by Jim Provenzano
Around the globe, almost 22,000 athletes are preparing and training for this summer's Gay Games VII and OutGames I.
One of the northernmost participants in these events is track athlete Laura Carpenter of Anchorage, Alaska. The 28-year-old writer, who has been out for almost 10 years, works for the Anchorage Daily News and has lived there for three years.
Carpenter will compete in three distance-running races at Outgames, to be held in Montreal July 26 to Aug. 5. A runner for 17 years and a former All-American college athlete, Carpenter mostly works out alone, but once a week meets with a coach and other members of Team Alaska for speed work on the track.
Carpenter says running outdoors in the Alaskan winter was part of her workout. 'We have lots of great biking trails that are groomed during the winter that I run on ( wearing lots of layers, including a face mask when necessary ) .' She mostly trained on an indoor treadmill and a stationary road bike in her apartment.
Another deterrent to outdoor training in Alaska is the wildlife. Carpenter has seen seven bears and an occasional moose. 'Usually the moose don't mind me at all,' says Carpenter. 'I jog on past, and they continue munching on bark.' Last month, however, Carpenter startled a moose, who charged. 'He was pretty big, too. My relaxing run turned into a sprint. But the path was winding, and moose like to run in a straight line. I got rid of him quickly. Luckily, I could take an alternate route home.'
Team Alaska is assisting Carpenter and other athletes with some of their travel expenses through its scholarship program. Carpenter and her partner, Kenna Bates, who will be traveling to Montreal to support her, have also created a fundraising concept unique to their world by selling a board game they created called Alaska Dyke Life ( www.kennabates.com ) .
To find the LGBT athlete who lives the farthest south, head to Nelson, New Zealand, where Kate Batten was raised. In 2002, Batten won a bronze medal in mountain biking at Sydney's Gay Games VI, but will switch to road racing for Chicago's Games, which take place July 15-22.
'The other cycle racing I have done has been part of multi-sport races and triathlons,' says Batten. 'I'm excited to be doing something different, and as I worked as a volunteer on the road races in Sydney, it got me motivated to try it.'
Until recently, the 38-year-old Batten trained at undoubtedly the southernmost point on the globe—the South Pole. A carpenter, Batten is working on the construction of a new station for the U.S. Antarctic program for scientific and environmental research. The former cycling tour leader, who's traveled to Nepal and other countries, rode a bike across North America in 1998.
Like Carpenter, Batten trained indoors, using a treadmill, stationary bike, and, she adds, 'a lot of books on tape.' Batten wasn't the only gay staffer at the Antarctic station. 'There were other gay and bi ( sexual ) folks there. We had weekly viewings of The L Word.'
To welcome visiting athletes, local teams like the Chicago Razors, a group of triathletes, will host parties for all their fellow competitors. Since March, the Razors organized training sessions for its 60 members, says Bill Toepper of the Razors, who added that at least 30 are competing in the Games.
A triathlete post-race party is planned for July 18 at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted. 'We're hoping to have a