Sunday, February 7, 2016

What is an Athena?

When you hear the word "Athena" what do you think of? Many of you will think of this:

Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, mathematics, olive oil, strength, war strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill in ancient Greek religion and mythology.

When I hear the word Athena, I think of a group of women that I have come to associate myself with. The governing body for triathlons is USAT (USA Triathlon). Races that are certified through USAT offer a division for heavier athletes, Clydesdale for men 220 pounds and heavier and Athena for women 165 pound and heavier. For the Athena there are usually two divisions, 0-39 (Open) and 40+ (Masters). There is sometimes an additional division of 55+ (Grand Masters). This division was created to allow athletes to compete against similar athletes. Women athletes who meet the weight requirement have the choice to race against others closer to their age in the age group divisions or closer to their weight in the Athena division. 

There is an underlining resentment towards athletes who chose to race as Clydesdale or Athena though. Just do a simple online search and you will be bombarded with examples. Here are just a few responses I found to the question "Why is there a Clydesdale/Athena Category" on the forum: "A lot of the bigger guys/gals that I have seen could get under the cutoff with the loss of some blubber", "Because America's full of bloaters. Other countries don't have this nonsense", "Clydesdale/Athena is just another way to make some people feel good about themselves. Just like my nephew playing baseball but 'not keeping score' and 'everyone gets to bat'. Even my nephews don't see what the point is, we're not fooling anyone", "Fatties want to get awards", "Most women won't enter as Athena anyway due to the stigma of being overweight",  "On the animal/female theme regarding Clydesdales, perhaps the female version could be 'cow' or whilst swimming 'sea cow' (manatee)". I could click on any question about this topic and would find the similar results. 

As represented by the above comments, some people feel that the Clydesdale/Athena categories are charity categories for the slow/fat athletes. A category that is easier to place or podium in and that they are not true athletes. Sure, you may find heavier, slower athletes in these categories but you will also find them in the age group categories as well. When I raced my first triathlon, I was excited to see that there was an Athena division offered. I was going to sign up for the race regardless so it didn't sway me one way or another but I do know other athletes that have signed up to race only because there was a Clydesdale/Athena category offered. 

When I started my weight loss/get fit journey, I was battling with low self-esteem and depression. I knew that I needed to make a change in my life. I was the heaviest I had ever been and could barely walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. I hated my body. I wore baggy clothes to cover up when I worked out. The thought of wearing a bathing suit terrified me but unfortunately, I needed to wear one to swim in. 

As I slowly gained confidence in my ability, I also began to gain confidence in my body. I raced my first triathlon as a bucket list item. I never thought I was going to become addicted but when I crossed that finish line, something inside me changed. I had seen other women, like me, out there doing what I was doing. We didn't look at our bodies as a hindrance but as a machine that was capable of amazing things. I no longer wear the baggy clothes I once did when training. I am still fluffy and I still have rolls, and believe me spandex does not hide anything, but I am no longer ashamed of my body. She has carried me through more races than I ever thought possible. 

I sign up as Athena when the option is offered. I don't look at it as a handicap or a freebie. There is never a guarantee who will show up at the race, how my body with perform, or if I will have any mechanical issues. I race against myself, to push myself further than I ever thought I could. Being a part of the Athena community has helped shape who I am today. I have a sisterhood that gets me, accepts me, pushes me. We are legitimate athletes who should be taken as such. 

When I hear the word Athena, I think of some of the many women that I have the privilege of calling my friends. I would like to introduce you to some of the fierce Athenas that I get to race against. Not one of them should be taken lightly. They enter the races to compete. They are true athletes. 

Diane Kondos

I had been an athlete all the way through college. I was lucky enough to be able to swim in college, a great experience, but somewhere along the path of marriage and motherhood, my athletic self got lost. I taught and coached swimming but I was lucky to get in and swim a slow mile a few times a week. 

When my kids left for college, I suddenly found myself with lots of free time in the evenings.  I saw a local running store was offering a couch to 5K program so I signed up. I could barely run 30 seconds in the beginning but soon I was running a 5K. Although I was slow, I enjoyed the challenge, the physical activity and the friends I made in the running group. I worked up to running half marathons and a full. My physical conditioning was greatly improved as was my confidence.

I started thinking about triathlons. I could run and swim, all that was left was biking. I had spent years watching my husband compete in tris and I realized I would rather be competing than sitting in the hot sun watching. So at the age of 54, I tentatively entered my 1st tri. I was very nervous and insisted on going out of state to do my 1st triathlon. I didn't want to be humiliated in front of people I knew. I loved it and continued entering sprint tris.  

