Category Archives: Ironman

The Raw Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid 2014

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From behind the podium, I accepted a microphone and an opportunity to address a 200+ crowd of orange-clad triathletes and their families.

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I’d like to tell you a story about two girlfriends, I said, both of whom are racing Ironman Lake Placid this Sunday. A story about two girlfriends and their fathers. 

The first of these friends was in her mid-20s when she lost her father. While biking, her father was struck by a distracted driver. Her father died before she could make it to the hospital to say goodbye. 

The second of these friends is me. When I was in my early 20s, my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and (as of yet) incurable blood cancer. The prognosis read 3-5 years

But that was eleven years ago. 

I explained this as I addressed 110 triathletes and their families who, over the course of the past year and in preparation to represent the MMRF at Ironman Lake Placid, had raised over $865,000 for myeloma research. Some of them had been personally touched my myeloma. Most had not. Instead, they raised those funds in exchange for a highly coveted Ironman bib. It was my task to thank them on behalf of the myeloma community.

Since its inception in 1999, I explained, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has brought six new myeloma drugs to market, one of which has kept my father golfing and cycling and far outliving the stark prognosis he faced eleven years ago. Thanks to you and the tireless work of the MMRF, I have had  the past eleven years to process and express to my father the full extent of his influence on my life. I have been able to demonstrate to him in every Ironman that I race that I was, in fact, listening to all of the lessons he taught me as a young girl about setting goals, believing in the impossible, and defying odds. 

I fought back tears and returned to the story of two girlfriends and their fathers.

None of us know how many final seconds, or days, or years we will have to express gratitude, communicate influence, heal deep wounds, and retire old grudges with our loved ones. But if we start now, we just may have enough time. 

IMAZ with Poppy Smiles Cropped

In May, with my parents cheering me on, I raced Ironman Texas, won my age group, declined my Kona slot, placed 3rd amateur, qualified for my pro card, and broke 10 hours. I was a happy triathlete.

But I didn’t get into triathlon for podiums or Kona qualifications.

So when the MMRF put together a team of 110 triathletes united by a cause greater than themselves, I seized the opportunity to join them, even though it meant two exhausting Ironman competitions in as many months.

IMLP Dmitry

This is why I race triathlon. To be a part of something greater than myself. 

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And that something took Lake Placid by storm.

Speaking of storms, it poured.

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SWIM.

1:05. Luckily, I was on the final stretch of the 2.4 mile swim when the lightning sent the first of many snapchat selfies. Though I was permitted to finish the swim, those further back were not.

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Safety crews directed the latter waves of swimmers to the closest shore, where they began the 1.5 mile barefoot walk back to transition. I was thankful to already be on my bike.

BIKE

5:52. Pelting rain, low visibility, lighting and thunder, tremor-like shivers, numb hands and feet. And a laughing heart.

IMLP Bike Rain

I still find the Ironman distance fairly ridiculous, so when you layer a thunderstorm and piercing rain on top of 140.6 miles, laughing is the healthiest response to the absurdity.

I executed a 112-mile build, holding back in the first quarter, and building throughout the final three. Experimenting with a slower build, I was able to consume more fluid, calories, and electrolytes. I even hit a 112-mile pee PR of 5x!

IMLP Run Happy

RUN

3:30. I started the run well hydrated and feeling strong. In a three hour and 30 minute blur, I slowly moved my way up through the field to capture the top spot in my age group.

Finish Line Hands

I know this race report appears slim on details, but racing an Ironman is about so much more than the miles and watts and the gels consumed. I accepted the invitation to explain this perspective on this year’s Ironman Athlete Panel. Unfortunately, WordPress won’t allow me to embed the Livestream video, but click here to watch my conversation with Mike Reilly at about 11:40-14:30, and again 16:00-17:00. That is the raw race report of every Ironman I race.

Thank you:

-My Sherpa, Sarita.

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-The MMRF organization and its Team For Cures. For giving me the ultimate reason to race.

-To Team Poppy Tony’s supporters. For helping us surpass $75,000 for myeloma research.

