Sunday, June 2, 2013

Paul, I hardly knew ya!

Sad times in River City.  Paul Schlosser has passed away from an auto-immune disease.  Very, very sad.....


When I first started in triathlon back in 2001 and then more seriously in 2002 I quickly focused my attention on the "elite" guys in my AG.  I wasn't worried about getting crushed by a 27 year-old, 147 pound freak of nature....but the guys in my age that whomped me.....that got my attention.

I had a two part triathlon life at the beggining--Jersey Shore and Delaware.  In Jersey the guys I looked up to where Des Nunan, Wes Burns, Keh Lehner, Rip Wagner, Mickey Syrop, Nace Mullen....I wanted to figure out why they were faster and emulate them.

In DE there were just two guys who were faster than me: Mke Clark and Paul Schlosser.  When I first raced these guys I just couldn't believe how much faster they were than me.  I watched them and studied them.  I asked them questions.  I found that they had been doing triathlons for many years and there was much I could improve upon.  They spurred me on and eventually I improved enough to feel that I was there peer--which I was thrilled with.

However, this is not a happy story.

Mike, as I have documented here (you can search for the post on my blog) was the guy that got me into Ironman racing.  Then in 2007 we raced at Eagleman where I soundly beat him (for the first time).  However, the WTC and USAT were having a dispute at that time about race day age so I was 49 and Mike was 50 (even though we were born a couple of months apart) and he got the Kona slot in the 50-54 YO AG.  Good for him, dissappointment for me.

Later that year, shortly after racing a great race at Kona, he died from mysterious complications from a minor surgery.  Wayne Kursch, the local RD mogul, has since dedicated the annual 10-mile Icicle Run in Wilmington (one of my fav races)  to his honor.

Paul Schlosser I first raced at Wayne's fantastic sprint race at St. Andrews (where Dead Poets Society was filmed).  This was 2003 and Paul finished 5:39 ahead of me easily winning our AG. He had the 3rd best swim OA and finished 10th.  He broke 70 minutes while I finished in 74:53--I was mystified as to why he was so fast.

We raced again at St. A in 2004 and I was able to cut the gap to 1:59.  2004 was a watershed year for me.  It was the year of my first IM and the year that I beleived that I might be able to match guys like Paul.

In 2005 Paul turned in the 2nd fastest swim OA (out of 280 or so) but my bike was now a real weapon and my run wasn't nearly as bad as it is now.  And I could not believe that I was able to hold him off and beat him by 21 seconds.  Shortly after this fine day I had my bike accident and ultimately had to have shoulder and knee surgery.

2006 was a come-back year for me and that doesn't cut it against a guy like Paul--he best me handily, by 2:27.

In 2007 I was in fantastic shape and I was stunned when I outswam Paul for my only time.  However, he felt sick that day and he ultimately DNF'ed...

2008 and Paul did not race--I was now the "man" in my AG in DE.

Paul returned in 2009 to put me in my place and we had a spirited battle that ended up with me beating him by just 11 seconds.  Here is a pic from the award ceremony that year:

This pic shows the 50-54 YO AG winners for both the men and wommen.  Paul is the taller fellow immediately to my right.  We had a nice chat afterwards--I told him how influential he was to me and my triathlon efforts.  Paul was an extremely nice, humble and gracious man.  He loved triathlon.

I last raced St. A in 2010 and due to other commitments (such as RAAM last year) I missed a couple of years.

I was excited to race it again in 2013 and when I checked the website the other day and i was dismayed to see that Wayne had changed the name to the 26th Annual Paul Scholosser Memorial Race.

I hardly knew Paul but he was a very influential person in my life.  He had a profoundly positive impact on me.  I enjoyed all of our interactions through the years--he must of thought of me as timid and defferential.  I thought he was a special athlete.

I think it seems fitting that we'll end our career head-to-head, tied at 3-3.  However, there is no doubt who was the better triathlete....and it wasn't me.

And now in my AG the two DE guys who spurred me on are gone....I hope to honor their memory by trying to emulate as best as I can the fine sporting traditions that they established....and I really hope that trouble does not come in threes....

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