By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Some of Kristin Otto’s best memories of attending Holy Trinity High School were sporting events, whether she was playing or just attending.
She played both basketball and volleyball, ran track, and was a member of the school dance line, which performed at competitions and at half-time during sporting events.
She was also part of the Holy Trinity cross country team, which was her least favorite sport because, “I just wasn’t an endurance athlete back then.”
That changed when she joined a gym, just a few years after she graduated in 1984.
“I quickly became a gym rat,” Otto said. “I was doing the Stairmaster, which I would never get on now, and then I’d run on the indoor track. I started with a mile, and over time, kept bumping up my laps. Before long, I was running 10 miles. People thought I was nuts. I did a few 5Ks for fun back then, but really didn’t start doing any serious events until 2003.”
From the gym, Otto began participating in marathons, triathlon, and distance cycling events all over the world.
In Bordeaux, France, in 2006, she participated in the Marathon du Medoc.
“Everyone dresses in costumes and drinks wine for 26.2 miles. That’s my kind of marathon! I went as a French maid,” Otto said.
There was the Cape Argus bike race in South Africa, which was about 65 miles long and is the largest individually timed bike race in the world, with about 40,000 cyclists, according to Otto.
“The course went all around the Table Mountain area near Cape Town. It was beautiful. We rode by baboons. They were all looking up at us like, ‘Who are all of these crazy people?’”
Later that same year (2007), Otto did her first full Ironman distance race in Roth, Germany 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and 26.2 miles running.
Another event was a half-ironman she did in Pucon, Chile in 2008.
“That was a tough race, especially the run, which was three hilly loops on a peninsula,” Otto said. “But it was a beautiful course with a volcano in the background.”
Otto had a transportation advantage for most of her international challenges, because until 2008, she was a flight attendant for 17 years, which helped make her trips affordable.
She first worked for Pan Am from 1989 to 1991.
Then, she worked for ATA, formerly known as American Trans Air, and lived in the Boston area until 1996, then moved to the Chicago area in 2003.
Following Otto’s trip to Chile, ATA went bankrupt in April 2008.
“That dreadful day, I was in Germany on a work trip. My focus was redirected from triathlon and travel to finding a job,” Otto said.
She spent the next year researching, training, and networking to enter the corporate aviation market, which was competitive and hit hard by the recession.
Otto was able to land a few steady contracts in 2009, and today, she is self-employed and flies on a contract basis for business executives, and private aircraft owners.
With her career back on track, Otto was able to race another ironman in September, but chose one in Wisconsin because it was closer to home.
“I can dictate my schedule. However, when I don’t work, I don’t make money. And triathlon is not a cheap sport,” Otto said.
Her future plans include another ironman overseas in Roth, Germany in July.
“Roth, Germany was a fun race with great spectators, so that’s why I’m returning next year,” Otto said. Her plans are to cut about one-half hour off of her swim time, and about one hour off of her bike time.
“I’d be happy with a 13-hour ironman,” Otto said.
When Otto participates in an event, she said her main goals are to have fun, feel good, and finish healthy.
She has already started a 36-week training program to prepare for the Germany event.
Her training plan is longer than others, who usually train for 26 weeks. But she isn’t rigid with her plan because of her job.
“When I’m traveling, I fit in my workouts whenever I can. I do a lot of my training on stationary bikes and treadmills,” she said.
Kristin recently adopted a rescue dog, Oscar, who is a Schnoodle from a local shelter, and now she has a running companion.
She doesn’t have a yard in Oak Park where she is currently living, so she and Oscar run together or take frequent walks.
For her recent ironman in Wisconsin, her parents, Bill and Joan Otto of Winsted, traveled to Madison to take care of him.
Kristin gets back to Winsted about two or three times a year, and said she enjoys her visits with family and friends and misses the laid-back lifestyle in Winsted.