Megan Waskiewicz realized she had a chance to win Sunday's Iron Girl sprint triathlon at Lake Tahoe when she was the only cyclist following the pace car. She held that lead through the 5K run to be the first to cross the finish line.
"I don't know where that energy came from," she said. "I was so excited. I have not had the opportunity before to break the tape - it was really great."
Although the closest competitor was minutes behind her, she wasn't really alone.
In the months leading up to the second annual event, Waskiewicz helped train about 80 women through different programs in Carson City, Minden and Tahoe.
"My passion is training and coaching," she explained. "It was the most rewarding experience to watch each and every woman I got a chance to work with cross the finish line. It was joy and emotion all wrapped up. It was a great day."
Through Kaia F.I.T., Waskiewicz, a seasoned runner and triathlete, helped coach about 50 women through a 10-week course in both Carson City and Minden.
As the community outreach director for Lake Tahoe Community College, she also hosted a series of clinics where she trained about 30 more.
"When I came to the race line, I practiced what I preached," said Waskiewicz, who turned 41 Tuesday. "I just put my head down, being grateful that we get to live here and we get to participate. Then, I could only do my best. And that's what I did."
Cindy Glass, 43, signed up for last year's Iron Girl on Team Courage, a team dedicated to cancer survivors.
Diagnosed with breast cancer two and a half years ago, Glass said, she dedicated the following year to exercise and healthy eating. She ran three half-marathons, two marathons and completed the triathlon.
"It was my way of trying to get my health back and feeling normal again," she said. "This really inspired me to do that."
She returned for this year's triathlon because of the support. "I think it's a fabulous event," she said. "It's an honor because they recognize cancer survivors. I encourage cancer survivors to do the event and tell their stories."
Nicole Newby, who coached 27 women through her Sierra Race and Running, encouraged all women to participate.
"I've done a lot of triathlons," she said. "And there's something different about an all-women event. It's so supportive."
She said her group included experienced athletes and women who hadn't exercised in a long while.
"As much as it's hard work, it's my favorite time of year," said Newby. "To watch so many diverse women come together for one common goal."
Newby finished ninth overall out of nearly 600 competitors. "I was a nervous wreck. I've got nerves for 25 other women, too," she said. "I just go out and race my own race and hope they have the same experience I do."
Jenn Andrews said it was difficult waking up early to train in the months leading up to the competition.
"However, nothing beats the feeling of when the finish line comes into full view," she said. "To know that you have pushed yourself and to see all the girls we have trained alongside of is priceless."