Kowal rises to triathlon challenge

As she crossed the finish line of the “Ironman” triathlon in Penticton, B.C. back on Aug. 25, with her husband and mother on either side and a throng of cheering fans welcoming her and the other triathletes, Cathy Kowal thought, “My dad would have been proud.”
Upon first deciding to enter the triathlon after she lost her father, Ed, to cancer last summer, Kowal, a local First Nations police officer, has been training intensively nearly every day for the event, which attracted 2,199 participants and consisted of a 3.8-km swim, 180-km bike ride, and 42-km run.
And that dedication, to both her athletic training and the memory of her father, paid off big as Kowal finished the triathlon in 14 hours and 19 minutes—almost three hours under the 17-hour time limit.
“It’s a memory of a lifetime,” enthused Kowal, who returned home last Thursday.
“From the start line, where there were over 2,000 people, to the fireworks that they set off at midnight, when the 17 hours were up, it was incredible,” she added.
Kowal completed the swim in one hour and 21 minutes, biked the 180 km in seven hours and 58 minutes, and then completed the run in four hours and 45 minutes.
“I didn’t have any doubts. There wasn’t one part where I said I can’t do this,” she said.
“I was well-prepared in all three areas after all the training I did,” she added. “Actually, I would often just look around and enjoy the scenery, and just keep moving on—whether it was peddle by peddle, stroke by stroke, or step by step.”
And Kowal still can feel the thrill and challenge of the triathlon in her veins.
“While biking, I was reaching speeds up to 60 km/h. Sometimes, you would be going seven km/h up a hill, then you’ll be going 58 km/h down a hill,” she recalled, adding she averaged 20 km/h during the portion she had thought would be the most difficult.
Kowal said she experienced no technical problems—not even a flat tire—during the triathlon, and noted both her fellow competitors and the organizers were helpful.
“Everyone was so supportive,” she remarked.
Kowal was among 50 police officers from across Canada competing in the triathlon. Collectively known as the “Ironcops,” they raised $315,000 for cancer research.
Kowal raised about $6,000 of that herself.
Kowal was cheered on by her husband, Cst. Mike Golding of the Fort Frances OPP, and her mom, Barb, and welcomed by family at the Winnpeg Airport.
“She set a goal to finish the race in under 17 hours. And she did it in 14:19. She cut time on her swim, she cut time on her run. She did great,” said Golding, who got so much into the spirit of things that he shaved his head in support of “Cops for Cancer.”
“The whole triathlon was absolutely inspiring. Athletes from 29 countries, all different shapes, sizes, and colours competing—it was amazing to watch,” he enthused.
“Cathy is an inspiring person. Through her athleticism, she inspires people to do things like she has and help out a good cause. In a moment of weakness, I signed up for next year. So now, the training begins.”
But Kowal isn’t so sure she’ll do it again.
“I’m going to let fate decide,” she noted, referring to the fact that while Golding had to stand in line for two hours to sign up for next year, her name is in an “Ironman” lottery.
“If I get drawn, I’ll go. If not, I’ve already got one under my belt,” she reasoned.
The triathlon was broadcast in 26 countries via ESPN, and Rogers Sportsnet (Channel 21 to local Shaw subscribers) did a feature on the event, Kowal noted.
Kowal has taken part in several competitive running events, earning a gold medal in the 25-30 age division in a half-marathon at the World Police and Firefighter Games in Indianapolis, Ind. in June, 2001.
She also completed a fundraiser marathon for arthritis at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., finishing 185th out of 740 runners.
She raised about $6,000 for that cause.