CQ mum's incredible triathlon goal to face her greatest fear
TRIATHLON: When Mara O'Reilly arrived in Yeppoon from Ireland five years ago, she had a morbid fear of the ocean and could not swim to save herself.
In an incredible transformation, the inspirational mother-of-two will this weekend compete in her third Yeppoon Triathlon Festival.
In her first outing in 2016, she did the sprint distance (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) and last year stepped up to the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run).
This year she trained in preparation for the gruelling Kraken 102 long distance (2km swim, 80km cycle, 20km run) but a hip injury means she will now tackle it as part of a team.
Mara will do the swim, her husband Sheamus the run and Andrew Dawson the cycle leg.
"I'm a little bit disappointed that I'm not going to be able to compete in all three legs but then again I'm doing something that I never thought I'd be doing in a million years,” she said.
"If you'd said to my family and friends in Ireland three years ago that Mara was going to do a triathlon they would have laughed at you - and I would have too.
"Even now to be able to say I'm going to swim 2km in the ocean I still sometimes go I can't believe I'm saying that.”
Mara said she was motivated to compete in the "incredible event” that is the YTF after watching a friend take part four years ago.
"It was the atmosphere, the buzz, it was everything about it that made me go, 'Wow, next year I want to be part of this.
"I do remember thinking, 'you don't own a bike and you don't know how to swim so you've a lot to do'.”
Mara contacted TCR Triathlon Coaching and started working with coach Glenn Skinner, who is also co-organiser of the YTF.
"Somehow they managed to stick with this girl who was terrified of water and decided to learn to swim at 37,” she explains.
"My daughters were involved with the Yeppoon Sharks Swim Club and I had sat on the sidelines watching them do their lessons for a very long time.
"I used to joke that if I could have the ability to swim through the magic of osmosis, because I'd watched that much of it, I'd be an Olympic swimmer.”
Mara took baby steps when she first started learning to swim, setting achievable goals.
Three months after her first lesson, she did a 500m ocean swim at Noosa.
"I was crying running into the water and I was crying as I ran out of it I was just so terrified,” she recalled.
"People would ask me if I was worried about the creatures in the water but that didn't faze me. The whole issue was me being in the water and having my head in the water.”
Slowly her confidence grew and once she had mastered freestyle she did her bronze medallion for water safety with the Yeppoon Surf Life Saving Club.
"I wanted to change this girl who was a scaredy cat in the water into someone who could overcome their fear,” she said.
"I'm never going to be winning awards, I'm never going to be on the podium. I'm not the fastest, I'll never be the fastest but for me that's not what it's about.
"It's about enjoying it, not taking it too seriously and trying to be the best version of me.
"I'm not a mermaid but at least now I can get into and through the water.
"My girls are my greatest cheer squad. They can swim much faster than I can and I try to perfect just one stroke when they're learning them all.
"They teach me things but I like to think I'm teaching them things about setting a goal and sticking with it.”