At 82, Kenneth Fleischhacker is one of the oldest competitors at this year’s USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships, where he’s eager to defend his 80-84 age-group title. And in July, he’ll be looking for another podium repeat in sprint duathlon at the ITU Multisport World Championship Festival in Odense, Denmark. Kenneth is a lifelong athlete who doesn’t plan on giving up multisport anytime soon. We recently caught up with him from his home near Denver.
USA Triathlon: How long have you been racing?
Kenneth Fleischhacker: I come from an athletic family, so it’s in my genes. Running for me feels natural, both as a collegiate athlete and now. My favorite event in college was the mile. Then after college I began running local 5ks when those became popular. Then I got interested in cycling and began racing. For a time, I was the state champion in road racing and time trials in the veteran’s division. I had always enjoyed swimming, so decided to try a triathlon. It turns out I wasn’t as good at swimming as I thought I was, but I joined a master’s swim team and that helped a lot.
USAT: Has your training changed as you’ve aged up?
KF: I’m probably the wrong person to ask! I might be too enthusiastic about training. I still train every day, though of course I’m slower at everything than I used to be. I do have easy days, and on those days, I take it very, very easy. I rotate my activities between swimming, cycling and running, and mix in light weights about three times per week in the winter, and once a week in the main season. I do interval training once a week, balanced by long slow runs on other days.
USAT: Do you train on your own or with others?
KF: I’ve always enjoyed being part of a club. Golden, Colorado, has a great one, the Foothills Running and Cycling Club, which emphasizes both fitness and community. We do a 4-mile group run on Saturdays in the offseason, followed by coffee. And starting in the spring, a group of us does track intervals on Wednesday evenings with our coach, Joan, followed by a bite to eat.
USAT: You had major hip replacement surgery in 2016. How have you dealt with that?
KF: I’ve actually had quite a lot of injuries and surgeries. I raced Kona in 1991 on a rotator cuff injury that required surgery, followed by the other arm a few years later. I’ve had a partial knee replacement, then in 2016, the hip replacement. All that and I’m still here, but because of my injuries and age, I have added deep-water running and elliptical trainer workouts to my routine to help reduce joint stress.
USAT: What do you love about racing?
KF: I enjoy the concept of training and trying to get to a peak. Then when I race I love the adrenaline rush and the companionship of people who have similar interests and priorities. I get to meet a lot of people at races, and we get to see each other every year at Nationals, like our own little club. One year in Hawaii, I met Don Sexton, who has since become my best friend. When we see each other at Nationals we stay at the same hotel, exchange gifts and enjoy racing together. He will be at Nationals again this year.
One thing I love about competing on a national and international level is the travel, which I enjoy with my wife. When I went to Hawaii to compete, I thought that spending time on the beach drinking Mai Tais sounded great. But I couldn’t do it! After an hour I had to get up and move around, so I swam out to the surf break and talked to the surfers. They said, “you swam all the way out here?”
USAT: What advice do you have for age-groupers who hope to enjoy many more years in multisport?
KF: When you run hard, run hard. When you go easy, really go easy. Enjoy the flowers; stop to smell the roses. Enjoy training and racing, and the great people you meet along the way.
Kenneth Fleischhacker will be competing at the 2018 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships in Greenville, South Carolina, on April 7-8. Learn more about the event on usatriathlon.org/du2018.
Are you a run-bike-run fanatic too? Complete three duathlons in 2018 to be included in the 2018 USA Triathlon National Rankings. View full rankings criteria here.