Lynne Bermel's Column
Contact Lynne via email @ firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hickman Twins
Itís a double whammy having the Hickman twins in your age group. The "40-something" dynamos are a sure bet for a medal at an age group medal at any race they go to Ė and donít discount them for an open category win either. They took a few of those last summer. The frightening thing is, theyíre improving every year.
Paula and Lynda Hickman have dominated the Canadian Masters Duathlon and Triathlon scene for several years and they arenít showing signs of stopping. Most recently, Paula took this yearís national triathlon title and Lynda came home with two bronze medals from the 1999 World Triathlon and Duathlon Championships.
The sisters were 48 when they ran their first sub 40 minute 10 kms. Paula has twice qualified for the Hawaii Ironman and says sheíll consider it when she gets "a little older." Both she and Lynda were named "All Americans" in Inside Triathlonís annual rankings; meaning they were among the 10 top competitors in their age group throughout North America in l999. Lynda also made the top-5 All American Duathlete ranking and was named the top Canadian Female Masters Duathlete for the second year in a row.
Not a bad year for the twins who really didnít start competing seriously until they were 40. They caught the "bug" in the UK and brought it with them when they moved to Canada. It seems Lynda has always followed in Paulaís footsteps, except in one area: racing. When it comes to that, itís head to head from start to finish. They are a source of inspiration. Theyíre also living proof that age is only a number.
Runnerís Web: Letís open with the sensitive stuff first. How old are you spring chickens anyway. Or, better yet, which age group are you in?
Lynda: Darn. I was hoping you wouldnít ask that. Weíre in the 45-49 year age category. Weíre changing next year (mid-summer) to the 50-55 year age category, so I guess that tells you how old we are. There are a few advantages to getting older. Changing categories is one of them!
Runnerís Web: How did you get started in triathlons/duathlons?
Lynda: I copied Paula! Although Iíd been running recreationally, Paula and I started recreational running together in the very late seventies. We copy (influence) each other a lot.
Paula:We grew up in England. I started out as a runner. When I got injured, I was introduced to swimming and biking. A girl I ran with was a triathlete who had formed the Ipswich Triathlon Club. She was recruiting for a club swim once a week. At the time, I couldnít swim a length without choking when I got to the other end. The swim was a 9 pm in the evening which meant I was wide awake at 2 am the next morning. But I gave it a go and eventually moved up from the local swim/run events to short tris. My bike was fully equipped with kick stand & bell at the time. I used to get the odd comment, like: "Is your bell useful?"
Runnerís Web: When did you start competing seriously in triathlons & duathlons?
Paula: I must have been about 38 when I did my first triathlon. I only started getting serious a few years later.
Lynda: I started running because Paula had been competing in England and had won lots of trophies in the masterís category. (It starts at 35 in the UK.) I figured I might have a chance, as well.
I started competing in triathlons Ė again - because Paula had started. Paulaís the pioneer. I learned to swim at 40, if you can call it that. I was basically just putting my head in the water and flailing around. I was over 40 when I actually RACED a triathlon. It was 1993 at a race near Kingston. I forget the exact place but the swim was only about 4 feet deep for the whole 500m. That's why I chose that one. I was always afraid of the swim.
Runnerís Web: Were you always competitive?
Paula: I didnít start out that way. I joined a local running club in the UK mostly to meet people. About 100 runners would turn up for their Monday night runs. They would split the groups up into different abilities: from 6 min/mile runners to 10 min/mile runners. You could always find somebody that would match your pace. The club was also organized in such a way as to encourage runners of all abilities to strive for achievements. At their Annual General Meeting, they awarded 'standards'. That is they had target times dependant upon age & sex. Runners who would never win races could aim to achieve bronze, silver , gold or diamond standards. It was motivating.
Lynda: As a child, I was mad about horses. I was lucky enough to go to some Gymkhanas (horse shows) and cross country events. Yes, I was competitive at this. In our mid-twenties Paula bought a horse and I helped her 'school' it. Even back then, we competed in horse shows with her (the horse) too. I was also into squash. But the competitive thing really comes from the fact that if we do anything, we like to do it well, or at least, as well as we can. Of course, I would be lying if I said that I didn't like to win. Of course, I do Ė we both do.
Runner's Web: Why did you come to Canada?
Paula: I came to Canada twice. The first time was in 1980. I returned to Ipswich in l985. I came back to Canada in 1989 when I got divorced mainly because I felt the structure in Canada made it easier to raise children as a single mum. Initially, I concentrated on running, but returned fully to triathlon after a long-term running injury.
Lynda: I came to Canada in 1981. Oh dear, Paula came in 1980. I haven't actually copied her all my life. I came to Canada because I injured my leg and had to cancel a ski holiday - true. It is, really. Paula was already here, so instead of going skiing in Austria I decided to visit Canada, brought my resume and got a job. Actually, the Canadian climate attracted me at the time. I liked the idea of no rain in the summer, which is unlike the UK and great for biking and lots of snow in the winter as I was into downhill skiing at the time.
