Diane Travis will compete in the USAT National Duathlon April 7.
| By Doris Bloodsworth |
Diane Travis runs like she lives – with purpose and passion.
It’s how she trains every day, not just for one sport, but for two, becoming a world champion duathlete, a demanding sport that requires running, cycling and running again without a break.
On March 11, she took first place at the Las Olas Duathlon in Fort Lauderdale, where she placed first for women over 40. At 64, she took 4th place overall against women more than half her age.
It’s how she has built one successful career after another, from her days as an executive at Johnson & Johnson to an innovator in the telecom business to a savvy realtor, first at Stirling Sotheby’s International Realty before founding her own agency on one of Clermont’s highest points.
It’s how she ran a successful campaign for city council in 2014.
It’s also how she has become a passionate advocate for bicycle safety, leading the annual Ride of Silence, part of an international tradition to honor those who were killed while riding bicycles on public roads.
Her family says Travis was competitive from an early age in Chicago, where she was a standout player on her high-school’s state championship volleyball team.
Travis graduated from Governor’s State University and took up racquetball, becoming a city champion.
As her career soared, she married and divorced and lived in Texas and Minnesota before moving to Central Florida. She discovered Clermont and moved here in 1989.
“I fell in love with the beautiful lakes and hills and with the people,” Travis said.
It was the perfect place for her to train in her newest sport, duathlons. It was through racing that she met and fell in love with Harry Nickell, known for his big smile and his unofficial title of “ambassador for bicycling and triathlons.”
The happy couple became engaged and moved into their dream home at Blue Springs Reserve. He worked as a construction project manager, while she sold real estate. They trained together. He competed in triathlons, while she ran in the companion duathlons.
“We just did everything together,” Travis said.
In 2010, Travis went to their cabin in North Carolina to prepare for Thanksgiving while Nickell stayed behind to ride in Clermont’s Horrible Hundred bicycle ride. He planned to bring their two dogs up to the cabin as soon as the race was over.
But he never made it.
As Nickell rode on the shoulder of Highway 27, an 84-year-old driver struck and killed him. Travis had not even unpacked her suitcase before learning of the news. As she opened her luggage to find something to wear home, she found a card from Harry.
“I just want you to know that I really love you, and I can’t wait to see you with the dogs on Tuesday,” he had written.
At Waterfront Park, where the couple had spent so many happy hours, Travis donated a polished granite bench to memorialize Nickell. It is the start and finish point for the Ride of Silence.
Since the tragedy, Travis has become one of the state’s leading voices for bicycle safety. She was asked to be the keynote speaker and to hand out awards at Bike Florida’s annual conference.
Other milestones since then include winning a gold medal in the USA Duathlon and a silver in the world competition. She was honored as a Grand Masters Duathlon Athlete of the Year finalist. She also ran and won a seat on the city council.
And so, as she rides her bicycle or runs through the trails and hills of Clermont, attends grand openings or cheers on her team of realtors, people are bound to see a certain intensity and passion. It’s the rare kind that only comes from a lifetime sharpened by tremendous success and tremendous loss. It’s the kind that makes world champions.