I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Ironman Kristin White. I had been following Kristin’s blog (http://www.kristin-white.com/) for about a month before she left for Kona to race in the World Championships. It was during that time, while I was constantly refreshing my BlackBerry to see where she was, that I thought it might be a good idea to reach out to her and see if she would be open to an interview for the site.
I was drawn to Kristin for two reasons. The first reason is that Kristin is from Central New York. I grew up in New York and went to college in Oswego which is not far from Syracuse, where Kristin calls home. The second reason was because Kristin is a single mother of two and in all her blog postings she is referring to her children and I found it inspirational.
On the day of the phone interview I was amazed at how Kristin balanced being a mommy, an employee and an athlete on the verge of going pro. That’s right Kristin has decided that she wants to compete with the likes of Julie Dibens and Chrissie Wellington.
So how did Kristin get into triathlons, then? Well, you have to start with her running career. She began running after gaining some weight her freshman year of college and essentially became obsessed with it. As a struggling, poor college student, she chose running to get in shape because it was inexpensive and easy to do.
It’s at this point in the story that I would like to mention the weather in Central New York. When I lived there we had 16 feet of snow in one season. Not exactly conducive to tri training! It was enough snow that it got me thinking about transferring to the University of Hawaii, possibly as close as I’ll get to Kona. Kristin has actually lived in Ithaca, Buffalo and now Syracuse so has dealt with the weather ever since she started exercising. As a runner,she just bundled up and headed out. Before she graduated and could afford performance clothing, she was even known to wrap sweatpants around her head and layer socks on her hands to stay warm in the below zero wind chills. Those around campus eventually knew her as the running girl and ignored the crazy outfits! Now with triathlon, she sets the bike up on the trainer and may even hit the treadmill on the snowiest of days.
From these auspicious beginnings, Kristin eventually hired Owen Anderson to coach her and qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon in 2000…from college couch potato to marathoner…right! (Marathon Makeover anybody?)
During Kristin’s first pregnancy, she began to suffer from an SI (sacro-iliac) joint injury. This forced her to get her first bike on the trainer to stay in shape. She also began swimming a bit but was not something that interested her very much.
One year after the birth of her first child she gave triathlon a shot and, well, let’s just say it was not a match made in heaven. She was not bit by the triathlon bug that most people who enter the sport do.
Kristin became pregnant again and again suffered from the same back pain. This led to her being in the pool quite a bit (even swimming 3000 yards on the day she gave birth!) and it was at that time that she met a woman who told her to give triathlon another shot. Eventually Kristin gave in and agreed it might be fun to try again.
A friend of a friend, Karen Allen-Turner, agreed to coach her and in February of 2009 the partnership began. Karen immediately had Kristin immersed in triathlon training, causing Kristin to really push herself in all aspects of triathlon. In just her second season of triathlon she qualified for Kona.
At Kona her mind went from “I am in Hawaii…look at all these amazing athletes…do I belong here??” to “this is just another race…do what you do.” She enjoyed taking it all in…like the signs on the Queen K Highway that said “Caution: Athletes in training” and seeing hundreds of athletes doing their practice swims at 7am at the pier.
I also sent Kristin some questions for her to answer and she obliged and filled out her answers.
1- How did you get involved with the sport of triathlon?
After being a marathoner and runner for 19 years and suffering various injuries including major SI joint pain during my pregnancies, I started cross training to stay in shape. A friend introduced me to a triathlon coach and I decided to give it a try.
2- How long have you been involved with the sport?
About 6 years ago I did 2 sprint triathlons then 4 years ago I tried 2 again but I really started last year so it has been 2 years of solid training.
3- What is the hardest part of your training?
Finding the time to fit in the workouts!!
4- How many hours per week do you train?
7-12 off season, 14-20 in season I think. Actually Karen keeps track of it all…I don’t really pay attention to the number of hours. I just do what she says!
5- Do you have an off-season?
Pretty much from the last race of the season (October) and then I start up seriously in February.
