Meet our August featured athlete Nancy Reinisch, a Colorado resident, cancer survivor and coach of the Roaring Fork Women’s Tri Team, who is excited to return to her hometown to race in front of family and friends.
WTS Chicago: What does it mean to you to qualify for the World Championships?
Nancy Reinisch: It is a huge honor for me to qualify for the ITU World Championships in Chicago. I am 62 years old and contracted AOA or adult onset athleticism (coined by Sally Edwards!) at age 34 when I did my first local triathlon. Since that time I co-founded the Roaring Fork Women’s Tri Team. My life has been centered on creating a place where women can find their “inner athlete” in a safe and cooperative environment while learning the basics of swim, bike, run training. Ten years ago I was the sighted guide and coach to team member and blind triathlete Nancy Stevens. Together we qualified for the ITU World Sprint Championships in the AWAD (athletes with a disability) division in Honolulu. We were the first all woman blind and sighted duo to complete and win gold at the Worlds level. It was a thrilling experience to be Nancy’s guide. But since that time I have always wanted to return to a world event as an athlete myself. Life, career, coaching and health setbacks never quite gave me the “speed” I needed to qualify at the national level. Last year, I set a goal to qualify in Milwaukee. I trained hard and I thoroughly focused. I crossed the finish line 19th — good enough to qualify for Chicago [by being in the top 25]! Only to find out an hour later that six people “aged up” in their age group, which put me at 27th — or second on the waitlist. I waited all winter, all summer, and just four weeks ago USA Triathlon notified me that I was “in”! I literally cried on the phone when [Team USA Coordinator] Lauren told me. I think she had no idea I was looking at my emails daily to see if anyone had dropped out. She made me a very happy athlete! I am very grateful and excited to wear the Team USA uniform and compete for the first time with some amazing athletes in September. Bucket list doesn’t do it justice.
WTS: What obstacles have you overcome to be a triathlete?
NR: I have always considered myself “lucky in life.” I have had the blessing of growing up in a wonderful family, having a terrific husband, raising two fantastic sons, surrounding myself with good friends, and all with the beauty of Colorado in the background. In 2006, at 53, I was thrown off my lucky trajectory with a diagnosis of stage 2 invasive breast cancer. The cancer journey took me through six surgeries, bilateral mastectomy, 16 rounds of chemotherapy and five years of adjuvant hormonal therapy. With the help of my own triathlon experience and that of the team I coach, the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team, I was able to use the mental and physical skills of triathlon training to get me through those frightening and challenging cancer years.
I wrote a book called “Chemosabee, A Triathlete’s Journey Through the First Year of Breast Cancer” to support other “cancer athletes” through the diagnosis of cancer. I am almost 10 years in recovery and triathlon remains my best treatment and prevention for reoccurrence.
WTS: What are you most looking forward to about competing on the world stage?
NR: I am excited about everything! I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago before moving to Colorado. My father’s business was at the Merchandise Mart on the Chicago River downtown. We spent many childhood years exploring museums, joining Chicago Fire House tours, and taking the annual summer road trip to the city with all of my siblings packed in the station wagon to watch Buckingham Fountain explode with colors as the evening grew dark. I look forward to sharing these memories with my brothers, sister and mother who still live in the area. As I grew older and triathlon became part of my life story my husband and I competed annually in the Mrs. T Chicago Triathlon. For the past 30 years I have been a recreational age group triathlete — it’s all about fitness and fun to me. This event is extra special because I will have the opportunity to race at the same venue that the 2016 Olympic women and men hopefuls will race on … and we have grandstand seats at Buckingham Fountain to watch them finish! Competing in Chicago with not just the USA Team but with athletes from all over the world is about as close to being in the Olympics for me as I will ever get! Bring on the Parade!