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Tommy Klauber, Amy Whittington and George Kruse of Atlas Endurance, the new Lakewood Ranch multisport club that will hold its membership drive March 6
East County Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 4 years ago

New Lakewood Ranch triathlon club a community builder

by: Josh Siegel Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Swim, bike, run.

The idea terrified Tommy Klauber two years ago, but the restaurant owner and chef needed to lose some weight and wanted an exciting means to do it.

“You have to run out of the water, then you have to put your shoes on,” Klauber said. “You get on your bike. Now, you’re on your bike, and you have to get off it, then you’re putting running shoes on, then you have to drink something and eat.

“You’re like, ‘This is crazy. What am I doing?’” he said.

Klauber, the owner of Polo Bar and Grill, and Amy Whittington, a personal trainer at Lakewood Ranch Country Club, hope to shed the fear that comes with triathlons through community and teamwork with their new club, Atlas Endurance, a Lakewood Ranch Multisport Club.

The club, which has 30 likes on Facebook, will hold its membership kick-off party March 6, at the Polo Grill.

Whittington, the club’s president and a certified USA Triathlon coach and former Ironman champion who competed in her first triathlon at 12 years old, always sees people — often alone — running, biking or swimming around Lakewood Ranch.

She helped start Storm, Sarasota’s triathlon club, in 2005, and saw a similar need in Lakewood Ranch, which regularly hosts 5K races and hosted its first half-marathon in January.

Lakewood Ranch already has separate running, biking and swimming clubs, but nowhere to bring them all together.

Whittington and Klauber, the club’s vice president, aren’t seeking to groom the next Ironman champion or form a powerhouse team to compete with the Storm.

They hope, with monthly meetings and cycling jerseys — fitted with a graphic of the club’s mascot, Ralph the mighty sandhill crane — and no barrier to entry, residents will have a place to socialize, develop healthy habits and simply learn about triathlons.

“We have no idea where this can go,” Whittington said. “It’s something where we can learn from each other, feed off each other, maybe just cheer on each other. It can be intimidating out there training or exercising by yourself.”

Whittington says the club will join the USA Triathlon, the national governing body for triathlons, which will give the club entrance into races.

The club has a board, and members will pay a fee.

Members will meet at a common place, such as Claremont Park in Lakewood Ranch, to run and bike.

Swimming might take place at Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park, the Lakewood Ranch YMCA and/or open water swimming at local beaches, or other locations.

Whittington got her introduction to triathlons by watching her father compete in Ironmans in Hawaii as a child.

When she was 15 years old, they moved to Florida and ran on the beach together, biked together and attended spinning classes together.

“That was our time,” Whittington said. “My goal in life has always been to take what he did … and I got really good at it.”

She met Klauber and George Kruse, an Atlas endurance board member, through seeing them around the community, about two years ago, and later gave swim lessons to both.

That’s when Klauber turned to triathlons. He competed in an Ironman 70.3 last year and plans to enter a half-Ironman in May. He’s lost 50 pounds along the way.

“Once you do it, the adrenaline kicks in and you think, ‘This is awesome,’” Klauber said.

“Part of what’s nice about this sport is setting your own pace and goals and getting your own satisfaction, whatever that is.”

Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected]

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