It’s been a few years since Michele Henschel was the first woman to cross the finish line in , a sprint race held in Oyster Bay for the past 25 years. But that’s only because the Long Beach resident was sidelined by injuries and Mother Nature.
On Sunday, Henschel returned to the North Shore village and once again took first place in the overall female category, coming in at 1:02:04, just eight seconds before Garden City’s Karen Pompay. This, after Henschel was the race’s fastest female in 2009. A year later, though, she was unable to compete after she injured her shoulder and broke ribs in a bike accident. Last year, the race was cancelled due to Tropical Storm Irene. Standing in after yesterday's race, Henschel said she was happy to win again after a two-year hiatus.
Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
“I love this sprint because it’s the first triathlon I ever did,” said Henschel, 29, who has competed in triathlons for five years. “It’s a hometown sprint for me. I love coming back every single year.”
Tobay is among the largest sprint triathlons in the nation, with some 2,000 athletes taking on its half-mile swim, 9.3 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. (Tom Eickelberg of Babylon was the overall winner, at 54:58, on Sunday.)
Throughout the year Henschel trains mainly in flat Long Beach; so Oyster Bay’s hilly terrain poses a challenge for her. She bikes and runs on the boardwalk regularly and she swims with a team at National Boulevard beach three mornings each week. Otherwise, she swims with another team at the Nassau County Aquatic Center at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.But her greatest challenge is to develop a balance in all phases of the race. “With triathlon you have to train for three sports, which is tough,” she said, noting how each sport comes with different injuries. “But also at the same time its nice because it’s kind of refreshing. You divide it up. You have swimming and bike one day; you have running another day.”
The pinnacle in triathlons is the Ironman, a race that demands a combined 140 miles of swimming, biking and running. For now, Henschel plans to stick with short sprint races, but she may consider tackling this ultimate endurance race sometime down the road.
“Maybe later in life,” she said. “I like the shorter stuff, where there’s more speed involved.”