Algebra teacher Brielle Dana, 27, will go for the gold in Israel this summer at the 19th World Maccabiah Games, an international competition held every four years that brings together top Jewish athletes from across the globe.
Dana of North Bethesda is one of 7,000 people from 50 countries who will compete in the games this summer. She was chosen to represent Team USA in the triathlon for women ages 25 to 29. The event includes a nearly milelong swim, 25-mile bike ride, and 6.2-mile run.
“I have dedicated a lot of my time and energy to the sport,” she said. “I would love nothing more than to do a triathlon in Israel, and to be among other Jewish people who are doing the same thing that I am.”
To qualify for the Maccabiah Games, Dana submitted a detailed spreadsheet of her times for all her races to the International Maccabi Committee, which organizes the competition.
She did six triathlons this past season, finishing first out of 22 people in her age group in her last triathlon competition, the Giant Acorn International at Lake Anna State Park in Virginia. She scored sixth overall with a finish time of 2:25:28.
Dana is in the best shape of her life, but it is her positivity that has most impressed her boyfriend of nearly three years, Marc Lizmi of North Bethesda. When the two first met at Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda, Dana had not yet discovered her love of triathlons. He said the sport has given her an energy she brings with her to work and all of her relationships.
“When she’s dominating the competition she does it with such grace and such poise, you forget that she was competing in the first place — you think, she’s just doing something she loves to do,” Lizmi said. “The training in itself is so intense, I think most people would be overwhelmed. It’s torture, right?”
When she is not training young minds at Winston Churchill High School, she can be found at the gym, following a strict regimen of diet and exercise she admits many would find grueling.
Her day begins at 5 a.m., when she gets up to swim at the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center in Rockville, or lift weights at Washington Sports Club in Bethesda. She also lifts weights after work four days per week, goes to spin class three days per week, and runs at least three days per week.
“It’s addicting,” she said. “I just have this constant drive to push myself physically, mentally. Every race I have been able to drop my times.”
Her meals are restricted mostly to fruit, chicken, brown rice and vegetables, a diet set by her coach to keep her body gym-ready. But she said she still takes time to treat herself.
“Every weekend my boyfriend and I, after my training session, I get a big ol’ bagel,” she said.
A Rockville native, Dana graduated in 2003 from Wootten High School, where she competed in field hockey and track. She also was on the swim team at Rockshire Pool in Rockville. In college at the University of Maryland, College Park, she started long-distance running, and took up long-distance cycling after college.
After finishing a couple of 100-mile bike rides known as century rides, Dana was ready for a new challenge.
“I thought, “What if I put them all together, and I started training for a triathlon,” she said.
Her first triathlon was in September 2011, and she has loved it ever since.
Her current challenge is to raise $6,000 by February so she can afford to go to Israel in July for the games, where she must pay for travel expenses, uniforms, room and board. So far she has raised nearly $1,700 thanks to donations from friends, family, and a fundraiser at her gym lead by her spin class instructor.
“Whatever it takes I will get there, even if I have to go into debt to do it,” she said. “I want to get there no matter what. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I wouldn’t want to pass up.”
To donate, go to http://bit.ly/SfSniL.