Up Close and Personal – with Evelyn ‘Cheeks’ Herrmann Salama

Known as Cheeks for cutting the ass out of her wetsuit and filming a trip to the grocery store, Evelyn Herrmann Salama was at the front of the line when they handed out humour.  She was also there when they handed out talent.  She shares her story of how she got into this crazy sport.

 

As I chased a sip of wine with a drag from my cigarette while siting outside on my patio (my nightly ritual after putting the kids to bed), I looked through the sliding glass doors at my husband sitting on the couch watching television.  I don’t’ know what cosmic forces slapped me upside the head in that moment, and at the risk of sounding cliché, I had something of an epiphany.  My kids were upstairs sleeping, my husband (my best friend) was on the couch, and I was outside with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of wine.  AGAIN.  I felt pathetic, I felt uninspired, I felt like I owed my family better… so I finished my cigarette, some more wine, and a few more cigarettes while I mulled over it.  Because, fuck it, was I REALLY going to start right THEN?

 
Evelyn run finishOver the next few days I found myself looking through a local magazine advertising sporting events and organizations for kids.  I was surprised to find that my city had a swim team, and at the bottom of the description, it said “Masters Swim for adults”.  I love the water, I thought, I’m going to check this out. I found myself on the pool deck soon after asking the coach how much the membership was.  I will never forget what she said.  “Get in.  If you’re still here in a week, we’ll talk about that.”  I didn’t know what I was doing, she spoke swimming, and I was hooked.  After serious help, swimming six days a week, and getting pretty good, I qualified for Short Course Nationals.  In that quest, I started making friends at the pool.  Some of them were triathletes and one in particular would not LET UP about trying one.  My running joke had always been “I drive to the mailbox with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth”, so why would I RUN anywhere?  But, I started running a little.. without a cigarette.  And, finally, on October 19, 2008, I did my first tri.
The night before, Jason (my husband/sponsor) took the baby seat I had attached to the back of my Huffy off, and with my sneakers and goggles (they provided a CAP!) I was ready.  I was second out of the water, and remember thinking I GOT THIS.  I jumped on my Huffy and my heart sank with every revolution of my pedals as what felt like every single person I beat out of the water passed me on the bike.  I don’t remember much after that, but I can’t forget the feeling of crossing that finish line for the first time… it must be like what an addict feels when they get high for the first time… I’ve been chasing it ever since.
By 2010, I had done 7 triathlons, but still focused on swimming.  After qualifying and competing in Long Course Nationals for USMS, I ended my competitive swimming career and started focusing totally on triathlon.  I didn’t know anything about Ironman or 70.3s, and I was starting to podium in my age group at local sprints so I was happy.  I stumbled upon Kona coverage one night and when it was over, I remember thinking “That’s fucking INSANE.  Who DOES that?”.  After watching a few more, I decided I wanted to try and qualify for Kona.
Evelyn and MaccaIn 2011, I heard about a triathlon in Key West.  My favorite place on Earth.  I got married there, I honeymooned there, now a TRIATHLON there?  I was in.  Sprint, of course.  (I had done my first Olympic in May and it brought the pain.)  December 2, I was in line for packet pickup, just yucking it up with the other athletes when, seriously, a hush came over the crowd.  Everyone started whispering to each other and looking around, when a guy in flip-flops, jeans, and a t-shirt (probably Under Armour) got in line.  “Chris McCormack….(whisper, whisper)…MACCA… (whisper, whisper)” I had just gotten a road bike, I didn’t know my triathlon ass from my elbow, and I certainly didn’t know who Chris MCCORMACK was, so, whatever, give me my packet, I gotta go eat.  When I got back to the hotel, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I busted out my laptop and did a Google search.  “Macca”.  Well, I started reading, laughed a bit, and started liking the guy!  Ironman World Champion? Here?  Wow.  I liked his style, I liked his bravado, I was going to ask him some questions after the race, dammit!
Evelyn podiumFast-forward to the race.  Enjoying the course, basking in the beautiful scenery and perfect weather, and I’m in beast mode.  Fuck these bitches, I’m gonna podium at this one!  Coming out of T2, in my mind’s eye, I’m FLYING (looking at the results NOW, not so much, but I digress) and as I start the run course, here comes this fit-looking, tan mofo heading towards me, and I realize it is Chris McCormack approaching the FINISH.  Because my mouth works faster than my brain, I put up my hand and scream “can I get a high five?” (what a nerd), and when he puts his hand up on the approach, I scream “I fucking love you, man!” as we high five and he runs past me.  After the race, he was SWARMED by what seemed like everyone there.  But, he signed every autograph (including mine), took every picture (including the one with me), and answered every damn question anyone had (including my ten).  I was an insta-fan and proceeded to “like”/”follow” his page on Facebook.
That day I decided I was going to try and qualify for Kona.
I think I was lying in bed IN PANAMA CITY for the Ironman event when I got a notification about MaccaX on my phone.  I joined immediately.  About a day and a half before my race, I posted a nerve-wracked message asking for some advice or words of encouragement from Chris… AND HE ANSWERED!  But, HE didn’t just answer, complete STRANGERS answered. And encouraged. And wished me well.  It gave me a little spark, I may have been missing it without knowing, I may not have, I’ll never know.  BUT, the ride I’ve been on since that night has been incredible.
Evelyn Ian and Mike Evelyn Kurt and John
I got involved, I started chatting, I have camped, trained, raced, and become genuine FRIENDS with people I would never have met if not for this wacky, wonderful, group of weirdos. I credit part of my success since that fateful night to this group, it’s members, Chris, Azza, and all the rest.  I really am still a novice, and I learn every day.
I’ve met all of my goals in triathlon, most recently qualifying for Age Group Olympic Distance World Championships in Chicago this September.
But, one still eludes me… and I’m looking forward to getting there with my team behind me one day soon.