The Wilson Times

Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:47 PM

Triathlon club taps into growing enthusiasm

By Jon Jimison | Times Editor

They want to grow and make Wilson a healthier place.

And like a family heirloom, they want to pass this down to the next generation.

The Wilson Triathlon Club, or wiltri for short, has formed, quickly picking up momentum and close to 40 members.

"I have been an avid triathlete for more than 15 years,” said club president Joe Strange, who moved to Wilson more than seven years ago. "I looked for a triathlon club. There was nothing here.”

There was another person in his congregation at Raleigh Road Baptist Church interested in such pursuits.

"It was us two forever and ever,” Strange said. "I kept saying we need a club formed.”

Triathlons are one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. and the world. They are exploding in popularity, and clubs are beginning to dot the globe.

An estimated 2.3 million people completed a triathlon in 2010, representing 55 percent growth in a one-year period, according to a report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

This year, the Wilson Triathlon Club became official. Members even sport their own T-shirts.

"We started with 15 to 20 of us,” Strange said.

The group formed with the common love of swimming, biking and running disciplines in mind.

"I have done four full Ironman events and will complete my fifth this year,” Strange said.

Ironmen events are serious business — 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running. They test the limits of the most trained and serious athletes.

Sprint triathlons are much shorter, featuring a 750-meter swim, 12.5-mile bike race and 3.1-mile run.



The group doesn’t exclude anyone. It has members at all levels, including folks who one day hope to compete in their first sprint triathlon.

A number of group members will head to Wilmington to compete in Ironman and half-Ironman competitions at the Beach to Battleship on Oct. 26.

"We have some serious guys just coming in and we’ve got some kids as well,” Strange said. "We have guys looking to complete their first 5K out there. We are a mixed bag.”

The median age is probably mid-30s, Strange said. The group has younger people and members who are 50.

The majority haven’t done a triathlon yet.

"We are always welcoming new members,” Strange said. "We welcome competitive swimmers or avid bikers. We see a need in our community of health and wellness.”

Strange is pastor of students and missions at Raleigh Road Baptist.

"It’s more about vision and goal than age,” Strange said. "We cheer on and leave no person behind.”

One of the early and active members, local businessman Lee Eatmon, said it’s been a fun group and members are learning a lot.

"Anyone is welcome,” said Eatmon, who balances family, athletics and running his own business, Storage One Self Storage. "Everyone started somewhere.”



Kristy Eaton just completed her first triathlon on Sunday, an accomplishment two years in the making.

Goals, she said, included losing baby weight and to have arms like Linda Hamilton in "The Terminator.”

"You push yourself to places you didn’t know you could go,” Eaton said. "You have to train your body, yes, but you have to have the mindset of, ‘I’m going to do this.’ Thank goodness for this group and everyone in it. They push you. They motivate you. It’s not a competition thing. We all work together.”

Group members helped with the recent YMCA youth triathlon.

David Caudle, a triathlon veteran, said the group is social and community minded and members guide each other, advise each other, learn from each other.

He’s one of the club members prepping for the Ironman, which is 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running.

"It takes a lot of planning to do something like that,” Caudle said. "It’s also about nutrition.”

And it’s a balancing act with that level of commitment to the sport and families and jobs.

"You have to dedicate time to this if you want to be successful,” Caudle said. "You have to start somewhere and work your way up.”

Caudle, YMCA wellness and program director, is participating in eight triathlons this year alone.



"No need for sight when you have vision.”

The Wilson Triathlon Club and Raleigh Road Baptist Church heard those words of inspiration from Lex Gillette, an athlete who wins medal after medal and who happens to be totally blind.

Gillette wears those words on a T-shirt and he lives them.

"Sight is not a determining factor in whether I win or lose,” Gillette said in an interview. "It will be me having a vision and goals and objectives to achieve that vision.”

The only real difference for him in training is he has someone who trains with him.

"They are my eyes, basically,” Gillette said. "I train with other Olympic and paralympic hopefuls.”

Gillette said his life has been blessed.

"My lack of sight hasn’t hindered me as an individual,” Gillette said. "The most important thing is heart.”

Gillette was born with sight. He started having issues with his vision at age 7.

By the time he was 8, his retinas were detached. He can only detect light and shadows.

"My family has helped me out a lot,” Gillette said. "There has been a lot of hard work. I had to overcome the obvious, everyday tests. I had to learn to navigate cities, learn to live life as a normal adult.”

In high school, a teacher introduced him to track and field.

"It takes time, hard work, dedication,” the 28-year-old said.

He used to live in Raleigh and now spends most of his time training in San Diego.

And track and field isn’t his only talent. The former East Carolina University student has played the piano for nine years.

Gillette is a world record-holder and three-time Paralympic medalist, world champion and 14-time national champion. Gillette eclipsed the 22-foot barrier in the long jump.

At just 19, Gillette won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

His accomplishments continue to this day.

Gillette won a gold medal and world champion title at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships July 20-28 in Lyon, France.

His message to the group is there is no task that is too difficult to overcome. | 265-7813
For more information on the group or to join, visit or email

©The Wilson Times, Wilson, North Carolina.
Terms and Conditions