Rae Timme

– Triathlete and Retired Warden –

“I think most people don’t realize that this sport is not only for high level athletes, but that anyone that is motivated and committed to it can become a triathlete, even an overweight almost 60 year old like me!”

“With all my heart I believe that if I can accomplish the things that I have, ANYONE can. There is absolutely nothing spectacular about my talents or abilities, physical or otherwise. All it takes is making a commitment, developing a plan and following through. Also, the importance of a support system of mentors, friends and family cannot be under stated.”

Rae Timme was born and raised in Ft. Collins Colorado. and currently lives in Pueblo West, CO in the USA. For as long as she can remember, she has struggled to keep her weight at a healthy level. She was married at 20 and had her three kids by the time she was 27. For many years, taking care of her was at the bottom of her priority list. She has not or ever will be someone what is considered athletic.

Rae is, however, extremely motivated once she sets her mind to a specific goal, even a physical one. During her mid-thirties, she started walking in hopes that it would be a good way to relieve stress. Not only did it reduce her stress level, over the course of a year she also lost 50 pounds. In the beginning, she didn’t even change her diet that much that came a bit later as she became motivated from the initial loss.

Losing some weight from the walking gave her the nudge she needed to cut out the junk she was eating. At the time, she was a Correctional Officer at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex, which had just opened a military-style boot camp for non-violent, first time offenders. As the name implies, a major component of the program was based on physical training and overall wellness. The staff who worked with the offenders were required to pass a physical fitness test, based on Army standards. By state statute, female offenders were allowed the same opportunity to participate in this program, which could potentially provide them with a reduced sentence upon successful completion. Even though the ratio of male to female offenders was approximately 9-1, the fact that the program was co-ed made it both unique and challenging in corrections. Due to a shortage of female officers who could pass the PFT, Rae was approached by the unit Captain one day, who had seen her on her daily walks and asked her if she could run two miles. (The time allotted to pass the test was 16 minutes for males and 17:45 for women).

She’s not sure if she said it out loud, but she clearly remembers thinking to herself, “Why would anyone WANT to run two miles?” Her answer was that she could not, but the seed was planted… She was ready for a change at work and being able to qualify for a sergeant’s position at boot camp expanded her opportunities for promotion. Once she made the decision to at least try to pass the PFT, she had immediate support from a couple of her co-workers who happened to be runners. One of them was also a neighbor. One Sunday while she was at work in the facility visiting room, he marked a course of 2 miles, starting at her front door. It was cold and windy when she got home, and she was really hoping the call she would get from him was that it was too blustery to run. Rae didn’t make it the entire 2 miles that day without walking, but it wasn’t long before she did. A few weeks later, when she ran her two miles as part of the official qualification test, she passed with a time of 17:10! “Not only did I pass, I was the only person who passed that part of the test that day. It was unbelievable, and for the first time in my life, I felt like Rocky!” she says.

Rae loved her job at the boot camp. It was the first time in her career that she felt a part of a program that could really make a difference in the offenders’ lives. It was the most motivational work environment she had ever experienced as well. They were required to maintain their fitness levels and pass the run on a yearly basis. It was at boot camp that she had the opportunity to be motivated and mentored by one of the greatest friends she has ever had – Jerry McFarland, who had been an Army Ranger a few years before. No matter what it was Rae thought she couldn’t do; Jerry would not let her quit. He pushed her and inspired her like no one else had ever done before. She spent 3 years at boot camp before promoting back to the main facility as a lieutenant. Jerry and Rae were running partners until the time of his death in 2000 from lymphoma, a result of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Even though she kept running for a while after Jerry passed away, Rae never pushed herself outside of her comfort zone the way he did. It wasn’t long before running and eating healthy wasn’t the priority it once was, and she regained all of the weight she lost. In 2006, her sister Linda, who was 6 years younger than Rae, passed away from emphysema at the age of 45. She also had reoccurring breast cancer. In 2009, her brother Joe, who was 2 years younger, died of congestive heart failure, a condition that was sadly aggravated by his addiction to prescription meds. In 2010, she lost both of her parents. Her mom had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for several years, and her dad’s health declined rapidly soon after. Her dad had made arrangements for all of their ashes to be buried together, along with her brother Victor, who passed away when he was 3 from leukemia. That day at the cemetery was the first time Rae truly thought about her own mortality. She knew that most of her family would have lived longer and healthier lives had they taken better care of themselves. More than she ever had before, she felt a sense of urgency to do whatever she could improve her own health, as there was so much living she still needed to do.

