Ask any mother: parenting requires far more than just love, but strength, and tons of it. Who has it tenfold? Renee Makimaa, inside and out. For 26 years, the New Jersey native and mother of two has proven to be the strongest of women. 

Makimaa started on tourist boats in Key West but moved up, earning her captain’s license and working on tug boats assisting cruise ships and Navy vessels docking and delivering the pilots to the ships. Now she is showing another kind of toughness, caring for children as a registered nurse at May Sands School. If that weren’t enough, Makimaa is also an active athlete, having competed in national and world triathlon championships for the U.S., and even the coveted Ironman as well. Just for fun, she is a paddleboard racer, too. She suffered multiple injuries (fractured tibia, thrown from her bike, hip pain and bulging disc, and months of  physical therapy) but through it all, Makimaa kept going. Good thing she has a built-in support system with husband Dr. Brad Makimaa, foot specialist. 

“I sat and thought about why I began triathlon in the first place. It brought me back to my ‘why,’” said Makimaa. “For my mom, who lost her intense battle with cancer, for everyone who suffered from something that held them back, mentally or physically. I race because I can. For that, I am eternally grateful.”

Makimaa is leading by example for her two beloved girls, Caylaa 12, and Mayaa, 10, who are proving to be young athletes as well. How better to raise girls than showing them nothing can stop you from going for gold, as long as you have the strength to do it? 

Full Name? Nickname? Renee. My family and close friends call me “Nee.”

Do you have a life credo or motto? Everything in life worth having has to be worked for.

What will you do on Mother’s Day? Something with my girls, and I hope it involves being on or around the water!

How did you become an athlete? How are you teaching your girls to become athletic? I have always been active. I got into triathlon in my 30s after enduring a few injuries specific to running. I was hooked from the start. I tell my girls that they have to be active in something. Find something you are passionate about. My oldest loves to run, and my youngest loves to swim. It is my opinion that it is important for young people to be a part of something that makes you work hard and keeps you focused. 

What’s your secret to juggling work, family and your passions? Fake it till you make it! I have no secret. The juggle and struggle are real. Some days I’m a rock star, some days I fail miserably. Balance is a tough thing. I have learned to be more forgiving of myself. 

To all young girls who might be mothers someday, what would your advice be? To be kind to yourself and remember that you are human. That you will have amazing days and tough days, and both are ok. Don’t fall into the stigma that you have to be perfect. Nothing and no one is perfect. Strive to be the best version of yourself. Be kind and forgiving. Smile often.

If invisible in Key West, what would you do? I would find a shady spot on the beach and read a book. I haven’t read a good book in a very long time.

Best advice you ever received? Be true to yourself. Aspire to be the best version of you. Set realistic goals, and never lose sight of where you came from and what’s truly important.

What job would you be terrible at? Anything technical!! I’m horrible at IT. I can walk by a computer, and it will go haywire. 

What’s a promise you have made to yourself and kept? I lost my mom to cancer when I was 16. She was 47. 10 years later, I lost my stepmom to cancer. She was 48. My mom was the most caring, thoughtful, funny woman. She gave everything to her family. Sadly, it took a toll on her because she never took time for herself. You never know what life will bring, but I made a promise to myself to make time for myself, both physically and mentally. This is not always easy, but it makes me a better mother and a better person. I will do everything in my power to be on the earth with my girls for as long as possible. The rest is up to God.

What’s the most illegal thing you’ve done? Ohhh I can’t share that! Haha.

Who is your alter ego? Probably someone like Martha Stewart. That fancy cooking and crafty thing is not my cup of tea. I really try for my girls … the whole Pinterest hummus park with beautiful broccoli trees and pretzel fences, but it ends up looking like a pile of rubbish. However, I give good hugs.

Favorite guilty pleasure? Cheese fries and nachos! 

If you could grant Key West one wish, what would it be? To be eternally safe from hurricanes. 

What quirks do you have? Where do I begin? I am a total creature of habit. I only eat deli meat the day that it is cut. I park in the same lane at the grocery store every time. I laugh when I get nervous. 

Lunch with one famous person, whom would you choose? Maya Angelou. I am in such awe of her true beauty and spirit, so much so that my youngest is named after her. One of my favorite Angelou quotes is, “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Finish these sentences…

My friends and family would describe me as … a total goofball with a kind heart.

My autobiography would be titled … “Always an Adventure”

I can never refuse … an opportunity to put my feet in the sand!

When I go, I will go … knowing that I gave life my all and had fun along the way.

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