7-21 triathlon

Missy Kohout with daughters, Kayci, left, and Enslei, right, after completing the Danskin Women’s Triathlon in Austin, Texas, June 6.

It began with a friend telling her, “If I can do this, you can do it.”

There was doubt, to be sure, that she could do it.

A triathlon? But then, Missy Kohout had always been active. An aerobics instructor at the Simmons Center, she was familiar with attitude, the inner friend that helps one get things done.

“My motto is, ‘I don’t quit’,” Kohout said, with a smile on her face, one recent afternoon.

So she didn’t. She pushed through hours of training, hours of forcing her body to do things it was not comfortable doing, all the while, in the back of her mind, her friend’s encouraging voice whispering, “If I can do this, you can do it.”

The transformation began in August.

“I started walking and swimming and I bought a bike, which is the hardest part for me,” she said.

“But it’s changed my body the most, I think.”

It has. Although the bubbly blond considers herself to always have been healthy, the training shaped her body into something new. To date, the 39-year-old mother of two has dropped 70 pounds.

“What changes you is doing things that you’re not comfortable with,” she said.

“I’ve always played to my strengths. I always did things that I liked to do, that my body was comfortable with. It was only when I broke away from what was comfortable did I see changes.”

The Danskin Women’s Triathlon would prove to be a challenge worth the hard work.

With a goal of finishing the race in under two hours, Kohout joined 3,000 other women on a mission to prove to themselves that beyond all doubt, they could do this.

The trek began with a 1/2 mile swim in open water, through Austin’s Decker Lake.

“They send you off 100 at a time every two minutes,” she said, explaining the uneasiness that came at first when approaching the water. But then, once out past the algae and into a rhythm, the ease of the swim, of doing what months of training taught her to do.

Then, land. A 12-mile bike ride through the mountains. A bike ride, she said, that was all uphill, the most difficult aspect of the race for her.

Finally, a 5K run to the finish line, through an open field.

In the end, Kohout finished 45th out of 555 competitors in her age category. And she did it in under two hours.

“The woman that starts the race is not the woman that finishes the race,” she said. “It’s really been life changing. I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot more than I ever thought I was.”

The strength she’s gained has spilled over to influence her students and her children.

“The intensity of my classes have stepped up a bunch and I’m becoming a personal trainer,” she said. “But rather than just hearing me say it, they see me do it. I think I’ve taught them that it is possible.”

But Kohout knows that the one person she owes the most thank-yous to is that friend, who told her, “If I can do this, you can do it.”

And though Jean Schalit couldn’t be with her because of a family loss, Kohout said her friend was with her every step of the way through the race, in spirit.

“Because you inspired me to do it,” she said.

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