Pacific's Uberman: Rob DeCou '05 Competes For A Purpose
The Uberman bills itself as “the most challenging ultra-triathlon in the world.” The 556-mile odyssey begins with a 21-mile ocean swim from Santa Catalina Island to Palos Verdes, Calif. That is followed by a 400-mile bike trek through the Badwater Basin to Death Valley and ends with a 135-mile run ending at the Mount Whitney portal, 8,374 feet above sea level.
Rob DeCou ’05 is one of just seven people to have completed the race, which Outsider magazine called almost suicidal, covering the distance in 2020.
Such physical and mental challenges are a way of life for DeCou, who uses extreme endurance events as fundraisers for various causes. To date, DeCou has raised over $1 million for brain cancer research, Rotary International’s PolioPlus initiative and Hope61, a nonprofit fighting human trafficking.
“I select causes that are near and dear to my heart. As I raise money and awareness through the campaigns, my connection to these causes grows,” DeCou said. “When you get out on the courses, it’s such a part of the experience when you bring with you their stories and connect with people.”
DeCou, who resides in Port Angeles, Washington, will present on the intersection between his life as an entrepreneur and his passion for endurance sports at Pacific University’s Old College Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 6 in Forest Grove. His talk, entitled “Resilience: A Journey Through Entrepreneurship and Ultra-Endurance Endeavors,” is part of the Old College Hall Speakers Series presented by the university’s Alumni Association.
A wrestler and track and field athlete during his time at Pacific, DeCou was introduced to the world of ultramarathoning by late Psychology Professor Mark Bodamer. A trail runner himself with numerous 100-milers under his belt, Bodamer invited DeCou to run with him. He was hooked.
“I find that when I am pushing and in a race where I am testing the limits, that is where I am the most alive,” said DeCou. “You’re throwing yourself out there with these other people and you’re not trying to beat them, you’re just trying to survive.”
In addition to the Uberman, DeCou has completed the Race Across America, a 3,069-mile bike race over 12 days from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md.; the Badwater 135, the 625-mile Race Across Oregon; and numerous other ultra-endurance competitions, almost all of which raised money for charity.
When he is not focused on endurance sports or his family, DeCou is a successful businessperson and educator. He is the chief executive officer of Lux Virtual, a digital marketing company that he co-founded in 2014. He is also a tenure-track business instructor at Peninsula College and was recently named to the Fulbright Specialist Roster by the U.S. Department of State.
In addition to his Pacific degrees in business administration and philosophy, DeCou has earned master’s degrees in elementary education, business administration, and organizational leadership, all from Grand Canyon University. He is currently pursuing a PhD in organization and management at Liberty University.
DeCou estimates that he has only finished about half of the ultras that he has entered. He does not consider his 50% finish rate a failure, but rather small progress towards goals, a lesson taught to DeCou by former Pacific cross country and track and field coach and former world-class marathoner Ron Tabb.
“It’s not so much that you hit (the goals), but it is that you’re setting those slight improvement goals and then going after them,” DeCou said. “You don’t go out, set mini-goals and then say ‘I didn’t hit that’ or ‘I barely made it.’ You’re always adjusting your goals.”
With the support of his wife, Kristin, and children Hudson and Kalea, DeCou is planning his next ultras and his next opportunities to help causes. After competing in Starvation: An Extreme Triathlon in Utah in August, DeCou will focus on a pair of kayaking events before tackling a 21-mile kayak event from Catalina Island to San Pedro, Calif., to raise funds for domestic violence victims.
“People ask me a lot what drives me,” DeCou said. “I always tell them that I am fanatically wired. I just love to see what the limits of our mental, spiritual and physical places are.”