Athlete steels herself for next big challenges
Caroline Smith is one of those people you can't help but cheer for.
But it's not so much that she happens to be a Mandeville resident who is one of the world's finest amateur triathletes. It's more because of the hurdles she cleared on her way to the top of the racing scene.
Smith, who is asthmatic, didn't take up the sport until she was 30. And to do so, she had to make the decision to quit smoking, to stop hanging out in clubs until the wee hours of the morning and to begin the difficult task of shaping her body into one that can swim 2.4 miles, bike for 112 then top it off by running a marathon.
In other words, she gives the rest of us hope that we can make a 180-degree turn for the better.
Athlete on the run
Smith, 36, is about to embark on an incredible journey -- one that will take her across 10 time zones in the span of two months. On Sept. 2, she'll compete in the International Triathlon Union's Short Course World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. That event will have her facing the world's best sprinters who will cover a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10K run.
She'll follow that by competing in the Ironman Hawaii championships on Oct. 13 -- the granddaddy of multidiscipline sporting events. That race, which takes place in blistering heat (athletes literally run and bike through volcanic fields), can take some of the world's finest athletes as many as 10 hours or more to complete.
Then on Nov. 10, Smith will travel to Clearwater, Fla., for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. The distances there (1.2-mile swim 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) are exactly half of what she'll face in Hawaii.
Smith qualified for the ITU Championships at a race in Portland, Ore., in June. She earned entry to the full and half Ironman title races in a triathlon in Santa Rosa, Calif., in July.
Displaying her trademark determination, Smith said she expected to race her way into each championship.
"My goals coming into this year were to qualify for each race," she said. "But it was a one-shot deal. There's no other qualifier for short course other than Nationals. So, you've got to do it whether you're sick, whatever. You get it done."
Inspired and inspiring
Smith realizes she is an inspiration to some, but preferred to focus on those who have inspired her.