Being adept at juggling competing tasks and demands for attention are inherent in the job description for motherhood. So perhaps it's only natural that triathlon is a draw for mothers who are also athletes. In this two-part series, we hear more about the personal stories of Madison, Wisconsin-area Moms who Tri.
Brianne Pitts is currently an instructional coach in an area K through 5th grade school with a passion for teaching and learning. She is also pursuing a PhD in curriculum and instruction at UW Madison. As if that were not enough, she is also the mother of two children, whom she describes as “lovely people”: a daughter who is three, and a son who is six and a half (Brianne explains, "the half is important to him").
Bridget Kudrle, who describes herself as an “accidental triathlete,” is an elementary art teacher who enjoys reading and painting (something she doesn’t get to do enough of lately). She spends her summers renewing friendships, refinishing second hand furniture, and enjoying triathlon season. Of course she also enjoys time spent in the summer with her kids, a boy and a girl, now ages eight and five.
Debra Vaughan describes herself as a woman of many passions, including travel, music, family and home. While there hasn’t been much time to travel lately, there has been time to camp and hike with the family (where her two children aged seven and four are encouraged to get dirty). She currently works in accounting, but life changes have lead her to a greater focus on her family and herself, and so she will be taking a career sabbatical soon.
Krista Willing is Director of Fiscal Management of Wisconsin Medicaid, which means dealing with billion dollar budgets and numerous related programs. She likes to read, run and travel in whatever spare time she has. That time may be a little limited at the moment with the arrival of her son a few months ago, along with the needs of an active three-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
Bridget and Krista are both relatively new to triathlon, participating mostly in sprint distance races. Bridget started as a cyclist, Krista as a runner. Debra is in her eighth season and has done every distance except the full IronMan, and she is training for that now. Brianne completed IronMan Wisconsin last year and “loved every minute of it.”
Each of these moms started triathlon in a different way. For Debra it was a way to reconnect with gym friends after her first child was born. Bridget and Krista both started after their husbands became involved in the sport. Brianne started at the suggestion of a woman in an aerial acrobatics class she was taking, and did her first Super Sprint without much training. In fact, she was so inexperienced that when she found her running shoes didn’t fit in the pedal cages on her bike, she biked in a nice pair of black dress flats!
When asked about the challenges of being a mom who does triathlons, all four agree that the biggest challenge is finding a balance between training, family and work. As Brianne says, “I often feel guilty. Someone or something is missing out on my time a lot. I’m still working on finding the right balance.” For Debra it means “also making sure my husband gets his own time, since he watches the kids while I’m out, and that we get our own time. Date night is a must.” But Bridget points out that the despite the time management challenge, “I deserve time to focus on me. It isn’t a gift; I’m entitled to it. It is okay to prioritize yourself without guilt.”
And the rewards are worth it. One of the biggest of these is the feeling that they are modeling a healthy lifestyle for their children. Krista says one of the best benefits of triathlon is “…the excitement on your kids’ faces as you run by them,” and “hearing your daughter tell her friends that she can’t wait to run a race someday.” Debra echoes this sentiment, saying, “I enjoy hearing my kids talk about a healthy lifestyle and being willing participants in it.” Brianne and her husband include their children in their training when they can, reporting that “it has been a really exciting notion that physical health could be a value we pass on to our kids.”
These moms also talk about the sense of accomplishment and the good health they have. Bridget says “ I feel powerful. I don’t mean She-Ra powerful. I mean I feel like I’m in charge of myself and can do anything.” And of course there are health benefits, as Debra points out, “I’m in amazing health…it isn’t just physical health, it is mental health.
Find out more about Debra, Brianne, Krista and Bridget in part 2 of Moms Who Tri, coming soon.
-by Suellen Adams