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.
MD: How many times have you competed at Wildflower?
DF: During the past 26 years, I’ve competed in the long course about 22 times and the Olympic distance twice. I won the long course in the 40 to 44 age group in 2001 and have finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th twice. I’ve gone sub 5 for the long course about six times. If that’s the highlight, then the other side of that coin was 2013 when I cramped and had to walk my bike up Nasty Grade. My times for the course have been between 4:50 and 6:30 and I loved every minute of all of them. In 2014, I had to drop out of the long course during the bike due to atrial fibrillation that I sometimes experience. I woke up the next morning with a normal heart rhythm and did the Olympic distance instead. It was my first time at that distance after competing in the long course for over 22 years. I felt terrific and finished 5th in our age group despite 2 flat tires. It was a real moral victory for me after having to DNF (Did Not Finish) the day before.
MD: You have coached and inspired many athletes at Wildflower.
DF: I have coached hundreds of athletes of all abilities. This includes three years as the head coach for the Greater than One group organized by the SF AIDS Foundation. The athletes of that group raised over $200,000 during those three years. The group was mostly first-time triathletes and was a blast to work with. Among the individuals I currently coach, Kathy Winkler probably holds the record for the most age group titles and fastest times. She has finished first overall female more than once in the Olympic distance and only recently moved up to the long course. She is a six-time age group world champion in Kona (twice Ironman and four times Ultraman).
MD: Any final thoughts on Wildflower?
DF: I went over to Dorette’s parents’ house to ask her father for approval. I had to tell him and her mother that we got engaged at the top of something called “Nasty Grade.” I remember thinking at the time that it may not have been the best place to propose.
MD: Speaking of proposals, perhaps my cousin Terry Davis will rename “Nasty Grade” in honor of Wildflower legend Duane Franks. How about “Proposal Point”?