(photo courtesy of Nadya Dhadiala)
Meet Nadya Dhadiala. You may have, in fact, already met her, if you get up and out before the sun even rises, because that’s when this four-time finisher of 100-miles ultra-marathons, nine-times Ironman competitor, and triathlete often hits the road, mountain or lake.
I serendipitously got partnered with Nadya on a family bike ride years ago in the metro-Atlanta city where we both currently live; crossed paths with her again at a State of the City event when I was trying to find a place to lock my bike at the North American flagship hotel for the greenest hotel company in the world (which did not have bike rack or any other bike storage area); and again when I was transporting a Christmas tree home via bike and she was out running. We’ve been friends ever since, although even just her Facebook posts leave me in the dust. (For instance, as I’m sipping coffee and writing this post right now at 6 AM, Nadya is already in a lake for a four-hour swim).
Originally from Russia as part of a military family that moved frequently, Nadya earned the equivalent of a Masters in Information Technology from Tambov State Technical University and then found career opportunity on the island of Cyprus, where she lived right on the beach. She saw people running and talking at the same time and she thought hey, that looks like fun, so she started taking long runs. When the Cyprus economy collapsed, Nadya pursued and was hired for a job in the United States with T Mobile in Atlanta, where she found a competitive culture.
Nadya rose to the challenge. She competed in her first 5k in 2009, her first marathon in 2011, and her first triathlon in 2012. She shared with me how the bike she rode as a child was one her grandfather created for her out of scrap metal, and how when she got her first bike in the United States at REI and test-rode it around the building, she felt like she was free — like she was flying — and all her good associations came flooding back. I actually got goosebumps at how poetically she described the miracle of bike engineering:
“The art of making a mechanical thing for a human body so that a human can express themselves in a perfect way is when magic happens.”
She has two bikes now — a mountain bike she uses for trails, the sidewalk, and to go to grocery stores; and a road bike for training and competition.
Nadya felt like she found “her people” when she started participating in triathlons:
“The water. The wind. The camaraderie. Everyone suffering. It was fun!”
These people who became Nadya’s chosen community provided support to her when she went through a dark time during a painful divorce, and she realized she had just started to tap into her potential. She wondered what would happen if she competed for longer distances — if she were not just to suffer, but to be good at it. She set and achieved the goal to compete in her first full Ironman, which, she says, changed her life. Her Zoom background during business meetings showcases her seemingly-endless competitive awards.
Nadya is currently training for the Pikes Peak Marathon in Manitou Springs, Colorado on August 20, which will require running 7,815 feet to the top of the 14,115-foot peak and then downhill. I asked how she was training for the elevation change and she told me she goes to a place named The Elemental Altitude Training Center right here in our suburb that is specifically designed for elevation change training, where she runs on a treadmill in a special chamber. Plus, she added:
“I feel the Georgia heat and humidity gets us ready for anything.”
I asked Nadya if she has any advice to offer. She immediately replied:
“Get outside in the world. Share ideas. Inspire people to do things during this crazy time. You never know how someone’s life may change as a result.”
Just knowing you has changed my life, Nadya. Thank you.
Tap in every day in August for my “You Go, Girl” series showcasing 31 Women in 31 Days who are making it more welcoming to ride bikes in the USA. If interested, you may enjoy my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike. All proceeds from the sale of my book help more women and girls ride bikes.
The complete series:
10. Meet Irene Lutts
14. Meet Jenn Dice
28. Meet Megan Ramey
30. Meet Aly Nicklas