About 3 years ago, Rae became aware of Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the CNN Fit Nation Challenge. Each January, she watched Dr. Gupta introduce a team of 6-7 every-day non-athletic people that she could really relate to. He told their individual stories and challenges, and explained how he and some of the other folks at CNN were going to provide them with the tools and training to complete a triathlon later that year. She wasn’t even sure what all was involved in a triathlon, but was impressed with their determination and commitment. In December of 2012, Rae submitted her video and essay as her entry for consideration as part of the 2013 team. More than 200 entries from across the country were received that year. She took comfort in knowing that there was no way hers would be seriously considered; as she was convinced there was no way she could successfully complete a triathlon.

No one was more surprised than she was that about a month later, Rae was notified that she had been selected as a part of the team! “It was me, four 30-somethings and a 28-year-old that would comprise the 2013 Fit Nation Six Pack,” she remembers. In all honesty, at the time, she really did not want to do a triathlon. She never thought she would be selected. The day she was notified, she remembers already doubting that she would be successful and thinking, “What did I get myself into?” Under the direction of Professional Triathlete and USAT certified trainer April Gellatly, and with the support of her teammates, she took it a step at a time. She also focused on her mantra “Keep moving forward,” inspired by 2012 team member Jeff Dahler. Her whole life changed direction, definitely for the better. Last year alone, in addition to the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, she did several 5Ks with her daughters and grandkids; 3 bike tours with my oldest daughter, to include the 3 day, 170 mile Pedal the Plains; hiked the Manitou Incline; and rode her bike nearly 30 miles to work. The best part is, Rae enjoyed every minute of it and has not felt this good for years! Dr. Gupta says that training for a triathlon is an opportunity to “hit the reset button on your life.”

Every year CNN selects six iReporters to race in a triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Three women and three men have been picked for the 2014 Fit Nation team. Follow the team on CNN at www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/fit.nation/. Rae supports ADCT is an amazing organization that I am proud to be associated with. It has a diverse board of directors, to include members that were adopted as infants, adoptive parents, and some without kids. For more information, please visit us at www.adoptiondreams.org. She also was inspired by a non-profit organization named Addict 2 Athlete, which helps individuals unite mind, body, and soul through twelve-step philosophy and exercise. You can find more information at www.addict2athlete.org.

Rae in her own words

How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?

The answer to the second question is easy-never in a million years!! Putting my thoughts on how it feels to be an inspiration to others into words is more difficult. Every single day I am inspired by people that are strong and determined. Most of us are our own worst critic and I guess I’m no exception. More often than not, when someone tells me that they are inspired by me, my thoughts immediately go to my shortcomings. That said, one I am so humbled that reading about my experience in a local newspaper inspired a member of the current Fit Nation team to submit his application last fall. Ron Cothran Jr, who lives in Pueblo CO and turned 50 last month, is training hard for his own first triathlon experience in Malibu on Sept. 14. It was a very strange feeling the first time we met in person to have him tell me that he was inspired by what I did last year and how it has changed his life. He is just one of so many special people that I would not have in my life if it weren’t for triathlon. 

Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?

Training for and doing a triathlon is extremely challenging, both mentally and physically. That said, anyone that is committed can be successful. I have personally seen competitors carrying and pushing their partners along the course. I have seen athletes without arms and legs. Athletes of all shapes, sizes and ages compete. For people like me, completion of a classic distance or Olympic is such a tremendous accomplishment. I am in awe of those that progress to ½ and full Iron Man competitions. I think the fact that the heart it takes to be a triathlete creates camaraderie that is global.

