Born to swim, bike and run


The Mirror

Neon swim caps and rows and rows of bikes littered Steel Lake Park Sunday on a cold and hazy morning. And with a fog raising off of the water, nearly 600 women methodically jumped one-after-another into the lake starting bright and early at 7 a.m., kicking off the first leg of the inaugural Reebok Women’s Triathlon.

The race, which was part of a series of events in its second season, was the third stop on the Reebok circuit. Triathlons have taken place in St. Petersburg, Fla. and Chicago. The fourth race will be contested next month in San Diego.

“This is a nice thing,” said Maple Valley resident Stephanie Whiting, who was at Steel Lake Park watching several friends run the race. “They really did a good job setting this up. It’s seems very well organized.”

Whiting was actually set to compete in the Reebok triathlon until she broke her left leg a week ago pulling her bike out of her car. So she was just like the hundreds of other husbands, mothers, fathers and friends who lined the course around Federal Way offering support.

“This was going to be my second one,” said Whiting, who ran the Danskin Triathlon earlier this summer in Seattle. “The Danskin is huge and very well organized. This one seems to be the same way. Next year I’m excited to compete.”

The Reebok race, unlike a lot of the bigger triathlons around the country, also got rave reviews from fans and participants because it featured one venue that was able to house transition areas for all three events — swim, bike and run — along with the finish line.

Sunday’s race was the first in a two-year commitment between Reebok and the city of Federal Way. The city spent $20,000 on the triathlon with the money coming out of their 1 percent lodging tax, which is charged at local hotels.

“In general, I thought that people were real positive about it,” said Patrick Doherty, the deputy director of commmunity development for economic development with the city.

The most impressive performance of the day was turned in by one of the most impressive triathletes in the world. Organizers of the race flew in 2000 Olympic silver medalist Michellie Jones, a native Australian who now lives in California. And she didn’t disappoint.

Jones finished the course in 1 hour, 11:58 — six minutes ahead of the second-place runner Amity Hall from New York. Jones had the best time in each of the three disciplines of the triathlon, which included a .46-mile swim, 12-mile bike and a four-mile run.

“It was a tough little course,” Jones said after the race. “If it hadn’t been so wet it would have been easier.”

But the wetness could have been a lot worse. The rain, which fell in buckets Saturday night, never materialized Sunday during the race. It was a little bit on the chilly side, especially for Jones.

“The lake was warmer than the air temperature,” she said with a laugh.

Federal Way’s Julie Mcgaw was also impressive Sunday morning. The 26-year-old Federal Way High School graduate ended up in eighth place overall and first in her age group in a time of 1:27.37. Patricia Johnson, a 72-year-old Redondo resident, finished 229th out of 381 women in the Sprint category in 1:58.26. Johnson was the oldest participant in the race. The youngest racers were a pair of 10 year olds — Kayleigh Hanrahan and Alexandria Ellis.

Gig Harbor’s Stacy Morgen-Demer, who was participating in her first triathlon after suffering from a rare heart condition called transposition of the great vessels, accomplished her goal of finishing the race in under 1 hour and 50 minutes. The 28-year-old, who the Mirror wrote about in its Sept. 11 issue, completed the SuperSprint in 1:49.23. The Super Sprint included a .23-mile swim, an 8-mile bike and a 2.1-mile run.

“With 37 seconds to spare,” she said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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