NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Jeanette Dudda came from Germany 10 years ago to work as an au pair. Now she finds herself a triathlete, a college graduate and, hopefully in a few months, an Ironman-distance finisher.
“I never would’ve have seen myself doing this when I first came here,’’ said Dudda, who will climb another triathlon mountain Sunday when she competes in the Mighty Moss Half Iron Triathlon at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. “If someone had said then at some point, you’ll be doing an Ironman-distance triathlons, I’d have been like, ‘Yeah, right, that won’t be happening.'”
Dudda’s main focus is the Rev3 Cedar Point triathlon in Sandusky, Ohio, on Sept. 7. The distance includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. The intermediate step is Sunday’s race, which includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. The event is one of several summer triathlons staged by Westport-based Team Mossman.
She has been competing in triathlons for three years. In December, Dudda entered an essay in a contest conducted by Pacific Swim Bike Run of Stamford saying why she should be chosen for free training, gear and entry into the Cedar Point event. She was one of two people selected to win the package.
“I’m very surprised the way it turned out,’’ Dudda said. “In talking with friends, we said one day in our lives before we hit 35 or 40, we’d love to do the Ironman distance. I trained myself for the Olympic distance, and after seeing all the training I’m doing now, I don’t know if I’d push myself this far. Having a trainer helps so you know what expect.”
Dudda, a teacher in Germany, worked for a Darien family and started taking classes at Norwalk Community College. “The plan was to work here for a year or two and then go back to Germany,’’ she said. “I found out I really liked being away from home and learning a different language.”
She earned a degree from the University of Connecticut and started running. Shortly afterward, Dudda and friends decided to try triathlons.
“We enjoyed it a little more because it was a mix of everything,’’ Dudda said. “And I enjoyed being here and living here. I made close friends who I call my family. When you come over as an au pair, you don’t know anybody. The friends I have now, we’ve been together for a couple of years and they are like my second family. They help push me.”
Her commitment to fitness surprises her family back in Frankfurt. “I go home once a year, and every time I go home, I gain weight,’’ she said. “I miss the food there, and my friends. I don’t know if I’d be doing triathlons if I had gone back to Germany. I realize now a lot of people in my hometown let themselves go. I don’t ever want to get to that point. My friends back home are not as sports-minded. When I talk to them about the challenge of the triathlon, they’re like, ‘Are you crazy?’’’
Dudda’s journey to triathlon competition may be unique, but there’s no turning back now.
“It has become a passion,’’ she said. “When I have a day off, I still want to go out and run or do something. I just enjoy everything about the whole triathlon community.”
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