Previous month:
May 2017
Next month:
October 2017

August 2017

Balance, and the Lack Thereof....


Penticton - Part Two

“Everything in Life is About Balance”
“The Key to Keeping Your Balance is Knowing When You’ve Lost it.”


ITU Multisport World Championship Festival. What exactly is that? Here’s the scoop: 5 events over 8 days. Multiple event racing encouraged. Anyone racing in 4 or more events considered a “Multisport Legend”. All-in-all, my kind of racing! This was the lineup:

Saturday (8/19) - Draft Legal Sprint Duathlon (5k run/ 20k bike / 2.5k run)
Monday (8/21) - Standard (Nondraft) Duathlon (10k run/ 40k bike/ 5k run)
Wed (8/23) - Cross Triathlon (1.5k swim / 31k bike / 8k run) - off road
Friday (8/25) - Aquathlon (1k swim / 5k run)
Sunday (8/27) - Aquabike/Long Course Triathlon (3k swim / 120k bike)
(Long course triathlon adds a 30k run)

So, I raced Saturday, Monday, Friday and Sunday (the aquabike). And between the races I did some training, some eating, some meeting up with old friends and making new ones, and a LOT of catching up on sleep. It was interesting to stay in Penticton from the beginning of the racing to the end. There were a good number of other athletes doing the ‘Legend Challenge’ who were also there for the duration. But for the most part, the athletes came and went. The duathlon crowd. The cross crowd (a whole different kinda racing - my hat’s off to them, just wow). The aquathletes. And the long distance folks.

Aquathlon Team

Aquathlon morning was - chilly. And the swim - was choppy. Although I was happy with my swim I came out of the water quite a bit behind the lead women. I put down the best run that I could, and ended up 4th in my age group, 10th female overall. And you know, I am very happy with that. I like to say that, as long as I race to the extent of my abilities that is all I can do -and I feel that is what I did. I grabbed my USA flag from Tim Yount, and proudly carried it across that finish line. No matter what, I enjoy every finish line - each one is the summation of countless hours of training and dedication, and each one should be treated as a treasure!

Aquabike Team

Aquabike. 3k swim. At least the water was smooth and calm. This was an interesting change because all the other races up to this point were relatively short. Standing on the lake shore looking out at the buoy line, the turn buoy was not even visible. Enter the mental game. I caught myself before I even dwelled on that, and instead turned my focus to the swim training I had put in, finding a steady pace, and making each stroke count. Exit the swim, onto my favorite, the bike.

FullSizeRender 16
A beautiful morning for a swim...

The first stretch of the bike was flat - a good opportunity to get the legs going. Then there were 2 loops that were just absolutely beautiful, around a lake and through some countryside, complete with some climbs. I confess, I did take it in. I raced hard, but had to appreciate the absolute beauty of seeing the racers in front of me winding down this road through an absolutely gorgeous day in such a picturesque setting. How lucky to be able to be a part of it. By the time the hills came around on the second loop, my legs were starting to feel it. I got a couple of those ‘warning twinges’ in my quads that caught my attention and I knew if I pushed them too hard they would end up in full-blown cramps, not my favorite.


Absolutely gorgeous bike course around this lake

The aqua bikers started after all the long course athletes, so although I passed a fair number of women, a lot were those who still had to run afterwards, and I had no idea where I was as far as my division went. So, I went as hard as I could, without cramping. One of my long standing mantras is, “Every second counts.” I say that to myself and think, if someone finishes one second ahead of you, can you be satisfied knowing you gave all you had and did not have another second in you? Up the last climb, I passed an aquabike girl. She passed me back. I had to fall back the required distance, then she slowed and I passed her back. Just before the downhill I passed another aquabike girl. At the bottom of the hill she passed me back. I again fell back. I knew we had one more uphill and then it was downhill to the finish. What I did not know was whether I could push as hard as I needed to without cramping. Well - one way to find out. I passed her at the bottom and gave everything I had left to the top of the hill. The aquabike finish line was actually on the road before transition. So, bottom of the hill, sharp right hand turn, then maybe 50 meters or so to the finish. I rounded the corner, went as hard as I could, and finished 2 seconds behind the winner of my age group. Yep. 2 seconds. But, you know, I did all I could to make every second count. That’s racing.

