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Barbara Schmidt Millar Celebration of Life Women’s Triathlon

In this file photo swimmers enter Scotts Flat Lake for the 18th annual Barbara Schmidt Millar Celebration of Life Triathlon in Cascade Shores. The 2016 Barbara Schmidt Millar Celebration of Life Triathlon is scheduled for Sunday.
Photo by John Hart | The Union

A mile-and-a-half-run to the hospital, a mile-and-a-half walk back.

That’s how Celien Thorne trained for the 5K race Sunday at Cascade Shores, part of the Barbara Schmidt Millar Celebration of Life Women’s Triathlon: She ran to her breast-cancer treatments.

“My goal was to run to every treatment,” Thorne said. “Screw cancer. I want to show women that we can beat it.”



Thorne finished third, which was a bonus to simply being able to compete.

“I’m thankful and grateful to be here right now,” said the Grass Valley mother-of-four. “There were times when I could barely walk from my couch to my kitchen.”




Thorne was diagnosed in November 2011, and her final chemotherapy session was in June. Now she’s cancer-free. She ran — or walked, when she was too weak to run — partly just to keep her mind off cancer. She would give herself a couple minutes a day to cry, but she knew staying busy would keep her from sinking under the weight of what a cancer diagnosis can do to one’s mental faculty.

Thorne also found support, both in fighting cancer and in training, from her boyfriend, Rafael Rodriguez. A sixth-grade English teacher in Daly City, Rodriguez made the 300-mile roundtrip to Grass Valley as often as he could. He hardly left her side after Sunday’s race, a smile stuck to his face.

“I couldn’t do it without him,” Thorne said. “We all need support going through this process.

Support is the underlying purpose of the event, which was started in 1995 to celebrate the life of Barbara Schmidt Millar, who died of cancer the day before the inaugural race.

Thirteen women competed the first year. Among them was Sara Freitas, who was also one of the 400-plus who competed Sunday. Freitas hadn’t competed in the triathlon since the first year.

She had gotten back into swimming a few years ago, when an injury kept her from running. Still, she describes as unnatural “any sport where you don’t breathe.” Freitas finished the half-mile swim, 11-mile bike ride and three-mile run in one hour, 16 minutes, 52.47 seconds.

“It’s so supportive,” said Freitas, a longtime fixture of the Nevada County running scene. “Everyone’s yelling, ‘Good job! Good job!’ Of course, I couldn’t talk.”

Nevada City’s Maria Hodges won the triathlon (1:13:36.24), followed by Monica Erdosh of Foresthill (1:14:19.64), and Wenn Madigan of Nevada City (1:15:38.48).

Kirsten Dutton, of Nevada City, won the 5K run/walk in 23:05.2, and Jeanette Smith was second (28:32.55).

Money from the triathlon goes toward the Women’s Imaging Center of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, for women who can’t afford mammograms; and to the Barbara Schmidt Millar Memorial Scholarship, for female Nevada Union High School grads heading for a career in healthcare.

To contact Sports Writer Jeff Miller call (530) 477-4234.


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