Kristen Hetzel is the No. 7-ranked duathlete in the world and a proud member of Team USA, and she can't remember a time when she didn't turn to running for a release at the end of a long day or in times of emotional difficulty. "When I started running, I would immediately focus inward. Running became a meditative, grounding experience," she explained. "Throughout my life, different challenges would come up, like when my parents got divorced in college. Running was my escape."
Kristen ran college cross-country and track, and once she graduated she decided to throw cycling into the mix and started competing as a duathlete. She saw a huge amount of success quickly, and a doctorate in physical therapy helped her stay hyper-aware and avoid many of the injuries most athletes deal with over the course of their career.
But no amount of training in physical therapy or injury prevention could have prepared Kristen for the injury that almost ended her career: a serious concussion that took her nine months to recover from.