Nonahood News: Do you have any interesting hobbies?
Renate Gaisser: A huge passion of mine is to travel around the globe. I love to immerse myself in foreign cultures, meet the locals, and learn what makes them happy and how they live their daily lives. Photography and arts and crafts are other hobbies of mine. It might sound a little old-fashioned, but instead of purchasing birthday, Christmas, and get-well cards at a store, I prefer making my own. To me, they are way more personal and meaningful. In addition, I’m fond of doing little projects around the house to spruce it up a bit – refurbishing furniture, building frames, painting, things like that. And then, there is my lifelong love for sports. I like to be active. I started out with tennis, did track and field, and played college basketball. After moving to Florida, I also picked up golf. And several years ago, I got into triathlons.
NHN: When did you first start doing triathlons? What got you interested?
RG: My boyfriend eventually talked me into signing up for one in June 2005. So race morning came, and we started the swim in a lake with tons of weeds in it. Since back then I was only able to breaststroke, more and more weeds got tangled around my arms, which slowly started pulling me underwater. I was screaming for help and looking toward the beach. However, there was no movement. Nobody was coming for me. So, I told myself, “Okay, if you are going to live, you have to save yourself.” That’s when I turned onto my back and started paddling backwards. Thankfully, eventually the weeds came off. As I came into T1, the area where you transition from swimming to biking, I was both so exhausted and upset that I wanted to quit. Then, I thought, “Well, I’m already here. Why not continue and see what I can do?” … I did actually finish and somehow even managed to win my age group [laughs]. After that, I competed in a few more sprint- and Olympic-distance tris before moving onto longer distances. I was hooked.
NHN: What does your training schedule look like?
RG: I usually ride my bike, run and swim three times a week, interspersed with some weight training. Depending on what distance and how soon my next triathlon is, it’s somewhere between 10 and 20 hours weekly. I also try to train according to the terrain of a race. For example, running hill repeats on the 417 overpass. Is it ideal? No, because I’m not mimicking the actual course. But I still get my elevation gain in. I simply give it my best effort, get as well-prepared as possible, and trust my training.
NHN: What do you consider the most rewarding and challenging aspects of participating in triathlons?
RG: The most challenging part for me is the swim since I didn’t learn how to freestyle until I started doing triathlons. That will always be an obstacle for me, though there is lots of room for improvement, which is the nice thing about it [laughs]. Hilly courses, technical descents with switchbacks, changing weather conditions, etc., can be big challenges, too – but overcoming those is so fulfilling. It’s the journey and the process that’s most rewarding. A few months ago, I couldn’t even imagine climbing 5,200 feet over the course of 30 miles on my bike. Now, I feel totally comfortable doing just that. Also, it is satisfying to know that I am living a healthy lifestyle. Combining triathlons with my passion of traveling is another plus and, of course, having a common interest and being able to race with my boyfriend.
NHN: What is your biggest accomplishment?
RG: Most likely, having qualified for the World Championships of the Ironman 70.3 five times. Those races are at a totally different level as the world’s best triathletes are competing against each other. Every time I go there, I’m in awe of how super fast everyone is. And the atmosphere is indescribable! However, I will always remember the very first full Ironman I did in Louisville, Kentucky – 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, followed by 26.2 miles of running. It seemed so daunting at the time. I had no clue what to expect and was pretty nervous. So, my game plan was to simply focus on one discipline at a time: do the swim, add the bike portion, then run the marathon, and call it a day if I have to start walking. Luckily, I didn’t have to cross that bridge [laughs] because I never stopped running. Since then, I have competed in six other full Ironman and more than 25 Ironman 70.3 races all over the world – from Central and South America to Europe, Africa and all the way to Australia.
NHN: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
RG: Hopefully, I’m still going to do triathlons. As long as I keep enjoying it and I’m healthy, I would like to continue. And I want to keep traveling around the world.
NHN: What brought you to Lake Nona and when did you move here?
RG: I was working for the Human Performance Institute and putting in long hours every day, including many weekends. Therefore, I wanted to be close to work to cut down on my commute. My desire was also to live in an area that had a lot of greenery, tons of trees, not a city-type environment. The timing was perfect since Northlake Park was just being developed, and considering all my travels, the convenience of being close to the airport was tempting, too. So, in 1999, I built the very first house there and became its first resident. I have pictures of when everything around my house was merely dirt. Besides, Narcoossee was a winding two-lane road with potholes. There was no sidewalk, only cow paddies left and right. I could have never visualized what this area would look like 20 years later.
NHN: Where are you from originally?
RG: Germany. I moved to the U.S. for my job. Not knowing if it would pan out or not, I made a commitment to at least stay for a year. But, fortunately, it did, and I never looked back. Prior to my move, I was working for the German Tennis Federation in Hamburg and got to know several people from the USTA. It’s kind of ironic now that the USTA National Training Center is here in Lake Nona. It’s almost as if I came full circle [laughs].
NHN: What would you say is your favorite part about Lake Nona?
RG: I honestly think it’s the best area to live in Orlando. Although it’s getting crowded, it is pretty safe to bike here. I just wish people would respect cyclists more. The multipurpose trails are really nice as well, and shopping is closeby. Most importantly to me, there are still lots of green spaces. I love Split Oak Forest and surely hope it will stay intact for it is to preserve the habitat of all its wildlife and plants. It’s such a great place for running, walking, taking your kids to and showing them what nature is all about.
NHN: What would you say to anyone who is considering a move to Lake Nona?
RG: It’s the nicest neighborhood that offers you so many things that I don’t think any other areas in Orlando can provide. I specifically like having the YMCA within walking distance, and the proximity to the airport is great if you fly a lot. Obviously, the word is out, and that’s why we have so much growth. In spite of that, though, I still love Northlake Park. It’s manageable in size, you know your neighbors, and you don’t get lost in it. Besides, it’s pretty, it’s cozy, and it gives you that family feeling of belonging.