Runnerís Web: What are your goals for next year?
Paula: My major goal is to do as well as I can at the 2001 Worlds in Edmonton. This year, I hope to go to the Duathlon Worlds in Calis, mainly cuz its near our home.
Lynda: Like Paula, Iím focussing on the Duathlon Worlds at Calais. Paula and I change age-groups next year, so I'm hoping for maybe just a little better than bronze but I would be happy to just medal again. Paula and I together would be neat.
Runnerís Web: Who coaches you?
Lynda: My main coach is Joe Friel. I'm a DINK - dual-income no children so Iím lucky in that I can afford to pay for a coach who is as well-known and internationally-respected as he is. Joe sets my weekly schedules and guides my progress along the way. Iím also lucky enough to be able to run with the Ken Parkerís OAC Racing Team Ė trying to keep up with those young gazelles helps my running. I also found a great swim coach at Pinecrest Masters this year. Her name is Corrina. (Perhaps we should keep this a secret: Too many people may mean there wonít be enough room in the pool). I also took cycling lessons this past summer from Jim Glover to improve my cornering technique. I needed lots of help!
Paula: Ian Fraser is now coaching my overall program. Last year, I got help from various sources: Jim Glover gave Lynda and I some excellent bike technique training, Ken Brunet at the Ottawa Science Centre helped improve my biking strength and power and Ken Parker coached us in running.
Runnerís Web: What sort of training are you doing right now to prepare for next year?
Paula: Mostly 'base' work. The usual run, bike & swim plus weights. I think when you are female, older & small boned like us, weights are fairly important: We need the strength. Iím also swimming with Corrina at Pinecrest to work on my swim technique. Swimming has always been my weakness.
Lynda: Joe has me concentrating on building my base at this stage. I put in about 14 hours a week. I do a 3 week build and one week easy cycle. So the week after this will be just 10 hours. I should be building to a 16 hour maximum week (just one week at this volume). I'm not doing anything too intense right now. Iím trying to keep my track runs aerobic but itís hard - I have to learn not to 'compete' on the track with the other girls. I sometimes I fail at this. I'm also doing weights twice a week. I'm skinny so I really need the weights.
Runnerís Web: How many more years do you hope to compete at a high level?
Paula: For as long as weíre able to.
Lynda: I really don't have any plans to stop. I hope to keep going until I get REALLY
old. Seriously, I hope to do Ironman in maybe 3-5 years time. When I canít get any faster at the short stuff, Iíll move on the longer races. I'm the kind of person who needs goals and to be able to accomplish them. Thatís what drives me. I couldn't train for so many hours without some kind of goal in mind.
Runner's Web: What advice would you offer the masters athlete?
Paula: This is a tough question, since my only experience comes from being a masters athlete. I have nothing to compare it to. I think we all benefit from making sure we get enough recovery and the right nutrition, whatever the age.
Lynda: I would highly recommend weight training. It's made a huge difference to me. Now, I don't get injured so much and can be more consistent. I think, that when it comes to training, you need to be consistent over several years to improve. Also, cross-training has helped me. When I just ran, I was always getting minor injuries. Recovery is also very important. Joe Friel makes sure I get that. In fact, it is one of his biggest beliefs. Last year, I felt that he wasn't giving me enough hard "nail-biting" type workouts. He was right, though. I had my best season ever, with personal best times in the 5k run, and 15 k bike time trial. Not bad at 49. I also pay a lot of attention to nutrition. What's the point of doing weights if you don't eat enough protein? Recovery nutrition is probably the most important. I always have a can of Boost right after a workout. It's even more important if you are doing a second workout in that day. Joe emphasizes this a lot and Iím a firm believer in it. But, in my opinion, the biggest thing to remember if you are older and new to the sport is this: don't think you canít be reasonably competent at something just because youíre older. You can if youíre willing to do the work. Never say: "But Iím too old." Youíre never too old.
Runner's Web: What is the greatest satisfaction you get out of training and racing?
Paula: Its always nice to do well, but I find more than that the life style benefits are a great bonus. I have enjoyed very good health for the last three years. I think I have had one cold in the last 3 years, thatís it.. Having goals to work towards gives me a great sense of purpose & achievement. After all once you hit 40, it is possible you still may be only half way through your life with another 40 years to go. I would prefer those tail end years to be as active, purposeful & healthy as possible. Also, I find physical activity is a great stress reliever (OK, maybe I do just a smidgen more than is necessary to release stress). However, when I was physically inactive (mainly during my early 20s), I had a tendency towards feeling lethargic, depression, and smoking and drinking too much! I gave up smoking over 15 years ago and I sure don't miss it.
Contact Lynne via email @ email@example.com