With few to no people in his age group whenever he competes in triathlons, the spry, 86-year old Ernest Schillinger may win more frequently than most.
But for Schillinger, who lives in Williamsburg Landing, the true win comes in the form of good health.
Schillinger competed in last Sunday’s Patriots Sprint Triathlon at Jamestown Event Beach Park and got to race with his daughter Karla Havens and his grandson Kade Havens.
Because no one else was in his age group (Male — 85-and-older), Schillinger, the oldest participant, came in first, finishing in 2 hours, 25 minutes and 30 seconds, finishing the 750 meter swim in the James River in 26:28, the 20 kilometer bike ride in 1:03.05 and the 5-kilometer run in 45:06.
“Each year I’m a little slower, and each year I’m a little older,” Schillinger said, chuckling. “I don’t know how much Ionger I’ll be able to keep it up, but it’s fun while I’m doing it.”
Karla Havens, 55, finished first in her age group (Female 55-59) in 1:29:15. and her son Kade Havens, 14, finished eighth in the male 6-15 age group in 1:54:19. Both Karla and Kade Havens live in Plainview in King and Queen County.
Schillinger said he has been competing in triathlons for at least the past 15 years, and this was his third Patriots Sprint Triathlon. Before he moved to Williamsburg about four years ago, he used to run triathlons in the Senior Olympics in Michigan.
Because Virginia does not offer triathlons in its Senior Olympics, Schillinger, a retired osteopathic physician, started running in the Patriots Sprint Triathlon when he moved to Williamsburg.
Running was Schillinger’s first form of exercise, doing so for about 20 minutes per day, three days per week, and as he progressed, he added bike riding and swimming.
“I enjoyed all the different sports that way, and that’s what I did when I was up in Michigan,” Schillinger said.
Karla Havens said she is proud of her father and looks forward to being as active as he is as she gets older.
“He really enjoys being active, whether it’s raking up leaves in the yard, or going on a 25-mile bike ride at Surrender Field in Yorktown,” Karla Havens said of Schillinger. “He’s always up for anything. And I certainly hope that I inherit his longevity. I think it keeps him focused and always looking forward to doing something.”
She said that after last Sunday’s race, the younger competitors in the race were asking to have their photos taken with her father.
“I think that’s a really bold statement,” Karla Havens said. “I’ve never seen that happen with him before.”
Schillinger said he’s going to continue competing as long as he’s able.
“It’s still a health measure,” Schillinger said of why he competes in triathlons. “If I don’t exercise, I don’t feel healthy. But the camaraderie of the whole thing is a lot of fun right now. It’s a nice group of people.”