Riding (and running and swimming) Off into the Triathlon Sunset
Posted on December 07 2017
If you’ve ever watched the finish of a stage at the Tour de France, you may have noticed it when a rider zips up his jersey as he approaches the finish line. When this happens, Paul Sherwen (one of the announcers) frequently comments on how that is a “Pro Move”. We never gave that phrase much thought until we started Coeur and began sponsoring professional triathletes.
Now, we absolutely notice when one of our pros ends up on the podium and she makes sure to not only wear something with the Coeur logo but she also makes sure it is visible for the cameras. That’s definitely a “Pro Move” and we are most appreciative as a sponsor. In fact, there are dozens of small things that the best pros do to help their sponsors and, in aggregate, they really ad up and help us justify the cost.
One of the best is Kim Schwabenbauer and she recently announced her retirement as a professional. Kim was a consummate pro and we had a chance to chat with her as she begins her ride (and run and swim) off into the proverbial triathlon sunset.
Coeur: First, congratulations on an amazing career. How did you feel when you finished your last race as a professional?
Kim: Honestly, I was surprisingly my normal "happy to be finished" self! I had often wondered how I might feel after that last race as a pro and if I would be weepy or overly emotional, but in this case, I really wasn't! It's an amazing thing to just make it to the finish line of any race and this one was no different. I was grateful for a solid day and thankful that I was able to leave it all out there. I think it was kind of a sign and a testament to the fact that a big part of me was truly ready for the next step. I guess the main word I would use upon crossing that finish line was satisfied. That's a good feeling for anyone!
A podium at her last race as a pro
Coeur: We'll always remember when you ran your way onto the podium at Ironman Melbourne in 2014 because of the iconic photo of you running with the flag, but you also had so many other great results. What other memories stand out for you?
Kim: Oh man!! WHAT A DAY! I think the best part about that particular day was that I was pretty much a nobody in the world of triathlon results at that point so no one (including me), saw that coming! It was definitely one of the first major happy memories I have in the sport because it showed me just what was possible when the training was going well and my support team was on point (Thanks to Kyle flying halfway around the world to come to the race and everyone back home cheering me on!). It was really special since one of my Penn State college teammates was living over there at the time and had held out that flag right at the exact moment I needed it. I hadn't seen her in ten plus years, so that was just complete serendipity! Other memories were the tough ones, like not completing my first race in Lake Placid as a professional due to stomach issues at mile 24 of the marathon. I remember having a conversation with my coach about if I should even continue on as a professional or just bag it right at that moment. I'm very thankful for all the people who continued to encourage me at the low points because I needed it more than the high points that was for sure! Traveling the world to Taiwan, Mexico, Australia and all over the U.S. are great memories. It was the perfect time of our lives to do those big trips!
Coeur: Professional Triathlon has been a big part of your life for several years. When did you know it was time to turn the page and start a new chapter in your life?
Kim: Honestly, I thought I would be finished with living the pro-life years ago! I saw myself having a family and Kyle was supportive of either way I wanted to go. While it is certainly possible to have a family and be a professional, I had a feeling with my other endeavors (like working!) it might be a tall order. Once I had Emma, I really debated on if I would want to give it another try in the professional ranks or come back as an amateur athlete. Both had advantages and disadvantages, but after talking to my coach, we realized that if I wanted to take one last crack at it as a pro, then I had better do it now while Emma was very young. Once I was training again, although it was happening, at times I just found it tough to balance and knowing this fall I would be working full time as a nutrition professor that really sealed the deal. It was important for me to have enough time to spend with Emma and the twenty plus hours a week training just wasn't making that as possible with other responsibilities so that's when I knew! When you want to go to the pool with your daughter more than riding your bike for six hours that was a pretty clear sign. Time to turn the page!
Coeur: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself the day you turned pro, what would you say?
Kim as a fairly new Professional Triathlete in 2014
Kim: This is such an exceptional question! I think there should be a little support group of experienced pros that each takes a newly turned professional athlete under their wing and helps them navigate some of these areas that they may find difficult! I feel like many of the other professional women just did that for me automatically, but it would be nice to have something formal and I would absolutely be able to participate in it. That aside, I would probably say, "Kim, this is going to be one of the toughest things you will ever do, but it will be more than worth it to stick it out. All the things that you feel are working against you, are also things that are valuable and will make you so much stronger in time. Keep that fire and passion that you have and channel it into SWIMMING as much as possible because that will definitely be an area where you will struggle. However, some of your most memorable experiences won't come from the races themselves, they will come from what you'll learn about yourself, the relationships you'll form with all athletes and homestays you encounter along the way and with your husband seeing this world by car, boat, plane and vespa!! Savor each one of them, even the low ones, because someday you'll be able to help a lot of people see they are much more than they ever imagined through living this experience yourself!"
