Coastal Orthopedic pain management specialist finds solace on the Pinellas Trail

It was supposed to be his ultimate defining moment. Instead, Dr. Richard Bundschu spent the entire day questioning his sanity.

With every twist and turn of the 140.6- mile Ironman at the Panama City Beach, Florida course, Dr. Bundschu, a pain management specialist with Coastal Orthopedics, wondered how he had gotten to this point.

A former high school and collegiate swimmer, Dr. Bundschu spent nearly a year training for the 2011 Florida Ironman — a long-distance triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon run.

But with every grueling mile, one question kept popping into Dr. Bundschu’s mind. What made him think this was a good idea in the first place?

It wasn’t until hours later when Dr. Bundschu crossed the finish line and tears began streaming down his face, that reality began to set in. He had mastered what is often considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world — a feat he had no intention of repeating.

“It was the most amazing and hardest thing I’ve ever done besides medical school,” says Dr. Bundschu. “I don’t need to do that distance ever again. As the saying goes amongst fellow Ironman finishers, ‘You suffer for a day, so you can brag for the rest of your life.’”

Seven years later, with his Ironman firmly in the rearview mirror, Dr. Bundschu can now be found biking along the Pinellas Trail, which runs from St. Petersburg to Clearwater, at least three times a week.

“I love bicycling because it’s so peaceful, and I can reach nirvana,” he says. “It’s my therapy.”

For Dr. Bundschu maintaining an active lifestyle is about more than just a passion for biking and physical fitness. It’s a means of staying out of the cardiologist’s office. Not only does exercise help prevent cardiac disease and hypertension and increase stamina, but it can also help prevent and control diabetes.

“It’s all about getting your engine running,” says Dr. Bundschu. “It’s that old adage: ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’. I always tell my patients you have to do something.”

Whether it’s walking for 20 minutes, three times a week to help offset the effects of osteoporosis, doing aquatic therapeutic walking to alleviate arthritis or running a marathon, Dr. Bundschu is a firm believer in the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle.

“Even just walking 100 yards a day is better than nothing,” he says. “You just have to be creative.”

Biking offers a low-impact cardio workout that he enjoys, and aside from the occasional kamikaze squirrel, it’s a relatively safe sport that people of all ages can enjoy. Although Dr. Bundschu fully recognizes the importance of safety and being prepared for the unexpected.

In his early 20s, he was hit by a car while riding his bike. Luckily, Dr. Bundschu was wearing a helmet, which took the brunt of the impact along with his bike.

“It’s amazing I’m still alive,” says Dr. Bundschu. “It just goes to show you that life can change very quickly.”

In addition to always wearing a helmet, he makes sure to stretch before getting on his bike to prevent injury.

“It keeps me out of trouble,” Dr. Bundschu says. “Stretching and making sure you are breathing while you stretch is key. I’m constantly preaching this to my patients.”

In addition to biking, Dr. Bundschu also has competed in a number of triathlons and a handful of marathons, including the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. He usually competes in the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, but this year marked the first time in 14 years that he didn’t participate.

“I’ve done so many triathlons, but ever since I did my Ironman, I don’t have that same fire,” he says. “Once you do an Ironman, it’s like climbing Mt. Everest. What are you going to do next?  That is the epitome of the ultimate challenge, and I have NO desire to climb Mt. Everest.”