In the wake of a bizarre physical attack and the death of her father, Katie Arnold felt paralyzed by the anxieties of parenthood and being a woman alone in the wilderness. She got through it the same way she’d always done, by lacing up and hitting the trail. An exclusive excerpt from her new memoir, Running Home.
There’s one question that people always ask me about running alone in the backcountry. It’s the same question they ask me about taking young children down whitewater rivers. I know because it’s also the one I ask myself. Aren’t you scared?
The answer is: absolutely. In the seven years I’ve been an ultrarunner, I’ve taught myself to tolerate uncertainty, to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve run and won races ranging from 50 kilometers to 100 miles, but I still rarely leave the house without weighing my worries against my desire to run, assessing the risks of being on my own in the wilderness, thinking hard about what’s at stake. Everything.
I’m scared of getting lost and of getting hurt and of being attacked by animals wild and domesticated—even livestock. Dogs that lunge at me from yards; cattle that graze in meadows, staring at me with their mean, blank eyes when I sidle by, daring me to pass. They’re just cows, I chide myself, feeling foolish, but they are large and lumbering and ten times my weight, and they could mow me down in an instant.
I don’t worry about lone coyotes—at 40 pounds, they’re too small and skittish to do any harm—but packs of coyotes, though rarely encountered, are unpredictable. (In 2009, a female solo hiker was killed by a pair of coyotes in Nova Scotia.) Rattlesnakes are uncommon in my hometown of Santa Fe. They don’t do well above 7,000 feet, or so I thought, until the day I came upon a pair of mating rattlers in the middle of a trail. I was nearly on top of them before I realized the coiled brown rope at my feet wasn’t a rope at all, but a knot of amorous vipers, and I yelped and hurdled over them. Now I keep my eyes down.
The two-time Olympian will make the high-altitude event her trail running race debut.
All I had going for me in my attempt to keep up with Kara Goucher were the rocks. The two-time Olympian and 2:24:52 marathoner is relatively new to trail running, and on our car ride over to a trailhead in Boulder, Colorado’s, Chautauqua Park, she claimed to be “terrible at it.” And so, to abate my own fears of being dropped by the pro—even on a casual run—I chose a particularly rocky and technical route.
The purpose of our jaunt was to chat about Goucher’s transition from road racing to trails. After a disappointing DNF because of an injured hamstring at January’s Houston Marathon, the 40-year-old athlete hinted via Instagram that she wanted to take her running “in a new direction.” She told Runner’s World after the race, “I have my eye on a race in June, but it is not on the roads.”
That goal race, she revealed to Runner’s World, is the Leadville Trail Marathon on June 15. The 26.2-mile course, located roughly two hours from her home in Boulder, winds through rocky, rugged terrain and tops out at 13,185 feet in elevation. It’s a far cry from the road routes Goucher is used to—and will certainly demand a different style of running.
“I’m scared of downhills, especially,” she admitted on our drive to the trail. She explained that while she grew up running on trails in Duluth, Minnesota, and frequented nearby mountain trails while on the University of Colorado cross-country team, for many years she became what she calls a “surface diva.”
In honor of International Women’s Day, there are a few fierce ladies in the world of swim bike run who are legends not only amongst women, but in the company of all triathletes. Cheers to all you ladies making waves and pushing the boundaries of badassery!
This Swiss Miss is one of three women in history to win Kona more than three times in a row, with four Kona titles. She was also the first female triathlete and first Swiss woman nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sports Award. Daniela currently holds the fastest women’s finish time at the IRONMAN World Championships (2018) at 8:26:16, and fastest female 70.3 finish time of 3:57:47 at IRONMAN 70.3 Gdynia.
Aussie transplant turned Boulder resident, Rinny is not only a supermom, but she is also a three-time IRONMAN World Champion, has the fastest female Kona run split at 2:50:26, and many more wins (most likely more than hubby Timothy O’Donnell) on her resume. Basically, she can qualify for Boston in her sleep and chase after little Izzy without breaking a sweat!
Last, but certainly not least is a woman who is one of the most gracious athletes I have had the pleasure of meeting and got to volunteer alongside at a service project in Kona last October. There is a reason why they call her “The Queen of Kona.” She’s a 8-time IRONMAN World Champion, has 24 IRONMAN race victories between 1986-2002, was inducted into the IRONMAN Hall of Fame (1996) and USA Triathlon Hall of Fame (2010), and in 1999 won Triathlete Magazine’s Greatest Triathlete in History title. Although her racing days are behind her, Paula is still involved with the sport with coaching celebrities such as Hines Ward and Apolo Anton Ohno as well as working in coaching development with IRONMAN. Paula, thank you for paving the way and continuing being such a integral part of triathlon!
