1,100 women set sights on Tri for a Cure course

1,100 women set sights on Tri for a Cure course

For the fourth consecutive year, women will take to the waters off South Portland before biking and running through the streets of both South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, all in the hopes of finding a cure for cancer.

On Sunday, July 31, the Maine Cancer Foundation’s fourth annual Tri for a Cure returns to the Southern Maine Community College campus in South Portland, continuing a new tradition that already has raised more than $1 million for cancer research.

Last year, about 950 women participated in the event. That number will increase this year to 1,100 women as organizers hope to best last year’s fundraising total of $850,000. According to Peter King, the Maine Cancer Foundation’s special events manager, the Tri for a Cure is on pace to raise close to or possibly even more than $1 million this year.

Anne Wilkinson of Falmouth, a cancer survivor who finished near the top in the first event, won the 2010 race for the second consecutive year – finishing the 1/3-mile swim, the 15-mile bike ride and the 3-mile run in a time of 1:19.36.

Julie Marchese, the race director, said that the race has grown each year, with more women participating individually and as relay teams of two to three women. But while the increased number of participants is impressive, Marchese said, the most important thing is the significant increase in the amount of money that can be used to help researchers looking to beat cancer. She said that in the event’s first year, runners raised $250,000. The second year saw the amount of money raised jump to $450,000, a figure that was almost doubled last year.

“We gave over $850,000 in cancer research grants to scientists right here in Maine,” she said. “This is truly progress in helping find a cure. This is what (the Tri for a Cure) is all about.”

The race starts at 10 a.m. At that time, the athletes will hit the water (which is expected to be a chilly 61 degrees) at the beach at Spring Point Ledge Light and negotiate a counterclockwise, triangular swim that finishes on the same beach.

In a previous interview, Marchese said for a lot of women taking part in their first triathlon, the open ocean swim is the most daunting leg of the event. She said most first-time triathletes do their swim leg in a pool or a lake, which is vastly different from the cold ocean water off South Portland.

“That’s the first huge hurdle that most women have to get over,” she said.

Once out of the water, athletes will then peel off their wetsuits, jump on their bikes and pedal out on a loop through the streets of South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.

What sets the Tri for a Cure’s bike course apart from other triathlons is its length: at 15 miles, it is longer than the usual 12-mile distance for similar events. Marchese explained that the reason for the longer course was simply rider safety. Taking advice from local officials, Marchese said, race organizers laid out a slightly longer course that was safer for the bikes on the course.

In the continuing interest of improving rider safety and helping to alleviate traffic problems, Marchese said that organizers have made some changes to the course for 2011. “When there are 850 women on bikes within 11?2 hours, it creates a lot of traffic backup,” she said.

This year’s bike course will have riders turn off Route 77 at Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth, with traffic restricted to one way on Shore Road from South Portland to Cape Elizabeth. Traffic headed to South Portland on Shore Road will be diverted, Marchese added.

Returning back to Southern Maine Community College, the athletes then will run from Spring Point Head Light to Bug Light. Like the bike course, the run course has been changed in the interest of improving safety and traffic flow, but with an added bonus for the runners, Marchese said.

“Many women will love this,” she said. “We have taken all of the hills out.”

She added that the course will have runners crossing South Portland’s busy Broadway only once instead of the two crossings of the previous course.

Once back on the Southern Maine Community College campus, a connector path will lead athletes to the perimeter of the campus, providing runners with ocean views on their way to the finish.

Race organizers say that for those on hand to watch, there are several vantage points around the course that provide the best views of all the action.

When the athletes are in the water, the swimming portion of the race is best viewed on top of the old bunker that can be accessed by the Willard Beach Walkway and Bunker Road. Race organizers said that vantage point will provide a good view of the water, Spring Point lighthouse and the starting line.

One overlooked part of the race is the transition area. This is where the athletes make the switch from swimming to biking and biking to running, and the action in the transition area can be fast and furious as athletes try to get back out on the course as fast as possible. Spectators can watch the transitions from a spot in front of Southern Maine Community College’s Computer and Electronic building.

Spectators can also go to the college’s athletic fields at Fort Road to watch the bikers head out and return, and stay there to watch the runners head out onto the course. The run can be viewed from Benjamin Pickett Drive, as well.

Did you know?

Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women. (Non-melanoma skin cancer is the leading form of cancer among women.) In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 40,820 women died from breast cancer. That same year, 191,410 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Among Hispanic women, breast cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death, while it is the second most common cause of cancer death among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women. Overall, the incidence of breast cancer in women in the United States is 1 in 8, or 12.5 percent. Still, roughly 2.5 million women in the U.S. have survived breast cancer. In addition, though it’s highly uncommon, breast cancer is not exclusive to women. Though less than 1 percent of all new breast cancer cases occur in men, estimates suggest roughly 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

With hundreds of fans yelling their support, Anne Wilkinson of
Falmouth, a cancer survivor, crosses the finish line of last year’s
Tri for a Cure in South Portland with the winning time of
Meredith Strang Burgess of Cumberland, a cancer survivor, helps
to rally other racers before they enter the water at the beginning
of the 2010 Tri for a Cure.
Biddeford’s Jackie Pearl was greeted by her enthusiastic and
supportive family after she finished Tri for a Cure in South
Portland last summer.
Calling themselves “Three Breast Friends,” Lisa Frazier, left,
Amy Lilly, center, and Kristen Schuler, right, all of Scarborough,
competed in last year’s Tri for a Cure as a relay team in honor of
Schuler, a breast cancer survivor.
Getting a little help from her friend Danielle Hiltz, front,
visually impaired competitor Lindsay Ball bikes through the campus
of Southern Maine Community College on a tandem bike last year.
Anne Wilkinson of Falmouth, the eventual winner of last year’s
Tri for a Cure, was the first woman to emerge from the water after
the swimming leg of the event.
The triangular 1/3-mile swimming course takes place alongside
scenic Spring Point Lighthouse in South Portland.
The second leg of the Tri for a Cure is the 15-mile bike ride
loop from Spring Point in South Portland along coastal roads
through Cape Elizabeth and back by inland roads.
The final leg of the Tri for a Cure is the 3-mile run through
the Spring Point area of South Portland.
Wearing pink caps to designate them as cancer survivors, the
first wave of competitors rush into the water to start the Maine
Cancer Foundation’s 2010 Tri for a Cure last August.
Jubilant 2010 Tri for a Cure athletes include Cassie Jones,
Brunswick, No. 35, and Tamara Souza, Bangor, No. 177 (the woman on
the right is unidentified). On July 31, some 1,100 women will
participate in the fourth annual fundraiser for the Maine Cancer

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