The measure of a triathlete’s heart

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I thought a good change of pace from all the candidate yammering and the he-said, she-said political ads ping-ponging off the air waves would be a column about a young guy whose goal is to finish Sunday’s Los Angeles Triathlon in under three hours.

I used to think that all these marathoners and extreme athletes were obsessed with themselves or are looking for the ultimate runner’s high.

Lutz Mueller, 26, proved me wrong. He’s more about family, friends and encouraging others to accomplish their goals.

I was at a Chinese restaurant with a friend who was friends with Mueller and as we passed the dishes around, he started eating, well, a lot of food, and talking about how he’s bulking up for his intense training.

Mueller, at 5 feet 6 inches and 145 pounds, isn’t a big guy, so consuming double portions was not something in his routine. I thought: I wish I had this problem!

During the summer, he would eat two to three times more than normal. The carb-loading was necessary to get him through runs and bike rides around the Rose Bowl as well as swims in the Aquatic Center. On double training days, he would burn 1,500 to 2,000 calories each day. “I am normally not a big eater. But I had to eat more than my stomach was ready to accept. I don’t enjoy stuffing myself so much. But when I didn’t, I’d get a headache,” Mueller told me.

Again, I wish I had this problem. I’m trying to lose 20 pounds by avoiding carbs.

Mueller is confident he can meet his goal. That would be finishing the following in less than three hours: a 1,500-meter swim (about 0.9 miles) in the Pacific Ocean at Venice Beach, followed immediately by a 40-kilometer bicycle ride (about 24.8 miles) through Los Angeles, followed by a 10-kilometer (about 6 miles) run. Sunday’s race ends at LA Live! across from Staples Center.

The three elements calibrated by Olympic triathlon standards are ordered that way for a reason. “If you put the swimming at the end, you’ll have a lot of people drowning,” he said, laughing.

Mueller’s take on all this is modest, low-key. He is not the bragging type. That impressed me as well. But Mueller mentioned to me how this is not all about him, it is about getting closer to those people he loves, especially his wife, Donna.
“I was surprised how mental, how emotional (training) is as well as physical. We are one connected mechanism,” he said.

He loves it when Donna helps him train. “My favorite training sessions are when Donna rides her bike and I run behind her. It is really cool to have someone there,” he said.
“It has to do with mental strength. You can’t quit. Plus you have a distraction. Also, it is comforting to have somebody there … you can push yourself more .. you feel supported.”
Training for Sunday’s triathlon came naturally to him. His other hobby is mountaineering. He and his buddies have climbed to the summits of Mt. Whitney and the North Palisade. He is also trained in the martial art of taekwondo.

The Pasadena resident, who grew up in Los Gatos, a bedroom community in Northern California, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from UC Santa Barbara and now works as a project engineer at The Pilot Group in Monrovia. He always bikes to work. When he learned some co-workers swam at the Duarte Recreation Center during the lunch hour, he joined them. That’s two of the three covered. Add to that his daily runs and you’ve got the making of a triathlete.

Mueller said a successful long-distance athlete must learn to push himself “harder than your body wants to go.” He said most people can learn to do it, no matter their body type or age. It starts with baby steps of training.

Now that he’s ready, he took this week off to rest his muscles. It was the only time I could catch up with him. I asked him what is the first thing he’ll be thinking Sunday morning when he hits the water in Venice Beach.

“It will probably be like, damn, this is very cold,” he said, smiling.

This entry was posted in environment, land use, Pasadena by Steve Scauzillo. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

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