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Longtime athlete racks up medals



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Derrick Fries completes the cycle portion of a triathlon. Photo provided (click for larger version)
October 23, 2013 - Clarkston native Derrick Fries is nowhere close to slowing down.

The 60-year-old participated in close to 20 triathlons this year and sees more on the horizon.

"I really enjoy the spirit of competition but it is a lifestyle," Fries said. "It gets in your blood and gets your blood churning. You get on a roll and it gets addicting. You just like that kind of adrenaline surge and next thing you know you are signing up for another one, another one and another one and off you go."

He averages 15 triathlons a year. Highlights from ones he participated in this year include finishing first place at the National Senior Olympics during the summer for the male age 60-64 division at 1:05.19.

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"It was just a great thrill," he said. "There were guys from 40 states there. It was a fascinating because the swim was in Lake Erie. There wasn't a beach there were barges with ladders. Swim is my strength so I said I am going to be first one at one of those ladders because I don't want to wait at the ladder. Fortunately I was able to get to one of the ladders first."

He also received a standing ovation at Tawas after finishing in first place.

"It wasn't the first time," he admitted. "It was flattering."

Fries began doing triathlons in 2006 after nearly 35 years of winning national and world sailing titles.

"I said to myself maybe I am ready to try something different," he said. "I was definitely ready for the change and a new athletic challenge. The workouts are longer but actually the events are less time consuming."

Fries realized he could do a triathlon within a few hours and have more time with family rather than do a regatta with two full days of racing. He added more triathlons to his calendar in 2007 and by 2008 he was addicted.

"For me it is more of a lifestyle, the enjoyment of competing every weekend, and the lifestyle of contant exercise," he said. "Exercise is religion and to do well you have to be pretty compulsive about it."

Since he was 14- to 15-years-old, he has worked out six days a week. From mid-October to December, he does one workout a day. When January begins he performs two workouts a day.

"Part of it to be success wise is you have to be disciplined and enjoy working out, too," Fries added. "It is clearly a lifestyle and you have to blend all it together with work, kids and all that good stuff."

He admitted he keeps motivated with a blend of the joy of competing and the fear of losing. Plus, the pre-race jitters.

"Your nerves get up a little bit and some adrenaline is built up," Fries said. "It is a joy."

Another motivation is family. He has three sons - with one in college, one in high school and one in junior high.

"It is a good message for them," Fries added. "The kids see you working out. It is a good message for lifestyles especially in our country it can be laid back and sitting on the couch."

Fries motivates others in their 60s by first getting them through the denial of being in their 60s and adds it is about mind over matter.

"Age doesn't have to be a barrier," he said. "It can be a bonus. You can control your schedule more. You know your body better than young folks. You feel so good when you work out. There are guys out there older than me out there competing and they are inspiration."

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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