In just her second season as a pro, Kim Schwabenbauer, 34, made major strides last week with a breakthrough third place, 9:10:05 finish at Ironman Melbourne against a stacked field. Here, Schwabenbauer, of Knox, Penn., shares the lessons she picked up in her rookie year—and how they’ve helped lift her to a new level in the sport.
Lesson 1: Race Early—and Take Risks
One major difference from this season compared to year’s past? The timing of her first race out. “After not having the most spectacular day in Kona last October, I was really eager to race again right away,” says Schwabenbauer, of her 22nd place finish at the Ironman World Championship. “But that’s why I have a coach [Jesse Kropelnicki of QT2 Systems]. He convinced me that it made better sense to do some solid training, and start the season earlier in Melbourne as opposed to waiting until May like I did last year.” That move, she says, enabled her to capitalize on her fitness from the QT2 training camp in Clermont, Fla. in February. “I was excited to see how I stacked up early in the season,” says Schwabenbauer. “But at the same time I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I’d be totally recovered from camp, and I was pretty rusty. Sometimes, you just have to race with the unknown.”