6- What bike are you riding?
Trek Equinox 9.0. I have borrowed Zipp 808s for 1 race and SRAM S60s for Kona but don’t have my own race wheels. Actually, Syracuse was the 1st race I ever did with race wheels on…and then had the fastest bike split!
7- What shoes are you running in?
10- Best advice you have ever received? In life or in sport?
Always do your best…then you have no reason to be disappointed. (thanks mom and dad!)
11- Favorite triathlon distance? Why?
I really love the half ironman. As a runner my favorite distance was the half marathon so maybe that is why. I just find it more manageable timewise to train for and an easier recovery than a full.
12- Best swag you have received from a race?
Besides money??? My Kona Ironman watch that I got this year was pretty cool. I have also gotten a years supply of Brueggers bagels, a Zoot transition bag, and lots of other stuff I can’t remember.
13- Tips/Tricks you do prior to a race?
I always shower and shave the morning of a race and I ALWAYS have a glass of wine the night before.
14- Least favorite sport to train for? Most favorite sport to train for?
I have fallen in love with swimming this past year and still have not found the love on the bike.
15- What are you goals for the 2011 racing season?
Get comfortable racing with the pros and feel like I belong there. Break 4:30 in a half and 10 in a full. Break 1:30 for the run in a half.
a. What about for your career?
Get back to Kona as a pro and if I can’t do that…go back as an age grouper and win my age group.
16- How important is family and friends support for your training?
I would not be successful in this sport if I didn’t have my family and friends support. I need them to encourage me, be proud of me, be there to watch my girls when I need them, laugh with me, drink wine with me…
17- How has training/racing helped you in your life?
a. How do you keep yourself motivated on down day’s?
My motivation is knowing how guilty I feel when I don’t do what is on the schedule. No matter how bad or tired I feel, I always feel worse when I don’t exercise.
18- What is the one most important exercise you suggest nobody skip?
Owen Anderson’s core routine (aka: The Bridges of Kenya):
(1) The Bridges of Kenya (for achieving stunning core strength). Lie face down on the ground or floor and stretch out in a prone position. Then, lift up your body so that you are balanced only on your forearms and toes. Your elbows are on the ground and should be directly below your shoulders. Your forearms and hands are pointed straight ahead, resting on the ground. Your toes (and feet) are about shoulder-width apart, and your toes are the only part of your lower body which are touching the ground. Your whole body is supported only by your forearms and toes.
A. Now, a key, key point: ‘tuck’ your pelvis. This basically means rotating your pelvic girdle by pushing the lower part of your pelvic area toward the ground while the upper part of the pelvis rotates away from the ground. Your hip area doesn’t actually come any closer to the ground (your whole body should be in a fairly straight line from your toes up to your shoulders). When you ‘tuck’, you are just rotating your pelvis, not moving it up or down. If you were standing, you would be directing the lower part of your pelvis forward and pulling the top part of your pelvic girdle backward. It’s important to complete this exercise as directed, because it is crucial for improving what I call your core strength – the strength of the muscles surrounding the pelvic girdle, which promote powerful, economical, injury-free sporting activity.
B. Hold this basic position (body supported only on forearms and toes, pelvis tucked) for 15 seconds, and then lift your right arm off the ground, straighten it, and point it straight ahead, holding it in the air for 10 seconds (at this point, your body is supported only by your left forearm and the toes of your two feet). After 10 seconds, return to the starting position.
C. Then, lift your left arm off the ground and point it straight ahead, holding it in the air for 10 seconds. Return to the starting position.
D. Now lift your right leg up in the air and hold it there for 10 seconds (your body will now be supported by your two forearms and the toes on your left foot). Return to the starting position.
E. Lift your left leg in the air for 10 seconds, and then return to the starting position.
F. Here’s a move you’ll always remember: from the starting position, lift your right arm and left leg in the air SIMULTANEOUSLY. Hold them up for 10 seconds, and then return to the starting position.
