KONA DREAMS

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - WARM-UP TRI TIP - BY LUKE YATES

ONE RAINY SATUR­DAY in Fe­bru­ary, 1982, Derek Du­vall tuned into ABC’S Wide World of Sports. Along with mil­lions across North Amer­ica, he wit­nessed one of the most iconic mo­ments in Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship his­tory.

“Here’s some race from Hawaii called the Iron­man.” says Du­vall. “Julie Moss col­lapses 10 feet from the fin­ish. I’m look­ing at this and thought, ‘Ooh, in­ter­est­ing.’ I had no idea what a triathlon re­ally was.”

Eight months later Du­vall was in Hawaii. He lined up along­side all­time greats like Dave Scott and Scott Tin­ley. De­spite a flat tire nearly 13 km from the end of the bike course, he still came home in 282nd place af­ter what he de­scribed was a “neat day.”

Du­vall, who lives in Van­cou­ver, is now 71 and has been hooked on the sport for 35 years. The num­bers alone are as­tound­ing. He’s a mem­ber of the USA Triathlon Cen­tury Club, hav­ing com­pleted more than 100 of their races. As for long course, he’s fin­ished more than 40 half-dis­tance races and 41 full-dis­tance events.

His amaz­ing ath­letic ca­reer be­gan in Lake On­tario where, at age two he was taught to swim. This de­vel­oped into reg­u­lar swim train­ing, but it was when he pro­gressed to hockey and then foot­ball, that his prow­ess re­ally be­gan to show.

“In about grade seven, when you’d be play­ing sand­lot foot­ball, it was quite no­tice­able that I could kick foot­balls bet­ter than any other kid,” says Du­vall.

By grade 13, Du­vall could kick field goals of 60 yards and, upon leav­ing high school, he headed to the Univer­sity of Western On­tario. Come open­ing day of the foot­ball sea­son he made the start­ing team. Tri­als with the Hamil­ton Tiger Cats soon fol­lowed, but his col­lege coach stepped in and the chance to sign slipped away. Du­vall did end up play­ing one year of pro­fes­sional foot­ball, for the BC Lions reserve squad in 1979.

By 1982, Du­vall was based in Courte­nay, B.C. Work­ing as a den­tist, his sched­ule was flex­i­ble and he was soon spend­ing all of his free time train­ing. Du­vall read­ily ad­mits there was lit­tle science be­hind his work­outs.

“I’d leave the of­fice at two in the af­ter­noon and train for four or five hours a day. On Satur­days and Sun­days, you’d beat the hell out of your­self. You re­ally didn’t know what you were do­ing. You just did this, with­out any rhyme or rea­son to it.”

With no un­der­stand­ing of rest and re­cov­ery, it was hardly sur­pris­ing that Du­vall would have days when just rid­ing home from work was a strug­gle. But the train­ing paid div­i­dends and he raced the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kona ev­ery year from 1982 to 1990. “The best one was the 1985 Hawai­ian Iron­man. I tell peo­ple I did a fourth event af­ter the race. I said two words, ‘I do.’”

Du­vall and his wife Kerry got mar­ried straight af­ter the event. Kerry is a seven-time Iron­man fin­isher her­self and the cou­ple are fiercely com­pet­i­tive. They last raced at Iron­man Canada in 2002. She was the faster swim­mer and cy­clist, but Derek could over­take her on the run. Kerry pre­dicted he would catch her at kilo­me­tre 35 of the marathon. As he passed her af­ter five km, with a cheery “Hello,” she ut­tered, “Don’t you ******* speak to me.” The race hasn’t been men­tioned since.

Over the decades, sev­eral events stand out. These in­clude trips to the South­ern Hemi­sphere to race Iron­man New Zealand and the chal­lenge of the bru­tal Iron­man Canada course in Pen­tic­ton. He also en­joys the fast, flat course of Iron­man Florida. “Any­one who says they like hills is ly­ing.” says Du­vall.

He has rep­re­sented Canada at the ITU Short Course World Cham­pi­onships on two oc­ca­sions, in Ed­mon­ton in 2014 and Chicago

in 2015. In Chicago Du­vall raced three events, coming fifth in his age-group for the aquathon and in the top 15 for both the sprint and Olympic-dis­tance races. This year he will head to Pen­tic­ton for the ITU Long Course World Cham­pi­onships and is tar­get­ing a place on the podium.

His train­ing has come a long way since those early days on Van­cou­ver Is­land. Du­vall is a qual­i­fied triathlon coach and works with a small num­ber of ath­letes. This has led to a much more struc­tured ap­proach to work­outs, com­bin­ing in­ter­vals and short, sharp ses­sions.

Strength and con­di­tion­ing plays a big part in Du­vall’s sched­ule, along­side swim­ming, bik­ing and run­ning. He at­tributes his longevity and lack of in­juries to this fourth dis­ci­pline, say­ing “I think I’m ac­tu­ally bet­ter now than 20 years ago. It’s down to the weight train­ing. Do­ing squats, do­ing a clean and a snatch. You can’t beat those, you’re do­ing a full body ses­sion.”

But a re­turn to Kona for the first time since 1990 eludes him, some­times miss­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion by only one place. It is his key mo­ti­va­tion to keep train­ing. This year Du­vall plans to race ei­ther Iron­man Florida or Santa Rosa. He will com­pete at nu­mer­ous shorter events, but hopes fo­cus­ing on just one full-dis­tance race gives him his best shot of grab­bing that world cham­pi­onship slot.

If it does come to­gether and he crosses the line first in his age-group? Du­vall would love noth­ing more than to put him­self through yet an­other “neat day” in Kona.

Luke Yates is a free­lance jour­nal­ist based in Van­cou­ver.

OP­PO­SITE Derek Du­vall at the in­au­gu­ral Subaru Iron­man 70.3 Canada 2016

RIGHT Du­vall fin­ish­ing Subaru Iron­man Canada 1997

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