A. Garcia / SFVS

Before getting a medal for her participation in the 5K race at the Hansen Dam Triathlon, Claudia Ponce received a bigger recognition: a high-five from her four kids that were cheering for her at the finish line.

“I want to set a good example for them,” said Ponce, 27, from Pacoima. “My husband had already showed them a good example (by participating in the triathlon a year before) and I wanted to show them that mommy can also do it.”

“I’ve always liked to exercise and I try to inculcate sports to them,” said Alex Ponce, Claudia’s husband.

Even though both parents work full time, they try to keep their kids active as much as they can.

“They swim, run and we take walks and go hiking,” Alex said.

For Alex, being fit was instilled in him by his parents. Growing up in El Salvador, his father — who was a lifeguard — used to get him up at 5 a.m. to go running, he recalled.

At age 11, Alex followed in his father’s footsteps and for the next seven years also worked as a life guard.

“I try to do the same thing for (my children),” Alex said.

Ponce leads by example. Last year he competed in the Hansen Dam Triathlon. The registration was a birthday gift from his wife. This year, he was taking care of their four children while his wife ran in the 5K race.

Hansen Dam Triathlon

The triathlon is now in its 12th year. It began with 75 participants; nearly 500 men, women and children took part this year.

“I want to create healthy activities for all ages,” said Fred Flores, Hansen Dam Triathlon president.

It was obvious, that young and old were enjoying the competition held Sunday, Aug. 21, at the recreation complex located in Lake View Terrace.

Dozens of men and women were there before the sun was up, preparing for three laps of swimming at the enormous man-made lake at Hansen Dam, followed by a bike ride and run. This was an Olympic-style triathlon. There was also the Sprint version (only one swimming lap), as well as a 10K, 5K and 1K for children ages 3-12.

Andy Esteban, 45, and his son Emilio, 14, said they were “psyched” about participating in their first Sprint triathlon together.

Andy, a probation officer, had done one previously, before Emilio was born.

“I talked him into it,” said the Northridge resident with a laugh, in recalling how he  convinced his son — a long distance runner at Granada Hills Charter High School — to take part in the triathlon.

They didn’t train much. Andy keeps fit regularly and did a half Ironman not too long ago. Emilio rides his bicycle to school (about four miles from his home) and competes in cross-country for his school.

But both admitted this was different.

“Maybe we can start training together, and do the next one,” said Andy as they put on their swimming caps and headed to take their turns in their respective categories.

“I just hope to run a good race,” Emilo said.

“I hope to finish,” added his father.

They both did.

Moms Setting An Example

They belong to the “Run, Tone, Hike Club,” but they just as easily be called the “Fantastic Five.”

They are five moms from Panorama City, all friends who work full time and are dedicated to keeping fit.

“There is time for everything. To exercise and be moms,” said Anna Garibay, 35 and mother of four. “Instead of watching soap operas, we go running.”

They took part in the Superhero 5K race — and were properly attired, one might add.

Garibay dressed as Batgirl. Tannya Lovato, 40, a mother of three and grandmother of one, was Spiderwoman. Emma Soriano, 34, and a mother of two, was Supergirl. Guadalupe Diosdado, 48, and a mother of three, wore a Marvel superhero T-shirt. And Patricia Castro, 40, a mother of three, also dressed as Batgirl.  

They go out running two to three times a week, but they all exercise every day one way or another.

Saturdays are dedicated to hiking and they don’t go by themselves. “We take the kids,” Garibay said.

But next week they won’t take the kids. These moms are doing a “mud run,” and they don’t mind getting sweaty and dirty.

Kid’s Race

The children’s race was free, an incentive to get them away from their tablets and video games and get them moving, Flores said.

After Claudia finished her race, it was time for her kids to participate in the 1K competition, the culmination of the day’s events.

Aracely, 8; Valeria, 6; and Christopher, 5, competed in the race last year after their father did the Triathlon. It was the first time for the youngest son Aaron, 3.

“What the kids see, they imitate,” Alex said.

Aracely loves to run “because it’s fun”; the rest prefer swimming.

“I just want them to keep active, to eat well and stay safe,” Claudia said. “It’s not fun to be overweight.”

Flores said he’d like to put on a mini triathlon for kids in the future.

“Maybe a future Olympian may come from over here,” he said.

The Ponces may have one in their midst. During the 2016 Rio Games, they said Aaron would watch Michael Phelps competing in the pool over and over on YouTube videos.

He was so transfixed that “when we turned it off, he would cry,” Alex said. “I had never seen anybody with that kind of passion.”

And passion is an essential part of any Olympian.