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Who Says 75 Is Too Old For Ironman?

  • By Adam Elder
  • Published Sep 9, 2013
  • Updated Sep 10, 2013 at 6:48 PM UTC
Photo courtesy of Dave Watts

What happens to triathletes as they get older? If they’re like Dave Watts and Louise McGonagall, nothing.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.

This septuagenarian couple from Elmvale, Canada, has competed in triathlon since the mid-’80s. Along the way they’ve racked up dozens of Ironman and 70.3 age-group wins—and Kona qualifications. Five years ago, Louise even won her division on the Big Island.

Coach Barrie Shepley likes to say that unless Javier Gomez marries Sister Madonna Buder, Dave and Louise are the world’s greatest triathlon couple. At one of his camps 12 years ago, “I sent my good juniors out on a 2.5-hour ride with Dave and Louise,” Shepley says. “They didn’t want to have to go with ‘old people.’ When the ride ended, only one junior was still with Dave and Louise. They dropped and killed my arrogant young juniors—who have never complained about going out with the old people since.”

This intense determination is hardly visible underneath their sweet demeanor. Besides their obvious love of competition, the couple feels fortunate to continue to pursue the triathlon lifestyle while in retirement. They also seem to inspire nearly everyone they come across—especially when Louise, currently a Pilates instructor, tells people she was 48 when she did her first Ironman.

“I like to believe that your reach should exceed your grasp,” Louise says. “That you should always be looking to improve. Competition gets you out there to stay healthy.”

“I also think a huge part of our carrying on is the people that we’ve met doing this,” Dave says. “The triathlon community as a whole is such a fine group of people.”

RELATED: Better With Age

Always on the Move

Dave and Louise stay busy all year. Some of their other activities:

Cross-country Skiing
Both are avid skiers; Louise has won silver and bronze in masters world championships.

Touring
The couple embarked on a gran fondo around Italy in May.

Indoor Rowing
Louise was world champion in her age group this year; Dave was last year.

Century Rides
Dave and Louise have won their age groups in numerous centurions.

RELATED: Don’t Let Age Slow You Down

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