The Journey of Qualifying for and Competing at the Triathlon World Championships!

I am so so excited to share with you a post from Victoria. We became friends via social media 10 years ago and have had the best emails/texts back and forth ever since. I was so happy to finally get to meet her in Utah last year and introduce her to Cafe Rio. I’ve always been so inspired by all that she does and her story so I feel extra lucky that she wrote a post for today! Enjoy!

Hello HRG readers! I’m Victoria, a nuclear engineer living with my husband in Washington, DC, and while, like Janae, I like to run, I really like triathlons. I’m going to share with you today my journey to qualifying for and competing at the triathlon world championships. 

Like some of you, I’ve been reading Janae’s blog for a decade now (!) and love how open, friendly, and inspiring she is with her tales of running and life. One of the highlights of my 2019 was when we actually got to meet in person when I passed through Utah for work. As a bonus, we got Café Rio and she gave me a pep talk before my speed workout the next day. It was magic and I nailed my intervals. It was either the pep talk or the Café Rio, maybe both.

Also, we suspect we are long-lost relatives because we were born with the same last name. Still working on tracking through the family trees to find the connection. In the meantime, I’ve invited myself to the next family reunion, once we can all travel and gather again.

I took up triathlons in 2011, and while I have a background as a swimmer, I was not all that great at biking and running. I usually finished in the middle third of the field at races, and was in awe of people who qualified for national and world championships. How cool to go to nationals or worlds in a sport you love? 

In 2013, I was determined to qualify for nationals for 2014 because it was going to be in my hometown of Milwuakee, WI. To do that, I would need to be in the top 10% of my age group at a USA Triathlon-sanctioned race. I found a race that had a large field so there would be a lot of slots, and qualified in the last spot for my age group. I was so happy! 

I planned for nationals to be the highlight of my 2014 season, even though I was sure I’d be near last there. I wound up injuring my foot shortly before the race but still competed because a physical therapist told me it was just a ligament strain, set a PR and came in right in the middle of my age group. I also broke my foot during the run. Don’t be me.

For redemption, I was determined to heal up and qualify to return the next year. I actually won my age group at a race that fall so I qualified to compete in 2015. That year, I was focused on having a fast race at nationals, and came in 50thIn my age group! That was out of over 150 people, all of whom had qualified to be there, and I was floored at how well I’d done. The top 18 people get to go to world championships, and I was about 6 minutes away from that. In a 2.5 hour race, that seemed like something manageable, so, I set my sights on qualifying for worlds at 2016 nationals. 

In the lead up to 2016 nationals, I trained more hours than I ever had before, and, knowing that it was going to be in Omaha, NE in mid-August, made sure I was ready for hot and humid conditions. I did so many midday runs at home in DC to ensure I knew how to manage those conditions – it was brutal, but I was focused on my goal. I was unsure if I’d be able to do it, since the field at nationals was so fast. Going into the race, I didn’t think I’d gained enough speed over the past year to make top 18, but would give it my best shot. I got lost on the swim (sighting in open water is hard), had a slower bike time than the year before, and had several moments where I was ready to abandon my goal. Each time I considered giving up, I reminded myself that the race wasn’t over until the very end and anything can happen, and got back to work. I finished the bike and my husband yelled to me that I was in 10th place. Since there were 18 spots for worlds, I still had a chance.

Starting the run, at least ten people in my age group ran past me in the first two miles. It was discouraging, but, it was hot, sunny, and humid, and I knew what I needed to do to manage my race in those conditions. I kept my effort level appropriate for what was happening, took in my salt and hydration, and focused on my own race. Halfway through, I started passing back women in my age group as they struggled in the heat and humidity. I was getting pretty delirious from the hard effort and the heat myself, and wasn’t sure what place I was in with two miles to go, but I knew I was close to a spot for worlds, so I gave it everything I could, crossed the finish line and immediately fell over. 

Eventually I was able to stand up, sat in an ice bath that had been set up for the athletes, and my husband checked my finishing place. 19th – which sounds awful when 18 people qualify for worlds, but the slots roll down and I knew at least three people ahead of me who did not plan to go to worlds the next year. I was in! 

Being on Team USA for triathlon world championships is pretty cool. I got to go to Rotterdam in The Netherlands along with our elite athletes (I was competing in the age group race for women 35-39, I was NOT competing against Olympians or anything like that). I got to wear the Team USA uniform, race some of the fastest women my age from around the world. 

After proving to myself I could do this, I qualified for worlds in a few other events, including aquabike (swim-bike), aquathlon (swim-run) and duathlon (run-bike-run). My husband has also qualified in aquabike and aquathlon and we got to compete at worlds together in aquathlon in 2019! That was a real treat.

