By Scott Prater
David Luplow competed in his seventh consecutive Schriever Duathlon June 24.
At 67 years of age, he only needed about an hour and 40 minutes to run two miles and bike 12 more around the base perimeter.
“If your counting, this race actually started as a triathlon back in 2001,” he said. “Event organizers switched to a duathlon format in 2005. I try to compete in it every year.”
That 2001 triathlon represented his return to fitness competition. Mr. Luplow had been an accomplished distance runner who developed back trouble during the mid-1990s and was forced to give up the sport he loved for more than five years.
“I can always look back and see this event as the start of something new for me,” he said.
Seth Cannello, race director and Schriever fitness and sports director, confirmed that Mr. Luplow is the only athlete who has competed in all seven Schriever Duathlons.
“My back has been great ever since,” he said. “I’ll be running the 50, 100, 200 and 400-yard dashes at this year’s Rocky Mountain State Games … those, and the long jump in my age group.”
The field of athletes who laced up their running shoes was a varied group, ranging from the veteran Mr. Luplow to the novice duathlete Megan Boren, 50th Communications Squadron unit security manager, who managed to navigate the course in 1 hour, 33 minutes.
Joe Simpich is a veteran triathlon competitor who has worked at Schriever’s Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center for more than five years but had never entered a base athletic event. After blazing through the first one-mile run in 5:54, he dropped, flipped his running shoes to the side and donned the cycling shoes he would need for the 12-mile ride around the base’s edge.
Patrick Grandsaert, 50th Civil Engineer Squadron programming officer, was equally quick on the first leg and passed Simpich at the transition area north of the fitness center. But, Mr. Simpich managed to catch him less than a mile into the ride.
“Every time I turned a corner, I could see [Mr. Grandsaert] there,” Mr. Simpich said. “On the bike, a couple hundred yards is not much of a lead, so I always felt like I had a target on my back.”
Halfway through the bike leg, he heard a sharp twang and a flutter. A spoke had broken off his rear wheel and began ricocheting off his other wheel parts. He diverted the near disaster by wrapping the broken part around another spoke and continued on, finishing a little more than 30 seconds ahead of Mr. Grandsaert to take first place at 57:52.
Many of the other competitors endured through mechanical failure as well. Becky Freeman, 50 CES chief of asset optimization, was bouncing over washboard ruts halfway into her bike leg when her handlebars wiggled loose.
“It was hard to gain leverage while riding over bumps and up hills,” she said. “I tried to pound the handlebar back into the collar, but it wouldn’t go. It was just a simple loose fastener, but it forced me to slow down. No matter really, I had fun anyway.”
Despite the snafu, Mrs. Freeman finished strong, recording an eighth-place finish in a time of 1:27.42.
“I’m a triathlon competitor, but I struggle a bit in the running portion,” she said. “This course surprised me. When people think of Schriever, they think flat, but the hills out here made this event a challenge, especially during the run portions. I tried to make up time on the bike, but I did have to stop to pop my chain back on, so that hurt a little.”
Dave Gapper, satellite system operator instructor, led a group of 19 SOPS members with his third-place finish (1:02.02). The squadron came out in force, bringing six competitors and a gallery of supporters. Amanda Fellows 19 SOPS flight commander, and Tami Wise 19 SOPS flight commander, were welcomed by chants and shouts from squadron mates as they dismounted their bikes and took off for their second runs.
Meanwhile, Mr. Simpich sprinted up the hill toward the finish line.
“There was a lot of washboard on the course, that hurt a lot of riders like myself, but it was fair and fast,” Mr. Luplow said. “You can tell by the winning time — under an hour.”
Seventeen competitors participated in the event. Mr. Simpich took home a $50 gift certificate for earning the victory.