This coming Sunday, the Challenge New Albany triathlon event will be held right here in Columbus. A bunch of athletes are participating and among the pros is Meredith Kessler. This will be the first time Meredith has raced in her hometown and it should be a fun day for her.
As you might know, Meredith is my sister-in-law so I was able to pull some strings and get her to answer a few questions for our blog. To follow her and all the athletes on race day, you can go to http://challenge-newalbany.com.
AK: You are coming into Columbus having won Vineman for the third year in a row. What was that like to pull off that accomplishment?
MK: We were beyond humbled and thankful to be able to have the chance to three peat at Vineman, let alone accomplish that same feat at Ironman New Zealand and Ironman St. George 70.3 this year; these opportunities don’t come around too often, especially with the ever increasing talent of women professional triathletes. It understandably takes a lot of hard work, dedication, a stable team, and a little luck to be able to toe the line at a race three years in a row and to be successful is a real luxury that will never be taken for granted.
AK: You traveled to New Zealand again and won that race for a third time to start your season off. How has the season been going for you so far and what lies ahead after this race that excites you?
MK: Taupo, New Zealand is an exceptional place for my husband and I. We love the community, the culture, the atmosphere, and the race – it was a very special day. The season is the usual triathlon season with highs and lows; this highs are high and the lows are low. One day you can have the best training session of your life and the next day you feel flat as a pancake and have pretty brutal ‘WEB’ (= why even bother!) sessions. This is just the nature of our job. I had a shin injury that kept me out of Boise 70.3 this past June so not being able to race, as a triathlete, is always an emotional burden.
The next race is the most important race and each one is a small blip in the overall goal of striving to improve. Our next most important race is Challenge New Albany so the cycle has begun to work our way up to try to get to peak racing form. After it is finished, it begins all over again with proper recovery and setting our sights on our next goal. Obviously we are nearing the championship race season so this is right around the corner!
AK: You had your best showing at Kona last year, how was this year’s schedule planned for you so that you could do even better this year? Only 1 full Ironman I see and a lot of shorter distance, why is that?
MK: The truth is – I am not 26 years old anymore! I used to think that I could get away with 5-6 full Ironmans a year and show up at Kona fresh and vibrant – yet I was sadly mistaken. While there are lots of miles on these legs, it is thus very important to race smarter and this includes making your schedule more productive. At the end of the day, a strong showing in Kona will put you in a position in the next year where you theoretically only have to race one Ironman to validate your position – these are Ironman rules. You are seeing more and more triathletes not race full distance Ironmans because there is no need to, the prize purses are usually the same as half distance races, and it is a benefit to not destroy yourself before the Super Bowl, Kona, of Ironman racing. The goal is to get to the starting line in Kona as close to 100% as you can and it is tough to do when you are slogging through a handful of full Ironmans in a calendar year.
AK: You are from Columbus. What does it mean coming back to a race in your hometown?
MK: As I think about it, there really aren’t too many races I compete in throughout the Midwest; the closest I have been is Louisville, Kentucky. It is special to me to bring the sport I love to Columbus, Ohio and showcase what these amazing athletes can do. Triathlon is a sport that is growing yet it doesn’t have a huge presence in central Ohio – I would love to see more Ironman branded races in the midwest! It will be special to be surrounded by family and friends who have maybe never seen a triathlon race – it should be a tremendous day – we are really looking forward to it!
AK: As a fan, what I really like about the Ironman races I’ve attended is the constant cheering on and encouragement from the fans to participants – pros and amateurs. Don’t know many of them and they are constantly getting cheers throughout the course. What do you like most about these races?
MK: The camaraderie is the bread and butter of the sport. Although it is very individualistic by nature, you have to have an enormous support network to help you achieve your goals in triathlon. This group of supporters knows what their athlete has done to toe the line on race day so it is just natural for them to show their encouragement out on the course. We are all just the technicians racing out there – yet it is our supportive TEAMS around us that help us get to the start line. These individuals are also the people that we are thinking about all the way to the finish line. Triathlon is special for a reason because it is tough. You are not going out and running a 5k race; you are trying to master three disciplines in order to be able to run through the finishing chute.
AK: What do you hope the people of Columbus take away from this Ironman experience? I heard 46 pros will be here so this is kind of a big deal and they might not even know it.
MK: This is the first year for Challenge taking over the event and having it in Columbus. Support doesn’t happen overnight, especially for a sport that is so foreign to Midwesterners. It is probably like how lacrosse was 15 years ago where only a few select schools had a team – now everyone knows this traditionally east coast sport and it has a lot of traction. Triathlon will get there but it will take time. The Challenge Family is taking a big leap to bring the event to Columbus and I am sure they will make it a world class event.
In reality, with Rev3 not offering pro prize purses anymore, Ironman and Challenge are the big players in the business of triathlon. If there is a prize purse, the pros will come which organically attracts the age groupers to compete – In what other sport can the amateurs compete on the same course at the same time as the pros? That is pretty enriching to think about right there.