More: Was there any part of the triathlon that you were dreading but that turned out differently than you expected?
MP: I was really dreading the biking part because, like I said, I was on a rented bike. The rain really scared me and so did the distance. The fact that we were on the West Side Highway also scared me. But I got into this groove with three other women who were around my same age, which was such a beautiful gift. I didn’t know them, but when we started biking, we realized we basically complemented each other. I’m a really good uphill biker, so I would pass them on the uphill. I’m really chicken to go super fast on the downhill, so they would pass me on the downhill. Then I would pass them on the uphill. At one point, I was like, “Leapfrog, you’re it!”
Then, the really super fast guys that were on the United States’ Olympic team came flying by us on their way back, and we were all cheering them and yelling. So the biking, the part that I was most terrified about, was the most fun because of the other women that I got into this groove with. We weren’t competing against each other, we were all just trying to finish the race and have a good fun time. It was awesome. We kind of all just looked out for each other.
More: Was there any point at which you just wanted to give up?
MP: Yeah, during the run. It was way hillier than I thought it was. This is so sappy: I wear a necklace with my daughter’s name on it, and at one point I just started kissing my necklace and saying her name. I wasn’t in it to win the Olympics, but I just had to keep going.
More: Two people died during this triathlon, one man and one 40-year-old woman. Was that a possibility that ever crossed your mind?
MP: No! When I saw the news, I was totally shocked. That’s terrifying, absolutely terrifying.
Triathlons are becoming very popular now for some reason, and I don’t know if people are training properly. This was a really hard race. This was not a “jump in and see how it works out” kind of thing like some of the past sprint triathlons are that I’ve done.
More: Are you already planning for your next race?
MP: Yeah, I’m debating [laughs]. I might do the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, which I did last year and actually won the celebrity division. So I might do that one on September 17, 2011. My husband and I also like to do the Catalina Island Triathlon because it’s right here, and it’s fun.
The next thing I have on the books for sure is the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland. I’m a spokesperson for the race, which is going to be so fun; you run through the park!
More: What advice would you offer to women who have never run competitively?
MP: You can do it. That’s really it. It’s so cheesy and cliché, but honestly, if anyone in high school knew I was doing this, they wouldn’t believe I’m little Ms. Athlete right now. Just get a structured plan and be consistent. That’s the whole secret: Just be consistent. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s something that’s just for you.
That feeling of crossing the finish line is like nothing else in the world. I started crying during the last mile of the Nautica race. I started thinking about my dad who passed away a little while ago. I started thinking about different friends I lost this year. Different people who couldn’t be here to do what I’m doing or who couldn’t do what I was doing. I just felt so grateful.
Don’t miss out on MORE great articles like this one. Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter!