I was born (1937) and raised in Racine, WI. I attended public schools from elementary thru high school in Racine. I played basketball and football in junior high, but my size ( 5’8” on a 150 pound frame) did not encourage playing either sport at the high school level. Too bad there was no cross-country team option – I was pretty fast and might have done well.
I served in the U.S. Marine Corps for two years after graduation, when I enrolled at Marquette University and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. I played some club tennis and racquetball during my prime working years, but I was pretty much all work, not so much play. In 1978, I returned to academia at Vanderbilt University, graduating in two years with an MBA. I retired from corporate life at age 60 in 1997.
At that time, I decided to invest a lot more energy in health and fitness. I took up running and lo and behold, I discovered I was pretty good at it. In most local races, I found myself on podiums – and before long developed an appetite for more. As serendipity would have, around that time my running buddies and I discovered a new sport, the identity of which you can probably guess – triathlon!
My first tri was a positive experience. Along with three friends, we drove a few hours from Cookeville, TN to Oak Ridge, TN where we all won awards at or near the top of our age groups. We were hooked. Soon thereafter, longer races and greater challenges beckoned. I did the first of my four Boston Marathons in 1984.
When I did my first Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona in 1993, I was still working full-time (as a division president of a large conglomerate) and, surprise surprise, it did not go well. However, the second time around in 1997 was much better. At this point, I was hooked, so much so that I decided to retire – from my job, not triathlons. I guess I realized that we get one body in this world – best to look after it with energetic due diligence. After all, we all want to enjoy life as long as we can.
I now maintain a workout routine of four to six days a week, competing ten to fifteen times annually, including running events. I’ve won world championships at four levels:
Hawaii Ironman World Championship (Kona) – 1st in age group, 2003.
70.3 World Championship (all in Clearwater except 2012 – Las Vegas) – 1st in age group, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.
ITU Worlds (Rotterdam) – 1st in age group at the Olympic distance, 2017.
X-terra (off-road) World Championship (Maui) – 1st age group, 2017.
I’ve also won ten age group national championship races at the Olympic distance.
All of this has not been without a few bumps and bruises along the way. During the first 20 years, it was only the usual bruises, pulls and strained muscles. Then it got more challenging. In 2010 while on a trail run, I kicked a root and severed all four quad tendons. Surgery and extensive rehabilitation followed. I was back at it in four months. In 2012, I pulled an achilles tendon during a national championship triathlon four miles from the finish, walked in and made Team USA. In 2013, I crashed on the bridge portion of the nationals standard distance triathlon in Milwaukee and broke my scapula and elbow.
Lets hope no more.
Looking back on 36 years of multi-sport adventures, setbacks and advances, I attribute the successes I’ve enjoyed to good genetics, a strong work ethic, a favorable environment (e.g., Southern climate ideal for training year-round), positive attitudes and perseverance (never give up).
For the most part, these are similar attributes that served me well during my brief military and long corporate work stints.
WINSTON ALLEN – MY STORY
I was born in 1930 and brought up in Columbus, OH. I started an exercise regimen at age 9 when I realized I was smaller in stature than my peers and had to defend myself from school bullies. This was about the same time I joined the YMCA and learned to swim. To earn a coveted minnow title, we had to swim the length of the pool. After finishing the qualifying swim, the instructor looked at me and said, Hey kid, you’re good. That was, as the song goes, the start of something new and would in due time evolve into my becoming a formidable swimmer in high school and college and, latter in life, adventures and satisfactions as a triathlete. Funny how little things, a few words, in some cases, can affect a life.
At about that same age my father said, Son, what you are to be, you are now becoming. That was pretty profound and stayed with me. I recall him taking me to an Ohio State football game – I was about 10 years old. I was mesmerized, not so much by the players but rather the gymnastics of the cheerleaders performing back handsprings and flips along the entire length of the field. I told myself that is what I want to do – gymnastics. I went about learning how to tumble at the YMCA. Fast forward to 1949 and I’m now on the football field doing back handsprings and flips for OSU and an audience of about 100,000. Mission accomplished.
At about 11 years of age, at a movie theater, a news clip depicted men diving off a 10 meter (33 feet) platform doing all sorts of fancy dives. Again I was mesmerized – and again I knew that is what I wanted to do. I went about learning how to dive at the local swimming pool, got to know knowledgeable older divers and eventually invited up on the 33 foot platform. Fast forward to 1952 and 1956 when I participated in the 10 meter platform Olympic Trials. Mission accomplished. After the 1956 trials, I became the first springboard diving coach at the United States Air Force Academy. This was an incredible experience with a fine group of young cadets.
I was drawn to sports that fitted my stature, not wasting time on things for which I had no physical aptitude. I also formed friends who were smarter and more talented than I was. I learned a lot!
I’m a retired U.S. Army officer with 22 years of service. I was in the Military Police Corps, working as a CID agent (Criminal Investigation Division). I was also a Japanese linguist, graduating from the Defense Language Institute at The Presidio in Monterey, CA. The experience working in Japan was wonderful for both me and my family. After retirement from the military, I was hired by the IRS to audit petroleum refineries and all wholesale and retail outlets that dealt in petroleum products during the embargo. This IRS sector was a precursor to the EPA.
I became a triathlete in 1983 (age 53.) My son Greg had just completed Ironman Hawaii in 1982 and said I should give it a try. I began with the Olympic distance, staying with that range until 1991, when I qualified for the Hawaii Ironman at age 61. From 1991 to 2006, I was a 13 time Hawaii Ironman finisher, finishing 3rd – five times. I never won Ironman Hawaii but did win Ironman Brazil in 2005, at age 75.
I’ve won five ITU triathlon age group world championships at all distances.
Both my knees have been replaced – one in 2008, the other in 2017. Modern medicine can be a wonderful thing.
My main goal now is to compete at ITU Worlds in 2020, at the age of 90. First order of business? Live to 90. This is very much, though not entirely, a self-fulfilling proposition. I figure my lifestyle (i.e., exercise regimen, eating habits, sleep and recovery patterns), mixed with my spiritual and social activities, will go a long way to boost the chances of my being there, in USA uniform, when the gun goes off.
My life routine is really very simple. I earn money to be comfortable, chase world championships for the gold, silver or bronze (it doesn’t make much difference – I just want to be there) and, in between, work passionately to achieve those goals.
To be fair, there are not many in the 85-89 age group. The old saying If you can’t beat ’em, outlive ’em! applies here. One of the main features of triathlon I enjoyed over the years was the camaraderie of those in and around my age group. Sadly, most have left the sport due to passing or physical disabilities. It is refreshing however to be on the same course with triathletes several generations younger, passing you on the run (noticing your age on your calf) and saying I want to be just like you when I’m your age. I’ve noticed you take on a certain celebrity status as an aging athlete.
An interesting note, When I started triathlon in 1983 there were only a handful of triathletes 70+. As of 2017 there were over 1000. At some point the 85+ will be crowded.
DAVID ARST – MY STORY
I was born in 1933 in Wichita, KS. I’m still there. My parents are gone, as is my brother, nearly two years my junior. Why am I here? Mysteries abound in life.
Growing up was wonderful. Our folks doted on us. My brother and I were spoiled, in a good way. We had few responsibilities, most of which were not really difficult, such as being expected to be at the dinner table each night by 6:00p.m. We played baseball with neighbors in a lot at the end of the block and basketball in our driveway. Alas, this routine would be the high point of my early athletic years. In high school, I started smoking and drinking. When I showed up at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, I was not the most physically gifted young man on campus.
After graduating, I enrolled in law school at Kansas University. My career was set in motion. I’m still practicing law full time. Fast forward to 1976, when I had to surrender my large intestine for medical reasons. Since then I have had to wear an ileostomy pouch.
I took up handball and, eventually, running. I read Kenneth Cooper’s Aerobics and started training at the most basic level described in his book. I set up little challenges for myself when doing early training runs. For example, I’d do intervals between telephone poles to see if I could improve my pole times. I often wondered why my body acted as it did: One day I would feel great but have a terrible run; another day I’d feel crummy and have a great run.
In any event, my first road race was 15K – I finished 2nd in my age group. I was hooked. I increased my running to almost every day. On Saturdays I ran 12 to 14 miles with a group. Soon enough, I was entering marathons and did two of them each year between 1980 and 1996. During this period, I was running 50 to 80 miles a week, including some 22 mile runs on Saturday.
I seldom had competitors in my age group – However, I always have a time goal and if I run at or better than it, I’m satisfied. My best performance came in the 1981 Dallas/White Rock Marathon. I was 48 and needed a sub-3:10 to qualify for Boston. At the 25 mile mark I was 2 minutes behind where I needed to be to finish below this standard. Yet, somehow, I crossed the line in 3:09.17.
I have always been able to eat as much as I want, of just about anything I want. Because of regular exercise, this includes ice cream nightly – and the occasional vodka martinis, though not at the same time.
My last marathon was also in Boston, on the occasion of the race’s 100th anniversary. I had developed neuromas in my toes and soon after that race I had to give up long distance running.
At this point, I weigh 146 pounds and I’m 5’6”. When I started running 40-some years ago, I was 185 pounds on a 5’10” frame. In 2003 I had bypass surgery. Shortly thereafter a friend suggested I try triathlons. I was 70 years old – do people take up new sports at 70? I’d have to learn to swim, which it turned out involved rising at the crack of dawn and driving to an adjoining town to immerse myself in an icy pool – while it was still dark! Worse, I was a sinker with awful form – the swimming coach would later confess that when he first watched me in the pool, he had to look away – too painful. Nevertheless, I learned to swim, relearned how to bike and managed to run well enough to do well in my age group. A decade later in 2014, after many triathlons, it all came together in in Edmonton, Canada at the Sprint Triathlon World Championship. As I approached the finish line just before running past the grandstand, someone handed me a tiny American flag on a stick. I was holding it aloft nearing the finish line when the announcer called my name as the new world champion in the 80-84 age group.
It was an indescribable, one moment in time that I wish everyone could experience. Still, I like to think that everyone is a champion of the world, in one way or another.
Epilogue: on May 6, 2018, I crashed while riding and broke my neck at C-1. A major setback but expect to be back in action in a few months.
I was born in the middle of the night on a Monday, the 199th day of 1938 in Philadelphia, PA. If I were a German Shepherd, I’d be 336 years old now but fortunately, my parents were overwhelmingly human, so I have endeavored over the years to act accordingly. While David Benatar, author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence isn’t so sure being born at all is better than staying away, I’m glad I made it and have lasted this long.
Nothing remarkable or interesting happened during my first six (baby, tot and pre-school) years prior to commencing elementary education under the tutelage of nuns. I don’t recall these Roman Catholic hijab-outfitted ladies having a well-developed sense of humor or impulse control but we nevertheless assumed that most of them were well -intended. After eight years of this, I was handed off to Christian Brothers for four more years of training and development reasonably good schooling with a hearty mix of superstition.
I was raised in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood and culture. In addition to family life, the three dominant activities in my early years were sports, school and religion. I loved sports; school and religion, not so much. Fortunately, I developed an interest in education by the time I graduated from high school. Despite prolonged exposure to religion, I wanted as little of it as possible. I didn’t lose faith – it just never took. I was born an atheist and all efforts to convert me to faith-based way of thinking failed utterly. Little by little and bit by bit, I developed a different approach, one marked by skepticism, doubt and curiosity, reason, independence and openness to possibilities. This orientation increased during military service (Air Force) and bloomed during college years at George Washington, UNC-Chapel Hill and Stanford.
My three best friends in grade school were among the city’s top sprinters, so while not slow by any means, I had little chance in foot races against these guyboys, each the Usain Bolt of the 40’s and 50’s. As a result, I did what nobody else I knew was seemed willing to do , at least not in grade school – run for long distances. endure the hardships of racing more My speed demon friends would than run the 100 yard dash or, at most, 220 yardsyard dash. I excelled in lLong distances, which in high school in the 50’s meant consisted of the mile run and cross-country competitions. I also enjoyed basketball and football, but my 6:3 155 pound frame didn’t lend itself to football. So, in H.S., high school, distance running was my specialty (4:38 mile PR) and in the military and at GWU, basketball was my ticket.
After the college years, I focused on the sport of handball, winning YMCA titles regularly and the state championship in Minnesota in 1972. At age 40, I took up distance running again, after two decades of doing none of it. Some best times as a masters runner were 2:37 marathon/ 33:39 10K/54:55 10 mile and a 1:12:10 half marathon PRs. Since focusing on tri’s, du’s and the aquathon, I’ve won at least about a dozen national and seven world titles.
Thinking more about it, it’s probably not true that nothing interesting happened during my childhood or teen years. Nearly every day was interesting, , at least for me, if not for society. During these years, for impressions were being formed, character moulded and so on. We Like everyone else, I would test ideas and and make adjustments through life, , ponder what it’s about, and mull what we I should or might become. Not always easy, rarely if ever very remarkable, but still personally consequential. For each of us the stakes were high, though in cosmic sense absolutely meaningless.
As to the cosmos, it’s helpful to remain conscious of the fact that there are millions of billions of friggin galaxies out there in space unimaginable and vast, most with billions of stars. It’s a relief to know that we here on earth are at the center of this amazing and expanding universe and everything, all of it, is about us. Or, maybe not.
(I have some observations about this in Part Two.)
Goals for the year ahead? Enjoy life, continue to live and promote REAL wellness as a lifestyle, share my enthusiasm for Robert Green Ingersoll, learn new things and stay interested in being alive.
ROGER L. BROCKENBROUGH – MY STORY
I grew up in a small town in Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I graduated high school at age 15. I was too small and clumsy for varsity sports, so my sports background consisted of pickup games of baseball and football. I learned to swim almost instantly, when some older kids threw me in the river when I was 12. Not a recommended way to instill affection for the discipline.
I was a Lieutenant in the Army Corp of Engineers for two years, 1956-1957, most of which was spent at Fort Benning, Georgia. Experiences there included bridge building and small construction projects.
I graduated from Virginia Tech in the ROTC program with a BS in Civil Engineering in 1954 when I was 19. After another year of study at VT, I earned a Master’s in Structural Engineering.
After my tour of duty in the Army I worked in industry, including thirty years at U. S. Steel’s Tech Center. I took an early retirement at age 57 in order to make time for more enjoyment in life, including travel and an expanding training regimen. However, I never quite kicked the Protestant ethic, so I continued with part-time engineering work for 30 years after retiring.
My oldest son John encouraged my start in triathlon. I was reluctant at first, thinking my age (around 50 at the time) was a barrier. However, I eventually gave in, bought a bike and trained for a year (not always wisely, but who does?) before my first race. When I decided I was ready to line up and dive in, I was lighter, fitter, more confident and, best of all, felt better about myself. My inaugural event was a sprint distance race near home. I won a small plastic trophy. It did not look like much or have resale potential, but it turned out to be a golden key that opened a door to a fulfilling pastime. I’ve enjoyed this sport for over three decades; it has led to racing and other adventures in 28 American states and twelve countries. And it’s been a lot of fun.
My motivation comes in part from an inclination to set goals and try to continually improve. Nearly every time I did a training run or swim, I strove to be a little faster or go a little longer than the last time. That mindset carried over into races. I try to get a little closer to the top spot each time, which was possible at first because I started out pretty far down the ladder. As I reached the top spot, the goal shifted to staying there, as long as possible. Oh, and I gave up the idea of going a little faster each time several years ago. I don’t know any octogenarians who are going faster today than they went decades earlier.
I attribute another part of my motivation to the friendships cultivated with fellow and sister triathletes over the years, valued associates I never would have known if not for triathlons. Some are seen only once or twice a year, but reuniting with old comrades and making new friends is in itself sufficient reason for training and racing.
I avoided serious injury for many, many years, but nature frequently reminds us not to think we’re immune to frailties and misfortunes. One such was a slipped disc that manifested during a swim a week before the 2012 Ironman World Championship. I recovered enough to race but had to drop out with four miles left on the run. Adding to the disappointment was discovering I now have a permanent disability, a condition known as “drop foot.” Not one to let that get in the way of my passion, I soldiered on and, in 2015, suffered a severe ankle sprain on an icy patch that laid me low for months. This was followed in 2016 when I crashed during a bike dismount on a fun ride that resulted in a broken hip, a valued body part that had to be replaced.
While I have not yet regained racing form, I can train regularly. An elliptical machine and a treadmill (while holding on) have become my friends. A healthy lifestyle practiced over the past thirty years has stood me well. I still enjoy training and hope to continue doing so for years to come, whether I race again or not.
By the way, I have won eleven gold medals in triathlon and duathlon at Ironman and Olympic distance World Championships and twenty-one national titles. In 2017, I was named to the USAT Hall of Fame. The induction banquet and ceremony for this unexpected honor were held in Colorado Springs. USAT created a great slideshow, with an introduction that highlighted my journey in the sport. It was a very emotional experience for me. I had to give an acceptance speech before a large audience; fortunately, my wife and four children were there for support.
It was an evening I shall never forget.
ELIZABETH BRACKETT – MY STORY
Born in 1941 in Minneapolis, MN, I grew up the big sister of three girls, sharing a love of sports with my Dad. I was encouraged to think I could do anything if I believed in myself and worked hard enough. I was an active child, who even at age six would terrify my Mom by hanging by my knees or swimming across a lake. Mom didn’t share Dad’s athletic ability or affection for adrenaline rushes, but she did attend all my athletic events while supplying just the right amount of encouragement, not pressure, to succeed.
We moved to the Chicago area while I was in grade school. I took up gymnastics and discovered the trampoline. My high school boyfriend was a national swim champion. I loved the swimming meets and wanted to participate, so I took my trampoline tricks to the diving board. But, it was the 1950’s – no swimming and diving team for girls. My large suburban high school offered water ballet, which I did try and it’s harder than it looks, but it wasn’t
competitive. Water ballet teams put on shows, not competitions.
I found a diving coach at the private Lake Shore Club in Chicago and began competing in AAU meets. I got pretty good and began winning. When I went off to the University of Wisconsin, I went looking for the swimming and diving team. But, it was still the 50’s – no women’s team! I asked if I could join the men’s team but was told the swimmers practiced naked, a not uncommon practice then, so that didn’t work out.
In the summer between my freshman and sophomore year I went to the Olympic trials for diving. I didn’t make the team but I met Hobie Billingsley, the Indiana University diving coach who agreed to work with me if I transferred to Indiana, which had a new pool and where the men swam with bathing suits. I well remember my introduction to Doc Councilman, Indiana’s legendary swim coach. He entered the pool area, looked at me on the diving board and screamed, What’s she doing here, get that girl out of the pool.
So Hobie began coaching me at secret 5:00 am sessions, that way I wouldn’t distract the boys. It took six weeks but Doc finally relented and I became the first woman on the University team. But I still couldn’t compete for Indiana. I continued doing that at AAU meets. Intercollegiate competition for women would have to wait for Title IX.
Diving gave me everything I could ask for in sport. It fulfilled Dad’s promise, that I could do anything if I believed I could do it and I worked hard enough. Standing on top of a ten meter platform, terrified, then doing the dive anyway, makes you believe that – and the adrenaline rush is terrific!
After graduating from Indiana, I married, raised two wonderful children and began a career in broadcast journalism. I brought the attitudes I had learned from diving to my television reporting. Doing a TV live shot is much the same as standing on top of a ten meter tower! I had a 35 year career reporting the news on PBS both nationally and locally and still do occasional stories for WTTW, the local PBS station in Chicago.
When raising children and covering stories, my sports were sailboat racing and skiing. When I turned 50, I tried out triathlon. I won a few races and was hooked. At 65 I decided to up my game. I hired an elite Level 3 triathlon coach who suggested I enter national competitions. My first national event was in 2008 at a venue just outside of Portland, OR. The course had something I had not encountered in Chicago area triathlons – hills. Though they looked more like mountains to this Chicago flatlander. Yet, much to my amazement, I won my age group and a place on the U.S. team to compete at the ITU World Championships in the Gold Coast, Australia. This was an incredible experience. I particularly enjoyed the Parade of Nations and the Opening Ceremonies. It was as if I achieved my long ago dream of being an Olympian. It took 45 years and while not quite the Olympics, it was close enough for this proud member of Team USA. What’s more, I won the gold!
There have been been four more world and four more national titles since then. Yet, as each season begins, I wonder: Can I still do this?
I’ve had my share of injuries. I crashed on the bike during the world championships in Beijing. Perhaps remembering Dad’s advice, I got back on my bike a bloody mess and won my age group. I also raced with a broken hand in the World Triathlon in New Zealand. I couldn’t shift gears or brake without pain but I listened to one of my fellow age groupers who said, It’s a race, who needs brakes? I took the gold. I broke my shoulder in 2015 – skiing, not swimming, biking or running. Being in good shape from triathlon training definitely speeded my recovery. Eight months later I took silver in the World Championships.
In 2017 I had a crisis of confidence. We spend the month of July in Steamboat Springs, CO. During that Summer, two of my friends were killed riding their bikes, and a bike crash left another a quadriplegic. All these athletes were over 65, one 72. All were serious riders and in good shape. I love this sport but am I willing to lay down my life for it, or maybe worse, lose the ability to move my body, the very thing I love the most? I took some time off and thought about what triathlon means to me. I came to appreciate that it gives structure to my life and satisfaction from setting and achieving goals. It has also provided a wealth of new triathlon friends and has been a wonderful way to see the world. It has helped me confront aging – training and racing keep my body in the best possible shape it can be. And, not last nor least, It has made me believe in myself and know I can do anything if I work hard enough. (Thanks, Dad.)
Oh, and one more thing: It reminds me I’m Not Dead Yet!
MARGARET BOMBERG – MY STORY
I was born April 24, 1937 in Boston, MA. I grew up, however, near the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. I had four siblings.
I began as a teacher in 1961. Though I did not start out planning to be an attorney, it seems I might have been so destined. When I arrived in this world, my father was a student at Harvard Law School. My mother was a law student, as well, at Cornell, but she did not continue along that path. My husband started law school in 1974. Soon enough, I went to law school and, after graduation and passing the bar, began my practice specializing in family law.
