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It’s OK To Make Mistakes – Kristen Hislop

Kristen Hislop How It All Started Run Tri Bike Magazine OK To Make Mistakes
Kristin Hislop
Year started: 1972
Favorite gear:

Zone3, Magic5, Balega, Hoka, Pearl Izumi, QR, Orbea, Garmin, Whoop, BOCO

Peer Pressure Got Me Started

My endurance career started early as a swimmer at age 8 continuing through college where I competed at a Division III school  for 4 years. When I moved to New York City, after college, I couldn’t afford a health club membership, so I took up running. I joined the New York Road Runners club and took classes with Fred Lebow, and ran a variety of road races with other club members. The members and their peer pressure is what truly got me started on my endurance sports journey. Once I made enough money in NYC to afford a gym membership, I got back to swimming. This was the beginning of my crossover to triathlon.

I Made Mistakes But Was Hooked

In 1991 I moved to Boulder, CO for graduate school to obtain my MBA. It was easier to bike to school, so I commuted via my beloved Peugeot or shox free mountain bike (you couldn’t buy a bike with shox yet!). In the spring of 1992, having added the third of the triathlon disciplines to my training,  I decided to try a triathlon in Fort Collins, CO with some of my co-workers at Old Chicago. My first triathlon consisted of a pool swim, 15 mile bike, and 5K run. I made a gazillion mistakes during that race but I was not turning back. After that I would do more sprint and olympic triathlons in the area. My favorite annual race quickly became the Boulder Peak Triathlon. 

To this point I had never followed a structured training plan. By the late 1990s I decided to try a full  course triathlon, commonly known as the Ironman distance or 140.6. After what I considered “semi training” (not really structured at all) a co-worker who had been to Kona sat me down and said I wasn’t ready to attempt this distance and I realized he was right. I cut my losses and instead went and ran the NYC Marathon that year. In 1999 I tried to race the Ironman distance and signed up for IM Florida. That attempt was derailed because I was hit by a car. 

Shortly after the accident, I got married and became a mom. I ran the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day 2000 and then did the swim portion of the Longmont Tri. Alex was born June 15! He is a Division I runner now, which isn’t  too much of a surprise with an athletic parent. I did a Danskin Tri when Alex was 1 and then got pregnant with Jack. I continued with triathlons and running until we moved to upstate New York in 2006. My first race in the Capital Region I able to get on the podium and come away with some hardware, which became a pretty good incentive to keep racing. No longer surrounded by Olympians in Colorado, I was to prove to myself that I am a good athlete! I kept competing and eventually became certified to coach by USAT and Ironman U. I have raced every year since living in NY (see In 2020 it was virtual events and a tri I created for my athletes!

It’s OK To Make Mistakes

I love that I made so many mistakes over the years and found there were millions of places to improve. That is still true today. I have lost the #1 spot in sprint races because I have slow transitions. I will always have something to work on. When I started there were no tri suits (I wore a bathing suit), no tri shoes (I wore sneakers), I didn’t have a wetsuit, no tri bike. I like to tell people that you can do a triathlon with very little gear. It is all about the engine! I also tell them it is much easier to do a triathlon with some coaching and solid advice, as I learned the hard way. With friends and coaches in your corner,  you learn from them and don’t  drop the chain before you even get out of the transition area! If you learn beforehand not to, then you don’t drop your chain and you don’t end up with grease all over your new yellow handlebar tape (and your face for that matter due to wiping sweat). You probably won’t get super dizzy due to dehydration or lose your bike spot in transition! 

All of that said, I would never change a thing about my beginnings. I wish that people would get away from some of the crazy gear and the intense spending. I am now a race director for the Freihofer’s Run for Women (43 years young in 2021) and looking to create and direct some new tris in 2022. Beginner friendly will be a focus. We need new blood in the sport. It is so fun and challenging, and perfect cross training. I could go on forever as I am old, so I have plenty of experiences and super fond memories. I am lucky to be on the USAT Women’s Committee, a Women for Tri ambassador, VP of USATF Adirondack, and coach liaison for USMS Adirondack.

I’m excited to see new people in the sport, so let’s all get out there and tri!