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62-year-old North Yarmouth woman thrives on triathlons

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62-year-old North Yarmouth woman thrives on triathlons

NORTH YARMOUTH — Ann Dillon isn't quite ready to relax.

The 62-year-old leaves for London next month to swim, bike and run the Age Group World Championship Triathlon. And she said she feels more energized now than ever before.

"I feel younger than ever; it's changed my life immeasurably," the North Yarmouth woman said last week about becoming a triathlete.

Dillon, who still teaches music in School Administrative District 51 after stepping down after 13 years as executive director of the Wescustago Youth Chorale, did some casual bicycling over the years, but had never trained for the rigors of triathlons.

"So when I turned 60, that felt old, and so I wanted something that would make me feel less old, so I went to the (YMCA), where I had worked out for a while," she said.

There was a bit of a physical learning curve; she ran five minutes and walked the rest during one of her first sessions on a treadmill.

Dillon hired a trainer to help her become a runner, and the trainer encouraged her to do a triathlon after seeing Dillon's level of endurance.

"I thought she was crazy," Dillon recalled.

But as it turns out, not so much. Her first event, in May 2011, was the Tri for the Y. "I hadn't run a (5k event) until that day," she said. Still, she won in her age group.

"So starting at 60 has its advantages," Dillon said with a laugh.

"Endurance-wise, it was tough to keep going," she said. "But when it's finished, there's such a feeling of accomplishment that I thrive on."

She decided to participate in Tri for the Cure in honor of a close friend who lost her life to breast cancer, and placed fifth out of 40.

Her performance in a race in Biddeford qualified her to participate at the national level, which took her to Burlington, Vt., last summer. The fastest 18 athletes in each age group were chosen to compete at the world level in London on Sept. 13, and Dillon – finishing in 1 hour, 41 minutes, 41 seconds – was among them.

It's a big event for Dillon, who's never been across the Atlantic Ocean.

"I feel grateful ... that I'm healthy enough and that I can do this," she said, choking back her emotion. "And I've gotten a lot of support from the YMCA and some friends. ... I feel excited; I have no illusion of placing, which is helpful. I would like to do my personal best. I haven't broken a 10-minute mile yet, and I'm hoping to; even if I get 9:59.98, I'll be happy."

"Just to know that I can do it at this level, I'm incredibly grateful," she said, hoping she is providing a good example for her students – showing that people can stay healthy as they get older.

The London event will be staged around Hyde Park, where the 2012 Olympics took place. She will swim a half mile in the Serpentine River in a wet suit, then bicycle 12.5 miles and run five kilometers.

Two days later an "Olympic-distance" race will be held, with each leg of the triathlon twice as long.

"I have no interest in doing that distance," Dillon said, smiling. "Until I get bored. I'm not bored yet."

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.