8:28 PM EDT, September 1, 2012
AnnMarie DeMonte is a national-class, age-group triathlete. She has competed in 22 Ironmans, winning her age group in Hawaii in 1996, and has won many national age-group triathlon titles.
But I can run faster than she can.
Before I get too excited about this, let me add a few disclaimers: DeMonte will be 72 next month. Both of her knees have been replaced. She had a spinal fusion operation in 2003.
And she can absolutely crush me on the bike. When she says to me, "Let's ride together," there really is no together. One day in the spring, we rode a 10-miler "together." She was gone in the first mile, just like that, while I was pedaling furiously (down a hill!), trying desperately to keep her in sight. And failing.
DeMonte, of Bloomfield, will run the Stratton Faxon New Haven 20K road race Monday. She has run the 12.4-mile race at least 20 times. Last year, she finished in 2 hours, 20 minutes – six minutes faster than she did in 2010.
"I felt good in New Haven last year," she said. "I wasn't real fast but I wasn't real slow either. I never walked. That was actually my goal, to feel good and not walk."
DeMonte is a part-time hairdresser, part-time personal trainer (we've been working out once a week since January), full-time grandmother and full-time competitor.
"She's extremely intense," said Barry Stoner, 72, of Glastonbury, a triathlete since 1985. "She competes. She never goes just to show up. She goes because she wants to win."
Stoner used to be able to stay ahead of DeMonte on the bike. They rode together, raced together. Two years ago, at the Litchfield Hills triathlon, Stoner remembered, DeMonte showed up. And remember, she just doesn't show up.
"She beat me," Stoner said. "That day, she was really on."
Not by much: DeMonte finished the 0.9-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike and 10K run in 3 hours, 23 minutes, 20 seconds; Stoner was right behind her in 3:24:30. Still, Stoner was impressed.
"I guess I've been compensating for not being able to run as good and I've really worked on my biking," DeMonte said. "I have become, for my age, very strong. I've gotten better than before. I work on it in the winter. I train on my trainer with videos of biking. I did 25 miles on Sunday. I'll bike after New Haven. I'll bike outside as long as I can.
"I'll be doing a run and I think I'm doing so good and I'll come home and look at my time and I think, 'How did I ever do a nine-minute mile? I can't believe it.' I feel like I'm working as hard as when I was doing that speed."
Um, but you're older and have two artificial knees.
"That's for sure," she said, laughing.
DeMonte competed in her first triathlon in 1983 in Hartford. "I didn't even know what a triathlon was," she said. "Once I finished it, I was hooked."
She went to her first Hawaii Ironman in 1986. She didn't know how to train. She did not finish. But she was back in 1987, trained properly, ready to compete.
She went to Hawaii again and again. She went through difficult times in 2003. Her son Michael died at age 44. Ten days later, her second husband, Thomas DeMonte, also passed away. She had just had back surgery.
She kept training, to keep her sanity. In 2005, she went to Hawaii for the last time.
"I knew I had to have the knees done after that race," she said. "I really had a hard time in the run. We have to get in before midnight. I did make it in, by 10 or 11 minutes."
Most doctors, including hers, do not advocate running after knee replacement. But DeMonte is tuned in to her body. She is a fanatic about strengthening and core exercises. And after her knee replacements, she was able to return to swimming, biking and eventually running.
She's done 10 triathlons since her knee replacements.
"Most people would have quit after that, I think," said her friend and fellow triathlete Jeanine Hartnett of New York City. "She's determined. It's her lifestyle.
"She's very realistic. She's not trying to do too many crazy things. She respects her age. She knows what she can do."
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