I had the pleasure recently of talking Ironman and triathlon with Tri Club member Barb Olson. Barb finished Ironman Canada in 2006 in 16:52:09. Please join me as we get to know Barb better.
Craig: What was your athletic background prior to triathlons?
Barb: I have been a runner most of my life. I participated in the Girls Athletic Association in high school and ran a few 10Ks and half marathons through my adult years. I learned to swim as a child, but never swam competitively, and did some scuba diving in the 70’s.
Craig: How did your first triathlon go?
Barb: My first triathlon was Mission Bay in 2001. It was a great race to start with and a wonderful experience. I just had knee surgery in June of that year and the doctor recommended cross-training instead of just running. Lynn Trimble had been encouraging my husband, Mike, and me to join the Tri Club and start participating in some of the races. I did the race on my very heavy mountain bike. Andy Friedl congratulated me after the race, looked at the bike and said “You did the race on that!!” It took me another year before I finally invested in a road bike.
Craig: What was your inspiration to sign up for an Ironman?
Barb: Actually you were in a way. Mike and I followed your Half IM training plan and did the Half Vineman in 2005. It was our first Half IM and we had such a great experience that Mike decided he wanted to try to do IM Canada in 2006. He talked to you about it and you suggested he attend your networking dinner about 1 week before the 2005 IM Canada. Many of the athletes at your dinner were planning to do Ironman Canada. Some were with Steve Diggs’ CAF team and others were preparing on their own. I got so excited listening to them talk about their training and looking forward to the race, I decided to sign up with Steve’s group and do IM Canada in 2006. Or, it could have been that second glass of wine.
Craig: I recall you had a tough time at Wildflower 2006. Was that your first Half Ironman? What did you learn from that experience?
Barb: Half Vineman 2005 was my first Half-IM and Wildflower 2006 was my second. I finished the race, but I was not prepared for the level of difficulty of the Wildflower course nor did I have my nutrition dialed in. However, it was great preparation for IM Canada. Although Canada was longer, it was not as difficult as the Long Course at Wildflower.
Craig: What was your Ironman Canada experience like?
Barb: The overall experience was wonderful. We rented a house with our friends (Lynn Trimble, Andy Friedl, Gina Sample, and Katrin Szardenings) who were also doing the race. Erin, our youngest daughter who lives in Seattle, came to stay with us and watch the race. Checking out the course, talking with the local people and the participants from all over the world, and running in The Underpants Run all made for a great experience. The race is very well organized and the volunteers are wonderful.
All my emotions were in high gear waiting for the cannon to go off. The swim went well, the bike course was beautiful, and then there was the run. The run for me was jog/walk. Like many others, my stomach was upset for most of the run. I basically survived on ice. My gel flasks were full when I finished the race. So again, my nutrition was off. During my run it got very dark outside of town by the lake. The officials came by on motorcycles handing out glow rings to hang around your neck. An one point I thought how nice it would be to lay down along side the road, but figured I wouldn’t wake up until the next day, so that wasn’t an option. My emotions ran up and down during the race. I was excited and glad to be there. I wished I was doing better, but I was still amazed that I was there. I just kept telling myself that I could finish the race, and I did.
Craig: What was it like to cross the finish line?
Barb: Unbelievable -- What a sensation. The lights, the music, the crowd – it is all very overwhelming at the time. I was amazed at the size of the crowd still there cheering people as they came across the line. Mike, Erin, and Katrin were very patient to wait for me. It was great to have them there at the finish. The accomplishment didn’t really sink in for a few days.
Craig: What are your strengths that enabled you to be an IM Finisher?
Barb: The strengths that allowed me to be an IM Finisher are training, mental determination and the support of my husband. You have to do the training and it takes up most of your free time. It is a huge commitment, but worth all the aches and pains. The mental determination is one of the most important strengths. The mind-body connection is so strong. Tell your body you can do something and it will do it’s best to accomplish it. But what makes it easier for both my husband and I, is the support we give each other. Since we are both active in triathlons we understand the time commitments and we enjoy sharing our experiences with each other.
Craig: Do you think you and Mike will sign up for another IM?
Barb: I’m sure Mike will do another IM. I think he and Lynn Trimble will be doing another one in a couple years – maybe Germany or New Zealand. I’ll just see how next year goes. We have been working with Patricia LaSalle, a coach up in Northern California. The training I received from Steve Diggs gave me a good base for Patricia’s program. I have improved a lot this year, and if I continue to improve, I just might do one more.
Craig: What are you future triathlon goals?
Barb: We want to continue doing triathlons and continue improving. I think both Mike and I finally have our nutrition dialed in. Next year I’m going to focus on the bike which is my weakest event. We will probably do a few triathlons next year that we haven’t done before and also some of the local races.
Craig: Women get saddled with all sorts of jobs – their career, running the household, raising the kids, etc. What would you say to a 50+ woman who had an inkling to do a triathlon?
Barb: I would tell her to go for it. She should make good use of all the training the Tri Club offers. She’ll improve her fitness, health, and make many new friends. She will be amazed at how strong she will become both physically and mentally. If she is interested in eventually doing an IM, I would encourage her to work her way through the different distance races beginning with the sprint distance. Also, she should do at least four Half IM races prior to attempting an IM. I only did two and would have benefited from more experience. Finally, but very important is coaching. It is so beneficial to be with a group or have individual coaching. I was really lucky to meet Steve Diggs at your networking dinner. I joined his “Concerned Athletes” group and he gave me excellent coaching, great group workouts, and the gratification of raising money for CAF.
Craig: What do your kids think about you and Mike being triathletes?
Barb: Our activity level has had a positive influence on both Lisa (33 years old, lives in Sydney Australia, and a mother of 3 boys) and Erin (29, a staff accountant in Seattle) They are both very proud of us, and they have become interested in improving their own fitness recently. I think we have been a good influence on them. Lisa has done some runs and recently bought a bike. Erin has begun biking quite a bit and recently completed a bike event in the Seattle area. Both of the girls have started working out more.
Craig: What are your favorite benefits of membership in the Tri Club?
Barb: There are so many benefits of the Tri Club. Our two favorites are the friendships we have developed, and the various training programs. Others are: great guest speakers at club meetings, club races, and good discounts at local bike shops.
Craig: Barb, thank you very much for sharing your story. Both you and Mike should be very proud of your accomplishments. I’ll never forget how happy I was for both of you when I saw that you had finished Ironman Canada. I have a feeling there are a lot more triathlon finish lines in your future.