CNN Fit Nation Lucky Seven Recap: Jeff Dauler

"I’m now confident in my mental ability to overcome. I no longer think, 'This sucks. I can’t do this. This is awful.'"

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Every year, CNN assembles a group of “iReporters” to train for a key triathlon and hopefully make healthy lifestyle changes along the way. This year’s group was known as the “Lucky Seven” and took on the 2012 Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sept. 16. Each day of the next week we’ll introduce you to a member of the team and tell you a little bit about what he/she learned along the way. Today we profile Jeff Dauler.

“I didn’t understand in the beginning, when the CNN folks were explaining how transformative this would be, but in every aspect of this triathlon, it’s contributed to me being a better person. I’m much more prioritized in deciding what’s important to me. I’m now confident in my mental ability to overcome. I no longer think, ‘This sucks. I can’t do this. This is awful.’ I have more of a mental strength or stubbornness knowing that I can finish anything.”

Memorable Racing Moments:

  • “One was getting out of the water and having some of my teammates, people who were leaving the transition or in relays, or who were part of the CNN crew, telling me how well I did on the swim because I really had no sense of whether I did good or poorly. Hearing them say, ‘Oh my God, you had such a great swim!’ and getting pumped up from that was great.”
  • “Another memorable moment was looking up in the stands near transition one and seeing my parents standing up and cheering for me. It was really cool.”

Training Trials:

“Because I wasn’t athletic at all before starting the triathlon journey, I was really starting from zero. So I had to do something every single day, whether it was in the pool, or strength training, or going on a [bike] ride. Time management was the most difficult part. I had to say no to a few people on a few things, which is something that’s difficult for me. I had to prioritize and say, ‘No, I can’t really do that because I’ve got to train.’ So the most difficult part was getting into a routine.”

Training Triumphs:

“The best part was the little moments when things just clicked. I remember being in the pool one day and kind of struggling. I was in a 50-meter pool and three or four lengths into it, about halfway through one of the lengths, all of a sudden it just clicked. It was so much more efficient. The same thing happened on the bike. One day on the bike I realized that when I heard a car coming up behind me, I wasn’t gripping the handlebars or holding my breath anymore. I was just doing it. And those were the moments of like, ‘Holy crap! I’m really doing this.'”

Personal Lessons:

  • “There is a lot of camaraderie for such an individual sport, like on race day, and the encouragement from the other athletes who weren’t on my team, just strangers who were yelling out encouragement or advice, cheering me on. They just established a constant reminder to be kind and helpful, which seems so obvious and so easy, but it was really cool. It just meant so much to me on race day. I try to be more kind and helpful in my everyday life.”
  • “My coach April and her husband Ken were talking about how to handle transition. [April’s] transitions are all sub-20 seconds. Her shoes are already clipped to her bike, and she doesn’t wear gloves because it takes too long. She’s out of the water and on the bike in half a minute, where Ken sits down, dries off his feet and has a protein energy gel. He goes through transition much slower, so while April was talking about the two different ways to go through transition, she said, ‘It’s really important to remember that even in times of transition, you always need to keep moving forward.’ Obviously that makes total sense when talking about triathlons, but at the point where I was three months before in my life, having gone through a divorce and not really feeling very social, and kind of feeling stuck in a lot of areas in my life, that just really spoke to me, that regardless of what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis, no matter what’s happening, keep moving forward every single day because that’s the only way you stay in the race.”


  • Friends: “There was a time early on in the training where I would start to think of people that I knew who were struggling. I had a friend who was dealing with cancer and another friend who was dealing with the amputation of a couple of limbs, and I would try to use them as motivation and inspiration.”
  • Himself: “It’s odd because at some point, in a very unselfish way, the triathlon became all about me and I didn’t want to reference anyone else. It became my own journey. It became my own race, and it was important for me to do it for my own reasons with myself as the motivation. About a third of the way into it, I became my own inspiration. When I realized that I could do it, and I was doing it, I became the one who was firing myself up.”

Recent Race:

  • Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon at Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford, Ga.

Next Year’s Challenge:

  • 2013 Ironman 70.3 in Augusta

Advice for Triathlon Newbies:

“I often tell the story of the very first time I met with my coach. We met on this 5K trail near my house. We walked it, but at two points we ran, and I think I only ran for about four minutes. It was a quarter mile each time, and I was destroyed. I was winded, it sucked and I hated it. That was in January.

“In March, on Saint Patrick’s Day, I did my first 5K. In September, I did two triathlons. So the advice I give to anyone is just pick a day and start moving forward. A couple days later, move forward again, but move a little bit faster and a little bit longer. It happens quicker than you think it would.”

Want to be a member of the 2013 CNN Fit Nation team, or know someone who would be a good fit? Visit to learn how to be considered.

CNN Fit Nation Lucky Seven Recap: Carlos Solis
CNN Fit Nation Lucky Seven Recap: Denise Castelli
CNN Fit Nation Lucky Seven Recap: Nancy Klinger
CNN Fit Nation Lucky Seven Recap: Glenn Keller

Trending on Triathlete

Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.