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2011 Fit Nation Triathletes: Halfway There

Aired April 23, 2011 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting to you from the big island of Hawaii -- an absolutely beautiful place and also, in many ways, the capital of two sports that I really love. One is surfing and the other is triathlons.

In fact, we're here because we're catching up with our "Six Pack." These are just people, not professional athletes, who decided to make a huge commitment to challenge themselves to complete their first triathlon.

We're going to give them a lot of tips this week, give them a lot of support as well and start putting them through the paces. Hopefully, you can follow along at home.

Let's get started.


GUPTA: We're going to get to our triathletes in just a second.

But, first, I want to give you a few health and medical headlines.

First of all, doctors have a new set of guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease. You can think of Alzheimer's more as a spectrum now with these new guidelines, with even mild memory loss, even mild behavioral changes, possibly constituting a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. The point is here that people could get the diagnosis sooner and as a result possibly get treatment sooner as well.

We got a word of caution now if you're planning on traveling to Europe. In Europe, there's at least a dozen countries that have measles outbreaks. In fact, in France, they say there are 5,000 cases in that country alone.

So, I want to give you a little bit of advice. If you're planning on traveling to Europe and you have a child between 6 months and 11 months of age, they should get a protective dose of the measles vaccine. Now, if your child is older, between 12 and 15 months of age, make sure they get that regularly scheduled vaccine of the measles, mumps and rubella before you do any traveling.

The next story is about water. Water is just about the healthiest drink there is out there and you think you find fresh water just about everywhere in the United States. But for a lot of school- aged children, that's simply not true, at least not at school where they spend half their waking hours.

I got to tell you, as a parent, this really struck a chord with me. What exactly is going on here? How could water not be available?

We decided to do some digging. Here's what we found.


GUPTA (voice-over): Cindy Garcia is an eighth grader at Vista Middle School in Los Angeles. Until this year, she says --

CINDY GARCIA, EIGHTH GRADER: Before, I would drink very little water.

GUPTA: Cindy isn't alone. The CDC says the vast majority of kids her age simply do not drink enough water. And like many public schools, her school doesn't serve water with lunch.

GARCIA: I would only drink water because it's sort of hard to be eating a meal and then stop and go drink water at the water fountain. Before, I would just drink whatever they had at the cafeteria, like juice or milk.

GUPTA: If you look around her school eating area, there are four water fountains, a 30-minute meal time and 1,700 school students.

Here's California food policy advocate Matt Sharp.

MATT SHARP, CALIFORNIA FOOD POLICY ADVOCATE: When have you ever gone to a restaurant and been encouraged to go to a drinking fountain for sips of water between bites of your meal.

GUPTA: And this might some familiar, many water fountains are broken. And in others, the water tastes bad, and discourages kids from drinking.

You see, lack of hydration is bad for kids' health. In fact, a study in Germany found simply making sure kids could drink water at school led to a 31 percent drop in risks for becoming overweight.

Burt Cowgill, a public health researcher wanted to do something similar here in L.A.

At Vista Middle School, he put the water through a filter, filled 5 gallon jugs, chilled it overnight and then served it to students with cups.

BURT COWGILL, UCLA/RAND CTR. FOR ADOLESCENT HEALTH PROM.: This is say relatively inexpensive intervention. The filter costs a few hundred dollars and then you're looking at basically a cup expense. And I think you're looking at about a couple of dollars per student to run something like this throughout the year in a school this size.

GUPTA: The thing is, to keep this going across the entire school district, they say they're going to need $2 million next year and they don't have the money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I call dibs on the chicken.

GUPTA: A federal law passed in December mandates for the first time, that schools, quote, "make available to children free of charge as nutritionally appropriate, water in the place where meals are served."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of implementing the rule, says it hasn't decided whether water fountains are enough or if in Cindy's schools and others are going to have to find a better solution.


