Thursday, January 29, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Katie Foster - Nebraska

Katie Foster is a mother of three, an attorney, Ironman, and a recent addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon national team. We’re thrilled to have Nebraska on our team map and are looking forward to following her journey to Ironman Boulder this coming August.

What's your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I've been an athlete since I was a little kid. I ran my first 10k in elementary school and my first triathlon in 5th grade. I played soccer, basketball and softball until college. My exercise routine was hit and miss after that until I started my first adult job I began running daily and that was the beginning of a long, consistent love of running. I ran marathons through law school as a way of coping with the stress. In 2007 my husband completed his first 70.3. I was pregnant with our second baby and we made an agreement that one day it would be my turn. 

Then in 2011 a local group called Race Omaha introduced triathlon to the community and offered a women’s only sprint triathlon. With a month to train, I signed up, bought a bike and finished 5th in my age group. I signed up for four more triathlons in 2011 and took an all in approach to the sport. The following summer I completed my first 70.3. The energy in triathlons is positive, healthy and contagious. Triathletes have a natural tendency to cheer each other on, or help each other if needed and I enjoy that type of camaraderie.

You first learned about our team through the women's forum on Slowtwitch. Out of curiosity, what's the vibe like on there? Is the culture similar to the main forum or unique?

The traffic on the women's forum is not quite as high but occasionally I find some good links for nutrition, or women specific gear, and a lot of women asking questions about pregnancy and training.

How would you sum up your 2014 season, and what was the highlight & lowlight? 

My highlight was that I improved my time at the Boulder 70.3 and Olympic distance in Milwaukee. My lowlight was my asymptomatic bulging disc in my lower lumbar that continues to plague my running. 

Overall my 2014 season was really a taper of my 2013 season. In 2013 I finished Ironman Coeur d'Alene and Pigman 70.3. I knew I wanted to do another Ironman, but I needed to take a break from the longer training and spend less time away from my family. In 2014 my kids and husband made Boulder 70.3 a "racation." It was the first time my kids saw me race a long distance tri. I finished with a PR on a beautiful day in Boulder, with no issues on the swim or bike so I consider it a success. In August I had the opportunity to race USAT nationals in Milwaukee after qualifying at the Omaha triathlon. Competing with that caliber of athletes was such a privilege!

What's on tap for 2015 and what are your goals?

I'm signed up for the Legends 70.3, Omaha Triathlon, Ironman Boulder and USAT nationals again. I had to walk most of my marathon at CDA due to stomach pain from overestimating the salt tabs, so at Boulder my goal is to put in a solid effort on the run. My goals are pretty much the same for each race: I'm just happy to be there. I have young kids, a husband, career and household duties that could occupy all of my time. Since I have the luxury of having a lot of support, I am able to feed my love for triathlon, but my goals are realistic and I try to keep things in perspective. I am always happy to show up on race day. Training for me is a privilege, not a chore, so if I am able to show up at the start line having completed my training, then my goal is to finish having felt that I did the best I could, and if possible improve some aspect of my race. I love the sport and that's enough for me.

You've mentioned some "rookie mistakes" were made at Ironman Coeur d'Alene in 2013. What lessons did you learn that you'll directly apply to training for & racing Ironman Boulder this year? Will you have a different strategy this time around?

Oh yes. I'm very good at making mistakes. I learned in CDA that my nutrition leaves a lot to be desired. I learned that although salt tabs are needed on IM day, I should have trained regularly with them, and taking three or four at a time is NOT A GOOD IDEA (yes, I ended up walking the marathon and promptly puking at the finish line!). In a community where triathlon is just catching on, I tend to learn from mistakes! 

A disciplined approach to my nutrition this year would be a big accomplishment for me. In previous years I have not put the research and effort into learning what nutrition works for me because my life felt busy enough that any time I had to train went to swimming, biking and running. It’s that 4th discipline of race day that everyone talks about and that is easily my least favorite. I am a mom who likes to eat whatever she wants, but I am determined to race Boulder having a solid plan for nutrition, and I am exploring the Hammer Nutrition menu to put together daily recovery and race day nutrition options.

Comparing Racine 70.3 in 2012 to Boulder 70.3 in 2014, you moved up 25 spots in your AG and knocked off a whopping 33+ minutes to finish in 5:48. Looking at those two races in isolation, what were the biggest keys to your improvement?

