Aspiring triathletes soon learn one of the biggest challenges of training for a triathlon isn’t the workouts involved in preparing for a race. It’s the loneliness that comes with swimming laps in a nearly empty pool, from traversing the South Dakota prairie solo, and from pounding miles of pavement with just an iPod as a running buddy. The athletes and his loved ones alike sacrifice time together. So, what’s an athlete to do: leave the sport or let relationships suffer?
Father-daughter duo Rex and Kimberly Keller dipped their toes into the triathlon world two years ago. And based on the time we spent with them this past week, these two have only grown closer.
The Kellers’ foray into triathlon began with an innocent spin class at Sanford Wellness in Sioux Falls. Rex was taking the class and decided he wanted to get healthier, so he signed up for Kathy Grady’s now famous (and uber successful) tri training program. He and his wife Geraldine went on to complete the Brookings I’m Ready for Summer Tri in 2014. Rex enjoyed his experience so much that he went on to compete in all but two of the SDTA series races that summer. For those who have blotted out the details of that summer, let us refresh your memory. That was the summer the Brookings tri had gale force winds, Dakotaman was moved to August because the lake–thanks to intense rain days before the race–swallowed the beach, and the Watertown tri organizers had to postpone their race a month after a lightening bolt struck a tree next to transition on race morning.
Despite the year of unpredictable weather in 2014, Rex came back to the sport, and he brought another Keller with him.
Kimberly saw her dad compete throughout the season, and then after some gentle “You should try that!” prompts from her mom, took on her own challenge in Huron near the end of the season after minimal training.
The following fall both Kellers joined the master’s swim training program at Sanford Wellness and then the aforementioned tri training program at Sanford.
What started as a desire to get healthy has perpetuated into moving some seriously long man-powered miles. A full season later, Rex and Kimberly are looking at an even bigger challenge: Ironman 70.3 in Boulder, Colorado on June 11.
The Kellers have a huge blessing in their preparations that some athletes lack: a live-in training partner. While they complete their smaller week day workouts alone, they’ve been tackling the long miles together on the weekends.
Both Kimberly and Rex have faced challenge in this journey of two years. Rex began triathlon at at 60, and when he recalls his athletic background, he chuckles. “I hadn’t ran for forty years!” Additionally, Rex had a small hiatus from the sport last summer when he had his knee scoped and then again in December. Regardless of age, though, he persists. He smiles at the thought of the famed Frank Farrar, age 87, and says what many of us think: “He’s my inspiration.”
Kimberly, a genuine youngster in the world of triathlon at the age of 22, may have youth on her side, but she has still had her own challenges even prior to joining her dad. In her elementary years, Kimberly was diagnosed with Perthes disease, a disorder in which blood supply is temporarily interrupted to the ball part of the hip joint. Kimberly had surgery as a child. Doctors told her that walking would be a challenge, much less running. Yet after surgery, the ball joint began to grow again and reform. Kimberly values each step of the run with this not-so-distant diagnosis and surgery in mind.
Both Kellers have also had the typical occupational challenges that come with being weekend warriors. Rex’s financial adviser schedule offers him some flexibility for training as does Kimberly’s nursing school schedule. However, Kimberly has had to balance school along with preparing for nursing boards this summer as she prepares for Boulder.
Triathlon has had a profound effect on this duo. Both are in excellent health. Rex recently had a standard medical procedure done where the nurses weren’t quite sure what to do with his 39 bpm resting heart rate. Apparently their indexes didn’t include a rate so low. Kimberly and her dad, who have always shared a tight bond, continue to grow closer with each long weekend training ride. They also are looking ahead just past the 70.3 in June and considering new goals. An Ironman is not out of the question, and one of the next goals includes spreading the tri-sanity even further to Brent, Kimberly’s brother and Rex’s son.
Really, just one little goal that leads to the next can gently catapult a person to some pretty fantastic outcomes. “It all starts with small goals, ” states Kimberly. Who knows where the next goal will take them.