Foot Notes: 'You just have to get off your butt': Central Pa. man isn't slowing down at 75
As temps climbed into the 90s on a hot and swampy day in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Rick Poole felt better and better about his chances at the USA Duathlon National Championships.
Poole grew up playing soccer, embraced a "culture of fitness" in the Naval Academy, and has been running for most of his life. If there was ever an athlete built to handle the heat and humidity of a grueling afternoon race, it's Poole.
While other competitors dialed back their efforts, or scratched out of the race altogether, Poole charged forward. And just like the race would play out in a dream, he ran away from the sprint duathlon field and never looked back.
Just over an hour and a half later, the 75-year-old Poole was a national champion, fulfilling a dream that began when he entered the world of duathlons and triathlons at 68.
"I've gone to national championships for duathlons and triathlons about a half dozen times each, so I've been doing this for a long time," said Poole of York. "This is the first time I've won a national championship. It's a very good feeling. The thing that helped me was I really don't mind the heat much."
With a time of 1:31:27, Poole beat his competitors in the 75-79 AG by more than seven minutes, and broke Top 100 in a 182-athlete field composed mostly of younger athletes.
Shaking off the heat, Poole established his dominance by kicking off his duathlon with a speedy 5K run in 27:27, more than two minutes faster than his peers.
"I've run all my life, even when I was working I regularly ran," said Poole, who recently clocked a 26:30 at the York Memorial Gold Star 5K. "I know where I'm strong and not strong, and I tend to do better in duathlons because I'm a better runner than swimmer. In my age group, you can have bad knees and a pot belly and still be a good swimmer, but you can't have those things and be a good runner."
Even with his nearest competitor, Daniel Kirk of Blaine, Minn., more than two minutes behind, Poole wasted no time in transition, which he says is an important, but largely undertrained for part of the duathlon/triathlon process. Much like a NASCAR pit crew changing tires at light speed to get their driver back on to the race track, athletes have to efficiently change gear when shifting from running to biking.
When Poole first began, he would sit down, change his shoes, and have a bite of lunch. That would take three or four minutes, so Poole sharpened his process, and currently only needs about a minute to change phases.
"People don't understand how critically important the transitions are," Poole said. "If you pass someone in transition, that's no different than passing them on the run or on the bike. I've worked hard on my transitions. My bike shoes are already clipped on to my bike, so I'll run it out of transition in my bare feet, step on the left pedal for my left shoe, step on the right pedal for my right shoe, and I'm gone."
Poole built his lead over the field during the 20K bike phase, completing the ride in 44:29. It was the second-fastest bike effort in the field, and enabled Poole to build an even bigger cushion over his biggest running threats. Poole said that he didn't even own a bike until 2013, but his serious training regiment of two runs, two bikes, and two swims per week has paid off.
After completing the second transition, Poole didn't rest on his laurels, instead putting the pedal to the metal for a final run of 16:41 that was once again the fastest 3K of the field.
The next finisher, Richard Snow of Tuscaloosa, ran his 3K in 18:09 and finished in 1:38:43, more than seven minutes behind Poole.
"I figured I was doing well after the first run and bike, because it's a double back course where you can see if someone is ahead or behind, and I didn't see anybody," Poole said. "In a lot of races, 30 seconds can be the difference between first and fifth, so I was really surprised to win by seven minutes."
Poole said he has no plans to retire from the top of his sport, rather he's already looking forward to the next big race in October: The Triathlon World Championships in Bermuda. His daughter, Kelly Flatt, has also qualified, so Poole is looking forward to putting his family's talents on full display.
Poole said he is thankful to be doing duathlons and triathlons in his 70s, and added a few words of advice for those in their 40s, 50s, and 60s using the "old guy" excuse.
"I still have all of my original moving parts, and they're all still functioning, so I'm thankful," Poole said. "You have to trust your body. If it's hurting you have to let it heal, but if you're lazy, you just have to get off your butt. A lot of people are good at alibi-ing their way out of workouts.
"One of my son's college soccer coaches once said that champions train hard when nobody's watching. That's always been a really meaningful comment to me. If you can train hard when nobody's watching, you can get there."
Franklin County runners excel in the heat
Hot and humid conditions made it apparent quite early that the Cumberland Valley Half Marathon wasn't going to be conducive to PRs. Instead, the main goal was just to get to the finish line, and then find shade.
Franklin County runners didn't back away from the challenge, with a number of those runners actually excelling in the heat. No local was faster than Shippensburg's Deborah Luffy, who crossed the finish line in 1:37:24 to finish as the top female, and eighth overall. Greencastle's Matthew Smith took ninth in 1:39:00, while Hagerstown's Shane Miller rounded out the Top 10 in 1:39:08.
