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Moms Who Tri: Part 2

 Triathlete Debra Vaughan calls this photo "happy bike." (c) 2015 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Will Hughes.

Triathlete Debra Vaughan calls this photo "happy bike." (c) 2015 Focal Flame Photography | Photo credit: Will Hughes.

Debra, Krista, Bridget, and Brianne are all mothers who participate in triathlons. With children ranging in age from a few months to eight years old, these busy moms have many stories about finding joy in endurance sports while simultaneously tending to the next generation…and advice for others who would like to “Tri” it. We first followed their story in Part 1 of Moms Who Tri; here, we learn more tips about balancing athletic pursuits with parenting.

 Brianne with her kids after completing an indoor triathlon. Photo courtesy of Brianne Pitts.

Brianne with her kids after completing an indoor triathlon. Photo courtesy of Brianne Pitts.

Brianne Pitts and Bridget Kudrle both take an innovative approach to their training: they include their kids.  Brianne describes how her children help clean the bikes or lay out workout clothes and how they “try to hustle us for treats on the way home”from gym nights. She also runs with them, saying, "I've been pushing my son and daughter both in a running stroller since they were tiny, and I'm proud to say they both still will humor me and go for a run (even a long one)." Running with a double-wide stroller with "me huffing and puffing behind," Brianne and her children sing the ABCs, play 'I Spy," and have "a grand old time" - often stopping for ice cream or play time at parks. "A short run usually turns into a tour of our town, with lots of detours to the library, grocery store, or park," she says.

Brianne even recommends getting “those little shopping hooks you can get at baby stores. Hook those babies on the stroller – you can [also] get a weeks’ worth of groceries to fit!”

Bridget includes her kids on her training runs too, by doing one mile loops close to home and allowing the kids to run along. She also loves their family bike rides together, saying, "I like it despite the reality. The reality is that when you ride bikes with children it is like riding with someone who has a mood disorder and they swing up and down in rapid 10-15 minute cycles." She explained, "Bike rides generally begin with my son feeling on top of the world. He is peddling fast, hard, and naming his speed. He has comet speed, lightning speed, laser speed, etc. Ten minutes in, he is breathless and wants to slow. Then his sunglasses or helmet are bothering him....by 20 minutes in he is thirsty or his sock itches.  At 25 min in he is whining about how we 'made' him go on a bike ride and we keep 'lying' to him about being almost done. And so on...."

By the end, though, she assures that he forgets all of the negative aspects of the ride and instead brags about how many miles he biked.

Debra Vaughan started her triathlon career not long after her first child was born, and she kept continuing on after her second child arrived, describing her first race back as a “successful failure.”  She explained, "The baby was less than three months old. I had set my goals really high to do a Half Ironman before he was six months old. So I had to get in my first Olympic distance. The swim was horrible; the hills on the bike were hard and the run was….hot." Since this was the first time Debra had attempted an Olympic-distance race, she participated in the novice wave to allow more time on the course. "I’m glad I did," she said. "I think I came in second to last overall. It was the first time I had ever needed to fuel during a race and I just...didn’t.  But I finished." After the race was over, Debra collapsed in the shade. Then, her husband asked, “Did I just hear them call your name?”  She said, "Turns out I got third (out of three, of course) in my division and had a medal waiting for me. [The organizers] asked him, 'Where is she?' And he responded, 'Over there, feeding our three month-old.' They gave him the medal without any more questions." It was the first time Debra had ever placed at a race in her entire life. She was delighted, saying "Sure, I was 3 out of 3, and almost last place overall, but I learned a lot that day...It was the first race Clint [founder of Focal Flame Photography] ever captured of me, and I’m glad it has all been better since!"

 Bridget finishing strong at Pardeeville. Photo credit Will Hughes, Focal Flame Photography (c) 2015.

Bridget finishing strong at Pardeeville. Photo credit Will Hughes, Focal Flame Photography (c) 2015.

 Krista getting pre-race assistance from her husband. Photo courtesy of Krista Willing.

Krista getting pre-race assistance from her husband. Photo courtesy of Krista Willing.

If you are a mom who wants to try a tri…all four of these moms encourage you to do it. Bridget advises, “Take the risk; you are worth it." Brianne acknowledges that “…you might feel out of your league, ” but that “Triathlon allows me to push myself, appreciate the outdoors, and helps get the craziness of life out…all those worries melt away when you're just trying to keep up.” For Krista it isn’t about racing, “it’s about what you learn about yourself as a person in the process of getting ready to race.”

And Debra reminds everyone that, “It doesn’t matter how you get to the start line. In the end, this isn’t really about triathlon. It’s about taking care of yourself, about taking care of the person that takes care of your kids and your family. Being any kind of athlete, knowing that you are worth the time and effort that you put into your fitness and mental health, while still handling the mountain of other things that you have to do as a mom: that makes you awesome.”

- by Suellen Adams