As a freshman, I walked into Kim Sekera’s counseling office for my first high school schedule meeting and immediately noticed the pictures of her family and the Tibetan prayer flags that lined her walls. Not until my senior year did I notice a first place overall plaque displayed on the corner of one of her tables, and numerous medals pinned up on her bulletin board. Students are used to seeing the friendly, professional side of Sekera, but there is another aspect of her life that many do not know about: Sekera is an avid, nationally ranked triathlete.
As I asked her about her experience as a triathlete, her face lit up, especially when she discussed the exercise, the competition, and the connections she has made with the triathlete community. After recently placing in the top three at the Long Course Nationals in Miami, Florida, Sekera excitedly explained how she has been offered the opportunity to represent the United States at the World Championship in Spain.
Sekera described herself as “very excited and proud as I met my ‘dreamy goal’ to get top 3.” Her husband, Jayson Seaman, noted: “I am very proud of her [Sekera]; her hard work paid off with her accomplishment at the National Championships of coming in 3rd in her age group.” He added that, she is “very dedicated and committed to her training. She rarely misses a workout.”
Sekera has realized that her dedication to racing translates well as a high school counselor. “I often talk to students about future goals, whether it’s academic, career, athletic, or other goals. This relates nicely to conversations with students about not only goal setting, but also that students don’t need to know exactly what and/or who they want to be before they graduate from high school.” She added: “we discover new skills and passions throughout life and finding the courage and passion to pursue them is admirable regardless of when you discover them.”
Not only does being a triathlete help her as a counselor, but it also provides her with an outlet outside of work. Sekera beamed while explaining other main reasons she loves to participate in triathlons. “Part of it is exercise. For me, it helps me decompress. I’ve also always been one to take on challenges and push my limits physically. I used to be an avid rock climber and white water paddler, but now with kids, I don’t have time to do that as much anymore. Triathlons are my new adventure and challenge,” said Sekera.
Ever since Sekera started doing triathlons in 2012, she has taken part in a wide variety of competitions, all of varying distances. She first started competing in Sprint Distance (see infographic below for further details on distance of swim, bike, and run) and then in Olympic Distance triathlons, and has worked her way up to Half-Ironman Distances.
“For Sprints, it’s over faster, but in some ways, they’re harder because you are redlining it the whole time. You are only competing for roughly an hour or two. Whereas, the Olympic it’s a little bit longer, and then the Half-Ironman distance is not redlining the whole time; you are pushing, but not going all out, which I really liked.”
After competing in various triathlons and getting the feel for different distances, Sekera has now focused her attention on Half-Ironmans. After her first Half-Ironman, the Timberman Triathlon, in Gilford, New Hampshire in 2015, she realized how much she enjoyed it.
“I love the endurance piece; I like going out for a nice long run and being on a long bike ride.” She continued, saying, “I love the sense of accomplishment at the end knowing that I just did a five hour long race. That feels exciting! I would definitely say there’s some strength there in that.”
Because triathlons are multi-sport competitions, they require intensive cross training. To help with the training process, Sekera has a coach from Peak Triathlon Coaching (PTC), Karin Biskovich, who creates a specific individualized training plan for her.
Biskovich detailed how she and Sekera work well together as they are both excellent triathletes and, “since we are both working moms and triathletes, I think she felt we could work well together to come up with a program that worked best with her busy schedule.”
Prior to working with a coach, Sekera said that a lot of her training, healthy eating, and proper fueling techniques have been self-taught, with the help of her husband, who also is a triathlete.
Together, they trained and competed at the Long Course Nationals. Unfortunately, Sekera’s husband did not place because he broke his collarbone in a bike crash during the race. Prior to the race, Sekera and her husband made an agreement that they would only go to Spain to represent the United States if they both qualified. Because of this, Sekera might wait to advance on until her husband can go with her.
In order to progress this far as a triathlete, Sekera also mentally prepares for Half-Ironman Distance triathlons. Sekera highlighted that, “five hours of straight exercise is a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of quiet time in your own head where you can either psych yourself up or get tired, fatigued, or discouraged. Trying to stay positive and motivated in those moments is important.”
Although racing requires extensive training and extreme dedication, Sekera believes it is worth it. “It gives me a runner’s high and keeps me mentally and physically healthy just because it’s a break from work. It’s great to just zone out and go for a run or be on my bicycle. It’s a great way to clear my head.”
Because of her hard work and commitment to the sport, Sekera humbly explained how she has received some overall podiums at local races and has even placed well at large Half-Ironman Distance races.
Along with the sense of accomplishment, Sekera loves the community of triathletes. “When I go to triathlons, it has this sort of community feel that not a lot of other sports necessarily have. It has this sort of comradery to newbies,” said Sekera.
With more experience as a part of the triathlete community, Sekera is no longer the newcomer. “I was welcomed to the community and now I am helping and encouraging others when they’re nervous.”
Because of this, Sekera has formed connections with other competitors, especially through the triathlon team that she is a part of. “I have formed a lot of friendly connections through racing. In particular, through SIX03, I have met a lot of people that I would not have met otherwise. I also now see a lot of familiar faces at races and have fun little bonds with them.”
Dawn Cobak, who is a member of SIX03 and one of Sekera’s teammates, said, “[Sekera] is incredibly helpful, and she knows more about racing as she has been racing longer than I have. Her best quality, though, is how supportive she is on the course while we are racing. She always smiles and waves, even when she is busting out 6 minute miles on the run or 26 miles per hour on the bike.”
Not only does she have accolades from her peers, but from local sponsors like Philbrick’s Bike and Ski as well. She mentioned: “Philbrick’s, as our local bike shop and a sponsor of SIX03 and their whole team, especially George Philbrick and Megan Cushman, have been so good to the triathlon team, but especially to me and my family.”
Sekera’s positive and outgoing confidence has allowed her interact with former triathlete Olympian, Sarah True, at the end of one of her favorite races in Canada. Sekera said that because Half-Ironman races are so intense, she has competed on the same course as professionals.
Sekera hopes that she will be able to continue to have more astounding conversations like she had in Canada at Ironman Mont Tremblant, deepen the friendships she has created with her teammates, and continue to fulfill her goals as a triathlete.
This passion will also allow her to continue to be successful as a school counselor. Kim Cassamas, another ORHS school counselor, said, just like students are taking on responsibilities outside of school, “she balances work, being a parent, wife, and triathlete. This is no easy feat and she is an inspiration that if you want something—you can make it happen with the right support in place and right mindset. This is an important message for students to always know.”
Written by Abby Schmitt
Infographic by Abby Schmitt
Photos by Gameface Media