Triathlete runs with spirit of 76
June 25, 2008 · Updated 8:18 PM
Youre never too old to tri.
If someone catches 76-year-old Duke LeBaron whizzing by on his Specialized bicycle or jogging along a South Whidbey road this summer, his shirt may say exactly that.
Last fall, LeBaron began training for the Aug. 6 Whidbey Island Triathlon, his first-ever triathlon.
To demonstrate that no one should consider old age a barrier, he laughed when recounting that another runner is considering making T-shirts with the Youre never too old to tri slogan.
While the T-shirt idea seems funny to him, he takes training for Augusts Race The Rock triathlon seriously.
The inspiration to compete first came from following his son, Trif, a triathlon athlete.
LeBaron decided to give it a go himself after volunteering at last years Whidbey Island Triathlon.
His training began last October. He now trains with Sarah Birger, a co-worker at Bayview Farm and Garden.
The decision to work with a training partner proved essential to LeBarons success.
For instance, in running, his weakest event, she pushes him on their twice-weekly runs. He admits that he would not finish some hills if she did not give him support.
LeBaron returns the favor by encouraging her in swimming, his best event. They meet twice a week at Island Athletic Fitness to swim in the lap pool.
With summer approaching, though, he said they plan to take their swimming training outside to some local lakes.
Besides training as a team, the Internet played a pivotal role in their progress.
Their training programs follow a schedule posted on a triathlon Website. The Internet also provides a link to Patricia Buchanan, a Freeland woman who is helping LeBaron and several other first -time triathletes prepare for competition.
Buchanan, a veteran of about 40 triathlons, started her newbie group for triathletes in January.
It is a loosely-knit group in which runners may run by themselves or in small groups, she said.
Buchanan calls herself the groups guidance counselor. She sets up running and bicycling clinics with experienced local athletes and she also schedules nutrition classes.
In addition, she provides email training schedules and tips to the groups 19 current members.
While LeBaron does not follow her training schedule, Buchanan does provide inspirational tips in her emails, he said.
Buchanans group also provides inspiration for other local residents, including Jean Fankhauser of Clinton.
He participates in all of the groups special events, such as a time trial last week.
Hes working unbelievably hard, Buchanan said. She added that Fankhauser has lost 30 pounds in preparation for the triathlon.
With the Race the Rock triathlon little more than a month away, LeBarons hard work is paying off for him as well.
His bicycling and swimming times continue to drop and hes shed a couple pounds.
In fact, the ambitious athlete is hooked enough on training that he might try the Tour De Whidbey scheduled for Sept. 24.
If that happens, the youre never too old to tri T-shirt might make a reappearance on LaBarons morning bike rides.