From the Heart: D.J. DeAustria

DJ DeAustriaIt’s easy to come up with excuses to skip a workout and, while I  never regret getting my run in, I too often have a long list of reasons why I can’t. D.J. DeAustria is the complete opposite. He has a real excuse to take it easy on his body, but makes no excuses and gets it done. With osteoarthritis, D.J. has a good reason to spend more time on the couch and less time hitting the pavement, but this amazing Portland athlete doesn’t let his condition slow him down, literally.

I liked him right away. I noted his impressive performances made me feel lame and he told me to be inspired instead of feeling inadequate. I appreciated the attitude adjustment, and he’s right, we need to spend more time focusing on what we can do versus what we can’t do. It was clear why he was voted the Ironhead’s Most Inspiring Athlete in 2012.  This man is a gifted athlete, I don’t care what he says.  He’s fast, humble and has an attitude more people should emulate.

D.J. has always been active and loved to compete. He transitioned into running and triathlons after wrestling at Pacific University. He liked that it gave him a way to continue to compete after college. He ran a 3:15 marathon at Portland in 1990 and participated in numerous Ironman triathlons. Ironman athletes finish their event with a marathon, swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 before they start their run.  Diagnosed around 30 with osteoarthritis, he put off having his hip replaced for a decade, which meant a lot of Advil, keeping his weight down to limit the impact on his joints and basically enduring the pain.

In January of 2012, he finally decided it was time for a hip replacement.  Since he’s a licensed massage therapist, he knows how the body works and was preparing for surgery months earlier. He started strength training in October, before the surgery, and continued to keep his weight in check. His determination alone is inspiring. With surgery in January, he was in the pool by February and training for an Ironman by April.CDA

While in some ways it seems absolutely crazy, it’s the kind of crazy I admire.  Instead of sitting on the couch, this man had to re-learn how to run. Starting on the elliptical and then easing into a run/walk. (He’s a proponent of adding some walking into your run, for a number of reasons. Get a massage from this guy and you’ll learn all sorts of things about your body, but I’ll get into that later.) This man went from the operating table in January to Ironman Coeur d’Alene Ironman (CDA) in June with a 50 minute PR. His doctor is happy he’s mostly pain free and getting to do what he loves.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, D.J. decided he should run a marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Less than two weeks after CDA, he got a BQ at Sauvie’s Island in the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon. He then topped his season off with Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens, definitely putting that new hip to use.  While many look to him for inspiration, he’s inspired by his fellow Ironheads, who, he claims, all overcome their own obstacles. Besides his teammates, he said his coach, Ann Ciaverella, has been a huge inspiration for him. He helped pace her at the Eugene Marathon in 2013, another reminder that runners are awesome. Often a lonely sport, I love hearing stories like this, working together to push each other, and everyone ends up winning, with or without a PR.

DJ DeAustria His teammate, Jim Hayhurst, said “D.J. always has a smile on his face, an encouraging word for everyone and likes to see others succeed. He is the most inspirational person I’ve ever met. He doesn’t make excuses and is the epitome of grit and tenacity.” D.J. takes his passion into the massage studio and helps athletes of all abilities. He loves that he gets to work on other Ironman athletes as well as people just trying to get the kinks worked out and knows first hand the impact of overuse injuries. Close to Athlete’s Lounge in Portland, his massage studio, Bodywork for the Active, is convenient for triathletes.  (2701 N.W. Vaughn Suite #154) I had no idea what Thai Massage was and, honestly, was somewhat skeptical when he offered to demonstrate. Relaxing isn’t really my thing, but as he worked through the movements, he was teaching me things about my body, giving me an amazing deep stretch and massage, and I left with a new respect for Thai massage. He’s been able to do more of the things he loves to do because of it and wants to share it with others. Thai massage helps with posture, increases your range of motion, improves circulation, and helps with core strength.  He was able to hit places that are always tight on me and left this skeptic a believer.

Bodywork for the Active Next time I’m not feeling like a run, this guy will come to mind. I want to be more like D.J. and push myself, stop making excuses and just live life with passion. One doctor told him he’d never run again. Not only is he running again, but he’ll be running Boston in April, followed with Ironman Canada in July and  Ironman Arizona in November. He loves what he does and it shows.  We have no idea how long we have, so we might as well make the most of what we’ve got: No excuses, give it your all and be grateful for what you’ve been given.

As D.J. put it, “I celebrate being able to train, race, and be a part of a sport that has given people of all ages, body types, and athletic backgrounds a chance to see what they can do.”  I need to be grateful for the simple things, like putting one foot in front of the other. No excuses, I need to live life to the fullest and not waste the time I’ve been given. I’ll be looking for D.J. at future events, to say thank you for inspiring so many around him and hopefully a Thai massage.