In 2007 I decided to write a fitness book and thought winning some gold medals in the Senior World Games would be a great marketing tool for the book. Since I was turning 50 in 2008 I started to train in 2007. The plan went well. At the Huntsman Senior World Games I won every road race and earned four gold medals. In mountain biking I won one silver and two bronze medals. Since I had never raced a mountain bike before and had a nasty crash on my first race, I was very happy with my results.
2009 had a different agenda. I competed in the California Senior Games (3 gold and 1 silver), the National Senior Games (2 golds) then off to compete in the Nevada Senior Games, leading to my return to the Huntsman World Senior Games. All of this competing was a preparation for the Master’s Pan American Games in November in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. To drop weight I had been dieting, even fasting for 40 hours each week. Prior to both the California games and the Nationals I had trained at altitude in the mountains. This had become so precarious that I had purchased an altitude tent and had been sleeping at 10,000+ to try and increase my hematocrit level. I was also using an infra-red sensor to measure oxygen saturation in my blood while wearing a mask and breathing air at 9000 ft, and cycling on a trainer.
The day before my departure my Father passed away. It was a shock. You hear about people’s parents dying but you never really know how you’ll react until it actually happens to you. When it does, you feel like you’re in an alley being chased with nowhere to go. No way to get out and you don’t know which way to turn. In my case, I was booked. Meetings, conference calls, faxes and errands were packed into my last day in town before a 14 day trip to the races. The phone was ringing off the hook from my family who were in Florida dealing with the paramedics, sheriffs and the coroner. I started to get angry. I had no time to think about my Dad or reflect on what was happening. I didn’t want to squeeze thoughts of my Father in between the next fax or meeting. I found myself getting explosive. I also had to make a decision. Go on this trip or go home? What would my Father want? By the time I got to Florida, everything would’ve been planned, my family would be back at work and I would be sitting there with nothing to do. On the other hand, my Father had been a foreign correspondent, an athlete and loved an adventure. Before he had passed he had sent me three boxes of all his scrapbooks containing many of the articles and stories he had written. The funeral wouldn’t be until the next weekend so the trip turned out to be the best therapy for me. It would give me time away from all of my responsibilities and allow me time to read all of his articles and reflect on my memories of him.
I grabbed the boxes of articles and continued on my adventure in his honor.
Nevada Senior Olympics
I registered Saturday morning and they gave me the Number 1. I was the first rider off in the 5k Time Trial. I normally like to have a “rabbit” I can chase, but as it turned out, I won with the fastest time of the day. It was also the fasted time I had ever posted in a 5k. I talked to my Father as it hurt and asked him for his strength. He was always very strong. As always, my Father came through.
I also won the road race later that day. I now had two gold medals to put in my Father’s casket.
The next morning we were to race twice but the winds were so strong they cancelled both races. I wasn’t too disappointed because it was bike week in Vegas. My Father was also a biker. Later that day, I grabbed my dog Mufasa and rode around town on my mountain bike looking at all the different bikes imagining my Father with me and how we would have enjoyed the whole scene. I was very proud of my Dad.
Huntsman World Senior Games
Monday morning I was packing my van when I pulled my back. I have a spondylolisthesis which sometimes acts up. When it does, I can barely brush my teeth! I still had to load the van, drive almost two hours to St. George, Utah, unload the van and then practice the course for the Hill Climb the next day.
All states have Senior Games. The four events are always the same in 49 states except for Utah. The four events in Huntsman games are longer and much harder. Utah is the only state where people compete not only by age but also by experience. In 2008 I had won everything in Division II. Because I had cleaned up, it is mandatory to move to Division I. Needless to say, the Hill Climb didn’t go well. I got fourth. My back was killing me. In the 40k Time Trial the following day I did worse. I got sixth. The winner beat me by over five minutes with a 53:22 to my 58:something.
The criterium was the next day and I wasn’t going to lose this race. In the last corner, I had a great position and took the sprint to win the gold.
The road race turned out to be more tactical. At the “wall” two guys got away and it looked like they were going to stay away. I’m not a good climber so I got dropped on the wall, but clawed my way back to the chase group. No one seemed to want to race so I started organizing a chase. Basically, yelling and calling them names seemed to work. We finally caught the break and flew down hill for three miles before the right turn for three miles flat to the finish. At that turn there were about nine of us. The guy who won the time trial went a little too early, at least I thought. I jumped but didn’t give it 100%. That ended up costing me the win. He was too strong and held us off. Another ten-twenty feet and I would’ve had him. I got the silver though. Here’s where it gets crazy.
I was in St. George, Utah and my Father’s funeral was to be in West Palm, Florida the next day. I had my dog with me so I had found a kennel only two blocks from my hotel. I had his vaccine records faxed to me but we had gotten behind on one of his shots. I fortunately found a vetinarian two blocks from the hotel and had taken care of his shot so I only had to drop him off. Directly from the awards I dropped Mufasa off, showered and drove two hours to Las Vegas for my 4pm flight. If it hadn’t been that St. George is on Mountain Time and Las Vegas was on Pacific Standard Time I wouldn’t have made it. After a five hour flight my cousin picked me and we drove another hour to West Palm to see my Mother. We stayed up talking till about 2am and then went to bed. Even though I should’ve been exhausted, I couldn’t sleep. My legs were killing me from racing and sitting for 10 hours. I was thinking about my Mother and organizing my thoughts for the eulogy which I was to give the next day. There was so much to say…..
My Father’s Day
The services were beautiful. Many friends and family attended. I put all three gold medals and a pair of my drumsticks in his coffin, talked to him for a while and got a locket of his hair. My sister made a great collage of photos and I had brought 30 copies of some of my Dad’s writings entitled “Memoirs of A Would-Be-Adventure” for people to read. In the past week I had read every article in his scrap books and cut and pasted the stories I felt were out of the ordinary to hard stock for people to read. I could hear his voice as I had read them. My sister, her daughter and I spoke at the services, the Navy played Taps and presented my Mother with an American flag at the funeral and we all sent a bunch of balloons to the heavens for Dad as he watched over us. It was a special day. Although I was sad, I was full of pride for my Father, the life he had led, the man he was and the Father he had been and will always be to me.
The next morning I rose at 5:45am, drove an hour to the airport, flew five hours and drove another two hours to St. George, picked up my Mufasa and headed to the mountain bike course. Now I was really tired. My back after four races, 20 hours of travelling and hardly any sleep was toast. I did one lap of the seven mile course and went home.
The hill climb was tough. Back was hurting and I was so tired. I got third. The downhill followed. I had ridden my mountain bike about three times prior to these races and since I had descended the course once the day before I wasn’t that comfortable. Surprisingly enough, I got second for a silver medal.
Went back to the room to sleep. The cross-country the next day was the hardest race I had done all year. Three laps of a very technical 7-mile circuit. My legs blew up in the first five minutes. It ended up being a 1:45:00 time trial through steps of rock, dry descents, single track and something they call the “key hole” which reminded me of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movies. You had to ride up a very narrow river bed over flat-rock with giant stones jutting out from each side at your head and body. About half way through the race my back started to really, really hurt. I was surprised I made it to the end of the race. I got a bronze medal.
Immediately after the race, I returned to the hotel, loaded all four bikes, gear and the dog, went to the awards ceremony and drove seven hours back home through an unusual rain storm and winds of 60-70 mph.
I had travelled almost 27 hours, ridden four bike races, won 4 medals and buried my Father in five days.
That’s an adventure my Father would’ve been proud of. I miss him, but he’s always here with me.