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From novice to expert, women take on triathlon for health, not glory

POSTED: July 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

A lifeguard keeps an eye on competitors at Lake Lanier Islands Sunday morning during the first leg of the Aflac Iron Girl Atlanta Triathlon. Competitors swam the one-third mile course, biked for 18 miles and finished the event with three miles of running.

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Early Sunday morning, at the sound of a quack, more than 750 women filled Lake Lanier for the 2nd Annual Aflac Iron Girl Atlanta Triathlon. The participants, ages 13-67, came from dozens of states across the country.

Held at the Lake Lanier Islands resort, the race consisted of swimming one-third of a mile, biking 18 miles and running three miles.

Judy Molnar, the vice president of Iron Girl, said she picked this location because of the beautiful lake.

The resort area makes it a boutique triathlon because it has many amenities for the athletes and their families and is a smaller area, she said. It becomes a family affair — "dads can golf, and the kids can play in the water park," she said.

Participants had different reasons to participate. Many were part of a team, raising money for cancer research, while others, like Pamela Ferguson of Columbus, competed in the event to improve her personal health. She was part of a relay team and participated in the biking event.

Maureen McIntosh and Kelli Kuelpman, neighbors and friends from Suwanee, participated as part of a New Year’s resolution bet with each other. Together they trained using an online 18-week couch-to-triathlon training guide.

Many participants were new to the triathlon experience.
Laura Paul of Atlanta was convinced to try it after her friend Lucy Ward did it the previous year. They both trained together three times a week,

Nina Fortney of Kennesaw is no stranger to triathlons. In her lifetime, she has competed in more than 20, all the while keeping a training log and working on the areas that needed improvement. After her father’s death two years ago, she returned to the sport.

"He inspired me," she said.

At the finish line, Molnar said the most rewarding feeling is to see the smiles when the athletes reach their goal.

"It’s really the beginning of the journey," she said. "These women push themselves both physically and mentally."

The winner of the triathlon was Kristine Kester of Duluth, with a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes and 28 seconds. When the race concluded, participants gathered at tables for breakfast.

"We try to add value where we can," said Tracy Martin, corporate sponsor coordinator. "It’s the little things that mean the most to the athletes."

Everyone who completed the race received a medal. Martin said this was because the event was to promote health and wellness to women.

"It’s more about personal best than winning," she said.



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