At 97, Mary Stroebe still participates in all eight health and exercise classes at her assisted living facility — from the one that focuses on balance to ones that use ropes and free weights. She walks every day, sometimes twice, to combat circulation issues.
Stroebe was always athletic. She played intramural basketball, volleyball and field hockey in college and gave ski lessons in Wisconsin for 40 years.
On Saturday, three members of her family — son Bruce, his wife, Jane, and granddaughter Heidi — will compete in the Life Time Tri Minneapolis. The Stroebes have entered the triathlon’s co-ed sprint distance relay. Bruce will do the quarter-mile swim in Lake Nokomis, Jane will do the 13-mile bike ride and Heidi will do the 3-mile run.
Mary will blow the opening horn, and will then be driven to the final leg of the race where she will cross the finish line with Heidi.
“It’s something that I think represents us as a family, because we have this connection in triathlons and in working out and being healthy,” Heidi Stroebe said. “For us to all come together and have her be honored, I think it gives us all a sense of pride in her and what our family stands for.”
This is the 14th Life Time Tri, which will be a true citizen’s race now that Life Time Fitness cut all prize money for its triathlon series last year.
Almost 30 years ago, Bruce Stroebe — who has competed in four Ironman competitions — started competing in triathlons in the Madison, Wis., area. Compared to other triathlons, the Madison course was easier. It featured a pool in which he could almost touch the bottom and a bike course that was mostly flat.
He thought it would be a perfect new venture for his athletic mother.
“My son was doing them, and he talked me into doing a team one,” Mary Stroebe said. “So we did a few team ones, and I decided I’d do a few myself. It was fun. It’s funny, you do one and then you go, ‘Oh, I guess I’ll do another. One more, let’s do one more.’ ”
One of the first triathlons the Stroebes did as a family was the Turtleman in Minneapolis, the state’s first triathlon.
“That’s kind of where it started, where it became kind of a bonding thing,” Heidi said. “And then she just kind of took it off from there and has been kicking butt ever since.”
Over the course of her career, Mary Stroebe competed in 13 triathlons, five of them the Life Time Tri in Minneapolis. When she competed, she swam, biked and ran every other day to train. She got in such good shape that when she broke her leg skiing in Squaw Valley when she was 91, she had a full recovery because her bone mass was so good.
“We all enjoy being outdoors, we’re all skiers, we all work out, and I think a lot of that is guided by kind of the example my grandma has shown as far as being athletic, being healthy, and being able to do this for so long,” Heidi Stroebe said.
Bruce said he thought last year would be his mother’s last competition, but she keeps continuing.
“Heck yes, we want to be back here next year,” Heidi Stroebe said. “We’re going to do it and do it as well as we can for years to come and hopefully people get inspired by it.”