A couple really cool things about that aqua bike race though . . . the overall female winner was over 50 years old. That just rocks. And, even though our race finished on the road, we were still able to go put on running shoes and do a token run through the finish line. So, the top three of us ran in across the finish line, together. I thought that was really special. So, second age group, third overall, world chamionship multisport legend status achieved. I really could not ask for more.

Aquabike Finish!

The courses were great. The competition was fierce. It was everything a World Championship Festival should be. I like to race, and I like to race a lot - but by the time Sunday rolled around (despite all my catching up on sleep), I’ll admit I was tired. And, for me, it was a little too long to be without my family. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret doing it, it tested me and presented me with new challenges to focus on, I learned a lot, and I really enjoyed getting to spend time with Team USA staff and racers.

Congrats to all who raced, be it one event or ‘Legend’ status. I truly enjoyed meeting many of you, and racing alongside all of you. The time and dedication and courage involved in participating in a World Championship is not to be taken lightly, and is certainly something to be proud of. I hope to see you and race with you again soon. And if it is ever something you have dared to dream of - I encourage you to try!

In closing, I do have to say that one of the most important things I came away with after this adventure was this: For me racing is about balance - the racing with my family and the rest of my life. In this case the balance got tipped towards the racing side, and my heart really started aching around Thursday. Initially my father was to meet me in Penticton and do the aquabike race with me - and for a number of reasons he was unable to.  Without him, and without my husband and kids, there was just a big ‘something missing’. I was too gone for too long I guess you could say. So, be forewarned - the next Multisport World Championship Festival I certainly hope to attend, with 2 little kids and an Elvis in tow. Bring it on.


There are too many people to name, but for everyone who took the time to chat with me, share a meal, a bike ride, or just give a high five or a hug after a race - thank you. My ‘Team USA’ family certainly helped get me through while I was missing my other family. And here are some pics of a few of those people:

Pam Tate - I'll say it again I just LOVED having you here!


Kimee Armour - "The Dancing Queen'


Leslie Battle, who I feel like I have known forever but only just now met in real life!


Rachel Carter - also feel like I have known forever and finally got to meet!


And with Ashley Miller!
Kevin Elmore took it easy on me....
Marc from Raceday Transport - I just can't say enough good things about this guy....


Lucky to dine with the 'Who's Who' of Team USA Support Staff!


The TN Aquabike Contingency (Koz we will let you be an honorary member)! Rick Kozlowski, David Price, Gary Mappin, and Maday and John Lines (who has helped me tremendously with my racing - much appreciated!)
I just love this pic - I am surrounded by greatness!!!

I failed to get a picture with a few people that deserve a mention  . . . Kate, Emily and Josh I really enjoyed hanging out with you guys after the race Sunday (for those of you who keep up, Kate is my friend I see EVERYWHERE and was mentioned in one of my stories about the Memphis in May race this year; I found her at the swim start and tried really hard to stay on her feet unsuccessfully, lol).

Also my racing soulmate Ellen Hart - she not only achieved legend status, but LEGENDARY status for racing in 4 events and was undefeated in her category for ALL FOUR.  Incredible.   


And...Balance RESTORED!!!!!!



Thanks for reading!


Feed the Good Wolf

Feed the Good Wolf

Penticton - Part One

A friend of mine recently posted about this, and it has been on my mind since, so bear with me as I begin with a story . . .

