Battling cancer, Nancy Reinisch closes in on her 100th triathlon
There are 234 members of the USA Triathlon 100 Race Club across the United States. Longtime Glenwood Springs resident Nancy Reinisch hopes to increase that number to 235 on Sunday afternoon in Longmont at the Outdoor Diva Sprint Triathlon.
Thanks to a family friend nearly 35 years ago, Reinisch first found interest in triathlons. Now, at age 65 and in the midst of a second battle with metastatic breast cancer, Reinisch is one completed triathlon away from reaching the 100 mark for her career.
While cancer has slowed down her pace and expectations as a triathlete, Reinisch is determined to cross the finish line for the 100th time, not only for herself, but for the Valley Settlement Project, which she is dedicating her effort toward in hopes of raising money for a charitable donation to the project.
The Valley Settlement Project helps meet the needs of immigrant families in the Roaring Fork Valley, and Reinisch felt compelled to do her part to help the immigrant families affected by the Lake Christine Fire.
“I feel like I’ve been running from cancer for 12 years now, so I want to help the people running from the fire up in El Jebel,” Reinisch said. “Many of those families are having tough times getting back into their homes due to the smoke and smoke damage in their homes.
“They can’t live in their homes, lost wages due to being displaced, and are struggling to pay rent,” she said. “Being able to raise money for those families is what I want to do.
“I’ve been very disturbed at the marginalization of immigrants in our country, and what we just did to them at the border; I just can’t live with that any longer,” Reinisch added. “I want to do my small part and help them out in any way I can to help get through similar adversities here.”
In 1987, Reinisch did her first triathlon in Glenwood Springs, in the now-defunct Tri-Glenwood Triathlon, which she competed in for 28 straight years. Back then, Reinisch trained by running around the block, riding her bike around Glenwood Park, and swimming wherever she could. As years went by, Reinisch ratcheted up her training, becoming a high-level triathlete.
Along the way, Reinisch, along with close friend Judy Haynes, founded the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team in 1999, giving the Western Slope its first women’s triathlon team, which now counts nearly 60 women a year as members. While with the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team, Reinisch guided a blind athlete, Nancy Stevens, to a world triathlon championship in Hawaii in 2005, and also competed for Team USA in a world triathlon event in Chicago in 2015 at the ITU World Sprint.
Despite being diagnosed with cancer on Oct. 2, 2006, Reinisch persevered through 16 chemotherapy treatments, all while competing in triathlons.
“I did my chemo treatments on a Friday, and was coaching our team on the following Wednesday,” Reinisch said. “I don’t think the team knew how distressed I was at that time, but I battled through because the sport of triathlon is my lifeline.
“Obviously, my family, my husband [Dr. Paul Salmen], my wonderful children [including former GSHS distance standouts Chas and Marco Salmen], and close friends helped me in that time,” she said. “But triathlon is my lifeline for mental and physical health. It helped me get through that tough time in my life, and it’s still helping me today with my second battle.”
Today, Reinisch has recalibrated her training regimen, allowing her to focus on being a “completer,” rather than a “competer” in triathlon events. Gone are the days of pounding pavement as a runner, as Reinisch has focused on walking the running parts. Additionally, Reinisch purchased a new upright bike, allowing her to save her energy while biking.
“That’s been hard for me to adjust to, because I’m so used to competing at a high level in triathlons, but now I have to be smarter, especially because I have cancer again,” Reinisch said. “I have to control what I can control, and not focus on the negative, only the positive. There’s nothing like the rush of crossing the finish line of a triathlon, so I’m focused on finishing now.”
What comes next for Reinisch is unknown. However, her latest scan showed no cancer growth, meaning for the first time since her second diagnosis she hasn’t seen a growth. With her 100th career triathlon on the horizon, Reinisch doesn’t have a plan for what to do next.
“I need to figure out a plan, because having a plan gives you a purpose, and having a purpose is a carrot to keep you going,” Reinisch said. “I have a lot of life left to live, and I want to take advantage of every day. Where we live is spectacular, and we have lots of opportunities to do great things, so that’s what I want people to do; live their lives, do good things, help others, and help themselves.”
To donate to Reinisch’s cause, visit her GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/nancy-100th-triathlon-fundraiser.