In 1979, we moved to Chico, CA. I was 42.
It was generally acknowledged that I had no special talents as an athlete. When classmates chose sides for kickball, field hockey and so on, whoever picked first got the right to assign me to the other side. When that option was not respected, I was picked last.
As I review the names and accomplishments of other triathletes featured in this book, it occurs to me that readers may not find my story rich in revelations about or insights for becoming a champion. On the other hand, maybe my tale will suggest another path to fun and glory in multi-sports. For example, one lesson to gain from my experience is that persistence pays off, especially when others fail to show up. This recalls the wisdom of Ashleigh Brilliant, author of such epigrams as I may not be perfect but parts of me are excellent. Dr. Brilliant also coined the phrase, To be the best, be the only one in your group. In triathlon, it’s even better than that, the older you get. You don’t even have to be “the” best in your division or age group to win a medal – just finish in the top three. If you’re old and persistent enough, that won’t be too hard, for most of the time, only one or two in the very senior groups show up. Furthermore, as often or not, you’re the only one. In that case, all you have to do is finish. Bring a flashlight, if necessary!
I have five children. I am thankful their father was very athletic. Our three daughters were athletic when young and remain in competitive athletic shape today. Our two adopted sons are also quite vigorous.
A turning point for me came In 1999. I spotted a notice at a local sports club offering triathlon training. Initially, my plan was to do the training, but not to compete. I assumed it would be fun and I’d lose weight. But, as part of the training, our group competed in events, so I went, too. That’s when the competition light bulb came on. At a race in Sacramento around 2000, I was amazed to note that a woman had placed first in the 65-69 year-old category. I noticed she was the only one in her division! I realized that I, too, could be on that podium. In fact, given the dearth of women in my age group, I could not just participate but, Oh Lord Almighty, become a national and even a world champion.
Oh, I wish those girls who picked me last could see me now.
I competed in every national championship from 2006 to 2016, except in 2009. I also competed in world championships in 2007 (Hamburg), 2008 (Vancouver), 2009 (Gold Coast/Australia), 2010 (Budapest), 2011 (Gigon/Spain), 2012 (Nancy/France), 2013 (London), 2014 (Ponte Vedra/Spain), 2015 (Chicago and Adelaide), 2016 (Cozumel) and 2017 (Pendicton). I won gold medals in 2009 in Gold Coast, 2014 in Ponte Vedra and 2017 in Pendicton.
Anyway, the training continues to be fun, the friendships are priceless and, alas, I’m still overweight. I run with a Fleet Feet group. The other runners are usually out of sight after five minutes. I take swim lessons still to ensure that my body remains on top of the water in races.
My friends who attend events with me are truly athletes and they are amazing. I greatly enjoy attending competitions and being on the podium when there are few in my age category, which is not a rare occurrence.
Triathlons, duathlons, races are all fun but it is the companionship which makes them so worthwhile.
SUSAN B. COX – MY STORY
I have a lot for which to be grateful, including growing up in a small town, my mother and father, opportunities, cheerleading, mentors/sponsors and teachers, adult friends and colleagues, the University of Kentucky, my husband, my sport – triathlon, the aquatics director who asked me to coach Kentucky Wildcat Masters, to Team USA and countless others – my point being no one makes it alone. Be grateful to all who open doors, offer opportunities and encourage you to be the best you can be.
There was no women’s swim team when I enrolled at UK. I participated in a synchronized swim group called Blue Marlins and a gymnastics performing group called Troupers. We sometimes did halftime performances at home games. I also became a UK cheerleader. This provided occasions to lead cheers for coach Adolph Rupp’s team, which won the NCAA in 1958! Cheerleading then was nothing like what it is today!
These were among the very few outlets physically active girls were offered during my college years.
After graduation I worked for a while as a waterfront director at a Girl Scout Camp at Kentucky Lake. I gained valuable life experience, such as assisting children dealing with polio and cerebral palsy to enjoy swimming in particular and water sports in general. I eventually returned to UK on a scholarship for guidance counselor and, after graduating, got married and set up house in Lexington.
I became the coach of the cheerleading team at UK and did this for ten years. I’ve also taught in the wellness program at UK and I coach the Wildcat master swim team.
My husband encouraged me to participate in sports, so I added tennis, golf, bike riding and running to the swimming regimen I already possessed. I did my first triathlon in 1982 – it was a natural sport for me.
Fast forward to 1986 when I qualified for the Ironman in Hawaii. I had not planned to go, as I did not want to leave my children at home and the long trip for all of us would simply be too much. However, a good friend and running partner thought it an opportunity not to be missed. He organized fundraising events that made it possible to take my children along to share the experience and watch their mom compete. At this time, there were 200 women in the field of 1200. Perhaps twenty of us were over forty.
In 1989, I qualified for the first ever world triathlon championship held in Avignon, France. My husband had recently died, I was working three jobs and had three kids to look after, so I declined. Again, a woman friend intervened, saying I had to go, that this is our Olympics, the kind of event we never had a chance to experience personally growing up. She offered to pay my way, saying I could pay her back. What a dilemma – I had to put up $50 to hold my spot – and in 1989 this would pay for our groceries for a week. I cried all the way home. How was I going to tell my children I was going to France? I couldn’t do that – so I donated the $50 to Team USA.
The next day, I got a call from USAT – I had been selected to receive the John DuPont – sponsored scholarship earmarked for one team member in each division.
I’m sure you can appreciate why I am so fond of gratitude and devoted to feeling and expressing it. I’ll say it again: No one makes it alone. Be grateful to all who open doors, offer opportunities and encourage you to be the best you can be.
EILEEN CROISSANT – MY STORY
I have never considered myself an athlete and even after winning my age group (75-79) at the World Championship in 2015, I still don’t consider myself an athlete.
I was born Eileen O’Hare in Beloit, WI in 1939. Growing up in southern Wisconsin, girls did not participate in sporting activities – it was not ladylike. Girls were the cheerleaders but I wasn’t even good enough to be a cheerleader. I was the person chosen last for a team.
My mother, afraid of water herself, resolved that I wouldn’t have that fear. Therefore, as a young child, I learned to swim. Swimming was an acceptable sport for a girl but, as far as I recall, there wasn’t such a thing as a girl’s swim team or practice opportunities. Nevertheless, went to pools all summer long. Alas, in high school, none of my friends swam so I gave it up.
I moved to Colorado, got married, had four children and didn’t think about swimming until in my late 30’s. At that time my kids were on swim team so I started doing laps with some parents of swimmers. I also joined a health club in order to swim laps year round.
My husband and I biked a lot until he took up running, as did many of my friends. I went to their races and cheered them on but it was years before I decided to give it a try. One of my friends was training for a triathlon – I hadn’t heard of triathlon until that point. Then my health club organized one and I volunteered to help. While watching and helping with the event, I decided I can do that. So, the following year I was a participant – at 48 years old. I was close to the last to finish but that didn’t matter – I was hooked.
After about 15 years I gave up triathlons due to increased work commitments as a CFO of community health clinics. I kept up running but had to give up swimming and biking. Then, when I turned 70 and was working part time, I decided to find out if I could still complete a triathlon. Thus, I took up swimming and biking again. With a lot of support from my husband and the Greeley Triathlon Club, I’m back. While slow, I do finish.
I was shocked at the World Championship when I came through the finish line and the announcer said that I was the 1st finisher in the women’s Sprint 75-79 age group. A day later, I took 3rd in the Olympic distance event. Swimming is my strongest, biking next. I am not a good runner, so I just hang on to finish.
