Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Breakthrough Race

This weekend Tulsa hosted a Team USA qualifier for the World Duathlon Championship: The Chris Brown Memorial Duathlon. Chris Brown was a triathlete from Tulsa who unfortunately succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Randy Pausch who wrote and gave “The Last Lecture” passed away last week from the same devastating disease. Randy’s national bestselling book and thoughts in his lecture give the basic message of to not give up on your dreams, grab life by the horns and make everyday count. A good read from the mind of a dying man.

Athletes converged from all over the country for our little race. Fleet Feet sports took over management of the race this year and moved the venue from the outskirts of Tulsa to the downtown river parks and Riverside Drive. It was a definite improvement. I was planning to do the race but I have been dealing with injuries recently, more about that later.

Doug Leib, an athlete I coach, asked me about doing the event last week, a few days before the race. I thought it suited his strengths, the bike and run. Doug had not done a duathlon before so I thought why not; it would be a good experience and quality training session. Doug was just moving into the intensity phase in prep for the Triathlon National Championship in Portland Oregon on September 20th

Doug is an amazing story. I love stories like his. He doesn’t have any previous athletic experience. He is a 50 year old whose kids have left the nest. Not to long ago he was sick, out of shape and pushing 300lbs. His health problems resulted in hospitalizations. Being the intelligent man that he is, he made a commitment to turn his life around and get in shape. He started running, lost weight, and started to feel good again. He entered some running races then caught the racing bug. Last year did his first triathlon. He tells me that he is now in the best shape of his life. This year he has stepped up his game and just finishing is no longer a goal. Doug has bigger dreams and goals and with his hard work, he is achieving them. It has been fun to watch the transformation.

I went down to the race venue on my bike on race day to take some photos and provide encouragement for the folks who I knew who that were racing. I kept a close eye on Doug and it was exciting to watch him move through the field on the bike. He was having a breakthrough race. On the final run segment, I shouted some last words of encouragement and told him “I think you have found your event”. On the final kilometer, a 19 year old cruised by Doug and I said “See how long you can hang with this 19 year old guy”. The 19 year old shouted back “I’m also an OU college runner”. Doug was hanging with him too. It was amazing!

Doug executed a flawless race. His first and second run splits were essentially the same time. This is difficult to accomplish in a duathlon. His heart rate profile demonstrated the best effort I have seen from him this year. Previously his efforts on the bike tailed off during last half of the race, so we did some strength work during this past month and he was able to maintain a consistent effort throughout the entire bike segment. He averaged 24.1 mph on the bike and his split was the 6th fastest overall! His time was faster than two of the 50+ former professional cyclists in the field. Doug won the 50-54 age group with a time of 1:30.25. He finished 12th overall , just missing winning the masters division by a mere 12 seconds or so.

In winning his age group, Doug earned a slot and an opportunity to compete for Team USA in the World Duathlon Championships in Italy this September. How cool is that!

I’m so proud of Doug not only for his recent athletic accomplishments but also for making the change his life and realizing the importance of health and fitness. He has a promising future in age group racing. Breakthrough races like this can take an athlete to a new level.

At the conclusion of Pausch’s book, he mentioned that his lecture wasn’t about how to achieve childhood dreams; it was about how to lead your life. It’s sad to see folks wasting their health and lives and not living life to its fullest. Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams and achieve goals that others may tell you are impossible. I believe in the quote on the header of this blog. People like Doug Leib are catching on to this too.
On a personal front, I have had some chronic problems with my right knee. For the past year and a half, I ran through pain and discomfort. The knee would ache in the morning but I was able to live with it. Currently, whenever I run the knee swells and I have pain all the time instead of just following a run. I realized it was time that I needed to do something about it before I damaged myself any further so I had one of my orthopedic surgeon pals take a look at it. Arthroscopic surgery is scheduled for August 7th. It sucks getting old.

I have been swimming more often to maintain my fitness and enjoying my time off from running. I recently set a state citizen’s record in the 1500 M free for my age group. Former 1980 Olympian, Ron Nugent holds the overall masters record of 18:59. My time was close so that’s something I can shoot for in future races.

1 comment:

Rainmaker said...

Thanks for sharing the story, very cool to see that kind of transformation. And to win his AG too? Incredible.

Sorry to hear about your situation being stuck in the pool. :( At least it sounds like your swim is rockin' along quite nicely.