By Suzanne Schmidt
The city of Zephyrhills will be filled with local athletes for the East Pasco Family Branch YMCA Spring Sprint Triathlon March 27.
The YMCA, 37301 Chapel Hill Loop in Zephyrhills, will have a 300-yard swim, an 11-mile bike ride and a 5K run for the triathlon. Registration will be from 6 to 7:30 a.m. with the race starting at 8:30 a.m.
Registration for individual athletes is $55 by March 22 and $65 afterward. Registration for relay teams is $95 by March 22 and $105 afterward.
Jen Silvers, executive director for the East Pasco and Dade City YMCA, said she is happy to be organizing the event because she thinks it is something Zephyrhills needs.
“I think people in Zephyrhills are looking for things to do locally,” Silvers said. “This is an opportunity for local athletes to participate in their town. There aren’t really many races happening in Pasco.”
Last year the East Pasco YMCA took over running the triathlon from Main Street Zephyrhills, Inc.
“It was not their area of expertise and it was held at the YMCA anyway so it was natural for us to step in and do it,” Silvers said. “We like to do events throughout the year to build community. We like it because it brings in people from the Zephyrhills area and all over the state.”
There are about 50 people signed up for the race. Some are coming from as far as Colorado and Savannah, Georgia. Most are coming from local areas like Lutz, Land O’ Lakes and Zephyrhills.
“This is a good time of year to have a race,” Silvers said. “It is a good introduction to start the season. A lot of experienced athletes use it as a warm up. It is also a good race for people who have never done it before.”
It is a sprint triathlon as opposed to an Olympic triathlon, which means distances are shorter. Since the swim will be in the pool, the race is better for novices.
“The swim will be in a pool which is a little less intimidating,” Silvers said. “It is better than an ocean swim because in a pool you don’t have to deal with the current. Also with a mass swim start, you get kicked or elbowed and that won’t happen in the pool.”
Rhonda Kieper of Wesley Chapel will be participating in her first triathlon.
“I have never been in a triathlon, but I thought it would be a good challenge,” Kieper said. “At first, I didn’t feel very confident, but I have done a few practice runs and now I feel better. They have been so encouraging at the Y. With their support, they have pushed me to the point where I feel like I can do it.”
Kieper spent the last three years working out at the YMCA in Zephyrhills. She has lost 70 pounds and the triathlon is her way of keeping motivated.
“It is good encouragement for me to keep on track for my training,” Silvers said. “I started working out so I could get healthier and lose weight. I have been going to spin classes because I like it and it is something I could do at my fitness level.”
Shane Burke of Land O’ Lakes will be running his first triathlon too. He said he has already been training for five months and is using this as a barometer of whether he would like to participate in more triathlons.
“I always played sports and was athletic until three years ago I wrecked my knee,” Burke said. “I have had two major knee surgeries and as a result I can’t play the sports I used to. Running doesn’t seem to bother me. I am using this as a gauge of whether or not I will want to do more or not. I am super excited, I have been training for a triathlon for five months.”
Since the bike race and 5K run will be on the city’s streets, Silvers said police will be helping to block off roads as participants pass but the streets will not just be blocked all day.
Every athlete who crosses the finish line will get a medal. The first, second and third place athletes in various categories will also get plaques and medals.
The YMCA is also currently raising money for the Building Strong Kids Campaign. Through the campaign, the YMCA provides financial assistance to children and families unable to pay for YMCA’s programs and services. The program gave out $250,000 to help kids and families in the Zephyrhills and Dade City area. All donations for the YMCA are tax deductible.
“We are a charity and we are in the middle of the Building Strong Kids Campaign,” Silvers said. “We need all the help we can get. We were only able to raise $76,000 last year and we had to subsidize the difference through operational costs. There is a big gap of what we give away and what we get. Our goal this year is $86,000.”
The YMCA offers summer camps based on sports like the soccer, volleyball, basketball, golf, swim, flag football, cheerleading, strength and conditioning camps.
It also is currently offering programs like youth flag football, Pee Wee soccer, youth soccer, gymnastics, youth swim club and an adult spring basketball league. For information, visit www.tampaymca.org.
If you go
What: Spring Sprint Triathlon
When: March 27
Where: 37301 Chapel Hill Loop in Zephyrhills
Cost: Individual $55 until March 22, after $65
Relay $95 until March 22, after $105