When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?

I began training in early February of 2013 and competed in my first triathlon at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon on September 8, 2014.

What motivates you in life?

I celebrated my 59th birthday this past Saturday which gave me an opportunity to reflect on this. I cannot describe how blessed I am. I have a husband, kids, grandkids, and so many friends in my life that I love so very much. I am very fortunate to be retired from a career that I am very proud of and feel like I made a difference in. We all leave a legacy, whether it is good or bad. I am motivated by making mine something everyone in my life will be proud of.

What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?

With all my heart I believe that if I can accomplish the things that I have, ANYONE can. There is absolutely nothing spectacular about my talents or abilities, physical or otherwise. All it takes is making a commitment, developing a plan and following through. Also, the importance of a support system of mentors, friends and family cannot be under stated.

Who inspires you? Why?

I have so many people that inspire me for reasons that are as unique as they are. Some of them are: Denise Castelli, whose story I heard the first time when Dr. Gupta introduced in January, 2012 as a member of that year’s triathlon challenge. Denise lost her leg due to an infection from an injury she sustained as a college soft ball player. When I first heard her story, I was blown away by the notion that instead of wallowing in self-pity over her situation, she had set a goal that is ambition for people that have both legs. On one of my first bike rides, Denise was assigned as my mentor for the day. Up until then, I had been pretty whiny about the challenges of riding with my 6 year old knee replacement (that has done great and I’ve had no issues). Watching Denise sail up a pretty significant hill with her prosthetic leg was a game changer for me. Whenever using my knee as an excuse pops into my head, which is practically never now, I just think of her. Rajesh Durbal was born with missing bones in both of his legs, and his right arm was partially developed. At the age one his legs and arm were amputated. He’s only 5 feet 4 inches tall. I had the pleasure of meeting and riding with this Kona Iron Man finisher last year as well. For much of the same reasons that Denise inspires me, I am amazed by Raj. He is an incredible athlete and person. I honestly do not see how anyone can complain about a physical ailment or discomfort after watching Raj bike, run, swim, or the way he approaches his life. Tom Clements was the Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Corrections until his murder in March of 2013, and was one of the biggest supporters I had last year in my training. He told me he would give anything for the opportunity that I had to be a part of Fit Nation and loved hearing about my experience. Tom’s primary passion was riding his bike. He shared with me that when he retired from his career with the Missouri Department of Corrections, he had hoped to ride his bike in each of the lower 48 states. Instead, he answered the call from Colorado Governor John HIckenlooper to lead the Colorado Department of Corrections. Being an avid biker himself, Governor HIckenlooper supported and encouraged the start of a three day bike tour throughout the Eastern plains of Colorado. While training for the inaugural event in the fall of 2012, Tom had a very serious crash on his bike that caused several broken bones and other serious injuries, keeping him in the hospital in very serious condition for several weeks. One day in January, 2013, when he was asking how my training was going, I shared with him that the fact that someone as experienced as he was had suffered such a serious accident was causing me some anxiety about learning how to ride the road bike that I didn’t even have yet. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me to wipe that thought out of my mind, and that I was going to absolutely love my bike. A couple of short weeks later, at what turned out to be the last time I would see him before he was killed, he started the warden’s meeting bragging about me to my peers. I cannot even explain how I felt when he told the group that I was his inspiration when he went to his physical therapy. It still gives me goose bumps to think about it. The morning after his murder, I was thinking about how I was going to break the news of his death to my staff as I made my 45 minute commute. It was then that I made the decision to dedicate the remainder of my training and the Malibu Triathlon itself to Tom Clements. I cannot count the number of times that I tapped into his motivation and inspiration when I felt “too tired” or unmotivated to do whatever it was I needed to do. His wife graciously sent me a picture of him on his bike, and I carry it with me. I have his name on my CNN kit. Tom always said that he loved wind and hills. I’m not especially fond of other. Just last month on a challenging ride that had both, I thought of him as I always do to get me through them. It was on that day I decided it was time to christen my bike “Clementine”. The members of Addict2Athlete, especially the founders, Rob and Sheena Archuleta. I became aquainted with them last year when Rob was asked by CNN to be my local mentor as I prepared for my first Triathlon. Both Rob and Sheena are recovering drug addicts who together lead a group of some of the most inspirational people I have ever met. Rob is an Ironman triathlete, marathon runner, Certified Personal Trainer, Crossfit Level 1 Trainer, Certified Insanity Trainer, Chemical Abuse Counselor Level III, Prevention Specialist Level II, Certified Child and Family Investigator and has a BS in Sociology, with an emphasis on Criminology. It just made sense to me that exercise and support groups go hand in hand. Sheena had never been athletic until she helped start Addict 2 Athlete. Since then, she has shown what determination can do. Sheena is now an ultra-marathon runner and triathlete. They founded A2A on the premise that “Recovery philosophies are wonderful, but if the mind and body are not in synch, the war on addiction is more difficult. Having seen the need for the mind and the body to be as one, A2A was born.” Testimonials of some of those that are transforming their lives managing addictions and becoming physically healthy can be found on their website, addict2athlete.org. I have had the privilege of working out and becoming friends with some of these amazing people and athletes and am continually inspired by each of them. They are the epitome of success!

