by Jackie Bartz
May 16, 2010
Hundreds of women hit the pavement and the pool Sunday for the Gold Nugget Triathlon. The Anchorage event is the largest all-women's race in the country.
It's an event that draws women of all ages and sizes, but for most of the participants reaching the finish line isn't the ultimate goal.
With 1,500 competitive women crammed together in one spot, it's an event that will likely cause a big splash -- but this one leaves a lasting impression.
"It's pretty sweet: the camaraderie, all the different women, just all the different types of women out here, just all the different ages," said Johana McMahan, who was racing with her sister and sister-in-law. "And it's pretty neat to see that everybody is out here."
Women choose to race in the Gold Nugget triathlon for a variety of reasons.
"I think the preparation, getting in shape with my daughter and my mom, and being able to do it with three generations of women is amazing," said Debbie Flodin, who was racing with her mother and daughter.
"It just shows a lot of solidarity for women, and just lets us know we can do anything," said Jeri Wallin, who was racing with friends.
Husbands and families proudly cheered for the women they love from the sidelines.
"It's exciting for me," said Michael Nasenbeny, who was cheering for his wife and friend. "I've been doing this for seven years, and she's an awesome swimmer -- I love to get out here and seeing her tear up the water, so it's a good time."
"Just that family togetherness and cheering them on," said Don Cassel, who was cheering for his wife. "My son's down here watching -- he's back from college, he runs in college, so just kind of sharing common interests."
But the Gold Nugget is just as much about preparing for the race as it is competing in it. Swimming 500 yards, biking 13 miles and running another three takes weeks of training.
"Well, I had a 24-year-old friend who challenged me and she said that grandmas do this, so I was turning 50 and I said, 'I have to do this -- I can't let grandmas beat me,'" said first-time triathlete Karen Rhoades.
"A girl in my office was going to do it, and I thought, 'I'm 52, I need a new challenge in life and I get bored easy,' so I thought I'd try it," said first-time triathlete Claudia Hopper.
It's a teaching tool for mothers, as well as a chance to promote healthy living and a positive body image.
"Swimming, we'd swim twice a week, then we'd bike on like Saturdays on stationary bikes in the gym," said Amber Pell, who was racing with her mother. "And then running, I'm in track, so that's how I got my running training -- she just ran on the treadmill in the gym."
The race ends with a bottle of water, a pat on the back and a sense of success.
"I'm very proud of my daughter," said Carmen Pell.
"Words can't describe it really, absolutely incredible -- she's just, this level of training and discipline and just dedication she's shown throughout the whole training, the race, everything, incredibly proud," said Hunter Rhoades, who was cheering for his mother.
"It just is a personal accomplishment, feel good to just do something new," Hopper said.
The Gold Nugget Triathlon is over 20 years old, and every year dozens of people volunteer to help organize the race.
Contact Jackie Bartz at email@example.com
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