After taking fifth place in his age group in a pair of world duathlon championship races last month in Europe, Wes Coyner returned home to Juneau last week with a list of goals for next year's world championships.
Coyner, 73, felt he could stay with the Europeans in the running legs of the run-bike-run events, but he felt the European athletes were more skilled in the bike leg.
So Coyner plans to spend more time riding the Compu-Trainer -- a bicycle mounted to a stand that's also connected to a computer -- he has set up in the rec room of his house. He loads videotapes with titles such as "Suffer-O-Rama" and "Uphill Grind" into his video player, and the Compu-Trainer's computer adds in the effects of hills and wind to his bike as he rides indoors.
"It's nice to compete. I like the competitive spirit," Coyner said. "I plan to work on my bike this winter because I want to prove to myself I can do it. After you get to be about 50, every year you lose a little bit, just a few steps. It's worth it. You have to have goals. It keeps you young."
Coyner, a former chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Egan in the 1970s, competed for Team USA in world duathlon championship races for the third straight year. But this year there were two different races with the addition of a long-course event.
Coyner competed in the long-course event (15-kilometer run, 60K bike, 7.5K run) on Sept. 9 in Venray, the Netherlands, then a week later went to Rimini, Italy, where he competed in a short-course (10K run, 40K bike, 5K run) event on Sept. 14.
In the Venray event, Coyner posted a time of 4 hours, 38 minutes, 3 seconds and finished behind three Germans and an athlete from Monaco. Jurgen Oertwig of Germany was the top finisher in Coyner's age 70-74 division, posting a time of 4:09:46. Coyner was only two minutes behind Oertwig after the first run leg, and his second run was about five minutes slower. But Coyner's bike leg was 21 minutes off Oertwig's time.
"It was a good race, except for the wind and the rain," Coyner said, adding that a third of the running course was over cobblestones. "It was a tough day, and it was nearly freezing rain which made the cobblestones slick. I got my zipper stuck on my jacket and my hands were so cold I couldn't get the zipper up or down. Some people said they felt hail."
In Rimini, Coyner said the 190-member Team USA squad not only had to prepare for the race, but it also had to react to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Several race officials suggested the Team USA members not wear their identifying jackets and hats for safety reasons, but the Team USA members voted to wear them all over town.
"The Italians were very sympathetic," Coyner said. "They'd come up and say how sorry they were about what happened. It was interesting to be over there, and there were a number of competitors who couldn't get to the race because of the travel stoppage. It was real exciting. There were 35 to 40 countries there and we were all wearing our team colors. It was a fun time."
Coyner posted a time of 2:54:59.4 at the Rimini race, finishing behind a Frenchman, a German, a Pole and a Venezuelan in his age group. Jean Zabek of France won the age 70-74 division with a time of 2:25:28.9. Coyner said he and a man from the Czech Republic (Jaroslav Kadlec) were even when they came into the transition for the start of the bike leg, and he trailed after the transition. But Coyner caught Kadlec during the bike leg, and then pulled away in the second run to finish six minutes ahead of Kadlec.
"I was the only one in my age group who did both races," Coyner said. "I only had four days rest between them after they moved the second race up a couple of days. I was the oldest in my age group in both races. Everyone else was 70 or 71."