I am a triathlete! Isn't that absurd?
Jeff Dauler crosses the finish line at the 2012 Nautica Malibu Triathlon in California.
September 19th, 2012
07:29 AM ET

I am a triathlete! Isn't that absurd?

Editors' note: Jeff Dauler, a radio host from Atlanta, Georgia, is one of seven CNN viewers who was selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon program. All of the "Lucky 7" crossed the finish line in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sunday. 

A gun, some cheers, and then scores of red caps dash off into the Pacific. I watch the pro and elite triathletes swim toward the first turn buoy as I walk to the starting area with my team. In five minutes I'll be in that ocean. I am calm, peaceful, happy. Confident. Excited.

I separate from my team and walk to the very back of the corral, and all the way to the left. I want to be the last one in the water, and I want to be far left so I could use the current as much as possible.

Announcement: “Three minutes until second wave start!”

Next to me, I see one racer tap the woman in front of her on the shoulder. There was a problem with her wetsuit collar and he wanted to fix it for her. Kindness in the heat of battle.

I hear my name being called and I saw Kurt Hoy, a friend I met on our training trip to Hawaii in May. He's with Triathlete Magazine and was taking pictures of the start. We shake hands. He takes my picture.

I laugh. Triathlete Magazine wants my picture? That's funny.

“One minute until second wave start!”

Kurt wishes me luck and steps out of the way. I pull down my goggles and check my cap. Look around. Remember my personal rules: "Stay quiet, stay calm, breathe, swim, enjoy."

“Thirty seconds.”

Deep breath.


I am in the water, doing my first triathlon. I AM DOING MY FIRST TRIATHLON.

Around the first turn buoy. Past the midway marker. Passing some of the elite athletes who are struggling with the waves. Being passed by some of the people in the wave behind me. Around the second turn buoy and headed toward shore. Swim swim swim. Then beach. Walking, then running, in sand. Cheering, excitement. I think I hear my friends.

Wetsuit around waist. Where is my bike rack? Is it really this far up? I see it!

Wetsuit off. Sunglasses, helmet, chamois butter, gloves, socks, shoes on. High-fives to my friends watching from the fence. A look into the stands and there is Mom and Dad. Standing. Dad's arms raised above his head cheering, Mom screaming, "Go, Jeffrey, go." I take a mental snapshot, my favorite one of the day, and off I go.

I drink some water and start pedaling hard. The bike is my strongest leg of the race. Nine hilly miles out, turn around, and come back. No problem. At one point on the return, I actually forget I'm in a race. The Pacific to my right, sun overhead, breeze pushing me along. My mind wanders to all sorts of different things, and I realize that I'm heeding the most common piece of advice offered during my training: Enjoy the day.

That moment was as perfect as they come.

Bike over, back to transition. More high-fives and then it's time to run. My goal is to run the whole four miles, but I need to walk a couple of times. Make it a mile, walk for a couple of minutes, then run again.

Encouragement from every direction, including other racers. I am running next to one guy, and when I stop to walk, he yells over his shoulder, "Do what you gotta do, man, we all get the same medal!" Constant shouts of "Go CNN"' and "Fit Nation!" and "You got this!" Unbelievable, uplifting energy. Such camaraderie. Amazing team mentality within an individual sport.

One mile to go, and I pick up the pace. Laughter again as I realize I'm going to finish the race, then tears for the same reason. Then laughter and tears at the same time. Euphoria.

I see the approach to the finish and break into a sprint. Around the corner and under the timer. Pumping my fists and a huge smile on my face. Right into the open arms of Chrissie Wellington, one of our coaches and four-time Ironman champ.

In her perfect British accent, she kept saying, "You did it, Jeff. You did it." I couldn't stop hugging her. I don't know if I was laughing or crying, but I was a mess. I did it.

My teammate Nancy had already crossed the finish line and was there to greet me. I threw my arms around her and we talked about months ago in Atlanta. It wasn't a finish line. It was a starting line. And we had crossed it. We did it. We both did it.

Hugs to my friends who were there. Mom and Dad. A medal. Pictures.

Cheering the rest of the team in. More hugs, more pictures. The most amazing day in a long, long time.

I am a triathlete. Isn't that absurd? But it's true. I AM A TRIATHLETE. So are my teammates Nancy, Denise, Glenn, Rick, Carlos, and Adrienne. WE ARE TRIATHLETES!

The physical transformation is obvious: I've lost weight and I can now swim, bike, and run. Mentally, I'm stronger as well. What I've learned about myself while training and during the race has transformed and improved me in a way that I never could have imagined. Lessons about moving forward and remaining calm and confidence and perseverance, and the list goes on.

