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.

The timing couldn't have been better. I was tired of making excuses about my health. And I figured, hell, I can learn how to make something far more potent than my Belgium Monk brew another day!

To make a long story short (we mountain folk just love using that term), I got out my video maker and put together my story. A quick phone interview left me thinking I had a shot at being selected. Just before Christmas I was told the good news. I was going to be part of the team!

And that's when I got my first reality check. What exactly is a triathlon, anyway? How long is the run? Just exactly how do you swim? What's it going to be like getting back on a 10-speed bike again? The answers to those questions came quickly.

I was assigned a personal trainer and given a brand spankin' new road bike, awesome swimsuit, heart-rate monitor and all sorts of interesting triathlon gear. Within a week I discovered I never really knew how to swim, 10-speed bikes are now 15, 20... about 200 speeds and a “transition” has nothing to do with the top or bottom.

I also discovered how truly lucky I was to have been selected.

Triathlons, turns out, are actually pretty fun events. There were 3,000 or 4,000 participants, including the pros, Hollywood celebrities, world champions and the Lucky Seven. The day was one of the more amazing in my life. But looking back, I discovered it was more about getting there. Sure, the training was tough, but the tools and support provided by CNN were second to none.

If you are selected as a member of the 2013 Fit Nation team, you'll get to meet your new teammates. CNN will bring you to Atlanta and equip you with everything you'll need for training and participating in your first tri. You'll be treated like a star. Everywhere you turn there will be a camera on you.

Expect to do a number of workouts. Coach April (whom I refer to as “Drill Sergeant”) will teach you the proper way to swim. You'll be “fitted” to your road bike and given tri gear, including shoes, a helmet, water bottles, a heart-rate monitor, GoPros, etc. You may even take a hike up Stone Mountain outside Atlanta. That's where we filmed and I committed to quitting smoking during an interview with Dr. Gupta (10 months and counting). This opening weekend alone will be fantastic.

After you return home, you'll train, train, train. You'll go from swimming a few laps in the cement pond during the first week to swimming 60 or 80 by week 10. Getting on your road bike for the first time may be challenging (especially in figuring out those “clip-ons”). But soon you'll love the freedom from the busy life as you find yourself winding 10, 20, even 30 miles throughout your area – discovering places you didn't even know existed.

In September, you'll head out to Malibu for your first triathlon. It's a half-mile swim in the ocean, followed by an 18-mile bike ride, ending with a 4-mile run along the boardwalk. Thousands of contestants, celebrities and fans will welcome you at the finish line where you'll receive a medal.

The only things asked of you is that you do your best during training and write several blogs highlighting your progress. It's a fantastic journey. You'll meet some amazing people, discover some new foods (like hummus), and become motivated to change your life.

If you have any inclination to submit your story, don't hesitate. Go do it now. Diabetics, amputees, smokers, teachers, radio hosts, couch taters, bubbas and the like are highly welcomed. You'll not only improve your outlook of personal health and responsibility, you'll inspire others to do the same.

So, if you're sitting there reading this and thinking, "Hey, I want to call myself a triathlete," ask yourself, “Where's my video camera?” and “What am I waiting for?”

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. saveyourfeet

    qqq All diabetics need to read this blog: saveyourfeetDOTwordpressDOTcom

    December 3, 2012 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Viengsombath Bangonesengdet

    If exercise can prevent disease, the health care programme might not be such a big issue.

    December 4, 2012 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Julia Johnston

    Hi The New Rick Morris..

    December 6, 2012 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Julia Johnston

    Smoking is really bad for you, My son died 2 years ago from lung cancer. He was only 22... I hate to see him gone... He was my only child.. The only thing keeping this family together.. Ever since Matt died, I've been nothing but misery. So, I personally thank you for quiting.. Bad things could happen.. Good Job Rick.

    December 6, 2012 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick Morris

      Hi Julia. Thank you for the kind comment. I'm sorry to hear about your son. I didn't realize that someone so young gets lung cancer. From smoking? I truly hope you can turn misery into something positive. Best.

      December 7, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
  5. shafiq

    This content is nice content. I like very much this content. Thanks for shearing......


    December 9, 2012 at 06:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Cindy

    Hi Rick,

    Just read your blog and decided to quit. I have been putting it off for years. For some reason your story inspired me.

    Thank you,


    February 17, 2013 at 17:19 | 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.