Paulaand Lynda Hickman sit on a rock side by side waiting for me to arrive. Twice a week we meet for a 3.5 km swim at Meech Lake in Gatineau Park, Que. As exceptional and inspiring athletes they always push the pace. At first glance, the 63-year- old twins appear shy and unimposing. Athletes half their age work hard to keep up with them. Training with younger triathletes motivates Paula and Lynda to work on technique and speed.
Born on the Isle of Wight, Great Britain, the twins grew up competing in local horse shows. They were the only two women in their electrical engineering class at the University of Brighton. Lynda would go on to get a master’s degree in systems engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa.
After moving to Canada, Paula competed in road races and discovered her natural running ability. Lynda soon followed, wanting to keep up with her sister. When success came easily, the twins decided they needed more of a challenge. They turned their attention to multisport racing and the results have been astounding. Lynda is a two-time Canadian champion and took her age group at the 2001 world championship. She’s qualified for Kona three times, taking her age group at Ironman Lake Placid in 2006 and at Ironman Texas in 2011. This year she won her age group at Ironman 70.3 Muskoka. Paula took the Canadian championship in 1999 and is a two-time Ironman World Championship qualifier and ran a blazing 3:11 marathon in Ottawa in 2008.
Paula has struggled with health issues for the last few years. Chronic systemic inflammation stopped her in her tracks and forced her to stop training for a year. After a year of almost no activity she bounced back quickly and is running 10 km races in a very respectable 43:00.
The rivalry between such intense competitors is inevitable. With almost identical heart rates (there is only one beat difference between them, both at at rest and at max) beating each other is quite a feat. Once, in transition during a race, out of habit Paula asked Lynda to wait for her. Lynda replied, “It’s a race,” and took off on her run.
Their goals for the future? Paula is continuing to rebuild herself and is hoping to run a half and full marathon next summer. On her end, Lynda will be competing in the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont-Tremblant. Obviously for the twins age is nothing but a number and it sure won’t be slowing them down.
Nadja Roy, a former elite triathlete, lives in Ottawa.