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The top one percent


If all goes according to Doug Vander Weide’s plan, come October 16, 2004 he’ll be in Hawaii. He doesn’t intend to relax on the beach, however. Instead, he will swim 2.5 miles; ride his bike 112 miles; and run 26.2 miles, a full marathon, all in a span of less than 17 hours.

While running, he will face the heat that radiates from the barren lava fields of Kona on the big island. On his bike, he will battle the winds that blow so strongly that they have knocked tired riders from their bikes. During the swim, he will contend with the churning surf and the flailing of more than 1,000 other swimmers. To most, it sounds like pure torture, but it is the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, and it is Vander Weide’s dream.

Vander Weide is a senior financial advisor and an owner of Vander Weide and Associates, a franchise of American Express Financial Advisors. He grew up in Pella and graduated from Iowa State University in 1989. He joined IDS, a company that was later purchased by American Express. In 1997, he and his partners bought the franchise. He says the competitive drive that has helped him excel in his business is the same that has helped him rise through the ranks of Ironman triathlon competitors to qualify for next year’s championship.

“I do want to win,” Vander Weide said. “I think we all do at some basic level. I have a need to excel, and this is my athletic outlet for that need.”

Approximately 150,000 people try to get into the championship each year. Only 1,500 succeed. Vander Weide became one of them at Wisconsin’s inaugural Ironman-distance triathlon this September when he finished the race in 10 hours and 44 minutes. He finished fourth in his age group and 44th overall.

“What does it take to be in the top one percent of financial advisors … the top one percent of fathers and husbands, and the top one percent of Ironmen,” Vander Weide said. “I wanted to find that out. That was the goal.”

He says his worth as a husband and father is something he must continually prove with his actions. American Express Financial Advisors has recognized him as being in the top one percent of the company’s financial advisors by naming him to the presidential advisory council. By qualifying to compete at Kona, he had reached his Ironman goal. As a result, Vander Weide had to find a new goal.

“I want to finish in the top 150, the top ten percent of all qualifiers,” he said. “Well, my dream is the top 100, but for right now the top 150 is a more reasonable goal.”

It’s hard to believe that he got started in the sport only three years ago. Before that he was a “recreational athlete,” he said, occasionally running in marathons. A friend convinced him to try the grueling sport. Since then, “there have been a lot of 5 a.m.s, let me tell you,” he said. In addition to his 40-plus workweek, Vander Weide trains 10 to 25 hours per week, mostly in the morning while his children are sleeping.

He teaches a spinning class and a masters swimming class at Prairie Life Health and Fitness. One of his business partners is also a triathlete, so they sometimes hold informal meetings on the run, literally.

As much as possible, he devotes his evenings to wife, three children and extended family. He says it’s a constant juggling act, and when his family needs extra attention, he lets the workouts go for a while.

“There are a lot of parallels between the triathlon and the business world,” Vander Weide said. “The most important thing is perseverance. Sometimes, when you’re on your bike, the chain can fall off, you can have a wreck. What’s important is how you handle adversity.”

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