GUPTA: Unfortunately, we got some sad news to report today as well. Two American photojournalists were killed in Libya while reporting there on the fighting. They were killed by a rocket- propelled grenade, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, both experienced war photographers, doing what they love.

And I got to tell you, in many ways, this is personal for me. I knew Tim Hetherington pretty well. He actually sent a tweet out right before this happened. I want to read it to you. I think it's important.

He says, "In the besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Gadhafi forces and no sign of NATO." That was his last tweet by Tim Hetherington.

I worked with Tim while reporting on the Afghan war back in 2009. In fact, the pictures that you're looking at were pictures that he took. He was an amazing storyteller.

He really believed in getting in touch with his character, spending months, even years with them while doing his reports. He believed that their stories should be told to millions of people around the world, and one of the most courageous journalists, obviously. Unfortunately, both Tim and Chris are giving their lives up for this.

Tim was recently nominated for an Academy Award for remarkable documentary that he worked on called "Restrepo." It was on U.S. Marines and what was going on in Afghanistan.

Tim Hetherington was 40 years and Chris Hondros was 41.


GUPTA: We are back with SGMD here on the big island of Hawaii, just absolutely beautiful place here. Also, a place where the Ironman triathlon started.

This is an epic struggle. If you've ever seen this on TV or seen one up close, it is a remarkable thing -- 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and to cap it, a full marathon, 26.2 miles. It seems almost unfeasible for the human body to endure but they do.

And, in fact, I'm with somebody now who's not only participated in it but won it a couple of times, back to back 2001, 2002.


GUPTA: Tim DeBoom, thanks for joining us.

DEBOOM: No problem at all. Thanks.

GUPTA: It is -- just to hear it described sounds impossible or maybe crazy even.

DEBOOM: Absolutely. The first year, I attempted it and finished but it was very daunting. Didn't -- I don't think I had run 26 miles in a week.

GUPTA: So, the first time you actually did a triathlon, you had never run 26 miles all at once?

DEBOOM: Oh, no. No.

GUPTA: That's surprising, I think, to a lot of people -- maybe inspiring as well.

DEBOOM: I think so. I think some people, you know, don't push themselves. They know -- they don't know their limits, you know? So, they think they have to run a marathon ahead of time to even participate in something like this. And with the proper training, I think you can get through it and know that it's -- you know, it's an effort just to complete it.

GUPTA: If someone were to say, I want to get involved with triathlons because I love the three sports, but I can't run more than a few miles, I can't swim more than just a few laps. What would you tell them?

DEBOOM: Well, that's the beauty of our sport is, you know, we have all different distances. You can start at the sprint distance where, you know, it's just a 5k run and there's ones that are even shorter than that. So, I think a lot of people think triathlon is Ironman and they don't realize there are shorter distances to get yourself started and that's a good place.

GUPTA: And there were signs, if you will, for you, in the form of an accident. When you're really sort of up-and-coming, you got hit by a car, is that right?

DEBOOM: Yes. I had a successful amateur career as a racer and my first professional year I was kind of really looking forward to it. I had, you know, picked up sponsors that were supporting me. And the spring of my first year before my first race, even, I got hit by a car and broke my back, broke three vertebrae in my back. And it was, you know, it was a tough one to take at that point in your career.

GUPTA: Did you think it was over.

DEBOOM: For a little bit, yes. The struggle, you have to definitely survive something like that mentally, not only physically but mentally and know that you can come back. It's thinking that you're going to be strong enough again.

GUPTA: And you were. And in 2001, you won the Ironman here. It was just about a month after the tragic attacks of 9/11. You had won the race in some time. What was that like going across the finish line?

DEBOOM: It's a pretty fantastic feeling.

GUPTA: Flags, I imagine.

DEBOOM: Yes. You know, I grabbed a flag myself and so I think not only were a lot of people happy that I won that year, happened to be lucky to win, but all the competitors were supporting the U.S. at that point. So, it was a special year.

GUPTA: Almost gives you chills, I bet.


