If Wildflower were a movie it would require a leading man. But first you need an elevator pitch. How about this? Forest Gump meets Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. An epic about an undersized seven year-old who is told that he is handicapped and must wear leg braces, has his brand-new bicycle taken away, gets kicked out of his school, spends three years at a handicapped facility, becomes a champion runner, searches vainly for the perfect bike, makes and witnesses triathlon history and finds the love of his life. This odyssey will make you laugh and cry. You will never want to leave the theater, even if you badly need to use the restroom. And at the end, you will stand up and cheer as the hero again leads the pack and breaks the finish line tape at an event that evokes memories of Woodstock. This movie could only be about one magical place and one man, Wildflower triathlete Duane Franks, a leading man on and off the course.
byteclay.com recently spoke with Duane Franks about his cinematic life.
Mark Davis: Your first triathlon was the 1981 Del Mar Olympic distance. What was that like?
I was waiting in line to register and I kept thinking about the mile swim. I asked the guy behind me, “How long does it take to swim a mile?” and he looked at me like I’m an idiot and he goes, “I plan on doing it in about 25 minutes.” I was thinking, “This guy looks like he can win the race.” It was Scott Tinley and he did win the race. It took me 53 minutes to swim a mile in cutoffs. I almost threw up because I drank so much water. But I loved it.
After I did my first couple of triathlons, I went to the Cal Poly Pomona Associated Students Body (ASB) office and I said, “We want to start a triathlon club”. “What’s a triathlon?” I gave a detailed explanation and the ASB person looked at me funny and didn’t think that many people would be interested. “You can have a club, but the ASB won’t fund it.” It turned out that Ray Daugherty, a P.E teacher was into triathlon and helped us form the first-ever collegiate triathlon club. He also offered a 3-unit Saturday triathlon class where you would swim, bike and run. I also formed the first collegiate intramural triathlon.
For this first intramural triathlon, we swam in the pool, biked ten miles and we had a 5K run that everybody knew about at Cal Poly. All the runners did it. You ran around the school and then went into “Ag Valley”, Cal Poly’s agriculture school. You would run on a road where the school had their animals in pens. I’m running and looking over my shoulder and everything’s good, no one’s near me, there’s probably twelve of us in the race. I’m thinking this is cool, the school paper’s here covering it, finally people were going to learn about triathlon and how many girls would I get for winning this event? I’m running down Ag Valley Drive and I hear footsteps behind me and they sounded like high heels. I’m not looking back because I’ve only got a quarter mile to go. The footsteps are getting closer and closer so I think; this is going to be a sprint. I looked up but I didn’t see anything right away. Then I notice that there is something down below. A goat was chasing me and passed me. I stopped because I was laughing so hard and the goat crossed the finish line in front of me (laughs).
Next up: Duane does his first Ironman and finally meets his match. Stay tuned…