It's never too late to tri

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

There's a bit of nervousness that comes through the excitement when Kristina Schultz talks about taking the plunge into triathlon's pro ranks this weekend.

Schultz is heading to Kelowna with a dual purpose in mind.

TRIATHLETE OF THE YEAR

After a sensational season, the Sherwood Park stay-at-home mom will be honoured by Triathlon Canada as the 2008 Olympic distance triathlon age group 18-39 female athlete of the year.

"I'm really looking forward to getting the award," said Schultz. "Friends and family will be there and it'll just be a nice presentation."

Schultz caught the attention of Canada's triathlon culture last season. She qualified for last year's world championship by not only winning her age group at the nationals, but putting in the best performance by any non-elite racer.

Then, she shocked herself with a third-place finish at the Worlds in Vancouver.

"I was very surprised because I'm 37 years old (now)," said Schultz. "To be third out of 18-65 was really surprising. It was quite a treat."

Schultz is a bit of a natural. She won her first event, the Millennium Triathlon in 2003 and qualified for the Worlds that year.

"I just thought, 'I won this thing. That's weird,' " said Schultz. "You get so intimidated by people because they have these nice bikes. I had this old clunker. The real shocker was when I did my first Olympic distance and made the national team on the old clunker. I thought 'wow,' and that's where it all started."

On Sunday at Kelowna's Apple Triathon, Schultz will be swimming, biking and running in an elite field that includes Canadian Olympians; and Edmonton's Paula Findlay, the 2008 junior and elite Canadian champion.

"That's going to be a totally different experience," said Schultz. "It'll be interesting for sure.

"I think I'm more nervous just because you're racing against the Olympians like Kathy Tremblay and Lauren Groves. They basically race all over the world. They have a lot of experience in these pro races."

Looking back on what could have been, Schultz's performances show that she did have potential to become a Canada Olympian and a female version of Simon Whitfield.

"After the world championship last year and comparing my times, I was thinking 'yeah, maybe I could,' but it's (unlikely) because of my age too, right," said Schultz. "I'm not a spring chicken. I'm not 27, I'm 37. I always thought 'I'm too old.'

"That's why I want to try this and see how I compare, My times are pretty right on with the elite women. That's why I want to try it and see where I stand."

It's been a good season so far for Schultz, who broke the course cycling record for the second straight year at Edmonton's Great White North Triathlon. She remains highly competitive.

MAKE A WISH

On Sept. 12, Schultz is scheduled to lead the charity ride for Make a Wish Foundation in Sherwood Park and give a speech afterwards.

"I'll be talking about my race in Kelowna and what it's like being a pro triathlete and a mom," said Schultz.

With a little bit of luck, the elite level rookie may bring home an even more interesting tale.


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