-To Alicia and Jane at MMRF. For an incredible five years together racing down a cure.

Kendra and Alicia

Zoot Sports. For my snazzy and functional tri-kit, designed specifically so I can represent the MMRF.

SmartWool. Remarkably, even after all of the driving rain and pools of pee collecting in my socks as I biked, and later after running through sprinklers and dumping cups of water to cool my temperature, I had no blisters. It’s not called SMARTwool for nothing!

Nalgene. For my most well hydrated race yet!

Coach Tim at QT2 Systems. For pushing back.

Rose Physical Therapy. For putting my plantar fascia on the road to recovery.

-And most of all, to a girlfriend and her father.

IMLP Swim Morning

 

 

Ironman Texas 2014 – More than a Feeling

Beats per minute. Carbs per hour. Pace per mile.

Time trials, weigh-ins, sweat tests, fueling windows.

In October, I started working with QT2 Systems — the BEST of triathlon’s data dudes — with the purpose of learning how to use data to up my training and racing game.

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Here is an example of the type of data analysis that Coach performs for each leg of a race:

Half IM Data

Before working with QT2, I trained mainly by feel. In my first Ironman, during which I ran a 3:21 marathon and qualified for Kona, the only data I had were mile splits. No heart rate monitor. No power meter.

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Under QT2, every swim, bike, run is driven by data. Every gel, bar, bottle consumed by fueling plan. And then carefully recorded. And  then commented on by Coach.

By the time April rolled around, I had been staring so long and so intently at the numbers on my watch, that I had forgotten how pools and roads and trails looked. Even worse, I had forgotten how they feel.

I was drowning in my own data.

Drowning in Lake Anna

I’ve noticed that most triathletes love numbers.  Love what numbers tell them. Normalized power, power-to-weight ratio, average heart rate, yards per week, race weight.

But I love how those things feel.

Life is not a Rehearsal_Jenny Holzer_How does it feel2

And I can’t feel them when the metrics are monopolizing my other senses.

And without that feeling, I had forgotten why I love triathlon.

Luckily, as a former teacher, Coach respects that each of his students learn differently.

So we ditched the data in the final month of preparation for Ironman Texas and instead of sending in my weigh-ins, or beats per minutes, or mile splits, I only told Coach how it felt. And it started to feel good again.

IRONMAN TEXAS Race Report

SWIM – 1:04

Credit: Nick Morales

I heard a lot of complaints about dirty water, but at 71 degrees, Lake Woodlands felt so good. The water and air temp combo meant that I could get in early for a good warm-up swim without any Raynaud’s concerns.

The officials allowed us to line up across the entire lake and to swim the first leg inside the sighting buoys. This wide start (unlike, for example, Lake Placid’s start) and my position to the far left minimized kicks and punches to the face and panic to the heart. (Those don’t feel good.)

Cred: Nick Morales

After the cannon, I eased into a strong pace with Caroline and some burly men. I jumped on a few pairs of feet here and there during the 2.4 mile swim, but still find it a great challenge to stay in someone’s draft.

IMTX Swim

I was surprised by how much chop I encountered in the lake, and even more in the canal. Still, my favorite part of the swim was through that narrow waterway. Because it is so narrow, and with so many spectators standing above, cruising through the canal creates the illusion of swimming very fast. That’s a new feeling for me. And I liked it.

Aerial View of the Canal

Despite a winter of never reaching time trial goals in the pool, I emerged from the canal with a new Ironman swim PR of 1:04:30. Of course, I didn’t know that until nine hours later because I wasn’t wearing a watch.

BIKE – 5:18

IMTX T1

That’s me grabbing my bike. I usually don’t see this many other bikes still racked. Good sign!

Like the swim, the bike plan was to ease into a pace. I opted to wear a heart rate monitor for the bike leg as a data point to complement, but not override, how I felt. I knew the heart rate indicators could be particularly helpful in stabilizing effort through high winds.

