Pregnancy doesn't keep women out of Gold Nugget Triathlon

Beth Bragg

Trying to squeeze onto her bike with a bulging belly was just part of the fun for Holly Weiss-Racine in last year's Gold Nugget Triathlon. The other part: finding the right time and place for bathroom breaks amid all that swimming, biking and running.

Weiss-Racine raced with a baby on board, 30 weeks into what turned out to be a 42-week pregnancy. At seven months she was as big as she had been at the end of her first pregnancy, with a bladder as active as an elite-class triathlete.

"I went to the bathroom so many times," Weiss-Racine said this week as she prepared for a return appearance in the popular girls-and-women-only event.

"I went before the swim and after the swim, and then I went at the turnaround point on the bike. The best one was, there was no bathroom on the run, so I used a porta-potty at the baseball fields. They were way toward the back and people were yelling 'You're going the wrong way!' and I said, 'No, I just really need to get to this porta-potty or I'm not gonna make it to the finish line!' "

Weiss-Racine, 32, made it to the finish line, where she grabbed her commemorative race T-shirt before heading to another bathroom.

"There's a lot of extra challenges doing it pregnant," she said. "But it's just such a great experience. The support I got from every other competitor and volunteer was just amazing."

Pregnant racers are nothing new at the Gold Nugget Triathlon, which will be held for the31st time Sunday at Bartlett High. The race is beloved throughout Alaska for its no-judgment-zone acceptance of all racers, no matter their skill level or due date. In 1995, Alice Godfred -- who at the time owned seven championships and the course record -- competed while eight months pregnant. She accommodated her condition by raising the handlebars on her bike and not doing flip turns in the pool.

Holly Fisk, 29, completed last year's triathlon -- a 500-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 4.1-mile run -- three weeks before giving birth to son Jonah.

"It was intense," she said. "I was hoping to walk him out at the triathlon."

Jonah wasn't born until June 8, missing his chance to crash the all-girls Gold Nugget party. This year, he'll spend the first part of Fisk's race napping at grandma's. Later he and dad, Brandon, will wait for mom at the finish line.

Fisk met the challenges of racing while 381/2 weeks pregnant by, first of all, accepting that she was not really racing.

"I don't want to sound like I'm bragging," she said, "but it was surprisingly easy because I totally went into it with the mentality, 'I am participating.' It was my fourth or fifth triathlon, and I knew the culture of the Gold Nugget is so supportive -- women of every shape and size do it -- and my midwife group is a (race) sponsor, so I knew if there were any problems there'd be some midwives there."

Having said that, Fisk admitted to some difficulties before and during the race.

"I did not ride my bike that winter at all, I swam once a week and walked all the time," she said. "Walking, swimming and yoga. That's how I trained.

"The bike was the hardest of the three, but I was on a cruiser bike, so I was sitting upright. I averaged 7 miles per hour and I waved at everyone."

Fisk borrowed the bike from Tapia Stover, a friend who will do Sunday's race while 26 weeks pregnant. In return, Fisk offered Stover some advice.

"I told her to shower after the swim," she said, "because not only is it uncomfortable to wear a sports bra when you're wet, it's even worse if you're pregnant. So I told her to shower after the swim and change into dry clothes.

"It makes for a very long transition, but I was cool with it."

Both women said they were prepared to abandon their race if any concerns arose.

Fisk said she was clear about that when, 28 weeks into her pregnancy, she signed up for the race: "If the night before the race I'm not feeling good, I'm not going to sacrifice my baby's health for the Gold Nugget."

Weiss-Racine said she probably broke race rules by taking her cellphone with her on the bike and run. "I had it just in case," she said.

Fisk and Weiss-Racine both needed about three hours to finish, time enough for Weiss-Racine's husband, Nick, and daughter Marin, now 4, to go have lunch in-between watching mom start and watching her finish.

This year, Weiss-Racine's cheering section will include Wesley, who turns 1 in August. The family might not have time for a lunch break this year, because Weiss-Racine expects to be much faster, as does Fisk.

Fisk, a nurse who at the end of last summer moved with her family to Littleton, Colorado, hopes to return to the top 100, where she was before her pregnancy last year and a knee injury in 2012.

"I've been training at altitude," she said, "and I'm going to smash my time out of the water."

Weiss-Racine, a geologist who is doing her third triathlon, is also confident she'll record a personal best. Last year she was racing for two, and the time before that she had just learned how to swim. She said she had to learn to swim so she could enter the Gold Nugget, something she was grateful for last year as her pregnancy progressed.

"It takes weight off your joints and lets you be free for awhile," she said. "It lets you get in some exercise that's not high impact.

"I trained so much swimming while I was pregnant with my son that the first time I went swimming without him, I cried because I was alone. I was also very hormonal. It totally took me by surprise. It was my first lap and I just had to stop and cry. I was so used to being able to coast through the water and feel him kicking."

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.