by Kim Rankin
When Douglas Kramer woke up from knee surgery on May 27, 2010, he expected to be on his feet within a day. The veteran triathlete had been experiencing knee pain for about a year and anticipated an uncomplicated meniscus tear repair. Post surgery reports told a different story - one that would require some modification to Doug’s lifelong commitment to being active.
Kramer started running in 1972, influenced by Kenneth Cooper’s books on the importance of aerobic exercise. He was in the Navy at the time and running “...became a part of who I was and the lifestyle I wanted to live,” said Kramer. He took up cross-country skiing, backpacking, hiking, and swimming in addition to running. Over the span of twenty-six years - beginning at the age of 40 -Kramer participated in more than sixty triathlons. He is a six-time participant in the Olympic length distance of the Wisconsin Triterium Triathlon held each year in Verona. Focal Flame Photography has provided event photography services for the Triterium since 2011.
“The Triterium is rated as the toughest Olympic tri in the Midwest,” said Kramer. “It’s a big deal to finish it. The race has some of the worst hills you’ll ever see and you do them a couple of times,” he said, referring to the looped bike course. Kramer completed in the Triterium Olympic annually from 2004 to 2009. But the looming knee pain and subsequent surgery stopped his running career. “I sheared off a piece of articular cartilage the size of a quarter from the end of my femur. I was not supposed to run anymore.”
Kramer had some decisions to make. He was in the middle of closing his Madison-based medical practice as a child psychiatrist. Being unable to exercise in the ways common to him was a severe blow. “Staying active was part of who I am,” Kramer said. “Not being able to exercise and live that lifestyle propelled me to get into speed walking.”
Following his orthopedist’s counsel to not push off the left leg with a bent knee, Kramer set out in what he soon learned was an even more difficult sport than running. “I get a better training heart rate speed walking than I was getting running the same courses. It’s not a bad thing at my age,” said the sixty-seven year old retired physician. “More people should transition from running into speed walking.”
While the shift from running to speed walking has prevented knee pounding and trauma, it has hardly slowed Kramer down. His 2012 results for his seventh Triterium were only ten-minutes off his 2009 time. And he’s competed in three triathlons this year. His favorite race? The Kickapoo Reserve Dam Challenge and paddling the solo canoe route seven miles down the winding Kickapoo River.
Kramer’s love of the outdoors and pursuit of an active lifestyle isn’t isolated to well laid-out courses in the Midwest. He and his son Will are graduates of the Boulder Outdoor Survival School’s (BOSS) Hunter Gatherer course – a nine-day adventure into Utah’s desert canyons with only the clothes on one’s back. Drinking from pools of rainwater and fishing by hand were just two ways Doug lived out the course motto: “Know more, carry less.”
Having pushed his body to the extremes of BOSS and countless other events, Doug’s reflections on an active lifestyle are heartfelt. “Every year I get older, there are fewer people participating in my age group. Why are there just four people in the 65 and older group?” he said. Referring back to his new sport of speed walking and his comeback at the 2012 Triterium, he said, “There is no reason everybody can’t be doing this!”
Focal Flame Photography applauds athletes like Dr. Douglas Kramer. Athletes who get out and participate in sporting activities for the passion of being active. Athletes who adjust to the seasons of the year and the seasons of life by finding ways to stay active. Keep it up, Doug!