IMTX Bike Side

Ironman Texas is a single loop course, which is my least favorite kind because I only see my parents at the start and finish, and no where in between. Luckily, the course was carved through the front yards of some fantastic Texans, many of whom made a day of cheering for us. Awesome.

IMTX Bike

Thanks to easing into it, I biked pretty even on the front half and back half, averaging 21.1 MPH over the 112 miles. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time because I had stopped monitoring the data. My beats per minute were uncharacteristically low for how hard my legs were pushing, so I switched back over to feel. And focused instead on throwing sports drink down the hatch and water on my head. It was starting to feel warm.

IMTX Bike 2

The last 15 miles were lonely, but the loneliness allowed me to feel the breath in my lungs and the muscles in my legs. And to be grateful that I know how biking 112 miles feels.

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RUN – 3:26

Though this was my seventh Ironman, I still can’t believe that I — that anyone — can run a full marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, but in that moment, when the b/f yelled that I was in 3rd place and 5 minutes out of first place, I was thankful I had all those miles left. I knew I would need all of them to crawl out of that deficit and claim the top spot.

IMTX Run

Ironman Texas offers a three-loop run course, so I saw my parents, my coach, Aimee, and the b/f tons of lovely times. Though the out-and-backs were too short to get a quality reading on the rate at which I was closing the gap (compared to Ironman Lake Placid, for example) the b/f updated me as he ran from point to point along the loop.

The course was flat, but not as fast as it could have been. So many turns and paths and roads and curves to navigate. After the first loop, I had moved into 2nd, but only gained about 30 seconds on #1.

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Kgo and Brian

Thankfully, and for the first time in my Ironman history, I found a running mate going the exact same speed. We became fast friends, stride for stride, and stuck together for over half (!!!) of the run. It felt amazing to work together.

IMTX Brian and Kgo

My running buddy, Brian McKinney

I pulled into the age group lead with just three miles to go, marking a 3:26 marathon.

And a 9:56 total time for the day.

IMTX Finish

First place age group.

Third amateur.

But I didn’t need a watch or a place to tell me what I already knew: When the pain is as deep as the joy is pure, then it’s been a good day on the Ironman course.


IMTX Finish Line Kendra Goffredo

And like every other battle I’ve faced in my life, I felt my parents’ presence every step of the way.

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Congratulations to Meredith, Helle, Christy, and the boyz!

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Team Poppy Tony gives HUGE thanks to:

  • All of you in your corners of the world, for tracking us, supporting us, and sending us love! Together, we are 140.6 miles closer to a cure.
  • The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (the MMRF), for giving me the ultimate reason to race.
  • ZootSports, for a wetsuit, kit, and shoes that feel as good as they look.
  • SmartWool, for socks that feel good in 26.2 miles of water-logged shoes.
  • Nalgene, for keeping me hydrated enough to feel my best on a warm day.
  • Coach Tim of QT2 Systems, for his patience in letting me feel my way back.
  • My fantastic support crew of Aimee, Lonnie, my parents, and my most handsome sherpa.

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And just for fun:

 

 

Notes on an Identity Crisis

Desperation Climbing

I’ve seen it happen many times: a sidelining injury, a disappointing season, or even the loss of desire to compete sends an athlete into a downward spiral, an identity crisis, or even a deep depression. I believe that how we define ourselves determines how we respond to athletic heartbreak.

Masked Party People

Who Are You?

You have to be cautious in how you define yourself here, my Peace Corps nurse told me at the beginning of my service in Nepal. You may have always been “the runner” back home, she said, but any number of things–monsoon season, uncomfortable stares, rabid dogs–will likely make running a distant dream of your American life.

Monsoon Season in Durgapur Nepal

Tough to run when your village is under water

Though you will not be able to run, you will not cease to exist, she assured me with a smile. Try to define yourself by immutable characteristics instead. Not by what you do, but by who you are.

Immutable Defined

Though “Kgo, the runner,” will be lost in rural Nepal, the nurse said, she cannot accomplish nearly as much as “Kgo, the friend” or “Kgo, the compassionate.” And that holds true in Nepal as much as it does back home, she explained. These latter identities don’t change with age, geography, or rabid dogs.

