Interview: World triathlon age-group competitor Pat Richardson

Remember Pat Richardson, the 65-year-old who smoked Traci and I (and a whole bunch of younger people) at the Tri the Creek triathlon?

Well, it turns out that Richardson — a former state-champion cross country coach turned fitness trainer — is heading off to New Zealand soon to compete in the World Age-Group Championships.

The Michigan High School Coaches Association inducted Richardson into its Hall of Fame in 2009, citing her five state titles as boys cross country coach (and state runnerup as girls coach) at Grass Lake High School. Who knows what other accolades await?

Q. How did you get started on triathlons, and how long have you been doing it?

A. I started running when I was in my late 20’s, which evolved into doing triathlons around age 35.  I began to focus on triathlon, as I loved the cross training and the competition.  I’ve never kept track of the number of tris that I’ve done; however, it’s going on 30 years now.

I think as a “pre title 9” female, I loved the concept of competing.  I coached high school cross country for 16 years, as my career was that of a high school athletic director.  My boys’ teams won 5 State Championships, while the girls’ teams had 2 runners-up.  During those years, I completed 2 Ironman Triathlons and 16 Marathons.

Q. How did the boys react to having a woman coach? (Obviously with your success rate they couldn’t doubt your tactics.)

A. The State Championship boys teams were so much fun.  I was one of the only women in the State coaching boys.  It was definitely a magical time as we became family.  I always felt the reason we were so successful was because of that bond.

I had a much different coaching philosophy from the many “good ole boys” who were coaching in the 90’s.  Less is better…not beating the kids into the ground.  I felt that thru my own training, I had a good knowledge of stressing and adapting to that stress, allowing for ample recovery time.  My teams worked very hard, but were also required to rest and recover.  I believe that I am one of the few female coaches in the State to have won 5 State Titles ever.

Overall, I have been so blessed throughout my life with so many great memories related to my fitness life style.  It has defined who I am and what I believe in.

Q. How did you get into fitness coaching?

A. I enjoyed my career very much, but as 30 years in education approached, I felt ready to move on and focus more on my own health and well being.  I completed my Personal Training certification the year before I retired.  I work at 2 facilities part-time and also have a training room set up at my home.  I registered a small business, “Training 4 Life Fitness”.  This has been a great opportunity to utilize my own expertise, which is primarily endurance training, and to meet many interesting people.

Q. How does it feel to do a 1:29 at 65? Is that slower than you used to be, or does experience make up for some of the speed loss that invariably comes with age?

I have been very fortunate to qualify the the Age Group World Championship Sprint Race for the past 3 years.  In 3 weeks, I will be leaving for New Zealand to compete there.

I did “Tri the Creek” as a final preparatory race for NZ, and was happy w/ my time.  It was a great race, and I felt good.  I feel as I have aged, I have to train smarter…quality workouts vs. quantity.  I also feel that irregardless of your age, you have to go hard…in all 3 disciplines.  You can’t expect to be competitive if you don’t do intervals.

Q. What was your experience at the world championships the past two years?

A. In Budapest, I did well…2nd U.S. for Age Group and 6th overall for Age Group 60-64.   Last year in Beijing, I screwed up — the run course was very confusing with 3 loops.  I made a wrong turn and went to the finish about 200 meters early, thus was DQ’d.  Not one of my finer moments.  Needless to say, I was disgusted w/ myself, so hope to do much better this year.  No laps to count.

Q. Do you have a proudest accomplishment as a trainer/coach?

A. I have many proud moments as a trainer/coach.  Probably the best aspect is the relationships that I have forged over the years.  You develop a particular bond with  someone as you share their goals and help them accomplish their objectives.

Q. Anything you’d like to add?

A. Thanks for your interest!





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