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'Bionic blonde' uses triathlon to take control
September 10th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

'Bionic blonde' uses triathlon to take control

Editor's note: Denise Castelli is one of seven CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. In the week leading up to the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, each of the "Lucky 7" will share his or her thoughts on the journey.

Is Malibu really less than a week away?

For the past 18 days, I've been living out of a hotel in Manhattan, working as a "ball woman" at the U.S. Open.

Since I've been spending my time out on the court, I haven't had much time to think about our impending doom ... er... I mean Malibu.

I haven't been waking up every morning staring at the digital countdown clock, a gift from Jeff Dauler to our team. I haven't had that puking sensation in my stomach for quite some time, but alas, here it is.

Kidding. Sort of.

In all seriousness, Malibu means so much more to me than just a race.

A lot of things have happened in my life that were beyond my control. The biggest and most obvious was not something I could ever prepare for - losing a limb. There are no manuals, no how-to guides. There was no coaching, no Dr. Sanjay Gupta to lead the way for me.

Instead, I ventured into the murky waters of limb loss with a little thing called hope. I knew I had lost a huge part of myself in that surgical room, and I was willing to go the distance to get that back. I didn't want to be an athlete again; I HAD to be an athlete again.

Triathlon, on the other hand (or foot), is completely different. With this sport, you have total control over your outcome.

Well, maybe not total, but at least I can prepare. I've been training my body since February for this one moment. I've been reading books and blogs on it, making new triathlete friends and pretty much throwing myself into the thick of it.

The tough training days where I thought to myself, "Why are you doing this?" were outnumbered by the days that I felt accomplished, driven, in control and, more importantly, like an athlete again. I really wanted my identity back. And I know that once I cross that finish line in Malibu, I will have it.

What's in store past the finish line for the bionic blonde? Who knows. Is triathlon going to play a part in my future? I can say with 100% certainty that it will. Is it fate that triathlon has finally been accepted into the Paralympic Games? Only time will tell if I have what it takes to represent my country in 2016. What I do know is that this is the happiest and healthiest I've felt in a very long time.

And honestly, that's all that matters.

So with Malibu looming, am I nervous? Of course! I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't.

But I've already promised myself that I'm going to soak it all in. You only get to cross your first finish line once, right?

You can follow the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge on Facebook and Twitter. For more from Denise, click here.


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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.