I don’t think any of this is an extraordinary athletic accomplishment – what I’m most proud of is that I started out mediocre and slowly improved until I was able to qualify for world championships in my age group. Diligence and hard work can help you improve when you stick with something, and even if you aren’t awesome at the very beginning, you can do things that used to seem impossible with enough time and dedication.

 

Question time!

Have you ever done a triathlon? Do you want to? If you want to and haven’t, what do you need to do to make it happen?


Have you accomplished anything that you previously never dreamed you could? How did you make it happen? Brag away, you earned it!


Anybody else done an international race? How was it?

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39 comments

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Congratulations. You are very inspiring.I would like to know how much training you do both daily and weekly. How are you swimming during COVID. Those type of things, thanks for an interesting post. Good luck on your future endeavors.

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Hi Cheryl!

Thank you for the congrats and the good luck! Leading up to qualifying for my first world championships, I was training about 18-21 hours most weeks. I also was bike commuting to work so when you add it all up it was…a lot. These days, because I haven’t been targeting a race since there aren’t any, I have been training about 12-14 hours most weeks, with most days about 2-2.5 hours of training.

For swimming during COVID, the pools all shut down in March, and open water near me was still WAY too cold, so no swimming at all for about 8 weeks while we waited for nearby open water to warm up. During that time, I did a bunch of work with stretch cords and other swim-specific dryland at home to keep my fitness, and also did extra running and biking to make up for no swim time. By mid-May, we were able to get to open water 1-2x/week, since it was at least an hour drive each direction, that was all we really did. Private pools in our area opened up near the end of June, with 1 person or 1 household per lane. My husband and I joined a pool and we went there 3-4x/week and shared a lane if we had to. In just the last two months, the public pools have reopened by reservation, with everybody limited to 3 45 min slots a week. So I swim there, and we still have the membership at the private pool. It definitely takes a lot more coordination so I’m not swimming as much as I normally would, but still enough to stay in OK condition!

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I have never done a triathlon, and do not want to. I did a duathlon once, a 5K run – 10M bike – 5K run. I was probably mid pack after the first run, and then on the ride was picked off one by one until there was only one man behind me, as I was trudging along on my hybrid bike (not a racer). As he was dropping out after the ride, he saw no need to pass me and make me last :). On the run I picked off seven or eight people, after my legs got over feeling like jello.

I ran for public office! Never thought I could, and marathon training paid off as ai knocked on the doors of 3,333 voters!

I’ve done a couple of halves in Canada, the Athena Greece Marathon, the Sofia Bulgaria Marathon and the Plovdiv Bulgaria Marathon. You have to get used to seeing Kilometer signs rather than mile markers!

Aqua bike?!? Aquathlon?!? Learned something new today!

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Oh wow, Tonya, duathlon is SO HARD. I think it’s harder than triathlon. Good job to you on that race. And running for public office! That takes so much courage and I’m so proud of you for doing it. Sounds like a lot of fun race locations, too.

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Victoria! You are my hero! I have never done a triathlon and I never will, I think I would drown. I relate to the first part of your story where you said you were in the middle third of the race. Your persistent dedication and focus is so inspiring! When I read the start of your run at 2016 nationals having runners pass you it reminded me of Deena Pastor running at the Olympics. It was extremely hot that day too but she had trained for it and was confident in running her own race and not letting someone else’s race get to her head. You are clearly very mentally tough. My question for you is, do you do any kind of mental strength training? I’d love to hear about it!

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Hi Jenn!

Thank you for your kind words! Being in the middle is totally awesome, just getting out there is great. I think my mental toughness is variable, some days it’s really there and I can focus, other days it is NOT THERE. I work on it by practicing it in my workouts and getting as disciplined as I can with my inner dialogue to help me stay focused.

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Wow!! What an amazing story and accomplishment!
And super fun that you’ve been able to compete at that level with your hubby too 😊
I have never done a triathlon, but am very aware of how much work goes into that. My husband completed the Ironman Santa Rosa in 2018! What a day!!
Thank you for sharing your story!

Oh, I too was born an Anderson 😉

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Hi Wendy!

You should definitely come to the next family reunion. It was really cool to compete internationally with my husband, and congratulations to your husband on IM Santa Rosa!

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Wow, Victoria… you are so inspiring!!! I am in the midst of writing my dissertation right now; while it feels like mile 20 of a marathon, I cannot imagine being a nuclear engineer AND competing at the triathlon world championships. Likewise, Janae–I cannot imagine having 3 (now 4!) kids and running a 2:49 marathon (and I know that soon you will run an even faster time!!) You and Janae simply put me to shame with your amazing accomplishments. I draw so much inspiration from this blog. Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your story. What a wonderful life you lead!

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Hi Clare!

A dissertation is SO MUCH WORK. I stopped at a masters degree so I only did a thesis but still…I think much harder than training for 30 marathons, in a row. You’re so awesome for doing that and I’m inspired by you pursuing your PhD.

