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Good health: The best birthday present

By Rae Timme, Special to CNN
August 16, 2013 -- Updated 1513 GMT (2313 HKT)
Rae Timme, left, and her friends start the long bike to work in the early morning hours.
Rae Timme, left, and her friends start the long bike to work in the early morning hours.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rae Timme biked 29 miles to work the day before her 58th birthday
  • Timme is training to do her first triathlon with the CNN Fit Nation team
  • "I no longer use my age as an excuse, because it is anything but that," Timme says

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) -- It was the day before my 58th birthday. I had decided to end my 57th year doing something that was unthinkable when I turned 57.

You see, eight months ago I got the unexpected news that I had been selected as a member of the 2013 CNN Fit Nation Challenge team. At that time, the main event, the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, seemed a lifetime away. I couldn't run a mile, swim a single lap or even sit clipped in on a road bike without falling.

One of my most enthusiastic supporters over the past year has been a co-worker who has challenged me to do things physically that I never would have done without his support and encouragement.

He challenged me to do a local 5K race one month into training when I was sure I wasn't ready. Thanks to him, I accomplished my goal of finishing the race without walking.

He challenged me to hike the Manitou Incline -- a 2,000-foot vertical climb that is not for sissies!

He also challenged me to ride my bike to work. Which gets me back to that fateful pre-birthday morning.

Triathlete-to-be conquers first time in ocean

My daily commute is 29 miles one way, with a few serious hills. In the days before the ride, I studied the course and knew it would be a challenge. The night before, I started wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. The morning of the ride, I was still uneasy, at one point even regretting that I had accepted the challenge.

Rae Timme\'s friends came out to support her along her commute.
Rae Timme's friends came out to support her along her commute.

Everything changed at 5:15 a.m., when I opened my garage door to wait for two of my friends who had generously volunteered to ride along with me.

There was an immediate excitement in the air as we made our final preparations and took off, right on schedule at 5:30. It is hard to put the next 2½ hours into words.

Just as I reached the top of the first big hill, I saw a blue car pulled off to the side of the road. I assumed it was someone with car trouble. As I got closer, I recognized the familiar face of one of my co-workers. He was smiling and clapping, cheering us on! I soon realized that he was there intentionally, something totally unexpected, giving me a mental boost and surge of energy I cannot describe.

Training dedicated to slain colleague

It only got better. Every few miles, much to my surprise, dozens of my friends were staged, holding big signs and cheering me on along the highway. Once we reached our destination, my co-workers were waiting for us, cheering us into the finish line like it was the Tour de France.

I have to admit that all the attention was actually a bit uncomfortable for me. I am certainly not the first person who has made this particular ride. In fact, I cannot think of a day that I drive to work that I don't see at least several fellow bikers along the way. I am still overwhelmed at the thought of so many people getting up early and going out of their way to show their support for what I was doing. It was the best birthday present ever.

Throughout the day, I was repeatedly asked how the ride went, and if I was sore. My answer was that it went great, and I actually felt wonderful.

Most of the credit for that belongs to my friends who rode with me, changed my flat tire, and made me feel like a superstar. Each one of them has been there for me along my fabulous journey this past year. They know where I started and have celebrated my progress. They are just as excited for the upcoming triathlon as I am.

Most of all, they validate what I have known all along: I am the luckiest person in the world. At the beginning of 2013, I was feeling heavy, sluggish and tired. I had convinced myself that, at 57, that was my fate, and that I just needed to accept that feeling energetic and healthy was a thing of the past.

The key to fitness? Schedule it in

From the very beginning, I have viewed my selection as a member of this year's Fit Nation team as a once in a lifetime opportunity. But being 20 to 30 years older than my five teammates, I thought that I would not be able to accomplish as much as they did.

Despite this, I remained dedicated, and focused every day on the advice to "Keep moving forward!" That powerful mantra, along with the love and support of my friends, family and co-workers, has given me a strength and confidence going into my 59th year that I never had before.

I no longer use my age as an excuse, because it is anything but that. In fact, I have 11 months to set a new goal -- something I'll do on the day before my 59th birthday that seems impossible today!

Follow Rae on Twitter @TriHardRae

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