GUPTA: You went on to win the next year as well, back-to-back championships. It's a remarkable thing.

We're so delighted you're here to help us and to help our athletes.

We have our six-pack. They're not Tim. But they are trying. This is their first triathlon. We're looking up to have Tim give all of us a little bit of help. We'll meet up with the athletes, right after the break.


GUPTA: We're back with SGMD, reporting to you from Anaehoomalu Bay on the big island of Hawaii. We're here in Kona and we're here with our triathletes.

You can't help but notice the natural beauty all around me here. One of the things I've been thinking about a lot is how you have to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to prep for something like this. For our athletes, one of the first obstacles was simply the mental one of applying to do this. Obviously, a lot of physical challenges have come since then over the past few months, and now here in Kona as well.

How are you enjoying yourselves?


GUPTA: Not bad, huh?

We're here this is the triathlon capital of the world essentially. Anaehoomalu Bay just a beautiful place.

But, Nina, you've been doing some things, you know, you hadn't done before -- running, for example, in pretty warm weather. A few miles the other day. How was that for you?

LOVEL: Well, we ran Monday morning. Well, we swam really early Monday morning and then ran a little bit later in the morning.

And it was just warmer than what I'm accustomed to. Even though I'm from Georgia, it's not got then warm there yet. So, it wasn't a long run. It was about four hours -- four miles. But I got a little overheated.

Then later in the afternoon, we had a long bike ride which was much further than I had ridden recently. We wound up going about 18 miles. And I actually flagged out about halfway out and really wanted to get in the car -- I didn't want to but I really thought I should. I was shaky.

And the trainers kept saying what is it that's shaky, what hurts? What's tired? I realized I was probably just not hydrated enough.

GUPTA: You got to know your body. That's an important thing.

LOVEL: Yes. I had to stop and analyze what was going on. And I had not been drinking water on the ride because it was very windy and the way we're having to control the bike.

GUPTA: Was that the biggest takeaway for you? I mean, just sort of learning to control your hydration? So, what would you do differently now?

LOVEL: Well, and I have been doing it differently since Monday. Just constantly have a bottle of water with me and drinking all the time.

GUPTA: Constantly before you're getting thirsty.

LOVEL: Constantly. And we're doing a lot of electrolytes, you know, making sure that we have our electrolytes onboard and trying to eat right.

GUPTA: Good for you.

What were you most worried about, Joaquin, coming on this trip?

JOAQUIN BRIGNONI, CNN FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: Well, it was definitely, I would have to say, the swim. That's been my weakness.

GUPTA: Have you been able to get much swimming in?

BRIGNONI: You know, I have to be honest -- I kind of put it off to the side. It's my weakest part of all three sports. I think I've been focusing on what I would consider my stronger of the three. And then I kind of put that aside, but I had an amazing breakthrough here.

GUPTA: So, you -- how much had you, you know, swam in a row?

BRIGNONI: Up until coming here, which I really didn't share with anybody, not even my coach back home, was that I really could only swim without stopping once -- about 25 meters and 25 meters back. So, 50 meters and I had to stop and catch my breath.

GUPTA: So, you were running out of breath?

BRIGNONI: Yes, I would run out of breath. I think it was more of a mental block that I had with stopping at the wall on a pool and just feeling kind of like I need to stop and regroup mentally. So, I didn't really know what kind of distance I could do, much less in the water.

GUPTA: So, what were you able to accomplish here so far?

BRIGNONI: Well, I did I my first official open water swim. And it was -- it was pretty amazing. We woke up. It was a 6:00 a.m. swim and was with Scott and Laura. And she said, we're going to swim to that boat out there. It was anchored pretty far out.

And internally, this whole conversation, about 10 seconds about, you know, I didn't even know -- I wasn't sure if I could even do that, you know, not done, you know, much of a distance. So, you have to make a decision at that point. I figured I've come all this way and I'm not going to sit on the beach.

