From Couch to Triathlon- Lori Grelli

If one year ago someone bet me $1,000,000 and told me I would be training for a triathalon I would have said they were crazy and I would have taken the bet, no brainer.  At 250 pounds there was no way I would ever be able to run 1 mile, let alone swim, bike and run.  I am so glad that this bet was not real- I would have taken it and I would have lost!

Most of my adult life has been spent over weight, and not just a few pounds overweight, but over 100 pounds overweight.  I went away to college and gained the normal freshman 15, then another 15 then another 15 and before I knew it I weighed 180lbs. That summer I did whatever fad diet was around and lost a nice amount of weight.  Did not exercise, just drank grapefruit juice and ate cabbage or whatever fancy diet was around that year.  Definitely not the right way to lose weight, but it worked for a short time until I gained every pound back, plus some.  This was the cycle for the next 13 years.  It was Weight Watchers then weight gain, Phen Fen then weight gain, just an up and down cycle over and over again.

In February 2008, my son was born and in May 2008, my mom was diagnosed with cancer.  Over the next 2 years I supported my mom emotionally and then took care of her physically.  In March 2010, I took a leave of absence from work to be my mom’s caregiver for her last few months of her life.  During this time I continued to gain weight.  My days consisted of watching tv, taking care of my mom and eating.  It was a very emotionally difficult time for me and I gained quite a bit more weight.  In May 2010 my mom lost her battle with cancer.

After going through such a life changing experience you learn a lot about life.  Life is very short and no one is ever promised tomorrow.  That is when I decided I was no longer going to sit on the sidelines of life.  I deserved to enjoy each day.  I deserved to be able to run around with my son.  I deserved to look in the mirror and love the person looking back at me.

Knowing that I needed some kind of tool to help me lose weight, I looked into bariatric surgery.  I found a wonderful doctor and a great program.  I took nutrition classes and became very educated on weight loss surgery.  On January 19, 2011, I had gastric bypass surgery.  That became the first day of my new life, a life that I love.  For me, surgery was not a quick fix, I work hard every day.   I was given a second chance at life, how often can you say that you were given a second chance?

Two weeks after surgery I started walking on the treadmill.  I did this for a while and the weight started to come off.  A few girls that I work with are club members and they convinced me to join this Tri Club that they all can’t stop talking about.  I was motivated; I knew that I would never sit on the sidelines again, so I said ok.  Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, but my new motto is “Never say No, I will try anything”.  Once I jumped into this there was no looking back.  I loved it!!!  I learned to love running and I learned to love biking.  Swimming scared me, and I could not commit last year.  So I did complete the SheRox Duathlon and when I crossed that finish line I was proud of myself.  Proud that I changed my life- proud that I worked hard for something that mattered to me and proud of the person I have become.  I walk with my head higher each day because of who am I now.

Swimming… I promised myself that I will do a Tri…And as I already said, I can’t say no to anything anymore, so in the pool I went.  With the guidance of a good friend and some determination I am already feeling more comfortable.  I look forward to my morning swims- it is just part of my day now, just like running and biking.   I am officially ready for my first triathlon.  Riverwinds…here I come!

In a few weeks the date will come that it will be one year ago that I decided to take my life back- I have lost a total of 120 pounds! Today I no longer sit and cheer the athletes on- I am the athlete!

Thank you to Ranae Pollicino, Dana Warner, Christine Desrochers, and Janine Dammann- you convinced me to join this amazing group of women and words cannot even begin to express how thankful I am that I let you talk me into this! You helped me change my life and I am forever grateful! I am beyond lucky to be part of such an incredible organization- thank you!

“An Unlikely Athlete” by Melanie Amadoro

            It started out innocently enough.  My husband Joe (then my boyfriend), asked me if I wanted to come watch him do a triathlon.  He had been a swimmer through college and wanted to try something new by doing a sprint triathlon.  So off I went to Cooper River Park in Cherry Hill, NJ one sunny July morning in 1996.  After watching the race, and seeing all types of people complete it, the only way I can describe it is I was obsessed!  All I could think and say for the rest of the day was “I am going to do a triathlon next year” – alternating with “do you think I can do that?”

