Kerry Gruson brings determination to Triathlon

  • Before other bicyclists show up on Virginia Key early March 15, 2014, ThumbsUp teammates Cristina Ramirez, left, and Kerry Gruson talk before a triathlon training run and bike on Virginia Key. The two will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. Gruson, 66, of Miami, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years. She and Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, met through Shake-A-Leg Miami, the nonprofit in Coconut Grove for sailors of all ages and abilities. The triathletes have adapted training for their purposes. During the swim portion, Gruson will sit in a kayak connected by a tether around Ramirez‘s waist. Gruson, who weighs 100 pounds, then will ride in a wheeled carrier as Ramirez pulls her (bike portion) and pushes her (the run). MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • ThumbsUp teammates Kerry Gruson, left, and Cristina Ramirez talk in the early-morning sunlight March 15, 2014 before a triathlon training run on Virginia Key. The two will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. Gruson, 66, of Miami, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years. She and Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, met through Shake-A-Leg Miami, the nonprofit in Coconut Grove for sailors of all ages and abilities. Ramirez reached out to Gruson to team up for the triathlon. The athletes have adapted training for their purposes. During the swim portion, Gruson will sit in a kayak connected by a tether around Ramirez‘s waist. Gruson, who weighs 100 pounds, then will ride in a wheeled carrier as Ramirez pulls her (bike portion) and pushes her (the run). MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • As the sun rises on March 15, 2014 on Virginia Key, ThumbsUp teammates Kerry Gruson, left, and Cristina Ramirez start a training run for the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run on Sunday, April 6, 2014. Gruson, 66, of Miami, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years and is a retired journalist. Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, is married, has two sons and blogs about the training experience on TriathlonMami. Named for Gruson's signature thumbs-up in the face of challenge, the ThumbsUp team has adapted triathlon training for its purposes. During the swim portion, Gruson will sit in a kayak connected by a tether around Ramirez‘s waist. Gruson, who weighs 100 pounds, then will ride in a wheeled carrier as Ramirez pulls her (bike portion) and pushes her (the run). MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • ThumbsUp teammates Kerry Gruson, foreground, and Cristina Ramirez give a thumbs up during a training run March 15, 2014 on Virginia Key. The two will take on the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run on Sunday, April 6, 2014. Gruson, 66, of Miami, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years and is a retired journalist. Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, is married, has two sons and blogs about the training experience on TriathlonMami. Named for Gruson's signature thumbs-up in the face of challenge, the ThumbsUp team has adapted triathlon training for its purposes. During the swim portion, Gruson will sit in a kayak connected by a tether around Ramirez‘s waist. Gruson, who weighs 100 pounds, then will ride in a wheeled carrier as Ramirez pulls her (bike portion) and pushes her (the run). MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • Cristina Ramirez, center, gently adjusts Kerry Gruson's helmet before they set out on a bicycle training run on Virginia Key early March 15, 2014. The women are the ThumbsUp team; they will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. Gruson, 66, of Miami, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years. She and Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, met through Shake-A-Leg Miami, the nonprofit in Coconut Grove for sailors of all ages and abilities. The triathletes have adapted training for their purposes. During the swim portion, Gruson will sit in a kayak connected by a tether around Ramirez‘s waist. Gruson, who weighs 100 pounds, then will ride in a wheeled carrier as Ramirez pulls her (bike portion) and pushes her (the run). MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • Cristina Ramirez, left, picks up speed during an early-morning training session with ThumbsUp teammate Kerry Gruson on March 15 on Virginia Key. The two will take on the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run on Sunday, April 6, 2014. Gruson, 66, of Miami, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years. Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, is married and has two sons. Gruson and Ramirez met through Shake-A-Leg Miami, the nonprofit in Coconut Grove for sailors of all ages and abilities. Ramirez reached out to Gruson to team up for the triathlon. The ThumbsUp team -- named for Gruson's signature thumbs-up in the face of challenge -- has adapted training for their purposes. During the swim portion, Gruson will sit in a kayak connected by a tether around Ramirez‘s waist. Gruson, who weighs 100 pounds, then will ride in a wheeled carrier as Ramirez pulls her (bike portion) and pushes her (the run). Gruson was left a quadriplegic 40 years ago by a Green Beret she was interviewing for a newspaper series on Vietnam War U.S. veterans. In a PTSD episode, he nearly strangled her and left her for dead. Gruson, who helms her own sailboat, said teaming up with Ramirez fuels her competitive nature and has led to "a wonderful new friendship. I trust her completely." Ramirez blogs about the experience on TriathlonMami. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • ThumbsUp teammates Cristina Ramirez, far right, and Kerry Gruson share the road on Virginia Key on March 15, 2014 as they train for the bike leg of the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. The triathlon is Sunday, April 6, 2014. Gruson, 66, of Miami, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years. She and Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, met through Shake-A-Leg Miami, the nonprofit in Coconut Grove for sailors of all ages and abilities. The teammates have adapted training for their purposes: During the swim portion, Gruson will sit in a kayak connected by a tether around Ramirez‘s waist. Gruson, who weighs 100 pounds, then will ride in a wheeled carrier as Ramirez pulls her (bike portion) and pushes her (the run). MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • ThumbsUp triathlete Kerry Gruson, in kayak, gazes skyward as her teammate Cristina Ramirez, left, and Ramirez's swim coach Liliana Montes, near Gruson, swim freestyle on March 21, 2014 in the ocean off Key Biscayne. Gruson, of Miami, and Ramirez, of Key Biscayne, will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. Montes will take part as spotter during the competition. "Kerry is going to be a triathlete and I will be her able body," says Ramirez, 41, who blogs about ThumbsUp training on TriathlonMami. The swim portion is the most grueling. For that, Gruson rides in an inflatable kayak that Ramirez pulls through the ocean as she swims, tethered to the boat with a long strap. They swim parallel to the shore, several hundred yards out. Gruson is at a semi-reclining angle, with her head tilted skyward. "I can't see ahead -- only the sky -- so my other senses are stronger," she says. "It's such a beautiful sport. It's a spiritual feeling for me." Gruson, 66, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years and is a retired journalist. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • ThumbsUp triathlete Kerry Gruson rides in an inflatable kayak pulled by her teammate Cristina Ramirez, right, and accompanied by Ramirez's swim coach Liliana Montes, left, on March 21, 2014 in the ocean off Key Biscayne. Gruson, of Miami, and Ramirez, of Key Biscayne, will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. Montes will take part as spotter during the swimming leg of the competition. Gruson, 66 and a retired journalist, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years. She lives in Miami. Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, is married, has two sons and blogs about ThumbsUp training on TriathlonMami. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • After a 40-minute ocean swim to train for the South Beach Triathlon, Cristina Ramirez, left, and Liliana Montes, right, guide a kayak with Kerry Gruson back to shore March 21, 2014 on Key Biscayne. Ramirez's sons Diego, 8, and Felipe, 6, help bring the kayak ashore. Ramirez and Gruson are the ThumbsUp teammates who will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon. Montes is Ramirez's swim coach. The triathlon will be a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. "Kerry is going to be a triathlete and I will be her able body," says Ramirez, 41, who blogs about ThumbsUp training on TriathlonMami. Gruson, 66, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years and is a retired journalist. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • Cristina Ramirez, left, and Liliana Montes lift Kerry Gruson from an inflatable kayak after a training session March 21, 2014 in the ocean off Key Biscayne. Ramirez's son Felipe, 6, is ready to lend a hand. Ramirez and Gruson are the ThumbsUp teammates who will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon. Montes is Ramirez's swim coach. The triathlon will be a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. "Kerry is going to be a triathlete and I will be her able body," says Ramirez, 41, who blogs about ThumbsUp training on TriathlonMami. Gruson, 66, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years and is a retired journalist. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • Triathlete Kerry Gruson, center, enjoys a reunion with Courtney Noyes of Miami, left, on Key Biscayne March 21, 2014. Noyes's sister, Ashley Sullivan, used to work at Shake-A-Leg Miami, which helps people of all ages and abilities to sail. Gruson, a quadriplegic, helms her own sailboat from Shake-A-Leg. Noyes was walking along the beach on Key Biscayne when she spotted Gruson and the two spoke for several minutes. Gruson's triathlon partner, Cristina Ramirez, is at right. Ramirez's swim coach, Liliana Montes, is second from left. Gruson, Ramirez and Montes had just completed an offshore training session to prepare for the South Beach Triathlon; it's Sunday, April 6, 2014. The triathlon will be a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. "Kerry is going to be a triathlete and I will be her able body," says Ramirez, 41, who blogs about ThumbsUp training on TriathlonMami. Gruson, 66, is a retired journalist who has competed in regattas and paralympic games. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • ThumbsUp teammates Kerry Gruson, left, and Cristina Ramirez relax after training on March 21, 2014 in Key Biscayne for the South Beach Triathlon. They will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the triathlon -- a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. Gruson, 66 and a retired journalist, has been a quadriplegic for 40 years. She lives in Miami. Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, is married, has two sons and blogs about ThumbsUp training on TriathlonMami. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

  • ThumbsUp teammates Kerry Gruson, left, and Cristina Ramirez, relax back-to-back after a training session March 21, 2014 in the ocean off Key Biscayne. Gruson, 66, of Miami, is a retired journalist and has competed in regattas and paralympic games. Ramirez, 41, of Key Biscayne, is married, has two sons and blogs about ThumbsUp and training on TriathlonMami. The athletes will compete Sunday, April 6, 2014 in the South Beach Triathlon. Montes is Ramirez's swim coach. The triathlon will be a half-mile swim, 20.7-mile bicycle leg and four-mile run. For the swim portion, Gruson rides in an inflatable kayak pulled by Ramirez, who swims with a tether around her waist. The lead is attached to the kayak and Ramirez freestyle swims to pull the kayak and Gruson through the water. MARSHA HALPER / MIAMI HERALD STAFF