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of USA Triathlon Magazine.
The low point for Sarah True came last summer. A year removed from being forced to bow out early in the race at the 2016 Rio Games, True fell into a dark, deep, depressive state.
True is no stranger to depression — the two-time Olympic triathlete had been battling the disease since she was a teenager. But this was a hole more cavernous, more dark and more hopeless than she had ever fallen into.
She felt she was a failure. As an athlete. And as a wife, convinced she failed her husband Ben True, who missed qualification for the 2016 Olympic team. Triathlon wasn’t fun anymore. Life outside sport had no joy. Her training suffered. She couldn’t sleep. Suicidal thoughts ran through her mind.
“Maybe I’ll just swerve into oncoming traffic,” she thought during training rides near her home in Hanover, New Hampshire. One head-on collision with a truck could just end it all.
“Everything was a struggle. I was in a really, really dark place and I felt like it just wasn’t going to get better,” said True, 36.
You can’t “out tough” depression
A professional athlete, an Olympian, a competitor in IRONMAN, one of the most physically and mentally grueling endurance tests humans have created, and here is True contemplating her worth in this world.
But depression knows no boundaries.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any given year, an estimated 16.2 million adults in the U.S. experience a major depressive episode. And an estimated 40 million adults live with anxiety disorders.
The incidence of those conditions, often linked, in the endurance sports population is probably similar, as a 2017 review of research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found no difference in depressive symptoms between what the researchers called “high-performance athletes” and nonathletes. Age-groupers or Olympic-caliber, all levels of athletes are affected. Michael Phelps, who has won more Olympic medals than anyone on this planet, has publicly spoken about his depression and thoughts of suicide.
The precious time alone in the calm of nature became transformative in Rachel Sapp’s healing process.
When every muscle in her body begins to feel like a weight pulling her down, and every ache urges her to quit, Rachel Sapp continues to run, pressing forward with every step on the trail.
This grit serves as an important reminder in every aspect of her life. Just as she survived a brutal attack, she can survive any grueling physical challenge that comes her way. And running has helped her summon that courage.
“The strength that running has provided, it’s almost unspeakable,” Sapp told Runner’s World.
“Running put that at the forefront for me to know that I got through these situations in life that are hard. It may be difficult right now, but it’s also beautiful, and it’s also vulnerable and I can be in this place and experience all of these things and it’s because my legs can propel me. There’s something so magical about that.”
It all started in the spring of 2017, when the Nederland, Colorado resident was leaving the Denver area hospital where she worked as a paramedic. Two people followed her to her car and attacked her, breaking her ribs and her cheekbone. From the parking lot, she was rushed back into the hospital.
Sapp ended up suffering post-traumatic stress from the attack. She felt helpless and lost, and she knew that she didn’t want to return to work at the hospital.
With the support of her husband Zack, Sapp decided to quit her job in emergency medicine and make the transition to becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom to her six-year-old twin girls. Unable to escape the painful memories, Sapp still felt anxious and trapped. And as a mother and wife, she couldn’t check out completely.
So when her husband encouraged her to get out of the house and take an entire day each week to taking care of herself, Sapp took him up on it. That precious time alone became transformative for Sapp, not just for her recovery, but for her overall wellbeing.
At first, though, she didn’t quite know what to do with all that free time. Still recovering from her injuries, Sapp would sit at park benches unsure of where to go or what to do. One thing she did know, though, was that she wanted to avoid large crowds. So she started to go for long walks. Soon after, she had the desire to explore further and see more of the breathtaking trails that surround her mountain town.
“I thought, ‘Why am I just walking? I could be making so much better use of my time and see so much more if I run,’” she recalled.
On April 11, 2017, Sapp went for her first run. A lifelong rock climber, Sapp always hated running, and her first attempt on the Flatirons Vista Trail was anything but easy. She got several side cramps, and could only make it half of a mile before she had to stop and walk.
“I was huffing and puffing by the end. I had no idea how to control speed or anything,” she said. “There wasn’t a time in my life that I had run other than those horrid middle school miles. It was so new, but I liked that no one was there.”
HAMPTON UNIVERSITY BECOMES FIRST HBCU TO ADD WOMEN’S TRIATHLON AS A VARSITY SPORT
NCAA Division I program in Hampton Virginia, to receive HBCU-focused grant from USA Triathlon Foundation
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon, along with Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey and Director of Athletics Eugene Marshall, Jr., today announced that Hampton University will introduce women’s triathlon as a varsity sport starting in the fall of 2019. The school, located in Hampton, Virginia, is the first-ever HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to participate in the sport at the varsity level.
