At a time in his life when some people his age are more preoccupied with tee times and early-bird specials, Gary Gorman defies chronology.
The 69-year-old Winter Park resident’s busy schedule demands the stamina of a much younger man. Gorman is happy to oblige.
The Winter Park resident has completed the 12.5-mile Swim Around Key West three times, but he is far from your garden-variety open-water swimmer — if there is such a human. Last month, Gorman competed in the aquathlon, a combo platter of swimming and running, at the ITU Multisport World Championships in Spain.
"I’m happy out there doing this,'' Gorman said. "I analyze myself to death. I don’t know why I’m able to do it at this age, but I can.''
Gorman, who helps maintain buildings at Rollins College, skips lunch most days so he can jump in the pool on campus.
His commitment inspires others.
"I don’t think there’s anything that can get in his way,'' Rollins swim coach Kyle Berg said. "If the pool’s closed, he’ll find somewhere else to swim. If it’s too cold, he’ll do what he has to, to keep his body temperature a little warmer. The man’s unstoppable.''
Said Paul Giannotti, Rollins assistant athletic director for sports medicine: "I’m impressed that he is able to learn and plan and do as much for himself in terms of his own training. All basically self-taught.''
Born on Christmas Eve in 1949, Gorman is originally from Ohio, but he moved to Central Florida as a teenager. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UCF, then earned a master’s from the University of Florida in science and architectural studies.
Gorman spent much of his career preserving primarily older homes.
"Today, I guess you would say it was somebody who flipped houses, but that’s a little bit negative for me because I would live in them and do my best to keep all the antiquity, all the interesting parts of it, intact,'' Gorman said. "Let the next person, if they really wanted to tear out walls and stuff, do so.''
Gorman’s racing career began on the ground floor.
He started with road races, Turkey Trots and such, in the early 1970s. Gorman entered his first triathlon in Tallahassee and estimated he has done about 50.
An exact figure escapes him.
"I would do them, but I would mix them up,'' Gorman said. "I continue to mix it up because it keeps me interested.''
He participated in the Swim Around Key West from 2016-18, with his best time (6 hours, 38 minutes, 18 seconds) coming last year. Gorman could see a variety of fish underneath him, most prominently pompano, as he swam, but sometimes the water was too deep and too dark.
The swimmers are accompanied by a kayaker for safety reasons, Gorman said, but they are not allowed to touch or be towed.
"The circular motion of your arms just becomes so mechanical that when you come out, to stop quick like that, you still feel that momentum, almost like a ghost momentum,'' Gorman said. "I want a Coke or something, not only to rinse my throat out but [for] some sugar to give me a punch back up.
"That one really knocks your socks off.''
Most competitors in Key West are in their 50s, race director Lori Bosco said.
"That’s an awesome achievement as we get older,'' Bosco said. "That says he can still hang with the young ones.''
Gorman entered five open-water swims last year, but he is concentrating on the aquathlon for now. The ITU Multisport World Championships next year in the Netherlands are a goal.
Whatever’s next, Gorman won’t be holding a golf club or an early dinner menu.
"It’s satisfying because I’ve done it all my life, and it’s validating because I have to spend a lot of time practicing and training,'' Gorman said. "I don’t really stop, not that I’m sitting here having a ‘moan’ about it.