In a fitting conclusion to a life marred with soaring heights and plummeting lows, reaching the pinnacle of an athletic career means, often, reaching the end of it, as well. For rower Krista Guloien, wondering what came after winning silver at the 2012 London Olympics in the women’s eight was a very real and very scary open ending.
“Trying to figure out the new balance and the ‘What’s next?’ was a really big challenge,” Guloien reflects, as the glassware and tablecloths are laid out at Brix & Mortar for the launch of her book, Beyond the Finish Line: What Happens When the Endorphins Fade. Sculpted, blonde, and towering over most—even without her stilettos on—Guloien is undoubtedly an athlete through and through. Even her speech is rigorous, well-thought out, and lean.
Her newly released novel sets out to give a firsthand account of a post-competition world: a time that can be uncomfortable for those used to dedicating their lives to a single passion. “I was done, and I felt lost,” the Port Moody native says. “Someone I used to row with and one of my good friends said the year after rowing was the closest she had been to depression. And I would have to agree; I thought I had an anxiety disorder, it crept up on me so strongly. I thought, ‘What is wrong with me? Am I going crazy?’”
Beyond the Finish Line isn’t a how-to or a guide to life after a career in athletics. Rather, it’s Guloien’s experience, her story—one that she hopes will touch athletes and non-athletes alike. “I had this sense that telling the story of Beyond the Finish Line could help other people,” she says. “A lot of people think Olympians are superheroes and they don’t feel pain and they don’t struggle, and I wanted to be like, ‘No, no, no, they feel it’. If I was feeling that way, then maybe people would find comfort in knowing that.”
Guloien got her start in rowing at the somewhat later age of 21 while attending Simon Fraser University. She was then set on the fast track towards athletic excellence, attending the 2008 Beijing Olympics just seven years later. “I picked it up right when I needed to,” she says. “If I had of started younger, I’m not sure if my script would have been written.” Her achievements in rowing include not only the Olympic games, but also spots at the World Cup Regattas and World Championships.
Since London, Guloien has managed to address her future in a variety of different ways. Other than writing a book, she has worked with Lululemon, taught spin classes, taken fashion merchandising at Blanche Macdonald, and worked with Fast and Female, an organization dedicated to empowering young female athletes. “Whether it’s leading a spin class and helping people achieve their goals, or doing a boot camp with young girls who are training to be the next best volleyball players, or doing push-ups for 22 days to create awareness for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, these are little ways that I’m on a mission,” she says. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like in the end, but I guess that’s what’s next.”
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