Overall I think I got stronger. Exercise is my stress reliever, I workout all through the off season, just at a lower volume. I wasn't a dedicated college athlete and therefore did not have that muscle strength and fitness to build from after three pregnancies. My fitness and endurance has improved consistently, as has my equipment. I am also more comfortable in the water. For me swimming is very mental and sets the tone for my race. I try to swim comfortably and efficiently and if I can come out of the water relaxed, I have a better day. I look for races that are a good fit for me. The starting line and location of the swim are both considerations. 

Better equipment has helped my confidence on the bike. Moving from a road bike to a carbon tri bike helped cut my bike time quite a bit, and I have made upgrades to it. With support from my family I have added Zipp wheels and carbon clips to my bike. My run time is all over the place, mostly because of my bulging disc in my back. It has affected my running since 2012, but it was not diagnosed until 2014. I treat it regularly but controlling the symptoms means limiting my speed on the run. It is what it is, right now I'm grateful it doesn't keep me on the sidelines!

It appears that biking is your strength, but running off the bike has improved with time. Have you changed your approach to the bike segment of races (ie backing off a little), or are you simply becoming more proficient at running on tired legs?

The odd thing is that I swim and run much more often than I bike. I consider Omaha in limbo with embracing the cycling community, and as a result there are not a lot of places to ride safely here. If I'm cycling, it's because it's a training ride. I also have a great running friend who challenges me with distance running and holds me accountable. That training has increased my muscle endurance and I try to do more bike to run transitions during training, which helps limit the cooked spaghetti feeling on the run. However, I am still learning how to manage my endurance and I probably use more of my leg strength on the bike than I should, which means I give the run everything I have left. Managing efficiency and effort is a point I am still working on.

What was your experience like at USAT Nationals? How does the atmosphere compare to other races you've done, and is it worth the trip?

This was such an amazing opportunity!! First of all, I am in love with Wisconsin. There are so many opportunities for triathletes! I did my first 70.3 in Racine and have been to Madison twice to watch the IM, so it is a happy place for me. I was thrilled to have qualified for Nationals last year. In my first summer racing triathlons I qualified for Nationals but I didn't know what it was and didn't appreciate the privilege. All I knew was that Vermont was not an option for travel. When I qualified in 2014 I knew I did not want to pass up the opportunity. 

Everyone at nationals steps up their performance, and the fitness and equipment are impressive and intimidating. The venue, weather, and community support were fantastic. I finished having improved 11 minutes on my Olympic distance time and I felt as if I had left everything on the course. It was very satisfying to end the season on such a high. I am planning a trip back in 2015.

What are some of your secrets to pulling off the "trifecta," balancing family, work, and training?

In truth, it is a constant balancing act and I am always feeling guilty about wherever I am not, but I have been able to pursue and accomplish my personal goals because I have a husband who supports me. I always wanted to be a mom, so my kids are my priority and I realize how fortunate I am that I am able to be a mom, have a career and pursue my triathlon goals at the same time. I work hard to be available to my kids, participate in their activities, get my office time in and to get my mom duties done at home, which requires a pretty strict schedule for me. 

My kids are 10, 7 and 5, and are old enough to know that exercise is something that I do regularly. My husband does just about all the things I do when I'm home. He's a hands on Dad, and that allows me to train with peace of mind that things at home are okay. I am also blessed that I have a career and employment that have given me flexibility to accommodate my family demands. I was told years ago that nothing stays the same for very long, which is so true, so I try to enjoy each opportunity that comes my way, and appreciate that I was able to be a part of it.

What's triathlon like in Omaha, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?'s growing, maybe slower than in other areas, but it's growing. I think our Race Omaha organization has opened doors for athletes, especially women, who would not otherwise get the chance to try a triathlon. We don't have a lot of access to water and our city does not support open water swim requests, and our access to bike paths and cycling routes is also limited. I think most of us who are triathletes from Omaha just make the most of what we have to work with, and hope that the access for training improves with the growth of the sport. We have bills before the legislature this year to increase protection for cyclists, so we will see where that goes.

Triple Threat Triathlon - National Team interview archives:

Rob "The Law" Forshaw - Massachusetts

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