Coeur: Along those same lines, if there's a young woman out there thinking about turning pro, what advice would you give her?
Kim: I think I covered some of that above, but my best advice is to work with a coach that believes in you and is willing to be flexible and adaptable as you change as an athlete. My coach was willing to do that. My motivation through the six years we were working together was very different at the beginning of my career vs. the end of my career. There were things I was willing to do at the beginning that I wasn't able or willing to do at the end (like travel for camps with being away from Emma). It was so critical to have someone who was able to know you that well and go on the journey with you as you go through these critical stages of your life, such as motherhood. It changed who I was, and I needed to be coached differently because of it. Find that person who is willing to do that, and you'll have an amazing advocate that will help you achieve your best career in this sport (whatever that may be for YOU!). That doesn't always mean winning/points/money either! There are things more important to many of us than just that!
Coeur: You've seen triathlon from several vantage points. Top Age Grouper, Coach, and of course as a Professional. What changes would you like to see in the sport?
Kim: I would certainly like to see, as many would, a way to address the equality in Kona. I certainly don't know the answer on how that should be done as there are multiple ways, and each has advantages and disadvantages, but something needs to be done. I'd like to see a better unity among the professionals to be able to speak as one unit about important issues that impact all of us. We've tried a few times and have not really come together in a way that is constructive so that would be a great improvement. I'd like to see more ways to support those athletes coming into the sport. I know how difficult it is to financially work with a coach and sometimes that can be cost prohibitive. It would be great to have organizations that could help with that and more people willing to assist in these efforts. Finally, it's important to keep supporting triathlon at the colligate level. There are many colleges that can't fund a team and a coach, but that have talented athletes that could help the sport continue to grow at the Olympic level.
Coeur Pros Kim, Jess and Beth doing a meet and greet at our booth in Kona
Coeur: We know you're not one to sit still and we suspect you'll have some free time available now. What's next for you?
Kim: I started my athletic journey as a runner, and I will ALWAYS love running with all my heart and soul!! It is just so easy to slip on those shoes and head out the door if it's dark, raining, snowing, hailing or sunny and beautiful! I want to show Emma how much fun running is and hopefully will get to spend some days out with her on the trails and roads as she gets older! A goal would be to not just break 3 hours in the marathon, but hopefully get that goal and keep moving toward 2:50. In my professional world, teaching as a nutrition professor is enjoyable and I'm learning about how to engage and foster the minds of tomorrow with my students. I feel so fortunate to have that opportunity. I also enjoy speaking at conferences, so now I'll have a bit more time to do that on nutrition, motivation and wellness. I think the message that you can truly do anything you set your mind to can be shared through my experiences, so I'm looking forward to that, as well as lots of pool and play time with Emma. Oh, and I almost forgot, I will be starting my PhD. soon, so that's a little something I think may take up just a touch of time ;)
Coeur: We know you've got a lot of fans (including us). Is there anything else you'd like to share with everyone?
Kim: I'd just like to say thank you. My sponsors have allowed me to go on this journey with their support and Reg, Kebby, Hailey and Jess, you are TOP NOTCH. I have a bigger blog coming on that, but I truly am beyond grateful for yes, the clothes and the financial support, but more so for your belief in me as an athlete and person. That's where the true ability lies to do things that are above and beyond! If anyone has time, please check out my blog on the subject HERE, where I get to give my own little awards speech since I never got to hold that banner and give one at the ceremony! I'm grateful that I got to do this as a professional, but I'm just an athlete, like all of us, so eventually, I'm sure I'll be back to see what I can do at your local triathlon or eventually maybe I'll take another crack at the long stuff! It's been a blessing and being an athlete has enriched my life. We are so fortunate!
Coeur: Kim, congratulations on an amazing career and good luck with your next adventure!
Kim: Thanks for asking me to share a few thoughts!!
Kim, we wish you the best as you ride off to new adventures