My first experience as an Athena was at the Athena National Championships in Arkansas in 2014. I was originally going to this event to compete in the open water swim but the idea of an Athena triathlon appealed to me so I entered the Sprint category for Athenas 55 and over. As it turns out, I was the only one in my category so I became the National Champion!  In 2015, I was once again, the only woman over 55 in the Olympic distance so I was once again became the National Champion! The best part of those two National Championships was meeting the other Athenas! What a great group of supportive women!

The races I consider my biggest accomplishments were the two 70.3s I've done and the 5 mile ocean race in St. Croix. Due to a foot injury, I'm focusing on swimming this year, hoping to swim a 10k open water swim. I wish I would have started triathlons in my 30s or 40s but it's better late than never!


Moniek Pullen

I'm Moniek Pullen, 33, born and raised in the Netherlands and moved to the US in 2010. I'm a stay at home mum of 2 toddlers (2.5 and 4 years old). I have always loved to work out and it's a good way to keep me sane. 

I have a kayaking background. I have won multiple Dutch titles and race in many European and World Championships. I started training for triathlons 5 years ago and finally after 2 pregnancies, raced in my first race in 2015, Rage Triathlon in Las Vegas, NV.

I've done sprints and one Olympic last year and signed up for my first 70.3. This year I will mainly focus on training and won't race a lot. I don't have a favorite race. I enjoy Las Vegas because it's my new home town. I raced in the UK and Holland over the summer. I love racing in Utah and Colorado as well because they are beautiful too.


Michelle Flick

I am a Cincinnati, OH transplant by way of Michigan. I work in higher education, am a passionate animal lover, and self-proclaimed foodie.

I swam competitively in high school but didn’t start running until early 2014. I had lost a lot of weight and needed a motivator to keep working out. I entered my first race, Challenge New Albany, and was hooked! I battled against my body for so long and it was exhilarating to push it beyond my self-imposed limits. I continue to be amazed at what I can do, and how strong (physically and mentally) I am.

I have a few goals that I would like to accomplish. The first goal is to race my first 70.3 distance. I am registered for Ironman 70.3 Ohio and it will be my first…that is if I don’t race long-course at the Athena/Clydesdale Nationals first! My second goal is to get my average running pace under 8 minutes/mile. I got close toward the end of my 2015 season but I think mental blocks were holding me back. My third goal is to earn an overall podium spot at a race. I have a fierce competitive side to me and I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy winning!

My favorite race has been, hands-down, The Experience at Frankenmuth, put on by 3Disciplines Racing. Being native to Michigan, I had visited Frankenmuth (a cheesy Bavarian tourist village) many times, but never quite like this. The race started by jumping off a boat into the Cass River and ended with a run course complete with Polka bands, chickens at the petting farm, and a jaunt around Bronner’s (a year round Christmas store destination). The post race meal was a fried chicken dinner, which Frankenmuth is famous for.

I have been in a battle with my body for as long as I can remember. I was always so focused on the things that I couldn't do because of my weight. Training for my first triathlon was such as eye-opener for me. For the first time in my life I pushed myself beyond what I thought my limit was, and I survived! That gave me the confidence to see what else I was capable of. Now, the whole reason I love this crazy sport is because it forces you to push yourself (physically and mentally) beyond what you think is possible. 

I think negative self/body image can happen to anyone, regardless of size. However, I think being a larger athlete comes with its own set of challenges and being part of the Athena community is a great resource. It's comforting to know that I am not the only one going through this journey. 


Tracy Hillaby

My name is Tracy. This will be my 9th year of racing. I am a single mom of 3, I work on a rehab unit at a psychiatric hospital, I'm a volunteer Firefighter and a triathlete.

I've done every distance and a two time Ironman Finisher. This year I have Calgary 70.3 and Ironman Boulder on my race calendar.

I fell into triathlons by chance really. I had watched a friend finish Ironman Canada several times and thought nope, not for me. But then I started running, added biking and finally swimming. The first few years was mostly for fun but everything changed after my first Ironman....a definite shift occurred and I was never the same. My whole thought process changed and I gained a realization that I was truly limitless. I began racing with a purpose and it felt amazing.

My favorite race was the Olympic distance at Chinook in Calgary. The race is no more unfortunately. Now any race with BBSC or with Sarah is my favorite.

