Welcome and thank you for visiting Fueled by Tri!
About my Blog
My name is Kimberly Shenk and I am a 28 year old data scientist and triathlete living in Denver, Colorado. I am the Chief Data Scientist and co-founder of Modern Approach, a boutique customer analytics consultancy. I started Fueled by Tri to share my training, racing, love for good food and my family and how it is all fueled by the inspiration I find in triathlon.
I hope to share some of the crazy training I do with my husband Peter (and our dog Tucker!), reports on our ambitious race schedule, how we strive to eat clean and healthy, and the fun we have along the way.
Why I Started This Blog
In September 2011 I competed in my very first triathlon – The Na Wahine Sprint Tri. I had worked so hard to get to the point of being able to compete (see How I Got Here below) and I was overjoyed when I won the women’s military division. That race hooked me and I knew I wanted to pursue my dream of racing an Ironman. Since then, I have come a long way and have met some pretty amazing people who have helped me to be where I am at today.
In February of 2012 I happened to meet John Girmsey at a work-related function and he invited me to ride with the cycling club he founded. The Hickam Area Cycling Club, known as the HACC, is a group of amazing cyclists from all over, most of which are temporarily stationed at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. Extremely intimidated but very curious, I agreed to come out for a Saturday ride “around the island”. 60 miles later I was immobile on my couch feeling a level of exhaustion I had never experienced before. John did not expect me to show up to ride again, just as most other people had done in the past. My competitiveness got the best of me though and I became a regular member of the HACC. I was the only girl in the group and riding with the guys while doing everything in my power to stay on one of their wheels was hard work, but exhilarating at the same time. I have been blessed to have some amazing mentorship from Charger, a Cat 2 rider who is an extremely talented and knowledgeable cyclist. John and Charger taught me everything I know – I have gone from a fear of bikes from when I was younger to an absolute love for biking now which is crazy and I am so thankful!
The progress I have made in running I completely owe to Peter. He is a very talented athlete but his strength is in running and he has been my un-official running coach since day 1. In December of 2011 he ran the Honolulu Marathon (in 2:55!) and I biked around to all of the different mile checkpoints to cheer him on. His performance motivated me to train for the marathon the next year even though I had not run more than 10 miles in my life and I was still a pretty terrible runner. With his guidance (and patience!!) I ran my first marathon in 3:28, getting 6th in my age group and qualifying for Boston! I learned so much about running during my training and it helped me build not only a base of endurance but also confidence. Without Peter I would never grown to love running the way I do today.
My progress has been fast and the inspiration I have found is something I have never experienced before in my life. Training for triathlons has become a way of life, a new life that I absolutely love. I feel fueled by the sport and I hope to share that with you in my blog.
How I Got Here
I grew up in the small town of Placerville in Northern California playing volleyball, soccer, basketball, running in track and always being very competitive in everything. I had a dream of playing volleyball in college someday, even though I was really too short. I worked really hard and had huge support from my parents (my mom was always there to take me to practices and tournaments all over the West Coast) and I finally got recruited by a few different schools. I decided to attend the United States Air Force Academy. I felt the excitement of playing Division I volleyball in the Mountain West Conference and attending a school where my competitiveness and drive to be fit would thrive. Where else can you directly compete against boys besides a military academy? In my first year I met my amazingly strong and supportive husband, Peter, and he was my rock the whole time. I played Division I volleyball all 4 years, was awarded academic all-american, and was a distinguished graduate from an institution where I experienced the most difficult and and trying years of my life.
After graduating and commissioning as an officer into the Air Force, I earned a full scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was difficult to be newly married and live in Boston all on my own while Peter went to pilot training in Mississippi. But, I met some amazing people and developed life-long friends. Attending MIT was the most challenging academic feat I had ever faced and in order to make it through that place with my sanity still in tact, I re-kindled my competitive spirit and started to play volleyball again. I began to train again and was given the opportunity to play for the All-Air Force Women’s Volleyball team which was a rewarding experience that I enjoyed immensely. In 2009 I humbly accepted the award of tournament MVP in London where we won in the gold medal match against Germany. Later on, I was selected to play on the All-Armed Forces team to compete in the 5th military world games which would take place in Brazil in 2012 — this was the highlight of my volleyball career. At this point I realized that I had gone as far as I could go in the sport given my ability and that this opportunity was the closest I would get to playing professionally.
While all of this was going on, my husband and I got stationed (together!) in Hawaii…a hardship I know!! But, we deserved it and so far it has been amazing. He flies C-17s and I am a data scientist. I retired from my volleyball career and immediately started looking for my new athletic adventure. I dabbled a little in weight lifting and really got into circuit training for a while until one night during Christmas time when I was at home in Northern California watching T.V. with my brother, Ryan. The 2010 Ford Ironman World Championships special came on and I was mesmerized… 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run…in Hawaii…this is crazy!! At that moment, I decided I wanted to do one. Peter thought this was a little insane considering I was only a casual swimmer, I had a fear of bikes (I had a really bad accident when I was younger involving a concussion and lots of stitches in my face!), and I was a pretty terrible runner in any distance longer than a suicide-sprint on the volleyball court. But I was persistent. I was living in Hawaii and this is where the Ironman evolved so I wanted to do it. So, we agreed that I should start with a sprint triathlon which is a mere 500m swim, 12 mile bike, and 5k run.
I still remember buying my first bike at a garage sale on the side of the road for $40. Well, I ended up riding it once and finally convinced a hesitant Peter to purchase me a real bike. My first bike, a Specialized Dolce, took a real beating. It was perfect for me to learn on, and crash on! Lets just say that when I started, I had a huge fear of having my feet clipped in to the pedals (which caused me to fall over many times!), it never occurred to me that you could get a flat tire, and 12 miles of riding seemed like an eternity. Peter even admits that he thought I would only ride the bike a handful of times before it sat collecting dust…
Running kind of took off in the same fashion, I sucked…really bad! I couldn’t run longer than 18 minutes without getting a debilitating side-cramp (and I was barely running 9 minute miles!). Peter, who is an amazing runner and can pump out a sub 5 min mile (and has a marathon PR of 2:54!) was ever so patient – and mildly frustrated. Miss drama queen over hear would cry after every run exclaiming “I am just not meant to be a runner!” and he would try to console me and give me pointers on how to improve. I love my husband to death, but this is where I learned that he cannot be my running partner. There is nothing more irritating than running and feeling like you are going to die while someone else is running next to you chatting up a storm AND correcting your every move!! I thought I was hopeless…
Swimming is a skill that takes the most time to perfect and something I still have not mastered. I know how to swim, but there is a difference between casually swimming laps in a pool and swimming fast and efficient. I always fell into the casual swimmer category – I could go to lap swim and get away with looking like I somewhat knew what I was doing. But flip turns, bilateral breathing, and swimming more than 250m at a time without dying for air was impossible…
Now I am on a whole new level of fitness and entering a new place in my life. I separated from the military in May of 2013, moved to Colorado, and since then have been headed on a new adventure. So stay tuned…