When I was a student assistant in the Athletics Communications office, I worked with the Iowa State swimming and diving team. I worked with the program for four years, writing recaps, features, bios, etc. for cyclones.com. I worked with them for so long I was the editor of the last Iowa State Swimming and Diving Media Guide (best cover in the nation by Swimming World Magazine!), and I created both the Iowa State S&D Facebook and Twitter accounts.
From that, I had gained lots of connections and friends within the program. I am able to keep up with the ins and outs of the program, even when I worked at TCU last year.
That is how I heard that Hayley Krzeczowski, who will be a senior on this year’s Cyclone squad, was going to take part in the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines last Sunday.
“My mom (Lisa) did triathlons when I was younger,” Krzeczowski said. “I have always had an interest in them. I felt swimming was the most challenging part, so if I could bike and run I could probably do a triathlon.”
The balance of swimming, biking and running makes it difficult for someone to say ‘hey, I like to swim, I should do a triathlon’. Factor in that this was not any ordinary triathlon, but one of the largest in terms of field size, an Olympic-distance triathlon (mile swim, 40k bike, 10k run) and one of highest-paying triathlon events in the world. However, Krzeczowski, a St. Charles, Ill. native, took part in one of Iowa’s greatest traditions that inspired her to the triathlon.
“I did RAGBRAI this summer,” Krzeczowski noted. “I already had a bike, but then I got the shoes and other equipment. After that, I knew I was in swimming shape and biking shape so I might as well challenge myself and do the triathlon.”
That would require adding running to the repertoire. The old “fish out of water” lines and jokes are still shot around with swimmers. In Ames these come up when dry-land training takes them out of the comfort zone of the water to places such as the weight room, or the stairs of Jack Trice Stadium. Krzeczowski expected to fall in the same boat, but that was not the case during the race.
“I didn’t expect to like the running,” Krzeczowski noted. “I had run five miles on the Thursday before the triathlon, and I hated it. I have never liked running, but during the race I really enjoyed it. It went a lot better than I thought. I don’t really like open water swimming, and the biking was uphill, so that helped make the run more enjoyable.”
Like many endurance races that go over multiple hours, eventually the physical element it put to the side and the mental test begins. That doesn’t always just happen during a race, it can happen before the race even begins.
“Your body is as strong as your mind,” Krzeczowski proclaimed. “When I started training I was concerned because it was an Olympic distance, and then I found out the run was 10k and I was even more concerned. I decided to have a good attitude toward the process, and if I put my mind in the correct place I would do fine. That is what I did during the race and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.”
Another element of triathlon is the need to endure all three aspects of the race. You can’t give your all during a swim, because you have to bike and run over 30 miles before it is all said and done. That requires balancing out the use of your body throughout the race, which is made even more difficult by the fact that you are swimming, biking or running while trying to think your way through the race.
“I wanted to use my arms more in the swim because I knew I would need my legs for the rest of the event,” Krzeczowski noted. “During the swim, I kept my goals simple and short-term, working to get to the next buoy. I was not even thinking about biking yet. The biking took a long time so I started to think about the run, but then I reminded myself that it is only six miles to run after a 25-mile bike ride.”
All student-athletes are in terrific shape, and Krzeczowski is no different. The demands of swimming and diving help for throughout the season. The early-morning workouts and the long practices all help ensure that the Cyclones are in the right physical state when it is time to take the pool on the day of a meet. During the race, Krzeczowski realized how much her time as a Cyclone helped her get to where she was that day.
“When I was doing the race, I was looking at my competitors and I was thinking about the amount of work that we put in at Iowa State,” Krzeczowski noted. “They have not been through the challenging workouts that Duane (Sorenson) puts us through in the pool and during our dry-land work. I realized that if the people who were not going through the workouts we were could do it, I could definitely do it.”
Krzeczowski was fantastic in her triathlon debut, finishing third in the female 20-24 age group with a time of 3:01.47. To help her make it to the end, she had some past and present Cyclones in attendance.
“My boyfriend, Cole (Shafer, a former ISU wrestler), was there, and drove me to the event,” Krzeczowski said. “Then three of my teammates: Bre Loeschke, Alex Gustafson and Katie Vollhaber were there to support me.”
The focus is now off of triathlon and back to the 2013-14 Iowa State swimming and diving season. The Cyclones have made steady progress in their point totals over the last two years at the Big 12 Championships. It will be a challenge with Texas at the top of the league, TCU returning a strong and deep team, Kansas bringing in some star newcomers and West Virginia impressing across many events, Krzeczowski is ready to help the Cyclones move up in the league.
“I think this will help me,” Krzeczowski concluded. “During the run, I kept reminding myself that I thought I can do the run, and thus I can do the run. Then I would wonder why I am not in that mind-set more for swimming. Sometimes I would put barriers on myself that would make going a certain time that much more challenging. If I can do this, I can go my goal times and push myself more to go above and beyond those goals.”
Krzeczowski was not the only past Cyclone swimmer to take part in the Hy-Vee Triathlon. Dani Harris, a senior from last season’s squad, did the swimming leg for a relay team that finished 13th overall. A two-time All-American on Iowa State’s last men’s swimming and diving team in 2001, Peder Skoog finished 13th in the 5150 U.S. Championship event. Skoog topped the 30-34 age division and was the second-highest finisher among the non-elite division athletes in 2:01.29. Great job by all!