Who are you, how old are you, what do you do?
My name is Catharine Daly. At the age of 60 I started doing triathlons at the Ironman distance.
How often do you compete? You are about to compete in an Ironman Triathlon in Sweden. Is this race in any way different being in Scandinavia (the different environment presenting different challenges)?
Depending on the year, I try to do one marathon, an Olympic distance and a 70.3 triathlon before my Ironman. I did my first IM in 2008 and have done one every year since then. I have qualified 3 times for the World Championship in Kona Hawaii so some years I do 2 IM in one year.
My race in Kalmar Sweden is no different than any other IM. I always look at the elevation of each race so I know what to expect. Because all the races I have done are in the summer, the weather tends to be similar. Some are a little hillier like Bolton England, some a little flatter like Maryland, U.S.A. and then there is always Kona where the winds never stop and it is quite hot.
You did your first Ironman in 2008. Tell us a bit about what led up to that?
In 2007 my daughter, Colleen, and I biked across Canada…as she said “to improve our biking skills”. While in the prairies, over one week we did three 180+ rides. I still remember thinking….mmm…I think I can do an IM. When I arrived home I joined a triathlon group NRG and I have never looked back. I did everything my coach told me to do but I still didn’t know how it was possible to go 12 + hours. I found that it wasn’t the physical part that was too difficult, it was the mental and nutritional aspect that I had to deal with. After many hours I didn’t want to eat any more but knew I had to. Filling in so many hours, basically by yourself in thought, was challenging.
What was your profession? You say in the film you were concerned about retiring, was that due to the potential lack of structure/stimulation/challenge/position within society?
I am a retired teacher of French and Physical Education. I absolutely loved my work. The students were so vibrant and enthusiastic that I always felt so alive while teaching them. I taught in 4 Toronto schools. One was one of the toughest in the city, and one I considered the best. Each had its own challenges so I always felt that I was learning. Once our daughters had finished university and were on their own, I felt that it was time to let younger teachers have a position. What made me accepting of my retirement was a statement by a friend “Don’t think of retirement as a time of getting old but another stage in your life”. What a great quote. I then started thinking of what I could do that was just as exciting as the past stages, but different.
You now say that you don’t feel that 68 is old. Is this because of the physical conditioning that doing triathlons, and the required training, gives you? Or is it the competing - or is it both?
I don’t feel that 68 is old as I am challenging myself even more now physically than I did while working. I really had no desire to compete, just to train to improve my endurance, strength and flexibility. My coach convinced me that training is fine but you need a goal to work towards. I agree. At the end of a race it is so rewarding. I actually did it. I always try to do my best. Some races are better than others but am happy that I was successful in finishing whatever the time.
How would you compare yourself with your non-sporty/non-athletic friends?
I never compare myself to my friends. I work hard to maintain my fitness. That is what is important for me.
How often do you train? Do you do any gym work/strength training/flexibility work or is it all contained within the swimming/cycling/running?
I train 6 out of 7 days a week. Every day I do 1-3 hours of training. It means 3 swims/runs/rides per week. As well I work on my flexibility and strength by using machines and balls. I did do Yoga one year. I really feel that Yoga is excellent but I just didn’t like it.
You say you feel it is important to keep your brain alive. We feel strongly that doing demanding exercise really contributes to that. Do you agree?
It is so important to me to keep my brain alive. On many occasions when I have a long work out I just would sooner call it quits. I have learned that convincing myself that I can finish it even though I am tired or it is raining or cold or windy is rewarding. It is a mind over matter game. I know I will be very disappointed in myself if I give in. Once finished I always think “gee, that wasn’t as bad as I thought”. Only 3 times has the work-out been so hard, so bad, so brain testing. But I am happy that I didn’t give in.
Your daughter Colleen introduced you to triathlons. Have you always been sporty?
I did every sport that existed in high school. Some I excelled in and others were acceptable. None of them were endurance activities so triathlon is a total challenge for me.
Has age group competition changed much/grown during the time you have been competing?
Because I have only been doing triathlons for 8 years, the number of competitors hasn’t changed a great deal. There is a maximum of competitors for each event. I do believe that more people are becoming interested as often an event will fill up within hours of registration opening.
How do you see things going for you in the future?
I intend to continue doing triathlons as long as possible. There are 5 different distances - sprint, Olympic, long course, 70.3, Ironman. This gives me lots of scope.
Anything you want to add?
I am thrilled that my daughter introduced me to such a terrific activity. We, as a family, have gone to watch and/or compete each year in an event.