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Monday, November 22, 2004; Page D2

Alexandra Paul no longer wears swimsuits to work, but Paul, Lt. Stephanie Holden of "Baywatch" fame, can't stay out of the water. Paul, whose "10 Attitudes" will be released on DVD tomorrow, completed an Ironman Triathlon in 1997, finished fifth (out of six) in the Bonaire EcoSwim 10K race earlier this month and hopes to complete a 10-mile swim in the future.

What made you want to complete an Ironman Triathlon?

I had always wanted to do something like that, because I'm not a sprinter and I'm not particularly graceful but I have a lot of discipline. So I always knew that I would be interested in endurance sports.

That's kind of extreme.

I'm a very extreme person. I was always a good swimmer, and [World Ironman organizers] actually saw I swam a swimming leg on a fundraising triathlon, and they asked if I was interested in doing it. So I jumped at the chance. Normally you have to qualify; I was invited in exchange for doing publicity for the race. I took nine months off from acting to train for it.

What was the training like?

Intense. . . . . I had never run a marathon when I first started training for the Ironman, and I hadn't been on a bike, ridden more than a mile on a bike, since I was a teenager. So I just had to focus completely on training. My agent said to me, "Go for it, Alexandra, because there's more to life than Hollywood," and there is.

You seem to be focusing on swimming events now.

Out of necessity. I was training for a marathon last year and I hurt my knee; I just had surgery [two weeks ago]. Out of necessity, I've decided to train for a swim competition.

Do you enjoy endurance swimming?

I love swimming, I think it fits my personality. A lot of people think it's boring to have to swim so long in training, but I really like it. I don't get bored easily. I think my training is a way to relax, ironically, and to sort of be by myself. I train alone, too. My sports of choice have always been solitary sports -- running, swimming, triathlon. I think I've always preferred to adhere to my own schedule.

These endurance sports seem to be gaining in popularity. Why is that?

We as Americans, our lives get easier and easier. Certainly people have stress, but as we get physically less challenged, because everything gets more automated and food becomes less natural and we get further and further away from nature, it's a way to get back to our more primitive senses and really challenge ourselves. . . . Maybe we want to torture ourselves, because we live physically easier lives.

Do you ever have difficulty explaining why anyone would want to suffer for 13 hours?

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