Group helps first-timers train for annual Barbara Schmidt Millar Triathlon |

Group helps first-timers train for annual Barbara Schmidt Millar Triathlon

Photo for The Union John Hart
John Hart | The Union

When Kristin Aguilar hit the age of 35, reality started to set in. She knew the time had come — she had to get serious about getting in shape. Aguilar started attending fitness classes and was encouraged by the results. From there, she started cycling and weight-lifting, and before she knew it, she had caught “the fitness bug.”

As a challenge to herself, she entered her first competition, the annual Barbara Schmidt Millar Celebration of Life Women’s Triathlon.

“I practically died,” she said with a laugh. “It was so hard, but I finished. I was ecstatic — but I realized it would have been much more fun had I really trained for it.”

Aguilar went on to do more than that. Today, she is a personal trainer and group fitness director at the South Yuba Club. But when it comes to the Barbara Schmidt Millar Celebration of Life Women’s Triathlon, Aguilar is passionate about volunteering her own time to train first-timers. She and two other women athletes — Keri Kemble and Amanda Helmuth — have teamed up to offer a free “Beginner’s Triathlon Training” program with the goal of getting newcomers in shape for the 19th annual Barbara Schmidt Millar Triathlon, scheduled for Sept. 15 at Cascade Shores. The free training sessions — open to all women — are designed to be supportive, fun and non-competitive.

“If you haven’t participated in it as an athlete, a volunteer or an onlooker, you are really missing out on a fantastic experience,” said Aguilar. “In my position as group fitness director at South Yuba club, I hear women say, ‘I have always wanted to try that’ or ‘I wish that I could do that, but I’m not fit enough … too old … don’t have time … don’t know how to start.’ The hardest part about completing a triathlon is making the commitment to do it. It means erasing old messages that your body has to look a certain way before you can start. It means realizing that you can become an athlete at any age. It means taking a risk to push yourself.”

Kathryn Lucas, who is in her 60s, decided to train for the triathlon as a way to challenge herself.

“I felt so welcome at our triathlon meeting,” she said. “I am really excited. Everyone was so nice. And even though I’m probably the oldest and fattest, I feel like just being with the ‘jocks’ will be fun, and a great way to work my way back into some semblance of health.”

The women’s group-in-training ranges in age from those in their 20s to 60s and is still open to new members.

“No way is it too late to train — we really just started,” said Aguilar. “I always wanted to do something like this with women who are initially intimidated by the idea. But they will be so gratified when they complete the competition.”

Aguilar oversees the cycling portion of training, while Helmuth coaches the running and Kemble the swimming. All three volunteers say what they are doing is in the spirit of the triathlon itself: women caring about each other.

Grass Valley nurse, wife and mother Barbara Schmidt Millar died of cancer in 1995 at the age of 42. Nineteen years later, the event, inspired by Millar’s generosity of spirit, has grown to roughly 400 participants and more than 150 volunteers.

Funds raised from the triathlon help women who cannot afford mammograms get screened at the Women’s Imaging Center at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. In addition, Millar’s family awards annual healthcare educational scholarships from triathlon proceeds to graduating young women from Nevada Union High School who intend to pursue a career in healthcare. This year, three NU graduates each received a $3,000 scholarship for use toward their degrees in nursing. 

“I appreciate that women of all ages and fitness levels are welcomed,” said first-time training participant Marilyn Weberg. “Kristin is a very motivating and positive person. It is all about getting us out there and moving and hopefully being able to finish the triathlon. At the very least, we will be more fit than when we started.”

Aguilar echoes these sentiments.

“It’s not about a great time or winning — it’s about finishing,” she said. “You really do become the inner athlete you always wanted to be.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at or call 530-477-4203.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User