Tag Archives: Race Omaha

The Kohlls Midcentury Wonder

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Montreal native Brigitte Mimran spent hours in front of students, teaching them about spatial arrangement, points, lines, and angles. As a busy math teacher, grading papers took precedence over interior decorating.

That all changed in 2007. She married Total Wellness owner Alan Kohll, changed her name to Mimran-Kohll, and time-warped into a house with 1970s flair.

Kohlls5Mimran-Kohll knew she wanted to leave a mark on the home, but didn’t quite know how. No longer teaching, she enrolled in online interior design classes. Following a year of thinking and learning, she discovered what she wanted to do with her home.

Mimran-Kohll took the 1950s house back to its roots, with a modern twist. She wanted light and color in the house that once featured lots of wood. To do this, she planned the main room without the wall separating it from the kitchen.

“It was nice, it was Prairie Style,” Mimran-Kohll says of the structure. “I just couldn’t stand being in a kitchen where I couldn’t see outside.”

The wall spoke of years past. The couple found within it a Zeta Beta Tau fraternity paddle and toys. They removed layers of plaster and orange wallpaper.

Once the wall came down to open up the space, Mimran-Kohll looked at the rest of the room and realized the built-in wood cabinets now looked too formal for her whimsical, retro redo. Out they came.

Removing the wood cabinets made room for a brighter, airier kitchen with multiple stainless-steel appliances and large countertops. The space’s clever design provides a variety of stations. The main portion of the kitchen contains a prep station for dinners, with a two-drawer dishwasher, a fridge hidden behind cabinetry, and a cooktop built right into the white quartz countertops.

“Quartz is non-porous,” Mimran-Kohll says. “I would have loved marble, but I couldn’t keep up with it.”

Marble, a porous material, stains easily and requires lots of maintenance.

On the other end of the kitchen is a breakfast nook. A separate refrigerator contains juice, milk, and other dairy products. A freezer in that area holds several varieties of ice cream. Nearby is Mimran-Kohll’s baking station, with drawers for spices and flours.

The expansive dining room contains a curio cabinet and two cabinets that curiously resemble each other.

“They sent mismatched legs,” Mimran-Kohll says of the purchase from Design Within Reach. Because of the mix-up, the company sent a second, perfect cabinet, which now resides where it was meant to go, near the fireplace.


The outdoors shine into the great room. The back wall was replaced with large glass panels, and beyond the glass is a patio and a large turquoise pool, used daily during nice weather.

Alan Kohll competes in triathlons and, in fact, is president of Race Omaha, which organized the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships. The pool measures 60 feet across so Kohll can train in his own backyard.

“When we put in a pool, I knew we weren’t going to sell,” Mimran-Kohll says.

Grasses and flowers of all types bloom, and the inviting patio features a bar for guests who want a drink before swimming.

In the lower level is a bathroom with lots of room. “I specifically made it this size so when people come to swim they have somewhere to change,” Mimran-Kohll says.

Weight-training equipment can also be seen in the corner of the basement. In place of Kohll’s former “man-cave,” Mimran-Kohll wiggled in a kitchen and a living space, mostly used for entertaining, and the weight-training equipment was scooted towards the back corner.

The downstairs fireplace is one of Mimran-Kohll’s favorite features, especially the tile surrounding the hearth. The handmade, period-appropriate tile came from Heath Ceramics in California, and once Mimran-Kohll saw it, she fell in love with the product…but not the price.

“I wanted it for the upstairs, but it was too costly,” she says.

Back upstairs, stepdaughter Abby’s room features bright colors and lots of musical instruments.

“She is really talented,” Mimran-Kohll says. “She loves the Beatles.”

A white midcentury-looking chair and ottoman hold special memories.  “This was my parents’,” Mimran-Kohll says. “They were upholstered in orange.”

Kohlls6Everywhere in the house, light and lighting fixtures prevail. Mimran-Kohll claims lighting is like jewelry to her, and she shops at Design Within Reach for her fixtures.

While still working with spatial relations and geometry, Mimran-Kohll has slowly gained an appreciation for the artistic side of her brain.

She could have finished the project in less time, but she didn’t want to.

