I had the chance recently to talk Ironman and triathlon with Kim Rouse. Kim qualified for the Hawaiian Ironman with her 1st place performance at the California 70.3 in March. Please join me as we get to know Kim a little better.
CZ: I understand you had a strong running background prior to triathlons. Tell me about your running career.
KR: I began jogging in college to stay in shape and fit in a workout with a very hectic schedule. I loved tennis but it took up too much time. After running 3 miles for a long time I kept increasing the distance as it became so comfortable I didn’t want to stop. I loved the way I felt afterwards and it helped my singing as I am asthmatic and was a voice major at San Diego State. Then in 1984 when I was pregnant with my daughter Cara, I watched Joan Samuelson win the 1st Olympic Trials marathon after having knee surgery and was so inspired. I was certain that I could run one. I set my goal for the 1985 San Diego Marathon, had no idea how to train and had the best day I had ever had before. I was so in love with the distance. I found a wonderful national coach and started my 2-year quest to qualify. I qualified and ran in Pittsburg 1988. I began racing all distances and traveling all over the country. I met the most wonderful athletes and had such a great experience. As I turned 40, I once again got serious and traveled on the Indy Life Circuit and finished 3rd in the country racing all different distances including the marathon. During these years I had the opportunity to run with the triathlon greats in training. When Julie Moss would share her workout week with me, I knew that I couldn’t fit the training into motherhood and a full time job.
CZ: After so many years of successful running, what and/or who inspired you to race triathlons?
KR: In 2003, I was doing speedwork consistently with Michellie Jones in our running group and she kept planting a bug in my ear to try one. Our youngest daughter was in high school then. Mike and I were in Kona on vacation in December and were looking at the official start of the Ironman swim when he blurts out that he wants to do one. Mind you he couldn’t swim the length of a pool nor had he set foot in the ocean since moving to San Diego in 1998. He was serious and rather than let him start training alone, I decided I would cross train with him but I wasn’t sure about making the switch. Michellie and Pete Coulson helped us with bikes and hand me downs and we were off. Then in May, Michellie asked me to go up to the Newport Beach sprint as she always goes and it is short. Mike was out of town so I agreed. Then on Monday night she breaks her toe and is out. She handed me her wetsuit and pushed me to go. I was terrified. It was low tide, it stunk and we sunk up to our knees in mud trying to get in. I saw Bob Babbitt at the start and with words of encouragement said “What are you doing here?” I agreed I didn’t know. The only mishap I had was trying to get out of the wetsuit as I put the string inside and got stuck. I finally felt my feet 2 miles into the 3-mile run and agreed that it was kind of cool.
CZ: Triathlon is fairly new to you. What would you recommend to people just starting with the sport?
KR: The one thing I would recommend to a new person is to get a good coaching program in the beginning and save yourself a lot of mishaps. I kept running too many miles in the beginning because I was afraid to let go of being a runner. Now I trust the cross-training.
CZ: You had a bike crash last year just prior to Kona. How did that impact your Ironman and was it worth it to follow thru and do the race?
KR: 17 days before Ironman last year I was cruising home from my last long ride alone when my front tire exploded, throwing me off the bike. This was 50 feet from our Marine memorial on Kearny Villa Road. My clavicle was broken and I had some road rash. The first Orthopedist told me Ironman was out so I immediately went to Roger Freeman (also known as “Orthopedic Ironman”) and he gave me the risks. If I can handle the pain, a one arm swim and stay on the bike, I would not do more damage. That meant a go for me. I was so grateful to the ART guys in Kona who really worked on me prior. I don’t regret for one minute going for it. I am not sure I would do it again but being my first Ironman and the big dance, I just had to. Besides, we flew out our daughter Cara (a senior at University of Oregon) and I was not going to quit that easy. I did give myself permission that at any time during the race if I felt unsafe or couldn’t handle the pain, I would stop.
CZ: Last year was the first and only time you have done an Ironman so far. What was your finishing time and age group place at Kona last year?
KR: I finished in 12:04, 9th in my age group.
CZ: The San Diego area will be sending three women including yourself from your age group to race in Hawaii and all three have a great chance to podium. What is it like to race against Vickie Alexander (featured in the September 2006 newsletter) and Linda Jannelli?
