Getting to Know T1 High Performance Athlete, Koulie Athens-Hunsberger

My days of running date back to when I was 6 years old practicing with the cross-country team at my elementary school. I wasn’t particularly good, but I enjoyed going to run with them. At my school almost everyone practiced with the cross-country team after school.  It was just something to do; I never really thought of it as training.

triathlete koulie running

I hadn’t run outside of school until I was 12 when my mom started running as a way of helping her quit smoking since she wouldn’t be able to start smoking again if she was running. I ran with the same group as my mom at the Running Room, often running up the road ahead and back to check on my mom.

It was also at this time that I began riding my bike to school as often as I could; it was a nice 30 min ride and a good way to start the day. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to start to grow my love of cycling.

Soon after beginning running I found I was a lot better at distance running. The longer the race, the better I did. Eventually I found myself running the Toronto waterfront half-marathon when I was 13.

Koulie racing triathlon

After a couple years I wanted to join a more competitive group and someone I ran with referred me to the Toronto Olympic Club. After joining the club, I saw quick improvements in my running and got the opportunity to run with some amazing runners. I’ll never forget the summer days desperately trying to catch the faster members of the club.

Everything changed when I got a stress fracture while training for my first marathon. In the long months it took to recover, I got a trainer for Christmas allowing me to bike indoors while my injury healed. I also started swimming a bit. Swimming was rough for the first couple months, but the thought of doing a triathlon in the future kept me motivated. It always felt so hard to breathe and the coordination between the arms and legs was so difficult to grasp. Eventually with the help of some friends and family I got a bit better at swimming - good enough to last 750 meters.

A year after starting swimming I signed up for my first sprint triathlon. It was the most fun I’d ever had racing. At this point I still hadn’t really found my rhythm swimming, but getting to race on a bike made it worth it. It felt cool being able to ride hard without having to worry about traffic.

After another year and a couple more decent races, I decided to take a swing at the 70.3 distance. Unfortunately, I got an IT band injury a couple weeks away from the event so I wasn’t able to race too hard. Even though I couldn’t race hard, it was still cool to be racing for that long, and I knew I wanted to take another try at it in the future.

This past year (2017) I joined the University of Toronto triathlon club where I got my first opportunity at training with a great group of like minded people. I had some races with decent results, but not as good as I wanted.

Koulie racing age group world championships in Rotterdam Netherlands

In September I got the opportunity to travel with my family to Rotterdam and race at the ITU world championship. I finished in the middle of the pack but left the race more motivated than ever.

The two races I’ve done since Rotterdam (a duathlon held by Queens university and a 10k road race) were some of the best executed races I’ve ever had, coming 3rd overall in the duathlon and getting a PB in the 10k. My sense of focus is better than ever, with a renewed drive.

In 2018 I plan to race a sub 4:30 half-ironman and get my International Competition Card so I can race professionally in 2019. I’m confident that with the help of Coach Kyle and T1 Triathlon, I’ll be able to achieve these goals.

I really want to thank my mom and dad. They’ve put in countless hours driving me to and from practice, helping keep me relaxed on race day and always being there to support me whenever I need it. I couldn’t have done this without them and am so glad to have them by my side.

Koulie with Craig Alexander

Koulie is a member of the T1 Triathlon High Performance Team.