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Tough Course No Match for White

 

 
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Posted on Mon, Apr. 29, 2002
By ED VYEDA


Overcomes near-fatal injury to claim victory in first try at Big Sur

Julie Anne White doesn’t have the stomach for triathlons anymore. It’s no joke. In 1993 she was competing in the Ironman in Hawaii and her large intestine ruptured, nearly killing her.

“I was told I would never be able to compete again,” said White, a veteran professional triathlete. “Doctors told me to give up.” Those doctors should have seen her Sunday, winning the women’s championship of the 17th annual Big Sur International Marathon.  “The words ‘never’ and ‘can’t’ don’t exist to me,” said the 40-year-old from England, who collected $2,500 for the win. White came up from Vista, near San Diego, to run the Big Sur event for the first time.  Sunday, the words “relentless,” as in the demands of the 26.2-mile course, and “painful,” as in the cramping in White’s calves and lower back, came to mind. But it wasn’t enough to keep her from getting the first victory of her relatively new marathon career, in 2 hours, 51 minutes and 10 seconds, nearly five minutes ahead of the women’s field.  Ida Mitten, 41, of British Columbia, was second in 2:56:01 and collecting $1,000. Monterey’s Jackie Chen, 39, was the leading local in the race with a third-place finish in 3:03:11. She won $500.

“It’s always in the back of your mind, that someone is catching up to you,” White said. “You never think you’ve got it.”

At the 23-mile mark, White got cramps in both calves and her lower back. By the time she finished, she was a bit shaken and wobbly, both as a result of dehydration.

“I have less than half of my large intestine,” White said of the condition that is a result of the 1993 Ironman. “I don’t have the capacity to hold in liquids.”

White has had to give up competing in triathlons because of her condition, but has made the transition to marathons the past five years. For the former Ironman series champion, it’s been a long road back to the winner’s circle.  Three surgeries and five months after her near-fatal attack, White went for her first run, with husband Dan, and three of their adopted dogs in March of 1994. It took 30 minutes to “run” a mile.

“I was not at all discouraged,” said White, an unabashed optimist. “I was very inspired by it.”

On Sunday, her winning pace was 6:31 per mile.  White led from start to finish and thought she could have done better if it had been a closer race with Mitten. “It’s hard when there is nobody else with you,” she said.

Mitten was out of contention virtually from her first step. Suffering from a strained left hamstring, hurt 10 days ago, she was bumped at the starting line and stumbled on her left leg. The hamstring cramped immediately, but Mitten kept going.

“I was taking a chance,” she said. “I came. I tried. I feel like I went out in style.”

While White is just looking forward to more marathon competition, Mitten is retiring, with Big Sur her last event.

“I want to be able to walk when I’m 70,” said Mitten, a former competitive cross-country skier who began competing in marathons seven years ago, just after the birth of her son. She has a lifetime best of 2:38 and has been a top-20 finisher in most of the major marathons, including a 13th at Boston, but has spent the past couple of years doing ultra-marathons.  The hamstring injury made it painful for Mitten to run downhill, which meant finishing, rather than winning, was going to be her challenge.  “I wish I would have been able to compete with Julie Ann,” Mitten said. “I feel bad I was not able to race her. But that’s the best I can do today.” White didn’t think she was at her best, either, but is grateful merely to be able to compete.

“I have always had a lot of respect for marathon runners,” she said.  White may have a small stomach compared other Big Sur champions, but Sunday she showed she may have the biggest heart.


How it all started...

2000 Wild Wild West Trail Marathon
2001 Wild Wild West Trail Marathon
2002 Big Sur International Marathon
2002 Wild Wild West Trail Marathon
2002 Bishop 50-mile Ultra-Marathon

Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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