For every athlete, regardless of gender or type of sport, motivation is one of the single greatest factors in achieving greatness.
It's the mysterious force that strives humans to do spectacular things, adding a mental facet to a strictly physical activity that pushes one to new heights.
For 39-year-old Amy Bevilacqua -- a Wilton resident and Staples High alumna -- her source of motivation is quite simple: Defending her spot on top. Bevilacqua won the woman's division of the 2012 New York City Triathlon with a time of 2:00:04. She bested the second-placed female by 20 seconds and is back to compete in the 2013 Aquaphor New York City Triathlon held on Sunday.
Bevilacqua was not alone in her quest to finish first.
"The best part of the race was somewhere around mile four, when my husband and four kids popped out of the woods on the east side of the park, cheering with wild abandon," Bevilacqua recalls. " `Honey, you're winning,' my husband kept shouting, in a tone which included both excitement and disbelief. After seeing them, and with only a couple of miles to the finish line, I just kept telling myself to hang on and don't slow down."
Slowing down never happened that day, and with her family by her side, Bevilacqua finished an impressive 25th overall. The event, an Olympic distance race, was made up of a 1,500-meter swim in the Hudson, a 40K bike ride down the West Side Highway and a 10K run through Central Park.
"Last year's race is etched in my memory as a true moment of bliss," Bevilacqua said.
Bevilacqua has competed in triathlons since 2001, and reached pro status in 2010. Before that, she ran cross country and track at Staples and Williams College (Mass.). Among her numerous running accomplishments is finishing third in the same event in 2011. Staying on top in a sport such as triathlon is especially difficult.
"After the podium, the champagne and the prize money, you walk around on a cloud of pride for a while," Bevilacqua said. "Then, the kids go back to school, the weather changes and you begin to question how on earth you did what you did last summer. The offseason quickly becomes the early season and the speed workouts feel tougher than ever."
The event will be the first triathlon in 2013 for Bevilacqua, but she has kept busy warming up for the event. Bevilacqua has participated in many biking and running events, including a 5K race in Bridgeport in which she finished first while establishing a new course record. She is quick to point out the accomplishments of her family as well.
"Three of (my) four kids ran that race with me and all got trophies too in their age groups," she said.
Bevilacqua had mixed emotions whether or not to return to defend her crown. The hectic schedule of raising a family full of budding running stars (Joey, 10, Max, 8 and Emily, 6) nearly kept Bevilacqua at home in 2013. But her desire, which helped her overcome these obstacles, finds her at the starting line on Sunday.
"I don't know if I can run as fast as I ran last year. There are so many excuses; so many reasons not to return to the New York City triathlon and potentially cast a pall on that gem of a memory, but none of them are worth sacrificing the chance to shine," she said.
Ryan Lacey is a freelance writer