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October 2016

September 2016

ITU Long Course Worlds - OKC

Oklahoma City, September 22, 2016 - ITU Age Group Long Course Worlds

   The amount of support I had for this race was so amazingly over-the-top that I (almost) don't know where to begin.
Last year, I competed in the Redman Triathlon in order to qualify for the ITU Long Course World Championships, largely because it was the ONE race my coach, Suzanne Atkinson, requested me to do. I race a lot, and have often asked her if there was a race she would like me to do - and this was her first and only request.
    I was fortunate to race last year with two great friends and amazing athletes - Travis Newton and Chris Fetter. Despite starting at different times, the three of us crossed the finish line at practically the same time. This is one of my all time favorite race photos - I am so happy the moment was captured. It is one of the many things I love about the sport of triathlon - while in a lot of ways it is an 'individual' sport, in so many more it is about being part of a larger whole and supporting each other; about friendship, about daring to toe the line, test your limits, give your all, and congratulating each other when it is all said and done.

Finish Line Redman Triathlon (9/2015) - with Chris Fetter and Travis Newton
Chris and Travis and I - cleaned up :) 

    So - back to OKC. Have you ever done a race that was really tough, and by some chance of fate (or amnesia) you end up back to do that race again? It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached the race course - memories came flooding back . . . windy bike, heat, heat, more heat, trying to coax my fading legs to just keep a steady pace on the run . . . yeah, acknowledge and then try to forget again. And this race, the World Championship, was even longer - a 4k swim, 120k bike, and a 30k run. However, I knew that I had done all I could to prepare, and would just have to take whatever the day gave me.

    This year, I raced as part of the great Team USA. I was racing for them, for my coach, and for myself. I trained to the best of my ability and, just like everyone else, I had to make some decisions along the way about things I could and could not participate in. I would especially like to thank my family, my Tante Marylou Van Beek-winkler and Uncle Peter W.H. Winkler, and my dear friends River Byrd and Mark Duncan. I am lucky beyond words to have family and friends who understand when there are decisions I have to make, who stand behind me and support me and allow me to chase my dreams and follow my passion. I cannot thank you enough.

    There is something that makes a race so much more fun when you know people out there competing. Travis was racing, I ran into a long-time friend of my dad’s, Jeff Skinner, and made some new friends - Joella Baker, and Jennifer Tullis.  Plus racing with the Team USA as a whole, with Tim Yount, Lauren Rios, and Meg Weagely cheering us on - it was a pretty amazing group!!

Team USA
With Travis
With Jennifer Tullis


Joella Baker

Race morning. I like to get to the race site really early. So, I’m sitting in my car and it is literally rocking due to the wind gusts. Yep, it’s gonna be an interesting day. The swim course was 2 laps - and the water was ‘sporty’. I have done ocean swims that were calmer. Plus there were shallow areas where people were standing and walking. Well, I did not want to walk, so determined I would swim wide of that area, while staying on the buoy line. Great in theory, until I started swimming and lost sight of the buoys in the swells. Finally found one only to discover it was on the opposite side of the swim course. I corrected, but a kayaker spotted me and was concerned I was in distress. She kept checking on me while I kept assuring her I really wasn’t drowning - just off course. I had to find the situation slightly humorous.  By the first turn around I realized it was just going to be a crazy swim. I relaxed (as much as possible) and went with the swells, rolled almost completely onto my back and looked at the sky to get a breath, and actually really enjoyed the swim. I certainly was not fast - but I got out of the water feeling great - and very ready to get on my bike.


The bike - was windy. True to form. However, the volunteers and aid stations were fantastic, and there were crowds cheering - can’t ask for much more than that. And then... the run. Three 10k loops, right by the finish each loop. First loop - started ok, but quickly started slowing. Came through the first turnaround and there was Tim Yount, “Happy thoughts, Kirsten” he says. Crowds were, again, fantastic. Seemed I was constantly seeing someone I knew racing coming from the opposite direction - all of us trying to encourage each other. Focused on run form. Saw people everywhere stopped with cramping or succumbing to the heat. Decided I didn’t care if I had to slow to 10minute miles I did not want to cramp or stop. Felt much better (although kept slowing) on the second loop. Water stops were crowded and a lot of times had to get my own water - seldom was it cold. Came through the 2nd turn around, and was feeling great. There was a rather interesting mishap with my water as I was coming through - but I will save that story for another time. Suzanne was cheering and had created a whole cheer section with her. Out for the last lap, was enjoying every minute despite the persistent slowing, and crossed the finish line in great spirits. What an amazingly difficult, ultimately challenging, utterly fantastic race!!!!!!