Triathlon has now become a way of life, part of the fabric that has created who I am. It has allowed me to travel and race in some stunning locations. It's also introduced me to some of the most inspirational and amazing people that have become part of my extended family. I've shown the world, women and my children that size is no reason to not go for your dreams, that an athlete comes in all shapes and sizes and that the only limits I face are self-imposed. 


Laura Love

I am a 6 foot tall wife, mom, and assistant principal who loves life and the adventure it is!

My "serious" race goals have been put on hold for this year as my husband and I will be building another home. Someday I hope to complete a full iron distance, but until then I just go out and have fun training with friends and finishing races with a smile.

My favorite race is Pumpkinman, a BBSC Race in Boulder City, NV. I love the hill climb! It is so beautiful and a great mental workout! 

Why do I participate is triathlons? I love a challenge and my Aries personality loves the variety of the 'three sports' in triathlon. I had always wanted to complete a triathlon and while in college I signed up for a race and had a great time. Several years and two kids later, I figured triathlon would be a great way to get back into shape. One race the first year, turn into three the following year. Then five races the next year, and 15 last year!


Megan Sullivan

My name is Megan and I'm a mid-30's federal employee in the DC area.  I blog at

I started running a little over ten years ago as a way to de-stress during law school. I loved it and have run well over 30 half marathons, but I wanted something different. In 2013, I raced my first triathlon. I did a beginner race, and then my first "big" triathlon, Iron Girl Columbia. It's a sprint distance with a hilly course and a huge number of participants. I totally fell in love with the sport. I love the cross training and I love the camaraderie. Triathletes are the best, whether they're hitting the podium every race or just trying to make the time cutoff.

I've always been chubby, but it wasn't until I got into sports that I started really paying attention to my body's shape and realizing that hey, maybe this isn't so mainstream. That isn't easy, especially in a sport where you're wearing spandex. During my first triathlon, I wore a tri kit that was looser around my stomach, hiding the part of my body I liked the least. While swimming, it would sort of swish around my waist. Not ideal. So for my second race, I wore a properly fitted tri kit. It didn't hurt that it was the kit for my charity team, of course, but even though it was tight, I didn't care. In fact, I thought I looked pretty good. Yes, you could see my belly, but you could also see my super strong thighs and my defined shoulders. That race was also the first time that I was in an Athena wave, and I looked around at all of these other women of varying sizes and realized it doesn't matter. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day, we're all out here with the same goals - to get to that finish line.

The thing is, it doesn't matter what size you are. A lot of people worry about what they look like in their tri kits, men and women alike. Spandex isn't forgiving. It doesn't matter if you weigh 135 pounds or 335 pounds, there's probably something about your body you don't like. Once you realize that, you stop caring about how you look.  


Kimee Armour

My name is Kimee Armour, I am married & have 4 wonderful children. I work full-time as a Registered Nurse and teach Nursing School for local colleges as well. I retired from the U.S. Navy in 1999 and seemed to be in fair health with medical problems that had not affected me to their fullest potential yet. Statistics showed retired military personnel generally die within 5 years of their retirement. I didn't want to become a statistic. In 2004 & 2005 I reached my heaviest weight over 350 lbs. No one knows how heavy I was because I refused to get on any scale. Drastic measures had to be taken.

I started walking, and walking, and walking until I had energy to jog a few steps. I never looked back! I've lost over 175 lbs and am currently trying to lose that last 20 lbs that I really want to rid my body of. Physicians told me they couldn't help me because I should never exercise because my heart rate would be in the high 200's and has gone up to 300's. I refused to listen and still never looked back!

I was diagnosed with Sjogrens Syndrome at the age of 24. At that time, I only was told that I would go blind when I got to be 50 years old or so. Now the dehydration sets in and my muscle fibers tear, bones get weak and can break, My lungs shut down which causes asthma issues and severe pneumonia. I don't make tears, I am unable to make saliva, and I swear very little but boy, can I stink up a room after a workout! I don't let this disorder dictate what I can and cannot do. Currently, I am 45 years old and the healthiest I have been in my life. 

I have a few race goals this year. I would love to qualify for USAT Age Group Nationals again. I qualified 4 years in a row then an injury stopped me for a few years. Otherwise, just give it my heart and soul and enjoy every step of the way. I am doing things I never imagined and have the best support family.

