The Ultimate Athletes

Four Greenwich triathletes share what it takes to push through mental and physical pain to run, pedal and swim their way to the thrill of victory



Visko Hatfield; Black Pants Courtesy of Nike

(page 1 of 3)

You see it on TV. As triathletes make their way to the finish line of the Ironman in Hawaii, arguably the most popular race of its kind, they seem so determined, and when it’s over, in spite of a grueling pace, punishing heat and interminable stages, they look like they can’t wait to do it again.

What makes these dedicated souls want to submit to such an extreme physical challenge again? Competitors often say emotional victory comes with racing and making it to the end, regardless of final standings. Training for six months, at least twenty hours a week, just to compete in an Ironman, or in the more forgiving half Ironman, Olympic or sprint distance triathlons (see sidebar “Triathlon Distances”) is only part of what it takes to reach that goal.

But it just doesn’t look like that much fun. What gives? Katha Diddel-Warren, Karen Newman, Darcy Ramsey and Karen Brown can answer that. These four Greenwich women have been there, won plenty and continue to train for spring and summer running races, charity rides, duathlons (run, bike, run) and triathlons. None plans on giving any of it up anytime soon.

What they have in common is a love of the sport. They thrive on it, and use it to push themselves ever further. They share a deep respect for the competition and unapologetic pride in their successes. All credit spouses and children whose unending encouragement cheers them on to run, cycle and swim harder and faster than they ever thought they could.

Most of all, they love to win. However, winning isn’t the only thing. Understanding this helps explain why they keep going back. “You see all different kinds of people at a race,” says Katha Diddel-Warren. “You may see a woman with a disability, so if it’s a challenge for me, it’s so hard for her. It’s awesome to see her there, making it to the finish.

“Then you see people coming in hours after you but we all completed the same distances. The fact that I’m winning is fun. It’s great and amazing and such a powerful feeling, but it catches me by surprise. For me, it’s also a win if I can I do it in better time.”

 

In the Beginning

On first impression, the four women are incredibly fit athletes. As they tell stories of accomplishment and renewed sense of purpose, of improved health and outlook, they exude intelligence and confidence with humor and class, each bearing an inviting from-here-to-here smile. Training and racing, they add, also helped them get through hardship, including injury, divorce, cancer. But their reasons for racing differ, reflecting personalities that dispel any notion of a triathlon type.

“The reason I’m doing this now is because my dentist suggested it,” chuckles the stylishly svelte Karen Brown. The self-proclaimed “rookie” in the group, who also loves to shop, marvels at her dentist’s role in what is now a major priority in her life, after her husband, Bill, and her two children, Jennifer and Tim. “This was in April [2008] and we started talking about triathlons. I don’t remember why. Next thing I know he’s printing out this brochure.”

Two months later, after training about fiteen hours a week — running and biking in the evenings and swimming in the mornings — she was competing in the Kids in Crisis Sprint Triathlon in Stamford. “I was nervous but I am very competitive when it comes right down to it. I put so much pressure on myself that I actually got in trouble in the water. I almost panicked because of the crowd [of swimmers]. But I still came in fourth for my age group with a very respectable time.”

Katha Diddel-Warren, fresh-faced and bubbly, remembers her first triathlon in 1984, in Hong Kong, where she was living and working at the time. It was another twenty-three years before the designer and importer of handmade home accessories signed up for the Falmouth Sprint Triathlon, the one she considers her “real” first. “I was physically prepared but totally unprepared. I didn’t have a wet suit; just a bathing suit,” laughs the mother of Paul, Thompson and Kiki. “I knew my body could do it but there was also a little bit of this I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing feeling.”

Karen Newman, a nutritionist diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, also shares a funny tale of woe from her first effort at the Montauk Sprint Triathlon of 1989. “It was ridiculously cold, fifty-six degrees in the water. The bike I got was borrowed and too big, so I couldn’t sit. I had to stand and peddle for over twenty-five miles. During the run, I don’t think I felt my feet until about mile five. Still, I think I came in third in my age division.” She is now a five-time All-American triathlete.

Each of these women continues to go back for more. “That’s the fun of first exposure,” says Karen, who exudes such kindness, it makes her the most serene and philosophical of the four, though at the time of this first interview, she was also weakened by recent chemotherapy and a mastectomy. In spite of frailty and loss of hair, she becomes increasingly animated by her recollections, particularly when she shares family photos from past races where she sports long, wavy brown hair.

“You don’t know what to expect,” continues the mother of three boys, Stetson, Chase and Trent. “And by the time you’re in it, you think, ‘What fun!’ When you finish, you feel alive. That’s what draws you back. There is nothing like it.”

 

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Foot and Ankle Surgeon and Physiatrist join ONS

    2014.09.02
     @ Orthopaedic & Neurosurgery Specialists, PC

    We are pleased to announce that orthopedic surgeon Sean Peden, MD and interventional physiatrist Christopher Sahler, MD have joined the ONS...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • GREENWICH FASHION ON THE AVENUE

    2014.09.05
     @ Greenwich Avenue

      GREENWICH FASHION ON THE AVENUE TO BE HELD SEPTEMBER 5 FEATURING LIVE RUNWAY SHOW, CAR AND BOAT SHOW Greenwich Avenue will...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Exclusive Tour of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery

    2014.09.09
     @ Yale University Art Gallery

    Join JCC Greenwich for an exclusive tour with museum curator Elizabeth Manekin. The collection is noteworthy for exemplary works from the...

  • Junior League of Greenwich's New Member Open House

    2014.09.09
     @ Junior League of Greenwich

    Please join us for cocktails and casual conversation to learn more about the Junior League of Greenwich and how you can become a member. ...

  • Understanding the Gaza War: Strategic & Political Implications

    2014.09.09
     @ Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium

    Dr. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its renowned Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic...

  • Bruce Museum: Look and See - Into the Deep

    2014.09.10
     @ Bruce Museum

    A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum’s exhibition through...

  • College Admissions Boot Camp | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.13

    College Prep 360 will be offering two college admissions “boot camps” in their Greenwich office over the summer. The first workshop...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Greenwich Area Newcomers Annual Lobster Fest

    2014.09.14
     @ Tod's Point Clambake Area

    This is our kickoff event each year-held at Tod's Point Clambake area. The event is scheduled for Sunday September 14th starting...

  • Information Fair

    2014.09.16
     @ YMCA

    Our Annual Information Fair - This event showcases non profits , community businesses, schools and  services in the Greenwich...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Best of Greenwich
    Delamar Greenwich Harbor
  2. 10 Things Greenwich Teens Can Do This Summer
    One Greenwich teen shares some suggestions for summer fun!
  3. American Red Cross: Red and White Ball 2014
    NetJets Hangar at Westchester County Airport
  4. Villa Maria School: Annual Spring Gala
    Richards of Greenwich
  5. Save the Children Benefit
    Riverside Yacht Club