GUPTA: Right, right.

BRIGNONI: So, I went for it.

GUPTA: You were able to do it.

I mean, a lot able to do things they didn't think they were able to do, simply by having some encouragement.

And, Kendrick, getting on the bike -- in Chicago, it's been cold outside. It's been hard to get on the bike.


GUPTA: So, this is one of the opportunities for you to get out there and do a longer ride. How was that for you, first of all?

HENLEY: Well, before I got here I was really concerned I wouldn't be able to bike the distance because most of my training has been indoors on my trainer. But when I got here, you know, I was able to push 11 and 12 miles. So, I'm definitely very proud of myself.

GUPTA: I mean, I think people hear that it's really important because, you know, a lot of people say as they're watching you train, there's no way I could do that. But you were able to go out and do 11 or 12 miles quickly.


GUPTA: You had -- I mean, you can see your face. I'm feeling bad for you. That wasn't right there with you. But you did have a fall. What happened?

HENLEY: Yes. I was on the bike and I kind of lost control of the bike and went into the gravel. And once I went into the gravel, I kept going closer towards the lava fields and I just flew off the bike and hit a lava rock shin first. So, luckily, I went to the doctor yesterday, nothing is broken, just a few stitches. And, you know, back at it again today.

GUPTA: So, you're not a triathlete until you have an accident like this.

HENLEY: Right. I think I have the scars to prove it.

GUPTA: We'll keep an eye on you. But I'm so delighted that you said you're going to get right back on the bike.


GUPTA: No quitting by any means.

HENLEY: Definitely not.

GUPTA: Well, did you guys stay up late, by the way, and watch the Conan O'Brien show?

LOVEL: We've seen it today.

GUPTA: Oh, you saw it today. Right, the time difference. You know, I'll tell you what? So I stopped through L.A. on my way here to have a little fun with Conan O'Brien, learned a few things, taught him a few things as well. Take a listen.


GUPTA: How about this? Do you live close to your parents?

CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: I do not. So I will live 100 extra years, is that right?

GUPTA: They say, actually, if you go and look at the longest lived cultures in the world, like Okinawa, Japan, for example, where they have more centenarians than any other city on the planet, they often not only live close to their parents, they often leave with aging parents.

O'BRIEN: Really?


O'BRIEN: Wait, living closer to your parents --

GUPTA: Or with them.

O'BRIEN: Or with them -- no, no, no. Living with them? That's insanity.

GUPTA: Or your in-laws.

O'BRIEN: Now I don't believe anything you said. I'm going to throw out my dental floss, drink coffee. What you're saying is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stress and frustration is good for you, Doctor.



GUPTA: You know, we have a lot of things we do in this country we think are normal. But in other countries that live long, they don't -- you don't get discarded from your professional life when you turn 65. You have great social connections with everyone around you, and you're a value to society as you get old.

O'BRIEN: Those were all good points. Do you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you have sex four times a week if you live with your parents?





GUPTA: We are back with SGMD.

Here's a question for you: Have you ever wanted to do a triathlon but thought it was simply too hard, too many obstacles to overcome? That's exactly what the other half of our "Six Pack" thought three months ago but they've been putting in the work. In fact, today, did their first sort of mini triathlon. Congratulations all of you.


GUPTA: It's been an interesting few months.


GUPTA: Anastasia, you did the swim yesterday. I know. And you had a little bit of a challenge with that. Then you did a swim again today. How was today?

ANASTASIA CIRRICIONE, CNN FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: Today was a lot better. Yesterday was a bit of a panic. I've never been in the ocean a whole lot and the waves were pretty high compared to what I've been used to.

GUPTA: So, you're just feeling -- were you starting to lose your breath? And what was happening?

CIRRICIONE: Yes, the compression of the wet suit and swimming in the ocean that I've never been in. It's a little bit daunting. But today was a lot better. I felt a little bit more confident about it.

GUPTA: What would you -- what advice would you give to somebody who's doing this?

CIRRICIONE: Definitely just take it slow. Make sure you train for it if you're going to be doing an open water triathlon. Make sure that you practice that beforehand.

GUPTA: Scott, you've been a powerhouse on the bike, you know, and I rode with you today. I mean, have you ever -- has it gone up and down, has there been any challenges specifically.

DR. SCOTT ZAHN, CNN FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: Today was tougher. I never put all the events together. You know, with my training, I've just done each of them. And I had a hard it time the last half of the bike ride today.

GUPTA: What happened?

ZAHN: Just didn't feel like I had the energy. I was trying to make sure I was getting enough fluids in and enough calories in to maintain my energy of it. I just got tired near the end.

GUPTA: What lesson do you think you learned?

ZAHN: Make sure you get lots of fluids in. That's for sure, because today was very hot and not a lot of wind. And I just try to get the calories in.

GUPTA: Like eat almost constantly. I mean, at the beginning of these events and have food with you as well.

ZAHN: And the pacing, too.

GUPTA: And the pacing.

Kas, you did essential lay mini-triathlon today. It was essentially 20-minute swim, an hour bike, 30-minute run. What did you like most about it and dislike the most?

KAS SEERLA, CNN FIT NATION TRIATHLETE: Well, I didn't like the swim. And

GUPTA: It was only your second time in open water?

SEERLA: Yes, that's right. I liked the bike.

GUPTA: Liked the bike. What about the swim did you learn? I mean, what would you do differently next time?

SEERLA: Well, practice, practice, practice. You know, I've never been in open water and the conditions in open water are a lot different than in the pool. There's a current, there's waves. I was not able to see the shore, so I got very disoriented and I started swimming away from the shore and then I had gone too far, and then I really didn't have the energy to swim back.

So, you know, it took a lot of effort for me to get back.

GUPTA: I had some of the same problems. I mean, the sort of sighting last year. And I really -- you have to work on that, you know, sort of really finding a target and swimming toward it. What have you learned most about yourself this week?

SEERLA: Well, I can definitely survive, I guess. So I would say our bike rides, which was 23 miles, and I'd only done three miles, you know, before.

GUPTA: Right.

SEERLA: And open water swim. So I would say I think for me and for everybody, we're all survivors.

GUPTA: Well, that's good. And you got some targets to work toward.

I can tell you that for me, you know, when I -- I think I've told you this, for me, the triathlon was a transformative thing. I mean, physically, mentally and some ways spiritually. But you don't always recognize it at the time.

Back when we talked last, Kas, you said absolutely no doubt you're crossing the finish line. Are you feeling as confident today?

SEERLA: Yes, I think definitely.

GUPTA: I think you should be more confident probably, given your performance.

Scott, how about you?

ZAHN: No doubt. I feel a lot better about the swimming. That's really come together for me in the last few weeks. I felt pretty good with the swimming this week.

GUPTA: Yes. And the biking and everything?

ZAHN: And the biking.

GUPTA: So, the nutrition, the hydration, something you're going to work on.

ZAHN: Just tweaking everything and working on the stamina.

GUPTA: Yes. Anastasia, how about you? As confident?

CIRRICIONE: I'll be there on August 7th, crossing the finish line.

GUPTA: Coming up pretty fast. I'll be right there with you.

You learn a lot. We have a lot of tips to share hopefully with you. As I said, you know, I think a triathlon is a great sport. Obviously, people have obstacles to overcome, things they need to work on as our triathletes do. But, hopefully, you'll follow along.

If you notice here, there's lava rocks all around us. This is what you see when you come to Hawaii, part of the beautiful creation of these remarkable islands.

We hope you learned something on today's show -- it's not about being here in Kona. It's not about training with professional triathletes. It's simply about getting off the couch and getting moving. Together, all of us we can create a more fit nation and hopefully you'll join us as we do that.

Thanks for joining us today. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.