Run Stop

This is an important lesson for “Kgo, the triathlete.”

As triathlon training transitions into IRONMAN volume, identity becomes as important to my mental health as sleep is to physical health. I will be the best triathlete I can be when I nurture all aspects of my immutable identity: the daughter, the friend, the live music-lover, the international volcano climber–who also loves triathlon.

Victory Cotopaxi Ecuador

As I plan the next few months of a long season, I schedule a trip to visit my parents. I organize fundraisers for Team Poppy Tony. I buy tickets-for-two to performances at the Kennedy Center and concerts at 9:30 Club.  I plan some burrito-based dinner parties with people who don’t know the IRONMAN distances. I renew my subscription to The Economist and I buy a new highlighter.

So now I ask you: With what immutable characteristics do you create your identity? How will you define yourself today so that if the onset of injury or the loss of desire to race blows your life into a million little pieces, you will still recognize who you are…

The Rain Room

Want to read more on the intersection of triathlon and Peace Corps?

1. How Peace Corps Prepared Me For Ironman

2. The New Normal

3. The Reincarnation of ChiTo

4. My Bowl is Half Full

5. Tri Training in the Andes

Bean Farming in Carpuela

What Would You Write?

Feared Erased

Sporting success rests, in part, with having the mental fortitude necessary to overcome our fears. –Chrissie Wellington, on winning Ironman World Championships two weeks after a serious bike crash

As the first big race of the season rapidly approaches, race goals begin to congeal in our minds or on our Type-A spreadsheets. Some will set a goal to complete their first marathon. Others will work to break the 6-hour or 5-hour barrier in a Half Ironman. And a few will dream of ending their season on a certain island in the Pacific.

Though logging miles and pushing paces will bring us all closer to our goals, we will never reach our true potential if we are remiss in acknowledging and eliminating our greatest limiters.

Those limited in the past by nagging injuries may decide to get real about stretching or strength training. Those limited by diet may opt for larger helpings of veggies or smaller slices of cheesecake.  And whose with a hate-hate relationship with the alarm, may spend less time in front of the tube and more time asleep.

For most of us, though, our greatest limiter is our own fear. Fear of open water. Fear of the pain that precedes personal records. Fear of going out too hard. Fear of holding back. Fear that we overestimated our own abilities. Fear that we underestimated them.

So as you set your goals and face your greatest limiter, I ask: What would you write on this wall?

Bringing Sexy Back

First short sleeve day of the spring M-Ko and K-go

Kgo and Ko Celebrate the Sun

This weekend’s 60-degree weather brought the first short-sleeved run of 2013! I wanted to feel every ounce of sun possible, so I left the hat and sunglasses at home.  Rocking the bare arms felt soooo right.

SkateBoarding

But it can be so wrong.

It’s spring now. And before we know it, it’ll be summer. The sun will shine brighter, the mercury will rise, and the layers will come off.

Kara Goucher Rocking the Sports Bra

Abs for days (Olympian Kara Goucher)

not all sexy

Well, not everyone can be as sexy as a shirtless Kara Goucher

Running and cycling are about to get sexy again. Very sexy.

But before they do, and before you do, please watch this video. It could save your life. Or your training partner’s life. Or your child’s life.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is its leading cause. It’s NOT the kind that can be simply “cut out.” It’s the kind that spreads to your liver and your lungs. It’s the kind that takes lives. Young lives.

But there is a lot that you can do to prevent melanoma.

Below, find a list of tips for melanoma prevention, modified for the endurance athlete.

  • Avoid midday sun. The doctors recommend avoiding midday sun. Whenever possible, get in your long ride or run on the early side to avoid exposure when the sun’s rays are strongest (10am-4pm), even when the sky is cloudy. (Clouds offer little protection from damaging rays.) For those training for ultra-marathons or IRONMAN-distance events, rides/runs/bricks will inevitably spill into that sun window. Simply minimize the spillage by starting as early as possible.
Sunset Run

Luckily, sunrise/sunset runs in VA and CA happen outside of the 10am-4pm window. Great running/riding scenery.

