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“Going Pro” article – questionnaire for new pros
Name: Kim Schwabenbauer
Occupation: Registered Dietitian, USA Triathlon Coach, Owner of Fuel Your Passion, LLC Sports Nutrition Counseling & Endurance Coaching
Where do you live?: Pittsburgh, PA
- How did you get your start in triathlon?
- What’s your athletic background?
- What’s your strongest discipline?
I would definitely say running. It’s my background and my passion. I’m learning to love the other two slowly, and biking has brought a whole new world of spending time with friends and acquaintances out on 6 hour rides seeing the countryside. I love the freedom biking provides to see so much ground and really get to know people. Swimming, well, we have our days where we are friends, and then our days where we are not.
- Which discipline do you think needs most improvement now that you’re joining the pro field? How do you plan to tackle this?
Oh, that's easy swim definitely needs the most work. I’ve had Ironman swims under an hour (IM Cozumel 2010, which I’m pretty sure was with a big current!), but I don’t seem to be consistent and when the water gets rough I really seem to lose focus and not swim nearly as well. I have a feeling it will be a very lonely experience on the bike if I don’t improve this area and talk about racing from behind! It’s much more fun and more motivating to be in the mix. I plan to swim 4 to 5 times a week at a minimum to really improve on this discipline next year. I’m also doing some video analysis with my coach next month in Colorado Springs, hoping to figure out where some of the issues may be in my technique. Hopefully, that will bring about a better and more consistent swim.
- What made you decide to “go pro”?
- Will racing as a pro change how you plan your season? If so, how?
Certainly, the flexibility that pro’s have in terms of planning their race season is a nice part of this process. You’re able to plan an “A” schedule and then also a “B” or even “C” possible schedule if things don’t go as planned or there are certain goals that aren’t being met. The new point system that the WTC has put into place certainly may be a driving factor in subsequent years. For now, I’m choosing races that will suit my particular strengths, are economically feasible, and that will give me some good experience next year as I learn about the different nuances of racing in a pro field vs. an amateur field. I’m taking a very hard look at the Rev 3 races as well because of some of the great experiences I’ve had with them as an amateur. I’ll race more, I’ll race often and I hope that my body will adjust to the heavier training and racing load this upcoming year that being a pro requires.
- What do you expect to be the challenges of competing in the pro field?
I’ve done my homework on some of the challenges of competing in the pro field and I feel a bit more prepared mentally to face those than I would be otherwise. Some of my friends and mentors in this sport have talked about the challenges of racing alone for much of the race and still pushing yourself to your own potential limits. I know that when I get on the bike it can be a challenge coming from the back if you don’t have a good swim. I’m hoping to see my swim times improve, but until then, I think it will be a bit of an adjustment! At the amateur level I was used to being around other competitors and had the confidence that I could, and would, possibly catch them if I raced my race and did my best. In the pro race, there certainly will be competitors out of reach of my current ability and I’ll have to adjust to that as well. I think this race strategy will be more about focusing on what I can improve about my race for a year or so and hopefully at that point, be more competitive / put the pieces together to have “that dream race” again as a pro. I’m sure there will be plenty of races that will not come together and you have to keep your expectations / goals and reasons for doing the sport in check so that you can continue to improve throughout the process. I feel pretty darn honored just to have the option to make the choice and to line up against some of those people whom I feel are incredible athletes, but more importantly incredible women, well, that’s a huge bonus. I don’t think I’ll ever regret taking this chance and learning more about myself and the other amazing women in this sport.
- What will you not miss about being an amateur?
I will not miss the mass swim starts that were required to compete at the Ironman as an amateur. Really! I won’t miss them one bit. However, I’ve heard there is plenty of beating around that goes on during the pro race as well and I’m sure I’ll still come out bumped and bruised just like I did as an amateur! Of course, I will also not miss having to sign up an entire year in advance for races that I want to attend as an amateur either. It’s so very hard to plan out your life for an entire year around one event. We’ve all been doing it for years so we know that’s what it takes, but it will be nice to have a bit more flexibility and adjust for injury, training blocks, goals and life in general.
- What concerns you most about your decision to race as a pro?
What concerns me most about my decision to race as a pro is having the time to train to put myself at a level where I have the opportunity to be competitive at this level of the sport without sacrificing the time with my family, friends and having the stable income needed to still pay bills, money for groceries, travel, etc. This is the major issue as I see it with all of the professionals in our sport. This is not professional golf people. You don’t win one title and have enough to live on for a year. At most, if you place top five in our sport you have enough to cover your trip costs and a bit left over to live. Since triathlon isn’t a main stream sport, we have to come up with those ideas for being innovative and be willing to take calculated risks to have the funds needed to be in the sport while still having the time required to train 25+ hours per week. I’m willing to make personal sacrifices on some fronts, such as living a little leaner etc., but not on others like spending time with my family etc. Keeping this balance is what worries me the most and making sure I maintain it while being happy with the lifestyle this change will require.
- How will your training change in the coming year as you prepare for your first season as a pro?
Training for my first pro season definitely is exciting and will require some additional time spent on all three disciplines. I also am really trying to identify some underlying strength issues such as imbalances etc. because as the volume increases, those little imbalances have the potential to become big problems. I’m working with someone to address those BEFORE the season really gets started and will spend the next few months doing a bit more strength training than I would have in years past. In addition, my power on the bike is something I struggle with being a smaller athlete, so I’m doing some cross-fit and other supplemental training to address those issues and hopefully, improve my power on the bike. Lastly, I’m sure my weekly volume will increase and if things work out the way I am hoping they do, I’ll have a bit more time to focus on training vs. balancing 40 hours per week of working + training + life. We’ll see – that’s TBD still!
- What has been your favorite/most memorable triathlon experience to date?
Well, this is a tough one, it might be a tie. One of most memorable triathlon experience to date was having a breakthrough race at Ironman Cozumel in 2010 after breaking my collarbone into pieces exactly one year before at the Half Ironman World Championships and spending the first part of 2010 in a sling not able to do much training. It had been a really tough process and I found myself rather depressed and unsure of myself, my ability or even my next steps in the sport (if any) at times during that recovery. However, as I regained my confidence slowly, I started to believe a good race in Cozumel was possible, but it would take having a day. I was blessed to have that day and it all came together. It was bitter sweet to say the least.
The other was probably finishing Ironman Lake Placid this year. It had been a really challenging month, I was filming for MTV for their show “MADE, I want to be a triathlete” and I was running low on sleep, training and sanity prior to the race. Branden, the 16 yr old athlete I was working with to do the Pittsburgh Triathlon in a 3 week period, was coming from Pittsburgh to Lake Placid to see the race as his first triathlon. There were so many logistics to work out with the film crew and producers that I barely even got to think about the race. I was pretty worried based on my lack of training consistency leading up to the race that I would even have a decent race, let alone do well. At some point, I let it all go and just decided to pray about it and see what happened. As the day unfolded I went from 45th in the swim, to 4th off the bike to 1st female amateur at the finish. Just knowing that Branden, my family, my team members from Ballou Skies, our charity team and Kyle, my husband, were at the finish and they knew how trying it had all been just made it so sweet to cross that finish line. Kyle and his Mom were right there to hug me, as was Branden and the whole film crew. It was surreal to have them there in the finish and I was happy beyond words. It felt like a dream. I was so thankful everything worked out – sometimes you have to let it go and just trust and I know that was a lesson I will not soon forget.
- What question(s) do you wish I had asked you? And what is your response?
Question: What has the response been among your family / friends / others / other athletes to this decision?
The response has been mixed, mostly supportive, but also not quite what I expected. As always, going against what people consider a “main stream” type of life has its challenges. I think it’s difficult for some people to accept that your goals and dreams aren’t the same as theirs, or maybe aren’t the same as theirs right now anyway. Of course, there are those in my life who know me well and are 110% supportive in every way possible and I’m thankful beyond words for those people. Others, well, they don’t even acknowledge the difference between competing at this new level which is fine too. It certainly never stopped me before :)