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Special Edition: Fit Nation Challenge: New York City Triathlon

Aired July 24, 2010 - 07:30   ET



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Welcome to a place where we're going to learn how to live longer and stronger. I'm your doctor. I'm also your coach.

We have a very special show today. Behind me, the Hudson River -- significant because we're going to jump in that river at the beginning of the New York City triathlon, something we've been training for some time now.

We invited six viewers from around the country to join us -- not really knew what they were getting themselves into at the beginning -- they certainly know now for sure.

You guys ready for this?

CROWD: Oh, yes!


GUPTA: To give you a little bit of a glimpse on how they got there.


GUPTA (voice-over): Six-forty-one a.m., Sunday, July 18th, the exact moment six of our viewers and I have been training for, the start of the New York City triathlon.

We first met the gang on "AMERICAN MORNING" back in January.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta went one step further, challenging himself to become a triathlete. He chose six "AMERICAN MORNING" viewers to join him on the journey.

GUPTA: And each one was there for a very specific reason.

MEREDITH CLARK, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: And I'll be 30 in January and I'm five years overdue in meeting a goal of completing a triathlon.

GUPTA: Linda Fisher-Lewis retired from police work after a bad car accident. She wants to return to her dream job.

LINDA FISHER-LEWIS, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: I thought this was an opportunity for me to overcome all the hurdles that have been coming my way over the last five years.

GUPTA: Angie Brouhard just finished treatment for breast cancer.

ANGIE BROUHARD, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: These past eight months of surgery, medications and treatments have caused me to gain weight. I am ready to get back in shape.

GUPTA: Teachers Rickey Williams and Stanley Saballett say it was about inspiring their kids.

RICKEY WILLIAMS, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: And I want to be able to come back to my students and let them know that it was their strength, their perseverance, their commitment to changing their own lives that inspired me to change mine.

STANLEY SABALLETT, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: Part of my job is to encourage young people to stay healthy, and I kind of feel almost like a hypocrite because I'm not healthy.

GUPTA: And police officer, Dean Hanan, he wants to have kids of his own.

DEAN HANAN, FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: I'm a married man. I want to have children and I desperately need to get back into shape because I want to live a healthy life.

GUPTA: Since that day, they've been on a strict workout regimen and diet. They've worked their way up to a combined 18 miles of swimming a week, 78 miles of running and almost 500 miles of cycling. All told, they have lost 137 pounds.

WILLIAMS: I feel so much better about life and about exercise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can bike further and swim further than I ever thought that I could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can go for a run or jump in the water or hop on the bike, that's what I want to do.

GUPTA: Each and every one says they're confident they'll cross the finish line.

BROUHARD: I feel stronger all the time. But I feel like, once I can get this done, I think I can close that chapter, I can put the breast cancer behind me and I feel like it's over and I conquered it.

CLARK: And I'm looking forward to seeing the crowds and hearing the people, I'm just feeling the adrenaline pump as we complete this race.

FISHER-LEWIS: Getting to the finish line is a big deal. I can be carrying my bike or dragging a leg or something. I think I'll end up finishing, but, you know, that's just a big deal.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: I can say, for sure, we probably all had some ups and downs over the last six months. But now, so close to the race, everyone gets excited -- has some exciting for sure.

Dean, first of all, thanks for joining us. What excites you most about this race?

HANAN: I think going into the Hudson.

GUPTA: That excites you?

HANAN: Yes. It excites me because it's challenging and a little scary. And anything that is scary, I like that, just the waters.

GUPTA: This is your town as well. I mean, just to be riding down the west side highway, running through the park.

HANAN: Yes, it's great to be doing this for the first time where I live. You know, I will make memories here. It's going to be the first of many to come, hopefully.

GUPTA: Awesome.

Stanley, how about you? What excites you the most?

SABALLETT: Just being able to do this with a team. I think that's really cool.

GUPTA: All right. Good answer for sure.


BROUHARD: Putting this all together. I haven't done swim, bike, and run all together. And I am excited to see how that all fits together.


GUPTA: Right. And those transitions as well. Hopefully, we all get a chance to catch up.

Meredith, how about you?

CLARK: Fulfilling a goal I have had since I was 25. I'm definitely ready to do it.

GUPTA: Good for you. That's great.


WILLIAMS: Crossing the finish line. I will have family there to celebrate with and finishing strong.

GUPTA: Your family -- your family is going to be here?

WILLIAMS: We do have some family here. Yes. GUPTA: That's great.

Linda, how about you?

FISHER-LEWIS: Well, I'm just -- it's the Hudson River. You know, it's -- I guess it's not the most exciting part, as probably scary part, but when I get out on the other side then it's going to be the most exciting part of the challenge today.