G. Then, lift your left arm and right leg SIMULTANEOUSLY, and hold them in the air for 10 seconds. Return to the starting position.
Take a one to two-minute break, and then repeat steps A-G once more.
H. Once you’ve completed the second set, stay in the basic position for one additional minute. Please remember to keep your pelvis tucked and your body in a straight line.
I. Now, flip over on your back and lift yourself up so that your body is supported only by your forearms and your HEELS! Again, your body should be linear, your pelvis should be tucked, and your elbows should be approximately below your shoulders. Stay in this basic position, and then lift your right leg off the ground for 10 seconds.
J. Return your right heel to the ground, and lift your left leg in the air for 10 seconds (you are balanced only on your forearms and right heel). Then, return it to the ground and hold the basic position for 30 seconds.
K. Flip over on your right side and support your whole body with only your right forearm and the OUTSIDE OF YOUR RIGHT FOOT. Your body should be a straight line, inclined upward from the foot to the shoulder – and off the ground (don’t let your leg touch the ground). Your left foot should simply be lying on the right foot. Then, lift your left leg straight up (abducting the hip) for 10 seconds, before returning to this basic position.
L. Flip over to your left side, and repeat step K, but with your body weight supported by your left forearm and the outside of your left foot (you will raise your right leg in the air). Hold your right leg in the air for 10 seconds, and you’re done with the core routine!
or just reference page http://www.sportsinjurybulletin.com/archive/1090-lower-back-spams.htm)
19- What is your favorite recovery drink/food?
drink – chocolate milk. food – changes with my latest obsession. right now it is Stonyfield Farms cream on top french vanilla yogurt with granola and fruit.
20- How closely do you watch your nutrition and how much do you think that helps?
This has been a major concern for me lately. I never pay attention. I mean, I eat better than the average American but not like an athlete should! I have discussed with my coaches focusing more on this aspect for 2011. I have gotten much better at paying attention to it during my workouts. I am careful to eat Power Gels and Power bars during my rides along with Gatorade or Accelerade or Ironman Perform (which I loved out in Kona!).
a. During training days and off days?
I am definitely better at eating more nutritiously on training days!! Unfortunately I have a HUGE sweet tooth!
21- Is Kona the ultimate dream for you in terms of triathlons?
I can remember watching Kona on TV and thinking they were crazy people. I joked that if I ever was to do that it would just be to finish…never race it. LOL!! How wrong I was! Yeah – it’s the ultimate!!
22- Are you a member of a team and how did you get involved with them?
I am not a member of any team yet but do belong to the Wegmans Eat Well Live Well Triathlon Group due to my being employed there!
23- Most important piece of equipment for a triathlete?
Without question, a helmet. My training partner last year was struck by a car while training on his bike and suffered a major brain injury after being in a coma for a week along with numerous fractures throughout his body. If it wasn’t for his helmet he would be dead. Instead he is making an amazing recovery. You will hear his name (Scott Ennis) because he will be back competing again.
24- In terms of effective cost, what will help a triathlete shave the most time?
I’ve heard people say an aero helmet? I think what will help shave the most time is consistent training…and that is at no cost!
25- What would you tell a beginner to get them interested?
It’s a lot of fun! A little like an obstacle course :-). And you feel great when you are done. I’d also tell them to pick a race a few months away and train for it…make it a goal. Don’t be intimidated because everyone will welcome you…this sport loves encouraging beginners!
26- Do you believe anyone can become an athletic person?
I believe anyone can be athletic but it takes dedication to excel.
27- Do you believe there is an age limit for racing? Is there an age where one should stop racing?
28- Finish that you are most proud of?
Both Ironmans – Chesapeakeman and Kona because I definitely hit that point during the day when I wanted to quit.
29- What phrases do you use to push yourself across the finish line? I use finish strong!
I don’t have any phrases really. My girls are my motivation. I want to make them proud of me and I want them to strive to do their best by learning from the example I set.