As you know, it’s age groupers that make up the vast majority of folks that participate in this sport. Although I’ve interviewed more than a few professional triathletes, recently however, I’ve wanted to focus on age groupers in my ongoing Ten Questions With… series. This week’s interview continues down that path.
Kim Schwabenbuaer is an age grouper (albeit a VERY good age grouper) who grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives in the general Pittsburgh area. She and her husband are both quite active – Kyle is an outdoorsman (check out the TV show he works for here), and obviously Kim is big into triathlon.
Kim attended Penn State back in the day, and ran both track and cross country as a walk-on athlete. Ultimately, Kim became one of the better runners on the team, and was captain of both the cross country and track teams. She studied Nutrition Science & Applied Fields, and while originally wanted to be a chiropractor, Kim now is a certified dietician, triathlon coach, nutrition coach and motivational speaker.
So…without further ado, allow me to introduce you to this week’s subject for Ten Questions With…Kim Schwabenbuaer!
TM: How did you get your start in triathlon? Was it a natural progression after your running career at Penn State ended, or did someone motivate you to give it a try?
KS: Actually, after doing a few marathons I was looking for the next “thing” that possibly wouldn’t require so much leg pounding. A combination of taking a work trip to Kona and seeing the Ironman World Championships start line sign and a friend of mine doing them I thought “yeah, that sounds cool…now, how am I going to learn to swim!”
TM: What do you enjoy most about our sport?
KS: Dang it, I have a terrible time with this question because it’s everything… the amazing people in the sport, the challenge of seeing just how good I can get, the traveling to new places and events, learning where my limitations are both physically and mentally and then pushing the envelope, seeing how it changes people lives from complete couch potato to active athlete creating some of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever seen!! Everything.. I like everything about the dang sport.. happy J?
TM: You’ve had a very successful career so far, including qualifying for Kona. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
KS: Did anyone ever tell you your questions are hard (but good, you do your research my man!)? I’m so very thankful for the journey I’ve been on since starting this sport. It’s truly changed my life and the way I see the world. It isn’t one accomplishment per say I’m most proud of I guess. It’s the fact that I never stop, even when the chips are down, even when I’m doubting myself and my abilities, even when I’m on the bike in a sling like I was after a broken collarbone in 2009 at the Half Ironman World Championship. It’s scary to dream big, especially when you feel there are plenty of people who think you should just hang it up and move on to the more “important” things in life. I’m just so thankful and blessed that I’ve had people who never let me give up, even when I tossed around the idea, and that it brought me back to the thing that matters most.. the love the of sport and the challenge of the next training session, the next race. Yep, that’s it I think!
TM: You’ve raced in all the different triathlon distances. Which is your most favorite and why?
KS: Well, with this answer I’m going to seem like a gutton for punishment but I would have to say Ironman. Sure, the short fast ones are fun, but the Ironman takes a different mind-set, a different “tone” if you will. It’s the one where you stand on the starting line and realize that not only will there be pain, but there will be 10-17 hours of pain but that when you run up on that finish line and you hear that roar of the crowd, that you know you are a different person than you were when you started, that all the hard work and sacrifice came together so that you could walk those final steps and say thank you for all the faith, love and strength that brought you there in that moment. Nothing peels away the layers of who we are like racing 140 miles, the highs, the lows, and everything in between.. it’s pretty special.
TM: You raced last month at Eagleman. How’d that race go?
KS: Eagleman. Hum.. I wouldn’t say it was the race I was looking for, but it was solid. It had it’s high points (the bike) and it’s low points (the run). It’s tough when you don’t feel like you execute your race the way you had planned or when things go wrong and you just can’t bring them back around. That was Eagleman for me. A solid 7th in the age group, but when I don’t run well.. frankly, I’m never happy. I’m a runner and I can do better than that.. Hopefully, all this run training along with the other factors will come together at the next one!
TM: What are your goals for the rest of this season? What does the rest of your race schedule look like?