GUPTA: And along those lines, what excite -- what about your biggest fears, your biggest apprehensions?

FISHER-LEWIS: Well, I just -- I just want to be healthy through the race. I mean, I've been working to get to here and now I just want to be sure that I can get through it. And I know I can, but I think doing it's going to be the big part.

GUPTA: And I have to tell you, that Hudson River that you mentioned earlier, I think it's an apprehension for a lot of people. We're going to talk about fears when we come back.



GUPTA: We are back with SGMD. The Hudson River is right behind us. We're going to be starting our New York City triathlon.

Linda, you talked about one of your fears being this water behind us, the Hudson. What about it specifically you're concerned about?

FISHER-LEWIS: Well, I think just that it's not that clean. And from the West Coast, the Hudson kind of has the reputation for not being clean. What's in the water, what's going to be swimming by in the water? I'm little worried about the smell of the water. If it gets in my mouth, how I'm going to handle all that?

So, you know, and then just -- it's kind of awing to be swimming in the Hudson River.


FISHER: So, I think all of that together.

GUPTA: One of the best known rivers in the country, for sure.

We sat down and talked to a psychologist specifically about some of these concerns, all sorts of different fears. Take a listen to what Dr. Paul Weiss had to say.


GUPTA: For new triathletes, what would you say is the biggest fear that you typically hear about?

PAUL WEISS, SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST: It's the swim. Most triathletes come from a running or a biking background. Everybody spends time on their feet. But in an open water setting, triathletes do tend to panic a little bit, especially if they're not in the competitive swimming background.

GUPTA: So, just a day before a triathlon, what would you tell somebody who has a real fear about the swim?

WEISS: I think the first thing is go look at the course. Look at where you're going to enter, look at where you're going to go out. Don't have any mystery about the course. Know where you're going to swim. Look at big tall objects you can cite from the water so you know what to look like when they're in there.

If you know where you are, you don't feel like you're lost at sea, you're going to be more relaxed.

GUPTA: What about triathletes, one that has a real fear of the Hudson in particular? She's heard about the Hudson, whether it's the concerns about how dirty it is, or the current -- what would you say about the Hudson specifically?

WEISS: I think the Hudson is actually pretty clean body of water. It has a strong current. It's a vital directional current that moves with the tides, so the water moves a lot. It's not stagnant body of water. It's next to a big city.

But the reality is, it's a pretty safe body of water unless there's been a tremendous amount of rainfall. The only time the swim has been cancelled is after a tremendous amount of rain the day before. And it's going to be that, we have three or four dry days going into the race.

I think the Hudson River is going to be clean. It's a nice, straight fast swim. And it's actually one of the best swims in triathlon for a beginner for athletes.

GUPTA: Transitions -- moving from the swim to the bike, bike to the run, what -- people are concerned about that as well. What is the hardest thing? And are there tips for that?

WEISS: The secrets of a good transition are preparation. Make sure you set up your areas, you know where everything it is. You don't want to be digging things out of a box or a bag. Most people say set up a triathlon with a towel in a square with all of your stuff organized and departmentalized.

And if you do have a situation where the guy before you kicked your stuff over, be calm and take your time. Nothing is worse than leaving transition without getting it right. And so, you can lose 30 seconds or a minute in transition. But don't make a mistake in transition like not tying your shoe. That makes your lose three minutes during the race.

GUPTA: For someone who is watching who has never done a triathlon, but is watching you, talk about and says, yes, it sounds pretty reasonable, maybe I could do this, what are -- what are things they should think about? Can anyone do a triathlon?

WEISS: Anyone can do a triathlon. If you don't have -- and actually if you look at the sport, one of the things about, it's terrific as it's so inclusive. Even if you can't do all three sports, you can get on a relay. There are many who offer relays so you do the swim and the bike and the run alone with friends. But the race is a very inclusive race.

The reason triathlon has become so popular is really a movement is because it embodies a lifestyle -- a lifestyle where you train in a balanced way. You don't just run, you don't just bike, you don't just swim, you cross train, which is very healthy for the body. And it's about participation. And that's one of the reasons why I spoken to age group and so everyone can do it regardless of age and ability.


GUPTA: Just about everyone agrees that it's not just a physical race, it's a mental one as well. So, hope that provides you a little bit of help.

Rickey joins us again.

Now, you look great. We met six months ago and you've lost a lot of weight. What's been the hardest part for you?

WILLIAMS: Well, initially, without a doubt, habits, trying to transform those. That was my biggest pitfall. Just -- I got into this pattern out of control, eating a lot of junk and really bad food.

GUPTA: Diet. You cannot do this sort of training without focusing on diet. You got to do it right. We'll tell you how. Keep watching SGMD.



GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD. A lot of people talk about races like these and think about the changes that might happen to their body. Of course, the goal is more about fitness than your body changing.

Having said that, Rickey, you lost 70 pounds during this training process. How did you do it?

WILLIAMS: Well, there were dramatic changes in my lifestyle. It was very difficult at first. In the beginning before I started training, I was drinking a lot of soda everyday, eating a lot of junk food, not really planning what I ate and I just really was out of control.

GUPTA: I mean, you brought -- you brought a prop just to show us.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I was drinking as much water that a person needs daily that I've learned now is about how much soda as I was drinking before.

GUPTA: And we did some calculations, over 1,000 calories just in the soda that you were drinking. Nowadays, besides switching up now the water for soda, what else do you do differently?

WILLIAMS: Well, every Sunday night, my wife and I plan meals and cook meals for the whole week. So, I've got my refrigerator -- my refrigerator full of containers with my meals and I leave home everyday with full meals in my bag and then come home with a healthy dinner. So, that's -- it's been dramatic but that's how the results come, just from planning.

GUPTA: Well, everyone has noticed the changes, for sure. And I have to tell you, a lot of people start practicing or training, thinking they got to get the road work in and don't think about nutrition.

Laura Cozik has been our trainer, our "Fit Nation" trainer.

What about that? How important is it to think about nutrition at the beginning of a training regimen?

LAURA COZIK, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, FIT NATION: It's really important because you want to practice it so you can really get good at it. Nutrition and pacing in the race or in a training day is so important and people neglect that.

GUPTA: I've heard that you shouldn't change your diet too much. You may -- you may change small things, but if you've been eating certain diet, sort of stick with that?

COZIK: If you've been eating bad things, you want to change that. But, obviously, you would have to eat a little more often I think when you start training for endurance sport -- so eating every two hours.

GUPTA: Eating every two hours -- that's something that I think really helps a lot. I eat a bigger breakfast now. What about touring the race itself?

COZIK: During the race, you have to get in things that are easily digested. So, these are a couple of examples of goos or shaplocs (ph) or things that are quickly go into the bloodstream and give you the sugar and the energy that you need.

GUPTA: And speaking of these types of things, what is bonking exactly?

COZIK: Oh, well, you know it when you experience it. It's when your blood sugar drops so much that you start to shake and your muscles start to shut down and it's not a good feeling.

GUPTA: I have to tell you, I think it happened to me the other day. I was riding my bike and I literally thought that both of my tires had gone flat.


GUPTA: And then I had some sugar and it just -- it's almost like the gas tank filled right back up.

COZIK: It's instantaneous. And, unfortunately but true, soda can help that, but only in a bonking situation. It is the quick energy.

GUPTA: And I think Rickey is still listening to that, for sure.

Dean, won't you come here? Tell our viewer what we got coming up next

HANAN: What's next is -- let's stop talking and let's get racing.




DIANA NYAD, PROFESSIONAL MARATHON SWIMMER: Well, I am sure you don't need to hear this from me but I'll just have one little -- one little piece. And that is that commitment, you all have committed to this. Within reason or what else, the other busy things you have going on in your lives, but you decided to do this and do it as a team and do it for each other. So, tomorrow, you're not just alone. You may wind up alone as you go along and find your pace.

But the idea is that when you get to that finish line, you can look yourself in the mirror and you can say, I couldn't -- I couldn't have done it a fingernail better than I did it.

GUPTA: All right. Good morning. Supposed to wake up at 3:15. It's 3:08.

There's Rickey.


GUPTA: First thing in the morning, at 4:00. You look good.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

GUPTA: You look awake.

WILLIAMS: I'm ready. I've been awake for a while.

GUPTA: Did you get any sleep last night?

WILLIAMS: I did. I got about probably six hours.

GUPTA: How did you sleep?

BROUHARD: I actually slept pretty good. I got about five hours of sleep.

GUPTA: What did you eat?

FISHER-LEWIS: I ate yogurt, hard-boiled egg and banana and some nuts.

GUPTA: Stanley, how did you sleep?

SABALLETT: Probably slept like an hour.


GUPTA: Get some breakfast, Dean?

HANAN: No, no breakfast. Just water and stuff -- I ate enough yesterday. That's just the way my body works.

GUPTA: There's Meredith. How did you sleep?


CLARK: Slept great. Ready to go?

GUPTA: Good. Ready to go.


GUPTA: This is our setup over here. All our bikes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got sunscreen?











GUPTA: That's quite a race, I got to tell you. Felt pretty good, pretty strong throughout the entire thing. But it was hot. And it's worth pointing out that on that day, 12 people actually were taken to the hospital, 11 of them for heat-related illness. You can't help but wonder and think that this is something that could be prevented.

