takes it mile by mile, in the moment, reassured by rallying crowds. Her disciplined
strength and endurance training keep her
moving fast. So do technique (more than
force) when swimming; focus and proper
aerodynamics on the bike; and “from about
mile 18 of the run to the finish, it’s 100 percent
mental toughness that gets you through,” she
writes in her book, Become an Ironman
(Meyer & Meyer, 2008).
Chlorine-bleached hair and saddle sores,
hot Hawaiian winds and broken collar-
bones—these Gruenfeld can accept. But
aging? “I hate it. Racing is a more difficult
challenge with the passing years. But I still go
after that goal of winning.”
Whether it’s nabbing first place in an
Ironman championship, making that corpo-
rate sales quota or getting an A on that test,
“be passionate and stay focused on the goal,”
advises Gruenfeld. “Have faith in your abil-
ity to accomplish your dreams, and let mis-
haps serve as teachers. Be willing to work
hard and—even with those demons—never,
ever give up.” C
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 59
IT’S A Gift
THERE’S NOTHING like 15 Ironman wins.
“But what I’m most proud of, and what’s
most important to me, are the kids I work
with,” says Cheri Gruenfeld. She’s talking
about the inner-city at-risk youths involved
in Exceeding Expectations (EE, www.
eefoundation.org). The San Bernardino,
California, program, which she founded in
2000, uses sports to provide opportunities
to help them develop positive, goal-ori-ented lives with an eye on college, whatever their dreams.
“I’ve been given many gifts in life,
and I feel a responsibility to help others
overcome challenges and realize their
potentials,” says Gruenfeld. After speaking
to 200 fifth- and sixth-graders about goals
and racing, she asked who wanted to do a
triathlon, and everyone’s arms shot up.
What began with 12 students has grown to
more than 50.
Gruenfeld’s program helps inner-city kids chart the rough waters ahead.
Claire Sykes (
www.sykeswrites.com) is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon, who writes
about health and other topics.
One was Nik Keller, now an EE mentor, who
joined in 2001. “I’d give up during triathlons. But
Cherie supported me, telling me to always finish,
no matter what,” says the University of
California San Diego biotechnology student.
“Through EE, I learned self-determination, self-reliance and self-awareness.” Attendance and
grades also improve for these kids.
Says Gruenfeld, who received the prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service
in 2009, “I believe I’m on the planet to make
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