Donna Burckley, a physical therapy assistant from Port Charlotte, will race in Saturday’s Englewood YMCA Triathlon. Maybe we should put “race” in quotes. Burckley’s goal is to enjoy her swim, bike and run on Manasota Key. She’d like to finish in less than two hours.
“I’m a slow triathlete, but at least I’m off the couch,” she says. “That’s the way I look at it.”
Most triathletes are enthusiastic runners and cyclists who grudgingly take up swimming. Burckley is the opposite.
“I only run because I have to,” she jokes. “My sport requires it.”
To prepare for the Y Tri, the 49-year-old Burckley did join a weekly training group on Englewood Beach. She practiced biking and then running. She got some tips on speedy race transitions. She did some open-water swimming.
Navigation can be tricky.
“It takes practice to learn how to sight,” Burckley says. “You have to learn how to look for the buoy or a landmark.”
The Englewood race is a sprint triathlon consisting of a 400-meter swim, 13-mile bike and 5-kilometer run. This is shorter than an international or Olympic triathlon distance. It’s much shorter than an Ironman Triathlon. So it’s easy, right? Wrong, says Tony Welch, a Sarasota triathlete.
“It’s just harder in a different way,” he says. “I like the word ‘red-line.’ You’re red-lining the whole day long. You swim your heart out, then you bike as hard as you can, then you do what you can in the run.”
Welch hopes to finish in an hour, or maybe an hour and 4 minutes. He’s done the Englewood triathlon three times. He enjoys the canopy road on Manasota Key.
He’s also a member of the Sarasota Storm Tri Club, which might have 50 racers at the Saturday triathlon.
“It’s nice to see everybody in their Storm gear,” Welch says. “It’s a community thing. We’re there to help. We’re there to train with.”
Melody Vasbinder, who opened Real Bikes Englewood in November, has been leading Saturday morning practice sessions on Man-asota Key.
“We started showing up six weeks ago and now we’ve got 20-25 people,” she says. “It’s a good mix.”
Some people are training for their first triathlon. Others are coming back for more.
It helps to train on the actual course of the Englewood triathlon. Working toward a specific races helps keep people focused and committed.
“When you’ve got an event coming up,” Vasbinder says, “it’s harder to find excuses.”