ESCONDIDO — If fate had it one way, Escondido’s Aurora Colello says she would have been sitting in a wheelchair within five years of her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2008. Instead, she feels better than ever 10 years later and will compete in the 2018 Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sept. 16 in the Olympic Distance race, which features a half-mile swim segment, 17-mile cycling sojourn and a four-mile run.
“They said I would just keep getting sicker and weaker and that I had a progressive, debilitating disease,” Colello told The Coast News. “The fact that I can race is a miracle. I also race for others who can’t. I have spoken to many people who were diagnosed the same year that I was and they are in a wheelchair.”
Colello has participated in triathlons for 10 years, meaning her MS diagnosis coincided with her launch into the sport and the Malibu Triathlon will be her 51st time toeing the line for the multisport event. Not only is she a multisport athlete, but the 45-year-old Colello — originally from Colombia — is also a mother of four kids aged 11 to 17 and a wife.
This will be her sixth time doing the Malibu race and this time around, she is doing so to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The Malibu Triathlon is perhaps best known for the large numbers of Hollywood celebrities who participate in it, with luminaries such as Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise and Will Ferrell having participated in races past.
Colello enjoys the Malibu Triathlon because, she told The Coast News, “It is just a beautiful place to race! As I come up for a breath during the swim portion, I see the sun rise, the beautiful cliffs of Malibu, it is just stunning.”
Originally blinded in the right eye due to the side effects of MS and discovering 10 lesions on her brain, Colello says her vision returned after 30 days better than ever from what she describes as “holistic medicine.” She now resides in Escondido and says she sees it as a great place to train for triathlons.
“First, it can get really hot here and that is amazing as an athlete to be heat trained,” she said. “It gives me a huge advantage when I am racing to have my body trained and acclimated to the heat. I love to bike and run here because of the hills and beautiful scenery. There are a lot of good climbs that train you well for triathlons both for the run and bike. It is not just great race training but it is so enjoyable to ride by wineries, beautiful mountains and valleys.”
For cycling, Colello says she enjoys riding along Via Rancho and Del Dios Highway in Escondido, with the ride past Lake Hodges her favorite part of training in that neck of the woods. For swimming, you can find Colello training at the 24 Hour Fitness in Escondido’s Westfield North County Mall or else at Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach or Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.
She has competed in all triathlon distances except for the daunting Ironman, ranging from the sprint distance all the way up to doing the Half-Ironman affair three times. She hopes to continue on in the sport for decades to come, joking that “I will be that old lady in a triathlon wetsuit at a race in 30 years!”
The Malibu Triathlon is the only one on Colello’s schedule this year because she is busy with school, training to get certified in functional medicine.
“This type of medicine is what has helped me to do so well with such a serious diagnosis and even reverse symptoms in my body from this disease,” she explained. “Being certified is going to allow me to help people just like me to get healthy. So, this has taken a lot of time away from triathlons this year, but next year I am going to go back to adding more races to my schedule because I will have a lot more time.”
At face value, MS and exceling in the triathlon may not seem to have much in common. In fact, overcoming the challenges inherent in both, Colello says, are what draw the two different things together.
“When you get a diagnosis like MS, you either give up and give in or you fight. I choose to fight and stay positive,” said Colello. “I choose to not give up, push through and have a strong mindset. These are the same things needed in triathlon. Triathlon is a very mental sport. If you don’t have a strong mindset, you will give up during your race when you feel you can’t go on.”