D3 Extra Mile Featured Athlete – Kalee Tyson
Athlete of the Month
After a two-year hiatus from structured training and racing due to COVID race cancellations in
2020 and having a baby in 2021, Kalee Tyson had a remarkable 2022 race season highlighted by
several breakthroughs while earning a slot to both the 70.3 World Championship in Finland and
IM World Championship in Kona for 2023. Kalee shared with me her experiences being a new
mom and her journey back to racing.
First and most importantly, you had a baby girl in August of 2021! How has motherhood been and what advice do you have for someone who is trying to balance being a parent, working and training?
KT: Motherhood has been amazing, challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating! It’s been the biggest
learning curve of my life! When it comes to balance, I wish I had some perfect advice but I
honestly spent most of this year feeling like I was failing at all three – motherhood, training, and
my job. The best advice I have is to be patient and flexible. Lean on others for help. I feel so
fortunate to have my husband and parents to lean on so I could train. I felt a lot of guilt for
having an Ironman on my schedule when my daughter was still a baby and needed me. It felt
very selfish. Instead of wasting my energy feeling bad about it, I tried to focus on being as
present as I could in each space of my life. I couldn’t give all of myself to any one part of my life
– but I could certainly give it my ALL when I was doing each part. That completely shifted how I
showed up as a mom, triathlete, and employee. I don’t know if the mom-guilt ever actually goes
away, but it definitely helped.
With your return to structured training and racing, what were your main goals and do
you feel you accomplished them?
KT: When I started structured training again, my main goal was to be able to complete the 4 races
on my schedule and feel proud of the outcome. For the first time ever, it felt like I was starting
the season from scratch – almost no fitness or endurance. I didn’t expect the year of racing
after a baby to be full of PBs but I wanted to feel like I did the best I could for where I was at!
My return to running was full of hurdles, so every running milestone I hit throughout training
felt like a major accomplishment. I did my first speedwork right before CDA 70.3 and it felt like
a HUGE accomplishment to be able to do intervals during a run! Then I ran two back-to-back
days! That was something I wasn’t able to do early on in the season because of pelvic floor
issues. Then, each long run I did felt like a huge accomplishment. At the beginning of 2022, it felt
like it’d be impossible to ever get up to 15+ miles. I vividly remember sobbing at the end of a 6
mile run at the beginning of training (the longest I had run after having my baby) and thinking
there was NO WAY I was going to be able to do an Ironman later this year. This body was a
different one and it would NEVER hold up for a full Ironman. It’s wild how all the small,
incremental increases in training really build up into something big without you really noticing!
After a two-year hiatus from racing, were you surprised by anything within the training
process or on race day?
KT: I was surprised that I had to completely relearn how to fuel during training and races! I
completely forgot what I used to eat and drink during training and races. I also forgot how
exhilarating race morning is. It really makes you feel alive. Every part of racing and training
makes me feel alive.
You had a very successful season in posting PBs across various distances from Olympic to
70.3 to IM. What stands out to you as the impetus for these improvements? (training protocol,
better race day fueling/hydration, increased focus on recovery/sleep/nutrition, etc.)
KT: A lot of my improvements came because of consistency. I show up, get my workouts done, and
trust the process. While my training might not be perfect, or on the day it was originally
scheduled, I stay consistent and get those green boxes in TrainingPeaks (I am overly motivated
by a green box). A change I did make throughout this season was to increase my fueling while
training and racing. I almost doubled the calories I was taking in on the bike and it made a
HUGE difference in my best two races of the season (WA 70.3 and IM Arizona). I also took in
more calories on the run during those races which helped a ton. It felt like I was funneling
Maurten gels way too often, but I never over-fueled or had GI issues so it worked!
