Triathlon Sisters [UPDATED]Published 10:26am Thursday, August 9, 2012 Updated 10:26am Thursday, August 9, 2012
The way sisters Marcia Williams and Monica Eldien see it, doing a triathlon is as simple as exercising for two hours straight.
“If you can do anything (physically) for two hours straight, then you can do a triathlon,” said Marcia, a Fergus Falls resident. “Especially when you break the exercises up, it’s not that bad.”
Of course, Marcia, 55, and Monica, 62, a Breckenridge native who now lives in Duluth, recognize that many view their accomplishment — completing all three legs of the Fergus Falls-based Hoot Lake triathlons – 1/4 mile swim, 15.7-mile bike and 3.1-mile run — in 2010 and 2011 as a major accomplishment.
“I think people are amazed that I was able to do it,” Monica said. “It was such a good feeling to accomplish something not a lot of people can do.”
Both have always been physically active. Marcia is a consistent walker – three miles per day, three days per week – and does weight training weekly. Monica had previously competed in 5K running races, and rides about 50 miles per week on her bicycle.
However, Monica became intrigued with the triathlon after her son, Terry Eldien of Fergus Falls, three years ago decided to compete in triathlons. “I have been so proud of Terry his whole life, of what an athlete he’s become,” Monica said. “I really wanted him to be proud of me. Then I started thinking, ‘If I’m ever going to do it, I should sign up and do it.’”
Her son said he couldn’t have been prouder.
“I was pretty excited to see my mom compete,” Terry said. “It’s so important as people age to maintain their fitness and bone strength, and I can’t think of a better way to improve all-around fitness than to compete in triathlons.”
Once Monica decided to sign up, it didn’t take a lot to convince sister Marcia to compete with her.
“I always thought it would be fun to do something like the triathlon,” Williams said.
The pair signed up for their first triathlon in January 2010, and started training indoors. Monica bumped her weekly biking mileage to 80 miles, and adding a weekly swimming session. Similarly, Marcia added a weekly bike to town, started running on some of her walks, and did about 10 practice swims prior to the race.
Marcia said the training wasn’t as difficult as she thought it would be. “If you’re generally in shape, I don’t think training is a big deal.”
Monica said she admitted to being nervous both summers prior to the race, requiring a weekly dose of inspiration. “I went on the computer and looked at previous pictures of the Hoot Lake Triathlon, just to get psyched up,” she said.
Days, and even minutes leading up to the race, Monica said the swim was the part that caused her the most nerves.
“Swimming was the most worrisome part of the whole thing,” Monica recalled. “I hadn’t swam in 40 years, since we were kids in junior high.”
As it turned out, the swim wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be, using the side stroke and staying behind the pack, and thus avoiding getting kicked.
“If you’re not out to beat any records, it’s not so bad,” said Marcia.
Of course, Monica said she couldn’t help but feeling a little discouraged after she seemed to be in last place after the swim. “When I came back out of the water, I was almost feeling defeated.”
After the race was over, however, Monica, who finished in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 37 seconds, felt different.
“When I got done, my first thought was, ‘I can’t believe I did it,’” she said. “I thought that way for four days.”
With one triathlon in the books, both Marcia (1:58.37 in 2010) and Monica came back in 2011 better trained. “I also had a heavy bike the first year, and I bought a lighter one the second year,” Monica said.
Subsequently, both Marcia (1:44.26) and Monica (1:58.01) improved their times by more than 10 minutes.
“Once you get into it, you become competitive, even if you didn’t think you were going to be,” Monica said.
The sisters are taking a year off from the full triathlon this year, competing in the relay with Anna McGary (McGary swim, Eldien bike, Williams run) while cheering on Terry and his wife Michelle.
And while they aren’t ruling out future triathlons, both say the triathlon was an accomplishment they’ll always cherish.
“It was something I had never done in my life, and it was a big deal to do,” Monica said.