By Dave Crawley

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The 25th annual “Head of the Ohio” rowing competition will draw spectators to the banks of the Allegheny this Saturday.

The races will also draw more than 2,000 rowers from around the world, including a 47-year-old Lutheran pastor from Shadyside named Doug Spittel.

He came late to rowing, following in the wake of two daughters who excel at the sport. He will compete in one of the 60-some races.

“I can go out on these rivers and I can row down to the point,” he says. “I can row up to the Highland Park dam. I can be out for an hour and a half or so, and get in some good activity and get some cardiovascular exercise in.”

That exercise is critical. A massive heart attack in February of 2010 convinced him to strike a balance with his sedentary lifestyle. Much of his rehabilitation took place on rowing machines at Three Rivers Rowing.

He went out on the river alone just five months after his heart had stopped. The new routine has helped him lose 25 pounds.

Rowing alone in early morning, Reverend Spitell finds the time to, “Pray a little bit, and spend some time with my Lord who made all this. And by His grace gave me the opportunity to do this after a nearly fatal heart attack.”

But he follows the old adage that,”The Lord helps those who help themselves.” The pastor will compete with much younger rowers. His goals are modest.

“Row the course, finish the course, enjoy the day, and finish dry hopefully.”

Head of the Ohio

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