ocean-swimMembers of the Jersey Shore Tri Gals take to the ocean on a training swim Wednesday. (Click to enlarge)

Twenty years ago, in the early days of the Danskin Triathlon, it used to take weeks or months for the event to get fully booked with participants.

This year, all 1,000 slots for the Sandy Hook edition of the swim-bike-run women’s series were filled in a matter of hours.

The event, and the clubs that feed racers into it, just keep growing, said Fair Haven’s Pam Mancuso, self-appointed “queen” and co-founder of theĀ  Jersey Shore Tri Gals. The club, launched in 2004 with just four members, now has some 130, 65 of whom will be in the Danskin race.

“A couple of months ago, half these women wouldn’t even put a toe in the water,” Mancuso said of a group of about 18 women getting ready to join her on a training swim in rough surf at Sea Bright earlier this week. “Now, they’re attacking the water.”

tri-gals-trioTriathletes gather around Pam Mancuso, of Fair Haven, at the entrance to the beach; Bonnie Cooper of Rumson tries her goggles, andĀ  Ann Rossbach, also of Rumson, limbers up. (Click to enlarge)

“Most of our group are mothers of younger children, and this is a chance for women to do something for themselves,” she told redbankgreen. “It’s a chance for us to show our kids that we’re strong and we can go and we can conquer anything.”

The event, including a half-mile ocean swim, a 20k bike and a 5k run, starts at 7a Sunday at Gateway National Recreation Area.

Meantime, if you’re out on the town in Red Bank Saturday night and see lots of buff women with numbers written on their upper arms in black grease pencil, be sure to wish them luck.