Categorized | Featured, Multi-sport, Sports

Fighting back from cancer, Reed just enjoys Honu race

Duane Reed (grey T-shirt) with other standouts in his age group Merrill Schwartz, Edward Giroux, Dick Smith. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

He’s been here before. Duane Reed dipped his toes into the ocean Saturday at Hapuna Beach to start his fifth Ironman 70.3 Hawaii triathlon.

But this year is different. This year, he’s a cancer survivor and he has only one kidney.

Six months ago, the Washington state triathlete was laying in a hospital bed and wondering if removing the kidney would halt the aggressive cancer that snuck up on him so quickly.

This weekend, the 72-year-old was calmly lining up with 1,599 other athletes to swim 1.2 miles, cycle 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles.

In his 70-74 age group, only six men finished the race. Another three dropped out in some of the windiest race conditions ever seen along the Kohala Coast.

With a time of 6 hours, 50 minutes and 29 seconds, Reed was second in his age group and 989 overall for the day.

Reed raced lat year in the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii – affectionately called ‘the Honu’ – and won his age group, which qualified him for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas.

Shortly after that race in September, Reed began to notice something wasn’t quite right.

“It was really during the recovery time after that race. I just didn’t feel well and when I noticed my urine was very dark, my wife said to get to a doctor quick,” he said. “She’s a nurse, so when she said that, I paid attention.”

The diagnosis was not good. Reed said he will never forget that moment.

“The doctor came in and told me, ‘my friend, you gotta problem,'” he said.

Tests showed a particularly aggressive cancer had attacked one kidney, “so on Dec. 2, they just took it out.”

Reed credits his doctors with acting so decisively and swiftly.

“They were real pros and just knew what to do. I’m very grateful,” he said.

He never considered he might not race again.

“The recovery was really pretty quick. Within six weeks, I was riding and running and doing well,” he said. “I did think ‘Hey, Lance did it.’ And look what he did today.”

Lance, of course, is Lance Armstrong, cycling legend and inspirational cancer survivor. Since retiring from cycling, Armstrong has turned his attention back to triathlon and is hoping to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in October.

On Saturday, in his first race on the Big Island, Armstrong set a new course record with a time of 3:50:55.

Reed said being a cancer survivor doesn’t define him and he won’t let it stop him from racing in every race he wants.

“It does have an impact, it does change things,” he said. “But it’s not everything.”

Reed, who works with his son Curtis in the contractor business, caught the racing bug more than 15 years ago after watching his daughters, Jennie and Laura, compete in cycling races.

“That’s where my interest in cycling all started really. They are the real athletes in the family,” he said. “I had to haul them around and I thought as long I’m there, I might as well enter a few of the races. I didn’t do very well though.”

The sisters went on to earn 11 collegiate national championships for the University of Washington. Meanwhile, Reed joined a cycling club in his neighborhood just outside Seattle and started training with real cyclists.

“A couple of them were triathletes. I had never heard of it and asked them, ‘what’s that?'” Reed said. “Shortly after, I was one. It’s just grown from there.”

Reed keeps his finishers medals on display in his home. “Oh, I think there are probably about 80 or so,” he said.

Reed says he wouldn’t have all those medals without the support of his wife, Sue.

“She was afraid to get on a cruiser bike when we first married, but she was the first one to do a triathlon,” he said. “About 10 years ago, she did the Seattle Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. That’s for women only and raises money for cancer.”

Reed was there that day, waiting at the finish line.

“When I went to watch her, that was my inspiration and that was what really got me into triathlons,” he said. “Now she usually comes to my races. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be doing this. Any of this.”

A couple years later, it was Sue’s turn to be waiting at the finish line for her husband. While he raced in the 2003 Ironman World Championship, she served as a catcher – a group of volunteers who literally catch exhausted triathletes as they cross the finish line.

“I could hear her yodeling. I knew she was there,” he said. “She’s such a great supporter.”

Reed likely will take a break from racing this summer, but not for health reasons. Daughter Jennie has been selected for the 2012 Olympic cycling team and, as usual, the whole family will be at the finish line.

“It’s going to be great,” Reed said. “I can’t wait to get to London.”

— Find out more:
www.ironman.com

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