photography by Daniel Smith
Ask any Grunt Girl what she likes best about Northeast Ohio’s only all-women- multisport club/team, and she’ll talk to you about the friendships, the support, the satisfaction that comes with being part of a team and the joy of discovering something totally new and unexpected about yourself.
What you won’t hear as much about is the competition itself. While many of these women are elite athletes by anyone’s definition, their attitudes are anything but elite.
It only takes a brief conversation to realize that the benefits of being in a group like Grunt Girl Racing go far beyond the finish line. Two of the original founders, Stacy Rhea and Andrea Chisnell, have been instrumental in creating a culture where women of all ages, interests and abilities can learn, train and grow alongside other fun-loving women without pressure or intimidation.
For these two friends and amateur athletes, Grunt Girl Racing is about looking beyond the labels of‚runner, cyclist‚or‚competitive athlete‚and focusing on helping women go farther, faster and achieve more than they ever thought possible. At the same time, Rhea and Chisnell are big believers in the idea that, when it comes to sports and fitness, the experience and knowledge of the whole group is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
We have all been in the newbie’s shoes at one time or another,Rhea says. We know how intimidating it can be to step into the race scene or to simply get started with something new. If we can use that knowledge to help someone else overcome fear and achieve something great, then we’ve done our jobs.
Student and race team member Tonya Yanok was drawn by the group’s diversity. There is always someone who can offer advice about a particular sport or event. Reading about something online or in a book is one thing, but having a woman you relate to share her perspective on what helped her excel at a particular sport is much more beneficial. It gives me confidence.
Indeed, Grunt Girl Racing is truly multi-disciplinary, providing training and support on everything from 5K races to trail running, marathons, duathlons, triathlons, cyclocross and adventure racing. Other team members also play roller derby and kayak, among other activities.
Before Grunt Girls, I had never run longer than a 5K race,says Shelly Breeden, a personal trainer and race team member. They took the time to train and educate me on fueling, hydration and post-recovery nutrition, and they got me running up to 20 miles. Now, just seven months later, I am ready to run a 50K.
According to Chisnell, this experience is not uncommon. Grunt Girl Racing provides an opportunity for average women to train, compete and experience a multitude of personal bests in a supportive, nurturing environment. It‚Äôs not about finishing first, it’s about running or cycling farther than you ever have in your life and wanting to do it again.
Rhea and Chisnell are quick to add that Grunt Girl Racing is just as much a learning experience for its founders as it is for the rest of the team. Rhea will take on her first-ever cyclocross event this fall, while Chisnell completed her first triathlon last year and spent the first half of the year training for the Buckeye Trail 50K race.
Today, a little more than one year after introducing the concept of an all-women’s multisport team in Northeast Ohio, Rhea and Chisnell have started to see wide-scale acceptance. Between the Grunt Girls Club (for women who are more interested in training than racing) and the Grunt Girls Racing Team (for women who love to compete), the roster is more than 40-strong and growing rapidly.
With that much grunting, groaning, whooping and hollering going on, the Ohio sports community was bound to take notice. Grunt Girl Racing has four title sponsors: Vertical Runner, the Green Roots Collection, in Hudson; Women’s Multisports Connection, a Web-based business; Bike Authority in Broadview Heights; and Ryders Eyewear. Other sponsors include North Coast Multisports, Girls with Sole!, Fitness Together, Western Reserve Trail Running, Honey Stinger and Ohio Sports & Fitness.
Partnering with these businesses has enabled Grunt Girls to expand its offerings beyond regular training sessions to include fitness and nutrition clinics, fashion shows, annual picnics and its own event, Shatter the Silence Trail Run on Aug. 19, to benefit the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
For more information on Grunt Girls or the Shatter the Silence Trail Run, visit http://www.gruntgirlracing.com or contact Stacy Rhea at email@example.com.
Annie Murmann is a Cleveland-based writer specializing in marketing communications and content development who loves running, cycling, fitness and all things outdoors. To contact Annie, call 330-224-5542 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.