For most, the chance to see Olympians compete transpires only on the sidelines, in a stadium or on a television screen. For Lauren Goldstein-Kral ’12, however, seeing and competing against Olympians is just another day at a triathlon race. Just a few months ago, the sophomore competed at both Nationals and Worlds against some of the best triathletes in the world â€“ and her performance in both races was none too shabby.
“In Nationals I did race against professionals. I was second for under 23 and seventh overall. Worlds is the one race where they separate under 23 and elite, except there were some people in our Worlds races who had been Olympians. I was 12th out of under 23,” Goldstein-Kral said.
For someone who had previously only watched some of the greatest Olympian triathletes compete, both Nationals and Worlds were incredible experiences for Goldstein-Kral. “At Nationals I got to race with a lot of professionals who I’ve seen racing in the past but I’ve never actually raced against them,” she said. “Worlds was the same thing; everybody there was very competitive, so in one sense it was intimidating but it also pushed me.”
Not only did the Nationals and Worlds triathlons motivate Goldstein-Kral to compete more aggressively in the Olympic distance races, which is composed of a 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike and a 10 km run, but they also proved to be educational experiences about competing on a professional level. “For the biking we have draft-legal format, which means that you form bike packs. And so it was interesting to ride in a pack with professionals and to try my best to stay with them â€“ they were definitely very strong. I learned a lot about just racing in that sense,” she said.
Goldstein-Kral’s amazing performance at both Nationals and Worlds did not come without much sweat and toil. This past summer, she trained in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center, which is where the United States triathlon team is based, and got to know more personally the famous triathletes she’d followed on TV. “It was very interesting meeting people who were very serious about the sports but then also people seemed to really love what they were doing,” she said. “And the one thing that I really liked about it is that they were just so friendly, they were willing to help out or give advice. I was surprised by how they went out of their way to talk to us and make us feel included and get us excited about continuing triathlons.”
Just as biking with these athletes in Nationals and Worlds helped her learn more about racing, staying in dorms with them at the Olympic Training Center gave her a peek into the triathletes’ very structured lives. “I shared my room with one of the professional athletes so it was really interesting to just see how she trained and lived and ate â€“ just seeing what that lifestyle is like,” she said. “We all loved to get a lot of sleep. It was really nice; there was a big emphasis on recovery between workouts. Also, every night all the triathletes would just get together and watch a movie. Basically, we watched House every night.
For Goldstein-Kral, her summer months, though free from school and homework, are never idle. In fact, since the summer months are when most of the triathlons occur, Goldstein-Kral often finds it hard to fit anything other than intense training workouts into her schedule. “In the summer, because training is all I do, I can do three workouts a day and then have one recovery day where I do swimming only,” she said. “Then I have one day where I do biking only. Throughout the summer I would have a few weeks of hard training blocks and then I would have an easier week that would be a recovery week right before the triathlon. But I have a coach who helps me with workouts; I don’t just do it by myself.”
Although Goldstein-Kral has only competed in triathlons for about four years, she says her interest in triathlons grew naturally out of her longstanding passion for swimming and running. “I’ve been swimming since first grade and running since ninth grade. So I really love swimming and running. I decided to do triathlons because it incorporates both of them. I started doing triathlons the summer after sophomore year in high school and I just did a few local ones, and then after that I started doing Junior National stuff which is half Olympic and then this past summer I aged up to the under 23 age group,” she said.
While Goldstein-Kral is on the College cross country and swim teams and bikes in the Cycling Club, she participates in and trains for triathlons independently. “I kind of just train with people in the individual disciplines. During the school year, it’s a little difficult because I don’t have much time to train. Like in the cross country season I do the major workouts with the cross country team, and then I try to add a swim or a bike or something,” she said.
Trying to juggle three sports simultaneously is not exactly easy for Goldstein-Kral to manage, especially in light of her academic workload. On a given week, she does 12 workouts, averaging to approximately 18 hours of running, swimming and bicycling. However, for her, every grueling training workout is all worth it in the end. “Doing all these sports on campus is just so much fun because I get the opportunity to be on a team,” she said. “It’s just so much more cohesive, and it’s an amazing atmosphere to be in. I don’t even think about it as working out, but just having fun with my teammates.”