Wendy Clarke never imagined as recently as last year that she would be fit enough to complete an Olympic triathlon, but that is what she did at the start of this month, an achievement that has inspired her to think even bigger.
Clarke may have achieved the 1,500 meter swim at Public Beach, 40 kilometer bike and 10K swim in over three hours, but to finish such a demanding challenge at all is beyond the scope of many seasoned athletes, so she has every reason feel immensely proud.
“Realistically, in the short term, an Ironman 70.3 is something that I would like to train towards now,” Clarke said. That distance is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and half-marathon run of 13.1 miles. It’s a daunting challenge but a doable one, considering how much Clarke has improved.
She had not been involved on the local sports scene at all before 2013. However, all that changed when she signed up with a friend for a relay team in the 2013 Cayman Islands Intertrust Marathon.
She ran the 6.5 mile leg comfortably and was inspired to get involved in cycling. “From there, I added swimming to my athletic resume and started training towards this year’s triathlon.”
Her next sporting event is this Sunday as part of an all-female marathon relay team. Clarke is running two legs to tackle her first half-marathon.
The 35-year-old Caymanian who works in compliance said she “respects and admires our local athletes, of whom many are friends.”
That inclusive atmosphere has helped her become a regular in local events.
“When these individuals share their stories of how or why they started the sports they are involved with, I can’t help but see that spark of joy in their eyes or hear the happiness in their voices,” she said.
“These are ordinary people with such a pure love for the sports they do, that I was sold and thought that I too can share in this kind of joy.”
Swimming brings back many fond memories when Clarke was a child spending summers with her family at the beach. It is arguably the hardest of the three disciplines to master so that early foundation helped her adapt to the demands of triathlon.
There was still a process to get to the right swimming level though. “While I knew how to swim playfully as a child, as an adult I had not swam competitively.
“So I had to re-learn basic skills, as well as a new set of skills. But even in the most challenging training moment, I still enjoy being in the water, be it pool or beach.”
For Clarke, all of these sporting activities began as a personal challenge to achieve what seemed like a hard task to overcome.
“When I look back at my journey, which started a very short while ago, I see so many learning moments, such as how my body reacts to specific training or mentally overcoming the negative ‘I can’t do this’ moments.”
On the triathlon run, Clarke was hit by the importance of being mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, prepared to push herself and not take in or dwell on any negativity that may come from others or within.
“While I had then and still have a solid group of friends to hold me accountable and motivate me, I still have to own my sport and hold myself accountable and be motivated to continue in something I have now grown to love.
“When you are out training for or competing in your chosen sport, you will learn to respect the process.
“This has been such a journey so far, and I am excited to see where it leads me.”