By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
When Susan Roberts first started her triathlon career, she did not know how to swim, or run.
Through hard work, determination and support from her family, coaches and fellow members of the Wild Rivers Multi Sports group, the Crescent City resident has come a long way to say the least.
So far in fact, that Roberts recently qualified at the USAT National Age Group Championships in Oregon for the chance to compete in the World Championships in Germany in September in the 60 to 64 age group.
It's still quite unbelievable to her that she has come so far in only a few short years.
"When people talk to me about it it's like who's going to Germany?"' Roberts, 61, said.
When Roberts and her husband Kirk moved to town from San Diego around four years ago, Roberts had already taken up cross country bike riding. Her son, who also rides, got her interested, so she bought a bike and became involved in the sport even taking part in a cross country trip in 1999 with a group for women over 50.
"It was great," she said. "It taught me how to ride."
Shortly after moving to Crescent City, she went to the Crescent City Triathlon to see what it was like.
There, a man struck up a conversation and said he wanted to start a team but could only run, and then another man said he could swim. Roberts told them she could bike they entered a race and won their age group although they were the only ones in the bracket.
For more than a year, Roberts did not pursue triathlons, until one day she decided she would try to learn how to swim. She started lessons at Fred Endert Pool. Roberts said she went from knowing how to doggie paddle, to being an "OK swimmer", and decided next to learn how to run distances to complete her triathlon skills.
In a spin class at the local gym, she asked her instructor, Shawn Burke, who is the co-founder of Wild Rivers, if he could train her for a triathlon in three months. Roberts said Burke was a great help by being patient with her and taking her through it in baby steps. She started out by running from one telephone pole to another.
At first, she was exhausted after the first pole, but over time she got to the point where she could run around the block.
And when she was able to run around the entire track at Del Norte High School without getting exhausted "it was one of the biggest days of my life," she said. "I saw I could do it. It was a big accomplishment."
Burke said he is extremely impressed with Roberts' will to succeed and the "120 percent" she gives to everything she does.
"She has a determination, drive and willingness to learn new things," he said, and added she is meticulous in her training, from working out, to researching health and fitness techniques to be in the best shape she can be.
Burke and Mike Pigg, of Arcata, who is a world-class triathlete, have worked with Roberts the past two years.
She said she has been hard at work preparing for Germany by getting up at 5 a.m. some day to train, and preparing for three strenuous endeavors back-to-back-to-back.
Roberts said she is ecstatic to have made it to Germany and said she will go out and do the best that she can.
She added she can use all the encouraging, positive thoughts from people in town as she embarks on her newest challenge.
Roberts added the group at Wild Rivers has "kept her going" through the challenge of taking part in triathlons with their encouragement and friendship.
In the spring, she took part in an Olympic triathlon race at Hagg Lake in the Portland, Ore., area under windy, cold, rainy, just plain dreadful conditions that chilled her to the bone and tested her endurance.
After finishing a grueling bike ride, members of the team toweled her down and gave her a big fleece jacket,which Roberts wore while she ran.
Her husband, son and daughter will be in Germany to cheer her on.
When she competed in Nationals, her son and husband were cheering her, and she said it was nice to have her family giving her support.
Roberts hopes people take from her experience the importance of staying fit and living a healthy lifestyle. While a person may not want to run a triathlon, they can do things to keep fit such as going with a group of friends on a walk.
"They're going to be happier and are going to live longer," she said about keeping fit.