Head Coach Barbara Perkins Talks the Coming Triathlon Season

DU Triathlon Head Coach Barbara Perkins was kind enough to answer our questions on race week. DU Triathlon begins its season Saturday at the Southern Hills Triathlon in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Denver finished an impressive fourth nationally in their first full season of competition.

LetsGoDU: Now that you have had a full year of competition, what are a few ‘key learnings’ you have made as head coach? (Strategy, training methods, motivation, etc.)

Perkins: For the past year, I have almost viewed the team as a startup company. We needed to identify our brand, aka our team culture, hone our strengths and enhance areas for improvement. Even from the fall of 2021 to the spring of 2022, we made adjustments that made a huge impact in our first races of the year at the Clermont Challenge this past March. The team had a super successful summer of racing, so I am very excited for the potential this year and to build from our performances last year.

You have a mix of returning triathletes and newcomers. Can you name a triathlete that fans should be paying special attention to this season on your team?

Sophomore transfer Clara Normand will make an immediate impact on the team. She has a lot of experience racing internationally at a very high level for Canada. She is very mature and brings a lot of leadership to the team. I have a few dark mares, if you will, that I am excited about. Don’t count anyone out of the newcomers.

How many competitors/qualifiers can you enter into a collegiate race? Do you use training times to make the cut?

A full travel roster is considered seven athletes. Similar to cross country, the top five score and places 6 and 7 displace points for other teams. So each person really matters. I use a lot of data points and other variables for selecting the travel roster. What does the individual bring to the team dynamic, what is the course like, what are the goals for the race? We do testing periodically in training, but it is also about how someone is going to race for their team. That is what really matters in the end.

Of your five meets, they seem to be separated by two weeks each. Is that the ideal approach for the collegiate season for conditioning and recovery?

We’re finalizing details on our schedule and are looking at adding a local event. So, stay tuned for an announcement soon. Otherwise, take a look a denverpioneers.com for the latest meet details. Of course, one thing that will not change is the National Championships, Tempe, AZ, November 12th.!

The season is so short and compact. Last year it was a lot to do—we had three races back-to-back-to-back, all two weeks apart. We learned from that experience. It is a fine balancing act between school, the three disciplines, and strength training. The biggest change is we are putting a huge emphasis on recovery. You have to take recovery very seriously so you can optimize your performance on the race course. The team has really come to appreciate and respect the active recovery and off days. Our athletes are seeing our athletic trainer on a regular basis and our strength and conditioning staff does an amazing job of not overloading them. It’s about constant communication with the team, our staff, and on an individual basis.

Is there an event where training at altitude helps DU in certain disciplines in triathlon?

All three sports are impacted by training at altitude. The biggest difference I have seen is in the run. It’s very high intensity in the draft legal triathlon race format where you are at a threshold or higher. When other competitors start to run low on battery, we have a longer-lasting endurance that kicks in from training at altitude. Also, the confidence of training at altitude and being able to execute that in a race also helps.

Arizona just added triathlon. Do you see further growth in college triathlon teams in the future?

I think Arizona coming on is great for the sport as a whole. We are starting the initial process of becoming a full-fledged varsity sport as soon as this year. I love being at the ground floor of the sport and seeing it grow. It is really fun to be a part of. There are more opportunities for women to compete at the collegiate level, which I also love to see.

What are your general thoughts on how DU will do this season?

As I said before, I think we have a lot of potential as a team. If we can come together and be a cohesive unit, work together at races, then the potential of moving up is an absolute possibility. We are still a very young team, so looking at our growth from where we were last year to now is extraordinary. The returning athletes have really stepped up. The team is meshing really well, and I can’t wait to see what we do this season.

Thank you, Barbara and good luck to you and the team!

Note: You can now buy DU Triathlon gear! Just go to the team store that is open right now if you need any bike gear!

Photo courtesy Denver Women’s Triathlon Twitter

One thought on “Head Coach Barbara Perkins Talks the Coming Triathlon Season”

  1. The Pio’s started the season off right in South Dakota this weekend with Freya McKinley, Clara Normand, Elizabeth Harita going 1-2-3 and the the rest of the team in the top 30. All three on the podium are underclassmen, which just shows what strong of a team we are going to have for years to come.

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