Miracle man

 

Todd Duggan, left, of Williamsburg, mounts his bike for the riding portion of the Culpeper Sprint Triathlon August 6. Duggan competed in the Culpeper International Triathlon portion of the 13th annual race.
Photo by Jeff Say

Dave Stubbs is nothing short of a miracle.

In March, the Culpeper resident was training for triathlons when his bike suffered an equipment failure along Gibson Mill Road.

Stubbs sailed into a fence post doing 40 miles per hour and was severely injured.

He broke his back in four places and suffered a major concussion.

That would have ended the careers of most athletes. Stubbs isn’t most athletes.

On Aug. 6, he finished first at the Culpeper Sprint Triathlon, crossing the finish line into the waiting arms of his wife Rebekah and his family. Stubbs took first with a time of 1:19.59.

“I’m still building back to where I was,” Stubbs said. “It probably helps that I was in the shape I was in. It is a miracle.”

The IT specialist at Fauquier Hospital wasn’t going to let some stubborn injuries get in his way, considering how far he had come.

An athlete growing up, Stubbs found himself going to the doctor in 2009 and discovered his weight had risen to 265 pounds. He started to lose weight and then read a newspaper article about the triathlon. It was a goal he set for himself, and quickly met. He’s turned the hobby into a semi-professional effort, competing for Team USA at the National and World Competitions.

He still chuckles when he thinks back to how much weight he had gained and how quickly he was able to turn around and become competitive in triathlons.

“I was athletic when I was younger, I was used to being successful,” Stubbs said. “It’s funny when you gain all that weight, I didn’t picture myself as 265 pounds.”

He trains with a coach, who sends him workouts every Sunday.

“It’s a lot less than I would push myself to do,” Stubbs said. “I do less with him than I did before when I was self-trained.”

His only request was to be careful with his injuries.

“I just told him it was a hobby for me,” the 43-year-old said.

He also uses the hobby to help promote awareness of Autism. His 22-year-old son was

“I don’t know that it changed his life, but over the course of his life I’ve seen things get better for other people,” Stubbs said. “Awareness is a lot better. I talk to people and I felt like I was the only one on the planet with one like that. I give back to the people I meet.”

It’s that spirit of giving back that has endeared Culpeper to Katherine Tobin.

The 36-year-old resident of Washington, D.C. has been competing in triathlons for about six years but Sunday was her first visit to Culpeper. She finished with a time of 1:34, good enough for third place. Tricia Paden won the Sprint Triathlon with a time of 1:31.29.

Tobin was impressed with the hospitality and the restaurants in town and loved the layout of the course.

“We rode the course over New Year’s and I did the Grand Fondo yesterday,” Tobin said. “It was hard, it was much hillier than other courses in the area. However, the people are so nice. I saw a lot of families out there. All the volunteers were cheering for us.”

A swimmer growing up, she took to biking in graduate school as a way to “procrastinate” Tobin explained. Shortly after that, her friends said she should try triathlons since she was already doing two of the three disciplines.

“I kind of got suckered into, but it’s a lot of fun,” Tobin said.

That fun was evident for the more than 600 competitors at the triathlon Sunday. More than 1,000 turned out for the whole weekend, said Greg Hawkins, owner of the Virginia-Maryland Triathlon Series.

This year was the 13th year the Culpeper Sprint Triathlon was run and Hawkins raved once again about the experience.

“We get a tremendous response,” owner Greg Hawkins said. “The community is great. People love coming here and you’ve got a great town to explore. It’s just very welcoming. We always get ‘how can we help your event’,” Hawkins said. “It’s not like that everywhere. It’s wonderful.”

Hawkins said that three years ago, they added the Grand Fondo – a bike ride of 32, 62 or 100 miles – on Saturdays and boosted the amount of visitors coming to Culpeper.

“The economic impact is huge, people are going out for dinner, they’re going to the bike stores in town, they’re getting hotel rooms,” Hawkins said. “They have a great time.”

When he first scoped out the area to host a triathlon, Hawkins quickly fell in love with the course at Mountain Run Lake. It had everything needed to make a successful triathlon, and it was beautiful to boot.

“Being right at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s so scenic,” Hawkins said. “The roads are low traffic. We chose it because it was laid out so well. Look at all these people sitting up on the hill, they can watch almost the entire event. It is just perfect.”

Hawkins praised all the volunteers, but especially the Eastern View High School field hockey team and coach Peggy Allen. Allen has been volunteering her field hockey teams every year, and this is the 10th year for the Cyclones.

Senior Sarah Wilson and her teammate senior Claire Ashley directed bike riders at the start of the biking course, directing them to mount and dismount before the line.

“It’s important because every single time it helps out our field hockey team and the community,” Wilson said. “It’s the most fun thing we do all summer. We get to meet new people.”

“Honestly there’s not one thing I do here that’s not fun,” Ashley said with a laugh.

Beside them stood foreign exchange student Julianna Hãkkilä, who knew about triathlons but had never witnessed one her native country. She marveled at the prowess of the athletes and bonded with her new teammates over inside jokes.

“I think it’s really important I didn’t know Sarah or Claire before this, now we’re getting closer,” Hãkkilä said. “Now I’m getting to know my teammates better and this is a fun way to do it.”

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