By Dana MacCorquodale

“She will blaze through you like a gypsy wildfire. Igniting your soul and dancing in its flames. And when she is gone, the smell of her smoke will be the only thing left to soothe you.” — Nicole Lyons

“Let’s race. I know I can beat you,” said the cocky 5th grade boy to me. I said okay and arranged to meet before cross-country practice for the “epic” race; he didn’t show.

The Taft Elementary cross-country team, comprised of 3 female runners, completed our practice – a 4-mile run with uphill wind sprints. I was fast then, even going to cross-country nationals (I peaked at age 8). After our post-practice cooled down, the fresh-faced boy showed up ready to race. My first instinct was to tell him to forget it! My coach nodded at me, “Go ahead, you can still take him.”

As we ran through the park for 2 miles, time passed quickly. No one spoke. I was warmed up, felt AMAZING and could see his fatigue and labored breathing.  He began to fade; I could see his inner struggle. If I beat him, he would be the laughing stock of the school. When I saw his will breaking, I made my move and left him in my dust. I won that race and the satisfaction stills run very deep. It was the first time someone thought they were better than me simply because I was a girl.

The world is full of amazing women with no fear doing incredible things. These women are paving the way for others to do the impossible.

She grabbed her racing bike and jumped on not worried about the flip-flops she was wearing or that she was in a beautiful Washington DC hotel. She rode with glee through the hotel’s sweeping marble ramps feeling pure freedom and joy; she was, boldly, in her element. Unfortunately, hotel security did not view it that way. Women who break stereotypes are often unfairly judged.

J’aime Nyheim defies all stereotypes. She is a petite, lithe triathlete with the fierceness of a warrior. She is a strong woman with a heart of gold who has served the US Navy as an Operation Specialist. Her studies include international business in South Korea and a financial services degree from San Diego State. J’aime is a proud wife, mother, real estate agent, and President of Sherwood Racing.

Raised in Oregon by an amazing single mother surrounded by strong women, J’aime was taught to be fiercely independent and incredibly kind. Being told from a young age that she is as tough and as capable as any man molded her into the woman she is today. When she left for boot camp, her Aunt told her “Give them hell J’aime, give them hell.” She did.

A lifelong athlete, she learned to swim at age 3, dabbled in criterium cycling, and then fell in love with triathlon when introduced to the sport by a fellow military wife. Through training, the pair quickly developed a friendship and bond planting the seed of Sherwood Racing.

Sherwood Racing is a team of dynamic female athletes passionately supporting our nation’s warfighters. They band together through long workouts and longer deployments to provide camaraderie for fellow military spouses. The arrows in their crest represent their 3-pronged mission; race as a team, fundraise for the Navy SEAL Foundation, and cultivate community camaraderie though triathlons.

This group of 12 incredible women stands for everything that is right in our country. They are strong, dedicated, passionate women that have banded together for the common good. Their camaraderie helps them get through the incredibly difficult daily life of a military wife; their sacrifice often unseen. Their dignity, grace, and loyalty are without parallel; it takes a strong woman to live this life.

When asked what her favorite thing about triathlon training is, J’aime replied, “The tribe of Sherwood Racing.  There is nothing more uplifting than to go for a long run with a dear friend for a solid sanity session.  Being able to mutually bounce off ideas, ask for advice, and vent is incredibly fulfilling.  I find great joy seeing the women of Sherwood Racing encouraging each other to tackle longer distances and supporting each other along the way.”

Sherwood Racing has grown into a formidable force in the triathlon world very often dominating the podium and racing with a ferocity that comes from deep within.

This tight-knit group of amazing women defies stereotypes daily. They train hard, live clean, work hard, and love hard. They are not standing in the background; they are fighters in their own right. They sacrifice for our country and fight for their families. They fight to break stereotypes as they train. Do not mistake their beauty for weakness. These are not fragile flowers. They are the new normal. They are women and they are strong.

Dana MacCorquodale is the Head Masters & Open Water Swim Coach at TIDE Swimming in Virginia Beach. She is also a top 10% Ironman Finisher, marathon open water swimmer & ultra runner.