I’ve long felt that age plays out largely in your mind and there is no such thing as being too old to do, or at least try something. No matter your age or sex, if you don’t try you’ll never know if you can do it. I like triathlons because it’s an individual sport. No matter how many women are in my age group, the only person I ever compete against is myself.
KENNETH FLEISCHHACKER – MY STORY
I was born in Chicago, IL in 1936. I grew up in an ethnic enclave within the inner city of Chicago. In grammar school, I advanced a few grades due to the fact that some teachers thought me gifted – or something. Despite being younger than my classmates, I participated in sports, particularly baseball, football and hockey. There was little or no adult coaching, since adults worked long hours in our hardscrabble community. Equipment consisted of the basics – a ball/glove and a bat for baseball, a pigskin for football and skates/stick and a puck for hockey. That was it – no helmets, pads, or uniforms, much less cheerleaders with pom poms. There were no parks or fields in my inner city – we played on the streets and empty lots.
By seventh grade, I began to earn money. This led , via a circuitous route, to owning my first bike (a story in itself) – that bike became a highlight of my young life.
I entered high school with no special goals, except to graduate. I worked part-time and ran cross-country and track. Whenever possible, I rode my bike. After high school, I enrolled at Wilbur Wright College, where I ran track, later transferring to Loyola University of Chicago. Eventually, I got a job at Western Electric, followed by military service. In the Army, my assignment was public information, based in Germany. In addition to running for pleasure as well as Army drills, I took up a new form of exercise – badminton. I soon became unusually good at it and was sent to represent my base at a military sport championship. I won the singles title with such ease that the judges bent the rules a bit and let me play doubles – by myself, on one side of the court. I won that, too. This was the first time I was recognized at a major athletic event.
After discharge, I returned to Western Electric and resumed running and cycling. I began skiing, with occasional trips to Colorado. I fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. When the opportunity came along, I jumped at the chance to transfer to the Denver area. Eventually, I became one of the better skiers at Vail. To balance winter fitness, I purchased a decent 10-speed bike and began bicycle touring. Simultaneously, I became part of the local running scene. In 1984, I entered my first duathlon, then called biathlon. I won my age group, plus a few below me, and was hooked on another new sport. I had much less success in triathlon, until a few years of remedial swim training with a masters’ group brought me up to speed in that discipline.
About this time, corporate wellness programs were all the rage, and thanks to my athleticism, credentials in exercise physiology and connections with AT&T brass, was able to get paid for promoting exercise and fitness and others forms of healthy living.
At the time, Runner’s World Magazine sponsored annual corporate competitions in track and field and road racing events. I led the company’s regional team and also played an organizing role in company-sponsored MS 150 bike rides. These activities lasted several years, as did work with AT&T’s Engineering and Installation staff. In 1989, I took an early retirement.
Retirement afforded ample opportunity to train more. Alas, with that privilege comes the likelihood of overuse injuries, which I eagerly seized. Still, I completed many events, including the Kona Ironman in 1991 – despite a torn rotator cuff from swimming, a bad knee from cycling and plantar fasciitis from running.
To date, I have had two rotator cuff surgeries, as well as a knee and a hip transplant. Between surgeries, I managed to win a number of USAT National and ITU World Triathlon and Duathlon championships, while earning All-American honors. The bonus, of course, is traveling with my wife and meeting wonderful fellow athletes throughout this country and the world.
PAT FOSSUM – MY STORY
February 18, 1935, was a very good year; Pat Johnsrud was born in a small town, Albert Lee, MN. Alas, this was 37 years before Congress would get around to passing the Educational Amendments, one section of which (Title IX) would prohibit discrimination against girls and women in federally-funded education, including athletic programs. Thus, like all other females in America, I could not participate in organized sports at school. However, we were encouraged to cook and sew. Nothing wrong with that, but somehow these activities were not the extent of female capabilities or interests then or now. An early lesson, I suppose, in the idea that life is not guaranteed always to be fair. Despite this regrettable discrimination, I did enjoy the outdoors. I did a lot of hiking and biking, and I spent a great deal of time ice skating and skiing.
I earned a B.S. in Education from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN and later a master’s degree from Auburn University. After graduating from Macalester, I married my high school sweetheart, Jerry Fossum who, by that time, was an Air Force officer. We spent 22 years traveling the world on assignments. I was fortunate to find teaching positions at almost every posting. Jerry’s last assignment was Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, AL. We enjoyed the area so much we stayed after Jerry’s retirement. Our two children, Scott and Lynn, live in Houston and Dallas, respectively.
Scott came home from college during a long break and insisted he and I were going to start running…so we did. Then Lynn insisted she and I were going to start biking, and so I did. I also got back into swimming. Both Scott and Lynn were doing triathlons and encouraged me to do the same. In time, I did.
It was the 1970’s and it seemed everyone was running. I did not want to be left behind, so I entered a few local races. I enjoyed the experience of running, and I especially liked winning. Soon another sport was added to my repertoire – competitive cycling, and before long, I was racing in duathlons.
I was just getting it all together when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I ran and biked some during my treatment. I started thinking…after recovery I might try to get a slot on Team USA. I wanted to discover if I were good enough to qualify and compete in world championships. I trained harder than ever and it paid off – I qualified at age 48 for Team USA and competed in Arlington, TX at the World Duathlon Championship. I finished in fourth place.
During this time, I was a public-school kindergarten teacher in Montgomery, AL. My days were carefully planned to maximize every second and to make sure home, job and training schedules stayed on track. All was going fine. Triathlons were by now on the scene, so I added swimming to workout routines. I had friends who helped me with a training schedule. Swimming was my weakest link, but I tried with my usual level of determination to become as race-ready as possible, while avoiding overtraining and remaining injury free.
My first ITU triathlon world championship event was staged in Lausanne, Switzerland. As six years earlier at the duathlon worlds in Arlington, I finished fourth.
At this point in my athletic career, everything was going according to schedule. I was training, training, training, trying to get faster. I qualified for the ITU world triathlon event in Beijing, China. I was really pushing the proverbial envelope when, during a regular Saturday morning five-mile run, I started feeling not quite right. Quitting is not in my vocabulary, so I kept going. My husband happened to drive by. He stopped and suggested that my form was worrisome. He convinced me to get in the car and drove off to a hospital emergency room. Diagnosis: stroke.
This was July 2011. The stroke marked the end of my duathlon, triathlon and road racing career. My left side was affected and I have since spent a lot of time in rehabilitation trying to teach my left-side muscles to work.
After a lot of hard effort, I was finally able to walk and eventually run. My balance is very poor, so biking is not an option. I’m so accustomed to working out that rehab is not a chore, just a huge challenge. I still exercise daily, including runs twice a week.
Looking back, I can say without hesitation that participating in duathlons and triathlons has been a highlight of my life. The greatest people participate in these sports; I’ve made wonderful, lasting friendships. Another valued benefit has been the travel. I would not have experienced so many great destinations were it not for the world championship duathlons and triathlons.
It is almost never too late to become active. And while I didn’t “get with it” until I was 50, in my mind, at 83, I’m still going strong.
BRUCE HILDRETH – MY STORY
I was born in 1940 in the State of Iowa to middle class parents – typical stay-at-home mom and traveling salesman father. We lived in Ames, Iowa. This is the home of Iowa State University. There were 15,000 students and 15,000 city residents in the area. It was a great place to grow up.
