Sunday, January 4, 2009

The San Diego Triathlete With Great Character: Profile - Bill Dusting - Who Had To Run Fast From A Plane About to Crash Into Him!

Recently, I caught up with Bill Dusting, an Australian-born triathlete living in San Diego. Bill, a US postal worker, was on the scene when an F-18 recently crashed into a University City neighborhood. Needless to say, Bill's tri-athletic skills allowed him to flee the scene quickly. In this question-and-answer interview, Bill talks about the crash, his life in San Diego, and what it took for him to become a triathlete.

Mitch Thrower: Tell us a bit about your background. How long have you been working that route, how long have you been a triathlete, and what is your favorite race?

Bill Dusting: I met my wife Debbie after gatecrashing her birthday party while she was in Australia. She subsequently brought me home to San Diego. I told her I was unhappy working in a bank, and she suggested that working outside in San Diego would be my best option. After moving to San Diego in 1986, I became a letter carrier in 1990. I have been on the same route since 1995.

Being Australian, especially since I am from Melbourne, I am sports mad. It's more passion than proficiency. I played top level field hockey, captained junior teams until I burnt out at 17 (goalie), ran cross country, struggled at Aussie Rules football, struggled at cricket, but was a team captain by age 19. Always did the separate Tri sports, but preferred to log high mileage running. Finally got into triathlons after doing the swim and run at SD International, in a relay. More hooked on training, with subsequent tired race results. Lost interest in triathlons in 1989 after crashing my bike, and not being able to afford repairs. Mountain biked for a while, crashed that, so just did Swim Run Biathlons. Best result was a 54 minute Sri Chinmoy La Jolla in 1995, thanks to a draft off Tinley in the ocean! Got into body boarding, goodbye swimming, but kept running with age group success in 5ks. Started San Diego Lions Australian Rules Football Club on a whim early 1998. (To find out more, visit or

We quickly became one of the best teams in the USAFL, and have won the Nationals in 2001 (my last game) and 2006. I was VP of the USAFL in 2001. Got a kayak in 1999, and became even more distracted. Got a mountain bike in 2001 and got into 24 hour races, mainly for team fun. Got hit by a car, and my rigid mountain bike was destroyed. Went to the bike shop to buy a singlespeed, but on a whim bought the cute heavily discounted 2 sizes too small Fuji Aloha. It subsequently rotted in the shed for a year!

On a visit to Australia, lent a bike and entered a tri. Excelled in the choppy, windy conditions, and came out of the water 1 second behind the leader! Got on bike which had been behind a shed for 15 years, and was poised to win, when the unskewered back wheel fell off. Struggled much to the amusement of a large crowd! After not having run for 2 years, ran a 20 min 5k in hiking boots. Bought a wetsuit on sale and headed home to have another go.

Problem is, all my excess cash goes to visiting my Mum in a nursing home in Australia on a regular basis. She's almost 90, and I'm the only one to look after her. I cover some of the bills. I'd race every week, but can only afford 3 or 4 races a year. Mum comes first! Strangely, I often do, too! 5 out of 6 age group wins last 2 years.

My favorite race is IB, and all the Koz Sprints. They're the only ones I can afford, and my back can't last more than 20k on that bloody small bike! I only train 10 to 15 minutes a week running, so 5k is it for me!

MT: Do you have a family?

BD: My wonderful wife Debbie, and my wonderful dog Maggie. No kids. Deb keeps me grounded, as she thinks racing sucks! I have to brag to the dog when I get home.

MT: Do you remember that day when the plane crashed? Can you describe the events of that day? What happened, and what went through your mind?

BD: That's an easy one. I just made a YouTube video recounting it. All is answered.
(Click play in the video below for an overview of the day the plane crashed)

MT: Do you have any words for the family that lost the loved ones?

BD: The Yoons had only moved in 4 weeks prior, and I'd only said a quick g'day. You've seen the brave Mr. Yoon on TV. He'll do well in the long run. All those of us in the neighborhood who survived are concentrating on talking it out, and getting over it. My wife had to survive watching her 2 yo son get fatally run over, so I know that it is possible to go forward in life. Best wishes to Mr Yoon. I feel for the pilot, too. I knew exactly what he was trying to do. He averted a much larger disaster.

MT: What does Triathlon mean to you?

BD: Triathlon is part of San Diego. Riding around Fiesta Island, or up the coast, swimming La Jolla Cove, is epic! I used to hate the fact that I couldn't afford the gear of my opponents, but Sprint Tris reward you for guts and your execution in the transitions. MY 45-49 age group is too bloody tough! Thank God De Soto and Tuck race in the elite division, and Mike Plumb and Craig Zelent (beating him by 1 second at MB in 2007 with a shocking hangover was mad!) favor longer and more North County races! Steve Tally gets 10 seconds faster every race, and there's some new move ups who should make it impossible for me to win this year. Last year I cracked my ribs twice surf kayaking, making races VERY painful so I'm hoping to gain a bit in the swim! Sadly I traded for a new kayak, and am in search of giant waves now, so my ribs might cop it again!

MT: Do you read Triathlete Magazine, what do you like about the magazine?

Of course I read Triathlete Magazine! Your buddy Roger suspects me of reading his subscription, but I trade my Dirt Rag with another guy to read it. Would you believe the best part is your eds? Nah, I like it all, but especially the training programs. I personally do whatever I feel like, making my mind up when I wake up. My career is dominated by minutes and seconds accounted for. No HRMs or laddered periodization for me! I also like to see what I can't afford. It's gratifying to have a fellah on a $8000 bike ask me how it's possible for me to be faster on an $800 bike!

MT: Anything else to add?

BD: Surviving that day of the plane crash is just one of many amazing events to color what I consider a fortunate life. To grow up in welfare housing, and yet to move and travel, and meet people from all over the world, of all socio-economic backgrounds, and just to be so insanely, bloody happy, is like winning the lotto every day.

Note: I'm sending Bill a Triathlete Magazine Subscription and some Triathlete Magazine schwag today... Bill - we are very glad you are safe and love your wonderful passion for life!

1 comment:

  1. wow, what a fantastic story of a man with great mental, spiritual, and physical abilities he has used in order to survive various pit falls of life. Hard work and determination has paid off for Bill and inspires the rest of us to keep adding these essential tools to all of our belts. Thanks Bill and thanks Mitch for posting this article.