My favorite marathon is a tie between Little Rock Arkansas and Chicago. My hip broke during the Chicago marathon so hubby said I can't run that one anymore. Little Rock Arkansas sports the biggest and heaviest medal ever made and I love bling!

I crossed the finish line of my first Sprint Triathlon in April 2009. I thought I was going to die! I told my hubby that I finished but didn't see any reason to do another one. I had accomplished my goal so why do it again? I was told to sign up "Athena" because I had a better chance racing against people my own size. It was a Clydesdale friend that told me this. He is amazing and put it into perspective for me not competing against those that are much smaller than I. I weighed about 180 lbs at that race. I came in 2nd place Athena that day and my entire family was there to watch me. My hubby gives me the "72" hour rule of changing my mind because I didn't make it 3 days when I signed up for my next race, an Olympic distance open water swim. I was terrified.

When I think about my self esteem before triathlons, I hated looking in the mirror unless it was from the waist up, God forbid, show up in a bathing suit without a skirt over it. I was proud of my weight loss but I hated my body.

It has really changed since beginning triathlons. I will get naked in a transition area and not care what anyone thinks. I still don't look in the mirror much but I'm actually starting to like what I see. It's a lifetime struggle but, I'm progressing with baby steps

Being involved as an Athena has changed how I feel about myself. Now I look for others that are built like me and invite them to participate. The most important thing is that I actually feel like I fit in and belong at each race. During sports, I always had to fight hard to prove myself but was not always accepted. In Basic Training I was nominated to compete in the "Ironman" military race which included a swim, run, obstacle course and pull-ups. I was the best swimmer, runner, and could do more pull-ups than anyone but because I was still "fat" I was told I couldn't do it. The person that was nominated stood 5'11" and weighed about 175 lbs. She finished but not as well as I would have. It was a time that I didn't fit in again. 

In triathlons, racing Athena, I fit in. I was told a few weeks ago that I was going to be a "machine" this year racing as an Athena. I'll take that compliment from anyone.


Chantelle Weiss

My name is Chantelle Weiss, I'm currently married to my wonderful husband of 12 years and we have two beautiful daughters together. I have lived in Las Vegas, NV now for 4 years as a stay at home mom. I got into triathlons in the beginning of 2015. I had watched my husband train and compete in triathlons for several years and thought I could never do that. I had enjoyed running for many years until I hurt my knee two years ago and was forced to go to physical therapy. While I was injured I was not able to do anything with my lower body for almost 6 months which turned me to the triathlon world. I had always wanted to learn how to properly swim but was afraid as it seemed so complicated. It wasn't until I signed up for my first sprint triathlon that I learned how to swim, bought a new road bike and put a training plan together. After racing Rage for the first time in April of 2015, I fell in love with the sport and was hooked. 

My favorite race is Sand Hollow in Utah. I absolutely love the course and the company that sponsors that event. I competed in my second sprint triathlon in Sand Hollow as an Athena and received first place in my age group. It was a very special moment in my life to stand on the first place podium and receive a gold medal while having my family cheer me on with excitement.

Dealing with weight issues my whole life has really been a struggle. I remember watching my husband race and being so jealous that he could do it and I couldn't. I was always very happy for him and all that he accomplished but felt like I could never measure up to what he had done. Last year was a turning point for my self-confidence as I decided it was my year to race and didn't want to hold back or have any regrets so I signed up for my first Ironman 70.3 in October. While many people thought I was crazy to jump into that for my first year of triathlon racing I thought of it as a great challenge. It was at that point that my life had truly changed. I had many highs and lows during my training and if it wasn't for my husband, who was my support system, I'm not sure I would have made it through. I learned so much about myself as a person, mom and wife during my 8 months of training and racing which led me to the biggest victory I had ever tackled in my life. I walked away from my first year of racing as a changed person. Working and racing with other Athena's has changed that for me; knowing that there are others out there with different shapes and sizes. It doesn't matter what you look like. It's about how hard you work to achieve your goals and dreams.  


Shawna Glasser

I have always been an athletic girl. In my youth, you would find me with the boys wrestling, playing football, basketball. tag, etc. My older brother has always told me, “Most brothers wouldn’t want their little sister on their team, but you were always my first pick.” I’ve never been obese or labeled “fat,” I’ve always been the “sturdy” girl. I am just a heavy built woman. I once had a doctor tell me, “When a woman says she is big boned, she usually isn’t, but you are.” As far as how I have viewed myself, I’ve always been kind. Life is hard enough without a low self-esteem and beating yourself up.