“If you pick anything too quickly, it’s over!”  OmahaHome


Bringing it Home

August 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Hordes of the nation’s top triathletes will descend on Carter Lake this summer. They will compete for a national title at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships on Aug. 13-14.

Top finishers in the two-day event’s Olympic-Distance National Championship (Aug. 13) and the Sprint National Championship (Aug. 14) will be invited to join Team USA at the 2017 world championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Although the running, biking, and swimming events will revolve around Carter Lake, Omaha was the force behind the successful bid to host the event for 2016 and 2017. Triathletes will be reminded of Omaha’s national sports hub status as the running course turns around inside TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series.

Coordination and collaboration of services among the Mayor’s Office; Fire, Police, and Public Works Departments; and other city infrastructure players were vital in landing this event—USA Triathlon’s largest and longest-running national championships event—as well as other major sporting events throughout the past decade.

This triathlon is expected to bring roughly 10,000 people and an estimated $10-12 million in hotel and food sales to metro Omaha during the weekend.

Triathlon1Race Omaha, which pitched Omaha as a future host site more than two years ago (when the event was celebrating year two of its three years in Milwaukee), has been the major coordinating force behind Omaha’s bid since the beginning.

Because of past and current events, USA Triathlon—which sponsors the championship—knew the metro area could more than support an event of this caliber. Those events include the College World Series, Olympic Swimming Trials, NCAA basketball, NCAA volleyball, and the U.S. Figure
Skating Championships.

“Because we’ve successfully brought in and held big events in the past, there was no doubt we could handle an event like U.S. Age Group National Championships,” says former Race Omaha Race Director Kurt Beisch. “We have this event this year and next year, and then USA Triathlon will decide where to take it next. We just want everyone coming to town for this event to have a great experience and learn what a great community we have here.”

The cooperation of city services was only one of many incentives that lured the triathlon and other events to the metro over the past decade (or in the case of the College World Series, since 1950).

According to USA Triathlon National Events Senior Manager Brian D’Amico, there were multiple factors that went into choosing Omaha over several other cities: geographic location, accommodations, and the history of hosting successful national sporting events.

But in his and USA Triathlon’s expert opinions, there is one intangible that drew them to Omaha: the people.

“We love Omaha’s central location in the United States, which makes it easily accessible from both coasts as well as the entire country,” D’Amico says. “We love that Carter Lake (site of the event headquarters and venue for the swimming leg of the triathlon) is so close to the airport, and the city has worked so hard to welcome us.

“But what we really noticed during our site visit was how friendly and welcoming everyone in Omaha is. We love how supportive the community has always been of the College World Series, Swim Trials, and other events. They really enjoy having visitors in town, and they go out of their way to make them feel welcome. That’s something you can’t measure or control, so it’s a definite advantage.”

The two-day event is divided into two race distances—Olympic on Saturday and sprint on Sunday. These distances both feature the traditional legs of a triathlon: a swim (at Carter Lake), followed by biking, and finally, a run through Omaha’s city streets, culminating with a turn at TD Ameritrade Park before returning to Carter Lake.

The Olympic portion features a 1,500-meter open water swim, followed by a 40K bike ride with a 10K run. Sunday’s sprint version is half the distance of all three legs.

Race Omaha founder Alan Kohll says whether you have attended or participated in previous triathlons, many things will help keep spectators and fans engaged—including an expo near the event headquarters.

As a perk, Oriental Trading Co. will hand out cowbells and thunder sticks to spectators who will motivate the athletes as they traverse through the course by water, bike, and foot. There will also be 5k and 1k runs on Friday night for everyone not participating in the triathlons.

Kohll says the triathlon events will definitely carry an Omaha flavor.

“We’re not attempting to mimic what’s been done in Milwaukee or past cities that hosted this event,” Kohll says. He and Beisch are both competitive triathletes.

“We want people from other parts of the country to leave Omaha having learned more about what makes the community special—the zoo, Berkshire Hathaway, and Omaha Steaks, among many others. These are some things Omaha is known for, and we want to emphasize them.”

Visit raceomaha.com for more information.

Iron Woman

June 4, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in May/June 2015 issue of 60-Plus.

The Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. Surely, one might think, such a feat of athleticism would explode the joints of a human over, what, 40?