The last thing that stood out for me this year was the growth in my mental strength. It took a while
to rebuild the muscle in my brain that would push when it hurt. I had spent my whole
pregnancy and a lot of early motherhood “giving myself grace” and not putting extra pressure
on myself – and that mentality naturally transferred over to training and racing. “I’m amazing
for just doing this training” was how my mind was thinking. Halfway through this season, I
realized it was time to make it hard again – stop giving myself grace in training and start
applying myself more. My baby was 1 year old and was sleeping through the night. I was well
rested and it was time to push in this part of my life. During WA 70.3 I pushed the bike and had
my best 70.3 ride ever on a tough course – and with all the extra fuel I took in my run felt
amazing… until it didn’t, and then I reminded myself that “it hurts and that’s ok” and pushed
through to a 13.1-mile run that I could be proud of! That 70.3 PB SHOCKED me, but it helped me
grow a ton of confidence in my Ironman AZ build. Mental strength is like a muscle – you have
to keep pushing it and growing it every day, and the build into Ironman AZ only made it
stronger. My mind was READY for IM AZ. That race is the race I’m most proud of so far in my
life. So many times doing an Ironman this year felt impossible – physically, mentally,
emotionally – and it’s the best race I’ve ever had. It was absolutely a test of mental strength
and that muscle showed off that day!
Please share one or two key training sessions you did this year that really boosted your
KT: I love all types of training – but I HATE testing. You could probably give me a “test” type
workout without the word “test” and I’d do great and hit my targets, but the moment I see “run
test” or “FTP test” it’s a PANIC. I used to emotionally break down during every test – I just put
a weird pressure on myself! I had my first run test on the schedule mid-season. Brad very clearly
stated to not worry about this run test, and that we just needed some data now that we were doing
actual run workouts. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my run and wasn’t even sure my body
would hold up pushing for three straight miles of effort! For the first time EVER I didn’t totally
melt down and stop mid-test (I considered it, but reminded myself that no one cared about the
results of this run, only me) and my speed wasn’t even that far off from my last run test in early
2020 when I was a faster, fitter runner in my opinion! I had not imagined that great of an
outcome! I was super thrilled all around – but mostly with my mental performance and ability
to talk myself out of quitting when the test got hard. At that time, “control” was a mantra-type
word I was leaning on because the rest of my life felt like I had no control, and training was
where I DID have control, so that word helped during the test. I had CONTROL of my speed, of
my body, of the outcome. Before Boulder 70.3 Brad had a 1 hour run with some effort coming
off a long bike on the schedule. I hadn’t run long off the bike outside of CDA 70.3 and it looked
way too hard to me (also, it was HOT that day)! Because of my lack of faith in my run all season
I was already talking myself out of this run while I was riding. “You don’t have to do the effort
part of the run” I told myself. But when I actually went out on the run I thought, “might as well
give it a go! What can it hurt to TRY”. It was a 30 min race pace and 30 min easy. I was
SHOCKED at how well it went! I ran well, in the heat, coming off a long bike! It gave me a lot of
confidence going into the second half of my race season that maybe my run could come back
around this year!
What are you most excited about in racing both the 70.3 World Championship and IM World
Championship in 2023?
KT: I have never done a World Championship race before and it’s such an honor to get to do BOTH
World Championship races! It still feels like a fever dream that I’m getting to race Kona. I’m
incredibly excited about both races! I’m hopeful that I can show up fit and able to try to race my
best at both!! I’m also excited about the travel – Finland will be my and my husband’s first trip
without my daughter so I’m looking forward to that, AND I can’t wait for my daughter to get to
go to Kona and maybe, kind of understand what’s going on. She definitely doesn’t understand
any of this stuff yet so I’m excited for her to be there with me in Kona. This last year I kept
reminding myself that I’m laying a healthy foundation for her and the kind of person she’ll grow
into – she’s going to know that she can do extraordinary things and that hard work pays off
because she sees her mom and dad do hard things – but for now all she knows is that mom
leaves the room and then she bursts into tears. So, I’m looking forward to sharing these
moments with her when she can understand them and be a part of them.
Anything else you want to share with our D3 community?
KT: The best thing I learned this year was to let go of expectations of training and racing going
perfectly. When I showed up to training knowing that it was something I do for fun, something I
do for ME because I love it, it completely transformed that time for me. It wasn’t an obligation,
it was a joy. Certainly, each day wasn’t pretty, but it was a gift to get to DO it. After so many
years of not getting to actually do this stuff (covid, pregnancy) I was just happy to be back in it.
The attitude you approach things with can change the entire experience and outcome (this also
really applied to parenthood, too).