Conversation with High Riser: Kelly Smithon
Never Take for Granted the Ability to be Active
“Awesome Ain’t Easy”
By Liz Lang
No athlete has achieved beyond their expectations by way of minimal effort. Our next High Riser, Kelly Smith, a triathlete born in Sacramento, CA is no exception. Attitude is everything, and Kelly’s shined through when Rise Bar asked about what makes her rise each day. Her response, “With my last knee surgery, during the rehabilitation phase I swore to myself that the minute I was given the green light to run, I'd never take for granted the ability to be active ever again. I promised myself I'd be active every day and be grateful for the ability instead of sometimes feeling the way anyone does at time—tired and unmotivated to go break a sweat.” Growing up Kelly was fortunate enough to have two athletic role model parents, and though they were divorced, they were extremely supportive of Kelly’s desires.
This growing up didn’t happen all in one place, Kelly moved around the northwest in cities including Boise, ID, Pendleton, OR, and Pullman, WA where she attended college at Washington State University. The multi-dimensional upbringing mirrors her strength for triathlons, which Kelly calls “multitasking at its finest.” She also described triathlon as a “competitive opportunity where the feeling of competition is present even throughout the months of training. It's not a sport where you just win or lose...it’s about digging deeper, getting faster, and feeling better during and after the race.”
The challenge of having to focus on not only one, but three sports is a huge part of why Kelly loves triathlon so much. Monotony is not in the picture. Physically and mentally it keeps her on her toes, “just when you are getting tired in the water, it’s time to transition to bike, and the same for bike to run.” On race day, she said to expect emotions to run high and wide. Race day wake up calls tend to be earlier than humanely possible, typically 4:00 AM (or earlier!) and they have Kelly’s “nerves and excitement fluttering. Throughout the race I experience excitement, elation, pain, exhaustion, strength, confidence, gratitude and pure joy. Like I said...it runs the gamut.”
Seeking challenges isn’t the easiest pill to swallow and Kelly experienced this just before her first Ironman Triathlon event. It’s composed of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run to finish it off (and is considered one of the most difficult one-day events in the world!). Two weeks prior she pinched a nerve in her neck leaving her in immense pain and unable to move in any direction. However, her thoughts went a little something like this, “I was going to compete and cross that line whether I had to start off in severe pain, or not.” Miraculously, the pain parted ways with Kelly’s body 2 days before the race allowing her to achieve her proudest moment to date—crossing the finish line at her first Ironman. “I cannot say that was my proudest moment without noting the entire day as a life-changing journey of self, strength, and determination. Seeing my family and best friends with tears in their eyes and cheers of encouragement all day long were priceless moments I'll never forget.”
Besides triathlon Kelly loves soccer, snowboarding, and traveling. Spending time with the people who matter most also makes her list of hobbies, whether it’s a night out on the town, or at home playing board games and drinking wine. “Reality TV makes it onto my guilty pleasure list. I spend so many hours on my bike trainer instead of riding outdoors due to the rainy Seattle weather and need to pass the time,” Kelly admitted to Rise Bar. But, ice cream for sure takes first place. Her favorite post-race meal entails BBQ Chicken, plain wheat pasta with a little salt and pepper, watermelon, and of course ice cream.
Lookout for Kelly in Ironman Canada 2014, she has her hopes set on finishing with a personal best time. Above everything, Kelly aspires to be happy and live a fulfilling life by keeping things that resonate with her close and by letting go of the things that don’t. An athletic inspiration of hers goes by the name of Steve Gleason, a former New Orleans Saint living with ALS, and as he would say, “Awesome ain’t easy.”