AUGUSTA — Mara Crans didn’t want to let a potentially devastating medical diagnosis hinder her. The road to do so has led her here.

It didn’t start, necessarily, with Crans, of Camden, wanting to be a formidable triathlete. When she learned in 1999 that she had multiple sclerosis, she immediately thought of her four sons — Alex, Chandler, Kyle and Conrad.

“I had four boys under 5 years old, and I knew I had to figure out a way to get stronger and get better endurance to keep up with them,” Crans said. “I still wanted to be the mom that they remembered teaching them to ski, hiking Katahdin with them and everything like that.”

Now, Crans is a seasoned triathlete, having competed in two full Ironman triathlons and 10 half-triathlons of 70.3 miles. She’s one of nearly 2,000 people set to compete Sunday in the Ironman 70.3 in Augusta, which will feature a host of local competitors looking to show out around the cities and towns they call home.

For Crans, the journey to being a hardcore triathlete begin with small steps. Initially after her diagnosis, she said, just beginning and following through with workouts was a difficult task. Although she remained determined, struggles with fatigue and coordination made it hard for her to, in her own words, “get over the hump.”

Yet after a couple months or so, workouts that intensified every day became a staple in Crans’ life. Keeping pace with far more than her sons’ activities, she turned to more rigorous activities and, one day, took part in a mini-triathlon that got her hooked on the sport.


“I found that I was building a lot more strength when I worked out, so I thought, ‘Well, if I’m doing this, I might as well train for something,’” Crans said. “There was a little triathlon in the next town over, so I rented a bike. I hadn’t biked since I was a kid, but I did it, and I fell in love.”

Mara Crans poses after completing Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3 in 2017. Photo courtesy of Chuck Crans

Given the size and scope of completing a 70.3-mile trek via land and sea, Crans has become a diligent planner in the buildups to races. So, too, is Denise Pouliot, who has spent hours upon hours going over the entire course several times, putting together a detailed training regiment and spending hours visualizing what event day will look like.

“It’s been six or seven months of designed training for this,” said Pouliot, an Augusta native. “I’ve been doing it ever since the foundation for this was put in place back at the beginning of the year. You want to make sure you’re ready in every way possible.”

Pouliot, 58, first competed in an Ironman event in 1989. Although her most recent Ironman competition was back in 2016, she’s competed in countless other triathlon-type events and has made an emphasis to continue with those competitions as she ages.

“I love it, and I think movement is key to facing these older years,” Pouliot said. “Growing up, I always biked, ran and swam, so putting it all together was kind of the natural order of things. What I love about it is that, when you get sick of doing one thing, you’re onto the next.”

Also competing Sunday are Rich Beaudoin, a 44-year-old Winthrop native, and his wife, Casey. The two have been triathletes for more than a decade and have competed together in multiple events, including the 2019 Lake Placid Ironman event in New York.


The Beaudoins, like Pouliot and many of the other central Maine athletes competing this weekend, are part of Kennebec Valley Coaching in Augusta. Amy Lawson, a certified Ironman trainer and head coach of the program, laid the groundwork for the couple to become triathletes as Casey’s mentor back in 2010.

“It was Amy’s fault; she got my wife into a couch-to-5K at her studio, and once you do a 5K, you want to do a 10K, and it goes on and on,” Rich Beaudoin said. “She got started with it, and eventually, I just thought, ‘Well, I can’t just sit here on the couch; I have to catch up.”

Some competitors are fresh off competing in other Ironman events. That’s the case with 35-year-old Dan Burk, a Winthrop/Mount Vernon area transplant living in Millinocket who competed in the most recent full Ironman race this past Sunday in Lake Placid.

“I definitely underestimated Lake Placid, but it was an accomplishment just to finish,” Burk said of last week’s event, a full triathlon of 140.6 miles. “The course was some tough terrain, and it was hot, just like it’s going to be on Sunday. I’m hoping this one is a bit of a faster pace.”

Dan Burk will be competing in the Maine Ironman Triathlon on Sunday in Augusta. Photo provided by Dan Burk

It will be the third Ironman event for Burk, who took up the triathlon a year and a half ago as he eschewed his traditional weightlifting routine for a more endurance-based lifestyle. He hopes to finish in less than five hours, though he knows the aforementioned forecast could affect that goal.

The mental side of these grueling events, Burk said, is more difficult than the physical side. Yet he treats Ironman events a lot like he does everyday life, an approach that helps push through during the portions of the race where the going is at its toughest.

“I think the biggest thing is to keep the mental focus on achieving your goals,” Burk said. “No matter what you do, you’re going to go through periods where things aren’t working out in your best interest, but if you keep your goal in sight, you can stay on track if you put in the time, the work and the sacrifice.”

It will be a hot homecoming for Burk with temperatures in the upper-80s expected Sunday. Yet the conditions won’t be anything new to Maine endurance athletes — not even to Crans, who has spent years learning to stymie a condition that worsens in the heat.

“I’m good once I get to the run, and then, the ice helps me through it,” Crans said. “Over time, you figure out what works for you, and you just do that and keep pushing.”

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