Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center will be the on-site medical provider for the athletes competing in the May 20 Ironman 70.3 Florida competition. (Photo by Steve Schwartz).
HAINES CITY – It’s called Ironman, but it has nothing to do with the Marvel comic book superhero. It does, however, have a lot to do with physical fitness, health, and well being.
It’s also become an opportunity for one of the event’s sponsors, Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center, to use this occasion to put a spotlight on those critical issues – something the Haines City hospital tries to do throughout the year anyway.
“It’s definitely geared at people who are interested in their health, and it promotes that from young people onwards,” said Linda Vendl, the marketing manager for the hospital on U.S. 27 in Haines City. “They’re trying to get as many kids involved in Ironman as possible.”
Haines City is now gearing up to host the annual Ironman 70.3 Florida athletic competition at Lake Eva Park next month.
Held on Sunday, May 20, Ironman 70.3 Florida was established by the World Triathlon Corporation, a Tampa-based company that promotes athletic excellence. The WTC portfolio has more than 180 events worldwide each year, including Ironman 70.3, which this year is taking place at Lake Eva Park, giving the athletes an outdoor place to engage in a 1.2-mile swim in Lake Eva, a 56-mile bike course through Citrus Orchards in Polk County, and a scenic 13.1-mile run course around the lake and throughout the park.
Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center is the Official Medical Provider Partner for the event – meaning the hospital’s staff with be on hand during the entire weekend to assist the athletes with any health care needs that might arise.
Since this competition is expected to draw thousands of athletes and their families to Haines City, the hospital agreed to assist by providing on-site medical support for the athletes. As the exclusive medical provider for this competition, Heart of Florida will also staff the First Aid tent, offering basic medical attention to attendees and athletes alike throughout the weekend.
Athlete check-in for Ironman 70.3 Florida will be on Friday, May 18, with the race taking place on Sunday. IronKids Florida, a special activities event for children ages 6 to15, will be on Saturday, May 19.
Don Breeding, Heart of Florida’s CEO, said he was delighted that his facility had been given this opportunity.
“We know Haines City will be an outstanding host for Ironman 70.3 Florida, and our staff of physicians and nurses will be on hand for any medical needs that arise,” Breeding said.
Linda Pilkington, who handles community relations for the hospital, noted that “The reason why we got involved is because the city of Haines City had approached us to partner with them, because they are hosting Ironman. Heart of Florida is basically the medical provider in the city of Haines City, so it’s fitting for us to be involved.”
The competition itself, Pilkington said, contributes to one of Heart of Florida’s main messages: the need for regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
“At the hospital, we try to make sure we are giving the message to the community that prevention and health maintenance are very important,” Pilkington said. “Whether it’s for children or adults, really it’s all about promoting health and wellness.”
Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center is a 200-bed, acute care hospital serving the health care needs of Central Florida, with more than 200 physicians on staff covering 30 specialties.
“This is a three day event, and in terms of being the medical partner, what we’re going to do is provide the medical support for the athletes,” Pilkington said. “They are running around in the heat, and we’ll be there to assist if they have some kind of health problem during the day, like dehydration. In our hot state, they’re going to be losing a lot of fluids, and some of them will need assistance in terms of boosting their hydration, and some people might fall off their bikes. So we are going to provide the support for them.”
“This is the first year that it’s being hosted in Haines City, so this is a unique activity for us, in that it’s the first time we’re sponsoring an event of this magnitude,” Vendl said. “We’ll be out there offering the medical support that’s needed. You don’t often get a chance to go into the community with our doctors and nurses, and this is our opportunity to bring our level of care directly to the community.”
The Ironman 70.3 races enable competitors to qualify for the Ironman World Championship 70.3. Since it was established in 2006, Ironman 70.3 has become the fastest growing triathlon series in the world, and consists of the 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike and a 13.1 mile run.
Previously held at Walt Disney World Resort, the Ironman Foundation announced last December that it was moving the competition this year to Lake Eva Park. In a news release posted on the foundation’s Web site, it was noted that the Haines City park was chosen because it “remains just minutes away from many of the Central Florida Attractions (the site is very close to the new Legoland theme park) and features an exciting new course. Just 30 minutes outside of Orlando, Lake Eva Park provides a great setting for the event. The one-loop swim starts and finishes on a white sand beach. The transition area will be set up in a large parking lot on the site.”
The run course will include three loops around Lake Eva, and will finish in a grassy park near the lake.
To learn more, log on to http://ironman.com/events/ironman70.3.

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