Colonel Yvonne Spencer started her endurance journey training with friends, finding encouragement and accountability from her first marathon in 1997 through her 2018 IRONMAN. A Commander in the U.S. Air Force, Colonel Spencer has been a trailblazer and a leader through her 25-year career. A USA Triathlon Certified Coach and founder of USA Triathlon Club Fast Chix, Spencer chatted with USA Triathlon this month as we celebrate our military community at the Military and First Responder National Championships.
What was your motivation to do your second triathlon? Is there a story?
Colonel Spencer: Ooohhh, OK. What got me to do my second triathlon, was my DNF on my first triathlon. My first race I was trained, prepared and I’d been swimming in the open water. I got into that open water on race day and with the anxiety, the excitement, the wetsuit ... when I got to that kayak, I said “I need to go back in, this is not happening today.”
I did my “after action report” – three ups and three downs — this is what we do in the military. What went well and where can I improve. So the next day I decided to do another one. The first one was an Olympic-distance and I stepped back to a sprint — a small local race in North Carolina — where the race director said “if you need to stop, just stand up.” The water was that shallow. Thanks to the amazing local race directors, they gave me an entry into this sport that I could handle and it launched me forward.
And for the record, I did not stand up.
Why is this sport so popular in the military community?
Colonel Spencer: I think it’s because we move around a lot. There are times where you go to a location and you will not know anyone. No friends, no family, but you can count on the presence of a triathlon community. You can count on that community of like-minded folks to latch onto and build your village. No matter where you go you can find someone that has a bike hidden in the garage or swims with a local team and that builds your bond and welcomes you in.
Diversity is critical to the continued growth of our sport – how is our sport welcoming a broader community of athletes?
Colonel Spencer: Everyone is a beginner –— no matter where they come from, we are all learning the sport together. The local tri and cycling clubs are making people in general feel more comfortable getting started which is the key to our sport becoming more diverse. There are specific organizations that are working in diverse communities like Black Kids Swim that are providing safety clinics and teaching people to be prepared to get out and move. I think we can all take a step back and recognize the process of learning this sport – we all need to stop sometimes and teach the sport from the ground up, rather than talking down to folks that may find it complicated.
What we try to do at FastChix is to remove excuses and provide opportunities — whether it's volunteering, doing a relay or jumping in that first sprint race. If I get you to a race site, I am pretty confident you’ll be training the week after.
An athlete you have worked with crosses the finish line – what is their 2 sentence story of how they got there?
Colonel Spencer: Sentence one: There is no crying in triathlon. Sentence Two: You can’t be mad at the results that you don’t get from the work you don’t do. Regardless of your finish line, think back to that after action report and how can you impact that next finish line.
Workout of the week: What should we do this week?
Colonel Spencer: Right now it’s all about fitness. “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready”. We are mixing in general fitness into our training sessions. Run session are High Intensity short intervals with a strength circuit built in.
So a 5 minute run, then a round of 10 push ups, 15 squats, 20 Crunches and off you go on the next interval. Repeat four times and be efficient with your workout.
About Fast Chix
Fast Chix is an online community of over 600 women inspiring each other to be better version of ourselves. We participate, support and volunteer in our community's health and fitness activities. We also partner with race directors, coaches and retailers to bring recognition to the value of women in sports. Learn more about Fast Chix at www.fastchix.org.