I started running with my husband when I was 23. We would go to the park which had a ¼ mile track. He was wicked fast and would lap me. I started by walking. I then would run for one light pole to another, eventually I would run laps, and then I would run miles. A friend from work was signed up for a 5K run. I signed up. They had an Athena group so I figured why not? I signed up and was the only Athena to race. Funny, because I would have won my age group too. I wasn’t by any means fast but I was enjoying what I was doing. As it typically goes, I signed up for a 10K, and then a ½ marathon. As the distances got bigger, my confidence grew, and my curiosity also grew. What else could I achieve? I added sprint triathlon to my bucket list, along with a century ride.

My aunt also had an interest in doing a sprint triathlon, so we supported each other and decided to give it a try together. I hired a beginner coach and he recommended I sign up for the Athena category. He said it would be easier for me to place, because not many women take advantage of it. I did. My race was 20 degrees hotter than it should have been so I over hydrated and bonked on the run but managed to win the Athena division by 14 minutes. From that moment I was hooked. I thought to myself that I might have potential in this sport given how well I did, even with faltering a little bit.

I’ve been doing triathlons since January of 2007. I race Athena when I can. I’ve been on the spectrum of feeling like the only athlete without a child’s sized racing suit on. I am so tired of ordering tri suits in 3XL when I’m a size 12. I am tired of running in Men’s running shoes because apparently women only have up to size 9 shoes. I feel like a giant in triathlons but not in everyday life. I wish racing companies would realize we exist and make clothing that would fit us.

As I got faster and a better athlete, I get the comments, “You’re too good to be in that group.” “You should leave that group because you can race against people in your age group.” Sometimes I am conflicted, because if a strong Athena doesn’t race then the newer Athena’s have a better chance. I get that, but the purpose of Athena is sometimes misunderstood and overlooked. The category was created to give strong Athena’s, who were just bigger than their counterparts, the chance to be compared to each other. Just as I wouldn’t want to be compared to a 100 pound woman climbing a hill on a bike, she wouldn’t want to be compared to 180 pound me blasting down that hill. I hear the argument that a tall 165 pound woman isn’t the same as a short 165 pound woman. My argument to that would be, then you haven’t met some of my short Athena friends. My other argument would be, I can’t change my height. Weight can be changed. I shouldn’t be punished for something out of my control. We both are outcasts from the traditional triathlete and there is enough room for both of us.

I was invited into an Athena Facebook group almost two years ago. Hearing the stories of fat shaming and how they have overcome the hurdles before them has been inspiring. Giving and getting advice on things typical female triathletes don’t deal with like chaffing from body parts that actually touch or heavy menstruation which happens with larger athletes is helpful. We all are kind of in this together. I too, have grown because of the group. Sometimes I forget how far I’ve come. I posted a picture the other day because I was excited about working out barefoot and in a bra in my home gym. People sent the nicest compliments on my abs. I really don’t see those changes sometimes. My weight has been the same, but my body composition is changing. I guess years of being part of the big girl group, I forget that we are a strong bunch and capable of greatness. Someone posted a great post about butterflies and that a butterfly can’t see it’s own wings to realize how beautiful they are. So true.

I’m hoping we can change the Athena stereotype. It isn’t this group of overweight women looking for an easy podium. We’re a family, a class, a group, a sisterhood. I want this group to have women who could podium in their age group but are in the Athena group because they want to be.

I am currently training for my first 100 mile ultra. I laugh because I am signed up for Ironman Arizona but that is considered a training race. Who does Ironman’s to train? My favorite race has to be the Alcatraz Challenge. It was the swim from Alcatraz to the shore and running across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was just such a surreal race. To know that Alcatraz was a prison and some prisoners might have escaped the same way I was swimming, was just amazing. Some of my best experiences have been the Athena Championships. It was a far distance to travel but I got to meet some of the Athena’s face to face. I raced with my best friend and I learned some valuable lessons about racing in humidity and chaffing…..


Leslie Battle

I started racing because it looked like fun when a friend did it. I was fat. It didn't phase me. I couldn't swim. It didn't phase me. I didn't own a bike. It didn't phase me. I hadn't run since high school seriously. It didn't phase me. I have no clue why not.

My race goals were to meet people and have fun. My favorite race is always the last one I did. 