KS: When you qualify for Kona the year before I guess some people think you should sit around and wait for the big show to roll around. While I can see some benefits in resting and training, I just don’t function well as an athlete without some racing on the schedule to keep me motivated and remind me why I’m doing all this training so needless to say – I have a pretty full schedule. My goals are simple, do the best I can and learn how to put it together on the big game days where it counts. I have two of those “A” opportunities this season, Ironman Lake Placid (oh, in just a few short weeks!) and obviously Kona. I have some shorter races like a local sprint and an Irongirl race mixed in as well. I’d love to do Rev 3 Cedar Point again, but my good friend decided to get married on that weekend, not sure what she was thinking. LOL
TM: Are you coached or self-coached? How did you land on going that particular route?
KS: At this time, coached (Justin Trolle, USAT Level 3, Vangard Triathlon). I did some self coaching for awhile and found it tough to see things from an outside perspective (when to rest, when to push etc.). That’s the beauty of a coach, they can just see things that at the time you are too close to really examine impartially. After meeting Justin at my USAT Level 1 clinic (he was a presenter) he was just a laid back dude in a cowboy hat who seemed to click with me and what I was about. I had no idea if it would work, but we were both willing to give it a try. He’s been great and I can’t thank him enough.
TM: What is your most favorite workout?
KS: Once again, this could come off as lame, but I like a good old fashion long run through trails. Seeing the beauty of nature plus my legs loving the soft ground, hearing your breath, seeing the way the light dances through the trees at daybreak…it’s almost a spiritual experience. I can’t help but think about how lucky I am just to be healthy and get a chance to live my dreams in moments like that. Ok.. I have to go trail run now!
TM: You own your own business (www.fuelyourpassion.net) where you offer triathlon and nutrition coaching, wellness programs, motivational speaking, and more. What aspect of your career do you enjoy the most?
KS: I definitely enjoy seeing someone who may never have even ridden a bike before or even remotely call themselves an “athlete” finish their first triathlon. Coaching them through that process start to finish is one of the most amazing experiences thus far. Working on the nutritional aspects is also a fun part, but the feeling they get when they cross the finish line, and knowing that I was a small part of that, is just one special opportunity. In addition, seeing some of my more experienced athletes reach their goals or cut 25 minutes off their previous best half ironman time is pretty cool too. I love talking with them right after the race! I’m like YEAH – that’s why we’ve been working so hard – there it is!! The proof is the pudding they say!! I’m very blessed to say the least.
TM: Who, or what, in triathlon inspires you?
KS: Everything about this sport inspires me. The people I meet at the most humble, yet driven, inspiring, loving individuals I have ever met. Seeing professionals and age group athletes talking side by side about their struggles, their victories, how they overcame challenges. The Challenged Athlete Foundation athletes are simply put, some of the toughest men and women in the sport. They, and their helpers are just unbelievable. Finally, last but not nearly least, my charity, Ballou Skies that supports research for Muscular Dystrophy inspires me. Ryan Ballou inspires me by the way he never gives up on his fight to raise awareness of this disease and raise money until there is a cure. He never stops, so I will never stop learning, training, competing and giving it everything.
TM: (bonus question) What question did you hope that I’d ask you, but haven’t? And what is the answer to that question?
KS: What role does your faith play in triathlon? Is that a big part of what you do?
My best performance thus far was definitely Ironman Cozumel in November last year where I was the first female amateur and 6th among the professionals. In some ways, I knew I had it in me to have that kind of race, but so much can happen, as we all know, so I never go in expecting it. Especially considering in the four days prior to this race, I had terrible diarrhea (sorry! Gross I know!! It’s true though!). Two days out I could only sip liquids all day and I had no idea if I would even be able to finish the race, let alone race to my full potential. At some point we all know that whatever happens in that race is only so much in our control. If you believe in God or not, you know that some things you can change by adaptation or decisions but others you simply cannot. In those moments is most where I feel my faith well up within me and just allow me to live for that moment, to see this is only a race and I’m so very blessed to get to compete in the first place. When I finally let it go in Cozumel, was when it all came together and that had NOTHING to do with me making it happen. It had everything to do with my belief that I am child of God. I know that we all may not believe the same things, but I’m able to keep going in the lowest of low times because of that one fact.