WENDELL — Bill and Susan Little have been married 23 years and running – and, as of late, biking and swimming.
The Littles have been multi-sport race enthusiasts since 2010, when Susan, 48, first began training with friends for the female-only competition called “Dash for Divas.”
The duo competed together for the first time on Oct. 26 in the Beach 2 Battleship half-iron distance triathlon, which starts at Wrightsville Beach and ends in downtown Wilmington.
The first stage of the race was a 1.2-mile swim in a channel connected to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
“He was there with me pretty much the whole time,” Susan said of her husband. “He had to do a lot of waiting for me, because I’m a little bit slower swimmer ... I think he had to wait 30 or 40 minutes because we took off at different times.”
Then came the 56-mile bike and 13-mile run courses.
“It was fun,” said Bill Little, 50. “Susan was going her pace, and I was going super slow. The weekend before, I had run my first ultramarathon, so I was kind of beat up and taking it easy.”
That’s when Susan pulled away.
“She beat me,” Bill said. “She beat me by about eight minutes.”
Susan acknowledged her husband’s decision to wait for her to catch up following the swim.
Susan’s time was 7:59:48, which just barely cleared her goal to finish in less than eight hours. Although the feat was physically strenuous, she said some of the toughest aspects of the race were more mental than physical.
“Once you get on the bike, it’s very quiet,” she said. “It gets really boring at times, so you have to sing or have conversations with yourself. Sometimes I’ll just count to 100.”
Aside from working on their vocal ranges, the Littles have a unique training facility to prepare for races and triathlons like the Beach 2 Battleship. Their home in Wendell butts up against a pond, which Bill has marked into a 350-meter course using orange-painted milk jugs.
“It’s not easy to ignore that little voice saying, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it tomorrow’ when you got to go to the pool,” Bill said. “But we just have to step into the back yard.”
When they aren’t braving the leaches, turtles, ducks and other wildlife inhabiting their pond, the Littles are enjoying the country atmosphere Wendell provides. Only Mother Nature stands between the them and their training methods.
“It’s awesome,” Bill said. “It’s wide open and there’s very little traffic. Biking is great around here. You don’t got to put your bike in the car and go outside of town, like all my buddies do.”
Susan added the area is “nice and peaceful.”
Bill and Susan show no signs of slowing down any time soon. They have big plans for future races, including a full-iron distance triathlon in Cozumel, Mexico for Bill, and next spring’s Tobacco Road Marathon – an event in which they both plan to compete.
And they won’t stop there.
“We’re training for a six-stage, 140-mile run in Cambodia a year from now,” Susan said. “That’s our long-term goal.”