Her Words: How Kerry Gruson Felt The South Beach Triathlon

The South Beach Triathlon was too monumental to review in one post.  So while I work on my take of the day, Kerry wrote about experiencing it from her point of view.  People need to hear more from her, in her own words, in her own voice.  Fortunately, we had Arielle Orsutto who filmed and interviewed the gang at the triathlon.  Arielle is an award winning student at the University of Miami who had already worked with Kerry. I can’t wait to see how that turns out because Kerry is an incredibly wise woman.
Though she was once was this little girl:
kerry gruson, south beach triathlon
I often see that little girl in Kerry’s mischievous smile.  When for example, she answers “so what?” to the question “what if the kayak flips with the waves?” Or when I get sensitive about a comment and she tells me “that’s her shtick not yours.”  And even more when she says “I want to do an Ironman” which is when I panic.
And Kerry was also this young woman:
Kerry Gruson,
Which I see at times when Kerry sits alone on her wheelchair as I inevitably run off to deal with the boys.  She cannot turn her head to see, so her senses are very developed.  She can hear whispers behind her.  And at those times I know she is not sitting there drowning in self pity, she is not sad.  She is lost in thought, planning, observing, processing … being.
I know how I felt and what I faced during the race, but I wanted to know what it felt like for her.   And this is Kerry in her own words.  I was not allowed to edit a thing; just add pictures.
I am exhausted in part from the actual triathlon itself if not as much from the anticipation…and the emotional catharsis afterwards. However, I could not rest until I shared the following:

The combined energy of our large ThumbsUp team, the Wolfpack members, the friends and complete strangers swelling to a crest, carried us over the finish line, precisely as  predicted and promised by all my fellow triathletes. (So magnificent – and still very strange to think I may call myself that!). My heart was ready to burst… I believe that together we have all accomplished something extraordinary.

Team ThumbsUp celebrates as Kerry Gruson becomes a triathlete

The swim – on the way out through the chop, from someone behind the kayak  (a lifeguard?) I can not see but hear: “I have 2 kids with disabilities. Thank you for doing this!” Water rushes into my mouth and up my nose. It hurts but I pay it no mind. More clearly than ever, I know why I am participating! And if it were easy, if there was no price to pay, this would have little meaning. Nor would ThumbsUp!


Winds from the East made for waves and swells. Not ideal. Lilly kept the kayak at an angle while I pulled it forward.

With Cristina’s arms carving us a way through the chop and the other swimmers, and Lilly steadying the kayak while she reassuringly squeezes my hand, the 1/2 mile water leg is over almost too soon. I love the way the kayak undulates beneath me. It’s a sense of movement I rarely get.

She might have thought it ended too soon, but I was nervous for her safety and swam as fast as I could!

She might have thought it ended too soon, but I was nervous for her safety and swam as fast as I could!

The perpetual ThumbsUp from Kerry as Wolfpack teammates Rob and Renato bring Kerry to shore.

The perpetual ThumbsUp from Kerry as Wolfpack teammates Rob and Renato bring Kerry to shore.

The bike ride – it’s somewhat rough, requiring almost superhuman strength from Cristina to get us up the inclines on the bridges.  For me, there are potholes, road separators, bumps that shake  and jarr, but I know can not be avoided…. like in every day life. But I also know we will overcome, another important lesson of the day! Buoyed by Andreas caring inquiries and encouraging words as he rides along with us, we take all difficulties in stride. Cristina does not falter. She is tenacious to the core.

Heading out into twenty tough miles.

Heading out with Andreas into twenty tough miles. Quality time with the coach.

And just as with the swim, the memories will be the sweeter for what we endure and accomplish despite the difficulties…..they are ThumbsUp experiences for sure!

The run – running in this event made the least demands on me. The day’s extra enjoyment and thrill comes from the fact that many pushed my cart and thus got to share directly in our triumph…. as much a tribute to Cristina’s generosity of spirit as it was a necessity to get us to the finish through the heavy sand.

We did a relay in the run, taking turns pushing Kerry through the sand.

We did a relay in the run, taking turns pushing Kerry through the sand.

For instance, Leanda Cave, the famous triathlete and the only woman to win two Ironman races in the same year, pushes me for a good distance during the run and coaches Cristina through the sand. “Tiny steps, tiny steps…”she repeatedly advises my nearly exhausted team mate. It is at Cristina’s direction that many hands lift me to my feet to cross the line so I can truly feel and enjoy the moment I become a triathlete.

Kerry finished the race on her own to legs,

Kerry finished the race on her own to legs – hopefully the race photographer will have a better pic of her!

I am overwhelmed by gratitude…and humility. At the same time, I am so proud of her, of everyone involved with ThumbsUp. Crowning the experience, Leanda somewhere found a beautiful red hibiscus.  She gave me the flower. Later Cristina explained that a flowered crown was placed around Leanda’s head when she won the Kona Ironman, triathlon’s iconic event. What a beautiful symbol and honor to be thus welcomed into the triathlete family!

south beach triathlon, thumbsup

A BIG ThumbsUp to ALL!! Thank you EVERYONE for making it possible!! Especially our sponsors Ultrabikex Key Biscayne and See Me In The Dark.

           This is only a first step!!
           Kerry Gruson
Read my race report HERE.

15 thoughts on “Her Words: How Kerry Gruson Felt The South Beach Triathlon

  1. Kerry; I cant believe it took this long to catch up to your fantastic story. Now, I will make sure all your Canadian family(the Saundercooks) and all your Canadian friends in Toronto, will see and hear about our famous Triathlete! You are our hero!

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