  • Choose shade.  For those really long rides that spill heavily into or entirely span that 10am-4pm midday sun window, choose shady routes whenever possible. 
Kevin and Kgo Laughing SmartWool

We can’t all run under the Redwoods, but search locally for a Redwood substitute

  • Wear protective gear. Clothes don’t wash off like sunscreen. Look for gear that provides an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40-50+. As sexy as a tank top or sportbra may be, opt for the running shirt or cycling jersey that covers your shoulders in that 10am-4pm window. Choose sleeves such as the Zoot Ultra Icefill Arm Coolers and, in addition to blocking UV rays, you’ll cool off with Zoot’s moisture-activated technology. Sunglasses are also an essential part of protective gear. Melanoma can develop on the eye as well.
Andy Lipscomb at Kona Arm Sleeves

All-American Andy Lipscomb protecting those guns with arm sleeves in the Kona sun

  • Apply Legit Sunblock. Sunscreen should be used in addition to, and not instead of the tips above. And it should be applied year-round. Use a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. (I’d go for 50+.) Apply it generously, and reapply throughout periods of heavy perspiration.  (If you sweat like I do, reapply it every hour.) Use a generous amount; this is not the place to trim triathlon expenses. Big white sunblock streaks are sexyOwn it. 
Andy Lipscomb Sunburn

Can you guess which of the anti-melanoma rules this stud violated?

  • Avoid tanning beds. Obvio. Even if you want to look sexy in a strapless dress. Melanoma is not sexy. Pick a different dress.
Bike Sting Ray

Shoulders covered…still sexy

  • Become familiar with your skin so you’ll notice changes. Yep, I am recommending that you look at yourself naked in the mirror. Frequently. If you have a naked partner, work a skin examination into your alone time. Become familiar with what your skin (or your partner’s skin) normally looks like. This way, you are more likely to notice any skin changes. Examine your face, neck, ears, scalp, chest, trunk and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks. (There are a small number of melanoma cases that are not caused by UV exposure.) If you notice any moles that are asymmetrical or evolving or ones with notched or scalloped borders, show your doctor.
Life is Brutal

Catch Melanoma Early

Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread. Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early.

Please protect yourself and please share this with your training partners.

Stay sexy.

Your Skin is Rooting For You

Not Your Momma’s Wool

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Credit: Georgetown Productions

There is a rushed moment in an IRONMAN competition in which biker becomes runner. It happens so fast that I haven’t time to consider what 2.4 miles of water submersion and 112 miles of sweaty gear mashing have done to my feet. No time to comprehend that a full marathon still separates my water-logged wonders from the finish line. No, in this rushed moment, there is only time to lace up my shoes and take the first step.

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That first step of that first mile is followed by 1,780 more steps. And that first mile is followed by 25.2 more miles. So by the time I cross an IRONMAN finish line, my feet have taken nearly 50,000 steps. Fifty thousand steps through sweltering lava fields in the afternoon sun. Fifty thousand steps in sneakers bloated with water originally intended to cool my head. 

Kendra Goffredo Ironman Kona Finish Line Flags

But it’s what I do in that rushed moment that ensures those 50,000 steps do not become 50,000 chances for a blister to destroy my race: I pull on SmartWool socks.

Four full IRONMAN competitions. Two-hundred thousand steps. ZERO blisters.

Feet and SmartWool

So when SmartWool called to see if I’d be interested in “modeling” for their Spring 2013 running line, it didn’t take much any convincing. And that was even before I knew that the shoot would be in San Francisco.

SmartWool Shoot San Francisco Kgo

It was obvious upon arrival that SmartWool was hoping some beauty sleep would do me (and their SP13 run campaign) some good.