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I think you should definitely go to the next Anderson family reunion! Thanks for this story, it was inspiring- I have done a couple sprint triathlons in the past, but nowadays just running is challenging enough for me!

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Hi Jenny!

So cool that you did some triathlons, I bet you had a lot of fun but it’s also fun to focus on running because it doesn’t require any equipment and you can just do it anytime, anywhere.

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This was so fun to read! You’re amazing!! I love a story of chasing down a big goal…and making it!!!!!! :)
I’m in your region and man, do these hot and humid summers pay off! I also do most of my training mid-day, and while it sucks about 110% of the time, it works.
No I’m craving cafe rio. haha.

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Hi Mollie!

I want Cafe Rio now, too. Nowhere near here to get it! Yup those humid summers here sure are something. I bribe myself with freeze pops all summer. Thank you for your kind words!

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Are you kidding me?! Incredible Victoria! Personally I wouldn’t do a triathlon (not a fan of swimming for exercise) but I have so much respect for you. Such a special memory that you and your husband competed at world’s together!

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Hi Maureen!

Thank you so much! And yeah, if you don’t like swimming, no need to train for or do a triathlon. Doing what exercise makes you happy is absolutely the way to go.

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My husband is a Sprint triathlete and he tried out for Worlds in Milwaukee in one of those earlier years. I found that venue excellent for spectators. I was waiting to watch my husband swim and watching the gals finish up the swim. All of a sudden, the current switched or became stronger and I saw women who were making no progress because of it and others who ended up going backwards. I felt so bad for them. I run but I found that some times conditions change and it changes ones outcome no matter how much one prepares. My husband didn’t make it that time because of he had a bad bike and there was construction on the route. He hadn’t ridden it ahead of time because of his work schedule but made it several other times. My favorite worlds to watch was in Chicago. It was just so cool. I usually don’t go to the international ones but was going to go to Edmonton (that was cancelled) this past year. The Worlds parade of nations is so cool! As a spectator, it is so touching. Congratulations on your success!

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Hi MaryM!

We MUST have been in Milwaukee the same year. I wonder if we saw each other! Congratulations to your husband on qualifying for worlds, I hope you get to go to Edmonton next summer as I have heard that venue is spectacular and the city is so fun. Will you guys be back in Milwaukee for nationals 2021? I will be there if it happens, for sure.

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There was so many people there (in Milwaukee). We may have seen each other but we were trying to find my husband and take pictures. It isn’t an easy task. He now wears this bright yellow/green color so we can spot him. He doesn’t usually wear his Worlds gear in Nationals. I don’t know why tho. One year he wore white with red and black and almost every person was wearing the same color. He went right by us and we completely missed him. We will see how 2021 will be with covid but my husband will do all and every one available if possible. If the border opens up, we will definitely go. Edmonton is definitely a place I would like to visit and I heard how beautiful it is.

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Hi Victoria! What a cool story! Triathlon seems super cool to me and one of my personal heroes is Gwen Jorgensen. I have always been intrigued by triathlon but terrified of open water swimming and learning how to use clips on the bike. My fiance’s roommate did a virtual ironman this year (spread over an entire weekend) and I thought that was a cool race format. They were allowed to make it a duathlon and replace the swim with another run.
Thanks for sharing your story! Have a great day!

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Hi Amy S!

Thanks for reading it! If you really wanted to do triathlon, you could totally learn how to swim in open water and use clipless pedals. But no need to do something you are terrified of, if it doesn’t speak to you or make you happy.

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Victoria thanks for the guest post! I found running after my collegiate swimming career came to an end. I’ve never been interested in a triathlon because road biking scares me (probably a result of trying to mountain bike in high school to bond with my Dad and falling constantly because I couldn’t unclip fast enough on the trails when we would stop – I can’t imagine falling on the road with cars zooming by!). BUT! I’ve never heard of an aquathon – I haven’t been in a pool for laps in some time but I may just have to investigate my options when Covid allows for it.

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Hi Rachel!

I hope I see you at an aquathlon start line somewhere soon! I think nationals is in Long Beach, CA in July 2021. It’s so fun to combine swimming and running and to not have to worry about all the bike equipment. It’s usually a 1k swim-5k run, so, you just wear a swimsuit the whole time and slip on running shoes to run. Super fast and simple and fun.

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loved this!! you are awesome.

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Thanks for reading, Erika!

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I’ve wanted to do a sprint triathlon for a few years now but I’m a little intimidated by the biking sections! I love to run and swim but biking just isn’t my jam. I may have cried while biking in San Francisco on vacation, but in my defense…the hills :) All the gear is also intimidating to me!!! Now that I type this out, I think I should conquer my fears. Your journey was inspiring to read about, thanks for sharing!

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Hi Alana!

