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Kip Pierson {July 2007}

For our inaugural profiled athlete, we chose a newcomer to the DC Tri Club, and to the sport of triathlon itself. His name is Kip Pierson. Originally from the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, MI, Kip settled in the Capitol Hill area of DC a bit over 4 years ago. His occupational endeavours include acting and photography, and waiting tables on the side. At the moment Kip is performing down in Williamsburg, VA, but you can regularly catch his antics onstage at the Shakespeare Theatre, Ford's Theatre, and the Kennedy Center. After his ambitious first triathlon – Ironman Arizona – we took some time to get to know Kip's take on triathlons and life in general.

Why triathlons?
I like to do things that one should not be able to do. Jumping out of airplanes doesn't excite me as much as biking across the country does. It's the impossible that makes it so thrilling. When I was a kid I would always watch the Boston Marathon, the Hawaii Ironman and the Escape from Alcatraz knowing I would participate in those races someday. Having conquered Boston I've now moved on down the checklist, no matter how impossible they may be to attain.

How has your background in marathons helped with your training?
Without my marathon training, I would be completely lost and overwhelmed. I've been through so many horrendous races and have hit the wall so many times that I haven't really made that mistake yet when it comes to a triathlon. It took me 4 or 5 marathons just to understand how to run one--and [what] you need to learn is patience. It's not a 10K race. You can't win a marathon or a triathlon in the first few miles, but you can certainly lose one. I also find it more difficult to train for a marathon than I do a triathlon. The pounding your body takes from training for a marathon can be brutal, that's why I've fallen in love within triathlons--the cross training keeps me going.

What do you do when you aren't training?
When's that? I actually have a green thumb for bonsai trees.

Where do you see yourself in 2 years, with triathlon and in life?
Hopefully still in DC with a place of my own. I would love to qualify or get a lottery slot for KONA, complete a couple more Ironman races and break the 3 hour barrier in the marathon. Professionally, I hope to have my photography business grow and dive more into the sports-journalism aspect of triathlons. I think if everyone had the chance for someone to document there first triathlon from start to finish, training to tapering---I think everyone would jump at the chance. I hope to fill that niche through my photography business.

What is you opinion of your fellow triathlete's out there?
The Club has been a great influence in my life lately. Having been a part of the DC Frontrunners for the past 5 years, you forget what it's like to join a group of people who've been together for quite some time. Naturally I was worried back in February joining my first group ride, having never really ridden in a group before--but everyone was really kind and helpful. On my first ride at Mt. Weather I got a flat within the first mile---and being so new to cycling, I didn't even know how to change the tire. A couple of guys stayed back and taught me....I really appreciated it. That's what I like about the group. A spirit of generosity.

If you could do anything as a profession what would it be?
There was a time in my life that I wanted to be a lawyer and go into politics, but today I get to do exactly what I want---an Actor and Photographer. I've also given thought about being a masseuse/personal trainer. But if I was completely crazy, I could easily become a professional organizer. I can clean and organize in a flash---I get it from my mother.

What contribution would you like to most make to the DC Tri Club?
Besides contributing to the overall camaraderie and spirit of the group, I would love to help out with documenting the groups outings through photography and have a section on the website for all to see. Also, name recognition. I think if it's a small enough group, have everyone introduce themselves, because I'm sure someone doesn't know someone.

If you could meet just one person, who would it be, why, and under what circumstances?
It wouldn't be just one person, but several---my grandparents. I was too young and too selfish when they were around and by the time I realized that knowing them mattered to me it was too late. I had lived far from home for years at that point rarely made it home. Now that I have a nephew, I have vowed to not make those same mistakes--I try to make it back to Michigan whenever I can. When I think about it, it's amazing how little I even know of my parents childhood and who they were, what they liked and what dreams they had. It's far too easy to say "I'm busy." I've often thought I have nothing to talk about with them because we don't have the same interests, but it's probably me that needs to make the effort...not them. Wow, this Q & A is probably the best and least expensive therapy session I've ever had...not that I've ever been to therapy..........I mean, without a court order of course.

Any obstacles that you have overcome?
I was born with Erb's Palsy, a birth defect affecting an infant's shoulder by damaging the nerves. This occurs in 1 of every 2,000 infants, but most recover. I was unfortunate and had a severe case and never recovered. At the time, they didn't even have a name it. Ergo, my left arm is several inches shorter than my right, I have limited mobility and range of motion and an inability to straighten it out---but have yet to convince the DMV that I too should have handicap parking permit. So for running it really doesn't affect me to much, my aerobars have to be adjusted individually, but when it comes to the swim I'm nicknamed "Captain Inefficient." Don't get me wrong, even with a good shoulder I would still sink like a sack of potatoes, I would just look better in the wetsuit.

Any advice for other beginner triathletes out there?

Talk to other triathletes about their experiences and read their race reports. Having never done a triathlon before, let alone an Ironman, I was clueless. It wasn't until two weeks out that I discovered there were "special needs" bags. Nowhere on the website did it even mention them. So ask others. You'll be surprised how helpful people are and how little the books really inform you for race day.

Thanks Kip!