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Janine Willis takes on 70.3 and Ironman World Championships in same year

Willis is a two-time world champion of the 70.3 distance in the 40 to 44 age group, and heads to Kona shortly to race at the Ironman World Championship this year.

Canada’s Janine Willis came into this year’s 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga as the reigning world champion in the women’s 40 to 44 category. She successfully defended her title and is now headed to race in Kona in less than two week’s time. We caught up with the 42-year-old mother and Calgary-native:

How did you get into triathlon? Tell us about your experience in the sport 

I’ve been participating in triathlon since 2007. I started on a whim of a friend and haven’t looked back. I love the challenge of both racing and training. In fact I probably love the training more.¬† I returned to Calgary after 10 years in Perth Western Australia last January. I have a 13 year old daughter and very supportive husband. I also have a very accomplished coach in Brian Stover out of Tucson, AZ. He is responsible for shaping me into the athlete I am today. I have been eligible to take a pro license every year since 2009 but I have never done it. It has never been something that I have ever been remotely interested in doing. I participate in the sport of triathlon for fun and a challenge — I never want it to be a job and my family will always take priority. I love to eat but am a terrible cook. I have a typical triathlete coffee addiction. I love to train early in the morning and rarely train at night as that is family time and when Avery is busy with her sports. I do swim in a squad at Repsol centre but almost all my riding and running is completed solo. My favourite race distance is the 70.3 and my least favourite distance is the Olympic. I do love a fast sprint race as well even though I’m not so good at them. Running is what I do the clear my mind and de-stress but it is not my best leg in a triathlon. The worse the weather the happier I am at a race. Everyone loves a day filled with sunshine and light winds but it is a real test of the athlete in the excessive cold/heat and wind or rain. I work hard in my training but always have fun with it.

At which race did you qualify for 70.3 worlds this year?

I was the defending Ironman 70.3 World Champion in the female 40-44 AG from the race in 2016 at Mooloolaba Qld. Australia so I got the opportunity to race in Chattanooga without doing a qualifying race. I did though race in Xiamen 70.3, Coeur d’Alene 70.3 and Calgary 70.3 each time winning my AG and potentially grabbing that qualifying spot. This year I did not need it so another girl got the opportunity to come to the race. The same will happen for next year in South Africa now as I have no pressure to grab that qualifying slot.

Do you train differently as you’re heading into a world championship? Tell us about that:

Training was a little bit different in the lead up to Chattanooga. Mostly in my swim training though. Since we were staring down the face of almost 1000m into a current I spent alot more of my pool time swimming with band/pull buoy/paddles. I really worked on my strength in the water for this race. I’m hoping that will continue to pay dividends in the future now as well. Otherwise I spent my run and ride sessions in a very similar format to what I usually do for a 70.3 race. I did and always do hill repeats in my running and Calgary lends itself to riding up and down an awful lot of hills on every ride you do outside.

What’s up next for you?

Up next is Ironman World Championships in a few weeks time. I leave next week for Kona so I can have a solid training week and my taper in the heat and humidity before race day. I don’t have any expectations for this race, I am a much better 70.3 racer than IM racer but I’m fit and ready for all the challenges Kona and IM bring with them. After Kona I am taking a short break and then training over the Calgary winter for the Boston Marathon (I just got my acceptance notification the other day) and whatever races I decide to put into the calendar for 2018. I think I may go to a few new destination races but haven’t chosen anything yet. I generally will decide my race calendar in December for the upcoming year, so everyone can just be surprised.