Carolyn Olsen hasn’t always been the ultimate athlete.
Her husband can recall a time when she cried before an Ironman competition in Las Vegas in the United States because she knew she wasn’t ready.
There are only tears of happiness now, though.
After years of triathlon competition, the 35-year-old Eagle, Idaho, resident has finally hit her stride, earning the right to turn professional after becoming the top female age group finisher at Ironman Texas 2022 in late April.
She has since followed that stellar performance with an age group victory – and second place overall – at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii early in June.“Anything is possible, and that’s kind of the heart and soul and spirit of Ironman,” Olsen said. “Sometimes women pigeonhole themselves and they have other responsibilities, but you can achieve multiple different things. You can have multiple different achievements in your business, your family, your work, your athletic (life).
“And that’s something that I have always encouraged women to do is enjoy and embrace that athletic part of themselves. If you want to do it, make the time. Get out early in the morning and get after it. It’s such a fantastic sport and it really needs a lot more women in it.”
'It's her superpower'
It took years for Olsen to get to where she is.
The former Boise State tennis player had always used running as an outlet, but she was inspired to try triathlons after watching a friend complete Ironman 70.3 Boise a year after recovering from a catastrophic accident.
“Just watching all the athletes and watching her come back was a groundbreaking moment in my life,” Olsen said. “To watch her and all the other athletes accomplish a swim, a bike and a run, I was like: ‘How are these people doing this? This is so amazing.’ So I signed up and I showed up the next year, and I’ve been doing it for the last 12 years now.”
A serendipitous moment on a plane in 2015 connected Olsen with her current coach, Rebecca McKee of Anchorage, Alaska. But Olsen said she didn’t buckle down and take her coach’s training regimen to heart until 2019. And that’s when things changed.
“She believes in me, but when you invest in a coach, sometimes you don’t fully buy in to the plan right away,” Olsen said. “When you finally buy in to the plan and understand they know what they’re doing, then everything kind of clicks.”
McKee said it’s Olsen’s genuine positivity that has propelled her to new heights.
“It’s her superpower,” McKee said. “I mean, she absolutely believes that she can and that she will. She can take herself to places physically because of that mental belief.”
And now Olsen can’t seem to get enough of the sport and her newfound confidence.
“I knew that there was more to be had out of myself,” Olsen said. “So I really started tuning in to where I was lacking and breaking down those barriers of what is possible and what I thought was seemingly impossible. I feel like every year that barrier that I thought wasn’t achievable has started to crack and fade, where anything is at your fingertips if you try hard enough.”
Olsen just took part in the Ironman 70.3 in Nice, France on June 26. Next it’s off to Finland for another 70.3 competition – 1.9-km swim, 90-km bike and 21-km run – on July 2, followed by Ironman 70.3 Oregon on July 10. Her next full Ironman – 3.9-km swim, 180-km bike and 42-km run, which is a marathon – will be the world championships Oct 6 in Kona, Hawaii.
“It’s a pretty packed schedule, and it’s pretty aggressive, but the time in between, the training is very minimal,” McKee said. “We’re managing it and it is kind of her last hurrah, because one of the things about becoming a pro is that you cannot race in events that are just amateur.”
Olsen said she plans to apply for her pro card at the end of the year. And it isn’t an opportunity many triathlon competitors achieve.
“It is very comparable to making it to the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup,” McKee said. “This is the Olympics of our sport. It’s the group of people that get paid to play.” – The Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service