‘Gotta Tri’ – Triathlon in The Villages, Florida
The Villages, Florida (https://www.thevillages.com/), located about one hour’s drive northwest of Orlando International Airport on the Florida Turnpike, is a retirement community that promotes, almost demands, activity for every age and ability. Triathlon is one of the activities growing in The Villages thanks to the triathlon club.
As just one example, consider that from 5-9 pm, 365 days per year, each of the three Town Squares has live music with residents and their guests filling the dance floors. Of course, to prepare for the evening, one needs to take afternoon dance lessons. That is, unless you are golfing on one of the nearly 40 courses, biking, doing water aerobics, playing pickleball on one of the more that 150 courts, or involved in any one of the other hundred or so activities.
One of our favorite Town Square entertainers is Skooter, The DJ. His goal is to help seniors shock their children and grandchildren by teaching them to masterfully dance to the latest Hip Hop tunes.
Introduction to The Villages Triathlon Club
Reading the sports section of the daily newspaper of The Villages, The Daily Sun, is a daily ritual when visiting the area. Articles in the paper never fail to encourage, inspire, and even amaze me with the accomplishments of active seniors.
One article that especially grabbed my attention was that of a resident who had re-started swimming after quadruple bypass surgery.
Wanting to learn more about the story behind the story, I contacted the article’s author. He eventually introduced me to Donna Maguire, founder and president of The Villages Triathlon Club.
Donna started The Villages Triathlon Club in April 2015. While it initially had a mere 9 members, the club grew to 70 within a few months.
Donna graciously agreed to speak with me about her experiences with triathlon in The Villages. Her comments are included below.
By the way, the ‘Gotta Tri’ in the title of this article comes from Donna’s e-mail signature. Donna also designed the logo for The Villages Triathlon Club (pictured below) which is being used on Club t-shirts, warm-ups, and other apparel.
Beginnings of The Villages Triathlon Club
Senior Triathletes: Please tell me about The Villages Triathlon Club – its history and mission.
Donna Maguire: I decided to start a triathlon club in The Villages because after moving to The Villages and learning about nearby Clermont, the triathlon capital of the world, I ventured back into the world of triathlons. There were no running or triathlon clubs here and I wanted to change that.
One day, I met a woman playing Pickleball who had just signed up for her first triathlon (she was 70) and had no idea of what she was in for. She had less than 3 weeks to prepare for it. I took her under my wing, sharing my limited experience and equipment. Helping her helped me. And with that, the idea of the triathlon club was born!
I started talking with others who were interested in doing triathlons. Many of them encouraged me to start a triathlon and running club. Frankly, I wanted to find people to train and play with! Did I ever! We now not only have a triathlon club but have spun off a running club!
Club Mission and Membership
The mission of The Villages Triathlon Club is “to provide, for all levels of athletic ability, a network of information, support services, training, racing, and social activities in a friendly and supportive environment.”
Membership is open to individuals who are currently participating in triathlons or have completed events in the past and have a desire to get involved again. Also welcomed are first-timers who would like to learn about and prepare for the multi-sport challenge.
Triathlon Club Events
Senior Triathletes: How do you fulfill this mission?
Donna Maguire: I try to encourage everyone who comes to the meetings to try to do a triathlon. In the meetings, we share tons of information. We invite guest speakers to discuss various levels of triathlons.
I also created a Facebook page for the triathlon club as well as one for runners as a way to communicate and encourage each other. I’m not an expert and although I share my experience, I also want to be sure that members have a variety of levels of expertise and experience on which to draw.
Senior Triathletes: Please tell me more about the training events. Who conducts these? At what level of experience are they aimed?
Donna Maguire: I have organized several different training events in the short time we’ve been a club. One of these included a pro-triathlete who gave a group triathlon swim lesson at Lake Minneola. We had five members sign up for this very helpful clinic.
We have also met for group swims and practice tri’s at Lake Minneola and at Lake Weir. Swims are for all levels, from beginner to experienced.
I have also reserved the use of a sports pool for one hour a week to practice together. During this time, we focus on triathlon specific training, such as drafting and swimming close together, to help get accustomed to the contact that often occurs during the triathlon swim.
We have reserved Lake Sumter Square (one of the three Town Squares mentioned earlier) on Friday mornings for a Boot Camp. One of our members leads the session.
It’s a great workout using only body weight. We start with a 4-mile group run at 7:00 to do some interval training. The Boot Camp follows at 8:00, and then, for ambitious members, there is a yoga class at 9:00! A priceless start of our day. (And all free!)
Senior Triathletes: How has triathlon impacted your life?
Donna Maguire: Triathlons have helped my confidence as well as my health. Not learning to swim until later in my adult life, I’ve always had a fear and discomfort in the swim portion. Little by little I’ve started to overcome that fear, something I never thought I’d be able to do. I keep reminding myself – ‘Just breathe’.
We all have something that is scary and out of our comfort area. We can take the easy route and just avoid that situation or tackle it and feel confident!
The Villages Triathlon Club highlights the value of the encouragement and camaraderie that comes from being part of a group that shares common goals and interests.
Send any questions or comments, including those for Donna Maguire, to firstname.lastname@example.org.