Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Athletes in Tandem

One of my favorite chapters in Still Running is the “Diversities and Determination” chapter that tells the story of how Athletes in Tandem came to be. It happened because, after completing an Ironman Triathlon in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008, Dennis Vanderheiden decided he was through chasing personal bests. He realized that satisfaction for him came from experiencing the joy of others as they completed an event. For him, the thrill was in the journey, not in the finish.

He knew also that his joy would be enhanced if he could share the journey with someone unable to do it on their own. Inspired by Dick Hoyt who pushed and pulled his disabled son Rick through an amazing 72 marathons and 255 triathalons, six of them Ironman distances, over 37 years of competing, Vanderhein founded Athletes in Tandem.

His non-profit recruits volunteers and supplies equipment to make it possible for those with disabilities to participate in running, biking and swimming events. Vanderheiden says there’s a story behind every athlete. They may not be able to speak, but their sounds and gestures express their elation at feeling the wind in their hair, cool water on their bodies and kudos and camaraderie from fellow athletes.

AIT now has a presence in locations from New York to California and people from all over the country seek Vanderheiden’s advice.
 
Last Monday night I was lucky enough to attend a showing of Lessons from Zachary, a film presented by Athletes in Action that documents an epic multi-day bike ride in the Colorado mountains which Vanderheiden and Zachary Scott, who cannot walk or speak, completed together. It sounds kind of lame to say it was inspirational, but that’s just what it was.


Zachary’s mother, Sandy Scott, made the challenging ride with them. She’s the author of the book, Lessons from Zachary, available on Amazon and through her website.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ironman revisited

They did it!

Diane and Pat McCary, ages 76 and 78, completed the three Ironman distances in Kona, Hawaii to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their performance in 1998. That year, along with their daughter Kristen and son Mike, they became part of the first family of four to ever complete the Ironman together. This year they took their 16-year-old granddaughter, Autumn, along to enjoy the fun and allowed themselves a week to complete the Ironman distances--a 2.4 mile swim, 100-mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.

They needed to make a few adjustments to get the job done. “The traffic was so bad that I only did about 30 miles of biking on the roads,” Diane explained. The rest she accomplished on a stationery bike. “So boring,” she said. “But I did it.”

The ocean was so rough that they were forced to do some of their swim in a nearby pool. They divided the run up into several segments and allowed themselves a “walk-run” option when that was necessary.

It was the consistency of lifetime training that made this possible," Pat said. 

They spent their time in Hawaii staying with old friends. They heard stories of four miserable months of thick fog caused by the erupting volcano. At last, the air is clear, but record high temperatures were a bit of a shock to the Colorado mountain residents.

“We feel completed,” Diane said. “Afterwards we celebrated with friends. And we’re happy to be home.”

A four-inch snowfall in Allenspark greeted them on their return. Bob Laird, former medical director of Ironman took the photo.




Monday, October 1, 2018

Coming in second



Ten years ago, a little book titled Red Ribbons chronicled stories from the life of the Reverend Dr. Robert Geller, long-time campus minister at Colorado State University. I had the privilege of working with him to see the book come to life. His death at age 97 on September 22, 2018 brought back a flood of memories.

Bob Geller and I spent a good bit of time putting his stories together. We fell into a routine: He’d start talking and I’d start scribbling, usually for a couple of hours. Then I’d type up his words and deliver them to him the next time we met.  The process went on until we had a completed manuscript. Working with him was one of the best writing experiences I ever had. He didn’t change much. He knew what he wanted to say and he said it. Best of all, I got to know this extraordinary man.

The book’s title grew out of his tendency to come in second. Its sub-title explains, “Coming in second is not all that bad.”  He was salutatorian in his high school class, beaten out for the top spot by his girlfriend at the time. At Hastings College in Nebraska, he graduated second in his class and at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago he had the second-best academic record.

“We reserve our hero worship for those who win, not for those who “almost” win,” Geller wrote. “By the time my formal schooling was over, the handwriting was on the wall. And the message had some undeniable advantages.”

Red Ribbons describes his ecumenical bent by relating the story of his Jewish great-grandfather, Conrad, who wanted to become a police officer in Boston. “You’d better become a Roman Catholic if you want to be a cop in this town,” a wise old Bostonian said to Conrad. He did, but his brother remained Jewish.  Geller, who grew up on a Nebraska farm, has Jewish cousins and second cousins who are retired Catholic priests.

