Train-or-Tri Sponsored Triathlete
Kari Wright – Why I Tri
The month my son turned 19 months old and my daughter turned 3 1/2 years old, I signed up for an Ironman. I had never done a triathlon, but a friend had registered for Ironman Canada, and I thought, “Well if she can do it, so can I.” I had run road races as a kid, played three sports in high school–field hockey, basketball, and softball–and always been active, able to roll off the couch and do a 200-mile ride even if it hurt for an entire week after that. But I hadn’t been a daily workout person since college.
I had my kids late–at 41 and 43–so right before my 45th birthday, I thought, “If I don’t lose my baby weight and get back in shape now, it may never happen.” I needed a BIG goal and something intimidating enough to get me out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to train and force me to really commit. I hired a coach–a friend of a friend in Massachusetts, who I worked with by phone and email–and I started training, relearning how to swim (apparently my stroke was 20 years outdated), bike (my style was hammering, not pacing myself), and run (there was even a new method to that: chi running, which would supposedly prevent me from getting injured while I packed on the miles).
I fell in love with the training, and the long solo hours and “me time.” I loved this new sport, until the day I did my first open-water swim. About 19 years ago, on an 18-month solo trip around the world, I had two near-death water experiences. I got sucked out to sea by a riptide in New Zealand and nearly drowned. Then, about 9 months later, I got caught in a flash flood while hiking through a leech-ridden Malaysian jungle, three days and 30 miles from civilization, and was nearly swept away. So the idea of swimming in open water terrified me. I bought a float that I could attach to my waist and swim with at all times (except racing) for peace of mind (yes, that’s me swimming in Padden with the orange float trailing behind!). Slowly, I grew used to open-water swimming and gained more confidence.
I still panicked during my first race — the Lake Padden Triathlon — about 100 feet from shore, but managed to regroup and finish the event. I went on to complete a half-iron race a month later and Ironman Canada Whistler the month after that (with 2,500 participants and one swim start!), and I have been hooked ever since. I have raced in Dubai (when I learned how to reassemble my own bike after flying with it), completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, done Wildflower Squared (a half-iron one day and Olympic distance the next), and taken a one-week triathlon training camp on Hawaii’s Big Island. I still learn something new at every race and throughout each season,and have made terrific like-minded friends along the way. I am also forever inspired and humbled by all those I meet while racing.
Triathlon continues to challenge me. It enables me to push myself to the extreme, mentally and physically (I love suffering), and has helped me build more confidence than ever and manage my fears (I still get nervous swimming in open-water, but I know I can do it). Triathlon still gives me that “me time” that I need, to daydream or plan all the things I can do with my kids (now 5 and 7). The best part is watching them learn how to swim, bike, and run, and try to keep up with mom.