Regardless of our level, we all must conquer challenges

by | Aug 1, 2008 | News Articles

Regardless of our level, we all must conquer challenges

In the world of endurance sports, we all participate – or compete, whatever the case may be – at our own level. But each of us faces our specific personal challenges as well.

During the past month, two of us locals have had an opportunity to do our thing on completely opposite sides of the talent spectrum. One was competing on a world scale for the second time, while I was merely a participant in untested waters with nothing at stake.

On one side is Michael Orendorff, the top triathlete in southern Colorado despite his 56 years on planet earth. On the other side is myself, three years older than Mike and, uh, volumes of talent in arrears of him. He consistently excels on an age-group triathlon level year after year, while I’m happy when I’m able to contain injuries and overcome physical limitations long enough to just be part of the crowd in running, biking or swimming adventures (or all three together) that I attempt occasionally.

Orendorff pulled off a good one recently while competing at the Olympic distance in the ITU World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. With all but one of the top names from around the world on hand, he came up with a real stunner – placing third in his 55-59 age division and being the first American finisher in it, too, behind studs from Great Britain and New Zealand.

Noteworthy is that Orendorff was able to finish in front of folks who had glossier résumés, many of whom had placed in front of him in past competitions. And perhaps most surprising to Mike is that his placing was forged on the bike leg, something that had been sub-par for him during his training leading up to Worlds and in two previous triathlons in Colorado this summer. And it came with a used bike he purchased on ebay during the past off-season.

“I don’t understand that – it’s the big mystery,” the modest yet proud Orendorff said. “I thought it would be the run that I do well, not the bike.” Impressive was that all four of his bike course loops were consistent, each one actually slightly faster than the previous one.

The Worlds format was changed before it even started, with the cold English Bay temperature (low 50s) causing race officials to reduce the swim from 1,500 meters to 1,100. Then just prior to Orendorff’s swim heat, the wind picked up and the water became choppy, and officials scrapped the swim altogether for safety purposes, changing the race to a 3K run, 40K bike and 10K run.

Making that decision caused a delay of an hour and 45 minutes in Mike’s heat, something that might upset the normal triathlete’s mental preparation. But he took it in stride and adjusted to the wait, accepting the new challenge.

“I adjust to stress very well, in this case to the delay and the change (in format),” he pointed out.

When he previously competed at Worlds in Perth, Australia in 2000, Orendorff went as a tourist of sorts, taking in the sights beforehand, being on his feet extensively. This time, he rested instead. It worked, with his overall time of one hour, 51 minutes and 23 seconds just 3:18 back of the world champion. He was tested hard in the last half of the final 10K run when a quad muscle cramped, staying with him to the finish.

My accomplishment doesn’t rank in the same dimension. Buddy Rambo of Beulah, Cecil Townsend of Avondale and I tackled the 4 Loops 4 Fun 6K swim (3.72 miles) this past Sunday in Colorado Springs’ Prospect Lake. This wasn’t a race, just a distance to cover for individual accomplishment purposes.

Cecil had swam this event last year, but this was a first for Buddy and me. Outdoor venues present a different situation than repetitive laps in a pool, and each one seems to present its own problems.

This was no different for. Cecil worked through an hydration problem, Buddy worried that his problematic shoulder would act up, and I was hit with a slight leg cramp and a right rib ache struck during the third loop. The wind-caused choppy waters also made stroking an adventure during certain portions of each loop.

But, as Orendorff did with his delayed start and then the quad ache, we adjusted to the challenges of the situation and plodded on through them. Cecil finished in 1:50 while Buddy and I had times of around 2 hours and change, certainly nothing to put on a poster board.

Yet this represented another checkmark on the endurance sports ledger, much like athletes who run marathons, do half-Ironmans or complete century bike rides – all looking to add to their life accomplishments while enjoying the social interactions they bring.

It’s all about facing and overcoming life’s challenges, and in that way endurance sports are much like life itself, with its trials, tribulations and celebrations. Regardless of whether we’re participating – or competing – on a world platform or just for personal accomplishment, the rewards we receive stay with us and help make us what we are.


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