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October 26, 2014

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Fear is no match for triathlon lover

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Keith Shimada / Special to the Home News

Jackie Arcana rides a practice triathlon course near the Henderson Multigenerational Center.

A closer look at Jackie Arcana

Jackie Arcana (in orange) reviews some safety tips before leading a bike ride. Launch slideshow »

A decade ago, Jackie Arcana would have never considered competing in a triathlon, much less training others to do the same.

Until 11 years earlier, Arcana, 48, could not swim, making a long distance race featuring swimming, running and cycling impossible.

A childhood accident, which nearly ended in her drowning, had haunted the Henderson resident most her life.

"I couldn't put my head under water," she said. "I was overwhelmed with the process and it seem to hard to learn. Once I recognized it was fear, I wanted to conquer it."

While always a natural athlete, Arcana didn't shake her fear of water until she started taking her children to swimming lessons.

She learned some basic strokes with her children and it was not long before Arcana, who was already a marathon enthusiast, got serious about swimming.

Since then she has completed more than a dozen triathlons—including four full Iron Man triathlons, which are 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles cycling and 26.2 miles running in one day. She has also gotten certification as a USA Triathlon level II coach.

Arcana's classes involve helping others overcome the fear of swimming she once had.

"Swimming in a lake is a very scary thing when you are first learning how to swim," she said. "It's not rational, but your subconscious fear that makes you feel like you're going to die."

Arcana is training several athletes to compete in the Aflac Iron Girl, which will be May 9 at Lake Las Vegas Resort.

Sessions include weekly swimming work-outs at Whitney Ranch Aquatics Center and a weekend bike ride through Henderson.

Henderson resident Laura Carrington, who is training for the Iron Girl sprint—a half mile of swimming, 10 miles of cycling and 3.1 miles running—said the goal is to peak physically by the end of spring.

"It's my first one," Carrington said. "I don't really care about my time. I just want to finish. The challenge is doing something I'm afraid to do, and finishing." Training for a triathlon is a major commitment and one that includes waking up at odd hours in the morning.

Summerlin resident Marie Bickel, who is also training for her first triathlon, said training in a group setting makes it easier.

"Waking up at 4:20 this morning was pretty absurd for me, but if I didn't do this, I know I would never be able to do the triathlon," Bickel said.

The most difficult part of a triathlon for most people is the swimming, Arcana said, even if the racer does not have a fear of water.

"Consistency is the key," she said. "I just try to get them to relax. You have to have some instruction. You can't figure it out by yourself."

Arcana had her best year as a competitor in 2007 when she was honored as an Honorable Mention USA Triathlon All-American. That year she won the Lake Las Vegas All Women's Triathlon overall and the Silverman Triathlon out of all Nevadan women.

She skipped the 2008 Silverman to train for the Boston Marathon, and after qualifying with a time of 3 hours, 45 minutes she is set to run the race in April

"Even though I work a lot of hours, it's all a labor of love," she said.

Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].

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