There’s only one thing you need to know about Barbara Perkins: Some girls chase boys. She passes them. As in, if you’re racing against her, you better be prepared to get your butt kicked.
“Tenacious” doesn’t even begin to describe this lady; not only is she a fellow member of the 2016 Coeur Sports team, but I was blown away when I heard about her racing resume and plans for this year.
She started her Ironman journey back in 2012, preparing to race IM Lake Tahoe in 2013 with a group of friends from Team in Training. All she knew is that she wanted to finish. But when she crossed the finish line in 4th place and missed a Kona world championship slot by a mere eight minutes, she was hooked.
At IM New Zealand in 2014, she managed to shave an hour and a half off her previous time, was the first amateur female out of the water in the swim and ran a best time of 3:47 in the marathon — yet still fell short of the coveted Kona slots amid stiff competition. Undeterred, Barbara set her sights on IM Lake Tahoe only to have the race cancelled three minutes before the starting gun went off.
Not one to back down from a challenge, IM Coeur d’Alene in 2015 became Plan B. The season started off better than ever, with an age group win at IM New Orleans 70.3, but then things took a turn for the worse. Last May at Challenge Knoxville, she took a spill on the course and lacerated her liver.
Barbara’s Plan C is now IM Texas in May, which has a reputation for being flat, fast and sometimes unbearably hot. It’s only a few months away, yet she’s determined to do everything in her power to make this THE race in which she once again tempts fate and makes a bid for her spot at Kona.
1. What’s your favorite route or workout? My favorite workout of the week would probably be my long runs with Team Brilliant on Sunday mornings. These people are the definition of endorphin junkies. Most of them are triathletes, but there are also quite a few ultra marathoners and people who just enjoy running.
On the first day I went to a group run, three of them were planning on doing a marathon the following weekend, hadn’t trained at all and were going for a casual 20-mile run. One of them ended up qualifying for Boston. That tells you what kind of people these guys are.
As far as bike rides, there is a route in Bloomington on the Old 37 that goes out to the Morgan Monroe State Forest. No matter what time of year it is, this ride is always breathtaking and inspiring. It is also secretly very hilly and a great training ride.
2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? For the run, I just switched over to Brooks Glycerin 13’s. I used to swear by Mizunos, but they changed their design so I have been searching for a new pair. I am very happy with these new kicks so far!
On the bike, I wear Louis Garneau Women’s Tri X-Speed shoes. These trusty bike shoes have been with me since the beginning of clipping in. They are so easy to use with just one strap and make for speedy transitions.
3. What other training gear can’t you live without? Swim gear: Finis Agility Paddles. I love pulling and doing drills with these bad boys.
Bike gear: I am so in love with my bright, neon pink Rudy Project helmet. I finally got one this past year. Also, my Coeur little black tri shorts are an absolute necessity. With all the riding I do, gotta have #noangrykitty.
Run gear: Trucker hat. I have fallen in love with running with a trucker hat on. This year I was sporting my #5Q hat. Also, Smith Optic sunglasses. They are so clear and also come in bright pink!
4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” This one is tough. Probably doing rides indoors on my trainer and catching up on Netflix. Killing two birds with one stone!
5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: Well I grew up as a swimmer, so this comes a bit more naturally to me than other triathletes. I sort of took it for granted when I first started racing triathlons, but have embraced my background again.
Bike: This is usually my weakest discipline, but I would have to say that I overcome it with my tenacity. When things get tough, I dig deep into the pain cave and am willing to go where others cannot.
Run: Can I say that one of my favorite things is chicking guys? Because people tend to pass me on the bike, I usually make up the time on the run. But really, I love encouraging people who look like they’re having a hard time. Just giving them a high five or saying a couple words goes a long way.
6. What do you listen to while training? My favorite Pandora station I listen to while working out is Krewella. Sometimes I’ll mix it up with 80’s rock or Jason Derulo. I love dance music with a fast tempo. It helps me stay motivated and I try to match the beat of the music.
7. What are you currently training for? Next year, I have my sights on grabbing a coveted Kona spot. First I’ll try at IM Texas. And if that doesn’t work out, then I will try at IM Lake Placid. Two very different and difficult courses, in very different ways.
8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? I love having chocolate milk right after a work out!
By nature, I am a night owl, but this sort of contradicts the lifestyle of being a swim coach and getting up at 5:00 am. It’s still a work in progress but I try to be in bed by 10 and take naps when I can.
9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? Before one of my races, my coach Craig Paiement told me, “To those of you who have prepared properly, I wish you good fortune. To those who haven’t…I wish you good luck.”
I didn’t know what it meant, so I asked one of my other friends I was with. It means, that if you have done the work and put in the time, then all you need on race day is good fortune. If you haven’t trained as much as you should have, then you need “good luck.” Trusting myself and knowing that I have done everything I could in order to have a successful race has helped me immensely.
10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Probably one of the most meaningful race memories I have had was this past year at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. On the day of the race, I knew it wasn’t going to be exactly the race I had imagined.
I was still suffering from a lacerated liver due to a bike crash earlier in the year. Because of that, I had no expectations. Before the race, I was so relaxed and just wanted to have a fun race. Other people were freaking out, and I was having a blast.
When I came up to the finishing chute, I saw my mom and just lost it. It had been an incredibly hard race, with a lot of climbing on the bike. On the run, I was in so much pain and had to keep stopping. It was a very hot day on top of that, which didn’t help.
But I made it to the finish and was just so happy to be there in that moment. I’ve never cried at a finish line before. It was all very emotional.
11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. Do I have to pick just one?? Paula Newby-Frasier, Chrissie Wellington, Mirinda Carfrae and Julie Moss. All of the Ironwomen greats.
12. Anything else you’d like to add? If I have learned anything over the past couple years in my journey, it is to just be grateful to be able to do something I love so much. Health, money and ability are not a given. I feel lucky every day I get to train!
Thanks, Barbara! Your perseverance is beyond inspiring; I’m excited to watch you crush IM Texas this year and finally conquer Kona.
Fit friends, please give me a shout (info (at) kineticfix.com) if you’d like to be featured!