This summer, while many instructors were taking full advantage of their summer break, one Eastern Michigan University professor was training hard to compete in triathlons.
Dr. Derrick Fries, PhD., a professor of Education, competed in 16 triathlons this past summer. Though Fries has competed in around 85 triathlons since 2007, this has not always been his first passion. He has taken part in professional sailing for most of his life.
A quick Google search of his name heeds many pages on books he has written and his induction into the International Sailing Hall of Fame in 2006. However, Fries emerged onto the triathlon scene in 2007 as a way to branch out from a sport he had been doing almost his whole life.
“I’ve been doing competitive sailing since I was eleven years old, I’m ready to try a new sport and I had run some marathons and dabbled in the 90s with a triathlon here or there and so I said how about let’s try some triathlons,” said Fries, a native of Clarkston, Mich.
In 2009, just a few short years into his new sport, Fries set the goal of winning a national title. “The thrill was to say I won a national title in two different sports,” Fries said.
He did just that this past summer by winning a national triathlon title to add to his previous six world titles and 15 national titles in sailing.
Fries has had great success in triathlons. Out of the 16 triathlons he competed in this summer, he won eight overall. The overwhelming success while competing has earned him the title “Super Freak” among his triathlon peers.
Fries feels that his success in triathlons has come because of his sailing and his love of training.
“Well that’s part of my success,” Fries said. “I love to work out. It is just part of my core. It’s kind of like religion for me.”
He rises at about 4:30 a.m., six days a week, and begins his workout routine. During the off-season, which runs from mid-October until about mid-January, he lessens his workout.
“Everyday I’m doing two things you know; swimming and running, or I’m biking and I’m lifting,” Fries said.
“In the middle of the summer, I’m doing three things a day. I’m biking, and running and maybe lifting. So the workouts this time of year are maybe 75 minutes. The workouts in the middle of the season are two hour plus workouts.”
As far as coaching, Fries said, “Well, I’m kind of self-coached but there are people who provide their services. I often talk to those folks, but I’ve been doing athletics such a long time I seem to understand things. My body talks to me often and then I try and listen to it. You kind of pick up tips and you kind of do it through osmosis. You talk to coaches but I don’t have a formal coach”.
Fries participates in different distance triathlons, but his main specialty, at the age of 60, is the sprint distance.
“It works good for my age,” Fries said. “Most of those races are about an 800m swim, 20-25k (12-16 mile) bike, and then a 5-8k run. That’s my main specialty area.”
Despite all of Fries’ accomplishments, he has set himself another goal. He will compete in an Ironman competition. The event will require a completely different type of training, as a triathlon lasts 58 to 90 minutes, compared to an Ironman going about 11 hours.
So for those of you who think your professors are relaxing on their days off, you have not met Dr. Fries.
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