TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I had the pleasure recently of talking to Richard Duquette, Bicycle attorney, triathlete and longtime sponsor, member and supporter of the Triathlon Club of San Diego. The TCSD and our local community are both really lucky to have Richard on our team. Just as I did; I know you will enjoy getting to know Richard.
Richard: Thanks for having me Craig.
Craig: Who was the most influential person in your life?
Richard: The most influential person in my life was my Grandfather, Thomas Woodhull. He was a city bus driver in Detroit, Michigan for over 20 years. He was consistent, hardworking and a loyal husband, until he died of throat cancer.
He impressed upon his grandkids to treat everyone equal and with respect. He exemplified this on his bus route through the murder capital of the world, the inner city of Detroit, even during the 1968 riots.
He was admired by his regular riders and the City of Detroit, where he ultimately received an award from the Mayor of Detroit for great public service, and no accidents. That was quite impressive to me, as he serviced many different people from all walks of life, and even drove in the snow. He’d bend the rules once in a while if it was the right thing to do, like stopping the bus between routes and giving his two grandkids a free ride home from grade school. He would also sort through (and replace) old coins found in the bus fare change machine, looking for old buffalo nickels, liberty dimes and Indian head pennies. We built a coin collection together.
He also taught me to play baseball and took me to Detroit Tigers baseball games. He was a big sports fan. Most importantly, he bribed me with $500 to return from Kauai, Hawaii to go to college, instead of living in the wild and surfing.
Craig: Who is your hero?
Richard: That’s easy, my wife of 23 years Kim Duquette. I married up. She’s smarter than 99% of the lawyers out there, has common sense and is a big supporter. She’s also our law firm office manager. She’s the best thing that’s happened to me and she’s cute too!
Craig: Besides triathlon, where do you volunteer your time?
Richard: I volunteer my time helping injured bicyclists and triathletes, including many TCSD members you never hear about due to confidentiality. I’ve been doing this for many years.
Seeing me assisting TCSD members behind the scene, and being a long term sponsor, past TCSD president Jim McCann (deceased) gifted me a Life membership to TCSD. He grew TCSD into what it is today. I admired Jim for his ability to include and recruit others and diplomatically silence meeting hecklers by cleverly inviting them to “chair that committee”. He was a cool guy and I miss him.
Lately, I have been spending about sixteen hours or more a month in meetings and discussing with other local political leaders the subjects of more open space, parks, safe bicycle infrastructure (like bike lanes and paths), and access to public facilities. The emphasis of these discussions is improving community safety and healthy lifestyles.
I’ve been empowered to do so because I was recently ballot elected as a member of the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee by over 13,000 votes in Assembly District 76 (Oceanside to Encinitas), in big part by those of you all who live and play here. Thanks for your vote!
Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you the proudest of?
Richard: Lately, it was finishing the Carson City, Nevada 35/50-mile mountain bike race at altitude. It took me all day. We started at 5k elevation then rode twenty-two miles uphill (at times a twelve percent grade) off-road to eighty-six hundred feet to the Tahoe rim trail overlooking Lake Tahoe and Markel Lake in one view. Then a short ride through a snow field and down single track trails through the forest onto fire roads for thirteen miles. I really earned the finishers “silver rail road spike”!
Previously it was a thrill to twice (1976 & 1989) ride Baja California to Cabo San Lucas from Tijuana on one trip and Tecate the other. It took 12 days to ride (with panniers) over 1,100 miles. I camped in the desert under the stars and in some adventurous places, with a night in a motel in Mulege on the gulf side. People warned I’d be robbed, but it turned out to be a wonderful adventure. Of course, I’m also happy to have twice completed Ironman races, Hawaii & New Zealand.
Craig: Name two memorable race day experiences?
Richard: Back in the early eighty’s, I decided on a whim to race the Whiskey Creek Stage bicycle race in Mammoth, California. Day one (of three) was a time trial mountain climb from Bishop at 4,200 feet to Mammoth at 7,600 feet. I experimented in carrying only one water bottle and banana. I figured I had hydrated well enough the day before to do the 42-mile race. Luckily, I finished and completed the next two days. Lesson learned, watch the pros!
The second memorable event was at the Hawaii Ironman finish line. By way of background, I had trained for a year, visualizing finishing and receiving the medal, in honor of my Grandfather who had died the year before of cancer. When I crossed the line, the lovely female volunteer said with a smile, while looking a little concerned for me, “Can I get you anything?” Little did she know, I was so focused on the medal that I politely smiled and said in an endorphin trance, “Yes Ma’am, can I have my medal.” It’s amazing all the reasons people do Ironman races, many times we never know their motivation. I think Wide World of Sports did a good job handpicking unique human interest stories each year during the show.
Craig: What are some of your favorite destination races?
Richard: The “Beauty and the Beast” in St Croix US Virgin Islands. It had a steep hill twice as long as the climb from the Wildflower bike transition area. They had a prime for the fastest hill climber. It was a beast for sure. Of course there’s also the Hawaii Ironman race. Kona is lovely, and the smell of Plumeria blossoms are heavenly. But I also really like the festival or grassroots races like Wildflower. I did the Wildflower Long Course in 1989 and then the Sprint in 2016. Lots of mixing with people pre and post-race. It’s just a fun event.
Craig: If you could waive a magic wand over the sport, what would you like to change?
Richard: If I could wave my magic wand I’d like to see more local races like the Carlsbad Triathlon which I do every year, along with the Oceanside one-mile pier swim. Reducing prices would be another wish. Local sprint races feed the longer ones.
Craig: Can you identify any legal advice you would give a triathlete or bicyclist?
Richard: You need strong insurance coverage (500k Under/Uninsured motorist coverage with a 2 million umbrella UM/UIM limit policy) on your car, because it will likely cover you if hit on your bicycle. It’s a bit counter intuitive, but car insurance covers you on a bike. I see many badly injured bicyclists who are without a deep pocket to pay for damages beyond medical bills. This would include, lost income, permanent disability, and a change in lifestyle. So, I did something about it and wrote specific articles on these subjects, which can be found on my blog www.911law.com. What I’m particularly proud of is that my blog self-help articles are now enhanced by podcast episodes that can be listened to when you’re getting ready for work, having coffee, or on a car ride. I have a specific podcast web page on my website or you can subscribe to my podcasts on iTunes. It’s called “Bicycling and the Law – 911law.com”. These self-help articles and podcast episodes help the “little guy” get a fair shake. I’m an advocate for the average citizen and my work defines me.
Craig: What are your future goals in sport?
Richard: Well, I just turned 60 and want to stay consistent. As Bob Babbitt wisely pointed out, “Triathlon is the fountain of youth”. I agree with him 100%. Health is the key to a meaningful life. With it, you can contribute so much more to society. I want to help others who have an interest in triathlons and bicycling.
One day I’d like to podium. I’ll probably have to wait until I’m in my 80s, as my age group competitors keep getting faster. I’ll most likely have to win by attrition!
I’m also seeing a change in the sport of triathlon. In the 1980s, for instance, bladed spokes were big, now its carbon wheels and bikes. In the old days, the bike gear shifters were on the downtube, now they are on the ends of your handlebars. We’ve gone from chewy Power Bars, to gels like Gu and Cliff natural squeezes. I’m looking forward to what the future has in store!
Craig: Richard, you have made a huge difference in the lives of not only your clients, but also people you have never even met. I think it is terrific the work you have done in the fight for more open space and improved bike infrastructure. Thank you for all you have done. We are lucky to have you as our advocate.
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.