Kansas triathlon a bonding experience for sisters

Pictured, from left, are sisters Lea Thebeau and Kara
Harres. (submitted photo)

Two local sisters pushed themselves through months of intense training and motivated each other to complete a 70-mile triathlon last month.

It was an experience they will cherish for a lifetime.

“The key is we wanted to do this all together,” Kara Harres said.

Harres, 38, and her 41-year-old sister, Lea Thebeau, both of Columbia, participated in the Ironman 70.3 Kansas event June 8 in Lawrence, Kan. The race involved 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and a half marathon (13.1 miles) of running.

The former Kara and Lea Sopp, who grew up in Dupo, have been active in running and swimming much of their lives. The sisters had participated in “Ironkids” events during their childhood years, Thebeau said, and an adult Ironman event was just something in the back of their minds that they had always wanted to do.

“I’ve always been inspired by those full Ironman competitions,” said Thebeau, who previously competed in a few “sprint” triathlons involving much shorter distances than the Kansas event.

“A friend had told me about it, so my sister and I decided to sign up,” Harres said.

For Harres, the swimming and running weren’t too much of a challenge — she’s run half marathons and full marathons before.

“It was just the biking part we had to nail down,” she said.

And the Kansas event was challenging when it came to cycling.

“It was really hilly,” Harres said.

The sisters spent six months training for the event, many times leaving their homes very early in the morning before work to go cycling, running or swimming.

“I have two young girls, so it was tough to train as hard as I did,” Thebeau said.

In all, it took the sisters a little over six hours to complete the 70-mile event.

“You have doubts that you are going to finish it, but the thought back to all that training pushes you in the end,” Thebeau said. “At the end, it was an overwhelming feeling of ‘we finally did it.'”

Thebeau finished ahead of Harres, but was there to cheer on her younger sister at the end.

“It wouldn’t be anyone else I’d want to cross the finish line with,” Thebeau said. “It was great.”

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