Gina Estep, North Bend’s 2012 Employee of the Year, is also a world-class triathlete.
Estep biked, swam and ran the distance in the ITU World Championship Series Grand Final, the top global competition held October 22 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Estep, 39, was the first American woman in her age group, and the 12th finisher in her overall women’s age bracket.
To qualify, Estep had to win her age bracket in a sanctioned race, and took sixth in her age in a national race.
The championships are an Olympic-distance triathlon, also referred to as the classic or standard-distance triathlon, combining a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40K bike ride and a 10K run.
This was one of the more challenge courses Estep has handled, due to bike and swim events, and competing on the other side of the world added to the excitement.
For the water leg, triathletes swam in the harbor between two large wharves. With the air temperature and the water temperature in the 50s, “it was a cold swim, and it wasn’t like you were warming up” out of the water, Estep said.
As a cyclist, Estep is strongest on hills, but this was more of a technically challenging downhill ride. She had to lose her solid race wheels, which would catch the brisk wind on the bike course.
On the run, she averaged 7:06-minute miles.
She now qualifies for the London world championships next September.
Estep started triathlons at age 30.
“As I started having success,” she thought, “maybe I’ll take it to the next level.
“For me, it’s always been a great way to stay in shape, and have fun doing it,” says Estep, who has a tight-knit social group that she runs and bikes with.
“I’m racing well,” says Estep. “I feel like I still have room to grow.”
She will take the winter off, pursuing trail running, snowboarding, cycling and coaching basketball at Chief Kanim Middle School. Her regimen will heat up in the spring as the first triathlons of the year approach.
Estep remembers Auckland as a rare experience to be in a global race, and see athletes from all over, from Japan to Mexico to the Cook Islands.
“It is inspiring just to be around people who are so active, healthy and motivated to explore life,” she added.
“Doing it or not doing it never entered my mind,” Estep told the Record. “I set a goal when going to nationals to qualify for worlds. Once I qualified… I was going and I was excited.
“We are all presented with great opportunities throughout our lives and the more we reach for and embark on, the richer our life and our impact on life is,” she added. “I did it simply for a new experience and the personal growth. In the end, the highlight I took from the experience was memories I made with my dad and close friends.”
Top, Estep, right, holds the flag with fellow Valley triathlete Stephanie Haner, in Auckland harbor. Above, Estep in the running leg of the worlds.
Above, triathletes prepare to enter Auckland harbor for the swim leg of the ITU World Championship Series Grand Final, the top global competition held October 22 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Below, Gina Estep, suited up for the swim event.