            Maybe that’s not such an unusual thing – I’ve heard of others who have gone to watch a tri and quickly got hooked. For me, a couple of problems quickly presented themselves – not the least of which was I did not know how to swim and had never run.  Ever.  My athletic experience growing up was pretty much nonexistent. I played softball for a few years for a rec team but that was about it.  I was a heavy smoker through most of high school and ate terribly.  In college, we were required to take 3 gym classes and that was when I first began to think about working out.  By the time I went to watch the tri, I was working out consistently, mostly doing step aerobics classes.  I had a mountain bike and the previous year had rode one way, 75 miles, in the MS City to Shore Ride, barely making it.  But I was in no shape to do a triathlon.  Joe promised to teach me to swim so we began lessons.

            I think it began to dawn on him that he was in for more than he expected right about when I got in the pool gingerly from the edge holding my nose closed tightly.  The first lesson went something like this.  Joe: “Okay, put your face in the water and blow bubbles”.  Me: “I have to put my face in the water?”  Joe: “Yes”.  Me: “No”.  Joe: “Yes”.  Me: “I don’t know how to blow bubbles”.  And on and on.  Joe had taught countless people to swim during his years as a lifeguard and coaching a summer swim team.  To this day he swears I was the hardest person he ever taught.  Sure, the fact that I was his girlfriend added a different dimension but it was rough!  The fact that we made it through those lessons without killing each other is, in itself, a miracle.  The fact that I actually learned how to swim was a bigger miracle.  I still remember how ecstatic I was when I finally swam one lap without stopping.  Even the lifeguard stood up and cheered!

            Okay, so I was learning to swim, very slowly.  I started to run, mostly on a treadmill and found that that came much more easily.  I actually enjoyed it!  Pretty soon I could run 2 miles without stopping at about a 10 minute per mile pace.  I broke out the mountain bike and started to ride.  After my first ride of about 10 miles, I got so nauseous I thought I was going to throw up.  Even though I had been doing aerobics for some time, it didn’t always translate into making the triathlon training easier.

            Next it was time to pick a race.  I decided on the Marathon Sports Sprint Triathlon in Middleton, DE.  The race would be on a Sunday in June.  At the time, there was no restriction on wearing a wetsuit so that was my plan.  I picked a race with only a quarter mile swim because I knew that was my weakest event.  Race morning Joe and I arrived and I don’t remember being overly nervous until I went down to the lake for the start of the swim.  Sheer terror came over me as I stood there in my wetsuit and surveyed the scene ahead of me.  A quarter of a mile in a lake looks a lot different than the same distance in a pool.  What had I gotten myself into?  I got in the water by sheer force of will and off I went with my wave.  I was simply not prepared for an open water swim with people jostling me around.  I had no idea what it would really be like, even though I’m sure I had heard and read about it.  Experiencing the open water was a totally different thing.  At one point I just floated on my back, grateful for the wetsuit because I swore I would have drowned without it.  Other waves of very fast swimmers were swimming over me, beside me, everywhere.  One man stopped his race and asked me with a look of concern if I was really okay?  But I kept on.  After 16 minutes, I got out of the water.  It had never taken me close to that long to swim a quarter mile in the pool, and I realized I should have done some open water swims beforehand.  Joe cheered me on and off I went on my heavy, clunky mountain bike.  One bike after another passed me on the two loop course.  I averaged about 14.5 miles per hour for 16 miles and finally climbed off.  The run was a 5K trail run and mostly I saw people headed back, almost finished.  By the time I came back towards the finish line, cars were leaving – they were done and packed up!  How humbling.  Still I finished third.  Third from last that is, but happy nonetheless.

            In spite of my ups and downs in my first race, I was happy!  I have a picture of me loading my bike back in the car after the race with a huge smile on my face.  I simply couldn’t believe that I actually did it.  That in the space of less than a year, someone who had never swam or ran, and didn’t really bike much either, could do a triathlon.  In my second race, I took 5 minutes off my quarter mile swim time and that motivated me further.

            I’ve now done 24 sprint triathlons, two ten mile road races, a half marathon, and too many 5Ks to count.  I’ve also completed the MS City to Shore bike ride 6 times, this past year logging 179 miles in two days.  All this is just to say that if you want to, you can do it too.  It’s not about being the best, fastest, or fittest, but about pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.  Truly, if I can become a triathlete in such a short period of time, anyone can!  Go for it!