An iron woman works at the Ladies' College
VICKIE Wilkinson has swapped Cheltenham Ladies' College for Hawaii as she bids for a podium finish at the Ironman World Championships, writes Tom Hills.
The college's director of sport is acclimatising in the Pacific islands as she prepares for a gruelling 140.6 mile course that she will have to master in searing heat and powerful cross winds.
Wilkinson will battle almost 2,000 other competitors over the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and full marathon run on October 13. And the 38-year-old knows just what to expect.
She said: "I went to Hawaii for the World Championships in 2010, but with temperatures of around 95 degrees, I suffered from heat exhaustion.
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"I am determined to go back this year and do a lot better.
"There are five podium places and if I can get one of those I will be really happy."
Wilkinson will be competing this year against other amateurs in the 35-39 age group.
She warmed-up for the event by competing in tough conditions at the recent Pembrokeshire Triathlon in Wales.
"The conditions in Tenby were awful," she said. "It was a windswept course, but hopefully getting through that will have helped me prepare for the high winds in Hawaii.
"To counter the heat this year, I have even done indoor bike sessions with the heating on. Preparation is so important, and that is why I have waited two years before competing in the World Championships again."
Wilkinson has had to follow a strict two-year training programme to get the finals. She is very grateful to the college for all their help in her getting this far.
"The school have been really supportive. In May I was given permission to go to a training camp in Italy which has really helped.
"Being a teacher also means I have longer holidays to train. I try to balance my work commitments and training as best as I can during term time.
"Triathlon is the largest growing sport in the country at the moment and the girls ask me lots of questions about it."
Wilkinson herself has been involved in competitive sport from a young age. In 2002 her passion for running switched to triathlon and she has not looked back.
"In 2006, while I was over in Australia with my husband, I took part in my first Ironman event.
"It was in Canberra and to my surprise, I won. After that, I realised that I was much more suited to longer distances."
"I have raced with Chrissie Wellington, the current Ironman World Champion and record holder.
"It is great to have people like her to inspire me and she's certainly someone I look up to."