One warm summer evening last June, after 14 hours and 23 minutes on a grueling race course, Kristina Northcutt crossed a finish line in downtown Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to achieve the hard-earned title of Ironman.
To complete the prestigious long-distance triathlon, the 35-year-old Spokane native swam 2.4 miles through the chilly waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene, biked 112 miles over the rolling hills of north Idaho, and ran a 26.2-mile loop along the shoreline. Family and friends, who lined the course wearing custom-designed “K” shirts in support of their favorite competitor, cheered her along the way.
Kristina, a longtime member of Spokane Federal Credit Union, recently talked with us about this incredible feat of athleticism and determination. She discussed how she juggled seven months of intensive training with life as a busy mom, and she offered a bit of wisdom to inspire others to achieve their goals, no matter how unachievable they may seem.
What motivated you to attempt an Ironman?
After leaving a successful pharmaceutical career in 2008 to raise our three kids (ages 5, 3 and 2) I wanted something that challenged me as an individual. I wanted something that pushed me past the comfort of the smaller races I had been doing. I wanted to prove to myself that I could still be a strong athlete, a good mother and wife.
With three young children, how did you find the time to train?
I often trained at 3:30am or 4am. I know that sounds crazy, but it worked for me and my family. I would be able to fit in a one to four hour workout without having to affect my kids or husband. I found another training partner who loved the mornings as much as I did, and that helped hold us accountable to our training. Plus, it was way more fun! During the month before the race, workouts could last eight or more hours, so I was gone most of the day on Saturdays in May.
Did you ever want to quit? What kept you going?
There was only one point in my training where I doubted my ability. I never wanted to quit but I was worried that I might not make the bike cut-off time. For my 100-mile training ride, I didn't plan my nutrition and hydration well, and I completely cramped and bonked around mile 50. I tried to make up for what I hadn't taken in before but it took a toll and that ride seemed to last forever! I regrouped myself, stopped at a gas station for half an hour to eat, rest, and pray that I could just make it to the end of the ride. I finished the 100 miles and learned a very important lesson that made my race day a huge success!
What was going through your mind during the race?
I seriously loved every minute of Ironman Coeur d'Alene: the crowd, the weather, the entire place buzzing with crazy energy. I knew that I had put in the long hours of training and that is truly the hardest part of the race. The race itself is actually the easiest part of it all, I know another crazy statement, but it's true. I just kept thanking God for giving me the ability to be out challenging my body, for being able to push myself through pain to conquer the feat ahead. My family and friends were amazing and stayed out the entire day to cheer and be crazy “Ironfans” for me. Seeing them in their bright neon “K” shirts was always a huge adrenaline lifter!
What’s your next challenge? Is there another Ironman in the future?
I'm not really sure what my next challenge will be. I will definitely do another Ironman, but I need to let my body heal. I had two stress fractures in my right foot three weeks before Ironman, so as soon as the race was over I was put right into a walking boot for six weeks. So, healing will be a focus. I will most likely do some smaller races next year and look to improve my speed.
What advice would you offer people about accomplishing their goals?
If you can dream it, you can achieve it! Sounds corny, but it's true. Make something your Ironman. It doesn't have to be a 140.6-mile race, it doesn't have to be anything even athletic. Start with a vision, tell someone so they can help encourage you, and take the right steps to make it a reality. People don't give themselves enough credit. I believed in my heart that I could finish an Ironman. I worked hard to not let negative thoughts get into my training. I showed up and did the training, and finished my first Ironman.