Two and a half years ago, Phil Stitzer, a participant in Sunday’s Show-Me State Games duathlon, had heart bypass surgery.
This was the second year for the race. It featured 39 athletes competing in a five-mile run and a 20-mile bike ride.
The race began on Lemone Industrial Drive with a three-lap run around a 1.25-mile loop then the bike ride and then one more running lap around the loop. Stitzer, 41, of Moberly finished in one hour, 43 minutes and 34 seconds.
After having surgery, Stitzer’s doctors told him he needed to start exercising more. After the surgery, though, he could barely climb stairs.
“I couldn’t believe how difficult it was just to make it up 13 steps,” Stitzer said. “About three months later I ran in a 5K here in Columbia and I was just glad to complete it.”
After the race, Stitzer talked his doctor into letting him run longer distances.
“I started doing duathlons,” Stitzer said, “and ever since then we just try to go for a little longer and hopefully within the next year do a marathon.”
Stitzer has also had two back surgeries and surgery on his right knee. Stitzer said his last back surgery has made it more difficult for him to run.
“My last back surgery left me a little paralyzed in one leg,” he said.
Stitzer competed last year in the duathlon and said he enjoys the Show-Me State Games because it allows him to set goals for himself.
“By having these sort of things as a goal every three or four months it keeps you from laying in bed,” Stitzer said.
Duathlon commissioner Steve Stonecipher-Fisher said this year’s turnout pleased him.
“It’s down a little bit,” Stonecipher-Fisher said, “but I am going to make sure the people who do the event have a good time.”
Stonecipher-Fisher said one reason fewer athletes competed in this year’s duathlon is a series of triathlons in the coming weeks. Many people who would normally do the Show-Me State Games duathlon are competing in those triathlons, Stonecipher-Fisher said.
Stitzer said he has no desire to do a triathlon because of bad childhood experiences with swimming.
“I swim like a rock,” Stitzer said.