Meet Ironman Triathlete Erin Klegstad
After talking to her for five minutes you suddenly realize that you're smiling and when the discussion is over (probably because she off for a run, ride, or swim), you'll be in a good mood for the rest of the day. Say hello to Coeur Ambassador, Kona Qualifier, and one of the most positive individuals you'll ever meet - Erin Klegstad.
Coeur: Erin, thank you so much for chatting with us today. You have a lot of fans on social media (including us!), but for those people who are just getting to meet you, can you share a bit about yourself and your athletic background?
Erin: Ah, thank you! I love the social community and never imagined all the wonderful it’s bought into my life, including Coeur! What I wouldn’t give for my friends from social to live in the same place (preferably the west coast because it’s the best coast!). How fun would that be?!
Anyway, my background. I grew up in a small northwestern Minnesota town 20 miles from the Canadian border. We made our own active fun – from pretty much living at the outdoor swimming pool in the summer to snow forts + tobogganing in the winter. I ran track in middle and high school and even made an appearance at the state meet in ninth grade, running the 800m. After a bit of a hiatus through college, I started running again in my mid 20s and after an injury, bought a road bike – where my bike love started. I’ve been hooked on the whir of two wheels ever since and have been fortunate to have some awesome coaches teach me about the sport.
Coeur: So, what got you into triathlon and specifically what compelled you to get into Ironman distance racing?
Erin: When I first started road biking in 2006, a few of the guys from my team were training for an iron distance race. I was in absolute awe. I added it to my bucket list, but then life happened and I kind of forgot about it – until I met my boyfriend, Nick, at a stoplight on a bike ride (the definition of bike love, right?!). He was training for his first 140.6, and as soon as I watched him race it, I KNEW I had to get over my genetically imperfect eyebrows and do one. A year later, we signed up for and raced IRONMAN Canada together. As soon as I crossed that finish line – heck, even during training – I knew this triathlon thing had staying power and that there would be many more start + finish lines in my future. I’d found my light and have continued to chase it, and most importantly, having so much fun along the way.
Coeur: Ok, speaking of Ironman racing, we have to say congratulations on qualifying for Kona! Please tell everyone where you qualified and what it felt like to get one of those coveted slots?
Erin: Thank you so much! Nearly a year later I’m still pinching myself! I qualified at IRONMAN Wisconsin in September 2015, the first qualifier for 2016. There really aren’t words to describe the ball of emotions crossing the finish line of my absolute favorite race… an overwhelming mix of excitement, joy, happiness, so much gratitude, thank-god-I-can-stop-moving-now, holy-sh!t-I-just-did-that! I occasionally watch the video my sister took of me running down the finisher’s chute – because it just doesn’t seem real! – and dang it, I tear up every single time! You can hear both her and my dad cheering and yelling my name… it’s just such a magical and proud moment.
Coeur: Now, you qualified in 2015 at one of the first races that had slots for 2016. What was it like having over a year before the race and what effect did that have on your training plan?
Erin: Ahh, it’s been a blur and somehow seemed like both the longest and shortest year ever! I took about two months after Wisconsin for some completely unstructured training (and six weeks off running) – punctuated by trips to Kona and to IMAZ, which were awesome. The mental break of not having my days revolve around training was really refreshing, too.
Anyway, in November, my coach started putting workouts back in TrainingPeaks, so since then my days have more or less revolved around swim bike run. But – that doesn’t mean I don’t make time for other things! Triathlon is my light, but this go-round, because Nick’s not training for an IM this year, I’ve tried to be more mindful about not letting my training rule life 100 percent. That’s meant a lot of early mornings at masters or on the trainer as well as going out to dinner with friends or family a sweaty mess from a long run. While triathlon is awesome, I think it’s so important to have other interests outside the sport, too. I read a lot (lately mostly non-fiction and self-improvement), spend time with my sis and sassy threenager niece, brunch with girl friends, and have been itching to dust off my sewing machine.
The year’s been a steady + focused build, with a posterior tib stress reaction in the middle and a couple 70.3s. I’m healthy and ready for the last big build to Kona!
Coeur: You live in Minnesota, which is known for having...let's just say...chilly winters. How do you get your training in when the wind chill dips below zero?
Erin: They’re not as bad as everyone thinks, I promise! I mean, there’s the occasional 40 below wind chill day in January, but that’s what floor length down parkas and Sorel boots are for! J Honestly, though, the saying is true: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. If you dress for it, running outside when it’s 0F can be pleasant! I do 95 percent of my running outside in the winter – with the help of insulated tights, a down running jacket and wool buff – and actually kinda love it. It’s invigorating and reminds me that I’ve alive!
The winter darkness definitely doesn’t make training exciting, but all those dark hours + cold early mornings, the sweat you don’t see on social media… that’s where the fitness and magic happens. It’s excellent mental training, too.
Coeur: As we mentioned, you have a huge social media following and because we're big fans, we can see how incredibly positive you are about life. Can you share a bit about your outlook on life and how you deal with challenges that inevitably come with long-course training and racing?
Erin: We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how we react what happens – and, I choose to live life and approach adversity with a positive, can-do, forward-looking attitude. It’s not always easy and sometimes doesn’t happen (I’m human after all!), but when I do choose that way, life is so much better!
Long course racing is all about problem solving and how you handle any adversity the course throws at you. Case in point: IMWI last year. My race was far from perfect and during each setback I easily could have freaked out and ended my race, but instead stayed calm, repeated several mantras (never give up and keep moving forward are two I often repeat out loud), focused on what I could do and kept moving forward toward my goal. And, lucky me, it worked out!
Coeur: We know that there's usually a big support team behind every great athlete. Can you tell us about your training partners and the people who support you?
Erin: It takes a community, and I wouldn’t be where I am without mine! My number one, Nick… I’m forever grateful. He got me into this crazy sport and has been with me and encouraging me every step of the way – whether it’s racing (we’ve done three IMs together) or supporting me when he’s not racing (he’s the BEST bike fairy and Sherpa!).
As for training partners, I’ve met some of my closest friends because of triathlon (two of them will be on the Big Island cheering me on!). But, other than masters, I do the majority of my training solo for a couple reasons. One, time. I’m all about saving as much time as possible. My commute is ridiculous and by the time I’d drive to meet someone on the opposite side of the city for a bike or run, I could have been done with it and already eaten dinner. That may sound selfish, but it works for me – and, in this sport, you have to find what works for you! And, two, I love the mental aspect of long solo runs or rides. I’m an introvert and just love that quiet time to reflect on my day, my training, life, write blog posts in my head, listen to my breath.
The rest of my community – my coach, parents, sister, girl friends, masters lane mates, teammates, you guys – I wouldn’t be where I am without their guidance, support and cheers. I’m seriously so lucky to have them all in my corner!
Coeur: Finally, what advice would you give to someone who has never done a triathlon but is considering signing up?
Erin: I still feel like a newbie and total poser some days and constantly remind myself that we’re all in this together. So, my advice: Do one thing a day that scares you, and sign up! Reach out to other women in the sport and ask for advice and help. Everyone is friendly and more than willing to help, always (including me! Talking triathlon, life and goals with other women is one of my favorite things to do!). After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, right?!
Coeur: Erin...thank you so much for chatting with us. We're looking forward to cheering for you on the Big Island!
Erin: Thank you + Coeur SO MUCH! It means the world to me to have your support! I wouldn’t be here with you, and I can’t wait to see you in Kona!