GREENWICH, Conn. – Ten years ago, Greenwich Triathlon Club co-president Michele Aulenti of Stamford never could have seen herself as an endurance athlete.
But last weekend, she finished the half Rev race in Old Orchard Beach Maine, consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. She completed the same distance at an event last year in Croton, N.Y., and has completed 12 triathlons over the past four years.
But when Aulenti, now 28, graduated from Westhill High School, she weighed 260 pounds and hit 280 just a few months later. “I stepped on the scale and said, ‘Oh my, god, are you kidding me?’’’ she said. “When I saw that number, I knew I had to get my act together. I started cutting how much food I ate and kept going to the gym.”
She finished her first triathlon in 2009, a sprint distance event in Fairfield. She finished her second one six days later and was hooked. “I came into triathlons from a bicycle group,’’ Aulenti said. “Triathlons rekindled my love for swimming. I was on swim teams as a kid and really enjoyed it. I have to work on my running. That’s still my weak link.”
Aulenti played soccer, basketball and softball at Westhill, so she had an athletic background. She recalled watching the Stamford KIC IT Triathlon, and it sparked her interest. “When I was in college I just wanted to lose weight and be healthier,’’ she said. “I saw the triathlon, and I was in total amazement. I told myself I want to do something I couldn’t have done before.”
She has a support system from the Triathlon Club, which she joined in 2009. She is now co-president with Greenwich resident Stephanie West. “The people in the club are very like-minded,’’ Aulenti said. “We have the same personality traits. It’s enjoyable being around people that very similar. It’s grown to be quite a family.”
Her new lifestyle has affected other areas of her life as well. Aulenti transitioned into a teaching career and is a certified physical education teacher. She also teaches yoga. An injury prevented her from running a marathon last spring, but she is registered for an Ironman race in November. That distance includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. “I know I have the mental discipline to finish,’’ Aulenti said.
She finished her race in Maine in 7 hours, 2 minutes and 13 seconds and was fifth in the Athena division for women weighing more than 150 pounds. Time, place and results are not Aulenti’s primary motivation. It’s all about committing to a lifestyle and distancing herself from a dangerous and destructive path.
“Triathlons and fitness have really become a primary focus in my life,’’ Aulenti said. “My health has to come first. I’ve lived a large part of my life unhealthy, and I won’t go back to that. Racing keeps me motivated. It helps keep me on this path.”