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.”

 

Best Of Greenwich

 

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Seaside Center: Shoreline Seining and Plankton Tow

    2014.07.20
     @ Seaside Center

    Help us gather plankton and see what creatures are living in our ocean’s water! Examine microscopic organisms caught in our plankton net...

  • Cool and Collected ‘14

    2014.07.10
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    (Gallery 1) Featuring artists:  Carla Goldberg, Melanie Kozol, Francis Sills, and Eve Stockton Summer exhibition at Kenise Barnes...

  • Magazine Mavens | New Canaan, CT

    2014.07.07
     @ Greenwich Education Group New Canaan Campus

    A Summer Magazine Publishing Workshop for Aspiring Young Writers Calling all aspiring young writers. This July, Greenwich Education Group...

  • Richards: Semi Annual Sale | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.16
     @ Richards of Greenwich

    Starting June 16th going through mid-August is Richard's semi annual sale. All Spring clothing will be marked down! Further markdowns will...

  • TREEHOUSES: Look Who's Living in the Trees!

    2014.06.21
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Saturday, June 21 - Monday, September 1 Hidden in the leaves, snug in the trunk or burrowed under the roots, what types of animals actually...

  • Exhibit: Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing | Greenwich, CT

    2014.05.03
     @ Bruce Museum

    May 3 – August 31, 2014 Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing This exhibition focuses on two of the world’s leading...

  • A Day in a Farmer's Life

    2014.07.01
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Tuesdays, July 1 - August 19, 2:30 – 3:15pm Come by and discover what it takes to be a farmer on Heckscher Farm. Each week farm staff...

  • Wine Time Social Hour | Greenwich, CT

    2014.01.27
     @ Barcelona Greenwich

    $4.00 select wines, $4.00 well drinks, and $3.00 beers.

  • Happy Hour | Greenwich, CT

    2014.01.26
     @ Morello Italian Bistro

    Refresh yourself with our famous Red & White Sangria! Don’t forget that during happy hour every day 4:30pm-6:30pm your 2nd drink...

  • Bar: Ladies Night | Old Greenwich, CT

    2014.02.18
     @ Beach House Cafe

    Drink Specials starting at 9:00pm 'till close, $2.00 off any Martini or Margarita.

  • Tuesday Wine Appreciation Night | Greenwich, CT

    2014.02.04
     @ Terra Sole

    Receive 50% off on most listed Wine under $100.00 and 25% off on bottles $100.00 and over!

  • Seaside Center: Shoreline Seining at Low Tide

    2014.07.15
     @ Seaside Center

    Help us collect data for the Long Island Sound biodiversity database. 1:00 pm: June 24, July 8, Aug 5, 19. 4:00 pm: July 1, 15, 22, 29,...

  • Seaside Center: Squid Disection

    2014.07.16
     @ Seaside Center

    Join us for a special opportunity to learn all about these fascinating mollusks! Call (203) 637-3515 or email seasidecenter@brucemuseum.org...

  • Happy Hour Beauty Thursdays!

    2014.06.30
     @ ELLELA Cosmetics & Lashes

    Our Summer Happy Hour Beauty Thursdays are back at ELLELA Cosmetics! Hit the top of Greenwich Ave from 4pm to 8pm for the BEST Blowouts before...

  • Tree-Mendous Treks

    2014.07.10
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Thursdays, July 10 - August 21, 3:30 - 4:30 pm After visiting our new exhibit, TREEHOUSES: Look Who's Living in the Trees, join one of...

  • 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...

  • Seaside Center: Coastal Scavenger Hunt

    2014.07.03
     @ Seaside Center

    Timed for low tide exploration. A scavenger hunt for nature’s treasures. 11:00 am: July 3, 17, 31, Aug 14, 28 3:00 pm: June 26, July...

  • Seaside Center: Seaweed Pressing

    2014.07.18
     @ Seaside Center

    Look at the different seaweeds around Greenwich Point and learn about their role in the marine ecosystem. We will end with a seaweed pressing...

  • Seaside Center: Arts and Crafts

    2014.07.18
     @ Seaside Center

    Let your creativity float free! Practice the art of Gyotaku fish prints; make a sundial, a shell wind chime, or fish bowl! Activities vary every...

  • Vals Free Weekly In-Store Wine Tasting | Greenwich, CT

    2014.05.09
     @ Val's Putnam Wine And Liquors

    Each Friday we feature new wines just released and new to market for you to have an opportunity to taste and learn about through our sponsored...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Beach Ball 2014
    Tod's Point
  2. Renaissance Ball
    Riverside Yacht Club
  3. Celebrating Hope 2014
    Richards
  4. 5K Foam Fest: Brooklyn
    Floyd Bennet Field, Brooklyn, NY
  5. 93rd Annual Greenwich Horse Show
    The Milliken Estate