It is with great pride that we at Innerforce welcome Kayla Kobelin to the Innerforce family as our first sponsored professional athlete. Kayla has made remarkable strides in her triathlon career and we are delighted to support her in this next exciting stage. We spoke to Kayla ahead of her first races wearing Innerforce gear to learn all about her background, her ambitions, and her role in encouraging women to participate in triathlon.
Kayla Kobelin has enjoyed a sharp rise in triathlon. After just one year on the triathlon circuit, she qualified for her Pro Card and now faces the biggest season of her burgeoning career so far, which she will take on as an Innerforce athlete.
No longer does Kayla have to balance long work hours with hard training sessions, and as she focus solely on triathlon, the 24-year-old from Bothell, Washington has raised her own expectations of what she can achieve moving forward.
“With this being my first year as a Pro I am really excited to be pushed to my limits in every race by racing alongside the best in the world!” Kayla tells Innerforce after becoming our first sponsored professional athlete.
“First off, I always hope to have a minimally injury-free season and for my body to stay healthy. I want to be really specific with my goals by focusing on those ‘A’ races, as well as racing to gain experience and to learn as much as I can.
“I know the Pro circuit is going to be a tough battle every race. I expect the races to be much closer and will require me to be relentless in every second I’m racing. Before, I was a big fish in a small pond, but I am about to become a tiny fish in a big ocean and I am excited to push myself even further!”
‘I kind of fell into the sport’
Previously combining a corporate job with training meant 4am starts and not finishing her second workout until 8pm, leaving Kayla feeling understandably “drained” but as a Pro, she can dedicate her time to training and preparing for races. She now has the support of the Innerforce community behind her as she strives to take her career to the next level.
“Now that I don’t have to wake up at 4am anymore I make sleep a HUGE priority of mine,” she explains. “I will sleep usually 9-10 hours a day and have a lot more days where I am doing three workouts each day with a lot more time to put into longer mid week rides.”
Kayla’s route to professional triathlon has not exactly been conventional. She was an active runner from a young age but initially channeled her sporting talents into snowboarding, getting so good she was eventually homeschooled so she could pursue a life as a sponsored snowboarder. That was, until a scary injury forced her to change paths.
“After I fractured my neck I decided I wanted to channel my passion for sports into a new, less risky one,” she says. “I always loved running and would ride my bike to and from work. I decided one day if I learned how to swim I could finish a triathlon, so I kind of fell into the sport and was hooked by my first race!
“Finding my rhythm in the sport came a lot quicker than I thought,” Kayla adds. “But having experience as a sponsored snowboarder and obstacle course racer, I knew the level of dedication and training it would take to become good at a sport. Trying to find a balance between three sports was a difficult task, though.
“Luckily I found an amazing coach (Matt Sheeks), who I still work with today and who was patient with me and helped me structure my workouts right to focus on what I really needed to work on.”
‘I am my own worst critic’
Since that first race, Kayla’s ascension has been as quick as her splits. After placing second at the 2017 IRONMAN Louisville, she qualified for Kona where she finished sixth in the female 18-24 category, despite sustaining a hip injury before the run that would have forced lesser athletes to quit.
It is this kind of resilience and willingness to test her limits that makes Kayla such a perfect fit for Innerforce as we strongly believe in supporting athletes who seek to fulfill their potential regardless of age, experience or ability.
Kayla’s first race schedule as an Innerforce athlete will include the 70.3 St. George, IRONMAN Brazil, 70.3 CDA, IRONMAN Whistler, and IRONMAN Cozumel. So what are her biggest motivations as she prepares for the season ahead?
“I think I am my own worst critic,” she says. “For training this can be a good and bad thing. Even when training is going well I always think of ways it can be better, or when road blocks happen I tend to be harsh on myself for missing a workout or not having things go exactly the way I want them.
“But this teaches me lessons about when races aren’t going to plan and that I just need to go with the flow. I think my motivation comes from not wanting to beat other people but genuinely seeing how far I can push my limits.
“I think a lot of this sport is mental and if you have the mental strength to push through long weeks of hard training, you’re capable of racing at a high level.”
‘Step outside your comfort zone’
Triathlon may still be a male-dominated sport, but that is of little concern to Kayla, who grew up with an older brother and competed in other male-dominated sports like snowboarding and obstacle racing. Indeed, her experiences of training with men has actually been a benefit as it has “forced me to race and train harder”.
Still, for plenty of other women, entering the world of triathlon can appear to be a daunting environment, and Kayla is aware that she has a role to play in encouraging more women to participate in the sport.
“I’ve seen a lot of women at races cheering on others, and talking to them after they say how they would love to do a triathlon but just don’t know where to start,” she says.
“I understand as three sports and a lot of gear can sound daunting! I would say: have the courage to get outside your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to ask other women in the sport for training tips and support.
“I was shocked at how supportive the triathlon community has been. I went into my first race not knowing how to clip into my bike pedals and was asking a lot of women questions. Just two years later I am answering questions for others and that feels really good to be able to give back to the community.”
As her role in the triathlon community continues to grow, Innerforce will be with her every step of the way, and we are extremely excited to see what the future holds for Kayla.