Q&A: Catching up With Sue Reynolds One Year Later

By USA Triathlon | July 11, 2018, 4:50 p.m. (ET)
Sue Reynolds arrived at her first triathlon morbidly obese and out of shape — crossing the finish line in last place. Since then, she has transformed her mind and body, dropping 200 pounds and finishing Top 10 at the Draft-Legal Sprint World Championship. We caught up with Reynolds a year after publishing her inspiring story, and she shared how her life has changed and why everyone should try a triathlon.


USAT: What have you been up to in the past year? And, how many races have you completed?

Sue Reynolds: This year, I'm preparing for the sprint race at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, and the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Gold Coast in Australia. During the fall and winter months, my daily training focused on building a solid fitness base and developing strength. In late spring, my training started to include more intensive intervals. I've competed in four races this season to help get ready for Nationals and Worlds. My goal for each race was to learn as much as possible to help in the next race. I learned lots!


USAT: How has your life changed since you shared your story of weight loss and triathlon success?

Reynolds: Since sharing my story, I've had several additional opportunities to tell people about triathlon through newspaper, TV and podcast interviews. The response on Facebook has been amazing. A short video about my journey posted by a TV station received almost 300,000 views! Another post that appeared in Arabic had a significant response from individuals living in Arabic-speaking countries. As a result, I've enjoyed talking with people from all over the world about our personal journeys. One woman wrote that she put my photo on the wall at her office to remind her to never give up. A woman in Kenya wrote about her efforts to promote cycling for women in Kenya — a country where cycling is considered inappropriate for women. I was shocked by an unexpected offer from a book agent! I'm now in the middle of writing a book about my crazy journey from 335 pounds to Worlds. I'm just so happy that my story has the ability to help others begin their own personal journey — whatever that journey may be!


USAT: What kind of responses have you seen from people when you share your story?

Reynolds: When people hear about my story, they are often curious and have questions. The most common questions are 1. How did you lose the weight? Sound nutrition, including all food groups, and exercise. 2. Do you feel different? Absolutely! I feel like I'm a kid again! 3. What made you start losing weight? I just got tired of not being able to do things because of my size and fitness.

Many people tell me my story inspired them to begin their own fitness journey. Losing weight sometimes feels hopeless, and I'm so pleased my story is proof that you CAN exercise when you're obese and you CAN lose 100 or more pounds without drugs or surgery. When I'm at triathlons, people sometimes introduce themselves and tell me my story inspired them to do a triathlon. How cool is that? I feel so blessed that my story has the ability to inspire others.

People often respond to my story with kindness. My journey has taught me about the power of kindness. Sometimes, it's a smile or a thumb's up. Other times, it's a kind word at just the right moment to keep me going. Sometimes, perfect strangers will stop what they're doing to teach me how to do something new. Their kindness means so much. I am truly blessed.


USAT: What would you say to someone who thinks they could never do a triathlon?

Reynolds: When I talk to people about triathlon, they often say, “Oh, I could never do that!” They seem to have three misconceptions about triathlon that get in the way. One misconception is that the only triathlon distance is the IRONMAN distance. I explain that just like track and field, there are different events in triathlon, including the sprint event. As I walk through the sprint distance, people begin to envision themselves doing a triathlon and I can see them get excited by the possibility! 

Another misconception is that you have to be fast. I emphasize that for most people, endurance sports are about finishing, not about competing. You're simply trying to master the course and go the distance. You can go as slow as you'd like — you're just out for a leisurely swim, an easy bike ride and a slow jog or walk. You can rest along the way — no rush, no big deal. In my first triathlon, I brushed my hair and ate a sandwich after the swim!  I came in dead last, but felt like I had won the Boston Marathon! I was so proud of what I had accomplished. Crossing the finish line of your first triathlon feels amazing! 

The third misconception is that you have to be a good swimmer. I explain that in many local triathlons, the swim has been shortened to 400 to 500 meters to help first-timers, and you can do breaststroke, sidestroke, backstroke or even dog paddle! There are kayaks all along the course, and you are allowed to hold on to them to rest along the way.

Before we stop talking, I make sure they know about USAT's mytimetotri.com website where they can find lots of resources and tips for beginners, and make sure they know how to find triathlons around them.