Dr. Peter Francis heads to Spain competition

by: GAZETTE PHOTO: RAY PITZ - Dr. Peter Francis is preparing for the World Duathlon Championships set for June 1 in Pontevedra, Spain.
Dr. Peter Francis has always been something of an athlete, playing rounds of golf and tennis in addition to biking and running. But two years ago, he found he really had a knack for participating in duathlons, competitions of speed and endurance that combine both biking and running.

That’s when Francis, an ophthalmologist who has worked at Oregon Eye Physicians and Surgeons in Sherwood for the past 18 months, began winning many of the duathlons he entered. One of his biggest victories came after competing in three events — two in Oregon along with the prestigious Black Diamond event held in Euneclaw, Wash. He won the latter race, earning him the title of Pacific Northwest Olympic Length Duathlon Champion of 2013.

The Black Diamond event, a race he described as being “fairly hilly,” also earned him a slot in the National Duathlon Championships in Tucson set for October along with qualifying him for the prestigious World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain, on Sunday, June 1.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said of the Spanish competition. “I’m excited.”

Francis’ wins are quite impressive, considering he is peaking in duathlons at age 45, all the while working his daytime job, which consists of performing retina surgery, a specialty where he focuses on diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetes.

His medical background began in the United Kingdom, where he attended medical school, completing a residency in London. He was appointed to the faculty at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London in 2006. St. Thomas, which is just across from the Houses of Parliament, is renowned not only as the home of Florence Nightingale and other luminaries, but was also the site of the first recorded cataract with a lens implant surgery, which was conducted in the 1940s.

In the past, Francis has run marathons and participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon during the devastating explosions that killed three people and injured many others. Coming in well before the blasts, it wasn’t until he was at the airport ready to return home that he began receiving the grim news via text messages on his phone.

“Slowly the information spread down the line, there’d been a bomb attack,” Francis recalled, saying he was out of communication for six hours as he flew from Boston to San Francisco, and ended up borrowing someone’s cellphone to learn details of the tragic event. “It was an awful thing that happened.”

With his race in Spain expected to be flat and fast — performed during what’s predicted to be very hot weather — Francis has been training hard in mornings and evenings. For the past three months, he’s been training four days a week, putting in eight hours a week. His training goal is to shoot for a combination of mixing speed with endurance aboard his Cervelo bike, a bike he describes as both stiff and responsive.

His bike training sessions have included some tough climbs such as the long pull from Mount Hood to Rhododendron as well as riding up to Crown Point and Rowena Crest along the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway.

“It helps to build strength — it helps to build endurance,” noted Francis, who was named the best up-and-coming medical researcher in the United Kingdom in 2002. “If I pull a muscle now, that could end the opportunity (to compete).”

Still, being pretty much at the peak of the sport, he said he can train pretty much up to the days of the events.

“It’s not adrenaline-driven,” said Francis. As a result, he plans to run and bike the Spain event in a relaxed, calm manner, ideally finishing in less than 45 minutes.

Oregon Eye Physicans and Surgeons to expand

In addition to Oregon Eye Physicians and Surgeons’ Sherwood office, plans are to open a clinic in Newberg this summer. Meanwhile, Francis, who has been an ophthalmologist for 20 years, also sees patients at Dr. David Wolf’s Lake Oswego Vision Clinic on Boone’s Ferry Road.

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