When asked if she considers herself a native of the DC area Kathy Kemper-Dean responds, “I mean, is anyone really born and raised here anymore?” Having attended high school at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, MD, and college at University of Maryland in Baltimore, Kathy also spent time on the west coast as a traveling nurse before returning to the area as a single mom fifteen years ago. She delights in telling people that she met her husband, and fellow DC Triathlete, Gary Dean, through the Washington Post personals five years ago. “It truly was destiny since I live in Silver Spring and he was stationed at headquarters Marine Corps at Quantico at the time. We would never have met otherwise!” Kathy became a triathlete in her 40s, joining the growing number of middle-aged women that are discovering the sport.
What is your favorite race distance and why?
While the sprint distance is the most comfortable distance for me given my time challenges for training, I admit that the Olympic distance makes me feel the most accomplished. Like I have truly achieved something beyond what I consider my personal capacity.
How long have you been doing triathlons?
At 42, I was training to do my first marathon and got injured. My husband, Gary, signed me up for a women’s clinic on triathlons and I was hooked on the cross training that would minimize any future potential injuries. My first season I did 2 sprint distances, and the IronGirl race in Columbia energized me to continue. This season I did 4 races: 2 sprints, Philadelphia and IronGirl, my first Olympic at Columbia, and the swim leg of the Nation’s Triathlon.
You are married to another triathlete and club member, Gary Dean. Do you frequently train together and what advantages does this offer?
Gary is an amazing competitor and very disciplined in his training. He will persevere through pain (i.e., completing his best season thus far with a torn rotator cuff and a fairly significant foot laceration) and he will push himself to ‘work a problem’ (like changing his swim stroke) until it is solved to his high expectation. While his focus inspires me, we approach our work-outs and our races with different mindsets and attitudes. I hit my goals if I finish a race, don’t finish last, am not injured and have fun. Between being a full-time nurse manager, a part-time graduate student, a wife and a mom, I don’t choose to expend more energy on my training focus. To be honest, initially it created tension and we fought every time we tried to train or race with each other. But we have grown to understand, and appreciate, the differences. I just completed my first half-marathon with my husband running my pace right beside me. I like to think that when we go out with his perspective, I go faster and farther. And when we go out with my perspective, he gets a chance to deliberately work on his technique and form. The greatest advantage is that he is honestly my biggest fan, when my head tells me I can’t do something, he believes that I can and will…and do.
Are there any special treats you and Gary like to enjoy after a particularly grueling workout?
There is nothing better than a McDonald’s double cheeseburger and a Coke slurpee! Then a good session of Ashtanga Yoga to stretch out the rough spots.
You have two children, are they involved in athletics?
Logan is 20 and in his 4th year at UVA. He played club soccer in high school and transitioned to intramural leagues in college. He also ran cross country and he still enjoys long runs with his father. Maggie is 15 and is a sophomore in high school and is on the crew team. Both are beginning training for our next summer adventure, climbing Mount Rainier.
Do your children think you are crazy for doing all of this training and do they enjoy coming out on race day to cheer you on?
Maggie thinks I am nuts for getting out of bed at 5 am on a Saturday. She rooted for me at IronGirl and the half-marathon this year and I hope that she is proud of my endeavors when she tells friends what her mom does for fun. I’d like to think I am molding her as a powerful woman.
What is your favorite part of DC Tri? Are there any special training groups, relationships, or events that have arisen through the Club?
Starting out as a new triathlete in my forties has me feeling self-conscious and, well, old, at a lot of events. I am past the bar scene, I don’t have any race stories to boast from and I am put off by discussions of power watts and podium standings. I found my coaches, Patrick McCrann and Daniel Brafman through the club affiliations. They give me training schedules so I don’t have to spend brain power to create them myself and they provide me guidance for better form. I met great training partners and friends in the NW/Montgomery County group: Anathea, Megan, Sarah, Jen, Mike, Bret, and Brandon are good people with appreciations of life balance and goal commitment. Genuine enjoyment of the sport is our common factor.
Do you have a favorite televised sporting event?
I have two. I absolutely love the Tour de France and remain amazed by the sprinters, climbers, team dynamics and eventual winners. I am a Lance believer and have become a Levi fan after his incredible race and gentlemanly attitude this year. I also like Ultimate Fighting and was inspired by Randy Couture’s recent return (he’s my contemporary and came back from retirement to win back the championship belt)!
What keeps you competing?
I tend to be goal oriented in my training…I need to have a race as a reward for the time and effort I put in. Funny (and geeky) thing, as much as I am nervous and want to throw up the morning of a race, I love the feel of the transition area and the camaraderie of the athletes as we head out to each stage of the triathlon. And, while Lance Armstrong used to be my visual during those “hit the wall” moments, Adrian Fenty is my new motivation.
How do triathlons help to balance your life?
I love cycling, but it is difficult to get out and ride all the time. Running gives me that endorphin boost, but anything over 10 miles just isn’t fun for me. Getting back to swimming works muscles I can’t hit any other way. Putting a training plan together that includes all 3 provides me a basis for stress release and energy renewal that keeps me grounded enough to handle the chaos of the rest of my week!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be, what occupation would you take up and what would you bring with you from DC?
I love being a nurse and I am currently in graduate school to be a gerontologic nurse practitioner. I want to take care of the elderly in the community and help them to “age in place”…help them maintain wellness so that they can stay in their home with their family. I’d love to run a clinic or home health service in a small town out west, say Montana or Northern California. I’d keep my subscription to the Washington Post, so I’d stay on top of the news from inside the beltway.