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From MTV VJ to born-again triathlete.
Kennedy rolls up to the corner of Ocean and San Vicente in Santa Monica, Calif., dressed like a triathlete ninja: kitted out in black and straddling a brand-new Specialized Shiv.
“Now I have a bike that’s worth more than my car!” she beams, as if that were the final requirement to her becoming a bona fide triathlete. Never mind that she’s been racing since 1995, when she pulled on a long-sleeved wool undershirt in T1 at Massachusetts’ Marlborough sprint triathlon and came in “pretty close to last.”
Back then, Kennedy (née Lisa Kennedy Montgomery) was busy presenting bands to the cool crowd as an MTV VJ, a job she surely began training for in junior high when she ditched the track team to join show choir.
“In Oregon, track and cross-country were a religion—they weren’t even a sport,” she says. Her dad completed the Boston Marathon. Her brother ran track. Kennedy sang Broadway tunes and perfected her jazz hands. She started running again in her early 20s with her MTV colleagues, often logging the 6 miles home from work at Long Island’s MTV beach house on foot. Then a knee injury forced her to stop running, so she started swimming, and later put her newfound aquatic skills to the test by racing her first tri in Massachusetts. She hasn’t stopped racing since, no matter how hectic her life gets.
Right now, for instance, she’s finishing up a memoir while hosting a popular drive-time radio show, filling in on KFI AM talk radio, contributing to Fox News and Reason magazine, taking care of her two daughters, ages 3 and 7, and keeping the flame burning with her former-pro snowboarder husband, Dave Lee. That morning in Santa Monica when she was stealthily dressed, she was doing her final long ride and run before tackling her first half-iron-distance race at the Big Kahuna Triathlon in Santa Cruz to celebrate her 40th birthday (she finished seventh in her age group).
But there was something more than turning the big 4-O that renewed this lifelong triathlete’s passion for the sport.
“My mom was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010,” Kennedy says. “It was so devastating—she’s a breast cancer survivor. I felt so helpless.”
A colleague suggested Kennedy get involved with Team in Training. “That’s when I really rededicated myself to tri,” she says. “I thought, if my mom’s going through chemo and isn’t as physically capable of doing things as she’d like to, I’ll use my body to its full potential right now to honor her and give me an outlet. It helped me to not feel so helpless.”
So Kennedy jumped headfirst into training, despite receiving her own diagnosis of celiac disease the same year.
She raised more than $9,000 before racing the South Maui Triathlon in 2011. “High-fiving my mom across the finish line was one of the greatest feelings in my life!” Kennedy says, noting she dropped 10 minutes off of her time in 2012.
“I admire Kennedy a lot,” says her Team in Training coach, Nate Moore. “Even when she has three or four different things going on, she always finds time to train. The lifestyle has become part of her DNA.”
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And this rechristened triathlete shows no sign of slowing down.
“The more I challenge myself, the more motivated I become,” she says. “I have been having so much fun!”