Tiburon Hotel

What followed were 48 hours of fan field testing with a cool cast and crew of characters:

The crew:

  • Jen, SmartWool’s creative director (Steamboat Springs)
  • Noah, executive creative director from Victors and Spoils (Boulder)
  • Kevin, superstar photographer (Whistler)
  • Sean, assistant photographer extraordinaire
  • Dan, videographer and surfer (Cardiff, CA)
  • Ali, on-site producer (San Francisco)
SmartWool Shoot Kevin Stretching Golden Gate

Even photographers need to stretch

Jen SmartWool Golden Gate

Creative Director Jen soaking up the Golden Gate Sun

The cast:

  • Fynn, Founder of RootsRated
  • Ryan, Cyclist, runner, and bike commuter
  • Christine, Ultra-runner and Celiac’s conqueror
  • Jonathan, Animal Shipper and Ultra-runner
  • Kristi, IRON(wo)MAN
  • Tina, IRON(wo)MAN
  • And Me!
SmartWool Jump

“The Talent.” Photo Credit: Jen

As triathlon season approaches, I look forward to that next rushed moment where biker becomes runner, and runner enjoys a blister-free marathon in SmartWool!

Check out SmartWool’s line of PhD Ultra Light running socks. This is not your momma’s wool. SmartWool’s merino blend provides excellent temperature control and moisture management, providing hundreds of thousands of blister-free steps, regardless of race day conditions.

Okay, now for some more fun pictures of cast and crew:

Fynn aka Gaston SmartWool

Fynn: Manners of a Southern gentleman, hair of a Disney protagonist

Jump SmartWool Ryan and Kgo

Ryan and Kgo playing in the mud

Ryan Noah Dan SmartWool

Noah and Dan discover Ryan’s love for thermo-regulation. Photo Credit: Jen

Christine Jonathan and Crew SmartWool

Christine and Jonathan Chat with The Boyz. Photo Credit: Jen

Kgo SmartWool Stairs

Kgo at SmartWool bootcamp. Photo Credit: Ryan

Kgo SmartWool Ocean Road

Kgo Chased by the Sunset. Photo Credit: Jen

Tina and Kristi SmartWool

Tina and Kristi, IRON(wo)MEN. Photo Credit: Jen

Running on the Hill SmartWool

That little black dot of a runner is me. Photo Credit: Jen

Good Form Fynn SmartWool

Good Form, Fynn

Kevin and Kgo Laughing SmartWool

Hanging out with SuperStar Photographer Kevin. Photo Credit: Jen

Golden Gate SmartWool Fynn

Why don’t I live in this city? Photo Credit: Fynn

Chrissie in Context: The Next World Champion

Chrissie Wellington was the quintessential triathlete. She made a living smashing swim-bike-run course records across the globe. Chrissie wasn’t just good for a girl. She was good. Period.

But Chrissie is good at a lot of things. She is intelligent, well-traveled, and articulate. But there is no famous international competition for the smartest-best traveled-most articulate human. We know Chrissie Wellington because three years before her birth in a city far from her British homeland, triathlon was invented.

It is important to understand that Chrissie was not world champion-caliber in any of triathlon’s three disciplines. But in a sport in which those exact three disciplines are strung together, Chrissie Wellington was untouchable. It’s as if the sport was invented for Chrissie.

That got me thinking…

If triathlon hadn’t been invented that September San Diego day in 1974, would we even know who Chrissie Wellington is? Would I have flocked to her book signing to have our picture taken together? Would Twitter have blown up over her recent retirement announcement?

What if, instead of Southern Californians in autumn, triathlon inventors were Alaskans in winter? Would we all move to colder climes and be skating-climbing-skiing instead? What kind of indoor trainers would we use to train through the summer? And whose book signing would I have attended earlier this year?

Climber Emily Harrington. Photo Credit: Boone Speed

Though skate-climb-ski may not have an Olympic future, the world is due for another tri-discipline-athlon. Perhaps it will be as perfectly suited to YOUR abilities as swim-bike-run was for Chrissie’s.

I aim to be World Champion once travel-run-read becomes the next big thing.

What TRI-athlon could make you a World Champion?