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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 9, 2001

Try & tri-again
Women gearing up for Sept. 9 triathlon

Editor's note: Writers Vicki Viotti, a novice athlete, and Katherine Nichols, an experienced competitor, are training together for the Sept. 9 Niketown Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon. In this weekly Thursday column, they share insights from experts, other athletes and their own training regimen, aimed at helping readers push their own boundaries — physically and mentally.

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Frank Smith, owner of Island Triathlon and Bike in Kapahulu, planned a series of bike operation clinics for women at the urging of his female shop mechanic.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

It doesn't take a feminist to walk into a bike shop and observe that it's a men's club.

Guys are hunched over bicycle carcasses in the back, tinkering with levers and cables. Guys seem to be doing most of the shopping, too. And on the wall someone's tacked up posters for biking events, generally depicting guys astride bike saddles. Perhaps this is a stereotype, but to the female cycling rookie, that's how it feels.

So walking into Island Triathlon and Bike in Kapahulu and encountering a smattering of female faces comes as blessed relief, even if most of them are wearing a slightly disoriented expression. Frank Smith, the shop owner, said he planned a series of women-only bike operation clinics at the urging of his female shop mechanic and in coordination with the Niketown Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon training course. The $10 classes, which resume at 4 p.m. Sunday, is the third series of its kind Smith has put on.

"Women are reluctant, generally, to delve into mechanical things," he said. "I think they really relate much better with other women. Women are much more supportive of each other."

This reality forms the impetus for events like Na Wahine and the Straub Women's 10K Run, another competition, set for March 3, that boasts a capacity for social bonding.

"I notice that a lot of people who do the 10K tend to come in groups," said Claire Tong, the event's organizer. "It's not just them, it's them, their mother, their sister, their friends.

"I think the camaraderie between women is definitely stronger," she added. "When men compete, they just want to win. With women, especially the beginners, they feel less intimidated among other women."

Of course, women athletes aren't simply skipping to m' Lou at these things. Women can drive themselves pretty feverishly toward the finish line, said Na Wahine organizer KC Carlberg, who is running a series of women's triathlon training sessions that offer a chance for both socializing and validation.

"We want to focus on their goals," Carlberg said. "We concentrate on form, but also keeping in mind what concerns they might have. Maybe they've never been on a bike ... the idea is to make them feel that their goals are not dumb. If they're important to them, they're important to us."

Kind of like a women's club. That's fair, right?