as I do at my age. Earlier in the conversation I told him I was going to turn 38 in February and that I had three little boys. I said to him, “What inspires me to train as much as I do?” He said, “Yes.” Without hesitation I told him about my friend Adriane (Blewitt) Wilson.
It those last few moments in the sauna, I shared with him of how I came to meet Adriane at a track meet in Akron, OH in May, 2004. I told him how she was one of the greatest throwers in Division II history earning 13 All-American awards and winning a bunch of national championships. Most importantly though, I shared with him how Adriane beat cancer and finished 5th in the 2004 Olympic Trials in the shot-put. He said, “She must be a pretty special person.” I told him, “Without a doubt one of the most inspirational people I have ever met!”
I guess attending that track meet in Akron as a senior in college made a lasting impression on me. First, I was fortunate enough to have my coach at the time, Adarian Barr take my teammate Jen and I to the meet. Second, it may have been by chance or fate that Jud Logan would be competing in the meet along with Derek Woodske, Joe Woodske, and Kibwe Johnson. Third, not shying away from conversation, it gave me the opportunity to approach them and introduce Jen and I.
As I remember it, Adriane was wearing a baseball hat and an Ashland University track & field shirt that listed all of the throwing accolades the throwers had accomplished over the years there. I don’t remember the number of national champions and All-Americans listed on the back of her shirt, but I thought it was a cool idea and something that I thought Fredonia should have put together for our throwers (1 National Champion, 25 All-Americans, and dozens and dozens of conference championships in the shot-put, discus, hammer, javelin, and weight throw). I don’t know the exact number of conference champions Fredonia has had, but from 1975 to 2004 our male throwers won at least one conference championship in a throwing event each year. Anyway, getting back to meeting Adriane.
At the conclusion of the meet, I approached Adriane and asked her and her teammates if they would take a picture with Jen and I. That began what I’d call an almost 16-year friendship with the Ashland crew.
Over the years, I traveled to Ashland quite often for coaching and training/throwing related purposes. My training partner John and I frequented Ashland quite a bit to train with Adriane and AG Kruger (mostly with AG when he hosted throwing camps). I saw my largest growth as a thrower while Adriane and I were working together to boost up my hammer/weight throw technique and strength in the weight room. But that isn’t the reason why she is so inspirational to me. What she continues to do from when I first met her is.
Adriane was diagnosed with cancer early on in 2003, had surgery to remove the cancerous cells, and went through chemo and radiation treatments into 2004. With all that going on in her life, and after having gone through her last treatment, Adriane not only qualified for the Olympic Trials in the shot-put, but finished 5th! After training for a couple of months after treatment, she finished 5th. She also competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials as well. She overcame cancer, almost hit a lifetime best in the most high stakes track & field meet in the United States, and almost qualified for the Olympic Games. How could I not take inspiration from that?
But there is more to the story. While I was still training and living in Fredonia, I asked Adriane if she would be interested in visiting Fredonia and speak to our track & field team. I’m not sure how the athletes at the time felt about it, but I sat there in awe as she shared her story. I knew part of it, but didn’t know about how she made the decision to attend Ashland, her family history, and what it was like to be an athlete at Ashland in the early 2000’s.
I briefly shared my sauna story with Adriane the other day. I didn’t go in as much detail as I did here, but I wanted to let her know how inspired I am by her and everything she has accomplished in her professional and athletic career. Her 2004 story is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe this can turn into a two or three part series with a cool podcast interview. We’ll see what happens, but I’m definitely looking forward to watching Adriane compete at the Arnold Classic in a couple of months. She will be competing in the Highland Games competition on Friday afternoon. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that Adriane is a multiple time Highland Games World Champion too! How could you not be inspired too...
Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.