Obviously, a significant concern whenever you have an event like this, when we're talking about exercising in hot weather, it does all kinds of things to the body, including putting a lot of excess strain on your heart and your lungs. As you might imagine, one of the biggest considerations here is dehydration. People simply get too dehydrated, not enough fluids pumping through their body and as a result, they can have heart failure.

Severe dehydration can lead to even more -- you can have problems with your brain, can lead to seizures, can lead to kidney problems, can lead to coma and can even death.

Heat stroke is something people talk about quite a bit. That's when were your body temperature gets over 104 degrees. Think about that, 104 degrees, simply from exercising. And all sorts of things start to happen to your body -- one of the biggest things is that you stop sweating. Your heating -- your cooling mechanisms simply shut down.

Take a look at some of the other warning signs as well: you might start to feel weak, headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and again hallucinations, coma and even possibly death.

You want to make sure you drink enough water but you don't want to drink too much, either. You drink too much water, you might start to develop a condition known as hyponatreamia, that's when the salt levels in your body get too low.

Look, you know your body best. Best advice: simply don't overdo it and take control if you start to feel any of those symptoms.

When we come back, we got some more sights and sounds coming up from the finish line. Stay with SGMD.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the hardest part?

WILLIAMS: The run, without a doubt. Lot of hills but I definitely wouldn't have been able do this six months ago.


WILLIAMS: Did now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think of your dad?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: I'm happy for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's awesome, isn't he?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Yes. SABALLETT: It's amazing. Almost died a few times, I felt like. But it was just so good. It feels great to finish. I can't believe I did it.

GUPTA: It was well worth it. Tired. (INAUDIBLE) Feeling my age a little bit. But overall, feel great.

NYAD: This is Diana Nyad for SGMD and team 6-pack did it.


NYAD: Congratulations! It's been a hot, brutal day here in New York. It wasn't easy but they finished.

Sanjay, congratulations. Your first triathlon.

What was the highlight and lowlight for you?

GUPTA: It was really all a highlight. I mean, physically and spiritually and mentally just inspired. I got your speech last night and just, you know, I was really committed to it. And it felt good to be committed to something like that.

NYAD: Right on. Well, they say, you know, do you it all from surgery to reporting to speechwriting, and now, you really do it all.

GUPTA: It's a nice thing to have on the list, for sure.

NYAD: Congratulations.

GUPTA: Thank you very much.

NYAD: Angie, you were number one of the 6-pack -- congratulations.

BROUHARD: Thank you.

NYAD: How did you feel at the finish line?

BROUHARD: Oh, tired but excited. The bike ride was marvelous.

NYAD: Was it? Was that the best part?


NYAD: Everybody says that. You got a little light in the eyes going on. Congratulations.

BROUHARD: Thank you.

NYAD: Linda, you had a tough day, literally vomiting. No, I don't mean it rudely. How did you stick with it after being that sick?

FISHER-LEWIS: Well, I was contemplating dropping out but I just couldn't do it. So, I thought, you know what, I'm just going to do the best I can and I've got to finish, no matter what. So, I just slowed down and did what I need to do to get through it. And did the finish line with everybody else -- I didn't want to disappointment them. I definitely didn't want to disappoint myself.

NYAD: Well, it seems, I don't know about what you felt. When you don't feel good? It's easy. When you don't feel well -- don't start, right?


NYAD: Buddy, how about you? Did you leave it all out there or did you have more?

HANAN: I think I did, but maybe I could have given a little bit more. Maybe we'll find out next year. You heard it here first.

NYAD: Well, you have to have your first experience and did you it. Congratulations.

HANAN: Absolutely. Thank you.

NYAD: Meredith, how are you?

CLARK: Doing great. Doing great.

NYAD: What was the highlight for you?

CLARK: The highlight was probably running in the last mile with my coach, Ian Briggs (ph). He encouraged me whole way. And then seeing my mom close to the finish line, she said she was proud of me.

NYAD: Did you cry?

CLARK: No, not yet.


NYAD: Rickey, congratulations.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much. What an exhilarating experience. Everything about it was amazing. I loved every step I took, every stroke I swam, ever pedal I pedaled. And then finishing with these guys, having my family here was amazing.

NYAD: Right on. We're proud of you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

NYAD: And, Stanley, my man, you finished.

SABALLETT: I can't believe it. It was absolutely amazing.

NYAD: You got a huge smile on your face.

SABALLETT: Yes, I'm happy.

NYAD: Congratulations, Sanjay and the 6-pack.


NYAD: I'm Diana Nyad.

Stay tuned for more news at CNN.