When she wakes up around 6 o’clock on some mornings, and her 64-year-old flesh is telling her not to get up and go running out in the Bethesda cold, Nancy Avitabile always invents a character in her mind. She imagines a San Diego woman, already up and training, in the California heat. That’s the competition, she tells herself. Then she rises and runs for miles and miles in Bethesda’s streets.
All those competitors created in Avitabile’s mind will come alive Sunday, as she and thousands of other athletes from across the country come to Washington for the seventh annual Nation’s Triathlon. The Nation’s course has developed a reputation for being particularly grueling but equally scenic. It includes nearly a mile of swimming in the Potomac River, followed by a 25-mile bike course and a six-mile run that snakes through downtown.
The course is home-field advantage for Avitabile, who has lived in Bethesda for more than 30 years. She has raised her children there. She has started her own accounting firm there. And she has become one of the country’s best female triathletes there — one good enough to qualify for the world triathlon championships next month in Auckland, New Zealand.