The addition of the Hampton women’s triathlon program is made possible through a $225,000 grant from the USA Triathlon Foundation, which was reserved for the first HBCU that added the sport at the varsity level in a proactive effort to increase diversity in collegiate triathlon. The grant will be distributed over a five-year period and may support travel, equipment, coaching, scholarships and other expenses related to building a sustainable varsity program. 101918 hampton logo_406.png
All other varsity women’s triathlon programs, including future HBCUs, have the opportunity to apply for the standard USA Triathlon Foundation Women’s Emerging Sport Grant.
USA Triathlon is planning a number of other initiatives focused on HBCU community engagement, including an indoor triathlon series at HBCU campuses, an HBCU triathlon combine to identify multisport talent, a campus rep program and a professional development program for HBCU students interested in working in the Olympic movement.
These initiatives are part of USA Triathlon’s larger mission to increase diversity in triathlon. The organization has been recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee for two consecutive years for its diversity and inclusion efforts, receiving the USOC’s Advancing Diversity & Inclusion Award in 2017 and the Diversity & Inclusion Choice Award in 2018.
“Hampton University’s addition of a varsity women’s triathlon program is cause for celebration for many reasons,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “USA Triathlon is in the process of collaborating with HBCUs on a variety of initiatives to increase diversity in triathlon at the youth and collegiate level, and this is an important step in that direction. The academic and athletic administration at Hampton have proven to be leaders by committing to this unique opportunity for female student-athletes, who will shape the future of our sport for years to come.”
“This is another example of Hampton University leading the way,” said Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey. “I am proud of the Department of Athletics team that made the Hampton University women’s triathlon program a reality.”
A national search for a head coach will commence immediately, and the athlete recruitment process will begin as soon as a coach is hired.
Hampton becomes the sixth NCAA Division I program and the 26th school overall to sponsor women’s triathlon as a varsity sport. Other programs in USA Triathlon’s Mideast Region include Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C., DIII), Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V., DII), East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn., DI), Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C., DII) and Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky., DIII).
The NCAA named triathlon an Emerging Sport for Women in 2014, a designation that gives the sport a 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability at the NCAA level.
Women’s collegiate triathlon is a fall sport. The varsity season, which is comprised of three regional qualifiers and the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship, features sprint-distance races covering a 750-meter open water swim, draft-legal 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.
For more information about triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, visit usatriathlon.org/ncaa. For questions regarding varsity collegiate women’s triathlon events and programming, contact Jessica Welk at Jessica.email@example.com.
What others are saying about the addition of women’s triathlon at Hampton University:
Amy Wilson, Managing Director, NCAA Office of Inclusion
“Congratulations to Hampton University on adding women’s triathlon — an NCAA emerging sport — and further enhancing its remarkable tradition of providing meaningful opportunities for student-athletes. I commend USA Triathlon for partnering with Hampton University through its impactful grant program, as well as for its extensive plans to engage with HBCUs across the country to increase the number of diverse student-athletes participating in intercollegiate triathlon.”
John Cassimatis, President, USA Triathlon Foundation
“The USA Triathlon Foundation is proud to present Hampton University with grant funding to build a sustainable women’s varsity triathlon program. The Foundation’s mission is to open pathways to triathlon for all, and a key component of that is increasing racial and ethnic diversity in our sport. Hampton’s presence in the NCAA triathlon family means that young women with dreams of attending an HBCU can now consider triathlon as a collegiate sport option for the first time, which opens new opportunities both academically and athletically.”
Shelley C. Davis, Senior Associate Commissioner and SWA, Big South Conference
“There is tremendous significance in Hampton University adding triathlon. Not only does this provide additional opportunities for women to compete in the sport, but Hampton is also the first Historically Black College/University and Big South Conference member institution to sponsor triathlon. It is exciting to see the growth of triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport, and the Big South looks forward to celebrating Hampton’s success and exposing the sport to the rest of our member institutions.”
Charles Harris, Executive Vice President of Averett University, Former Commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Hampton University Alumnus
“I am delighted to offer congratulations to Hampton for taking an innovative step into offering women’s triathlon as a varsity intercollegiate sport. Hampton has a 151-year history of being a pathfinder for opportunities. It comes as no surprise that under the leadership of President Dr. William R. Harvey and Athletic Director Eugene Marshall, Jr., they would seize the opportunity to take a leadership role in opening a new pathway for women in sport. This announcement is the first in what I anticipate will be a wellspring of unique opportunities for HBCU student-athletes to participate in sport at the highest level possible.”
