Out of the Way, Fellas

November 17, 2003

She caught the men 10 miles into the marathon. Around the 125th
mile of the Off-Road Iron Triathlon, an Ironman-distance event
held in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia on Nov. 1-2, Joe
Moerschbaecher saw an approaching headlamp on the trail behind
him. "Kristin," he called out. "Is that you?"

It was, indeed, his friend Kristin Eddy, a 32-year-old
occupational therapist from Reston, Va. "She looked like she was
out for a Sunday stroll," recalls Moerschbaecher. Joe-Moe, as he
is known, was running with the small group of men who, until Eddy
showed up, were leading the 27-person field. Having overtaken
them on a piece of single-track called the Blue Suck Falls Trail,
Eddy set a pace that soon had them sucking serious wind.

The lead group was quickly whittled to Eddy and Joe-Moe. While
they labored through the 1,400-foot climb to the Tuscarora
Overlook, she chattered on about the stunning views from the
ridge and the beauty of the stars reflecting off a nearby lake.
Getting no reply from Joe-Moe, Eddy turned to look at him. He was
gone, out of sight. She'd dropped him without trying.

Behind her on the course, excitement was building. When Chris
Scott, a former pro mountain biker, arrived in a transition area,
he was greeted with the news by his friends: "You're behind a
girl!"

"They were heckling me pretty hard," says Scott, who then uttered
the words that became the theme of this race: "I got chicked."

Don't worry, Chris. It seems to be going around. When Eddy
crossed the line in first place, 17 hours and 12 minutes after
beginning the 2.4-mile swim in the 60° water of Douthat Lake, her
victory was hailed as history making. "For the first time since
the inaugural Hawaii Ironman 25 years ago," declaimed a press
release from Odyssey Adventure Racing, "a woman has won an
iron-distance race."

This came as news to Amy Jo Turi of North Bend, Wash., who won
the 2002 Canusa Triathlon Championship in British Columbia with a
time of 10 hours, 29 minutes, nearly a half hour ahead of the
second-place finisher. She picked off that unfortunate man midway
through the marathon. While she did not banter, like Eddy, with
her final victim, Turi did rather comprehensively crush his will.
"Right after I passed him," she recalls, "he just started
walking." While her victory came, as Turi points out, against "a
pretty small field"--29 racers, 23 of whom were men--it was a
giant step for female athletes.

Uh, guys? Everything O.K. here?

In fact, men have won all the Ironman-length triathlons with the
exception of those two. Still, there is reason to believe that
the victories by Turi and Eddy are not so much aberrations as
they are the shape of things to come. "Look at women's marathon
times over the last 10 years," says Turi, 28, a counselor at a
juvenile prison. "They've come down dramatically, whereas men's
times have remained pretty much the same."

A recent Runner's World feature, "Better in the Long Run," points
to the increasing frequency with which women such as Ann
Trason--the top female finisher in 14 of the last 15 Western
States 100-mile races (she didn't compete in 1995)--"are now
beating comparably trained men" in ultradistance races. Various
theories are forwarded: Women's muscles have more fat-burning
enzymes than men's; women have a better hold on their emotions;
women are better equipped to deal with the suffering involved in
an ultra.

Of course the primary reason women are coming on like gangbusters
in these events is the most obvious: They're finally getting a
chance. Turi and Eddy are part of the first generation of females
for whom endurance sports were presented as a viable option.
After several women collapsed following the 800-meter final in
the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, the grandees of the IOC banned
female participation in all races longer than 200 meters--a ban
that lasted an astonishing 32 years. Women didn't contest a
marathon in the Olympics until 1984. No wonder women are lowering
their personal bests at a faster rate than men. In the grand
scheme, they're just getting started.

"I don't really see it as getting beaten by a woman," says
Joe-Moe, who held on for second place behind Eddy. "I got beat by
a really talented athlete."

Guys, take it from Joe-Moe: There's no shame in getting chicked.

COLOR PHOTO: WILL RAMOS IRON WOMAN Eddy beat all the men in Virginia.

Said one male triathlete after being outraced by Eddy, "I GOT
CHICKED."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)