Triathlete conquers first time in the ocean

Published 11:10 AM EDT, Fri May 17, 2013

Story highlights

Rae Timme couldn't swim when she joined the CNN Fit Nation team

Timme swam in the ocean for the first time during the team's Florida midway trip

"The euphoria that I had at the finish line ... made me forget the struggle to get there"

Editor’s Note: Rae Timme is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the “6-pack” on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 8.

(CNN) —  

When I returned home from the Fit Nation Kickoff weekend three months ago, I was tired and overwhelmed, and every muscle in my body ached.

This past week, my teammates and I wrapped up our “midway” training trip in Clermont, Florida. I am proud and excited to report that the experience left me feeling exhilarated, confident and energized!

The best part is that it’s not because of any magic pill or potion; it is the result of making a commitment to myself to become healthier.

Behind the scenes: Training for a triathlon

I am an overweight 57-year-old, soon-to-be-retired grandmother. I LOVE a challenge and am one of those people who is not afraid to step out my comfort zone for a worthy goal.

During kickoff weekend, we were promised that the first few months would be base-building. We were given an overview of basic swimming techniques, tips to help our running form and information on healthy nutrition. We received workouts on a weekly basis that were designed for each of us to develop our endurance, skill and strength.

It was up to each of us whether we did them, how much effort we put into each session and what we put into our bodies.

I have not been perfect in any of these areas, but life is about progress, not perfection. And I can absolutely say that I have made progress!

Training dedicated to slain colleague

In January, I could not even put my face in the water, let alone swim. Thanks to the patience and teaching of my coaches and teammates, I arrived in Florida holding my own in the pool. By the end of the week, not only had I gained more confidence, I had my very first experience in the ocean.

Once we survived putting our wetsuits on, we headed into the water at Cocoa Beach. Completely out of my comfort zone, I was content to watch my teammates as they enthusiastically ran into the water toward the waves.

I had to laugh when one of the producers, who was in the water with us, said to me, “So, Rae, you know that the swim in Malibu is in the Pacific Ocean, right?” I did know that, I told him, but swimming in a pool had been such an overwhelming undertaking for me that I had not spent much time actually processing how much different swimming in the ocean was going to be.

That was the moment that I knew I had to take the leap and actually get into water above my knees. I figured I might as well literally dive in and give it a try. Not only did I live to tell about it, I can honestly say it was a blast, and I can’t wait to do it again!

As I’m more than 20 years older than the rest of the team, there have been a few times that I thought I would have to accept reality – that I would not be able to do everything they could. The ocean experience was definitely one of them. I figured that if it wasn’t something I had accomplished by now, I probably never would.

It was exhilarating to find out that I was wrong. Even more important, it was just what I needed to move me past thinking that way in the future.

Similar things happened on the bike and on the road. Even though it is not something I have done a lot of the past few years, I have always enjoyed riding a bicycle. I had no idea what a different experience riding a road bike with my feet clipped in the pedals would be. My first two rides were pretty traumatic, and I have the scars on my knees and elbows to prove it.

Again, thanks to mentoring and practice, it turns out that I am not too shabby on the bike. Much to my surprise, I enjoy the long bike rides and the accomplishment of making it to the top of a hill that looked impossible from the bottom.

The key to fitness? Schedule it in

I have progressed from walking on the treadmill for 2 miles three times a week to actually running the entire distance of a 5.38-mile course on the clay trails outside of Clermont – another thing I didn’t think I could do, even as we were in the car on our way to the trail.

The euphoria that I had at the finish line of our first practice triathlon made me forget the struggle to get there. The best part is that feeling lasted for the rest of the day.

Here’s what I realized at the conclusion of the midway training trip: I will complete the triathlon this fall. I can actually see myself crossing the finish line with my awesome teammates and the new friends whom I have met along the way.

It is hard for me to put into words, but I also realized that this experience is about more than the triathlon itself. Being outside of my comfort zone, both mentally and physically, has helped me conquer my fears and self-doubt. It has given me the courage and confidence to keep working toward my goals and dreams, no matter how lofty.

Follow Rae on Twitter @TriHardRae.