WESTBROOK — Whether in Maine or in the Netherlands, a triathlon is a triathlon, at least according to Catherine Wilson.
Wilson, the recreation coordinator at the Westbrook Community Center, will be bicycling, swimming and running in the world triathlon competition next month. Although it’s her first time qualifying, she said she’s not nervous.
“I really don’t have much fear,” she said. “I’ve done so many of them. It’s still a triathlon.”
Wilson first qualified at the local and national levels before being eligible for the world level.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “It’s surreal.”
Getting to this point has been a long journey for the 54-year-old. As a single mother of three, she said most of her time, energy and money went towards parenting for over 20 years. Now that her children are grown, though, she can focus more on her athletics.
“I don’t have to wait to get someone off the bus or to practice,” she said. “Now I have my own practice to get to.”
Wilson has worked in the fitness industry for over 20 years teaching “everything you can imagine,” she said. She said she’s always been athletic and has been a swimmer “not competitively, but a fish.”
Despite working as both fitness and aquatics directors at various organizations over the years, Wilson didn’t start competing in triathlons until less than a decade ago. She said she had wanted to join the group sheJAMS, a Portland-based club for active women, but couldn’t afford it. Then the club reached out to her to ask if she would teach a spin class. With this opportunity came a membership and the opportunity to train.
“I was always athletic, but didn’t understand my potential until eight years ago,” she said. “I’ve realized I can do whatever I want and be whoever I want.”
Wilson now does four to six triathlons each year and trains almost year-round. She said she trains nine times a week, doing three of each triathlon component each week. She swims at the John P. Davan pool in Westbrook, at Wassamski Springs Campground and Pine Point in Scarborough and at the Falmouth Town Landing.
For running, Wilson trains in Westbrook, Gorham and Portland, and for bicycling, she rides from Gorham to Old Orchard Beach and back. She also bikes on Fort Hill Road in Gorham.
Wilson said she truly enjoys all three triathlon components, but if she had to pick a favorite it’d be bicycling. She is sponsored by Ernie’s Cycle Shop in Westbrook.
“I’m so grateful for them,” she said. “I can’t say enough about how amazing they are to me.”
Wilson prefers sprint triathlons over Olympic triathlons, which are longer than sprints. At the world competition she will compete in a sprint triathlon as one of 15 women in her age group.
“I like them because they’re fast,” she said of sprints. “I don’t even have time to think about how well I did because I’m already on to the next one.”
In total, there will be 162 athletes on Team USA at the world competition. The whole event is from Sept. 14-17, with the triathlon taking place the last day. While Wilson said she’s excited to be among athletes from all over the world, especially elite ones, she said she’s most looking forward to having her daughter accompany her on the trip.
“They’re 100 percent supportive of what I do,” she said of her kids Desiree, Nicholas and Justin.
Wilson said she plans to do triathlons “always” and that going to the world competition is still somewhat unbelievable to her. She said that while she hopes to do well, she’s just grateful that she qualified.
“It’s really about the experience and the competition comes second,” Wilson said. “I can’t put competition first because I just never expected in my entire life to be on Team USA.”
Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.
Gorham resident Catherine Wilson, the recreation coordinator at the Westbrook Community Center, will be competing on Team USA in the World Triathlon Grand Final in the Netherlands on Sept. 17.