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Q & A with USAT Collegiate Nationals Winner Karl “Rudy” Kahsar

The new USAT Collegiate champion discusses what it was like to come in second—but then win the race.

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When he crossed the finish line at USAT Collegiate Nationals last Saturday, Karl “Rudy” Kahsar thought he’d lost the race. The University of Colorado graduate student was ahead of the field until the final mile of the run, when Dustin McLarty of UC Irvine passed him to run through the tape. But within a couple hours, McLarty was assessed a 2-minute penalty for position violation on the bike and Kahsar was named the champ—earning his first title in 1:57:04 for the Olympic-distance race. We talked to Kahsar about his emotional win, his thoughts on going pro and why he doesn’t have a blog.

Photo: Mario Cantu

Triathlete.com: At Nationals, you made up time on the bike to go into T2 with a two-minute lead. What happened during the run?

Kahsar: All I was thinking was to keep everyone out of sight through the first half hills and then cruise on the second half flat. I was holding 5:35 pace for the first four miles and Dustin had not made up much time. I had perfect tunnel vision and was thinking so hard about running, I forgot to drink! It turned out to be a really dumb move since it was so hot and at about mile four I knew I was in trouble. My pace dropped to about 7:00 min miles and he passed me just as the finish was coming into sight—mile 5.5. I dragged myself across the line, an emotional and physical wreck. Having lost the race in the worst way, it was quite an emotional roller coaster to be told that I had won only two hours later.

Triathlete.com: Now that you have the title, any plans to turn pro?

Kahsar: Well, I am now eligible, but it is not something I am dying to rush into. Ultimately, I do triathlons for fun, and I have no need to make it stressful. I am going to keep training and working hard to get better, and maybe one day I will be good enough to enter pro racing. When I look at the pro field, I don’t think I am fast enough to make the switch…yet. Plus, there are a lot of top age group races that I would still like to dominate.

Triathlete.com: What’s your favorite race?

Kahsar: I always really enjoyed Big Lick Triathlon in Huddleston, VA. It was the East Collegiate Championships a few times and was a good metric of my progress from year to year as I got into the sport. The venue is a remarkably clean swim, a rolling bike and winding run through the park. I developed more at this race than any other.

Triathlete.com: Do you remember your first triathlon?

Kahsar: It was a sprint in Virginia, and it was a disaster. I had a surfing wetsuit (a shorty) and the water was a 55-degree mountain lake. It was so cold I couldn’t even put my head underwater, so I swam the entire thing on my back. Then, having never done a brick run before, I came off the bike and ran the entire 5k hunched forward because I couldn’t straighten my torso.

Triathlete.com: You recently moved, after finishing undergrad at the University of Virginia, to the triathlon mecca of Boulder. What do you like best about Colorado?

Kahsar: Wow, there are so many things from the weather, the exercising infrastructure, bike/running paths, to the beautiful mountains. But the best part has to be the CU triathlon club. They are best in the country for more than just winning nationals—it’s a great group of people.

Triathlete.com: Do you have a website or blog?

Kahser: No, I don’t think I would care enough to read about my own life, so I doubt many other people would. If you are interested in what I am doing on any arbitrary day, here is an example: Woke up at 6 a.m., ran, did engineering research and ridiculous problem sets all day with a bike ride or a swim mixed somewhere in there, finished by eating a LOT of beans, rice and chicken and some Kroger’s Moose Tracks for dessert. If I were to start a blog, I would include super important things like, “OMG, just ate a pretzel! It was salty.”

Triathlete.com: Plans to defend your title in 2012?

Kahser: Next year I want to lift the tape.