There is an old Cherokee legend known as the tale of two wolves A grandfather explains to his warrior grandson that there are two wolves within each of us: One wolf is positive and beneficial, while the other wolf is negative and destructive. These two wolves fight for control over us. The grandson is curious and asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

I am going to be honest, my “Bad Wolf” was howling loudly as I took off for Penticton. I got home around 3am on Monday morning after driving with my father straight from Omaha and USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. I unpacked, cleaned, and repacked my race gear. I worked. I tried to get some training in. And I spent as much time as I possibly could with my family. Similar to the majority of people who traveled to Penticton, my travel arrangements were a little crazy. What sounded perfect months ago when I made them - not so much in reality. I left my house at 1:30 am, drove 2 hours to Nashville, flew to Atlanta making it just in time to board for Salt Lake City, was sitting on the runway in Salt Lake as my flight boarded to Vancouver, did the classic ‘run through the airport’ (because of course my flight was on the opposite end) and somehow made the flight, found my way to pick up my rental car, drove 4 1/2 hours to Penticton getting in around 6pm, and found my way down to the event venue where thank heavens Marc from Raceday Transport was still there and graciously let me pick up my road bike so I could do the course ride the next day. Whew.

With Marc from Raceday (actually in Bend, but one of my favorite pics)

     Meanwhile the howls went something like this. . . “Really? You are going away for 11 days?” “You should be home with your family.” “Can you really afford to take that much time off work?” “Why are you traveling all that way to race?” “Why do you feel the need to do four races?” “And why are you going by yourself when no one in your family is traveling with you?” “Are you really going to be able to find your way around and figure out what you are supposed to do?” etc. etc. etc. Yep, it was howling LOUD.
Thankfully, enter the good wolf. “Yes, I am going for 11 days.” “My family understands, they know that I love them, they respect my passion for racing, and they support me wholeheartedly. Yes, I will miss them and they will miss me, but we will be fine and it just makes us value our time together that much more.” “My work understands and supports me as well, and I will make it up by working longer hours when I am home.” “I am traveling to Penticton because I have always wanted to go there (my father and I had hoped to do Ironman Canada there together but alas it was discontinued before we were able to do so), and because it is the first Multisport World Championship - and I WANT to do it, and I’m doing four races because I CAN and I LOVE to race.” And, “I know other people who will be there, Team USA is hugely supportive, and I will figure things out eventually.” Scared? Slightly. But you know the saying:



So - Exit Zone


    At risk of being annoyingly repetitive, I have to say this again. Whenever the bad wolf howls and I allow myself to worry about what people think about me and my racing (bad mother, doesn’t work, races too much, etc etc), my good wolf’s reply always comes back to the same thing . . . You just never know. I see it so often - at work and on a personal level. You just never know when everything could change. Nothing is a given. I have a friend who loves to swim more than anything and one day received a diagnosis of ALS and is no longer able. I have friends who have been hit by cars while riding their bikes - or even running. I have a friend who had an earache that ended up being tonsillar cancer. I know people who had planned on coming to Penticton to race and were unable due to illness or injury.  You just never know. There very well may come a day when, heaven forbid, I am not able to race. When that day comes I want to look back and know that I seized every opportunity I had when it was presented. It is my passion, it balances me out, and it makes me very happy. Yes, I took time off and time away and spent money I probably should have saved, but it is the memories of the races and the people I shared them with, and knowing that I dared to put myself out there and toed that line, that I will remember. And I hope if that day ever comes, that will be enough.

OK - enough of that. PENTICTON!!!!! Beautiful Penticton. I was really excited because a friend of mine from Memphis who I know through bike racing, was here to do the draft legal race - Pam Tate. We met up for the Team Ride of the sprint course Friday morning, and she and her husband Byron let me tag along with them and join them for meals.


USA triathlon goes above and beyond for the athletes at these events - there are team massage therapists, bike mechanics, and a chiropractor (all of which were just amazing). There are coaches who talked us through the courses, rode the bike course with us, gave us tips on what to do (and not to do) to ensure a good race. Five star treatment all around.

The duathlon was Saturday morning - a 5k run, 20k bike, and then a 2.5k run. The run was along the lake which has a distinct ‘beach’ atmosphere with restaurants lining the way. The bike was 2 loops including a pretty good climb, and then a fast descent which looped around for a view across a beautiful vineyard and down across the lake - absolutely stunning.


