Triathlons test an individual’s endurance in swimming, running and cycling. For UAA student Caroline Willis, getting past the dog paddle was her first step.
“I realized I didn’t know how to swim. I went to get a bathing suit in the middle of January (2005), and I found this slip of paper about triathlon training and I decided to give it a try,” Willis said.
Up until that point her swimming arsenal consisted of the backstroke and dog paddle. After making the phone call not only did she have to learn how to swim, but get in shape for the Golden Nugget Triathlon last May.
The events waiting for her in the triathlon were a 500-hundred yard swim, 10-mile bike race and a 4.1-mile run. The swim was her toughest event, and it took her 13 minutes to complete.
“I didn’t have the endurance, and I didn’t know how to swim until the end of March, and I (was) swimming 500 yards,” Willis said.
With learning to swim behind her, Willis finished in 1 hour, 46 minutes, 40 seconds, placing her 29th in the 20-24 age group. Willis said completing the triathlon was the best part of her experience.
“My swim was really bad, and I got out of the pool and was like, ‘That sucked.’ And so I got on my bike and was like, ‘Yes, rock and go as hard and as fast as I can.’ I had this pace and even when I wanted to give up, I told myself I could do it,” Willis said.
Willis is currently focused on the Honolulu Triathlon May 14. Since this event is Olympic distance she’ll be facing a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-k bike course and a 10-k run, not to mention average May temperatures of 90 degrees.
Willis is in great shape and is in the pool for two hours a week trying her best to prepare for what she’ll face in the ocean. She said she would have to block out thoughts of sharks and fish swimming in the same water. She jokingly said she might use someone’s draft for safety reasons.
Willis said she has her mind set on finishing the Honolulu Triathlon without passing out. Placing is not on her mind. She is looking at the bigger picture.
“The goal is to finish and from that midrange work from there. To know where I am at and work harder to go faster and be more athletic,” Willis said.
In the meantime Willis will continue training before heading to Hawaii in May to compete, along with 2000 other triathlon athletes, in the 2006 Honolulu Triathlon.