Six years ago, mother of four Melissa Kahn had a choice: get busy living or get busy dying. Morbidly obese, sedentary and on the doorstep of multiple health crises, Melissa decided to get busy living. After losing 110 pounds, she took up running, finished her first triathlon and found her inner-athlete. She writes about her journey and connects with her global community at Run, Heifer, Run.
We are thrilled to announce the sponsorship of athlete and ShokzStar Melissa Kahn in the Himalayan Rush Triathlon. Check out our interview with Melissa Kahn below!
You’re training for the Himalayan Rush 2018 triathlon in Nepal. Congratulations! How are you feeling?
Melissa: I’m tired. I’m in disbelief that someone like ME could ever hope to participate in something as monumental as a Himalayan Triathlon. Someone who, up until a few years back, was morbidly obese, unhappy, insecure, and in all honesty, lazy. It’s a total honor to be participating in one of the world’s most adventurous triathlons, and it scares me to death.
You’ve been on a six-year journey to become a healthier and happier you and have lost 110 pounds along the way. That’s incredible! Was completing a triathlon always the dream?
Melissa: Up until recently, it wasn’t even in the game plan. I had never ever hoped to become a triathlete. It wasn’t even on my radar as something that was remotely POSSIBLE for “someone like me.” I participated in a triathlon two years ago, and it nearly killed me. Improper and incomplete training, stemming from a lack of information and research on my part, resulted in near disaster in the water. Completing the Himalayan Rush triathlon is going to render me speechless.
Why the Himalayan Rush Triathlon in particular? Was it the ice-cold Himalayan lake water that drew you in? 😉
Melissa: Well, anyone following me on twitter with my #WeatherWeenie videos will be rolling their eyes reading this. I hate cold. As in, HATE it. Anything below 70` renders me in 5 layers, wool socks, and three hats before a run. The Himalayan Rush Tri drew me in because it seems impossible. For “someone like me” to even DREAM of completing something like this - just unbelievable. Finishing it will signify to me that no matter HOW HARD something seems, and how unachievable it may be, if you put your mind to it, relabel your dream as a goal, then make a plan, truly anything is possible. Also, I’ve asked them to heat that water up for me. Because, #WeatherWeenie.
Let’s talk about training. What does a typical week look like for you?
Melissa: Normally, before tri training, I’ll do a run two or three times per week at 5am, then gym class the other days, also at 5am. These days, I keep that schedule then add in a swim, bike, and sometimes another run afterwards. Some days I’m doing an entire mini-triathlon after my weight training class in order to get my body used to the pain that’s coming. I’m doing big gear drills (don’t ask, they aren’t nearly as much fun as they may sound) on my bike and have learned that dreaming about a triathlon and training for one are two entirely different beasts. One is a whimsical thought - the other one is pure hell on my body. And I love every minute of the pain because it tells me that #iKahn do it, as long as I focus and keep my eye on the goal (finishing alive).
Whether you’re training for a 5K or a triathlon, there are going to be physical and mental challenges along the way. What challenges have you faced so far? What has helped you overcome them?
Melissa: Most of my challenges are internal. The ever-present “you’re not an athlete, you’re not good enough to play with the cool kids” thoughts. As much as my HEAD knows these thoughts are not true, sometimes my heart needs a little kahn-vincing. My physical challenges are rough and intense. I’m not a great swimmer (or biker, or runner now that I think about it). I fight for every stroke, every step, and every mile. I don’t have great muscle tone - all I have is pure grit and determination, and I really hope that’s enough to get me up a 3000-foot climb on the bike in 12 miles. I’m afraid.
Let’s not forget about those mini victories! Do you celebrate those? Is there a particular “I can do this!” moment that sticks out?
Melissa: I have those moments from time to time, mostly after I’ve completed a hard workout that I was scared of. And let me be honest: I’m afraid a lot. I see my training plan one week in advance only. My coach knows I worry too much - so she sends me them only six days at a time. I see the workout coming (at time of writing this blog, I have a very hard one tomorrow, I’m already stressed out, doubting myself and worrying that it might kill me)... so once I’ve completed those workouts, even if it’s not a GREAT result - I feel the “mini-victory” emotion. Each mini victory will add up to the main victory (finishing the race) and for that, I am thankful. I’m determined, I’m stubborn, and as I said, I’m pretty scared.
In your last blog post, you refer to yourself as The Unlikely Athlete. Do you have any advice to share for those who are reading this and are thinking, “I could never do that!”?
Melissa: I really FEEL like the Unlikely Athlete. Someone like ME - someone who was morbidly obese their entire life until recently - how else would you classify them? Nobody looked at me six years ago and said, “now THERE’S a woman who’s going to finish a triathlon.” They looked at me and thought, “Now THERE’S a woman who’s going to finish that large pizza!” I’m unlikely because I’m doing something I never thought I could do. For anyone in the same situation, I say YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BY TRYING. You have EVERYTHING to gain, and absolutely nothing to lose. Maybe pride, but otherwise, nothing. I’ve fallen down, I’ve failed, I’ve gotten back up and tried again. And isn’t that what life is all about? Trying until it gets easier, and until you’ve got the courage to try and try again every single day until you make progress. The pain of staying still should propel you into the pain of moving forward. You get to choose your pain. Choose wisely. Choose health. You’re worth it.
Himalayan Rush finisher and 2018 Melissa Kahn is reading this. What message would you like to leave for her?
Melissa: You did it. You actually did it. Go have a cookie already, you’re looking a little too thin.