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While most people
hone their athletic
skills earlier in life, Phyllis only became a
“serious” athlete at the age of 66. That was
the year in which she participated in the
Meek and the Mighty triathlon. “I bought
a great big bike that I could hardly ride,”
Phyllis recalls. It had been more than 50
years since she’d been on a bicycle. After
the race, Phyllis was “so hyped up” that
she couldn’t imagine not participating
in another race. It was at that point that
competing in triathlons became a new-
found passion.
The decision to become more active
didn’t occur overnight. Phyllis had been
exercising regularly since her early 50s,
participating in synchronized swimming
and clogging (a type of folk dancing).
Her husband was, according to Phyllis,
“a phenomenal runner and cyclist.”He
worked as a physical education teacher
for a short period and nearly became
a professional boxer. Phyllis lost her
husband in 2007; she maintains that he is
the inspiration for her physical persever-
ance. Her triumphs have been numerous;
she came in second for her age group
at theWorld Triathlon Championship
in Cleveland, Ohio 14 years ago, and
then came in first the following year at
the same competition in Montreal. She
holds a Canadian Native Record and
two U.S. championship records for race-
walking and has participated in various
race-walking events in which she has
finished in first, second or third place. In
the 80s, she came in first in the 20k race
walk for the Pan Am Games in Ottawa.
Just recently, in 2011, Phyllis competed
in the Summer National Senior Games in
Houston, Texas, in which she finished first
in the 80-84 female category for the 40k
road race, 20k road race, 10k time trial, 5k
time trial and the triathlon.
She recalls with humour her participation
in the Iron Man Triathlon Championship
in Florida about 15 years ago. As a team
member, her portion of the competition
was to complete the 2.4-mile open-water
swim in alligator-infested waters. “I swam
into something big and was certain it
was an alligator,” she remembers. “It
turned out to be another swimmer.”Of
the human kind, thankfully. Her team
subsequently came in third (there were
no age groups for this race; Phyllis was 70
years old, while her two teammembers
were in their 40s).
When asked about the open-water
swimming and whether life-saving boats
are close at hand, Phyllis replies that she
knows they are, but doesn’t see them.
“I’m so busy concentrating on my swim-
ming that I don’t notice them around,”
she comments. At triathlons, the races are
non-stop, which means running, cycling
and swimming continuously. During the
swimming portion of these races, Phyllis
has known some competitors to face
some serious difficulty…mostly from
inhaling water into their lungs. “This has
happened to me, as well,” she says. “The
best thing to do is not to panic!”
Training and competing is hard work,
and Phyllis has had her share of setbacks.
While cycling in New Brunswick in 2009
– in preparation for the 2009 Summer
National Senior Games in California –
Phyllis was hit by a car backing up; the
impact split her kneecap and required a
28-day hospital stay and a six-month re-
covery period. As a result, she was unable
to compete in the senior games that year.
In 2009, she was also hit from behind
while running a race in Zephyrhills,
Florida. She was knocked to the ground,
but managed to get herself up and finish
the race, bleeding and sore. Luckily, there
were no broken bones or internal injuries.
Being a snowbird enables Phyllis to train
in the Sunshine State. “Being in the sun-
shine keeps you young,” she maintains.
Every fall, she makes the trek to Dade
City, Florida. The van is normally packed
to the roof with sporting gear. Training in
Florida is much easier than training in her
hometown of Oromocto, New Brunswick.
The daily 40- to 50-km round trip cycling
jaunt from Oromocto to Fredericton and
back requires sharing the highway with
big trucks and RVs. And the Canadian
weather is sometimes less than perfect
for race walking and cycling. On average,
Phyllis trains six days a week; the intensity
of her training depends on whether there
is an upcoming competition. Currently,
she is preparing for a qualifier race to
compete in the 2013 Summer National
Senior Games in Cleveland.
Although physically preparing herself for
competitions consumes much of her time
in Florida, Phyllis also finds the time to
enjoy some less vigorous activities, such
as cribbage and square dancing. She likes
Dade City because of its Spanish flair and
central location; it’s close to Orlando, St.
Petersburg and many beaches, while still
maintaining a quiet ambience. It also
boasts lots of antique shopping and the
infamous yearly Kumquat Festival which,
according to Phyllis, is a “must-see.”
Phyllis plans to be back in Dade City
again next year, training with a ven-
geance. She’s the senior version of the
Energizer Bunny – she just keeps going
and going, despite any setbacks or hard-
ships that come her way. Her stamina
and positive attitude are truly
inspirational.
Snowbird
profile
Phyllis Goodlad is an athlete
And she’s 83 years old!