Multiple age group world champion and first year professional triathlete Danielle Kehoe does things a little differently. Her path to the top end of the sport is inspirational yet meticulously plotted. Infallibly focused and intensely competitive, Danielle still finds time to enjoy what she truly loves in the sport of triathlon. She is not your average professional triathlete.
Despite just recently making triathlon her profession, it's been a long-time passion for Danielle. She started racing as an “Ironkid” at a young age. “I have been doing triathlon since I was 7. I am on the slow track,” Danielle chuckles. Her older sister and brother had been racing the ‘Ironkids’ races previously. “It was sort of a family tradition for us. I was actually into other sports at the time, like soccer,” says Danielle. Her older brother was a talented swimmer and her sister an exceptional runner. As for Danielle, her strength is on the bike.
“When I turned 16; that is when I got pretty serious about it,” explains Kehoe. Her drive was even more accelerated at this point. “Training in places like California and Australia, I just started to really fall in love with the sport.” Clearly, the dedication required by being competitive in triathlon is what really drew Danielle into the sport. That competitiveness is a true Kehoe trait. “Even when we play cards as a family, it is rooted deep,” she tells me with a laugh. But she is dead serious. “We’re all very competitive.”
Despite her drive, the path to the top of the sport was not always straightforward for Danielle. She faced the hardships that all amateur athletes do. The stress of training and travel led to a year off of the sport to recover from injury. “To be honest, I was also a little burnt out. I didn’t know if Tri was really for me,” confides Danielle. She believes that even the most dedicated athletes can have that doubt at times. “It is just a very hard sport.”
It was a new calling that brought Danielle back to the sport. “Cody Waite asked me to be join his Xterra team that he was putting together. I thought it was pretty funny, seeing that my only experience on a mountain bike was riding to the pool, crashing and breaking my elbow. But I have to thank Cody, he really got me going again.” Before long, Kehoe was back to racing. Only this time it was adventure racing; sometimes 24 or 36-hour races.
“I was racing along side 3 professional Xterra men and it pushed me to a whole new level,” recalls Danielle. Her drive was back. Her love for the sport was back. And her talent had never left her. Danielle looks back on this time as when she really got to know herself as an athlete and really began to understand her body and what she is capable of, “Once I started competing with these guys, I knew I could do it. I knew I could do an Ironman. And I really wanted to do Kona, ever since I was a kid.”
Danielle started working harder than ever and riding a P3. In true Kehoe fashion, she was tackling the Ironman idea full on. “Working with a big goal was very motivational for me and it brought the most out of me. And when I rode the P3, I knew this was the bike that would allow me to achieve my goals.” When it came time for her first full Ironman attempt, she felt ready.
“I picked St. George as my first Ironman,” says Kehoe. “I couldn’t have picked a better course. It just suited my strengths.” On paper, there was no way to anticipate how she would perform. This would be her first attempt at a full Marathon distance run let alone a full Ironman. But Danielle was confident.
“After the mandatory pre-race meeting, I asked the organizer how many spots are available for Kona in my age group,” recounts Kehoe. “He asked me what my best time was and how many IMs I’ve done. I told him this was my first and he just smiled and said ‘your goal should just be to finish.’” Not only did she finish, but she won (her age group, 2nd Amateur). Danielle’s dream of racing Kona was now a reality. She qualified. “Everything sort of just fell into place that day. I was so happy.”
Her first attempt at the world championships didn’t go exactly as planned. “I wanted so badly to do well, I trained so hard and went to Kona to race my heart out. But, when race day came, I just felt so depleted. It was a hard lesson to learn.” Instead of a setback, Danielle took this as a new challenge. Learning to race in Kona is a skill all to itself. Kehoe took these lessons and immediately set the goal of coming back the next year. And winning.
And true to her word, that is exactly what Danielle did. She qualified for Kona at St. George in 2012 by placing 3rd overall against all women, including the pros, and winning her age group. She drew on her experience from the previous year and made sure she was ready for Kona. “I set out the goal of being first amateur across the line, but I was 2nd. It was a little disappointing, but I still won my age group so that was satisfying.”
This year is Danielle’s first as a professional. “I didn’t want to go professional until I won at the age group level.” Asked whether she will be aiming at Kona again, Danielle says “Definitely, but not this year. I will approach it the same as I did as an age group athlete. I had this goal in my mind that I would have to be first in my age group a whole season before I go pro. I don’t want to go unless I can make a statement.”
Her overall mission? “To be the fastest female triathlete in the world.”
It is surprising to hear Danielle describe her favourite part of triathlon given that she is fiercely competitive and extremely driven. “The reason why I love Triathlon so much is for the family and community behind it. I love how the military has gotten involved along with the Challenged Athlete Foundation and all of the wonderful stories that have come out of the Ironman Foundation as well as the Scott Rigsby Foundation. I get to see it first hand. I love watching age groupers race and finish. To see their smiles and looks of accomplishment truly encompasses what Triathlon is all about.”
Danielle Kehoe is now being coached by Boulder Coaching. For more information about Danielle and her sponsors please visit: KehoeRacing.com.