Geller’s amazing memory makes for great stories. He remembers enjoying the company of 20 lovely young ladies as part of the cheering squad at Hastings College. As a senior he crowned his track career with a 4.21 mile, a college record at the time.  He was a life-long lover of sports.

His dad, who had a gift for profanity, turned the air blue the day 16-year-old Geller announced that he planned to be a minister.  “My God, you’ll starve,” his dad insisted. He went to college, studied economics and speech, having been advised to study something he was interested in, saving religious study until he entered seminary.  He credited his knowledge of economics and early habit of saving money with his ability to create a comfortable retirement income. His dad need not have worried.

Geller recalls ministerial stints in rural Paw Paw, Illinois, West Virginia, the reason why he quit smoking, his decision to enter missionary work, his time at Oklahoma A and M, and at the University of Arizona, in Sierra Leone, and in 1962, his arrival as campus minister at Colorado State University where he served for 28 years.

In 1967 he began what is surely the longest running book group in Fort Collins. They met regularly at 7 a.m. every Friday morning in the basement of 629 Howes St. intending to read in all the academic disciplines. The Friday Morning Book Group is going strong to this day. In 2007 Geller celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the group by sharing the titles of more than 500 books the club had read. Geller attended book group until the day before his death.

Over the years, he wrote poetry for special occasions and to record insights that were important to him. A chapter in Red Ribbons shares several of them, concluding with  A Sending Forth, one he often used to close events where he spoke.

Go in love, keep your faith,
Give your faith away.
Laugh often, make peace,
And hang loose.
So be it. Amen and Amen.










Monday, September 24, 2018

The lid of the hot tub



This old dog just learned a new trick and it sure does make me happy.

I’ve been a hot tub addict for a long time now. Eight years ago I got a new one, probably the smallest size made. It’s an odd “kidney” shape and in a pinch, two people can enjoy it at the same time. I love it.

Lately, the lid has become saturated with water and difficult to move. Not impossible, but not easy.

Figuring that after eight years, I’m probably due for a new one, I went on a search. I checked with the company I bought the hot from and I checked a couple of online sources, concluding that I’d need to spend between $415 and $449 to buy a new one.  Of course, there were more than several options from “economy” to “deluxe,” to “ultra.”

It was not easy to make comparisons. I wanted a good quality lid and I wasn’t sure how to choose the best one for my purposes.

That was yesterday. This morning I went for a long walk and at about mile three a thought popped into my mind. Even though I’d read that there was nothing you could do about water saturation in your hot tub lid, I decided to ask Mr. Google if there might not be a way.

Eureka! There is a way. Unzip the vinyl cover. (I had never bothered to notice that the vinyl lid did indeed have a zipper surrounding it.) It came off quite easily revealing a two-piece foam core. One side was quite light. The other was very heavy, a bit of a puzzle.

The two foam pieces are now residing on my patio in the Colorado sun which I hope will soon bake the water out of them. The inside of the vinyl cover was a bit slimy but easily scrubbed clean using an anti-bacterial cleaner. Then I placed the vinyl cover over the hot tub to keep out insects and debris during the drying out period.

Unless I have an impossible wrestling match getting the two foam cores zipped back into the vinyl cover, I’ve saved myself some cash and had a fun time doing it.





Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Instant Friendship

Tina Gies gives amazing massages. She’s tough. She knows how to hurt, and she knows how to tackle body parts that are misbehaving.

Not surprisingly, she works with lots of runners. And being a chatty, social soul, she gets to know the people she works on. One of them, Chris Reynolds, mentioned that she had a close super-runner friend coming to town who was temporarily sidelined with a nagging hip issue and she was looking for a way to show her a good time.

Tina thought that it might be fun for Chris, her friend Bev and I to get together. She figured we’d have plenty to talk about, and she was right.

That’s how there came to be a knock on my door this morning and two fit and charming ladies appeared bearing a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

It was instant connection. We talked about running and races and people we knew in common. We talked about our families. I learned about their careers as runners and coaches and how the running gene had filtered down to their children.  We chattered on like old friends. I neglected to offer them even a drink of water. We were too busy talking.

Bev Dockerty was on her way back to St. Paul, Minnesota that afternoon, so our time was short. We managed a whole lot of getting to know each other in a single hour. I decided that having a passion in common paves the way for instant friendship.


Here’s a photo of Chris on the left, and Bev, in my front yard. May they soon return!