Mason Volunteered to Race This Year

Lorna Mason's transformation from non-athlete to triathlete was not exactly swift.

But despite the fact that the change took three years to complete, the metamorphosis was successful.

Mason's showing in last weekend's Oxnard/Bud Light Triathlon proved that--both to other competitors and to herself.

"I just wanted to see if I could do it," Mason said. "This was my first one I've ever tried."

Sunday's triathlon took place at Oxnard State Beach as part of the annual Oxnard Sports Festival.

And, in actuality, Sunday's race was the third Mason has participated in since the triathlon's inception as a Sports Festival event six years ago.

In the past, however, the 18-year-old Oxnard High graduate was always a volunteer worker at the competition.

As such, Mason sometimes timed the athletes, sometimes tabulated results, sometimes just provided refreshments and did whatever else she could to help out.

But always, she watched, admired, and ultimately was inspired by the triathlon competitors.

"It was really neat to see how hard everybody was working," she said. "It made me think about trying it. I thought it would be a challenge, and so, this year, I just said, 'I think I'd like to try this and see if I can do it.' "

After she had completed Sunday's race, Mason looked at the pin she had earned for her efforts. It was inscribed simply, "1988 Bud Light Triathlon Finisher."

"That's the key word there--'finisher,' " she said.

But Mason actually did more than just finish her first triathlon. She completed a 1.5-kilometer rough-water swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and an 8-kilometer run (a total race distance of nearly 31 miles) in 2 hours, 31 minutes.

That time was good for second place in the women's 14- to 19-year-old division. Overall, Mason placed 36th among 64 women finishers.

"There are times during the race when you wonder if you're going be able to make it," she said. "You keep having this conversation with yourself, where you're saying, 'Come on, you can do it. You got to keep going, got to keep going.' "

Mason kept herself going despite a light training routine--or at least what passed for one--prior to the race.

"I rode the bike a few times the past couple of weeks. But I didn't work out all the time. I'm not, like, super into it."

No, Mason is no Paula Newby-Fraser, the women's 1986 Ironman Triathlon champion who won the women's competition Sunday in 1:55:27.

And none of the men among the Oxnard triathlon's 533 competitors could compare with Scott Tinley. Tinley, a two-time Ironman champion and one of the world's best triathletes, won the race in 1:41:42.

Newby-Fraser, who was defending the Oxnard women's championship she won last year, and Tinley, who was competing in the event for the first time, were two of a handful of professional triathletes on hand for the event. Tinley and Newby-Fraser had competed in the 140-mile Japan Ironman the week before; but both kept athletes like Mason in mind when they agreed to participate in the more obscure Oxnard race.

"There were no losers here today," Tinley said. "I like these smaller competitions. This was a good little race."

Newby-Fraser agreed.

"I always like to come out to the community races," she said. "I think it's good because I think it gives these people a chance to see what can be done if they work hard. It gives them something to shoot for."

That was the way Oxnard resident Greg Seale approached his showdown with the professionals. And as far as he was concerned, his best shot hit its mark.

Seale, 22, finished in 1:47:16, for 11th place in the men's overall competition, and he wasn't complaining.

"To finish 11th overall in a race that has people like Scott Tinley in it, that's pretty good, I think," said Seale, who at the post-race awards ceremony earned special recognition as the first Oxnard resident to finish.

But as it was with Mason, the key word for Seale was "finish."

"You're competing against yourself, mostly," he said. "If you try to work with somebody else's strategy, you could be in trouble.

"You've got to block everything else out. I like the challenge."

So does Mason, now that she has succeeded in overcoming it.

"It was great. I can see myself doing it again," she said. "I'll be back next year."

But not, apparently, as a volunteer worker.

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