You're at the track, you're training. You're on pavement, you're racing. Then you hear her. Stephanie Kieffer is going to get inside your head.
Named the masters athlete of the year by Sport BC, Kieffer, a 46-yearold world champion triathlete, wants you to race as fast as you can. To push her bigger, faster, stronger and mostly younger training mates with the Leading Edge Triathlon Club, Kieffer will talk trash. She just can't help herself.
"Especially if some of the guys are gaining on me, I will egg them on. Like, 'C'mon. You can get closer than that, you can get a little bit closer the next lap.' That's the side that comes out in fun when I'm with the other athletes who can take it. The joke is that I only do it if there is somebody who is stronger than me."
A former competitive swimmer, Kieffer has an advantage in the swim, which starts every triathlon, followed by the bike portion and then the run.
"I don't do a lot of passing in a race, so it's not often where I'm chasing somebody down. I'm usually getting chased down. I know that there is a target on my back and I like it because if you're in your 20s and you're going to be competitive, you've got to be faster than me."
Don't call it trash talk. Call it motivational speaking.
At a recent track practice, a training partner of hers was having a sluggish workout. Kieffer smacked her lips and cracked the whip. "She's so much faster than me. I ran up beside her and it's like, cool, I'm beside her. I'm pulling ahead of her. But out of my mouth it's like, 'C'mon. You've gotta stay with me. You've gotta dig deep.'
"Some of it comes out that way, as one athlete motivating another."
A competitor once apologized to her as they set up their bicycles in the transition zone. He said he was messy and tended to leave his wet gear splashed all over the place. In a playful but frank tone, Kieffer said it wouldn't be a problem. "I'm going to be out of the water long before you." His jaw dropped.
She told the story and then laughed. "I was definitely out of the water before he was. That's why I have a target on my back-he's going to get me on the bike."
Kieffer may get passed by elite, 20something racers, but she's one of the world's best amateur women triathletes of any age. She is a three-time age group world champion and two-time Canadian age group champion.
Racing in the women's 45-49 category in Beijing this fall at the International Triathlon Union world championships, she finished with the best overall time, beating her closest competition, a 26-year-old American, by 15 seconds.
Kieffer finished the Olympic-distance triathlon in two hours, 15 minutes and 36 seconds. She never relinquished the lead she gained during the swim and ran the final 10-km leg of the race in 42 minutes, a time many Sun Run participants would be very happy with.
Her Canadian national time was two minutes faster (2: 13.28) but she came second, losing to a former NCAA road racer and Olympic hopeful who passed Kieffer during the 10 km, which she ran in a blistering 35 minutes. Kieffer won her age group but came second overall by 76 seconds.
Kieffer trains multiple times a day six days a week and is a mom to three kids, aged 14, 11 and eight. She oversees the genetic counselling program at the University of B.C., coaches her daughter's hockey team and occasionally at the rink will hook up her road bike to a wind trainer for a stationary ride. "That's one of the crazy things I do to manage," she says.
Training and racing are two passions she will continue to pursue.
Of the trash talk, says Kieffer: "We do have a lot of fun with it. A lot of people who do this are really competitive people, and it's a nice way for me to have a very healthy outlet for the competitive side of my personality."
That would include the time when she raced a 58-year-old man doing stroke drills in the pool lane next to hers. "I can remember my coach telling me off, but it's not my fault-he's racing too!"