Three Sports In One: A Passion for Triathlon and Endurance

January 2024

Hi, I’m Ola Bodurka Kirk. When I’m not at my desk job as a Marketing Manager strategizing on how to improve our community, creating graphic content, or laying out other publications for The Beryl Institute, you will find me competing in triathlons and running/cycling events.

I’ve managed to rack up a few awards in my time in the endurance world. The medals are only a fraction of my full collection – they just happen to be my favorite or most meaningful ones.

Growing up, I had very bad chronic asthma, and my mom signed me up for swimming, as it was the only sport that I could safely participate in. I was on the local YMCA swim team for a few years, but that quickly fell off as I progressed through high school. Years later, in college, when my asthma had improved a bit, I started to get into running and cycling for fitness.

My best friend and my college boyfriend were heavily involved in the triathlon club at my alma mater, so I heard about triathlon all the time and spectated a few of their races, but was a little afraid to take the leap – it just sounded so intimidating… swimming, cycling, and running? All in one event? How was that even possible?

Decked out in all my crazy cycling gear to try and be as comfortable as possible during a 112-mile effort.

I got further into fitness in the latter portion of college and into post-grad. Eventually, I finally decided it was time to give it a “tri.” In April 2016, I competed in my first-ever sprint triathlon (400m swim, 16 mi. bike, 5km run) and I was immediately hooked.

I felt so powerful – my body had done that. It felt like I was victoriously showing up for the adolescent version of myself who had always sat on the sidelines, feeling left out because her lungs would quickly betray her. 

Since that initial "tri," I have completed countless sprint triathlons, four half Ironmans (1.2 mi. swim, 56 mi. bike, 13.1 mi. run, for a total of 70.3), at least half dozen half marathons (13.1 mi.), two full marathons (26.2 mi.), and, the pinnacle of my endurance career (so far!), a full-distance Ironman (2.4 mi. swim, 112 mi. bike, 26.2 mi. run, for a total of 140.6). I hope to tackle a second full Ironman in the near future.

I crossed the Ironman Tulsa finish line around 9:30ish PM in May of 2022 after almost 15 hours of swimming, biking and running. What a thrill that was!

Since 2018, I’ve been involved with a local endurance coaching group and in 2022 became a coach myself. I create training plans for and work with athletes to reach their endurance goals – however big or small they may be. I recently welcomed one of my athletes across the finish line of his very first half Ironman. We’re working on his first full 140.6 effort next.

I love this sport because it challenges you both mentally and physically and forces you to compete against nobody but yourself. Triathlon does lean very heavily male, so I take pride in being a competitive female in an intimidating sport. The sport is also surprisingly inclusive – I have seen all kinds of ages and body types cross the finish line at events. I have met a diverse, amazing group of people through my involvement in the sport who inspire me and encourage me daily.

I love triathlon because I believe it’s a true testament to the strength of the human body… and mind. Well, the post-workout endorphin rushes aren’t bad either.

About the Spotlight Series:

You know our faces. You know our names and roles. But do you know about our passions outside of The Beryl Institute? Probably not, so we'd like to change that.

Welcome to The Spotlight Series, a monthly series highlighting the team members of The Beryl Institute. Each month, one member of our team will share interesting facts about their life outside the Institute. It is said The Beryl Institute is like "family," and we aim to expand on this sentiment through greater insight into the human beings behind our Institute titles. We hope you enjoy connecting with us in this way. May the power of connection bring us closer together as a community.