Mark Morical
The Bulletin

Another local triathlete set for Alcatraz

Terrebonne’s Lew Hollander, who will turn 87 on Tuesday, is also set to race in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon on June 11, marking his fifth appearance in the popular San Francisco race. Hollander estimates that he has competed in more than 3,000 races in a variety of disciplines during his lifetime, and he has finished the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, 24 times. During Escape from Alcatraz, a film crew from the BBC will follow Hollander for a special three-part series.

Jamie Brown played a variety of sports growing up, but he was not allowed to play football or soccer.

“They were worried about me kicking kids,” he says with a laugh. “I was definitely a toe kicker … I was pretty content with playing baseball.”

Brown, 36, was born missing his fibula on his right leg and two fingers on his right hand due to a congenital birth defect. When he was 11 months old, doctors amputated his right leg near the ankle, and he has used a prosthetic ever since.

But Brown’s athletic ambitions were never compromised by his condition. At 9 years old, he taught himself how to pitch left handed and wear a glove on his right hand. He blossomed into a college pitcher for Chapman University in Orange, California, reaching the Division III College World Series.

“I never thought it was some astonishment that I played — I just played,” Brown recalls. “When you’re in it, it’s just, you’re normal, I guess.”

Brown returned to his high school in San Diego to coach baseball for nine years before discovering the sport of paratriathlon through the San Diego-based Challenged Athletes Foundation.

He started competing in triathlon in 2010 and has since become one of the top paratriathletes in the world. He is a two-time national champion, and he just missed qualifying for the paratriathlon competition at the sport’s Paralympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro last year.

Brown, who moved to Sunriver last summer, won an ­International Triathlon Union World Paratriathlon Series race in Yokohama, Japan, last month, just two months after winning the Sarasota ­CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships. He is ranked No. 2 in the world in the PTS4 class, for below-the-knee amputees and athletes with other mild impairments. He is set to compete in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco on June 11, and he plans to race in the Duathlon National Championships in Bend June 17-18.

Brown races in the sprint distance, which includes a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilomer bike ride and a 5K run. Paratriathletes are not allowed to wear any prosthetics during the swim. Brown puts on his bike prosthetic — which he fabricated from one of his old walking prosthetics — during the swim-bike transition, then changes to a bladelike, running-specific prosthetic for the run.

“So my transitions are a little different,” Brown says. “It’s a different animal for us. Sometimes my liner (on his right leg) will be full of water. I come out of the water, and I’m hopping. But at the end of the day, it’s all about competing and having fun with it.”

Both Brown and his new wife, Jamie Sheppard (the two were married Sunday), work in network marketing for Beachbody, which owns the home fitness systems P90X and Insanity. With the flexibility of working mostly online, the couple moved to Sunriver last July after a brief stint in Florida and plan to soon move to Bend.

“My wife grew up in Oregon and she spent some time here,” Brown says. “I knew of this place being a pretty popular place for triathlon and cycling. It was either go back to San Diego or give Bend a try, and we loved it. We’re staying here for the long haul.”

Brown, who also coaches other triathletes, has had no problem finding training groups with like-minded endurance folks, of which Central Oregon has many. But last winter, one of the snowiest in recent memory in the region, was a rough transition for someone who had spent most of his life in Southern California.

“During the winter I did most of my training indoors,” Brown says. “I had never done that before, so it’s given me a different way to train. Being indoors on a treadmill and an indoor trainer has kind of been more like a science project, where I can control the environment a lot better. But I was really surprised with winning Yokohama.”

Escape from Alcatraz is considered one of the most iconic triathlons in the sport, and Brown says he can remember watching it on television when he was younger. The event includes more than 2,000 participants from more than 50 countries, according to a news release.

The race features a 1½-mile swim beginning from a yacht just off Alcatraz Island, an 18-mile bike ride through the Presidio park and an 8-mile run.

“I just want to enjoy it, and put together a solid swim, bike, run,” Brown says. “If my race goes well, I should beat all of (the other paratriathletes).”

After missing the Paralympics in Rio, Brown says he is not ruling out trying to make the Tokyo Games in 2020, but he is taking it one year at a time. Leading up to Rio, there were fewer sport classes, so Brown had to compete in the PT4 class, which included both below-the-elbow arm amputees and below-the-knee amputees. That meant that Brown had to compete against some triathletes who had no leg issues.

Following the Rio Games, the ITU increased its sport classes from five to six, adjusting how athletes were grouped to make for fairer competition.

“I just pulverized myself for four years to get to Rio, but I could never compete with the top guys,” Brown says. “The best thing that happened was that I didn’t quit. I had to get faster.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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