Residents of all ages take part in ironman workouts.
“It’s a great stress relief and has helped me a ton in my actual day-to-day life, not just athletically but also mentally.”
NAOMI VENTURA, Ormond Beach Triathlon Club
Seventeen people waded into the ocean at dawn on a recent Saturday at Andy Romano Beachfront Park. After getting past the breakers, they swam north as the sun rose.
Apparently, there’s nothing like a 1.5-mile swim to start the day. And then a 26-mile bike ride around the Loop. And then a 5K run. It’s the Saturday routine for the Ormond Beach Triathlon Club.
Members say they have a better quality of life because of the physical fitness, but the main thing is the camaraderie. There’s a lot of good-natured kidding but they also support each other, with the more experienced helping new members.
“We compete and want to beat each other, but we want the others to have their best race,” said Matt Banker.
The “club” is actually just a group of friends that worked out together and started a Facebook page in 2012 to communicate about workout times, upcoming iron man competitions, etc. Now they can have as many as 30 people taking part in a Saturday workout.
There’s a wide age range with some in their 60s, such as Paul Rice, local attorney. A lifelong surfer, Rice was a lifeguard from 1977 to 1982.
“I always considered the ocean my life source,” he said. “I grew up on the beachside. The ocean is good for the soul.”
Rice competed in ironman events for 23 years, but then retired. He continues to work out with the club for the physical fitness aspect.
THE OCEAN: A GREAT EQUALIZER
Jae Hilgers, 45, is one of the few women. Having three children close in age, she knew there would come a time when they would leave the nest and she would need an interest of her own. She started running and later decided to mix in the other sports. Now she does a triathlon with a total of 70 miles, she said.
There are several different lengths of triathlons. The beginner ironman is known as a sprint, with a half-mile swim, 12-mile bike ride and 5K run. A half ironman is a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.
Another former lifeguard, Phil Brennan, said there are people from all walks of life in the group, but you can’t tell the social status when the competition begins.
“The ocean is the great equalizer,” he said.
Dominico Bui started walking for exercise and later fell in love with riding a bike. After a friend introduced him to swimming, he got addicted, he said.
“I never thought I’d be able to do this but here I am,” he said.
The first time he swam in the ocean he only made it a block, but kept working to learn the proper techniques.
Swimming against the ocean current can be quite a workout, he said.
“You swim for 10 minutes and you look and you’re still at the same place,” he said with a laugh.
Bui describes the group as “elite,” saying the Ormond Beach club members nearly always appear on the podium at races. Hugh Driscoll said there are several all-Americans in the group, which means they are in the top 10% of their age group. He attributes much of their success to the master swim class and coaching available at the Ormond Beach YMCA.
As the ocean gets rough in the fall, the group switches over to swimming at the YMCA.
EXERCISE WITH MINDFULNESS
The members travel to ironman races as a group.
“We may go out and party but we’re in bed by 8 p.m.,” Driscoll said. “I’m zonked from working out that day. And your body has to recover for the next day.”
While the distances of Ironman competition are long, Driscoll said the time goes by fast. During the race, it’s an “in-the-moment” experience. You’re thinking about form and keeping feet and hands in the proper position. While working out during the week, Driscoll likes to listen to music, but the competitions require concentration.
Naomi Ventura, a founding member who enters about a dozen competitions each year, said the triathlon provides an escape.
“It’s a great stress relief and has helped me a ton in my actual day-to-day life, not just athletically but also mentally,” she said.
Swimming in the ocean as the sun comes up is beautiful and relaxing, she said.
Of course, there are also hazards along the way, such as automobiles while riding a bike.
“You have to be aware of what’s going on,” she said. “Always assume they don’t see you.”
Find the club on Facebook at Ormond Beach Triathlon Club.