“What fuels me is when people around me act cocky. I like to be as low-key as possible, so when I hear women talking smack before a race, I eat it up. Confidence is great, but when you’re openly bragging about your accomplishments, who you are, and what you’re going to do at the start line, you’re only helping me.”
2012 Overall Duathlon World Champion (she beat everybody!) Laura Kline is a petite, muscular, powerhouse of an athlete whose toughness as an athlete is diametrically opposed to her kindness as a person. Her disarming smile and genuine words of encouragement could easily draw her competitors into a false sense of complacency, until the gun goes off and she shows her mettle. In France at the World Championships, she led from start to finish, running the first 10K portion of the race in a blazing 38:25.
With a background that includes field hockey, snowboarding, and boxing as some of her sports, she didn’t start competing in duathlons until she was 23. Like many others out there, Laura feels she has something to prove. But she’s very clear that the person she has to prove it to is herself. Overcoming an abusive relationship when she started the journey of racing, she put her all into running. She reflects on that dark period in her life, “Running was the one thing I felt I had control over, and it made me feel so alive. After I escaped the situation, that’s when I really started to put everything into my sport. When someone tries to take everything from you – both physically and spiritually – you question your worth, and you just shut down inside. Training and racing were a way for me to feel something again, and an outlet for those feelings of pain that were coming out. It was also my chance to show myself that I am somebody, which is probably why I strive to win. No matter what I endure in my sport, it will never compare to how small and insignificant I felt during that time. My success in my sport is my way of saying, “You tried to break me, but you only made me stronger”. Although I’ve done a lot of healing, that drive is still there!”
While an opportunity for escape and control may have called her to the sport, what keeps her here is winning. “It’s that simple. I love to win, and even when I compete in races that I have no chance of winning, just hitting my goal, or getting a PR, is a win to me. I have never been able to use a race as a “training race” in terms of holding back. I go as hard as I can every time I race.” She credits her mental toughness and her never-quit attitude for ultimately pushing her across the line in first place in most of her races. ‘Nothing hurts more than giving up, ‘” she states.
I asked her what ignites the fire inside her to go out and crush races the way she does. Here’s where the diminutive athlete swells up, “What fuels me is when people around me act cocky. I like to be as low-key as possible, so when I hear women talking smack before a race, I eat it up. Confidence is great, but when you’re openly bragging about your accomplishments, who you are, and what you’re going to do at the start line, you’re only helping me.” Laura knows that she can look at her size as an advantage or disadvantage. She chooses the former. “Would I love to be long and lean? Definitely! But you learn to work with what you got! It’s tough when I’m running against someone who is taking one stride to my three, but I think it just pushes me harder to pass them! I guess being short and muscular means a good low center of gravity? Maybe? …but again, it just pushes me to work harder. Hard work is definitely the key for me. I believe that what I put in predicts what I get out of it. Although I do work extremely hard to achieve success, I would say that working smart is the key. People can work harder than I and not get the results they are expecting because they’re not doing the right work. You have to learn what works best for you, and that can take some trial and error.”
And that error has led her to failure. But that failure doesn’t even compare to what she has been through. In fact, she embraces her failure in order to be better. She notes, “Heck yeah! Failure leads to such a string of emotions… But I think overall it makes me a smarter athlete. I learn from every race, but when I fail; I have a lot more to work on. There’s that moment when I feel like “maybe I’m just wasting my time – I’m no good at this”, but that feeling quickly changes and pushes me to work on whatever caused me to fail. I view my injuries as failures. I’ve failed to either take care of my body, or listen to my body, or both. When I sustained the stress fractures to my pelvis from running, I needed to take 17 months off to fully recover. If I would’ve listened to my body from the outset, I could’ve shortened my amount of time off. So that was lesson #1. I used the time to focus on how I would fix the underlying causes of the injury, make myself stronger, and learn how to avoid going down that road again. Patience is not one of my strengths, but it was patience and the desire to learn from my mistake that got me through that period. “
Well, there’s no turning back for her now. And I’m sorry for those athletes who are waiting to compete with her this season. She is getting fitted on her bike by Jonathan Blyer of Acme Bicycle Company this month –all to say, she’s going to be even speedier.
Her advice to those trying to achieve personal best: “My main words of advice are to enjoy what you do and believe in yourself. I’ve met people who hate to train but love to race. That’s fine as long as you are not results-driven, but it often makes me wonder why anyone would want to participate in a sport they’re not truly enjoying? If you love your sport, you’ll enjoy putting the work in to reach your goals. Your mental attitude is the other key – you have to stay positive and confident in yourself and your abilities. Set those smaller goals first – reaching them feels oh so good, and motivates you to set and reach the next goal!