Dr. Tekemia Dorsey, CEO, International Association of Black Triathletes
“Hampton University’s partnership with USA Triathlon provides a pathway into the collegiate arena for the sport at an HBCU for young black women from urban communities around the world. As IABT’s Youth & Junior Club Programs continue to expand here in Maryland through partnerships with urban local school systems, we are now able to advocate, support and encourage enrollment in Hampton University’s triathlon program. I have great hope that other HBCUs will come on board to introduce the program, especially in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. This has been an initiative of mine for several years, and I am ecstatic to see it come to fruition. Historic, groundbreaking, monumental. Great job, Hampton University and USA Triathlon!”
Tony Brown, Founder and President, Black Triathletes Association
“On behalf of the Black Triathletes Association (BTA), I would like to congratulate USA Triathlon and Hampton University on this landmark achievement. It has always been the mission of BTA to promote the sport of triathlon to the black community, and this partnership exemplifies the importance of diversity and inclusion in collegiate-level athletics. Several of the member athletes and volunteers of BTA are HBCU alum and have expressed overwhelming praise and gratitude in this endeavor. We are committed to a multisport lifestyle and look forward to supporting the success of the NCAA women’s triathlon team at Hampton University.”
Current Varsity Women’s Collegiate Triathlon Programs (as of Oct. 30, 2018)
NCAA Division I
Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.)
East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, Tenn.)
Hampton University (Hampton, Va.)
University of San Francisco (San Francisco. Calif.)
University of South Dakota (Vermillion, S.D.)
Wagner College (Staten Island, N.Y.)
NCAA Division II
American International College (Springfield, MA)
Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.)
Black Hills State University (Spearfish, S.D.)
Colorado Mesa University (Grand Junction, Colo.)
Daemen College (Amherst, N.Y.)
Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.V.)
Drury University (Springfield, Mo.)
Montana State University Billings (Billings, Mont.)
Queens University of Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)
St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, N.Y.)
Southern Wesleyan University (Central, S.C.)
NCAA Division III
Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, Wis.)
Millikin University (Decatur, Ill.)
Milwaukee School of Engineering (Milwaukee, Wis.)
North Central College (Naperville, Ill.)
Northern Vermont University (Johnson, Vt.)
Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.)
Trine University (Angola, Ind.)
Willamette University (Salem, Ore.)
About the USA Triathlon Foundation
The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon, and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $1.9 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to learn more and donate today.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors – as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation – USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
Boulder, Colorado USA: Rachel Joyce, professional triathlete; 2017 IRONMAN Boulder Champion, and Dana Platin, leadership coach and founder of The Warmi Project, are collaborating on an innovative local workshop series. Each workshop offers a unique blend of practical triathlon skills and mental tools designed to have an immediate benefit on performance. The series will take place at the University of Colorado, Boulder Recreation Center and single workshop registration is available:
Swim Braver Workshop: Sunday May 20 10:00am-3:00pm
Bike Bolder Workshop: Sunday June 3 10:00am-3:00pm
Run Stronger Workshop: Sunday June 24 10:00am-3:00pm
The Swim Braver session will develop the ability to squash the inner critic and lead with a BRAVER self-mentor both on and off the race course. The Bike Bolder session will progress the courage needed to push the comfort zone in order to fear less, take calculated risks, and move BOLDER through life. The Run Stronger session will explore the top three strategies to crush
goals to run STRONGER in life.
“Since transitioning from the corporate world to professional triathlon in 2005, I have learned a huge amount about swimming, biking and running,” said Rachel Joyce. “I understand how the development of everyday skills are essential to truly showcase fitness in the triathlon arena. I am excited to share my experiences through the Braver Bolder Stronger workshops and to be partnering with Dana Platin. Dana’s depth of knowledge and women’s leadership portfolio emphasizes the relevance of mental tools, which is often the missing piece of the jigsaw.”
“Human Interest Group is proud to support this engaging workshop series,” said Heather Nocickis, “Rachel and Dana have created a relevant, effective content program based on their respective paths to success. The result of their vision for women’s leadership is a blueprint that builds confidence and drives change, empowering others to break through barriers – in sport or in the corporate arena.”
“As a passionate, avid athlete, I use my participation in triathlons, cycling, and mountaineering as a way to set personal goals that push my limits beyond what I thought was possible,” says Dana Platin. “Personal triumphs and setbacks have taught me about gratitude, grit, and grace. My 20-years in leadership development, training, and program management are lessons learned for other women aspiring to crush their fear to accomplish their goals. I am thrilled to
partner with Rachel Joyce on this powerful experience that uses the journey of triathlon to tap into that braver, bolder, stronger version of ourselves.”