How did you deal with obstacles in your life?

Sometimes it is easier said than done, but reminding myself that any challenge or obstacle that I am faced with could most likely be a lot worse, and that a lot of people deal successfully with bigger issues than I do every day seems to put things in perspective. The last 7 years of my career, I had the opportunity to be directly involved with a program for offenders in Colorado referred to as “7 Habits on the Inside”, based on the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Dr. Steven Covey. I learned more than I can say about dealing with obstacles from the volunteer instructors and the offenders that embraced the principles at the core of the book.

What do you like most about Triathlons?

The journey and the triathlon community! I love the feeling of accomplishment during training, the camaraderie and inspiration from my team mates and work out partners, and even from people I don’t actually know who I watch working towards their goals. I am so very blessed to have a huge cheering section in the form of my family, friends, and co-workers (last year). Their support and faith in me truly gets me through those moments when I doubt myself. I also appreciate the fact that literally anyone can experience all that triathlons have to offer. I think most people don’t realize that this sport is not only for high level athletes, but that anyone that is motivated and committed to it can become a triathlete, even an overweight almost 60 year old like me!! Finally, I would not know some of the most important people that are in my life today and for the rest of my life if it were not for Triathlon. Not only do they hold such a special place in my heart, they are the strongest, most inspiring people in the world. My life literally would not be the same without them. Before Triathlon, I did not know how to swim and had never been on a road bike. Even though I am not particularly strong in either discipline, I can honestly say I love doing them both and plan on swimming and riding for the rest of my life.

Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons

It doesn’t seem quite right to take credit for , but without a doubt the amazing people that my kids grew to be is what I am the most proud of in my life. I’m not just saying this because I’m their mom-each one of them are loving parents in their own right and are compassionate and caring contributing members of society. This past January, I officially retired as a Warden after 25 years with the Colorado Department of Corrections. That experience began in 1988 when I was looking for a steady job in the small town of Buena Vista Colorado. My first job with CDOC was as a part time accounting technician with a 120 round trip commute each day. As time went on and I grew personally and professionally, I became a correctional officer, a drill sergeant at the department’s boot camp, a shift commander, a hearings officer, a housing supervisor, custody and control and programs manager, associate warden and warden. During the last year of my career, my facility made history in Colorado when we successfully evacuated 903 inmates due to the Royal Gorge fire. The fact that I didn’t finish college had bothered me since 1977, when I should have graduated. After my youngest daughter graduated from High shool, I decided to do something about that. In 2009, I FINALLY received my BA in Business Administration from Adams State College (now Adams State University) in Alamosa Colorado. I am fairly certain that I am the only person who walked during the ceremony that day who had their grandchildren present.

Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?