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Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Minster native on a quest for the iron

By Margie Wuebker

Minster native Randy Stueve runs 26.2 miles as part of an Ironman qualifier on A. . .

Minster native Randy Stueve never considered swimming, bicycling or running his forte. Football - Minster Wildcat football to be precise - was the only sport that mattered when he was in high school.
"I would have believed walking on the moon far more likely than taking up those (triathlon) activities because football was my life," says the 36-year-old Stueve, who currently heads the pharmacy department at Mercy Medical Center in Durango, Colo. "Priorities can change when you least expect it and now I'm headed to the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships Oct. 11."
The Ironman consists of swimming 2.4 miles in the ocean, biking 112 miles across the desert and running 26.2 miles along the Hawaiian coast.
As a Minster High School senior, Stueve learned he could no longer play football after doctors attributed his excruciating headaches to a congenital malformation of a vertebrae in the neck. They ruled out any contact sport.
"My football career was over ... poof, just like that," he says. "My classmates and I had been playing together most of our lives - every recess, every lunch period fall, winter and spring. I had been looking forward to my senior season and now it was over."
Stueve, the son of Ben and JoAnn Stueve, channeled his energy into serving as an assistant football coach and celebrating with the team along the tournament trail while hiding his own disappointment. However, Coach Ken Newland gave the senior one more moment on the gridiron - a moment of sufficient magnitude to last a lifetime.
"Coach Newland let me go out for the final play of the state football championship at the 'Horseshoe' in Columbus," he says of the 1989-1990 season. "We only needed to snap the ball and take a knee to end the game."
Following high school graduation that spring, Stueve enrolled at Ohio Northern University and completed requirements for a pharmacy degree in 1995. The former athlete longed to channel his energy into a challenging sport.
The opportunity came in 2000 when he participated in his first triathlon. Working as a pharmacist at a hospital in Greenland, Mich., he heard nurses talking about the competition and thought he was up for such an event.
"My first race was a disaster," he recalls with a chuckle. "The bike was a used one I bought from a friend and I quickly discovered I was no fish in water. However, I enjoyed the experience enough to make me want to do it right the next time."
Stueve, a bachelor who also enjoys camping, worked hard progressing through the triathlon ranks from sprint and Olympic levels to half Ironman during the ensuing years despite taking off time following surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee.
He made his first attempt to qualify for the Ironman championship after moving to Colorado in 2005, but he did not make it that year. He qualified for the first time this year on April 12 in Tempe, Ariz., finishing near the top of his age group. And he met his goal of finishing in under 10 hours.
Stueve trains twice a day - before and after work - while testing his endurance on the weekends with a long run and a long bike ride. The arduous schedule also includes master-level swimming four times a week.
"I give myself an afternoon off occasionally," he says. "I'll pick up the pace for Hawaii plus spend a week training in the Arizona heat this summer."
Stueve, who is sponsored by, admits there are "high points" along every course, adding the bike portion really doesn't start in earnest until mile marker 80 when he kicks up the effort a notch. The adrenaline rush sets in as he runs the last 6 miles of the race.
"A triathlon tends to be an individual sport rather than a team sport because I am always competing against my previous time," he says.
Final preparations for the Oct. 11 event start two days before with adequate rest, hearty eating and meditation. The big day commences at 3 a.m. with a light breakfast. Once the triathlon begins he will keep his "engine" running with periodic nutrition and hydration. Ironman competitors typically consume 10,000 calories over the course of the day.
"My goal was to qualify for Hawaii within five years," he says. "I achieved it in 2 1/2 years. I will be more than happy just to cross the finish line this year. The goal will be to place in my age group the next time around."

Ironman history:
Fifteen men registered for the first Ironman Triathlon held Feb. 18, 1978, in Honolulu, with each receiving three sheets of paper listing some rules and a course description. Handwritten on the last page was the exhortation: "Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!" The words soon became a registered trademark.
Gordon Haller crossed the finish line first in 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds. Luc Van Lierde of Belgium set the current course record - 8 hours, 4 minutes, 8 seconds - in 1996.
The triathlon draws athletes from throughout the world with qualifying events taking place in the United States as well as Canada, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Canary Islands, Europe and South Africa. The Ironman championship is held each fall in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
-Margie Wuebker
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