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Langley senior turns on afterburners to win world duathlon title in Penticton

‘I was overwhelmed,’ says Brian Parkinson after topping the 75 to 79 male category
Langley competitor Brian Parkinson led the field in the 75-79 male sprint duathlon race, part of the 2017 Penticton ITU Multi-Sport World Championships. Troy Landreville Langley Times

Brian Parkinson was overcome with emotion as he crossed the finish line in Penticton.

The Langley resident had just topped the 75-79 male sprint duathlon race at the 2017 Penticton ITU Multi-Sport World Championships.

During the Aug. 19 race, Parkinson edged out second place finisher, Australian Ross Salmon, in a nine-athlete field that also included six Americans and one Japanese entrant.

“I was overwhelmed,” Parkinson said. “I couldn’t believe that I won a world championship.”

Parkinson, who turns 75 in October, was the lone Canadian in his division.

The duathlon featured a five-kilometre run, 20-kilometre bike ride, and 2.5-kilometre run.

“It was hillier than anybody ever expected,” Parkinson said. “It was two trips up all the Vancouver Hills, so nobody expected that.

“I didn’t know there was going to be any hills. I didn’t know where we were going to be cycling.”

Dogged perseverance drove Parkinson to victory — especially since his opening run which he did in 29:34, was, in Parkinson’s words, “appallingly slow.”

“I was fifth out of the first five guys (after) the first run,” Parkinson said.

But he made substantial headway during the cycling portion. Among his rivals, he was the fastest competitor on two wheels by, in some cases, as much as five minutes.

The cycling race proved perilous for a few of the racers. “There were some real good wrecks, some serious injuries,” Parkinson said. “It was the first bike race I’ve done where you are allowed to draft. I came down the Vancouver Hill at 70 K, trying to pick up time.”

Buoyed with confidence down the final stretch, Parkinson capped the race with a 14:30 run over the final 2.5 kilometres.

Parkinson knew he had won because announcer Steve King “went nuts.”

“I was in fifth place as far as he was concerned,” Parkinson said. “Then all of the sudden I show up.”

MAP training ground

In the lead-up up to the event, Parkinson spent six weeks running the McLeod Athletic Park oval to pick up his leg speed.

“The run was flat and with the bike, I train on hills,” Parkinson said. “Every six days I would do a simulated race. I would do 10 400s (metre sprints), go out and cycle for 30 to 35 minutes hard, and then come back and do four laps around the track and time each lap.”

‘Amazing experience’

Parkinson said the Penticton event was a “genuine, real-deal world championships.”

“It wasn’t just local guys,” he said. “They all had to qualify for this thing; this wasn’t just kind of, ‘oh, we’ll show up at the border and see what they’ll say.’”

The American team had 1,077 athletes competing in variety of age and gender groups from Aug. 19 to 27.

Parkinson qualified by sending the organizers a list of results from races that he had participated in. “I asked if they wanted someone in the 75 to 79, and they said ‘Oh yeah, sure!’”

This was Parkinson’s first taste at an International Triathlon Union (ITU) world championships.

“I’ve done some triathlon world championships,” Parkinson noted. “In 2006 I got a flat, and in 2014 in Edmonton I fell off a ladder and couldn’t even walk 5 k, three weeks later.”

He called the experience “amazing.”

His race started at 6:30 in the morning. Two hours earlier, well before sunrise, Parkinson drank a meal replacement shake to fuel up.

Looking back, Parkinson was pleasantly surprised by the number entrants ages 60 and over from around the globe.

“Eighty to 84 (years old) there were seven guys; 85 to 89 there were two! That was just the men’s, much less the women’s,” Parkinson said. “I was impressed. Fifty-five to 59 (years old), I think there were 70 of them or something — just massive amounts of people.”

Parkinson said a number of local businesses helped him leading up to the race including: BSP Bicycles; Three Peaks Kinesiology; Clayton Hills Chiropractic, and Peninsula Runners in Walnut Grove.

Thirty one years of fitness

Three decades ago, Parkinson was a slightly overweight smoker. That began to change in 1986 when he took on his first marathon as a challenge.

Since then Parkinson has done the Alcatraz Triathlon twice, along with mountain bike triathlons in Maui, and he also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro 12 years ago. He has two more triathlons to go before this year is through — one in English Bay on Labour Day and another in Cultus Lake Sept. 16.

His advice to people involved in sports and fitness and are entering their senior years: “You may win some things, but at the end of the day, all this should contribute to a better quality of life. The fact is, it may not add years to your life but it adds life to your years.”

Also competing in Penticton was veteran Langley endurance racer Tom Barichello.

Barichello, 60, finished 25th in the 60-64 Men’s Age Group Standard Duathlon consisting of a 10-kilometre run, 40-kilometre cycling trek, and five-kilometre run.

Considering the health challenges Barichello has endured recently, it’s a very impressive result.

He underwent three major surgeries (including ankle and then bilateral iliac artery aneurysm operations) in 2015 and as a result shed 20 pounds from his already lean build.

Barichello was told from the surgeries, his abdominal muscles aren’t working properly so his running style “has really gone downhill because I’ve been overcompensating with different muscles, so my hips are not tracking properly.”

Barichello is just now starting to get back into the groove.

“I’m trying to make a comeback,” he said. “I was racing very competitively till the end of 2014.”

At past U.S. national duathlons, Barichello has finished in the top six to eight finishers in his division.

But health issues has changed his mindset about racing. “It’s humbling to start with but then you become more accepting of it, and you just go and compete more to compete rather than how you finish. I’m in a different category, here, now where I’m just trying to keep in shape and do the best I can.”

Another Langley competitor, Robert Durrant, finished 38th in the 50-54 Men’s Age Group Standard Duathlon.

Tom Barichello has battled through health issues as the Langley resident gets back into endurance racing. The 60-year-old finished 25th in the 60-64 Men’s Age Group Standard Duathlon at the Penticton Multi-Sport World Championships that wrapped up last weekend. Troy Landreville Langley Times
Pictured at McLeod Athletic Park, Tom Barichello and Brian Parkinson travelled from their hometown of Langley to compete in duathlon events at the Penticton Multi-Sport World Championships. Troy Landreville Langley Times