It is the epitome of competition, yet it eschews the very notion.
Thursday night, the Ramblin’ Rose triathlon series held an informational meeting, sponsored by PrAna, at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. store in Cameron Village in advance of its two local triathlons, the Raleigh Triathlon May 20 and the Chapel Hill Tri Oct. 7. The hugely popular races sponsored by Endurance Magazine are women-only and geared toward beginners. They play down the competitive aspect of a tri, play up the comradery and supportiveness of the event. If you’ve participated in one of the races or just watched one, you know this isn’t mere marketing mumbo-jumbo. Ditto the Ramblin’ Rose’s motto: “Celebrating the empowerment of women.”
GNO Crowd
Over 60 Women gather to learn more about the sport of Triathlon

Empowerment: that’s where the competitiveness comes in.
During a presentation by athlete trainer Sage Rountree (who’s credentials are too numerous to list, so we’ll send you here for an introduction), the 70 or so women who crammed into the store (between boats and women’s apparel) were focused. Rountree’s mission was to demystify the race by discussing training, equipment, transitions.
“Do you need a $4,000 carbon fiber bike?” she asked rhetorically. “Not yet,” she answered after a beat.

Sage Rountree shares triathlon tips & inspiration

And none of the women present likely went out and bought one afterward. A fancy bike might give you an edge over others, but for this group, the only competition they were concerned with was with themselves.

Karen Friedlander of Cary came with her friend, Patty Harrison. Both had heard about the Ramblin’ Rose from a friend. Friedlander, who is 54, said she was looking for a challenge, to get herself back in shape after putting her needs aside for 20 years of work and kid-raising. She was looking for a better use of her time.
“I’m tired of the sedentary lifestyle,” she said.
Friedlander cited the Ramblin’ Rose’s reputation for being a supportive, non-competitive event. Then she exposed her internally competitive self.
“We joined a group called Tri It For Life, which helps train women for their first triathlon,” says Friedlander. The group originated in Charlotte; this spring’s session is their first in the Triangle. (Read more about Tri It For Life here.)
Like Ramblin’ Rose, Tri It For Life encourages — and challenges. Friedlander says they do four organized workouts a week: a bike ride one day, a run the next, a swim and then a combination of two disciplines.
“It’s hard,” she says of her first three weeks of training. “It’s also enlightening. It’s done a lot to build my confidence. Even at my age, I’ve discovered I can do anything I want my body to do.”

Jackie & Susan are excited about the Raleigh Ramblin' Rose event

Jackie Sinicrope of Cary is not a beginner: she’s got four races under her running shoes (five if you include last fall’s Chapel Hill Ramblin’ Rose that was called because of an electrical storm as she stood in line at the start). In a sense, she takes the events seriously by going into them prepared. She runs (she’s entered to do next weekend’s Quintiles Half-Marathon in Wrightsville Beach), she bikes regularly and she swims. Her tris to date have been the short-distance events, but she’s signed up for the longer international distance White Lake Triathlon on May 4. “I like the motivation it gives me,” says Sinicrope, who is 42. “I like the routine and having a program, of knowing, ‘Hey, I’ve got a race coming up.’”

With so much experience and training, you might expect Sinicrope to be thinking about an age group podium finish.“No,” she says. “My goal is to just finish a little better than I did the last time.”Sinicrope’s friend, Susan Brown of Apex, did her first tri last fall, the women-only Dash for Divas, and was hooked.

“I loved it,” says Brown, 45. “I loved how supportive it was. There was a great feeling of comradery. Everyone was cheering for one another — the spectators, the people running the race, the runners.”
When the opportunity to do a similar race, the Ramblin’ Rose, came up, she jumped. She said she might even train for this one.
Brown sees an extra mission — two, actually — in the Ramblin’ Rose.
“I have rheumatoid arthritis,” says Brown. “While I’m on meds and feel no pain, it’s important for me to stay active.”
It’s also important to be a good role model. Brown’s and Sinicrope’s 12-year-old daughters will be joining them in October’s Chapel Hill Ramblin’ Rose.
“It’s important to set a good example for our children, to show our kids a different, healthier way,” says Brown, a Montessori school teacher. “It’s part of my role as a parent.”

Brown, Sinicrope and Friedlander all appreciate that some potential female triathletes may be reluctant, because of weight, because of age, or for whatever reason. “You don’t feel like you stand out,” says Brown. “Everyone is in the same boat, it’s a supportive environment.” “In another setting,” adds Friedlander, “if you’re overweight, you might not want to be in a bathing suit.”
For a moment, Sinicrope exhibits a hint of outward competitiveness, joking it’s always nice to pass women half her age. Then she puts her thought in a Ramblin’ Rose perspective: “I like the challenge of getting older and getting better.”

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For more about the Ramblin Rose race series, which includes triathlons and races this year un Chapel Hill (Oct. 7), Charlotte (Sept. 23 & 29), Durham (Oct. 21), Raleigh (May 20), Rock Hill, S.C. (July 15) and Winston-Salem (Aug. 19) visit their website here.