If you want to do a sprint triathlon, you totally should. I bet there is a triathlon club near you that has a beginner program that would give you some guidance. You can do it! You don’t need a lot of gear to do your first sprint triathlon – any kind of bike, a helmet, swimsuit, and running shoes will do the job!

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What kind of training did you do to improve so much? Did you get a coach? I’m a mid to back of the pack triathlete

I did finish IMAC70.3 last year and it was a huge accomplishment

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Hi Mary!

Congrats on finishing IMAC70.3! That is a HARD course, I know the swim is choppy and the bike can be super windy.

I improved by working with two coaches (one from 2012-2015 and another from 2016-present). My first coach really focused on my running and I did a bunch of track sessions. My second coach did a lot of focus on biking in our first season together and I did a TON of biking volume (At one point I biked, I think, 50 days in a row) and hard intervals. What really did it was years of consistency, swimming and biking and running several times a week for many years with some short recovery periods as needed.

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Congratulations on all your amazing races! I love that you have a swimming background (same here!).

When I was 12 years old and watched Julie Moss crawl across the finish line of Ironman, I knew it was the event for me. Sounds weird, but it just seemed like an unusual and amazing event. I finally did my first Ironman (after a few decades of Oly’s and sprints) in 2002 in Pentiction, BC. It was incredible. That was back in the day when you had to go in person the year before and register in person. After finishing Canada, I felt that I had met my dream race……then IM Coeur d’Alene came out with an inaugural event for 2003 so of course turned around and registered for it! Now I just dapple in them when I I should also add the funniest post race photo is me sitting on a bench in the finisher corral breastfeeding my 3rd kiddo after Canada. My parents handed her over and I joked that she was probably only getting gatorade and pepsi from me ;)

I live overseas so have done a few international events. The weird thing to me is a lot of triathlons start midday here-shorter ones, of course but still. TOO HOT! hehe.

Thanks for sharing your story!

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Hi Kelly!

I raced in Penticton for long distance worlds in 2017 and I LOVE it there! That is so amazing you breastfed right after racing an IRONMAN. Mothers are so strong! And yeah all the cola we drink on course during the run – our poor teeth. You’re so incredible, I’m in awe of all you accomplished! And I’m sure you just mentioned a few things.

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Wow! Was not expecting this type of diversity on the blog today!! Not only a career woman, a Nuclear Engineer in DC (underscored, italicized), yes, you NEED a serious hobby like the Tri.

Not sure how you feel about putting yourself out here, but I super-appreciate it!!

Have the best day, HRG and Victoria

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Hi Lee!

Janae has friends from all over, it’s because she’s so friendly and open. I do love having a career but to be honest I find mothers super impressive, too, now THAT’S a full time job. So many women doing incredible things in so many ways. Thanks for reading and I hope you had a great day, too!

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What a great accomplishment, congratulations!

I have done a few triathlons and that counts as one of the things I never thought I would be able to do. I completed my first Ironman back in 2012 and I NEVER thought I would do something like that. I didn’t bike and thought running four miles was a big deal. I got myself a coach, joined a triathlon club, surrounded myself with other crazy people and took it one day at a time =) Now I have done several Ironman races and loved them.

Now I feel like the 100 mile trail race is the thing that feels impossible so I just need to take the same approach I guess. After two babies I think it might take me two years to get there. 50 miler summer 2021 and we’ll see where it goes.

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Hi Beth!

Congratulations on your ironman finishes! It does seem daunting at first but as you found, if you keep up the work, you can do it. I’m so impressed you are working towards a 100 miler, and hope that you have a great time training for your 50 miler next year!

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Hi Victoria, thanks so much for sharing your story, it is so inspirational and so true, we’re capable of a lot more than we think we are! I love triathlon and am getting ready for my first HIM distance in May (it was meant to be this year but sadly got cancelled) – I’m so excited to start properly my training!

My main accomplishment that I’m super proud of and wasn’t sure would ever happen was a sub 4h marathon! I trained so hard and kept focusing on the goal and it was so rewarding when I managed to nail it during hilly race!

Haven’t done an international race, however I did do a “destination race” in Melbourne (while I live in Perth), which was pretty cool!!

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Hi Eveline!

Thank you for reading from Australia! Congratulations on a sub-4 hour marathon, I bet you worked so hard for that and were so thrilled when you did it. And I hope you have the best time with your 70.3, I really love the half ironman distance.

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🙋🏻‍♀️ there!

What a pleasure to meet you!

After reading this I thought hmm maybe I can do a triathlon … 🏊‍♀️ 🚴‍♀️ 🏃‍♀️

Your story is so inspiring thank you so very much for sharing!

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Hi Sydney!

YOU can totally do a triathlon if you want to. So many people commenting here did things that they never thought they could with some preparation and hard work.

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