I was very fortunate to have a great race Saturday. And it was very special to see so many other Team USA members have great races as well. I spent about as lazy of a Sunday as I could, and had a beyond amazing race on Monday doing the Standard distance duathlon - 10k run, 40k bike, 5k run (no drafting). The course was flat, fast, and fun - the crowds were fantastic, and by the time I rounded the last corner to the finish line I had given it all I had. Just an incredible experience.


There is something about a world championship race that makes it like no other. Perhaps it is all the travel involved in getting to the race, or just being in another country racing. Perhaps it is being out there racing for Team USA and encouraging each other throughout the race. I always try to take a moment to give thanks, “How cool is it that I am in Penticton, and able to race?”. And always, ALWAYS the crowds are unbelievable. Nothing like cheers of “Go USA”, and “Go Sass”, to make me smile a little bigger and dig a little deeper. And, of course, the BEST part of the race is grabbing that USA flag from Tim Yount or Lauren Rios, or any of the other Team USA members and carrying it proudly across that finish line. That is just the best.

Tim Yount - ALWAYS makes me dig deeper...

If you ever, ever have a chance to participate in a world championship event, it is so, so worth it. All the doubts, worries, and howls will disappear - I promise. The experience is just priceless.


And remember - always, ALWAYS feed the good wolf.





Omaha - It's the heart that matters...and MY DAD WAS THERE!

Somewhere in middle America
Get right to the heart of matters
It’s the heart that matters more…


     Thanks to Tami Winston who sent me the link to that Counting Crows song - this was on ‘repeat’ in my mind for most of the weekend. Oh, Omaha. It was good to me last year, landing me on the podium for my first ever overall win at a USA Triathlon National Championship, in the Sprint distance. That was especially sweet because (apart from being totally unexpected) my coach, Suzanne Atkinson, had made the journey to come watch my races - so it was very cool to have her there for that! This year I was excited to have my hometown friends - the aforementioned Tami, and Gwin Anderson coming to race, and my father was meeting us there as well. However, I honestly had no hopes of repeating an overall win this year. While my training was going well I had a number of setbacks basically all summer which meant my ‘5k’ pace in training was more like my ‘10k’ pace. It was improving, but I was out of time. Plus there are always girls who show up for nationals that are just so, so fast; I had raced one of them at the Duathlon nationals this year - and my bets were on her to sweep both races. And, I was ok with that. I had already decided that I would race as hard as I could, but would be very happy just to podium in my age group - there are plenty of speedy girls in that division!


Race day for the olympic distance was just beautiful. Last year's blistering heat had given way this year to very mild temperatures. I was lucky to be in one of the early waves to start (in years past I’ve waited for hours to start - so I was very happy to start early!), and took my place on the dock. I just love how friendly triathletes are. Here we are, lined up on this dock at a national championship race, and everyone still takes a moment to give a high five and wish each other good luck. Just awesome. And - the race began.

I was happy with my swim, and headed out onto my favorite part - the bike. Oh yeah. The highlight of my ride was coming in and spotting my friend Gwin heading out. Now, there is one pretty good hill on the course, and when I met Gwin he was coming down the other side, but interestingly enough there was a guy wearing a red-white-and blue speedo riding one of those fat-tire bikes (I mean really fat tire bikes) just in front of him. Hmmmmm - surely that guy didn’t pass Gwin going up that hill?!?!?! I filed that away to be explored later….


Off the bike, onto the run - and there was my dad about 1/4 mile in cheering me on! That made me pick it up - let me tell you! It is very seldom we race together, but even less often that he is there spectating (neither one of us willingly chooses to spectate - we do much better racing as well), so that was such a special thing for me. I managed to have a solid run, and was thrilled to cross the finish line and hold up that banner. There were a couple interviews and a trip to the USADA tent for testing (which I love doing because I want that on my record at EVERY opportunity), and the whole time I was kind of laughing because I knew those girls in the later waves were going to beat my time handily. Regardless, I was really happy with my race because I felt I gave it everything I could have based on my training leading up to it. And - my dad was there.


