One of the Gold Nugget Triathlon's greatest competitors is conceding defeat as she heads into Sunday's 31st running of the popular women's race.
Eight-time champion and two-time runnerup Shannon Donley will for the first time race among the masses, eschewing her enviable spot in the first wave, reserved for the fastest racers, so she can dive into action later with 11-year-old daughter Quincy, who is making her Gold Nugget debut.
Donley, 42, said she will let Quincy set the pace.
And if the two find themselves in a sprint to the finish line at Bartlett High, will she let Quincy win?
"I think I probably will," Donley said.
Donley, whose last victory came in 2011, led by more than a minute last year until a flat tire ended her race. At the time, she was fired up to make amends for the setback and make a run at a record ninth title this year.
Even when Quincy, a fifth grader at Inlet View Elementary, decided to enter the race, Donley figured she could go out at 9 a.m. with the other top seeds and be done in time to do the 500-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 4.1-mile racer again later in the morning with Quincy.
Then came a mysterious hip injury that has limited the amount of running Donley can do.
"I hemmed and hawed," she said, before finally making a decision to forego a competitive race.
Now that the decision has been made, Donley said she's looking forward to being part of the crowd rather than one of the frontrunners.
"It'll be a good perspective for me to soak it all up and see what it's all like," said Donley, a member of the Gold Nugget board of directors.
Donley saw the other side of racing once before, when she did Mount Marathon with a friend whose goal was to finish and have fun. That put Donley, whose accomplishments include a couple of top-five finishes in the rugged mountain race in Seward, closer to the back of the pack than the front of it.
"All these people were chatting and taking pictures," she said. "It was a whole 'nother experience."
And so will taking a leisurely approach to the Gold Nugget on Sunday -- although Quincy may have something to say about that. At the Salmon Run 5-kilometer run earlier this month, she placed second in a field of 243 girls and women.
Anchorage triathlete Judy Abrahams will take on Sunday's Gold Nugget Triathlon with a prosthetic leg, but she won't be the first person to do so.
In 2008, at least two amputees competed -- 10-year-old Taylor Haines, the youngest racer in the field that year, and a women who passed Haines near the end of the race.
Haines, now an East High sophomore, became an amputee when she was 10 months old, said mother Liz Wilson, who did the 2008 race with Haines.
"Taylor was proud of being the youngest competitor," Wilson said in an email. "It was never about her leg."
Wilson said that year's race featured at least one other amputee.
"Toward the end of the four-mile run, another amputee passed us," she said. "This woman was an above-knee amputee and was not even wearing a prosthesis -- she was taking huge leaps with crutches and had biked one-legged.
"... We did not learn the woman's name, but she encouraged Taylor as she flew past us."
Haines, whose other mother is 1980 Olympic skier Betsy Haines, competed in several Eagle River Triathlons as a little girl and tried a couple of sports in middle school. She has been in Dance Contempo the last two years at East.
"For Taylor, who is also missing both cruciate ligaments in her knee, dancing is proving to be the most demanding sport yet," Wilson said.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Gold Nugget is famous for inspiring thousands of girls and women to become triathletes.
Of the 1,646 racers registered, 559 are first-time triathletes. (Though registration closes once 1,500 girls and women have signed up, "we also donate some of our racer slots," Gold Nugget board president Sheila Swanson said.)
Some other facts supplied by Swanson:
The field spans three generations -- the oldest two racers are 76 and the youngest two are 9. There are eight three-generation entries, and there are 265 participants on mother-daughter teams.
Gold Nugget triathletes don't just live in Anchorage. This year racers are coming from Auke Bay, Big Lake, Chugiak, Delta Junction, Dutch Harbor, Eagle River, Fairbanks, Girdwood, Glennallen, Haines, Homer, Indian, Juneau, Kenai, Kodiak, Nikiski, North Pole, Palmer, Seldovia, Seward, Soldotna, Sutton, Valdez, Wasilla and Willow.
Racers from nine other states are entered.
IF YOU GO
Parking for racers and spectators is at Tikahtnu Commons, across the street from Bartlett. Those with handicapped stickers can park at the high school.
The race begins at 9 a.m. and runs pretty much all day, with racers starting in waves due to limited capacity in the pool.
Last year, the last swimmer left the pool at 3:50 p.m., the last biker dismounted at 4:58 p.m. and the last runner crossed the finish line at 6 p.m., Swanson said.
Reach Beth Bragg at email@example.com or 257-4335.
Gold Nugget Triathlon champions
2013 -- Amber Stull
2012 -- Amber Stull
2011 -- Shannon Donley
2010 -- Shannon Donley
2009 -- Shannon Donley
2008 -- Lori Deschamps
2007 -- Lori Deschamps
2006 -- Shannon Donley
2005 -- Kikkan Randall
2004 -- Shannon Donley
2003 -- Lori Deschamps
2002 -- Shannon Donley
2001 -- Shannon Donley
2000 -- Shannon Donley
1999 -- Lisa Keller
1998 -- Rachel Steer
1997 -- Alice Godfred
1996 -- Laurie Abrams
1995 -- Laurie Abrams
1994 -- Laurie Abrams
1993 -- Alice Godfred
1992 -- Alice Godfred
1991 -- Trudy Ferguson
1990 -- Trudy Ferguson
1989 -- Alice Godfred
1988 -- Alice Godfred
1987 -- Trudy Ferguson
1986 -- Alice Godfred
1985 -- Alice Godfred
1984 -- Alice Godfred
By BETH BRAGG