I started duathlon training at age 4. I just didn’t know it. I was riding my bike everywhere. I can’t believe my grandkids don’t like to ride bikes. Nor do any of their friends. Times change. I loved bike riding. I especially liked jumping from one board ramp (elevated by a few bricks) to another.
My athletic career was varied but not inspiring. I participated in many middle school and high school sports – making 2nd team mostly. Track was mediocre – better at sprints than distance My high school football teams were undefeated (junior and senior years). I was Iowa’s second leading punt returner – returning 3 for touchdowns in my senior year. When asked the reason for my success, I replied that I was running scared. I went out for football when I entered Iowa State University and lasted 2 weeks. High school to college was a big jump.
Then I went to medical school and serious participation in all sports stopped. Then the military stint and some traveling. While starting my medical practice, I dabbled in adventure triathlons with trail running, biking and kayaking, dirt motorcycle enduros and snow skiing. My emergency medical practice soon took me to beautiful Lake Tahoe. I lived outdoors and became a very good crud snow skier and an acceptable mountain biker.
I retired early so I could pursue my lifelong dream of cruising. I bought a boat and lived aboard in the eastern Caribbean for 5 years. That’s a tough lifestyle to be really physically active. And I missed it. So I sold my boat in Florida and set up living on the land-based tropical life.
At my first adventure triathlon in SW Florida, I met my future wife. She was a runner – a good runner. She had been running for years – doing multiple marathons, etc. It soon appeared that if I was to have any social life with her, I better start running. I was 65 years old. I had never really trained for running before. I slowly grew to like it and started competing – 5Ks, 10Ks and finally half marathons. Being multi-sport minded, I did some triathlons. However, swimming left me at the back of the pack at T1 so I decided duathlon was best for me. A few physical ailments occasionally got in the way – back surgery for a herniated disc that left me with some permanent right calf weakness.
At 70 years of age, I was peaking and ready to kick some age group ass. As I started training harder for half marathons, I developed right leg thrombophlebitis and pulmonary emboli. (Is there a relationship?). I finally put it all together for the World Duathlon Championships in 2013 in Ottawa, Canada and won my gold medal.
Now at 78, I’m still running but not very fast. I developed neuropathy with numbness, weakness and cramping of both lower legs and feet. My urologist is keeping me off my bike (both mountain and road) while I treat treat both chronic prostatitis and prostate cancer. I had a completely negative past medical history until I was 68 yrs old. The last 10 years have been a struggle. Age takes its toll. At my point, the age group winner is determined as much by who stays the healthiest as who is the best athlete and trains the hardest. It takes more determination now for me to run a 5K than it did to prepare for the Worlds.
It’s important for one’s own physical and mental health to stay as active as possible. Just as important, however, is our example to the younger group. We must break the notion that athletes stop running just because they age. I get misty when the race directors start the awards with the oldest age groups and the 85 year old gets the biggest applause of all.
ROGER LITTLE – MY STORY
I was born September 28, 1940 in Adams, MA. Adams is a small town in the Berkshire Hills, nestled below Greylock mountain to the west and other smaller mountains to the east.
I was the middle son of three boys born to George and Marian. Dad was a policeman, mom a nurse. In high school I played baseball, football and basketball. I was the quarterback (and captain) of the football team – and threw passes to my older brother, who played end. I was a good student who got straight A’s and was popular, having been voted President of the class three years running.
My father was very proud of me, so I always worked hard not to disappoint him. I think that led to a strong work ethic at whatever I undertook the rest of my life.
Some years later I returned to Adams to dedicate a gazebo in the center of town to the memory of my parents. Since I funded it, I was able to name it The Little Gazebo while the governor christened the new town common.
I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to go to Colgate University in upstate New York. Later I did graduate work at MIT. At Colgate I played on the freshman football team but was a skinny kid and got beat up a lot. Once when I was on the field an opposing player told me I was going to get my legs broken. I looked down at my legs and agreed with him. That was the last year I played football. After four years at Colgate I went to MIT and earned a master’s degree in geophysics in 1962.
While a senior at Colgate, I married my high school sweetheart, Lyn. We are still a couple today. We have three kids and eight grandchildren. All of them are doing well. We moved to Bedford, MA after MIT and are still there, although we spend our winters in St. Petersburg, FL.
My career started with a physicist position at an engineering company. After a few years, I formed my own defense-focused business, with separate entities specializing in semiconductors, biomaterials and solar energy. I ran these companies for 46 years, secured numerous patents and won many awards before retiring in 2013. I still participate in the biomedical company but sold off the solar energy and semiconductor operations.
I was a pioneer in the solar energy business. We helped establish the technology and the industry as it is today. I travelled extensively promoting the business. We had over 250 customers in over 50 countries worldwide. Combining business travel with international triathlon championships worked out well.
As a high school and college athlete I played the ball sports but I enjoyed running and the endurance aspects of sports. When running became popular in the 70’s, I started doing marathons, in no small part because the Boston Marathon was a local race. With running injuries came interest in biking and swimming.
When I saw the original Ironman telecast on ABC, I was both awed and fascinated. In 1980, I decided to give the sport a try, though triathlons were few and far between. Once started, I never quit. To date I’ve done about 400 triathlons, including 100 half-Ironman and 40 Ironman races. I’ve competed in world championships in all distances around the world. including 18 times in the Hawaii Ironman.
I always perceived triathlon and business complementary endeavors. The long training hours helped me work out business problems. In addition, the attributes of tenacity, determination and perseverance are important in a business career. Being in great shape also helps in long, arduous negotiations. I could continue alert and relatively stress-free while my counterparts would be exhausted.
I’m racing 78 this year. My ability to go fast declined markedly after 75. My current expectations are less about fight to the finish to win at nearly all cost but rather to enjoy the race experience while remaining fit. Even at this age, I can run five, bike fifteen and swim one mile nearly every day. This keeps me going.
DWIGHT LUNDELL – MY STORY
I grew up in a small Arizona town. I played high school football, but was not big or fast enough to play even at the junior college level. I chose instead to put my head down and push through school on a path to a medical career. Fifteen years of cardiac surgery training at Yale University followed, after which I moved back to Arizona. By this time I had a wife and children.
Many years of hard work characterized my career. By the time I hung up my scalpel, I had done more than 5000 coronary bypass operations, 2500 valve replacements and countless other vascular and thoracic procedures.
I knew that exercise was important to good health. Yet, the heavy workload and hospital culture (e.g., free food in the doctor’s lounge) contributed to an expanded waistline, despite intermittent efforts to get activity. I lifted weights now and then and went on hikes with my children. However, there was no consistent endurance exercise on my schedule.
Somewhere along the line, however, a cardiologist friend, a runner and a triathlete, introduced me to cycling. At first, this newfound exercise routine consisted only of intermittent weekend rides. While I found cycling enjoyable and challenging, I hated being dropped on group rides. So, I began to work harder to get faster and stronger. When I finally retired from surgery, I had more time for rides, and I fell in with a bad crowd at the gym who created a triathlon club! My wife, a strong cyclist, and I decided to give triathlon a try. We found the triathlon community friendlier and much more supportive than road cycling groups. Today, our dearest friends are triathletes.
While I was a pure cyclist, I thought some forms of triathlon were extreme, if not almost mental. After a long bike ride, I’d often say, sarcastically to whomever was in earshot, So, do you feel like running a marathon now? I doubted that such a thing was even possible, especially for me.