Other top runners in the CV Half were Hagerstown's Michael Sanders (1:39:27), Waynesboro's Timothy Brinkman (1:40:26), Kyle Downs (1:40:39), Jesse Tyler (1:48:28), and Jeffrey Hein (2:05:15), Fayetteville's Brooke Schellhase (1:42:34), Shippensburg's Patricia Blount (1:49:22), Amanda Kirkpatrick (1:59:30), Christopher Parks (2:06:11), Virginia Coover (2:19:57), and Chambersburg's Craig Leisher (1:58:29), and Blake Schildhauer (2:10:07).
The Cumberland Valley 4-Mile saw Chambersburg's Andrew Shearer break the 30-minute mark in 29:03. He was followed by Waynesboro's Dalton McKean (30:41), Chambersburg's Dallon Espinosa (38:57) and Bethany Gearhart (41:35), Shippensburg's Alessandra Luffy (36:00), Maggie Enestvedt (36:39), Madeline Davis (37:20), and Sarah Brooks (42:50), Orrstown's Kristen McKee (41:30), and Mercersburg's Jeanne Arnold (44:25).
The Baltimore 10-Miler saw Hagerstown's Jana Fridrichova once again set a high bar for her running peers, both male and female, by logging a Top 75 finish in the 1,484-runner event. Fridrichova posted a 1:16:05 to finish second in the 40-44 AG, and 74th overall. She was followed by Hagerstown's Lisa Ponton (1:28:43), Jason Kline (1:35:48), Stacey Maus-Hickey (1:43:25), and Patricia Brockway (2:04:53), Chambersburg's Christine Metcalfe (1:52:45), and Waynesboro's Scott Smith (2:08:48) and Deann Diehl (2:14:51).
Chris Bailey, of Keedysville, put on a clinic at the popular Dam Yeti 50K in Damascus, Va., rolling to a fifth-place finish in 4:14:23. He was followed by Hagerstown's Rebecca Shoemaker (6:38:27), and Hagerstown's Amy Byard (6:57:21) and Philip Caroline (8:03:32).
In Boiling Springs, Chambersburg's father-son duo of Tim and Josiah Fisler combined to throw down 50 miles at the Bubbletown What the Duck Ultra, a 12-hour endurance event. Tim completed 27.36 miles in 6:14:59, while Josiah ran 23 in 5:49:46.
The Pete Wright Memorial All-Comers Track Series in Hagerstown saw Waynesboro's Luke Manning win the mile race in 4:58 over Frederick's Ethan Connelly (5:12) and Hagerstown's Dharma Bhatt (5:17), Walker Mason (5:39), and William Spinnler (6:12).
In Potter County, Greencastle's Mandi Beckley ran the God's Country Marathon in 5:16:28, while a bike race, the Rothrock Grit Gravel Grinder 65-miler, saw Fayetteville's Jeff Welty (8:28:32) and Susan Witter (8:28:48) each log race finishes.
Upcoming running events in the area
Solstice 10K/5K: Sunday, June 20, 7 p.m., in Shippensburg. Celebrate the start of summer with this race on the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail. A one-mile race option is also available. Register for the race on timberhilltiming.com.
Strokes, Spokes & Strides Triathlon: Saturday, 8 a.m., in Waynesboro. All skill levels are welcome at this event, which also features duathlon and aquavelo races. Find the race on runsignup.com.
Lebanon Root Beer Half Marathon: Sunday, June 20, 7 a.m., in Lebanon. Enjoy a flat and fast out-and-back with beautiful views of Pa. Dutch country and farmland. Look up the race on runsignup.com.
Also: Hometown Heroes 5K (Saturday, in Elizabethville); Cousler Park 10K/5K (Saturday, in York); Half Sauer Half Kraut Marathon (Saturday, in Philadelphia); Laurel Highlands Ultra (Saturday, in Ohiopyle); Poconos Triathlon Festival (Saturday, in Hawley); Dumb Dutchman Half Marathon (Sunday, in Reading); Women's Distance Festival (Sunday, in Columbia, Md.); Pete Wright Memorial Summer All Comers Track and Field Series (Tuesday, June 15, in Hagerstown, Md.); Homeland Hospice 5K (Saturday, June 19, in Mechanicsburg); Swim Fest Luray (Saturday, June 19, in Luray, Va.); Outrun ALS 5K (Saturday, June 19, in Cumberland, Md.); Frederick Summer Solstice 8K (Saturday, June 19, in Frederick, Md.); Coyler Lake Duathlon (Saturday, June 19, in Coyler Lake); Double Dip Trail Race (Saturday, June 19, in Lebanon); Ghost Town Trail Challenge 50K (Saturday, June 19, in Ebensburg); Lancaster Junction Trail 5K/10K (Saturday, June 19, in Manheim); Spirit of Gettysburg 5K (Saturday, June 19, in Gettysburg); Solstice Run 5K/10K (Sunday, June 20, in Mt. Gretna); Smith's Challenge Trail Race (Sunday, June 20, in Lancaster); Columbia Association Triathlon (Sunday, June 20, in Columbia, Md.).