I told everyone that I'd be doing one race, and then I was done. I'm not an athlete, so I just wanted to challenge myself with this one race.

"Wait and see," everyone said.

Now I get it. I'm not done. Not even close. Not only am I going to continue to race triathlon, but I'm now an ambassador for the sport. It's how I'm going to repay all the positive energy I felt on race day. It's the least I can do.

Triathlon changed my life.

You can follow the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge on Facebook and Twitter

For more from Jeff, click here.

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Um

    New French team of scientists NOT PAID FOR BY M ONSANTO have proven that GM corn causes tumors and organ failure. Go to uk daily mail to see report.Funny how our American news does not feature this devastating story. Independent studies have already proven that genetically modified crops are POISON and are a direct link to American obesity, diabetes, and heart failure.

    That is more important than this side-show we call politics.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. glenn c keller

    Jeff you are an incredible guy and it was a pleasure getting to know you.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Alisha

    I cry during every single one of your recaps...whether on the radio or in print. All I can say is well done!

    September 19, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Susan

    Jeff, thanks to you and your story, I have lost 40 lbs since May. When I don't feel like working out..I tell myself..if Jeff can do this..so can you. You are an inspiration and I am so proud of you!!!

    September 19, 2012 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Elizabeth

    you have make me cry I am so happy for you !! and yes Jeff Douler is a Trianthlete !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 19, 2012 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Marlynn Bohannon

    As I read this, I'm crying...CRYING! I've followed this story on the radio and you have been such an inspiration to me! Thank you for sharing your story, your journey and your triumph!

    September 19, 2012 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Andrea

    Ahhh, that moment you realize you are almost finished something you had doubts you could do...it is amazing. I smiled through the tears the first time I crossed the finish line in a 5K run and realized I AM a runner. I still cry when I cross the line or I see others cross it.

    Your journey has been inspiring and I hope you continue challenging yourself. You are a triathlete and you can do anything you set your mind to – and train for, of course.

    I will continue to follow your journey as I continue on mine. Through the tears, the doubts, the mind saying "Who do you think you are, trying to do this?" I wish you success.

    If you ever make it to Vancouver BC, I will buy you a drink, my inspirational triathlete. Congratulations Jeff!!

    September 19, 2012 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. anacoral

    It has been an incredible journey and I thank you for sharing it with all the listeners of the Bert Show. So many call you an inspiration. But for me, you were my motivation...motivation to get started on my meetings with Weight Watchers and my journey into weight loss, motivation to start exercising, motivation to pursue a healthier life. The Summer months have been rough and I have lost sight of my ultimate goal. But, once again, you and your success will be my motivation to find the way back. Thank You!

    September 19, 2012 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kurt Ronn

    Congratulations!!! Great job, triathlete. That it a big accomplishment. What's next? Cycle for a CF cure on Nov 3. No swimming or running required!

    September 20, 2012 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Rick Morris

    You got a medal! And I got a medal! And Nancy got a medal! And, Andrienne got a medal! And, Carlos got a medal! And, Denise got a medal! And Glen got a medal! And Sanjay got a medal!! And... well, you know. But, they weren't given to us. We earned those babies! Way to go, Jeff! Look forward to seeing you at future tri's.

    September 20, 2012 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Leigh Roberts

    I have been so encouraged by your story. I have followed you all the way through your training and am so proud of you. I am so encouraged again to try one myself. It seems really scary, though. So many people I know would just laugh at me. I can't believe 9 1/2 months ago you decided to do this! That's the length of a pregnancy! Congrats, Jeff! You have just birthed a TRIATHLETE!

    September 20, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Traitement cancer

    Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I'm impressed! Very useful information particularly the ultimate section 🙂 I take care of such information much. I was looking for this particular info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

    September 20, 2012 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Traitement cancer

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    September 20, 2012 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. trihardcarlos

    Jeff, way to go man!! Thanks for encouraging me on when I needed it. Yep, we're triathletes, and I can't wait to hear about your next tri. Carlos : )

    September 22, 2012 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Melissa

    Great job Jeff! I knew you could do it from the moment you announced it on Q100. The Bert show community is so proud of you. Reading this made me feel like I was experiencing this with you. Such an amazing story that you get to tell for the rest of your life.

    September 26, 2012 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Cathy

    I am so proud of you! You came...you saw..you conquered ! Thanks for sharing it all with us !

    September 28, 2012 at 07:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Carrie

    I am crying. I am crying because I am so happy for you. I know the feeling of accomplishing that first race and the emotions it brings on. I am so proud of you and your accomplishments. This is just the start of something really amazing for you. You are an inspiration to us all. Keep Calm and Keep Going.

    September 28, 2012 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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