Cherie Gruenfeld is one of the crown jewels
of triathlon racing.
She is many faceted and shines as one of the best of
the best. When
you list her accomplishments they become a staggering list of
wins and near wins.
Considering Ironman alone from 1992-2000,
she has nine consecutive finishes in Hawaii and four Age Group
wins, including back-to-back first-place finishes in 1999 and
2000. She holds
the current Age Group record of 11:58:29 in the 55-59 Age
Group, which she set in 1999, her best finish ever. She set standing
course records when she finished first in her age group at
Ironman Europe ’97 with a time of 11:17:42, and at Ironman
Lake Placid ‘99 with a time of 12:23:07. She also placed second
at Ironman New Zealand in 1994. Cherie earned the only
perfect 100 score in the 1999 World Triathlon Corporation
Age-Group Rankings, which won her the unofficial title of the
“fittest of the fit” for Ironman age-group racing that
tribute to her excellence, Ironman named her women’s 2000
Age Grouper of the Year.
Does this mean she eats, sleeps and lives
You would think so, but not by a long shot. Although she was on
the All-American Team from ’94 thru ’99 and was ranked #1
(USAT) in ’94 and ’99, she found time to branch out to
other sports. Cherie
competed in the Furnace Creek 50’s Bike Race, the first
She also was a Gold Medalist in ’96, ’97, and ’98
in the Snowshoe Race at the Senior Winter Games.
Cherie’s husband, Lee Gruenfeld, is a
Since she has now retired, they split their time
between their homes in Lake Arrowhead and Palm Springs,
spending several days at each place during the week. This gives Cherie
plenty of variety in her training locale.
She starts training the end of February or
the first of March and has a fairly set schedule. She takes Monday off,
Tuesday she swims and bikes, Wednesday swims and does a “brick”,
Thursday swims and does a long bike, Friday swims and does a
run in the hills.
On Saturday she does a ride with some climbs and on
Sunday she does a long run followed by a swim. When she trains she’s
very serious about it, but during the off-season – it’s
time to play. She
still bikes, swims and runs but not with the same intensity. That’s
when she does her snowshoe racing and women’s bike rides.
So much has been written about this athlete
that you wonder, is there more to know about Cherie? The answer is
Cherie has a background in the computer business, was
an elementary teacher and also taught children with learning
that she’s retired, she uses her time to coach others. She also does a lot of
Last year she was giving a motivational
speech at a school in a high-risk environment on Exceeding
She used athletics as one method for setting goals and
building discipline. After her talk,
she asked the teachers to recommend some students who might be
willing to train for a triathlon.
In December, she started out with 14 boys
and one girl, ages 11and 12. These kids were from
poverty-level families and had no clothes or equipment for
training for a triathlon. Cherie’s friends
donated money for running clothes and shoes, and helped repair
The kids made a commitment and were faithful in their
training. It was
up to Cherie and the teachers to get the kids where they
needed to be because the parents were either not interested or
didn’t have the means to do it.
None of the kids knew how to swim, so the
high school swim team agreed to do the swim leg for them. Their first race of
the season was the Desert Tri on April 8, 2001. The kids spent the
night in a motel and were raring to go at race time. Cherie and all fifteen
of her kids finished the race and were the hit of the day for
the crowds. They
gave high five’s to Bill Bell while out on the course and
were really excited when Cherie introduced them to Paula Newby
The changes in these 15 kids have been very
noticeable and they’re pleased to be the envy of their peers
(more want to join the program now!). With her usual
dedication, Cherie plans to continue on through the summer
with her team of youngsters. Even the high school
boys who did the swim leg are all excited now and want to try
a triathlon themselves.
How’s that for being motivational?
So Cherie will continue her training for
Big Rock, Wildflower, Keauhou, Lake Placid in July and then on
to Kona with Lee.
Hopefully she’ll make this three for three and take
that Age Group Crown again. Even though she’s
been undefeated in 1999 and 2000, she never takes a win for
granted, believing there are always women to challenge her. This
is one classy lady and deserves all the accolades she