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Iron women train

Team preps for Danskin triathlon

Maura Power of Southbridge points out a letter written by Julie Lefemine, one of the members of the Tri-Community YMCA’s Danskin Triathlon team, posted on a bulletin board at the Y dedicated to the 60-woman team. Christopher Tanguay. (click for larger version)
July 21, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — For the last 20 years, the Danskin Triathlon series has hosted events in Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a host of other major cities across the United States.

For the last five years, a team from Southbridge and the surrounding area has livened up the competition at the Webster Lake running of the all-female triathlon. The event in Webster will take place this Sunday, July 26.

Maura Power of Southbridge and her team of approximately 65 triathletes are once again calling the Tri-Community YMCA their home base as they prepare for the annual run/bike/swim race.

"This will be my sixth one," Power said at the Y on Tuesday, moments before the start of Fit After 50, a workout class she conducts for women.

A gym teacher at Trinity Catholic Academy, Power's first Danskin was almost her last.

"That fall, unfortunately, I was diagnosed with breast cancer," she explained.

While undergoing treatment, Power said a group of women she knew from the Y that also participated in the Danskin Triathlon, formed an official team in her honor and raised money for breast cancer research.

Power said that over the last few years, the team has raised thousands of dollars through their fundraising efforts. This year, the team raised funds by selling T-shirts and have periodic raffles at the Y for various gift baskets. The current basket up for grabs is filled with Lia Sophia jewelry products, and the last basket to be raffled off will be filled with Tri-Community YMCA apparel.

"It has just snowballed," Power said. "It's wonderful."

Now, with more than 60 members ranging from 17 to 55-years old including two mother-daughter teams, the women of the Y are ready to tackle Webster Lake once again.

The training regimen for the women on the team is just as much a bonding experience as it is strength conditioning.

Besides swimming and maintaining personal workout routines which include participating in local road races, Power said the ladies gather on Friday evenings, with their families in tow, and swim at Camp Foskett in Charlton.

All of the women on the team have the option of participating in all three legs of the competition or forming mini teams in which each person completes one leg.

The motivations for each woman's participation is just as diverse as the women themselves Power said.

"The stories are endless, endless, endless," she said.

In a series of autobiographies hang on a bulletin board at the Y reserved specifically for the triathletes.

Julie Lefemine, a mother of three that will be participating in her third Danskin this year, wrote, "When I was 17, I was in a serious car accident, which broke my back, crushed my foot and snapped my femur in half. This left me a paraplegic. The doctors told me that I would never walk again."

"Thank God after a lot of years and hard work," Lefemine continued, "I am not only walking, but have completed a triathlon. I am not fast and never will be, but that is not important."

"Those are the type of women we attract," Power said.

Another member of the team, Maribel McKenzie wrote, "As a nurse I have seen the effects of breast cancer within my patients as well as within my immediate family … I am happy to be a part of something that brings awareness to this cause and raises money for research, treatments, and one day, a cure."

Power said that even if some women are apprehensive about participating in the Danskin Triathlon, they should come and observe those who do. Undoubtedly, Power said, one will derive some kind of motivation or inspiration from witnessing the endurance of the participants, many of whom are cancer survivors.

"The event itself is something to behold," Power said. "When you go and see the shapes and sizes and ages of these women, you say 'she's doing it?!'" she continued. "I would definitely check it out. You need to see it to believe it."

News staff writer Christopher Tanguay may be reached at (508) 909-4132, or by e-mail at ctanguay@stonebridgepress.com.

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