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Cranberry woman takes triathlon plunge

| Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, 11:09 a.m.
Heather Slater, 46 of Cranberry, stands for a photo before competing in the Allegheny Cycling Association (ACA) Tuesday Night Criterium at the Bud Harris Cycling Track in Highland Park on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Slater learned to swim three years ago at age 43, and now will compete in the Pittsburgh Triathlon.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Heather Slater, 46 of Cranberry, stands for a photo before competing in the Allegheny Cycling Association (ACA) Tuesday Night Criterium at the Bud Harris Cycling Track in Highland Park on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Slater learned to swim three years ago at age 43, and now will compete in the Pittsburgh Triathlon.
Heather Slater, 46 of Cranberry, rides in the Allegheny Cycling Association (ACA) Tuesday Night Criterium at the Bud Harris Cycling Track in Highland Park on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Slater learned to swim three years ago at age 43, and now will compete in the Pittsburgh Triathlon.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Heather Slater, 46 of Cranberry, rides in the Allegheny Cycling Association (ACA) Tuesday Night Criterium at the Bud Harris Cycling Track in Highland Park on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Slater learned to swim three years ago at age 43, and now will compete in the Pittsburgh Triathlon.
Heather Slater, 46 of Cranberry, waits at the starting line to ride in the Allegheny Cycling Association (ACA) Tuesday Night Criterium at the Bud Harris Cycling Track in Highland Park on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Slater learned to swim three years ago at age 43, and now will compete in the Pittsburgh Triathlon.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Heather Slater, 46 of Cranberry, waits at the starting line to ride in the Allegheny Cycling Association (ACA) Tuesday Night Criterium at the Bud Harris Cycling Track in Highland Park on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Slater learned to swim three years ago at age 43, and now will compete in the Pittsburgh Triathlon.

It's never too late to start endurance sports, Heather Slater will tell you.

She learned to swim at age 43, three years ago.

Last week, she competed in the Pittsburgh Triathlon, which included swimming 1,500 meters in the Allegheny River.

She's been undertaking fairly grueling training for most of this year — about 17 hours every week.

“It's almost a part-time job,” said Slater, a publishing project manager.

She never learned to swim as a youngster because the YMCA near where she lived in Upstate New York held its swimming classes at a frigid, spring-fed lake.

“That was just too cold for me, too much,” said Slater, who now practices swimming at LA Fitness and Moraine State Park.

Suzanne Atkinson, a trainer of triathletes at the Olympic Swim & Health Club in Penn Hills, taught Slater how to swim.

Most triathletes, even those who have always known how to swim, say swimming is their biggest challenge, Atkinson said.

“Many people come to me for swimming. It's the most difficult part. Freestyle swimming is not an efficient or natural way to move. One former Air Force guy, who knew how to swim, described that part of the triathlon as almost like war,” she said.

Atkinson says that Slater has a great will to succeed.

“She's one of those people who's always improving. She's always practicing and setting personal records,” Atkinson said of Slater.

Slater says she's always been fit but never participated in organized sports in school. Her experiences with running and biking also came somewhat later in life.

She bought a mountain bike in 2010 and started riding more rigorously. She started running in 2008.

“I started running for fitness in North Park. I thought, ‘I can keep up with most of these people' and then considered doing it competitively,” she said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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