Suzanne cheering me on!
Always happy to cross that line!
Didn't quite cross together this time - but still found Travis at the finish!
Even found my Raceday Transport crew!
For my Coach . . .
Mission Accomplished! :)


ITU Age Group World Championships - Cozumel, September 2016



Cozumel, Mexico. September 15, 18. ITU Age Group World Championship

Mexico! Hot. That pretty well sums things up. Thank heavens that the Team USA hotel was VERY kid friendly - Bella and Sebastian were quite happy! I was again amazed at everything that the USAT team puts into these events . . . daily updates, chiropractor, massage therapist, bike mechanic, organized course rides/runs, meetings, socials - you name it, they had it! I was also REALLY thankful for Raceday Transport. As we had a last-minute change in plans that included bringing both children with us, I really don’t know how we would have juggled them, luggage, and bikes - especially flying into Cancun, taxi to ferry, ferry to Cozumel, taxi to hotel. And, as I was racing both the draft legal sprint and non-draft legal standard, I would have only brought my road bike . . . so to have both bikes ready and waiting for me when I arrived was just priceless! On top of that, the day before the standard I found a gash in one of my tires which they quickly replaced and I was race-ready. They are just amazing!!!!!



The sprint - well, it was draft-legal. My strength is the bike, so this definitely put me at a disadvantage. I ended up with an Aussie girl that I just couldn’t shake off my wheel, and she was the stronger runner. However, I have to say - I raced my best race for the circumstances, and was still able to look around on the run, with the streets full of people cheering in different languages, and think how very incredibly lucky I was to be racing, in Mexico, doing a sport I LOVE to do, and represent the US. Pretty amazing. I ended up 2nd in my division, and was well-pleased. Just to race in a World Championship, much less podium, I still find a little beyond belief.




20160915 085026r-2
Just in case you were wondering - it was HOT!!!!!

     The standard - well, it was non-drafting . . . enough said. :) I was (slightly) fired up after the draft-legal, and ready to give it all I had, especially on the bike. There was a Mexican girl who had done the sprint as well (ironically her last name was Corona . . . ), and I knew she was a better swimmer and had a strong bike. The currents were really strong on the swim, and the course was shortened because of this. It still took me a while to get through, and I was SO ready to get on my bike! I had a great ride, but never caught Corona, so knew I would have to have a pretty good run. It was hot, so I just focused on my Bobby McGee run form and made sure to take in fluids (and pour on head) at every opportunity. The spectators were beyond amazing, and I had some TN friends out on the course too - which always helps! I tried to encourage every US athlete I saw as well. The run was 2 loops, and I caught Corona towards the end of the first loop. However, I still did not know if there was someone ahead of her or not, so had to just keep going as fast as I could. On the second loop there were girls just starting their first loop - so it was really impossible to tell where I was in the standings - so I just raced as hard as I could and hoped it was enough. The amazingly wonderful Tim Yount was handing out US flags for the finish line stretch - which is always my favorite part of the race. Heading down the blue carpet, through the stands, hearing the rest of the USAT team cheering (Lauren Rios and Meg Weagley are also truly amazing) waving that flag and knowing that I raced as hard as I could (and hoping that it was enough), and crossing that finish line . . . words just don’t do it justice. I am so, so fortunate to be able to participate - and I encourage, urge, beg and plead with anyone able to do the same. It is the experience of a lifetime.


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Yep - still hot.

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My cheering squad (also hot)!


Being that the sprint and standard were a few days apart, we were able to spend some family time enjoying Cozumel. We met up with some friends (‘Spider’, Ginger, and Sage Sillery) the day after the sprint race and did some snorkeling. We spent some time in one place and were then told we were being taken ‘somewhere really special’. So off we go only to stop at . . . . the race swim course. Yep. I thought it was pretty funny. However, I must say it was pretty nice to just be able to swim around and enjoy . . .


And now for lots of pictures...


In the presence of greatness!!!! With Bruce Heiser, Jennifer Huffman, and Captain Thad himself!
The USA Triathlon Team USA support crew (and I managed to get a rare photo with them all out of their usual uniforms!)
With my fast TN friend Jeff Fefjar


My husband, Jeff (Elvis), celebrated another birthday between the races . . .
A little glass bottom boat excursion


It was really tough . . .
Entertainment . . .

My little Sebastian
Had to include - my comic relief the night before the sprint race - watching Cpt Thad enthralled....

Always amazed to be on this podium!
With Jeff Fejfar - very awesome.