My Triathlon Story and What Swim, Bike, Run Means to Me

My Triathlon Story and What Swim, Bike, Run Means to Me

Triathlon has been the key to me having success in all areas of my life since college.  When I graduated college from DePauw University in 2007, I was kind of lost sports wise. I had played college soccer for DePauw for 4 years, and the girls on the team were a huge part of my life. My three best friends were on the team, and the men’s and women’s teams were close, so we did a lot of socializing together. I knew, after the fall season of my senior year came to a close, that I needed to start focusing on something else, that was still competitive but also fun.

I decided to train for a marathon during the spring semester of my senior year. Maybe not the smartest decision, as there were a lot of “hungover” run days, but it kept me motivated and fit. The St. Louis marathon was my first race ever. I had never even done a 5k.  I was nervous and excited at the same time, and as soon as I crossed the finish line, I became addicted to racing. In college, I watched the coverage of the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, and I said to myself, “One day I’m going to do that.” After finishing the marathon, I continued to do more marathons with success, and finally moved on to triathlon. It took some time mostly because I had to get a bike, a wetsuit, and well financially I had to figure it all out, especially since I was still new to the “real world”.

So, after two years of living in downtown Chicago, I entered the world of triathlon. The triathlon world was more than welcoming, they were inspiring, helpful, motivating, supportive, and the list could go on. I found a group that I felt I could be myself around. They didn’t laugh when I said I like to wake up early, or that I enjoy running, biking, swimming, and pushing it until I can’t push any harder. They didn’t make fun of me when I said, “I like pain”. Seriously, I think all triathletes to some extent enjoy pain, because training and competing can be painful. I was growing and changing, and I was happy to find friends who I could enjoy the sport with. The transition I made from college where I was the crazy partier, who may have been a bit of a “beer bully”, who loved playing beer pong and power hour, yet also worked hard on the soccer field, wasn’t easy. When I graduated college, I knew I had lived it up, and now I wanted to be as fit as possible and live a really healthy life. I gave up partying, and well my friends saw me do a 180, and when my friends weren’t interested in going for a long run, or a long bike, or doing some open water swimming, I was sad and nervous that I was going to be doing this all alone. But, instead I found people in Chicago who loved triathlon as much as me. I fell in love with the sport so much, that it pushed me to follow my dream of living in San Diego. San Diego is the mecca of triathlon, and the laid back lifestyle suited me perfectly. After 4 1/2yrs of living in Chicago, I finally got the guts to move out to San Diego, with no job, no friends, and no where to live. All I knew was that I wanted to live somewhere where I could swim, bike, run all year round, and I wanted to be by the ocean. I had visited San Diego a couple times, and it truly just felt like home. I have now lived in San Diego for 5yrs and couldn’t be happier.

The day I did my first triathlon, I did it with my mom, her first, too!

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One of the coolest parts of triathlon is it’s competitive, yet supportive.  If you get passed on the run, that person will say something motivating to keep you going, or if you are the one passing, you are doing the cheering. If you get a flat tire and don’t have a CO2 cartridge to pump up your new tube, someone might toss you one, or if you don’t know how to change a new tube, someone might just stop and actually help you change your flat. I can’t explain how it felt during my first race, to have all these people that were racing with me, also cheering me on. Triathlon is my second family. I also love how no matter if you are a pro or an age grouper, everyone goes through the same miles, the same course, and the same doubts and triumphs. I love how pro’s and age groupers both get chaffing and blisters, and both have to use the port-o-potties before a race, and that everyone is setting up their bikes in the same transition area.  Whether you are the fastest person out on the course or the slowest, everyone is cheering everyone on.  There is nothing more inspiring than being a part of triathlon.

I have now been racing for 7yrs. I have completed 4 Ironmans. 13 Half Ironmans. And many other shorter triathlons. I have met the gadget obsessed triathletes, the casual triathletes, the triathletes who are losing weight, the first timers, the kona qualified, the training obsessed, the lovers and the fighters. I have been lucky to get to know Pros in this sport and call them my friend. I am now dating someone (Topher) who grew up in the culture of this sport since it’s birth. His parents are friends with legends like Mark Allen, Scott Tinley, Paula Newby-Frasier. When I first got into this sport, these people seemed like Brett Favre on the Green Bay Packers to me, or Shannon Miller of gymnastics, or Mia Hamm of the soccer world. I never would have thought that I would be meeting these people left and right. It’s been such a fantastic journey, and I can’t wait for what’s in store in the future, as well.

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Triathlon teaches me to be a better person, to accept that there are tough days and good days both in sport and in life, it challenges me, but also builds my confidence both in the sport and out of the sport. I love pushing my body’s limits, and seeing what I am capable of mentally too. It teaches me that there are no limits, only the ones we set for ourselves. It has taught me great friendships, unconditional self love, and how to love others unconditionally.

Have you ever had a day that one moment you had fantastic news, then the next moment you are putting out a fire drill at work, then the next moment you are ecstatic, and then the next moment you are sad, all in one day? Life is a crazy mix of emotion! In one day, we can feel happy, angry, annoyed, joyful, grateful, loving, depressed, sad, inspired, motivated, frustrated, etc. This is exactly what triathlon teaches me. Within ONE race, or ONE training session, we may feel all of these emotions, and that’s OK. Ride the tide. Let the emotions come and go. Feel them, acknowledge them, but do not let them define you, or your relationships. Just how we would never let our emotions define a training session or a race. You are you. We are ever changing, feeling, growing, learning. And I’m so thankful to have triathlon to teach me that, and continue to help me grow and become a better person outside of the sport.

As I’m sure most people who are entering the world of triathlon are, I was a bit nervous, and of course slightly intimidated especially by the people who knew what they were doing. In order to prepare myself for what a triathlon entails, I did the following:

  1. Asked questions. Ask your question on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email someone who you admire. Don’t be afraid to ask. 🙂
  2. Joined a local tri club – this was great because they offered free clinics for me to go and learn about anything and everything that I wanted to learn about for triathlons.
    1. The clinics I went to were – open water swimming clinic, transition clinic, bike maintenance clinic, and a swim clinic.
  3. Do some group classes
    1. I did some group runs, group computrainer classes, and group swims.
  4. I joined a master’s swim team – I tried out two different ones, both had positive and negative aspects, but both helped me get more confident in the water.
  5. Found a mentor – a teammate of mine from college is big into triathlon’s and I reached out to her for guidance.
  6. Found a buddy to do my first triathlon with i.e my mom (it was her first triathlon too!).

The one thing in the triathlon world is that everyone has their favorite brands, and I think the biggest thing is to find out what works for you. All the products out there are awesome!  So, don’t worry about the brand. Just figure out the best pair of goggles for you, the best bike, best running shoes, best nutrition, etc. Everyone has an opinion through their own experience, and it’s definitely helpful to read reviews, but you’ll never know until you start experiencing it all on your own. Everyone’s body is different and it takes awhile to figure out what works best for you, but take your time, try different brands and products, and when you find one that works, you’ll know:)

Good luck this race season!  And don’t hesitate to shoot me an email –> katie@katiehartmorse.com I also started a daily strength workout for endurance athletes. Check it out! It’s 10min of strength every day. You can also sign up for a daily email here.

Thank you to my #1 Support Network! I couldn’t do this sport without the love and support of my family. They haven’t missed an Ironman, and I truly wouldn’t be the triathlete that I am today without them. Thank you to my #1 man and his parents. They are amazing, and I’m so excited to be on the Ironman journey again with them, as we train our way to Ironman Sweden.

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