The Coeur team departs for Kona soon and we're wrapping up our Ironman Hawaii interview series before we leave. This is her second trip in as many years to Kona as a pro. Say hello to Coeur athlete Kim Schwabenbauer!
Coeur: First, Congratulations on qualifying for Ironman Hawaii! How does it feel to be one of 35 professional women to make it to Kona?
Kim: It of course feels amazing and very special to be part of this group of some of the most talented athletes in the world at this distance. It's a great honor to be among this group, many of which I know personally, who I respect. I couldn't be more excited to gut it out alongside them on October 11th.
Coeur: You don’t live in a traditional "Hot Weather" state such as Florida, Nevada, Arizona etc. How will you go about acclimating to the heat and humidity that is present on The Big Island?
Kim: Before I ever hit the island, I'm doing 1-2 heat acclimation workouts per day that entail making sure my house is nice and toasty and then with no fan gutting it out on the trainer even though it is the most beautiful fall weather outside. It's not enjoyable per say, but it's part of the process. I also overdress by wearing extra layers on my runs and attempting to sweat as much as possible when running outside. I'll be in Kona about 10 days before the race as well so that should help with the acclimation process.
Coeur: You train with QT2 Systems and we've heard that they are sending something like 30 athletes to Kona. We know their athletes work incredibly hard but what is it about QT2 that seems to work so well for you?
Kim: QT2 is exceptional at assessing the individual athlete in terms of their own personal profiles (aerobic vs. anaerobic) and using the individual workouts and recovery periods to push them toward their desired race distance goal. They've also got a great track record with knowing what it takes to run well off the bike and making sure athletes are durable enough to handle smart consistent training building volume over time. The MOST important thing though is that any coach take the time to get to know their athlete and what they need, how they respond to different communication forms and what they need mentally at different times to help them reach new heights. I'm very lucky to have a coach that does all of those things and is 100% there for me when I need him. He balances all that really well so I'm fortunate and have learned so much for my own coaching business.
Coeur: Of course Kona is the big show in long course triathlon and everyone who is anyone seems to be on the Big Island. We've heard that some athletes like to experience as much of the race as they can and spend a lot of time on Alii and at the expo. Others make a point of staying away from the action so that they don't get distracted. Do you fall into one camp or another?
Kim: I'm in the camp that I can understand that some athletes function better in certain environments and they should do what works for them! Some really enjoy the hustle and it gets them amped up and excited about the day. Others, it just stresses them out! I'm pretty balanced in the way that I like to hit up the expo, but I'm very strategic and have specific goals for being there in terms of people I want to see and say hello etc. I do that only on certain days pretty far away from race day. As the race draws closer, I like to become a little more to myself and stay out of the hustle a bit. People should do whatever make sense for them to conserve energy and still remained focused for race day!
Coeur: We don't want you to give away any secrets but do you race Kona any differently since it is the World Championships or once the gun goes off is it just another Ironman?
Kim: Regardless of the race, championship or not, I try to focus only on the factors that I can control. I of course know that the stakes are high and that we are alongside the best of the best, but it doesn't change my execution. My goal is always to execute the very best race plan I can and let the chips fall where they may. If I do that, I know I will never be disappointed in the outcome. I want to be happy and satisfied with my performance and that is the number one rule of the day.
Coeur: Quite a few of us will be out cheering on the course in Kona, so we have to ask. Do you ever hear what people yell to you on the bike and the run or are you concentrating so much on your body that you don't notice? Also, if you do notice, what is the best thing you've heard from a fan during a race?
Kim: I of COURSE hear people and I wish I could look around and see who's saying what! I just realize that my focus has to be on the race and that it's my safety and the safety of the other riders that has to be paramount. With one wrong move out there or a lapse in focus someone could get hurt so I just can't be looking around. On the run, I do hear folks and it depends on what stage of the hurt box I am in if I can smile and acknowledge it. I've definitely been known to give a smile and a thumbs up out there when I hear my name it does fire me up and give me a boost for sure! Best thing I've heard is a proposal (always fun) and of course the signs are great "smile if you've peed yourself today" is always a favorite!
Coeur: We think that the finish on Alii drive is one of the most magical places in all of sport. What do you think you'll be feeling when you make the turn on to Alii/
Kim: It doesn't matter who you are, you cannot deny how special it is to run down that drive and feel the energy that has been building all day. To know you are about to finish where so much history has been made is truly something I can't describe. Long after I'm done in the sport, I will always remember that feeling of sheer joy welling up inside of me when you round that corner. Regardless of how the day turns out, it is a privilege and honor to get to run down that corridor lined with people who are just so excited for you. It's thankfulness abounding. I wear my heart on my sleeve there!
Coeur: You raced Kona as an age group athlete and of course, you raced it last year as a pro. How different is racing as a pro than an age grouper?
Kim: It is a very different race dynamic-wise because we are out front and many of the very strong age group men are catching us by the middle of the race. It does make it difficult to navigate and to race clean and smart become a primary focus. You don't see nearly as many women so it does get a bit lonely out there at times so you just have to really remember that you need to keep pushing because girls are right ahead of you. You can't let the dark spots get to you. It's so hot and can suck you dry so you have to be very careful with your mental thoughts.
Coeur: Speaking of age group athletes, Coeur has quite a contingent going. What advice would you have for a first time Kona participant?
Kim: My advice for the first timers is that it will be crazy and all the hype you heard about will be just what you expected once you get there. Try to stay calm and within yourself. Don't feel pressured to do everything pre-race and trust the things that have worked for you in the past. Nothing really changes this race just because it's a world championship. Draw on the energy and spirit of the island. Don't fight the variables you cannot control and most of all, enjoy the day. Days like this only come around a couple times in a life time so make sure you stop and look around and realize just how lucky you are to be experiencing it with 1800 of your closest friends.
Coeur: As you know, part of Coeur's mission is to draw women into endurance sports and much has been made about the fact that there are only 35 slots for professional women versus 50 on the men's side. Is this something that bothers you and what do you think will have to happen to get it changed:
Kim: I do think the number should be equal. However, I also think that we can't just expand the women's field to 50, as the way it is currently set up is to be a percentage of the total men's and women's pro field so that's why the unequal numbers. My thought is maybe taking both number to a closer final number such as 40 and 40 etc. may be part of the answer. It's a difficult topic and one that definitely should be addressed as the sport continues.
Coeur: Well, thank you so much for chatting with us! We'll see you on the Big Island!
Kim: Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of the team this year. It's been so rewarding to see what Coeur is doing on so many levels to further the way women feel, empowering them and helping them get into the sport that I love so much! It's been a pleasure!