Karen McKeachie Has Passed Away

One of triathlon’s most celebrated age-group stars has died. She was truck by a vehicle on Friday, August 26, while cycling on a rural road near her home in Michigan. Ms. McKeachie was riding with at least one other cyclist. No more details of the crash are confirmed. She was 63 years old.

The winners of the 2015 USA Triathlon National Championship in both the Women’s 55-59 age group, Bridget Dawson from San Luis Obispo, and the 60-64 age group, Ms. McKeachie, have been killed by collisions with vehicles while bike riding over the last 6 weeks.

Ms. McKeachie, along with her husband Lew Kidder, have been fixtures in the sport of triathlon since the 1980s. She has been a coach, a race producer, a mentor to many athletes. Sheila Taormina, an Olympian in 3 different sports including triathlon, credited Ms. McKeachie for being a mentor early in her triathlon career, and then again when Ms. Taormina retired from competition and wanted to produce events of her own. But mostly Ms. McKeachie was known as a consummate athlete.

She won so many world titles it’s hard to nail down the exact number, and was a 15-time national champion. Among masters women she was without peer, the only such athlete to be named USA Triathlon’s Overall Triathlete of the Year when so-honored in 1999. She was also USA Triathlon Masters Triathlete of the Year the very next year.

She was so overwhelming a presence in races, in a show of age-defiance she won the 2011 Trek Women’s Triathlon in Howell, Michigan outright as a 58 year-old.

She started her athletic life as a runner, an All-American in the early and mid-70s. She and her husband, Mr. Kidder, founded Triathlon Today! Magazine, eventually renamed Inside Triathlon. That magazine, when founded, was the voice and the champion of age group triathlon. She and Mr. Kidder were original lifetime members of USA Triathlon, paying one substantial installment to the then-financially-strapped federation decades ago when it was in need of money.

Ms. McKeachie was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, part of its 2014 class. She remains one of the relatively few age-group athletes to be inducted. The images here are from that induction ceremony (courtesy of Matt Hichborn). For all her notoriety she was painfully shy when speaking in public, and had a hard time getting out her speech during the Hall of Fame ceremony. Pushing through her acceptance address was a counterpoint to athletic gifts that seemed to come so natural to her, and this charmed the crowd and created for her a new round of fans.

She began triathlon in 1982. She won either 6 or 7 world titles in triathlon – accounts differ – and another in duathlon. She has been among the top-10 women overall in the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship. Multisport age group stars like Ms. McKeachie often win individual sport titles and it would not be surprising if there are national or world age graded awards not mentioned here, medals or trophies sitting on a mantle in the Kidder-McKeachie home.

Few families have given as much to local sport in Michigan, and to triathlon worldwide, than Mr. Kidder and Ms. McKeachie, and what’s written herein omits much.