Never too old to Tri

too old for triathlon

Early this year, a friend of mine Laura met some amazing women during a 4-5 day Purplepatch camp in Kona.  One of them, Celia at the young age of 67 left a lasting impression with Laura and many of the other female camp-goers.  It doesn’t surprise me – Celia has it all; funny stories, positive mantras, life stories (both postivite and negative) and the perfect description of the type of people that motivate her.    What an amazing Ironchick!

Enjoy her responses…..


Meet Celia. She’s 67years young and absolutely brilliant. She won the camp award for attitude and enthusiasm. Her positive approach to life and the sport was infectious, and had lessons for all of us with her passion and gumption. She’s definitely young at heart and has a cheeky sense of humour and ensures she has a serious amount of fun whilst she’s training and racing. I mean it takes quite a character to sign up for a triathlon camp at the youthful age of 67!

Celia is a mother of 3, with one grandson. She started the sport 20years ago when she was 47, probably long after many would think about stopping sport.

Laura: What inspired you to start triathlon at 47years young?

Celia: My sons were grown and I had time to focus on my interests. I had had knee surgery and was rehabbing from that when someone suggested I do a triathlon. I didn’t know what a triathlon was; but after learning more about it, I thought it sounded like a fun, new challenge! After that first sprint tri, I was hooked!

Laura: Did you train in a group and find people to train with?

Celia: There were five of us who found each other when we started doing triathlons. We came from all different backgrounds and were all different ages, but we shared the same enthusiasm for the sport and enjoyed each other’s company. Everything was brand new and fresh and we never knew what to expect and it was all crazy fun. I’ve had lots of other training partners since then, but I will always treasure those early days when it was all new and a little wild!


During the February camp in Kona
During the February camp in Kona

Laura: So of those ‘crazy fun’ days, you must have some stories?

Celia: Early on I trained with 4 other women, and none of us knew what we were doing! We would go out and ride 2mile hill repeats, then go run and get hysterical over silly things. I remember actually dropping and rolling on the trail when we were laughing too hard to keep running!

  • One woman painted her wetsuit with leopard spots for a race.
  • Our husbands took turns rowing boats when we did lake swims. One didn’t know how to row and just went in circles the whole time we were swimming. We ended up pulling him in to shore!
  • Once in the middle of a lake swim, one woman decided she couldn’t stand her wetsuit, so she stripped it off and left it on a buoy in the middle of the lake! She never wore a wetsuit again!
  • One woman rode an old 10 speed bike and had so many problems during a ride one day that all of a sudden, she jumped off her bike and shouted a couple of expletives, then threw her bike down the side of a very steep hill! She was so mad and crying and having a melt-down while we all stood there dumbfounded for a minute. Then one of the other women said, “So,_________, how do you plan to get home without a bike?” Little moments are all heightened in the midst of training, so everything can become funny. We all hiked down the hill and brought the bike back up and fixed it well enough to get her home. She bought a new bike the next week.

Laura: Now whilst you started Triathlon a little later in your life, you were an figure skater when you were younger.  Are there any similarities that you’ve been able to transfer from the ice to triathlon?

Celia: Triathlon and figure skating both require a passion for the sport as well as consistency, discipline, determination, mental toughness, technique, and a commitment to show up every day with the aim to improve. Both sports require consistent, daily practice and repetition for skill-building. They both require patience with yourself, knowing your limiters and working to improve those. Both sports require a determination to keep going when things aren’t going your way. Both sports require mental toughness to keep you focused when things get tough or you don’t see progress. Both sports require disciplining yourself to get up everyday and keep working toward your goals. They are both individual sports that you do within a larger community of like-minded people in which the love for sport is what connects you. All of these aspects translate not only to sports, but also to life in general, especially when you face obstacles of any kind, which we all do.

Laura: You’ve had a few setbacks in your life, with injuries. How have you overcome these to carry on?

Celia: I had a menisectomy in which the entire medial meniscus of the knee was removed, although I wasn’t aware of that at the time. I would learn that 10 years later, after I had competed in numerous triathlons, including an Ironman. It impacted running, as I was told to keep running to a minimum and to be content with running slower. At this point I have arthritic changes in my knees, so now I have hyaluronic acid injections in my knees twice a year. I walk twice a week in training and only run on race days and for 3 weeks before the races. It’s not perfect, but so far, I’m still upright and mobile and making forward progress, which is always a good thing. As I’ve aged and had to deal with setbacks and injuries or degenerative arthritis, I keep seeking ways to keep moving and adapt to changing conditions. You just have to “roll with it.”

Triathlon in 1998 - always with friends
Triathlon in 1998 – always with friends

Laura: So explain more about ‘rolling with it’ and your arthirits?

Celia: I have pronounced arthritis in one thumb that doesn’t improve with age! That made cycling a very painful activity, with all the shifting and braking that put pressure on the joint. I reached the point where I thought I might have to quit cycling, and emailed my physical therapist (also a cyclist) to ask what I should charge to sell my bike.

His response turned everything around for me. Shimano had just come out with the Di2 electronic shifting and he said he thought that would be the only viable solution for me. I had a choice to make: either cash in a retirement annuity, buy the Di2 system and keep riding, or give up cycling…. guess what I chose? I cashed in that annuity, installed the Di2 and never looked back! It truly was and is a lifesaver for anyone with arthritis in his or her hands.

(Note: I wonder how many people may use this as a reason to get electronic shifters now)

Laura: Are there any other gadgets and gizmo’s you now have your eye on?

Celia: I’m currently looking at new bike cases to replace my hard-sided, over-sized case. I’d like to have the new Garmin 920xt and I need some new tri shoes for the bike. I think I also need one more Dr. Seuss bike jersey… 🙂

Laura: What do your husband, children and grandchild think of your passion?

Celia: My family is supportive of anything I want to do. I think they realize that I put my athletic pursuits on hold while they pursued and achieved their dreams, and now they enjoy seeing me do what I love.


Triathlon in 1998
Triathlon in 1998

Laura: What would be your mantra in life?

Celia: I have three that I cycle through:

“Yes, you can!”

“Go for the Gold.”

“Keep on the sunny side of life.”

Laura: We think you are pretty inspirational yourself Celia, but who or what inspires you?

Celia: People with integrity, who are thoughtful and considerate, who have great senses of humor and who aren’t mean-spirited; people who are willing to bend down and help someone smaller or less fortunate; military men and women who lay down their lives for our freedom; athletes who give back; people who don’t give up.

Laura: What would you say to other ladies who are a little older but want to start the sport?

Celia: There aren’t too many who are older than I am!! But I’d say, “Jump in and don’t look back! We’re never too old to begin something new!” I do mentor other people who are new to the sport, both older and younger than I am, and I encourage them to start small and not rush the process. I think they should enjoy the process and the new lifestyle and friends they will make along the way. They should hire a good strength trainer. They should savor every moment and focus on longevity in the sport, which is another way of saying, “pace themselves.” There’s no hurry and no need to compete with anyone else: it’s just about being out there and being part of something bigger than yourself.

The whole time I was growing up and competing in figure skating, I never knew I was an athlete. I knew I was athletic; but because there were no women’s sports in school, I never made the connection. Sometimes we women just never had the opportunity to find out what we were capable of, so triathlon is a wonderful vehicle for discovering new things about ourselves and what we really are capable of accomplishing!

Laura: Celia, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us. You really are inspiring and your attitude and energy is contagious!


Celia and Laura


Wise words.  I loved the part about “being out there and being a part of something bigger than yourself.”

Thanks for the interview Laura and Celia.  Two amazing Ironchicks!

Climbing hills

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