KR: I met Vickie and Linda a long time ago and have such a great respect for them as athletes but also because they are such wonderful and smart women. We had a bit of a group hug before Cal 70.3 as the conditions were so poor, we really wanted each other to be safe out there. At our age, we have to have fun and keep it in perspective or why continue? I feel grateful to be representing San Diego with both of them and hope we all do well.
CZ: You have told me about huddling up with Vickie and Linda just prior to Cal 70.3 and saying a prayer to keep you safe in those dangerous conditions that day. Have there been other occasions where sports have allowed you to share your faith in God?
KR: I just try to live the life that God expects of me and by my actions share that love in every aspect of my life. Whether it’s coaching a 1st time marathoner who is a recovering drug addict or just giving up something to help a friend, God takes care of it.
CZ: Who is going with you to Kona?
KR: Of course Mike will be there and my close friend Tammy Daiber is going with us.
CZ: Who is your hero and why?
KR: It’s hard to have 1 hero as I have so many really. I suppose the first would be my Dad who always encouraged me to challenge myself and allowed me the freedom to do so.
CZ: Last year your husband Mike raced the Ultraman in Hawaii. What was it like to be his support person?
KR: Mike completed the Ultraman in Kona last year and it was quite an experience. The event is a 3-day event with a 10k swim and a 90 mile bike up to the volcano the first day. The second is 171 miles around the Hilo side and over the Kohala mountains to Hawi. (Ironman bike turnaround). The third is a 56-mile run back to town. It is by invitation only as a person needs to have some ultra experience to safely finish. Each athlete must have at least 2 crew members as the roads are open and there are no aid stations. Unfortunately, 2 of our crew members dropped out the night before the race and I was left to crew the event alone until the last day when our good friend Eric Niellson joined me so I could run the last 15 miles in with Mike. You have to follow closely in the car and stop every 5 miles in the ride and every mile in the run. I was fairly exhausted by day 3 and after leaving Hawi, I had to get gas and food, etc and not miss him to give him another bottle. So at the gas station I began fueling on the credit card and remembered that he wanted Dr. Pepper and a hot dog so I ran back in. When I came back I jumped in the car (covered with race placards) and started driving away. Can you guess? Hose breaks, gas flies and 15 Hawaiians are all staring in disbelief. I ran in and tried to give the attendant my information but she wouldn’t take it and was ranting and raving. I tried to explain that I had to go and drove off. 20 minutes later a police car pulls me over and tells me I have to go back as they want to press charges. That was when I had a serious meltdown and began to sob. Luckily another crew stopped and told me to go and they would give Mike the next bottles. The officer was so nice that he got me off the hook when I went back. We didn’t tell Mike until afterwards as he didn’t have a sense of humor at that stage of the race. Of course, the story got out and there were some laughs at the awards dinner. Mike finished 9th overall and first in the 50-54 age group. I thought he had it out of his system but no, we are headed back this November, this time with more crew members.
CZ: Think back over your entire racing career, what is the best race you ever had?
KR: It is hard to pick one race but I think it was November 1987 Tri Cities Hospital 10k in Carlsbad. I had done 3 marathons that year and hadn’t focused on a fast 10k time (it was 36:05). I hated the distance as it was too short but was told I needed to get in the 35’s. So after qualifying at Twin Cities, my coach set an aggressive 4-week schedule and I went for it. I came down the finishing stretch weaving, but set a new PR of 34:34. I couldn’t even believe it.
CZ: Who are your sponsors?
KR: My sponsors are B&L Bike, Specialized, Mizuno Running, Xterra Westsuits and Amino Vital.
CZ: Has your being an athletic Mom had an impact on your kids lives?
KR: Being an athlete has such an impact on your family, mostly good I think. I always tried to balance so I didn’t cheat them out of normal things. Our son Ryan ran a lot in college and did a few triathlons. Our middle daughter Lacy didn’t really get into sports and didn’t like to do them but loves to watch them. We started our youngest daughter Cara in swimming at age 4 and she continued to compete through high school. She also ran cross country for 2 years. But they are all so supportive of Mike and I in our crazy AARP years and we know they are proud of what we do.
CZ: Kim, thank you so much for sharing your story. Good luck at Kona and the 70.3 World Championships! I think this is your year!