TOPSHAM, Maine — Dereck Treadwell once was one of the nation’s top middle-distance runners.
But 15 years after graduating from the University of Maine with All-America honors on his resume, the Milford native prefers his competitive adventures on two wheels.
Treadwell, who recently moved back to Maine with his wife Elizabeth after spending nine years as the head cross country coach at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., now is focusing on distance cycling.
“I’ve just found that I love the bike,” said the 38-year-old Treadwell this week after besting 169 other cyclists to win Newton’s Revenge, a grueling 7.6-mile race up the Mount Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire.
“Really last year I started making the transition to the bike, and I’m seeing gains. It’s pretty new to me but it’s less stressful and I feel great.”
Treadwell was named Maine’s track and field male athlete of the year while a senior at Old Town High School, then went on to win five North Atlantic Conference championships and two New England titles while competing in cross country and track at the University of Maine.
He earned NCAA Division I All-American status in 1996 in the 1,500-meter run and again in 1997 in the mile, and also qualified for the finals of the 1,500 at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Treadwell set nine University of Maine records and subsequently was inducted into that school’s sports hall of fame in 2008.
Treadwell maintained his ties to distance running after graduating from UMaine in 1998 as a member of the NIKE post-collegiate racing team and through coaching, first at Belchertown (Mass.) High School in 1999 and 2000 and then at Husson University of Bangor in 2003 before moving on to Hartwick a year later.
But his personal competitive tastes evolved, with Treadwell first becoming a professional triathlete who finished second in the 2006 U.S. championships and 49th in that year’s world championship meet.
He soon emerged as one of the country’s top competitors in the duathlon — which involves a running leg, a cycling leg and a second running leg. Treadwell was the 2007 U.S. Long Course Duathlon overall national champion in his age group and became a three-time ITU Duathlon world championship team member.
But cycling alone now has taken priority for Treadwell, who works as a private coach for runners, triathletes and cyclists through Personal Best Multisport Coaching — PBMcoaching.com — in Brunswick.
He has a professional license as a mountain biker and a Category 1 cycling license through USA Cycling, and many of his favorite events these days are of the ultradistance variety such as the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado, the three-stage Tour of the Catskills and Wilderness 100 in New York.
And while Newton’s Revenge might not have matched those events in terms of sheer distance, the challenges for Treadwell were just as significant, if not more treacherous given that competitors faced a rise of 4,560 feet in altitude from the start of the race to its finish.
“It’s interesting because you’re going up a 12 percent grade basically forever,” said Treadwell, who was riding in the event for the second time after also winning in 2011. “That’s a constant, and then you have to deal with the wind once you get above the tree line at 3,500 or 4,000 feet.
Treadwell said sustained winds along the race route were measured at between 53 and 58 miles per hour, with gusts up to 69 mph that merely aggravated the challenges presented by the ever-increasing altitude.
“It’s a lot like doing a really hard cross country race,” he said. “Inevitably you go out way too hard so you’re already suffering 10 minutes into it, and then you spend the rest of the race trying to cope with that.”
The latter stages of the event featured not only some significant competition from 38-year-old Eric Follen of Sanford, but some serious mountain fog.
“You couldn’t see anything, the visibility was 40 to 50 feet,” said Treadwell, who was concerned about missing a sharp corner near the end of the course and the potential for instead riding off into a parking lot. “It was difficult to know when to attack because of that, and there was also a 22 percent grade you had to deal with at the end.”
But Treadwell persevered, crossing the finish line in 58 minutes, 14 seconds, four seconds ahead of the second-place Follen.
“In New England you have [Mount] Washington,” he said. “That’s the goal for a lot of the climbers because everyone knows how hard it is.”