Each workshop will kick off with a challenging physical component. The swim/bike/run training sessions will be coached by Rachel, instructing on technique and key skills specific to triathlon, such as open water sighting and adapting swim strokes for different conditions; climbing and descending proficiency on the bike; and, finishing with a strong run in the final leg of a triathlon.
This will be followed by lunch and refreshments. Dana will advance discussion during the afternoon sessions, further examining potential barriers to empowerment and those tools and choices that contribute to success and define what braver, bolder, stronger means for women’s leadership and participation.
About Braver Bolder Stronger: Braver Bolder Stronger Workshops is a partnership between Rachel Joyce, Dana Platin and The Human Interest Group. For more details and event registration, click HERE.
Parking for Workshops
The workshops will take place at CU Student Recreation Center, located at 1855 Pleasant Street in Boulder, CO. We recommend parking at Lot 169 (free parking on weekends) or the Folsom Field Parking Garage (paid parking) as shown here.
About 15 participants enjoy the social nature of race
Members of the tight-knit group pumped up one another at the starting line.
Shoes were retied last minute as the national anthem played from the speakers. When it finished, the announcer asked blind and visually impaired runners to come forward.
The group made their way up. Crosby, a guide dog for runner Kerry Kuck, stood at the front of the pack. The runners prepared for their starting cue, which was a minute before the rest of the participants tackled the 5-mile route at the annual Cherry Creek Sneak.
“Crosby the dog is going to lead the way,” the announcer barked out to the crowd. Then, the start was signaled. The runners and their guides took off, breaking away down the first stretch.
The Colorado Springs based U.S. Association of Blind Athletes partnered with Achilles Denver, the local chapter of an international organization that gives athletes with disabilities a community of support, and Lending Sight, a Colorado sports club that connects those with good vision with blind or visually impaired runners, to recruit about 15 runners and guides to race Sunday.
For some, the sport is about escaping isolation or exploring freedom. For others, it is a fun form of exercise. Regardless of the motivation, the athletes all expressed a similar theme: Blind runners have a tight community in Denver.
NOTE: One year ago this week, Kate tore her ACL while skiing. In this narrative, she shares her struggles with psychological recovery after experiencing a major sports injury.
Outdoor recreation enthusiasts are a superstitious bunch. There are certain things that go unsaid. For example, cyclists do not openly proclaim how long it has been since they’ve experienced a mechanical, hikers do not take photos until after the summit has been reached, and skiers do not ever say “Last run of the day.”
That’s where I made my mistake. I did the taboo. I did what skiers are never supposed to do- I said those cursed words out loud. Twenty minutes later, I was face planting in the snow, spread out in the Super Man position and didn’t want to get up. I knew my knee would not support me.
I had felt that feeling once before- two years prior, in fact, when an inexperienced teenaged snowboarder lost control and slammed into me at Keystone. Ironically, that too had been the last run of the day. On that day long ago, I had enough adrenaline rushing through me that I was able to ski down the mountain, but it was soon followed by excruciating pain by the time we reached the parking lot. An MRI scan revealed later that I had torn my left medial collateral ligament (MCL).
The Elephant Journal published the following poem by Jennifer Kimble after being inspired by Lindsey Vonn, introducing it with a nod to all amateur athletes:
For Lindsey and so many other female athletes, their beauty blooms from struggle. Broken bones, blown out knees, and severed tendons leave scars of accomplishment as they fearlessly get back on that mountain, back on their bikes, or back in the water time and time again.
It’s noon and she still has raccoon eyes…. not the typical “day after” makeup, but residual rings from her sunrise swim.
Her hair, always in a messy bun, will have to do— for she would rather run an extra 30 minutes than spend the time with a straightening iron. Her curves are in her biceps and calves instead of her chest, and veins pop in her forearms at the mere mention of the gym. Perpetually cold and hungry, she always wants more.
Wrinkles surround her sun-kissed smile. Instead of spending money on fake eyelashes, she gets a tune up for her bike; and her Cover Girl is sunscreen. Her tan lines look ridiculous in frilly dresses; but who cares, she prefers Lycra anyway. She has muscles down to her toes where black nail polish covers bruised toenails, and chaffing in places she’d rather not mention.
But oh, the sparkle in her eyes And desire in her heart. The passion that permeates her being!
She is strong and confident, and damn—she is beautiful.