“Let’s do a triathlon.”

For Wilton resident Rocio Fields, running and fitness have always been important. But when her friend made that triathlon proposal to her almost a decade ago, she never could have anticipated that it would become so life-changing. Now she’s incorporating all the years of experience and lessons she’s learned from running multiple triathlons–and even Ironman races–to help her fellow Wilton residents as a certified personal trainer and bootcamp instructor at the Wilton YMCA.

“I didn’t exactly know what it entailed, but I thought, ‘Ooh, that sounds like fun,’” recalls Fields, a Wilton mother of two and now a certified Ironman coach.

A triathlon is a multiple-stage competition that involves swimming, cycling, and running in immediate succession over various distances. Fields, a comfortable runner and cyclist, thought she knew how to swim. That is, until she got in the pool to train. “I will never forget [my friend] Jill saying to me that first time, ‘In freestyle, your head is supposed to be in the water.’ So, Jill basically taught me how to swim before that first triathlon.”

Fields was a quick study. After getting her feet wet at the Ridgefield Sprint Triathlon in 2009, which consisted of a 750-meter swim, 20K bike, and a 5K run, she decided to take on the longer, Olympic-distance triathlon (1.5K swim; 40K bike; 10K run). She set her sights on the KIC IT Triathlon in Stamford, given its support of Kids in Crisis, the area’s only temporary emergency shelter and counseling center for families and children of all ages. Her first attempt–just a month after the Ridgefield Sprint–resulted in a second-place age group finish.

Not one to settle, Fields raised the bar once again and raced her first half Ironman-distance at Ironman 70.3 Timberman in New Hampshire the following summer, in 2010. The 70.3 refers to the total number of miles across the three events. In addition to taking on a new distance, Fields was also racking up more experience–and more age group awards–in a variety of local sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

“The summer of 2010 was a turning point for me,” says Fields. “Particularly after competing in the half Ironman. I believed that in order to be really ready for these races, I needed to up the ante in terms of my training hours.”

In 2011, Fields began adding “endurance” workouts to her training regimen, which meant two- to three-hour sessions at the Wilton YMCA. While many might balk at this kind of intensity, Fields reveled in the feeling of accomplishing long workouts.

The commitment, discipline, and hard work paid off. Fields became a familiar face on the podium, with wins at the highly competitive Hopkins Vineyard Tri at Lake Waramaug, Mossman Sprint Triathlon, Park City Mossman Triathlon, and the Ridgefield Triathlon, where it all started.

As one might suspect, Fields was soon ready for yet another challenge:  the full-distance Ironman. An Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a marathon (26.2 miles) run. With a cut-off time of 17 hours for completion, many consider the Ironman triathlon the most difficult, one-day sporting event in the world.

On June 29, 2015, Fields placed third in her first attempt at the full Ironman at Challenge Atlantic City. One year later she was fourth at the longest running Ironman event in North America – the renowned and highly competitive Ironman Lake Placid, where she improved her time by more than 40 minutes, but just missed the World Championships in Kona by two spots.

She’ll have a bit of redemption, albeit at a different distance, this coming summer when she competes in the inaugural 2018 Life Time Tri New York City Championship. Fields earned a coveted spot after finishing first in her age group at the 2017 2XU New York City Triathlon, one of the nation’s premier, urban Olympic distance triathlons. At stake this summer are more than $50K in cash and prizes for amateur athletes like Fields.

Amidst all this triathlon success, Fields is very passionate about her family and very proud of their athletic achievements. Her husband Reggie is also a competitive triathlete, and an attorney at MasterCard. Daughter Emily (age 15) has been studying martial arts since the age of four, a discipline Fields was involved in as a child. Emily is a third-degree black belt and a master in training. Son RJ (age 12) is also studying the martial arts but his passion is fencing. What’s more, both children have a few triathlons under their belts.

“I think I got too excited about their pursuit of triathlon, as Emily wants nothing to do with it at the moment,” Fields chuckles. RJ remains interested and does the Westport Kiwanis Sprint Triathlon each year with his father.

As Fields looks to 2018 and beyond, she’s excited about her role at the Wilton Family Y and about the prospects of helping community members get their heads around fitness in general, especially moms who might feel guilty for taking time out for themselves.

“Pursuing fitness is not just about us, it’s about how we can improve ourselves, how we can become better people to serve our community and our children. Improving our health, blood flow, and circulation helps us think better, make better decisions, keep disease away. All of this makes us better people for our society.”