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'The glue in our family': Triathlete killed while biking remembered by family, friends

Lisa Knudson crossing the finish line at the Ironman Canada, 2006, in Penticton, BC. Submitted photo.

Lisa Knudson became the second triathlon athlete killed on the road this year when a car rear-ended the bicycle she was riding this past Friday.

The 54-year-old from Portland, N.D., was biking westbound on Highway 200 at about 6:45 p.m. near Finley when she was struck from behind by a pickup driven by 34-year-old Matthew Kelley Strand, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Strand reportedly did not see Knudson until it was already too late. He may face criminal charges once the Highway Patrol finishes investigating the crash.

“Two bike/vehicle accidents in one summer is hard to take,” wrote Dave Gaukler, a racing friend of Knudson, on Facebook.

Knudson’s accident comes nearly two months after a car collided with West Fargo triathlon athlete David Hawkinson on County Road 81 near Grandin, N.D., fatally throwing him from his bicycle.

There have been a total of 11 fatal bicycle accidents on North Dakota roads since 2003, according to state Department of Transportation statistics.

Avid athlete

Knudson was an avid triathlete who competed in dozens of races – including four Ironman triathlons – across the country since her early 20s.

“She was well-known from being in so many events,” said her brother, Lee Karaim. He added Knudson won a number of medals at those races.

“She was the second oldest, but I would say she was the healthiest one,” Karaim said, referring to his six siblings.

Knudson’s last Ironman competition was in 2010 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. At the age of 50, Knudson finished in 14 hours and one minute, according to the database Athlinks, which tracks racers’ times.

“Lisa worked very hard to prepare for each event and was a true professional athlete in her method of training,” Ordean Knudson, her husband, wrote in an email. “She always was preparing to better her last event and was not in it for any personal recognition.”

Lisa Knudson founded the annual Dewey Kvidt Memorial Duathlon in 2006 in memory of her friend and fellow triathlete Dewey Kvidt, who died from cancer in 2005. Knudson served as race director for the first three years.

“She was the driving force behind getting that set up,” said Scott Jensen, a racing friend and co-worker at Camrud, Maddock, Olson and Larson Ltd., the Grand Forks law firm where Knudson worked for 20 years. She graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1990 after studying to be a paralegal.

Sherry Coxe, Kvidt’s sister, now organizes the duathlon and said she would like to honor Knudson at the 10th annual race next year.

Leading by example

Knudson’s verve for athleticism also pervaded the workplace.

“She just led by example. You wouldn’t believe how many people in our law firm have done triathlons,” Jensen said.

Jensen added he was among the people Knudson inspired to get involved in racing.

“She got scores of people into this stuff,” he said. “She helped them get their first bike and told them what to wear.”

Knudson not only would organize races but also family reunions.

“We’re spread out all over the country,” said Karaim, who lives in California. A second brother lives in Arizona, a third in Kansas and a sister in Alaska.

He said Knudson was the one to send the initial email pushing for a family reunion.

“She was kind of like the glue in our family,” Karaim said.