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Women triathletes are ‘refusing to get old’
By MARK KLAAS
What began in the sky continues on land and water for a 40-something fearsome foursome — a deep friendship and an understanding to compete for others.
They met as thrill-seeking skydivers 20 years ago and became close-knit teammates, determined women who later reunited to take on another challenging sport of choice — the sprint-course triathlon.
Defying age and withstanding periodic pains, the fun-loving quartet welcomes wet and sometimes wild short-distance races held on lakes and roads, both near and far.
Juggling family and work, they train to compete and stay young.
“We’re refusing to get old,” said Auburn’s Terrina Marchant, a 42-year-old accountant, wife and mother.
“Well, at least we’re going down fighting and screaming,” said a grinning Tracey Mershon, 49, of Auburn, an OCIP administrator for Sound Transit.
Marchant, Mershon, Federal Way’s Pam Thomas, 48, and Edgewood’s Denise Barwick, 41, belong to the Total KAOS Tri Team, which frequently competes throughout the state and elsewhere. They will return to Steel Lake Park for a U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series race July 11, a benefit for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
While the Federal Way Triathlon attracts hundreds of participants — of all ages, fitness levels and athletic abilities — from Canada and throughout the country, the race represents another opportunity for the local team to compete for a good cause. Total KAOS will run in memory of Thomas’ mother, Jeanette Trotter, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer six years ago at age 65.
“She was a fun, feisty, energetic and athletic woman,” said Thomas, 48, a mother of two who works as a credit manager. “She was a wonderful grandmother to my kids.”
In a tribute to Trotter and support of others affected by the disease, the Total KAOS Tri Team has raised $13,000 for ovarian cancer research since 2004. To date, the USWTS has raised more than $1 million for the cause.
The triathlon includes a Triumph Division, which is open to women in all stages of cancer recovery and treatment, and a Family Division for relatives who wish to race in support of family members.
“It’s hugely important,” Thomas said of the benefit triathlon’s significance. “I’m proud to fundraise every year and appreciate those who continue to do so.”
Thomas and some of her friends began to volunteer at the triathlon. The sideline experience spurred their drive to participate.
“I started to cry,” Mershon recalled. “To see the women of every size, every age, every personality cross that finish line — it was awe inspiring.”
Total KAOS soon was formed. The acronym stands for many things, most notably Kick A** Old Skydivers.
The ladies have tried other triathlons on for size, from Chelan to San Diego, all with a common goal — to finish.
“We do it to stay healthy, but also we do it for the camaraderie, and just to have fun,” said Marchant, who remains an active skydiver with more than 1,500 career jumps.
“It’s about the camaraderie and the motivation to train and have a goal,” said Barwick, who works as an accountant.
Come race day, the foursome will stand ready to tackle a half-mile swim in the chilly early morning waters of Steel Lake, before embarking on a 12-mile bike leg and finishing with a four-mile run along a hilly course surrounding the lake. Each woman hopes to complete the triathlon in an hour and 40 minutes or better.
Unlike longer triathlons, the sprint course tests swiftness, steadiness and endurance.
“The difference is the speed,” Marchant said. “It’s an hour and a half of intense, constant exercise.”
But with the exertion comes the pleasure of sharing the ride with others.
As Thomas added: “We couldn’t do this without the support of our families.”
Federal Way US Women's Triathlon
• WHAT: Federal Way Triathlon, part of the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series and one of the first all-women triathlons in the region
• WHEN: 7 a.m.-1 p.m., Sunday, July 11
• WHERE: Steel Lake Park, 2410 S. 312th St., Federal Way
• DISTANCE: Sprint course: .75 kilometers (.46 mile) swim, 19.5k (12 miles) bike, 6.5k (4 miles) run; super-sprint course: .375k (.23 mile) swim, 13k (8 miles) bike, 3.4k (2.1 miles) run
• BENEFIT: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
• SERIES SPONSORS: Lifetime Fitness, TYR, Infinit Nutrition, Luna Bar and Well Fit. Federal Way sponsors: Marlene’s Market Deli, Dr. Lorri A. Nichols and the Northwest Chiropractic Center, The Virginia Mason Medical Clinic and the City of Federal Way.
• EXPO: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., July 10, Steel Lake Park. The MultiSport Experience, a free expo, is open to the public and mandatory for race participants. The expo includes clinics on training and nutrition, product demonstrations and bargains on gear and apparel. Course talks throughout the day will provide tips on triathlon basics and race strategies. Participants also can pick up race packets, T-shirts and bags.
• INFO: www.uswts.com.