Culture

This Kona Finisher Does Half of Her Training on Her Commute

This month, Kris Klotzbach will celebrate her four-year work anniversary at her job, and so far, she has not once driven her car to the office.

Kona finisher Kris Klotzbach completes half of her Ironman training going to and from work.

This month, Kris Klotzbach will celebrate her four-year work anniversary as a manufacturing engineer at Clif Bar, and so far, she has not once driven her car to the office. “That was one of the things when we moved [from Colorado to Northern California], I said, ‘I do not want to drive to work. I don’t want to spend the time sitting in a car,’” she says.

Instead, the Ironman athlete has used a combination of cycling, running and taking the Bay Area’s commuter train (called BART) to cover the 20 miles between her home in Walnut Creek and Clif’s headquarters in Emeryville. Of the 20–25 hours Klotzbach estimates she trains per week to tackle endurance events, about half of that comes from commuting.

“I gain so much from being outside,” says Klotzbach, who’s raced Ironman Lake Tahoe, Coeur d’Alene and Kona so far. “It’s a chance to clear my head, even kind of daydream a little bit—visualize riding down the Queen K or running down [the Boston Marathon’s] Boylston Street.” Her commute also serves as quality time with her husband, who is a cyclist and runner—he sometimes meets her at the BART station or along her route to ride home with her.

Logistically, she lives two miles from a BART station, and the office is three miles from another station, so she has to cover a minimum of five miles on foot or bike every day to avoid using a car. But with three stops in between the two stations, she has a myriad of options for designing her workouts, “depending on basically how much time I have and how hard I want to go for my training plans,” she says.

Working at Clif helps Klotzbach live the no-car lifestyle. The company allows its employees 30 minutes per day of working out on company time, plus has a host of on-site amenities such as a gym, personal trainers, showers, washer and dryer and a towel service—not to mention endless snacks. The company also reimburses race entry fees, helps cover the cost of public transportation and provides $500 toward bike upgrades for commuting. Klotzbach used hers on an 800-lumen headlight and panniers, so she doesn’t have to bring a backpack.

“Not everyone has the benefits we do at Clif Bar, but there are ways to make it work,” she says. “That’s part of the fun, part of the challenge—figuring out how to do it.”

Spin It In

Klotzbach’s expert advice on replacing car time with saddle time

Start small. “Like with any training plan, you want to start with a manageable goal. So try it one day a week, see how it goes.”

Plan ahead. “Bring what you’ll need to work the day before, so like your lunch, your clothes.” 

Pick the right day. “Pick a day that you know you have a little bit of flexibility, a little bit of cushion in case something goes wrong. I’ve gotten flat tires biking to work, I’ve had to reroute, been splashed by passing cars.”

Research your route and roll with the punches. Use Google Maps and Strava to find popular routes in your area, then do a trial run. Klotzbach avoids one of her normal roads on Tuesdays because she knows there will be trash cans in the bike lane.

Be seen! “Wear bright clothing, carry a light. Even during the day I use strobe lights on the front and the back as an extra safety measure. I don’t want anyone to say, ‘I didn’t see you.’”