Iron Girl Triathlon A Journey Of Inspiration

August 24, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

They came for conditioning, competition, camaraderie. They shared bloodlines, lots of sweat and more than a few tears, joyful for most who made it to the finish Sunday at Howard County's Centennial Park, painful for those who didn't.

More than 2,400 women started the fourth Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon, the largest gathering of its kind, which is an event that starts with a 0.62-mile swim, continues with a 17.5-mile bike ride and concludes with a hilly, 3.4-mile run. Thousands of relatives and friends came to offer moral support.

For competitors, the scene at the start was a better boost of adrenaline than a strong cup of morning coffee.

"Seeing all those women was just incredible," Nicole Pilevsky, an obstetrician from Clarksville, said after finishing her first triathlon.

With the help of a friend, a physical therapist, Pilevsky began a six-day-a-week regimen about a year ago of running, swimming and biking that prepped her for the race and also helped her shed 55 pounds. "I was so out of shape," said Pilevsky, 43, the mother of three boys ages 4 to 11.

Pilevsky credited those along the route, including more than 500 volunteers, with pushing her Sunday.

"It was like a whirlwind," she said. "You just kept moving forward. It was definitely a top-10 day."

For Crissy Fuentes of Annapolis, it was also a top-10 finish. Fuentes, one of the more experienced triathletes at the event, finished seventh overall and first in her age group (50-54). Fuentes recently won a regulation triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike race, 26.2-mile marathon) in Lake Placid, N.Y., to qualify for the Iron Man national championship in Kona, Hawaii.

"It's a lifestyle," said Fuentes, 51. "It keeps you healthy, there's cross-training, you're not running every day, or you're on the bike or swimming, they help each other out. You can do this for a long, long time."

For Mary Rohde of Davidsonville, it was about sibling rivalry.

"My younger sister did it and we're very competitive," said Rohde, 57.

Rohde came to the Iron Girl Columbia with her husband three years ago, knowing no one. When she finished Sunday, she was met by her friends from the Annapolis Iron Crabs, a running club she joined last year.

"The first one was a little nerveracking because I didn't know anybody, my husband was my cheerleader," Rohde said. "They have so many people who are extremely helpful, they really do a great job."

The scene at Centennial was inspiring for those fighting to make it the finish line. Words of encouragement were shouted constantly, signs were posted by relatives at crucial checkpoints. It had the feeling of part country fair, part Olympic trial.

For Mary Brandenstein, it was also part family reunion.

Brandenstein, 72, split the route with one of her daughters, Marion Olson of St. Petersburg, Fla., and one of her granddaughters, Madison Laundeman of Naperville, Ill., who at 11 was the youngest competitor in the field. Her daughter swam, she biked and her granddaughter ran.

"I really enjoyed it," said Brandenstein, one of the oldest competitors. "I even did better than last year."

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