And yet, one day much later (November 23, 2008), after many grueling months of preparation, I found myself plunging into Tempe Town Lake at 7:00 AM at the start of my first Ironman event. Joyfully, 12 hours and 57 minutes later, I crossed the finish line – in first place. A nice 65th birthday celebration was in order.
The preparation for that event consisted of countless 100 mile bike rides and plenty of swimming, but the discipline of running was not my forte. My success at Tempe Town Lake came despite training runs never more than eight miles. The Ironman motto proclaims, anything is possible. That’s not true, of course – many goals would not be possible. For example, it was not possible that I was ever going to break eight hours and win the Hawaiian Ironman overall! Nevertheless, I interpreted the motto to mean that if I put my mind and body to an formidable quest for still reasonable with heroic effort, an honorable finish was a possibility! And, as things turned out, this proved to be the case.
Determination is a strong trait of mine, has been as long as I can remember, and it got me through that day as on many other days over the course of life challenges.
My best day as a triathlete came three years later at the ITU Long Distance World Championships at Henderson, NV on November 11, 2011. Weather conditions required cancellation of the 4K swim. There were fast people in my age group, several of whom had beaten me in the past, so I knew I needed to open a big gap on the bike since they could outrun me. I put nearly everything into the bike leg and held the best pace I could manage on the run. Yet, on last lap, a fellow from England went by, and with no more than a coming through on your left, mate, I was outrun again. For consolation, I decided that second place, a silver medal, was pretty good, in any case. It was not until the banquet that I learned I was a full lap ahead of the Englishman when he passed me. Thus, I was world champion.
Between my wife and I, we’ve done 17 full distance Ironman competitions. Together we have collected six first place wins. We’ve made seven trips to Kona, with two Kona podium finishes. It’s been rewarding to train and race with my mate and share in her success.
Triathlon has been an incredible journey for someone who considers himself not a natural athlete. Determination has trumped talent; success has come with persistent effort. For all the difficulties, the injuries and the pain, I have been well compensated.
SHARON ROGGENBUCK – MY STORY
I was born (October 20, 1938) and raised in Peoria, IL. I have an older sister and a younger brother. My father was a florist, my mother a homemaker. We owned a greenhouse, where I spent a lot of time playing as a child. Until, that is, I reached the 5th grade. That’s when I first rode a horse. From then on until I left home for college, horses were my passion. I spent every spare minute at the stables – riding, cleaning stalls and caring for horses. I bought one when in the 8th grade. When my high school friends were buying 45 RPM records, I was channelling every penny to feed my horse. I did this on my own – my parents did not subsidize this devotion. These were happy years; I went on multi-day rides with campouts. Looking back, this was a prelude to future week-long rides as an adult, only on bicycles, not horses.
I attended college for two years, when in quick succession, I got married, my husband was drafted, we moved to Maryland where our first child was born, then to Chicago where three more children were born in the eight years we were there. We moved to Michigan where I got my BS degree as a dental hygienist and worked for 10 years in that field.
By this time, I was 40! It was time to become an athlete, though if you don’t think riding horses is athletic, you ought to give it a try. Anyway, I started my second athletic career using my own two legs by taking up running. I found jogging wasn’t so bad and soon entered a 10K race. This would be my longest run ever. To my surprise, I won my age group and was hooked. I ran competitively for several years, being fairly fast with an ability to run at a 7:30 mile pace. My first triathlon was in 1981. My inaugural event was a club race that consisted of a half mile swim, 15 mile bike (on a daughter’s bike) and a 10 mile run! Things were different then – besides the really bad idea of starting out with a swim, we all took time to change out of our swimsuits. I’ve been doing tris ever since, over 200 at last count.
I did my first national tri championship in Shreveport, LA and first world tri championship in Madeira Island, Portugal. I’ve gone to worlds many times since. I’ve done three full Ironman races after turning 71 (two of which within the required time frame!) and I also take part in duathlon national and world competitions. I’ve made the podium at both a number of times, and have been first in both, as well. For some reason, I seem to do best just after aging up!
Triathlon has been a huge part of my life since that wild and crazy club race introduction to the sport long ago (1981). Traveling to these events has given me the opportunity to experience many wonderful, exciting and very different places. Besides Portugal, I’ve raced in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, China, Hungary, Canada, England and, of course, in cities across the U.S.
In 1984 my husband and I moved to NC. We owned an automobile repair business. I used to ride my bike to work for training and race on weekends. After 54 years of marriage, he died in 2012, as did a daughter at age 21. My involvement in triathlon and a huge circle of friends helped me deal with both losses. I have three children, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. My health is very good; I plan compete for a number of additional years, albeit at a slower pace. I’m often recognized at races – and encouraged when passed.
I cycle a lot and for 30 years I have been raising money for MS doing two-day bike rides. I enjoy week-long biking/camping trips and teach a few exercise classes to help support my triathlon habit.
JACK WELBER – MY STORY
I was born on the last day of 1937 to a 45-year old mother and a 47-year old father in Amsterdam, NY. I was the 4th and youngest sibling. The country was still in the grip of the Depression and frightening storm clouds were on the horizon, soon to descend into WW 11. Conditions were such that sacrifices were required. Many hardships had to be endured which, among other consequences recognized and not, led me to develop a strong sense of self-sufficiency and resilience. With eight decades of life under my belt, I can identify character traits learned that proved crucial for engineering my way through the ups and downs along the way.
As I look back, I wonder how I ever got where I find myself today, that is, an octogenarian having lived an interesting, fortunate life. When I reminisce like this, I wonder if anyone else has been so lucky.
I was active in sports as a youth. I was not, however, the kind of athlete teammates would pick first. I possessed a fairly unique combination of mediocrity and motivation – just enough athleticism to make the team but never a standout. While I dreamed of the excellence that was always out of reach, I loved sports and played high school basketball and football until I decided I was too light. My athletic background from my 20’s through the time I seriously started triathlons in my early 70’s was running – 5 and 10 K’s up to and including marathons and, for a time, masters swimming. As I began taking the sport of triathlon more seriously in my early 70’s, I recognized that I might have the qualities required to reach the top level in this challenging endeavor; discipline, motivation, a positive outlook, excellent training and conditioning. I sensed that an approach that wedded this combination into a workable program just might, at long last, produce an exceptional result. Along the way, it didn’t hurt to nurture a sense of humor, an openness to new ideas, a connectivity to helpful people and, not to be overlooked, a will to win.
I don’t believe in a grand scheme of things or an invisible hand. I certainly would never entertain the notion that what transpired over the years was inevitable. Good fortune also played a role, such as having a sister (Shirl), who took it upon herself to drag me, starting at age 9, into our piano room in Amsterdam, NY where, employing guile, charm and an eight year age difference, enticed me listen while she practiced Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart, Chopin and other composers.
So when I look back, I realize she is the one I must thank for the gift of music I’ve enjoyed throughout life. Not only was I introduced to classical music but I heard my first Lester Young tenor saxophone solo at the age 12. Thus, Shirl gently segued my tastes from listening to classical music to playing jazz tenor saxophone. In time, all this led to the Jack Welber Jazz Ensemble at the University of Florida – and all manner of satisfactions over the ensuing years. The band also was a financial instrument that financed four years of college.
Curiously, all this was not quite enough to attract my father’s attention, a project I started working on as a teenager.
I was fortunate to enjoy a 27-year career at Johnson & Johnson, where I travelled the world, met with interesting people and, I believe, moved the health and well being needle in a positive direction, albeit ever so slightly.
