The Estrogen Factor

The Estrogen Factor

The Estrogen Factor
By Amanda McCracken, USAT Certified Coach

The sport of triathlon is booming and female participation is a contributing factor. Currently, 37 percent of membership for USA Triathlon (USAT), one of the main governing bodies for the sport, is female. What’s more, the women in the 35-50 year old age-groups make up one-third of that percentage. Women aren’t just sticking to the sprint distance triathlons either. Of the participants at the 2008 Ford Ironman Championship in Kona, 27 percent were women. The sport of triathlon consists of swimming, biking and running (in that order) and distances vary depending on the type (Sprint, Olympic, Half-Ironman, Ironman) of race.

Female specific triathlon races of all distances continue to pop-up all across the U.S. The largest and longest standing (20 years) all-women’s triathlon, the Danskin Women’s Triathlon Series (DWTS), has been a spring board for many females who have (re)discovered the athlete inside of them. Other all-female race series include Iron Girl and SheRox. Barb’s Race, the only all-women’s Half-Ironman race, is a fabulous event (I can attest) run the same day as Vineman in Napa Valley in honor of, two-time cancer survivor and long-time Vineman volunteer, Barbara Recchia.

Some people ask, why create a race that draws attention to gender differences? Don’t women-only events cultivate a sense that women are too timid and weak to compete among men? While this is a valuable argument, many of the women competing in these women-only events are first-timers and have come out because they are more comfortable in a supportive all-female environment. While women are still sizing themselves up with each other, let’s be honest, they don’t have the pressure of men ogling at their half naked body. While the media tells us that we, as women, should be training to become thinner and more attractive, training and competition for these events is better focused on creating a healthy lifestyle and challenging the average female’s athleticism, something that many women have stuffed away and forgotten. Interestingly, there is no “Athena” category in these races. Weight is not factored in to a female’s success in these races. A rule of thumb I’ve learned is: Judge not by the size of one’s booty, you may be surprised by the size of one’s engine.

Although these events encourage women to compete with, rather than against, each other, I find myself being just as competitive or more with other women. Just the other day in a snowshoe race, I caught myself saying, “If that’s another woman up ahead of me, then I have to catch her; if it’s a man, I’ll let him go.” If anything, I think these events allow women the freedom to be their competitive selves without being labeled a “bitch”.

The next time you scoff at one of these all-women races as a lame event for overweight , old chicks, I hope you think twice and consider the opportunities they offer for women in your life (if you are a man) or the freedom they present for you (as a female).

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