Ann Arbor triathlete Nikki Derrick wore race bib #1184 at this fall's Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii—the same number worn by her close friend Karen Perzyk in the 2016 event.
Nikki, 47, requested this number as a way to honor Karen, a beloved friend and fellow Michigan triathlete, who died in January after a brief battle with stage IV esophageal cancer.
Karen's death at age 49 was a devastating loss for Nikki, and for many others in their close-knit group of endurance athlete friends. It was Karen who inspired Nikki to return to competing in triathlons again after several years away from the sport. Karen was the kind of person whose enthusiasm for life and love of movement were infectious, Nikki says. She loved watching her friends succeed and was their biggest cheerleader.
Nikki shares how she decided to turn her race in Hawaii into a tribute to Karen, a way to honor the friend who meant so much to her and to so many others.
Nikki gives a detailed account of the World Championship in Kona and what it felt like to be there without her friend ... and what it felt like to push through the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and a tough, hot 26.2 to reach the finish line.
Heather and Nikki also talk about her love of mountain biking (she finished strong at this November's Iceman Cometh Challenge in Traverse City) and what's next for her in the coming year (a marathon out west, in wine country, among other adventures). They also talk about where Nikki finds her motivation, and how she carves out time for staying active while also being committed to her job as a physician assistant at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor.