Athleta Iron Girl Triathlon: Caroline Swims, Bikes and Runs

For months, Caroline got up at dawn to head for 'boot camp' at Green Lake. Plus there were those daily 3 mile walks around Green Lake with Sarah and the intentional stair climbs on the UW campus - both activities logged on Fitbit, that 18 mile bike ride with Lindsay from Seattle's Gas Works Park all the way north to Woodinville on the Burke Gilman Trail, those Green Lake Evans Pool laps and that last pre-race pool swim to check out the feel of a rented wet suit. Caroline was prepared for yesterday's Athleta Iron Girl Triathlon in Seattle's Genesee Park on Lake Washington.
A few words about the name of this race - why does Athleta call their race Iron GIRL? I didn't see any girls on the course. I saw hundreds of women out there, young women in their twenties and thirties, mid-aged women in their forties and fifties and older women in their sixties and seventies. How are these woman 'girls'? Has some other entity trademarked Iron Woman? I understand there is a bit of undercurrent on the race's name on Facebook. FYI, when my daughter Caroline entered Brown University in 1986, she returned home calling herself and her classmates women. The word girl left her vocabulary. Just saying.
Over 1000 bikes ready to go.
Caroline's stats placed her 77th in the 45-49 year old division and number 783 in the triathlon with a time of 1:59:04. That's under two hours for a 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run! Congratulations! I am a very proud mom. This morning Caroline tells me that she finished in the 'middle third of the whole'. She says the competitor in her wants to do 'better'. She is inspired to do more biking. That means a bike may be in her future?
For the record, in 2007 I was a proud mom and sister and aunt when Jeanne, Kate and Carrie  raced in the Danskin Triathlon and again, in 2008 when Jeanne raced a second time. (Click on those names to link to blog posts of those races. All good.) In my experience as 'watcher' and cheerleader, these triathlons appear to be life altering events for the women in my family, and certainly for thousands of other women who participate.
As each age group entered the waters of Lake Washington - beginning at 6:45 a.m. - an ongoing loud-speaker commentary told of first time racers who were cancer survivors or who had suffered grave accidents and recovered, or who had lost hundreds of pounds as they trained or who were of great age - that would be 70 and older. After a few such tales, the stories almost seemed parodies or the stuff one reads in a grocery check-out line. Then I caught myself and remembered that each woman has her own story and by running this race, each woman sets personal goals and overcomes at the very least, the urge not to get out there every day and train.  Power to each!
Proud mom was awake at 3:00 a.m., two hours ahead of my iPhone alarm. I left to pick up Steve, Charlie and Lulu at 5:30 for the drive downtown to Safeco Stadium, where there was race parking and we could board a free bus shuttle service that took us to Genesee Park in time to hear the national anthem. Hurray!
Lulu and I made our way to the water's edge so we could see the groups of swimmers entering the lake.  Caroline was in the red swim cap group and went into the lake at 7:00 a.m. Behind us was the path swimmers would take after their swim as they transitioned to bikes. We watched for Caroline to appear, gave her a big cheer, she ran over to give Lulu a quick kiss. On she went to get out of that wet suit and on to her bike for the 12 mile ride across the bridge to Mercer Island and back.
Hurray Caroline!
Charlie was ensconced on a picnic blanket with iPad so he missed stuff, but Mameau and Lulu hurried to see Caroline take off on her bike. We had to work our way through crowds to the designated spots where spectators could cross the racer's paths. Here's Caroline on her way. Have to say, it was hard to photograph her because we are always searching for her with our eyes. And then suddenly she is right in front of us, we are waving and shouting her name. And only then did I focus on her with iPhone. Fortunately, the race's photographers take pix on the bridge and/or during the run, so she'll have some 'good' photos to share.
After we waved Caroline on her way, Lulu and I crossed over the lines again and met up with Steve and Charlie. Kids had some packaged samples of yogurt and nuts to eat. I was back at the pink fence waiting for Caroline to return - it was a wait, but Steve and Lulu and I all saw her ride past to the bike finish line. Sighting her always happened in a flash.
Both kids took a break for a game on the iPad as I headed off to watch the runners cross the finish line. The announcer called out each woman's name and it was just great to watch woman after woman decide to sprint through the last few moments, wave, smile and then cross the finish line. All ages, all types, all completing their own personal race.
 I began to see a few women who preceded Caroline in the bike race, so I called Steve to bring the kids to the finish line. Lulu stood beside me, but the fence was pretty high and she had to stand on a concrete block to see and got more than tired of searching faces for her mom. She joined her Dad who was standing at the fence about twenty feet closer to the finish line and then Lulu got bored there as well. Steve and I both saw and hollered and waved at Caroline, watched her cross the line.
We moved quickly around to the backside where racers were congregating with family and friends. A sweaty and happy Caroline got a big hug and kiss from Steve, a photo with her kids. She was filled with talk about her race and how it felt. She meet-up with Lindsay, her training partner and friend who biked that 18 miles north to Woodinville with her.
Here's Charlie Bean at the breakfast tables, still totally engaged with a game on Caroline's iPad - he had to made a tent with his jacket so he could see the screen. A little weird, but hey, it sure blocked out the sun and the hundreds of milling folks around the finish line.
Here's my sweet daughter Caroline wearing her Senator Wendy Davis shoes with race number on the back of one calf and her age on the other calf. I'm so proud of her. Iron Girl (Woman) well done wearing great shoes.
More hugs with the kids and then Caroline and Lindsay headed off to claim their bikes as Steve and kids and I walked toward the shuttle buses. I saw this group of  Iron Girl women being photographed after their race. Don't you love them?
Bought a bouquet of flowers for Caroline and when she drove up with Lindsay and bikes, we were there at her doorstep to meet her. More hugs with the flowers. A great morning. As we left Genesee Park, Steve and I said to the kids, "It's just 9:30 in the morning. We've got a whole day ahead of us." Kids seemed a bit discombobulated by this. Surely, the time should have been noon?
Hurray for Caroline! And another hurray for the rest of the women in our family who participated in this event in 2007 and 2008.
My radiant sister Kate in 2007.
Cousin Carrie and Jeanne after the 2007 race.
I've just been checking the stats on the Iron girl Seattle web page and this year's Seattle event winner was Jeni Winegarner, 56 years old, with a time of 1:08:10. Wow! Cheers to all the women, past and present who've run and finished this race.