Annette MacNiven of Wainscott recently placed third in her 50-to-54-year-old age group, and thus was one of seven Americans to mount the International Triathlon Union’s podium in Extremadura, Spain, following the Olympic governing body’s world championships, which comprised a .6-mile lake swim, a 12.4-mile mountain bicycle leg, and a 6K (3.7 miles) overland run.
MacNiven was among the first to the swim’s start line but was “pushed out of the way by the Spaniards,” one of whom wound up placing second to MacNiven’s impossible-to-catch rival, Beverly Enslow of Metamora, Ill.
“She’s my idol,” MacNiven said of Enslow, whose husband is a bicycle mechanic with an international reputation. “When I saw her crying before the race began, I asked her, ‘Are you happy . . . are you sad?’ ”
“ ‘No, no,’ she said, ‘I’m scared.’ Well, I figured if Beverly was scared, I should be too. She said she was scared because of the pressure she felt being number one. When the race began — they started us in waves three minutes apart — she went from crying to flying! And I was left flailing and hyperventilating in her wake!”
As for swimming, MacNiven, who grew up in New Mexico, said that, in contrast to the East Hampton children she coaches at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, “I was never used to being among 40 kids swimming in two lanes. I’m a pretty good swimmer now, but I still get panic attacks.”
MacNiven gave it her all on the bike leg, but was passed during the course of it by a Spaniard. As she went out on the run, her husband, Tom, said, “You can run her down — she’s only two minutes ahead of you.”
“But at that point,” she said, “my calves were cramping. I was happy to finish third and to be one of 7 among the 60 Americans who made the podium.”
Enslow’s winning age-group time was 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 8 seconds. MacNiven’s time was 2:30:33 (20:51 swim, 1:33 bike, and 33:32 run, with 3:10 spent in the transition area).
“The good news,” the 53-year-old MacNiven said, “is that I’ll be racing as a 54-year-old all next year in the 55-to-59 division. . . . Since you race the age you’ll be on Dec. 31, and since my birthday is Dec. 31, it’s as good as it gets. . . . But I’ll never shake Beverly.”
MacNiven has been competing in off-road races for the past 20 years, in recent years at a very high level.
That her eldest son, Casey, is a part-time bike mechanic in Austin, Tex., pleases her immensely. “I’ve got a pretty sweet bike made for me and ordered a year ago coming,” she said. “I’ve asked him about getting the bigger 29-inch wheel that everybody’s using. The traditional wheel is 26 inches, but everybody’s rocking with these 29-inchers. But he told me [she’s 5 feet 2 inches tall] I’m too small, that they haven’t figured out the geometry yet. So, I guess I’ll have to settle.”