Back at the hotel, my dad was on his tracker watching the rest of the race. "Oh, it’s going to be close", he told me. He started scribbling numbers and calculating - "I think you may have it". No way. Not a chance. But he was so excited to think so, I just kind of shook my head.

We met Gwin and Tami for lunch - unofficial results came through - "You did it!!!!!!" my dad told me. No way. I have a hard time believing any results until awards are announced . . . but according to the race timing - I had the fastest time. NO.WAY. How very ironic - there were years in the past that I felt like I had a chance at standing on that top step - but not this year. I hadn’t even contemplated it. But, it happened. And the best part? My dad was there.

Sunday morning. Parking is always crazy, and I am one of those people who much prefer to be an hour early and drive in by myself than sit in traffic for an hour worrying. So I was at the venue super early, laid my seat back, turned on some tunes, and just hung out. When transition opened I went in and got my tires pumped, but it started raining so back to the car I went with my gear. I didn’t even know it was supposed to rain?!?!? I was tired, and stiff, and sore, but today was like a ‘celebration’ race - and there is something about racing back-to-back days that I really like. It’s a test of the mind probably more so than the body - and I just like the challenge of seeing how I can overcome that. Gwin and Tami were heading home, and my dad was unable to race today for a number of reasons. With the race schedule and the drive home, I calculated I wouldn’t be home until 2am the next day, and he was supposed to ride with me - but I messaged him that if he would rather ride with Gwin and Tami I understood - it would be much more civil for him.

Gwin and Tami

As the rain continued to drizzle on, I finally put the rest of my stuff in transition and made my way to swim start. My swim start was later this time, with the younger girls finishing about the time I started. And, once again, far from hot it was closer to chilly waiting to start. Finally made it to the swim start, and again I was happy with my swim. Out on the bike, a little extra cautious around the corners on the wet roads, just gave it what was left in my legs. Off the bike, out onto the run - and there was my dad, right where he was the day before! That made my heart leap and put a spring in my step. "You gotta go, Kirsten" he called. "Every second counts", and then something about 20 seconds but I couldn’t hear. Well, ok. I didn’t have much left, but I gave it all I had. I turned off my mind, focused on my Bobby McGee run form - and just ran with everything I had for as long as I could. Coming back in there he was again, "GO, GO, GO!" he cried - and I went. I came into the finish line stretch - and I will never forget it. The crowds were going crazy, the announcer was saying, "It’s going to come down to the line, to the second" - and let me tell you, that’s as close to falling across a finish line as I have ever come. Once I crossed the announcer had me wait to do an interview - but refused to tell me the final result. He had me tell about my race and how I felt, and after it was all over told me that, indeed, I had won - by a matter of seconds. And, my dad was there. And he was SOOOOOO excited. And - I was just in disbelief.


I am 38 years old. I have 2 kids. I work. I had setback after setback this summer largely because I fell off my bike multiple times and had to take time to recover. I even got to the point that, for the first time ever, I sent my coach a desperate plea to help me through and keep me going. I came into these races knowing I was not where I wanted to be, but determined to give what I had. And - somehow, that was enough. What an amazing sport that a person can still find success against the odds. It just really blows me away. But you know, the best part is - my dad was there. The.Best.Part.  


Oh - and for the record, that guy on the fat tire bike? He passed Gwin….going up that hill.  However, Gwin assured me that he passed him back shortly thereafter....

Gwin Anderson - finishing it up strong!




Somehow I managed to NOT get a SINGLE picture of my dad and I together.  However, I have to share with you what was going on back home while I was racing . . . it seems that the National Championships fall the same weekend as the Elvis Presley 5k at Graceland, and in my household that seems to be the priority...

My husband, Jeff (right) and his buddy Troy (left) - Elvis 5k
My Sebastian




Meanwhile my amazing sister, Robyn, was sharing adventures with Bella!

 As always, thanks for reading!