I'm more vocal now about those who I believe perceive larger athletes are not competitive. Learning to stand up for respect has changed me. I love bringing Athena athletes together to build a network and sense of community. This in fact has given meaning to my back, supporting others like I never felt supported in my passion. I swore after my first half marathon that I would do what I can to uplift larger athletes so they wouldn't feel as alone as I did crossing that line. It was never about the medals which is why it is still a rush. Check out the Facebook group I created to support Athena triathletes:

I never could have anticipated being in this life for so long. It's a rewarding, joyful privilege....and an addiction.


CC Rowe

My name is CC Rowe, and I'm a proud Athena triathlete out of Austin, TX. I've been doing triathlon on and off over the past 12 years and running for 8. Yes, that means that my first couple of years of triathlon, I did not run. I walked.  I am perfectly okay with the fact that I finished in the last 10% of more than 15 races before I decided that maybe I should actually try to, oh I don't know... TRAIN for one. I started triathlon because my friend wanted someone to do one with her. She trained. I didn't. I showed up. She didn't. I did it anyway and have been hooked ever since.

I've come a long way since that first round of triathlons, all those years ago. I finally went from a beater mountain bike to a proper road bike and have since graduated to a fancy-pants triathlon bike that makes me feel like a ROCKET when I ride. I've learned to not just endure running, but to LOVE it. And the swim? Well, I have finally started to master the art of sprinting versus the long haul, and how to pace for that. With years of practice and years of training, I went from bottom 10% to top 10% to Team USA in duathlon (more on that later). This year, I tackle a new distance: the full shebang, the whole enchilada, the entire kit and caboodle. Yup, I'm doing a full Ironman, and yes, it scares the living daylights out of me. I'm pretty sure I'd be a fool if it didn't.

Let's take a quick step back to the whole I-made-Team USA thing. It's been a couple of years, and I still think this is one of the craziest statements I can make. I WAS ON TEAM USA, Y'ALL!!! Whoa. Still blows my brain. Anyway, back in 2013, I won my age group in a small, local duathlon and was invited to participate in the Duathlon National Championships (that year, you had to qualify to go). I went, and qualified to compete at the 2014 Duathlon World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain wearing the good ole Stars and Stripes. I trained harder than I've ever trained before. I went and I DID NOT COME IN LAST! Can you tell that this was my ultimate goal? I was 23/25 in my age group and about 50th percentile overall, but I can say that in 2014, I raced wearing a uniform that said, "ROWE" and just under that, in big, bold blocks, the beautiful letters "U," "S," and "A." If you want to read the entire race report, feel free to pop over to my blog and check it out here (

That race? Yeah, that was the experience that made me change my thinking about who I am and where I fit in this whole multisport family. You see, when I was training for Team USA, it didn't matter to me that I was a larger woman. I was going to be wearing the Stars and Stripes! It didn't matter to me that the smallest I had ever been as an adult was a size 10 and 172 lbs. It didn't matter to me that I started racing at 175 lbs, bounced up to 220, and had to work for YEARS to get back down to 175. None of that mattered. What mattered was that I felt strong. I felt like Wonder Woman and I stopped saying that I was a "runner" (air quotation marks and all) and started identifying as an athlete.

How does all of this tie in to being an Athena? Quite simply, I have always been an Athena. I'm a big woman. I don't mean that I'm a fat woman - although sometimes I am fatter than others - I'm just BIG. Even when I am in my fittest state, I'm BIG. I'm tall, with broad shoulders, big boobs, quads of steel, and calves that don't quit. My rib age is the size of a small whale's and I have more muscle on my left leg than most people have in their entire body. My fittest state was right before and after Worlds in Spain, and I was still big enough that I had to get the largest tri suit Team USA offered in women's sizing and it BARELY fit. I look back at an entire decade of racing before Team USA and see a woman who raced because it made her feel strong. It made her feel capable, but she always felt like an impostor, like she shouldn't be out there, but she was. I didn't consider myself a triathlete, or a runner, or a cyclist, because in order to be those things, you had to look like a triathlete, a runner, a cyclist, or whatnot. I never have, and I never will. I wish I had realized that being involved in triathlons is what makes you a triathlete. That running makes you a runner. That getting on a bike makes you a cyclist. The power and strength that I feel when I train wasn't enough to quiet that nagging voice in my head. It took some pretty drastic achievements to change that thinking about myself.

I continue to be involved with multisport for the same reasons that I did it for all those years, except now I have shed that perception of being an impostor. One of my current goals is to try and help other women get to the point of self-acceptance and self-perception as an ATHLETE without having to go all the way to Spain to figure it out.