Not so, at least for the super-human. Mariana Phipps will be 71 this coming May. She’s a mom to three boys. Heck, she’s grandma to six children. Yet, she’s still a top competitor in one of the world’s most grueling test of human endurance.

Phipps was a swimmer as a girl, but couldn’t compete in high school or college in pre-Title IX days. By the time she started taking classes at Creighton University, it seemed that her serious days as an athlete were behind her.

“I was a pretty good, heavy smoker, and didn’t even think about doing any sports,” she says. “I had kids and I was busy.”

When her husband found out he had heart disease, they both quit smoking. However, she says, when you quit smoking, you need to do something else, “otherwise you blow up pretty fast.” She got back into swimming, and since many of her fellow swimmers were runners as well, she took up running and, later, bike riding.

Phipps ran her first marathon at age 51 in 1995 in Lincoln. She did her first Ironman at age 56 and qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in her first year of qualifying. She routinely finishes in first or second place for her age group in triathlons and won the World Championship for her age group in Hawaii in 2005.

Kurt Beisch, who works as the race director for Race Omaha, a Nebraska non-profit organization in the multi-sport industry, says the World Championship in Hawaii is like the Super Bowl for triathlons.

Race Omaha puts on several annual racing events, including the Omaha Triathlon, the Omaha Women’s Triathlon, and the Omaha Kids Triathlon. The competitors, Beisch says, are definitely an eclectic bunch.

“They range from newbies, first-time multi-sport athletes, to very decorated nationally ranked athletes,” he says. The women’s triathlon field is made up of about 38 percent first-time athletes, which makes for a great amount of camaraderie.

Indeed, Phipps says, the triathlon competitors make the sport a very social one. This may seem a bit odd for an activity that, on its surface, seems to depend entirely on the individual’s stamina and endurance. But competitors feed off each other’s enthusiasm.

“We have a very good brotherhood of triathletes here in Omaha,” she says. “And I am fortunate enough to know a lot of younger ones and more mature ones.”

Beisch, who is also a decorated triathlete, estimates that about 15 percent of the participants in the field at the events are aged 50 or older, and some of them are some of the most accomplished athletes in the country.

“[They] make me look like a grade-school triathlete compared to the achievements they’ve had in the course of their lifetime,” he says.

Older competitors, he says, have an advantage in qualifying because there are fewer of them, so there’s less competition.

But more so than the competition, Beisch says, triathletes experience a great sense of accomplishment and that “coming across that finish line is an event.

“You have covered a lot of ground, you have pushed yourself in different ways and you have competed in three events,” he says.

Phipps has worked for Nebraska Furniture Mart for the last 39 years, and the company has been very flexible with her hours to allow her maximum training time. When getting ready for a triathlon, her weekly schedule involves two swims, two bike rides, and two runs. She trains 10-20 hours a week for an Ironman and may bike up to six hours a day (though shorter triathlons
don’t require as much training time).

She gives the impression of someone who really knows her stuff. In spite of the many jokes she makes about her age, there’s a quickness and vitality to her manner.

She’s also, it seems, just about unstoppable. She has a plate and several screws in each arm and a visible scar running down from her wrist. Before one event she broke her foot and couldn’t take painkillers because painkillers can cause kidney damage. She competed anyway.

This year, she plans on competing in the Boston Marathon for the sixth year in a row. In 2013, she was having a great race and was approximately four blocks from the finish line when the race was stopped and she was escorted to safety.

Later, she saw the local Boston media’s coverage of the bombing from her hotel room. “It was grotesque. Just blood everywhere. Obviously, people crying and moaning. It was just horrible.”

However, there wasn’t any hesitation about returning the next year.

“It wasn’t even a question about going back,” she says. “We weren’t about to let the enemy stop our dreams.”

So what keeps her going? Part of it, Phipps says, is that you compete against yourself.

“You can’t compare yourself to what you were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago,” she says. “Every time you enter a new age group you have to think it’s almost like a whole new ballgame.

“Luckily, they have age groups every five years. You think of yourself as trying to stay as fast as you can in that age group, and it’s the one thing that you look forward to getting older…because let’s face it, getting older is not fun. But, when you do go over that next hump, into the next age group, then you realize it’s a whole new set of personal records for your age. That helps a lot.”

Marianna Phipps2