Women relish chance for race of their own
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By Cynthia Thurlow
Special to The Advertiser
By Cynthia Thurlow
Kailua triathlete Lori Raymond always considered her 12-year-old son Justyn an inspiration, but never more so than the last time they entered a road race together.
"He beat me," Raymond said. "And I said, 'No more.' "
The 34-year-old former gymnastics coach resolved to improve her overall conditioning. She joined the Try Fitness training program in July and has been working with a coach to prepare for the swim, bike, and run legs, as well as the swim-to-bike and bike-to-run transitions.
"This is a way to keep me on track and get the support that I need — and it's all done in a fun way," Raymond said. "I feel more comfortable in the water, and my run time has improved three minutes per mile."
Now, Raymond said she wants to improve her overall race time.
The real test comes Sunday as Raymond joins female athletes of all backgrounds and ability levels in the Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon at Kapi'olani Park.
The event, which coincides with Women's Health Month, is an opportunity for women to support one another as well as compete against each other.
For event director and founder KC Carlberg, the race is an opportunity for women to be role models for one another. It is also a time to celebrate the competitors.
"It really is an opportunity for spouses and boyfriends, and partners and friends to support the women who are nurturers and caregivers, typically speaking," Carlberg said.
While women-centered competitions are a growing trend across the country, in Hawai'i the sprint triathlon is one of two competitions where it is assured a woman will be the first to cross the finish line. The other is the Straub/Kapi'olani Women's 10K Race.
Approximately 300 women per year compete in the Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon, which is composed of a 300-meter swim, 12-mile bike and 3.1-mile run. In past events, participants have ranged in age from 14 to 70.
Carlberg, who is the founder of the local workout and training program Try Fitness, began the triathlon in 1999 as an opportunity for women to compete in an event that is not dominated by men.
"I thought, 'You know what? We need something just for women,' " Carlberg said. "Danskin was doing it on the Mainland. They were having this huge all-women triathlon, and we thought, we need one here in Hawai'i. We need to bring the women out. We need to introduce them to something that's going to change their lives."
A BIG PARTY
Carlberg also cites the support the triathlon receives from volunteers and from the community.
The end-of-event celebration held near the bandstand in Kapi'olani Park is like "throwing a party for 500 people," Carlberg said.
For the women who compete, the triathlon represents an achievable challenge — a goal they can work toward with others.
Novice competitor Cathy Calio, 40, of Mililani, has competed in the Great Aloha Run three times, but this is her first triathlon. Calio said that with other events, there is always a guy who finishes first.
"With this, it's always a woman, and that's a great feeling," Calio said. "It's a good inspiration for children to see their mothers out there working hard."
Many of the women are at different levels of competition, but from novice to veteran, they encourage each other along the way. Every competitor is greeted at the finish line by other racers as well as family, friends and spectators.
Try Fitness offers an official training program to prepare competitors for the race. Throughout the training sessions shouts of, "Come on, you can do it," or "Almost there," can be heard.
Raymond said she would continue to race in women-centered events. She encourages all women to compete in the Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon.
"If there's anyone out there who feels it's not a possibility (to compete), get with KC," Raymond said. "Get with a training program."
Raymond said she has met a lot of women through her training experience.
PLENTY OF SUPPORT
While the camaraderie of the group keeps the women going as they train for the triathlon, it is also family support and encouragement that drives many of the competitors. Balancing work, family, and training can be tough. It often means making sacrifices, so that competitors can work out and prepare for the race.
Calio asked her family for eight weeks to train and complete the race.
"But I try to be at the important events for the kids," she said.
The information technology specialist has done two Great Aloha Runs in the past three years.
"My two teenagers beat me on the Aloha Run," Calio said. "I needed to kick it up a bit. I needed to do something that was different. Aloha Run I did by myself, on my own. For the triathlon, I have all women supporting me."
Finance and accounting professional Michelle Regn is a veteran competitor. The Mililani resident, who declined to give her age, does about 12 races per year. This will be her third Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon.
"I consider racing a second career," Regn said.
The competitors' goals vary from just finishing, to setting a new personal record, to winning the whole thing.
"The triathlon is by women, about women, and supports women, Carlberg said.
Women can enter the Na Wahine Triathlon up to, and including the day of, the competition. Cost is $75. To register, call Carlberg at 946-0346.