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Mighty Tri Girls triathlon training group swims around Key West in relay

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Alexis Dillon, Kate Charley, Mary Kay Biddle, Shirley Hauser and Deb Ward participated in the Swim Around Key West.

An eight-hour day at work or school sometimes can seem like an eternity. Imagine spending that much time struggling to make headway while swimming more than a dozen miles in the Super Moon-enhanced surf around Key West.

That's precisely what a group of five women combined to do in June when they participated in the Florida Keys Community College Swim Around Key West.

The women, all members of the Mighty Tri Girls triathlon training group, completed the 12.5-mile relay around the southernmost tip of the continental United States on June 22 in 7 hours, 55 minutes and 33 seconds.

Mary Kay Biddle of New Florence swam in the event last year as part of a four-person relay and led the charge again in 2013.

“Swimming has always been the most difficult portion (of a triathlon) for me,” Biddle said. “It wasn't difficult for me physically. I was capable of swimming the distances, but mentally I just had trouble when I got in the water. It was just big and scary. I'm just stubborn enough that I won't let my head defeat me. And so if I was having trouble swimming in a lake, well, then let's try swimming in an ocean.”

After a minor panic attack on hitting the water for the first time in last year's event, Biddle enjoyed her experience enough to start planning a return trip.

“When I got done the first year, all I could think about was how powerful an event it was for me, and how big it would be for me to share that with some of these other women I've been friends with all along,” she said. “... In order for me to make them feel committed, I had to be over-committed myself. I had to make sure I knew I was going.”

Her enthusiasm persuaded Shirley Hauser of Latrobe, Debra Ward of Ligonier and Greensburg residents Kate Charley and Alexis Dillon to participate for the first time.

Biddle swam the first 30-minute shift of the relay while the rest of the team waited for her on a boat that carried the other four team members. After their initial 30-minute swims, the women cycled in and out of the water at 10-minute intervals.

“And thank goodness,” Hauser said. “Because with the water the way it was, I may not have gotten anywhere.”

Tough tides aside, the ladies had a blast.

“We had a great time,” Hauser said. “We didn't go there thinking that we would win. We knew that. We went just to say, ‘We can do this. Let's see if we can do this.' We had a pretty good time.”

And while Biddle is itching for another swim around Key West, the other swimmers in the group are not quite ready to commit to a repeat performance.

“That's to be decided,” Hauser said. “... It's like having a baby. You're not ready to have (another) one for a while. I said I'd have to think about it.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or