Tuesday, December 1, 2009


By Teresa Brenneke

Teresa, aka "T" or "Coach T," is a highly accomplished multisportswoman and an Endurance Coach with Life Time Fitness.

How many times have you been in the middle of the lake, the water churning around you from all the other athletes swimming, somebody swims over you, leaving you gasping for air, and your mind starts to wonder, why? Why am I here? What am I doing? I don’t have to do this, but you keep on going. What makes us keep going? What is the motivation to get up at 5AM to swim 2500yds before heading into work? Why do we go out for a 50mile training ride when it is 45 and drizzling on a Sunday morning?

For many it is not an age group win at a local race, it is not trying to earn a qualifying spot for Kona; it is setting a goal and pursuing that goal. Believing that if you follow your training plan, get plenty of sleep and proper nutrition you will reach or exceed that goal.

Being a personal trainer and endurance coach has allowed me to be blessed to work with all different types of people. I gravitate to the athletes because they are self motivated, often needing more help with taking rest, than training hard. Shannon is one of those individuals.

I was introduced to Shannon Nelson in 2008. Shannon was already an accomplished athlete completing in well over 50 endurance events including IM Florida in 2004, and 15 marathons. But in 2005 Shannon was starting her taper for the Fargo Marathon when she was sidelined by making a decision to donate one of her kidneys to her brother, an easy decision for Shannon. Determined to get back to training she registered and for an IM Florida 2006 thinking that she had plenty of recovery time. But, it was too soon to push her body to do what was necessary, and she decided to skip the event.

The kidneys remove toxins and waste products, and are responsible for regulating the amount of water and salt in the blood. As an endurance athlete, it is a challenge to keep the body fluids at the correct levels so that performance is not affected during long endurance training and racing. For Shannon with one kidney, this challenge is magnified. She has spent the past few seasons learning how her body functions on one kidney and adjusting her training, nutrition, and recovery as needed.

In 2009 she complete her first long triathlon with her new body, the Liberty ½ Ironman. She finished, but experienced terrible cramping on a hot day. This experience left

her wondering if maybe it is just too much or, is there more to learn. The call to set a goal and reach for it is in Shannon’s blood, so she set out to learn more, and signed up for the Chicago Marathon. Her thoughts were if the Marathon went well, she would once again attempt the Ironman distance. Chicago was a success!

A week ago, Shannon was able to land one of the slots available for IM Arizona 2010. GO SHANNON!

May the Spirit of Triathlon live on with all of you as it does with Shannon! Enjoy your Journey! - Coach T

Team Minnesota's Jonathan Balabuck responded via e-mail:

Your story of Shannon; Awesome. It is nice to see that the gift of life is truly embraced in our community. In 2004, I had just finished Hawaii IM and it went anything but stellar, yet I was happy to finish. My mind was racing another race during the grind to Alii drive; my mother, who was in attendance was sick. She had renal failure due to type 2 diabetes. Back at at the hotel, she had a dialysis machine in which she had to go get 'cleaned' by one a day and during the night while in Hawaii. On the run this all came to the fore, and I then realized that within a month, I would be beginning my recovery from surgery. Hawaii was October 13th I believe, we successfully underwent kidney transplant Nov 17th (that i know) in Toronto. After Hawaii everything would change- so i thought.

It was that race when everything became real, and that this stupid disease (or any for that matter) takes no prisoners, nor does it look at a person's 401k portfolio, it just sucks plain and simple.

Recovery took longer than I expetected, but then again, I decided to run Boston in April- I was happy to have a goal, but that was way over my head in 2005 when I started running again in January.

Shannon: thanks for being you, realizing chasing pb's and finisher medals have a place on the mantle, and that the gift of life is far more rewarding than any sports achievement. -JB