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Lynne’s Column for Week of October 25th : A Profile on Don Leroux.

Lynne Bermel

This past weekend turned out to be the endurance world’s finest hour(s) with the recording of several record-breaking "marathon" performances. First, there was Morocco’s Khalid Khannouchi running the world’s fastest marathon ever – a 2:05:42 in the Chicago Marathon. It is mind-boggling, really, when you think about it. He averaged under 3 mins per kms for the entire 42+ kms! He was followed by Moses Tanui whose 2:06:16 was the third fastest marathon all-time and second best placing on record. In the women’s division, Joyce Chepchumba’s one second victory over Margaret Okayo will also go down in the record books as one of the closest finishes ever in women’s marathoning.

Miles across the ocean at the consummate marathon event – the Hawaii Ironman – Belgium’s Luc Van Lierde and Canada’s Lori Bowden were setting records of their own. Luc won in 8 hrs 17 mins and 17 secs and Lori broke the marathon course record en route to winning the women’s race in 9 hrs 13 mins and 34 secs. Lori ran an unbelievable 2:59:10 after having battled the Island’s trade winds on the bike for 5 hours and the choppy Pacific Ocean for 3.8 kms in the swim portion.

Lori’s performance is humbling. I remember 5 years ago at the Hawaii Ironman when Lori was early on in her career; I was lucky enough to run stride for stride with her throughout the marathon. A couple of miles into the run, we passed a lagging Peter Reid. Unknown to us at the time was that he would go on to win the Ironman 4 years later and become Lori’s husband. Who would have guessed Lori would eventually go on to win the pinnacle event herself. How far they’ve come!

Speaking of impressive performers, few can rival Ottawa’s Don Leroux. In the first of many profiles for this column on the RUNNERS WEB, we are going to take a closer look at the local hero. No, Don is not a world record setter, nor a winner of a major international event, but he is truly a world class athlete in every sense of the word. He’s courageous, disciplined, tough and funny. And he never gives up. Less than 6 months after going through triple bypass surgery, the 65-year-old competed for Canada at the World Duathlon Championships in North Carolina.

Don Leroux
Don Leroux Shows Off His World Duathlon Finishing Medal

Don finished the 10 kms run – 42 kms cycle – 5 kms run in a time of 3 hrs 18 mins and 50 secs, a result he considers the "final step" in his rehab phase. Don’s rehab program, somewhat unconventional by most heart patient standards, included a steady diet of biking intervals up Pink’s Lake in the Gatineau Park, track intervals, a long run, weight training and a disciplined nutrition program all under the tutelage of his son (and coach) Paul.

"I had stress tests taken right after my surgery and my doctor suggested I not go beyond 128 heart rate in my training. She added, though, that since I had been active for many years, I could also listen to my body. That I did and once hit a maximum of 147. For most of my training, though, I tried to keep it around 120 and 130, even going up Pink’s."

Including his doctor and many fans back home, Don had a large support crew behind him at the World’s. They included Paul, a former duathlete himself who has run a 32 mins 10 kms. Paul’s wife, Lynne and Don’s wife, Rose were also there to see him through the race along with close family friend, Liz Beasley. Having Liz there at the race had special meaning for Don. Liz is the wife of Graham Beasley, a popular Ottawa duathlete who died in March 1998. Graham used to travel to races with Don and Paul. "During the tough moments in the race, I called on Graham to give me strength," says Don. "I have often done that during my races. Does it give me strength? Does it help me finish? Who knows? but it certainly makes me feel better."

Paul actually got his dad into triathlons and duathlons back in the late 80s in Victoria, B.C.. They used to swim in Elk Lake, home of the Canadian Olympic Rowing Team and – rumour has it – where you’ll now find Lori Bowden and Peter Reid.

Don’s first triathlon was a mini one where he narrowly beat Lynne out of the water when she had trouble getting out of the pool. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Don set his sights in l990 s on the Half Ironman. He trained with Paul, who ended up getting posted and Don had to go it alone. He didn’t know at the time that he was already having cholesterol problems.

Last October, an angiogram at the Ottawa Heart Institute revealed Don had several blocked arteries. Only a few months later, he underwent heart surgery at the Institute. His has been a remarkable recovery.

When asked to analyze what his performance at the World’s, Don sums it up like this: the cereal bowl was too small, the Gatorade too warm, too many distractions and his plan to follow the ladies’ for motivation backfired. "Just my luck, they had all gone ahead." Don adds: "During my training for the World’s, I had this inner wish to beat this old guy in the 70 to 75 year old age group who I had seen at the Canadian Championships. I figured that with my improvements over the past months, I might get in ahead of him. It turns out; he had done the bike in almost half an hour faster than me and had time to do the second run before I came in from the bike. Apparently, he is a champion road racer who has medalled at Worlds’ before. I learned something from that. From now on, I’m going to look in the mirror for someone to beat!"

What’s next for Don Leroux? "I’m planning on racing in the Keskinada Loppett this winter and am looking toward a Half Ironman in Montreal next year. Don isn’t ruling out an Ironman a year or two down the road either. Inspiring.

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