SOUTH PORTLAND – Cari Turnbull stood at the finish line of the Tri for a Cure triathlon hoping to catch a glimpse of her mother.

Holding her son Alex, 22 months, she said her mother, Barbara Deschenes of Norway, finished chemotherapy a year ago and has been training for Tri for a Cure ever since.

“Now we are waiting to watch her finish, although probably the first one over won’t be Nana,” she told her son.

Turnbull, of Windham, and about 5,000 others watched the 1,249 women who competed Sunday in the all-women triathlon, which was based at Southern Maine Community College. The athletes competed in a one-third-mile swim in Portland Harbor, a 15-mile bike ride through South Portland and a 3-mile run to Bug Light and back.

In its sixth year, the event was expected to raise $1.2 million for the Maine Cancer Foundation; the final total won’t be known for about a month. Foundation spokesman Cullen McGough said it is the state’s largest one-day fundraiser in terms of money, although the TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race has more people.

It is the only all-women triathlon in the state and possibly New England, McGough said.

One athlete, Erin Pond Friedland of New York City, managed to single-handedly raise $26,350 from her sponsors, McGough said. She is the sister of Joel Pond of Falmouth, a board member of the Maine Cancer Foundation.

But most of the 20,000 triathlon donors give $20 to $50.

“This is really about Mainers taking care of Mainers,” McGough said.

The athletes could run as relay teams or individuals. Their times are monitored by electronic ankle bracelets. The athletes start in staggered groups, with individual cancer survivors first, followed by survivor relay teams, then by nine other categories.

Thousands of spectators watched the athletes from shore and along the bike and foot race routes. Barbara Messner drove up from Reading, Pa., to watch her daughter Kimberly Messner of Gray compete. Looking out into the harbor, Messner said she could pick her out among the hundreds of swimmers churning up the water.

“My daughter is out there. I can recognize her stroke,” said Messner, who expected to celebrate her daughter’s performance with a lobster lunch.

Rebecca Goodwin of North Yarmouth, a cancer survivor, was the first individual athlete over the finish line, with a time of 90 minutes.

Goodwin has done the triathlon four times and always does well. She said this year she almost didn’t do it because of injuries but finally pushed herself.

“I do this for so many people I have lost,” Goodwin said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

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