Like everyone else, I’ve had setbacks, obstacles, misfortunes, disappointments and crushing losses. One such loss was the death of a troubled son at age 32. I compartmentalized that event to get through the difficulties. The experience could be likened to a damaged vessel that, while leaking, managed to stay afloat long enough to get to port, make the necessary repairs and proceed along life’s journey.
I continue to think of myself as a learning machine; a work in progress, fascinated with technology as well as new people and new possibilities.
One such possibility came to pass in 2017. I had qualified for the U.S. team that would compete in the World Championship Triathlon in Rotterdam, Holland. The event was held on a day and a time when I was at my best. I won my age group, 80-84, and while this was not the most important day in my life, it’s one I’m not likely to forget, either. It took an almost perfect race that day to win my first world championship against a field of athletes from around the world. What a thrill!
Looking on the bright side, I’d say maybe my motivation to get on the podium had its roots in that long ago desire to earn a spot on my father’s podium.
LOCKETT WOOD – MY STORY
I was born August 1, 1939 in Albuquerque, NM. In high school I played football and ran track. I was a government scientist for fourteen years after graduating from the University of New Mexico with degrees in physics and electrical engineering. I did graduate work at Brown University and the University of Colorado, where I obtained a MS and Ph.D. in electrical engineering.
In 1977, I knew a 37-year-old guy who was 65 pounds overweight, having serious regular migraine headaches, developing varicose veins and just not feeling very good most of the time. The real wake up call was a series of consistent blood pressure readings around 180/120. That guy was me.
Simple research indicated exercise and diet could help. This was at the height of the running craze in the U.S. While walking in a local park, I spotted a friend in a large group of runners. He said they were about to set off on a ten-mile road race. I was astonished that people ran ten miles. He invited me to join in the fun a few weeks hence at a five-mile race. I commenced training and, two weeks later in mid-April 1, 1977, I joined about four hundred competitors in that five mile race. As I neared the finish, with less than 200 meters to go, I noticed I was probably about to be dead last. Determined not to let that happen, I put on an heroic surge – and nipped the person who turned out to be last by a step or two. I soon discovered she was 82.
I was hooked. Six months later I was down to 142 pounds, my high school weight, and my blood pressure was 117/75. Fourteen months afterwards, I ran my first marathon in 3:20. No more headaches or increase in varicose veins. I got lots of inspiration from world class runners due to living and training in Boulder Colorado. By 1982 I was reasonably competitive as a runner, frequently placing in my age group. In my early forties I ran a 17:30 5k and a 36:10 10k. During these years I participated in a few local duathlons, but my performance was lackluster.
Fast forward to May 2009. My brother-in-law, whom I had introduced to marathons, challenged me to join him in the Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C. in September. This was one of the largest triathlons in the U.S. at the time. Being raised in lake and river-impaired New Mexico, I was not an accomplished swimmer. Perhaps more accurately, you could say (if you watched me in the water) I didn’t really know how to swim. A few tries in the pool made clear I needed help. I found a pretty good swimming coach and trained about three times a week. The Nation’s Triathlon swim segment takes place in the Potomac River – no place for weak swimmers. Competing in this, my first triathlon while in the 70-74 age group, I won the age group. WOW – triathlon was now my number one sport. I loved the cross training.
By 2013 I qualified for the ITU World Championship. I placed 19th in London in the standard distance – the conditions were terrible but overcoming hardships has its own satisfactions. I’ve continued to race in USAT-sanctioned duathlons and triathlons, and more often than not make the podium, even in national championship races at the standard distance. I don’t do as well in the sprint distance. In 2014 in Edmonton, Canada, I won the ITU World Championship at the standard Olympic distance and finished second in the sprint distance event.
My purpose or goal In 2018 is to just hang on, awaiting the following year when I will age up to the 80-84 group. That’s one of the under-appreciated benefits in growing older as a triathlete or duathlete – it’s almost always beneficial to compete in a new age group. This is one of the few things all triathletes eagerly anticipate about growing older. Perhaps this alone is reason enough to take up triathlons!
I can unequivocally say that becoming an athlete saved my life and health. Today at 79, I feel better than I did at 37. I am still a businessman and scientist working a full-time and enjoying every day this side of the grass.
BILL ZIERING- MY STORY
I was born 88 years ago as a mistake. My biological parents were young and careless. Soon enough, I endured a series of foster parents. I lived in each of the Boroughs of New York City, except Richmond. The culture of the City in the ’30’s was such that once the school bells rang at 3:00 PM the streets filled with kids aggressively competing in the real sports of the day – punch ball, stoop ball, stick ball, curb ball, roller skate hockey and so on. While I played everything, I wasn’t good at anything. When sides were chosen, I’d be last selected. No matter – I was thrilled to be in the game, even if the glory went to other guys.
At some point I realized I had to grow up – there were few well-paid stickball icons about. Maybe the grow up insight came from the psychologist at the orphan asylum who suggested I consider accounting. I wasn’t bad with numbers – I knew the batting averages of most of the Brooklyn Dodger and NY Giant players. However, I was even more impressed with an old pediatrician I met while a waiter in the Borscht Belt. In time, when the school day ended, I immersed myself in study. I wasn’t the best in this arena, either, but I did burn the midnight oil, often well past midnight.
Eventually, it became possible for my Jewish mother to refer to, at every possible opportunity, My son, the doctor. I graduated from Michigan State, pursued a Master’s degree at the University of Michigan and medical school at Northwestern. Following an internship in Brooklyn, I returned to Chicago for a residency at Northwestern’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.
I then served in the Marine Corps for a few years and returned to Chicago for further medical training. After a few more stops along my career track, moved to Fresno, CA. to head a pediatric training program. Seven years later after varied stints in the San Francisco Bay Area, I returned to the Central Valley to practice, get married and raise lots of children.
My interest in triathlon was aroused in the early 80’s. I enrolled in a master’s swim course, bought a used Raleigh and started running to work. Soon enough, I was ready to test the waters. My first race consisted of a six-mile run, a bike ride (can’t recall the distance) and eight double laps in a pool. Nobody mistook me for an athlete on that occasion – I negotiated the swim with a makeshift backstroke.
Now, 35 years later, I’m still at it. I train nearly every day and compete in three to five events per season. I’m indifferent to personal bests, though I do my personal best every time. I never feel out of place being a back-of-the-packer.
While I loved the practice of medicine and did all I could to help people get well, I also love the life of triathlon. I enjoy the camaraderie, the chill of open water, communing with trails and hills, barreling down hills and so on. Quite simply, I’m enthralled with the process of keeping fit and healthy.
As a doctor, I incorporated wellness principles into my practice. We had a nutritionist and psychologist. While my specialty dealt with respiratory medicine, it was not difficult to impart foundational health concepts. How could a doctor not model wise living for his patients?
So, that’s my story – the little engine that could – and still does. I’ve completed about 35 events over the years. I’ve won standard and olympic distance ITU World Triathlon Championships for the last three years. How incomprehensible it that?
I do triathlons out of love. Each of the three components brightens my day. It’s my time out from stress. It awakens me to the magic of creation. I sense the living spirit within me. I do triathlons because I still can.
My pace would be an embarrassment to most others. I aim to finish. And with that goal, I never disappoint myself. I do triathlons because it’s nature’s elixir for mindfulness.
Want to know my secret of being an age group champion? Maybe it’s not such a secret, but only something easy to overlook: If you live wisely, don’t quit and face life trials head on as best you can, then you, too, may someday be on the podium, in your division, perhaps having outlived the rest.