The Rock easy pickings for Anderson 

To most, Hawaii represents an ideal vacation destination, the perfect place to relax.

There have been times, though, that Gary Anderson had to gently ask his wife, Harriet, if they could travel somewhere else to truly unwind.

For most of the past 20 years, the Andersons have made the trek to Hawaii as Harriet competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, one of that sport’s signature and most demanding races. Now at the age of 72, Anderson shows no sign of slowing down. The Belmont resident has competed in and completed the event 16 times and plans to go back this year for No. 17.

This Sunday, Anderson will continue her preparation for Kona by participating in the Accenture Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, beginning with an 8 a.m. plunge from a ferry into the icy-cold Bay.

"The only times she missed the Kona race is probably because of me, because I said ‘Let’s go on a real vacation,’" Gary Anderson said with a laugh. "She just keeps on going. She’s amazing."

Anderson will be the oldest woman in this year’s Escape from Alcatraz, not that it has slowed her down in the past. She holds two course records in her age group (4 hours, 20 minutes, 45 seconds for the 65-69 bracket in 2003; 4:25:17 for the 70-74 grouping in 2006) and is the likely favorite among her peers again this year.

"Alcatraz is always a great challenge for me," Anderson said. "I love racing in the area and look forward to the challenge of getting used to that cold water and finishing."

Anderson has never failed to complete a race since she took up cross training in her 50s. An amateur tennis player in high school, Anderson became interested in hiking during a summer working at Yosemite National Park while in college and continued to hike recreationally while she and Gary raised their family. Once their two children left the house for college, the couple decided to enroll in a fitness class at Cañada College. The training gradually increased and Anderson completed her first triathlon at the age of 52.

Now, the former school nurse swims, bikes and runs three times each week while supplementing those workouts with pilates and yoga. And she doesn’t see the finish line on her racing career coming up any time soon.

"At the beginning, I thought when I turned 60, I’d probably stop — then it was 70," Anderson said. "But I was still in good health and I’ve just kept going. I want to keep doing it as long as I can, until I can’t complete the races."

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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