Duane Fo­ley

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENT - BY KEVIN HEINZ Kevin Heinz is a free­lance jour­nal­ist from Mis­sion, B.C.

RECENTRESEARCH SUG­GESTS that par­ents hop­ing to raise the next Clara Hughes or Syd­ney Crosby should ex­pose their chil­dren to a wide va­ri­ety of sports rather than just fo­cus­ing on one. It seems chil­dren who play a va­ri­ety of sports de­velop bet­ter so­cial and mo­tor skills and en­joy them more than kids who are fo­cused on just one. Duane Fo­ley’s par­ents were prob­a­bly un­aware of these ben­e­fits while rais­ing him in the ’80s, but by pro­vid­ing him with a wide range of sports ex­pe­ri­ences, he’s be­come an ex­cep­tional age-group triath­lete 30 years later.

Grow­ing up in Co­quit­lam, B.C. in the ’80s, Fo­ley took part in BMX, base­ball, snow­board­ing and curl­ing. That ex­po­sure to a va­ri­ety of sports de­vel­oped his life­long pas­sion for ath­let­ics, Fo­ley says. Af­ter high school, he stayed some­what ac­tive, but the birth of his son re­newed his de­sire to com­pete. Af­ter coach­ing his son in bas­ket­ball and base­ball, he be­gan play­ing those sports again.

Fo­ley first heard about triathlon when a neigh­bour asked if he wanted to do one. He quickly dis­missed the idea, but his wife per­suaded him to re­con­sider. Two months of train­ing later, he en­tered his first race. Like many adult triath­letes who didn’t swim as kids, Fo­ley found him­self in a sea of self-doubt ten min­utes into the race.

“I did ev­ery­thing I could to sur­vive. While float­ing on my back to rest so I could con­tinue swim­ming, I thought to my­self ‘this is the short­est part of the race and it could be a very long day,’” Fo­ley says. The tide turned af­ter he com­pleted the swim. Fo­ley had a strong bike and an im­pres­sive 41-minute run split, in­form­ing his com­pe­ti­tion that if he could learn to swim faster, he’d be a for­mi­da­ble com­peti­tor.

De­spite his en­cour­ag­ing de­but, Fo­ley said he lacked the con­fi­dence to reach for the podium in his early races. Again, his wife mo­ti­vated him to strive for more. She said, “don’t sell your­self short, you’re ac­tu­ally bet­ter than you think.”

Over the fol­low­ing sea­sons, he made steady progress. Fo­ley’s break­through race came in 2014, when he won his age group at the Cul­tus Lake Triathlon, plac­ing 10th over­all. He at­tributes the re­sult to swim­ming more in the off-sea­son and hir­ing An­thony Toth as his coach. Even though he still is not a front-pack swim­mer, the time he loses in the wa­ter is made up on the bike and run. Toth con­trib­uted to his suc­cess by em­pha­siz­ing a qual­ity over quan­tity ap­proach to train­ing. By log­ging less miles, fo­cus­ing on strong biome­chan­ics and fol­low­ing spe­cific train­ing in­ten­si­ties, Fo­ley has suf­fered few in­juries. As a re­sult, he’s been able to train con­sis­tently over the months and years lead­ing to pro­gres­sive im­prove­ment and age-group dom­i­nance.

An­other fac­tor Fo­ley at­tributes to main­tain­ing train­ing con­sis­tency is his job as a fire­fighter.

“By work­ing four days on and four days off, I can spend time with my fam­ily, get chores done and com­plete all my work­outs. And train­ing for triathlon also keeps me in shape for my job,” he says.

Fo­ley has been in the sport nine years and, like many triath­letes, he’s had some bad races. Un­for­tu­nately, one was at last year’s ITU long­course world cham­pi­onships in Pen­tic­ton. Suf­fer­ing from de­hy­dra­tion, he walked the last five kilo­me­tres. While walk­ing, he felt like he was dis­ap­point­ing the friends and fam­ily who were there to sup­port him. Upon re­flec­tion, he con­sid­ers those five kilo­me­tres a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for what is im­por­tant about triathlon and life.

“It was grat­i­fy­ing to have com­peti­tors of­fer­ing me sup­port to get to the fin­ish line. Ca­ma­raderie in our sport is un­beat­able. I also found out at the end of the day the peo­ple around you still love you. It doesn’t mat­ter what hap­pens on the race course.”

With a promis­ing start by win­ning the 40–44 age group at West­wood Lake in May 2018, Fo­ley’s goals for the rest of this sea­son are to stay fo­cused and healthy and in front of as many “young guns” as pos­si­ble. Be­yond this year, he plans to race for as long as he can and, when the day comes he can’t com­pete, he still wants to be part of the sport be­cause of the so­cial con­nec­tions he’s de­vel­oped. Fo­ley sees him­self on the side­lines, cheer­ing peo­ple to the fin­ish line, much like oth­ers have cheered for him. By mod­el­ing this pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to his chil­dren and his fel­low com­peti­tors, Fo­ley will no doubt in­spire a fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of healthy and ac­tive peo­ple.

ABOVE Duane Fo­ley rac­ing in 2017 at the ITU Long Dis­tance World Cham­pi­onships in Pen­tic­ton

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