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Tri Challenge: Life as a triathlete
August 18th, 2011
07:30 AM ET

Tri Challenge: Life as a triathlete

I did it, I really did it! I completed the NYC Triathlon, to the very best of my ability, and my homecoming week has been spectacular! The memories and emotions of this life-changing event will generate more than one blog, but right now I want to re-live the technical and physical highlights, starting with the days leading up to the event.

Each of us in the 6-Pack had local trainers, coaches that became friends along the way. The plan that my coach John gave me was simple, practical, and worked perfectly into my lifestyle. Each Sunday he e-mailed me a schedule of swim/bike/run workouts to do for the week. The activities were staggered, and I had freedom to switch them up if needed, but the easiest thing for me was to just do what he prescribed. We trained together at times, and he led me on my first 5-mile run and my first 20-mile bike ride.

Early on, John explained the tapering process, and because he is a psychologist, he emphasized how stressful some athletes find this to be. Boy, was he right! I wound up getting bronchitis and going “cold turkey” off my workouts for five days before traveling to NYC. It drove me crazy, but John said this: “In this one week before your triathlon, no activity is going to increase your level of fitness, nor is there anything you can miss that will impair your performance EXCEPT if you fail to get adequate rest and healing." So I sat down, rested and almost crawled out of my skin for six days.

Come August 7 at 2:30 a.m., I knew he had been right. I felt good and knew I was strong enough to conquer the city! As we set up our transition at 4 a.m., in the rain, I felt nothing but excitement. For some reason, I was not anxious about the swim or any other aspect of the race; I was just excited to be there and ready to go. Even standing in line queuing up for the swim start, I was amazed that the jitters had not set in. John had coached me to visualize the race and the finish line; I had done this to the point that I almost felt like I had been there before. I heard my name called, looked up and saw my friends from work standing there in the rain, out at 6 a.m. just to cheer me on– how could I be anything but thrilled?

We six’ers had discussed the best way to jump into the water; in the end I just hopped straight in off the barge and actually went deeper than I had intended, so I popped up swimming hard. I really could feel the current sweeping me along, so I just mixed up my strokes and took in the view of the city to my left. I found out later that I was the second of the 6-pack out of the water, something for my swim coach to be proud of!

Transition was dicey because my rack spot was tight up against a chain link fence, mud was plentiful and space was scarce. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it: I just didn’t have the best transition times. Oh well-on to the bike. I was very surprised that the bike ride was both the easiest and the most enjoyable leg of the race for me, because mastering that road bike had been my biggest challenge in training. Despite a steady rain, I maintained good speed and confidence on the bike, and felt strong for the whole ride. At one point I worried that I might be biking too hard and tiring my legs before the run, but the truth is, I didn’t much care; I was having so much fun and it just felt right that I should press that hard. I remembered Sanjay’s words: “Don’t leave anything out there on the course!”

Then came the run. I was happy that my legs actually still had strength, although in the first mile, as always, it was a little tough getting up to speed. The crowds cheering for us were just amazing and I cannot begin to express the emotion I felt at seeing my children cheering for me, along with 11 other friends from home and all the family and friends of my fellow 6-pack’ers! Many people, some of whom I know I had never met, called me by name. Could it really be that they had been following us on CNN??? One pretty young girl passed me at mile 5 saying, “When I grow up, I want to be you!”

As the finish line approached and the reality of what I had done came over me, I passed my daughter Jessica standing alone there waiting and waving at me. Then I saw my son Jedd, and several more of my friends, and I nearly lost it. But I didn’t want to be crying in my finish line photos (vanity!), so I held it together until I found the assembly place for CNN, where there was a sea of green T-shirts: 13 of my friends and my kids ALL there waiting for me… OK  I had earned the right to a few tears by then. They didn’t last; it was much too joyous of a day. All six of us succeeded as finishers of the New York City Triathlon, and we reveled in the company of friends old and new, in those last moments of memories that will last a lifetime.


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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Cathy W

    Yes! There WERE people on CNN following your progress. There are a lot of us anonymous friends out there, that are really proud of you, and inspired by your (and the rest of the 6pack) journey. Good job! Do you think you'll finish an ironman?

    August 18, 2011 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nina

      Cathy, thanks so much for the cheers! I'm honored to be followed, and hope that each of you finds something new and rewarding to do for better health and fitness. I haven't thought far enough ahead to an Ironman yet; my immediate goals are (a) to place in my age group in a 5K this Saturday, (b) same for a sprint tri in September, (c) do a half-marathon within 3 months, and (d) do a century ride within 3 months. Next year, new goals! :)

      August 18, 2011 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
  2. Susan

    Very proud of you guys! You are truly an inspiration for all of us. I am about to run my first Triathlon sprint in a few weeks and I am very excited (and very nervous)!

    August 18, 2011 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nina

      Susan, my best advice is to ENJOY the event and HAVE FUN! Have realistic goals, don't let any of it stress you out, and remember: you will never again have a "First" Triathlon.., good luck! :)

      August 18, 2011 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
  3. Kitty

    Ha, I agree that the hardest part of training is that easy week before the event. It is the last way you want to spend that week! I remember training for my first century ride and my husband actually stole the wheel off my bike because he caught me going out with it when he knew I was supposed to be taking the day off! In the end, it pays off. This was a really great story and what an accomplishment. I almost teared up at the end of reading it just thinking about how magical it must have been to see your loved ones there at the end for you. What a great feeling that is!

    August 18, 2011 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Deb G

    Way to go 6-pack! there were lots of us on-line reading and wishing you the best as you trained for race day. I'm so inspired by your accomplishments that I hope to compete in a tri in the next few years. Way to go!!!

    August 18, 2011 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Alison Barrett

    Oh Nina!!! Yesterday I was just telling a coworker that I had not cried or shed a single tear in two months, well after reading your blog I have to start my count again. I've realized after hearing from Mom, following you on FB, and watching you on tv life is supposed to be ENVIGORATING! You've shown us all to take life and it's obstacles and overcome them. Most importantly I've learned to suck it up and keep on moving, just as you have. I remember the night during Christmas that you came to Momma and Urs's house and you were anxiously awaiting "The Call" I had no idea how profound it was going to be for you as well as us cheering you on! Way to go girl!!!!

    August 18, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Stef

    Nina, I feel like we've gotten to really know you all these past few months. Congratulations and thanks for letting us watch you and cheer you on! (Also, YAY to your family for being your cheerleaders!!)

    August 18, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. szahn34

    Nina, I am so proud of you. It has been a honor to be part of the 6-pack with you. Your spirit and energy has been great. 58, whatever, I think your mind is still in its 20s. Now your body is too!

    August 20, 2011 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Vinicio Osorio

    Feliicidades Nina, despues de la primera, siempre hay otras más. Es esa satisfacción de terminar la carrera lo que te impulsa a continuar. Aunque la semana siguiente de recuperación es algo dura (la quemadura de sol de la piel, el dolor de músculos, te duele todo), pero luego, te nace la necesidad de nuevos eventos. Tengo 51a, y el sábado 13/ago, complete la IronMaya 70.3, en Guatemala, y hace 8 años dije al final de mi primera sprin, "no creo hacer una más grande". Solo el tiempo te responderá. Mucha suerte.

    August 20, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.