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An Appalachian's guide to triathlons
Rick Morris in the middle of a long run during the 2012 Fit Nation midway trip.
November 29th, 2012
01:59 PM ET

An Appalachian's guide to triathlons

Editor's Note: This time last year, Dr. Sanjay Gupta selected seven lucky viewers to be part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge.  Rick Morris, from North Carolina, was one of those viewers, and successfully competed the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September. Want to be a part of the 2013 team? Apply here

Hi y'all! It's me again. Who, you ask? Well... you know. It's me, Rick Morris. I'm the volunteer-firefighting, web-developing, home-brewing (beer), former smoker who just completed his first triathlon with the 2012 CNN Fit Nation Lucky Seven team.

Come to think of it, I take that back. I now consider myself The New Rick Morris. And I owe it all to CNN.

About a year ago I was sitting on my rump smoking a cigarette (from my second pack, and I just quit that morning) and drinking a jar of my finest when I came across Dr. Sanjay Gupta carrying on about this Fit Nation thing. He was asking for ordinary folk to submit a video application for a spot on the upcoming team.
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Smoke-free for seven months... and counting
September 7th, 2012
02:42 PM ET

Smoke-free for seven months... and counting

Editor's note: Rick Morris 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.

In addition to visiting all the micro-breweries in Asheville, North Carolina, every bucket list should contain the goal of completing a triathlon.

It just makes plain 'ole sense. Why? Well, for starters, this former smoker and couch “tater” knows how the rewards of tough training and a commitment to prevail teaches a man how to feel better and live stronger.

Yeah, it's me... Appalachian Rick. I'm the same feller who recently discovered the tasty bean paste plenty of folk call “hummus." That's right, the guy who told Dr. Sanjay Gupta that he was fed up with the cancer sticks. The guy who as of today (September 4, 2012) has been smoke-free for 7 months.

You know me as one of the Lucky Seven.
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Morris: I used to drink 10 cans of soda a day
Rick Morris bikes with Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on a recent training trip to Kona, Hawaii
June 1st, 2012
04:56 PM ET

Morris: I used to drink 10 cans of soda a day

Rick Morris is one of seven CNN viewers participating in the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Morris quit smoking after starting the Challenge and is now hoping to kick another bad habit.

Hey ya'll! It's me again. Name of Rick. You know... the Army vet and firefighter who in February declared to quit smoking on the picture tube during an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

No? How about the Appalachian who recently discovered the wonderful chickpea/sesame concoction better known as hummus.

Still can't place me? I'm one of CNN's Lucky 7, training for my first triathlon this September in Malibu. If that leaves you scratching your head, well... I understand. I realize I'm not nearly as famous as the brilliant Dr. Sanjay Gupta. But, whenever I'm in his company, I listen carefully. So, that's gotta count for something! And, he's part of the reason for this blog.
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10 surprising benefits of quitting smoking
Rick Morris celebrates during a workout with the Atlanta Hawks in February.
April 7th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

10 surprising benefits of quitting smoking

Rick Morris is one of seven CNN viewers participating in the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. He quit smoking on an episode of "Sanjay Gupta, M.D." and has been smoke-free since.

About two months ago, I quit smoking. At the time there were many reasons influencing my decision to finally choose a smoke-free lifestyle. I was worried about my health. I had high blood pressure. My doctor and everyone I knew was encouraging me to kick the habit. My family history is one of lung cancer and diabetes. The list goes on and on.

Now that I've been without tobacco for the past couple months (63 days, to be exact), I've noticed some changes in the way I'm living.

All are positive and are in direct relation to my body's depletion of those nasty chemicals I've called friends for the last 12 years.

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March 9th, 2012
07:38 AM ET

Smoker trades one addiction for another

Editor's Note: Rick Morris is a web developer and volunteer firefighter from Canton, North Carolina. He is one of seven CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Each athlete receives all the tools necessary to train for and compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon this September.

October 1, 2001, was the day my father took his last breath.

A smoker for 50 years, he was diagnosed with lung cancer in April that year. I recall how he continued to smoke cigarettes while pushing an oxygen trolley around his kitchen. When it became clear his final ride to the Haywood County Hospital was at hand, he reached for one last smoke.

The irony was that his brand was “Lucky Strikes." There was nothing lucky about a father of eight whose last days would come during his 63 year of life.
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One Appalachian's guide to hummus
Rick Morris was surprised to find such a selection of hummus at his local grocery store.
February 16th, 2012
01:49 PM ET

One Appalachian's guide to hummus

Editor's Note: Rick Morris is a web developer and volunteer firefighter from Canton, North Carolina.  He is one of seven CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program.  Each athlete receives all the tools necessary to train for and compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon this September, alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  The seven athletes met up two weeks ago in Atlanta for the official kickoff of the program, where Rick developed a new taste for hummus.

Hummus. The very word, for those like me, not in the know, sounded like a foreign term for something gross. Globular pustules on a teenager's face. A backwoods verb for singing under one's breath (“hummus a song, Cooter”). Perhaps a brand of automobile.

Until recently, I can honestly say that I had never heard of hummus. In fact, I was somewhat taken aback when it was placed in front of me at a recent restaurant gathering. It evolved something like this...

“Want some hummus, Rick?” they asked.

“What's hummus?" I inquired.

Atlanta's crowded Flying Biscuit restaurant went near silent for a moment that day, my friends. A myriad of eyes in disbelief angled my direction. I'm pretty sure the winds outside got angry and old-man winter was preparing a cold blast of disdain to lash at me the moment I walked out the door.
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5 ways I tried (and failed) to kick the cancer stick
January 31st, 2012
01:53 PM ET

5 ways I tried (and failed) to kick the cancer stick

Editor's Note: Rick Morris is one of 7 CNN viewers selected to be part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Each participant receives all of the gear and training necessary to compete in a triathlon, and will finish his or her journey at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September.  Rick's biggest challenge, he says, is kicking "the cancer stick."

Two o'clock in the morning.  A couple bottles of my strong pale ale Belgium style home brew.  Got the '80s rocking on Sirius Radio.  What better time to write about my smoking cessation progress?

Perhaps it's a corny way to start a blog, but I don't care.  I'm in the mood for reflecting on the “good ol' days” when I was a non-smoker.   You know, the younger years... the energetic era.  Those were the days when responsibilities were minimal and my poison was nothing more than sweets.

Sure, I had to do my homework, mow the grass and clean my room.  But, generally speaking, I didn't have the slightest concern for personal health.  I was cut like a knife – all 126 pounds, a member of the great Pisgah High School wrestling team, and didn't think twice about running 2 miles to the store for a pack of gob-stoppers and various “junk food."
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Tri Challenge: Yesterday is history
January 9th, 2012
02:23 PM ET

Tri Challenge: Yesterday is history

Every day this week, CNN will introduce you to one member of the 2012 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge team. Today, meet Rick Morris, a web developer and volunteer firefighter who hopes to kick his smoking habit and improve his odds for living a long life.

It was the week before Christmas when I got a call from the CNN Fit Nation team. I happened to be finishing up a vehicle fire call with my department when it came in. After a 10 or 15 minute interview, I felt I would be hearing from them again.

A few days later, CNN Medical news producer Matt Sloane asked if I would meet with him on Skype to go over a few things. I agreed and we connected the next day - December 22, 2011.
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About this blog

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.

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