by Stacy Smith
Resident triathlete Hugh Mealy didn’t really expect to enter another athletic event at the age of 80, and yet he finds himself just weeks shy of competing in the Colonial Beach Triathlon in the riverside town of Colonial Beach, Virginia.
“I’ve been billing this as ‘Hugh’s last try,’” he jokes. “It will probably be my last triathlon. I’m either going to make it or not.”
Mealy will compete in a sprint triathlon on Saturday, July 16, facing off against others in the age 80-84 division. The event will be quite a feat. Mealy will have to start the race by swimming 750 meters followed by a 20-kilometer bike ride and crowning it all with a five-kilometer run to the finish line.
And if all that sounds exhausting just to think about, remember that Mealy will be sprinting. But although that word connotes a fast race and “everybody tries to go at maximum speed,” he jokes that at his age “maximum speed is pretty slow.”
Not his First Rodeo
Admittedly a little nervous, Mealy wonders if he’s up to the challenge. “I just hope to finish [the race],” he adds.
In the meantime, he’s been working out at the fitness center and swimming at the indoor pools in Clubhouse II when he can to increase his endurance. Competing “gives you an incentive to exercise and keep yourself in shape,” he says.
The triathlon on July 16 will be the first he’s competed in in approximately seven years.
And though he says he wouldn’t exactly describe himself as an athlete and says he’s an “amateur at this kind of thing,” his modesty belies the fact that he’s done quite well in past athletic events by anyone’s standard of measure. At the last triathlon he competed in at age 73 he came in second in the age 70-74 division only to what he describes as “a world-class competitor” who won first place.
A Family Affair
And at that last triathlon Mealy’s brother, Burke, was standing in third place alongside him. In fact, if it wasn’t for his brother, Mealy might never have set foot on a winner’s podium at all.
“He’s the one who got me into triathlons,” he explains.
His brother was a “lifelong companion,” and the duo used to compete and go biking together before his passing in 2018.
Mealy is an avid biker, having biked in the past up to 7,000 miles a year. Residents might recognize him from the bike rides he takes around Leisure World Boulevard, often doing five to 10 laps around the loop.
The July 16 triathlon will be Mealy’s first since his brother passed, which is why having his wife, Helen, and family members cheer him on and, in some cases, compete alongside him, albeit in different events and age brackets, makes this particular event pretty special.
To watch an online video featuring a mix of competitors racing in last year’s Colonial Beach Sprint, visit https://bit.ly/3A8I9Q3, scroll down and click on the Vimeo video located under the “Colonial Beach Sprint” heading on the right side of the page.
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