This triathlete used a traumatic experience to transform her life.

This triathlete used a traumatic experience to transform her life. 

It was an hour-and-a-half before they found Tristen Rogers near a rural route on the outskirts of Aurora, Colorado. The then-33-year-old athletic director was lying in a ditch, unconscious—but alive—by the side of the road before she crawled out and was found by two men out training their hunting dogs. She had been hit from behind while on a simple shake-out ride, two weeks before her first iron-distance event at Ironman Wisconsin. She had been out there so long, it had gotten dark.

The driver, who fled the scene, was later caught by the severity of his own act—Rogers was struck so hard, investigators were able to match large parts that came off of his car with similar cars in the area. (“The police department was fantastic,” Rogers says.) Much later, the driver was tried and found guilty. His sentence? Two hundred hours of community service and a $100 fine. (She describes the verdict as simply “disheartening.”)

Rogers emerged from the accident with three triple fractures, among numerous other injuries, and doctors said they weren’t sure if she’d ever run again. “But I was alive,” she says. And during her recovery, she found another side of the sport she loved: coaching. “Triathlon had become such a part of my life, I felt a little lost. I figured that coaching directed me toward what was important in life.” Rogers’ love for helping others in the sport had grown from pastime to part-time, and after four years of coaching on the side, in 2016, she left the financial comfort and stability (“and stress,” she says) of her job as a school administrator to pursue coaching triathlon full-time.

Furthermore, to honor her father’s memory, Rogers tri-renovated his mountain cabin—a place he had loved because it brought people together. From that cabin perched at 10,000 feet, less than two hours outside of Denver, Rogers created a training camp she calls a “glorified AirBNB”: a spot athletes can rent and then train on the nearby trails, roads, and pool at altitude. She calls it the “HAT House” or High-Altitude Training House.

Rogers remains eternally positive about the hand she’s been dealt. She believes the sport that nearly took her life ultimately ended up changing her trajectory for the better.

“It’s taking what’s happened to you, and looking at it through the lens of, ‘How is this going to make me a better person for myself and for the people around me?” she says. “How is this going to dictate the rest of my life?”