Jodi Carl

I got bullied in school. I had coaches tell me I weighed too much. I’ve always been one of the biggest (and tallest) girls. I played softball from kindergarten until my sophomore year in college, played soccer in high school, and I swam swim team and played volleyball in elementary and middle school. I have been considered overweight all my life even though I was fairly active. 
As an adult, I have had several orthopedic issues that have kept me from being active for periods of time, including a L5/S1 back fusion. I gained 35 pounds with the injury and corresponding surgery and my clothes, bloodwork, and blood pressure showed it. I needed to get back in shape so that I would feel better, not only physically, but emotionally as well. I randomly decided one day to try a triathlon and fell in love with it.
Running has always been a punishment in every sport I’ve ever done but since it is a part of triathlon, you have to do it. I have gone from hating the run to enjoying it, well most days anyways. My favorite race is actually a running race. It is the Santa Barbra half marathon that I completed last summer. The course was beautiful and was right along the shore. It was sunny, but not hot, and there was a nice breeze coming off the ocean. I set a PR at that race and it was the first time I had run a half without being in pain. 
I also have a favorite triathlon. It is the Ironman 70.3 race that is held in Augusta, GA. A fast swim paired with a flat bike made the run a lot more tolerable. It is the first 70.3 that I officially completed and thanks to my coach, I was well trained and well prepared. The race plan was executed perfectly!
I have a few different race goals for this year. The first, is to conquer the course that I didn’t finish in time (due to injury) at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. I will be more prepared and will go into the race considerably lighter. The second is to run a sub-30 minute 5k. Currently I am about 2:15 away. Thirdly is a sub-3 hour Olympic distance triathlon. This is totally doable and my first (and hopefully only) attempt will be in May. Next is to complete a trail race. It is something different that is fairly difficult for me right now. Finally, I will complete a marathon on my 36th birthday in Portland, OR. This is my big scary goal for the year!
Before I started competing in triathlons, there was no way I would be caught in tight fitting clothes or attempting the races I have. I looked and felt fat and I thought everyone else saw me the same way. I have come to realize that although I am not the smallest or the fastest athlete out there, I am healthy and I am happy. I am still working on my body and getting healthier but I have the confidence and the ability I never had before I started racing. 

Ranae Winemiller

If you would have told me in middle school that one day I would complete 55 races (and counting), I would have thought you were crazy. I was the kid trying everything to get out of gym class. In my mind, I was being teased for being fat already, having everyone see how slow and awkward I was only added fuel to the fire.

I would go from being an overweight kid to being a morbidly obese adult. I experienced some life-changing events which prompted me to get healthier and take the weight off. This has been no small task, as I need to lose half my body weight in order to reach a healthy BMI. I completed my first 5K and felt such a sense of accomplishment. For once I wasn’t ashamed of someone seeing me be active, slow and awkward be darned.

After finishing my first half marathon, I needed a new challenge but had no desire to complete a full marathon (only half crazy.) Triathlon seemed like a natural progression. I don’t look like other people in my sport. I’m 5’3” and well over 200 lbs, if you thought it was tough to find plus size jeans that fit, try looking for wetsuits!

I have done two sprint triathlons so far, both were women’s only events – Iron Girl and Esprit de She. My favorite race so far has been the Esprit de She in Tempe, AZ. I connected with some other Athena’s from the Athena Facebook group, and we met-up before the swim. Although it was my second tri, I would suggest it to any woman for their first race. Very positive, empowering environment.

I will continue to fall under the Athena category for a long time. I still have a lot of weight to lose, and although I love my strong, capable body right now, I know that losing weight can only make me feel better, and help me continue to reach my goals. I will always consider Athenas to be my tribe. These women know how hard it is not only to swim, bike, and run, but to do it while carrying around a little more than non-Athena athletes do….and yes, we are athletes.

Racing and training has helped me find so much confidence in all aspects of my life. I have accomplished goals that much of the general population has never dared to attempt, and no one can take that feeling away from me these days. I chronicle my races, successes and challenges on my Facebook page,


I hope that by reading this, your opinion and thoughts have been changed about Athenas. We are a force to be reckoned with and not pushed to the back. We are a sisterhood of supportive, encouraging, fun-loving women. I hope that when you hear the word "Athena", you will think of the strong, fierce, determined, competitive athletes that we are.