|Rank 2011||Make/Model||U.S. Assembly Location||Rank 2010|
|1||Toyota Camry||Georgetown, Ky.;||1|
|2||Honda Accord||Marysville, Ohio;||2|
|3||Chevrolet Malibu||Kansas City, Kan.||5|
|5||Honda Odyssey||Lincoln, Ala.||6|
|6||Toyota Sienna||Princeton, Ind.||10|
|7||Jeep Wrangler||Toledo, Ohio||9|
|8||Chevrolet Traverse||Lansing, Mich.|
|9||Toyota Tundra||San Antonio||8|
|10||GMC Acadia||Lansing, Mich.|
Archive for June, 2011
My quest to participate in the Olympics originated in 2007 while watching the Turin, Italy Winter Olympics. I felt it would be so cool to just be a part of such a gathering of athletes. I first searched to find what the qualifications were to be a bob-sled pusher; I felt that this was something that a 61 year old could do. My search informed me that; yes older people did attend the tryouts but were never picked because there was a wealth of young past NFL players or soccer players or college athletes taking the winter off available for the limited position.
As the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics approached my desire was reborn, but with a little thought I concluded that the Summer Olympics were out of reach for an aging want-a-be. I then found the Senior Olympics which started in 1987 with 2,500 participants and had grown to over 10,000 participants. They are held every two years in a major US city with qualifications held in individual states in the off years. I called the state of Alabama Senior Olympics office in Montgomery and found that; yes they would be holding qualifications in Selma in June 2oo8 for the 2009 games in San Francisco. The problem was I was scheduled to be in Spain for the month of June, I wouldn’t be able to qualify. I vowed to get into shape anyway, I had found a way to participate in the Olympics and I had time, after all I’m retired.
Upon returning from a month in Spain I joined a local gym that offered all the equipment that I would need and also offered group fitness classes, most from a company by the name of Les Mills. I settled on a one hour a day seven day a week program: two days at the track running, two days at Body Pump, two days at Spinning and one day at Yoga.
By June 2010 I was in shape and Nita and I headed to Selma. I learned that there aren’t that many 65 year old’s in Alabama, I was running in the 65 t0 69 age group, that wanted to run 100 meters as fast as they can. There were no prelims, just the finals; five old farts standing at the start line and one guy down in starting blocks with running flats. I never thought of that, so I grabbed a set of blocks and
gave them a try and almost landed on my nose, thus I stood up like the rest of the guys.
“On your marks.” We all stepped to the line and assumed the ready position. “Get Set.” Weight on front leg, slight lean. “Bang.” Yes, they used a starters pistol. I got a fair start, don’t see the guy coming out of the blocks, at 50 meters it’s me and the guy to my right neck and neck. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. He’s not there anymore, I’m going to win. I did win. I’m going to represent the state of Alabama in the Senior Olympics. I’m going to the Olympics.
Nita called the kids, “Your dad won, he’s going to the Olympics.”
As it turned out I won the 200 meter as well. Several days after the thrill burnt off a bit I went to the Senior Olympics website to find out what the winning times were in the the 2009 San Francisco 65 – 69 100 meter and 200 meter races.
100 meter: 13.29 seconds won, seventh was 14.44 seconds. I qualified with 16.2 seconds.
200 meter: 27.59 seconds won, seventh was 30.80. I qualified with 33.6 seconds.
These guys are using starting blocks, these guys are really training, these guys are really fast. I ordered a set of starting blocks and a pair of racing flats with cleats. I started running five 100 meter dashes in 30 minutes twice a week to build my stamina. I could feel my legs changing, as I asked more from them the rebelled with cramps, pulls and ruptures, but I learned how to mend and build strength and speed. I worked through the winter and by spring 2011 I was running ten to twelve 100 meter dashes in a hour with no complaints from my legs. I had only lost ten pounds but my legs were like Michelangelo’s Davids legs. I had even mastered the starting blocks and I was running in the 14.2 to 14.5 range. By the first of June I was ready to go to Houston on June 20 to participate in the Olympics.
Tuesday June 7, I was on the Appalachian Trail and I ruptured a tendon in my knee as I chronicled in an earlier post. I did no running until Saturday June 11, and then only at 50% of full speed, Tuesday June 14 I was up to 75% – to 80% speed and had run eight 100 meter dashes in 45 minutes. “I’ll do a 200 meter to work on my stamina.” Go, good through the first turn building speed, in lane three. The turns put more pressure and strain on your left inside leg, into turn two -POP- my left leg collapsed and I went down. I’d torn a muscle in my left calf muscle.
The medical websites say for a minor tear allow two to three weeks to heal, for a major tear two to three months. I’ve got one week, my first heat in the 100 meter prelims is at 10:55 on Tuesday June 21.
Over the next week a lot went through my mind, I was depressed, all this work and a last minute injury because I’d pushed my body to hard. I’d always pushed my limits that’s how I’d succeed in sports, my career, even in my yard work, but now this could leave me in the stands watching.
Saturday I had an epiphany; my goal was to participate in the Olympics, I never visualized myself winning either race so my goal was still possible. I would heal as best as I could and I will participate.
Tuesday morning after applying tubes of ointment, stretching, and warming up it still felt like I had a golf ball inside my left calf but it was time to run. I was in heat five lane six, there were 38 runners in the 65 to 69 bracket
I came out of the starting blocks at the crack of the gun still on two feet, my number one fan screamed “Go Kobie Joe”; at the 50 meter mark I realized, “I’m going to finish this race.” I crossed the finish line in forth with a feeling of achievement, it had taken me more then a second longer then my qualifying time of over a year ago, before all my training, but I finished, I participated. I had achieved my goal.
Reflecting back on the past year I realized that what I had done was not that different then my project to refurbish Trent’s 1969 Corvette. I was putting life back into an old body. I had trained my body like a Corvette to get off the starting line fast, to run on a flat surface, to maneuver only slight turns and to run short distances fast. After a year of rebuilding I had gotten good at running like a Corvette, and then I took my body off road. I went to the Appalachian Trail and asked my Corvette body to climb mountains, to maneuver on rough terrain, and to run for five hours at a time. Then I took my beat up body racing; it just didn’t work.
My take-a-way is that the Senior Games is that it’s a gathering of people who have a lust for life, they are elder folks who have not retired to the couch. I had breakfast with Fred from Michigan this morning, a WWII vet who will take home a metal in the 100 meter, 200, meter, and 400 meter races. He’s in the 95 to 99 age bracket, he’s the only runner in the 200 and 400 and one of three in the 100. His extended family is all here to help him celebrate life.
I intend to keep the Senior Games as a part of my life.
After a night at a motel and two more hours of driving up into the mountains we arrived at the Lewis Mountain Cabins. The cabins were basic, two bedrooms with a shared bath in the middle. Lee and I took one cabin and Ron and Phil the other. “Put the snorers in a cabin together”, Ron directed. We got an orientation in the camp store by Randy, who claimed to be a world class runner about 20 years ago. Once you got Randy started you couldn’t turn him off, he wore me out with his stories and antidotes. Our escape was a two mile hike to a south ridge overlooking the eastern valley below the Shenandoah Mountains. This was our first introduction to the nats, they don’t bite, they don’t land on you, except to go in your ear or up your nostril. They just form a cloud around your head, about an inch from your face.
The cabins about 15 of them were full, some hikers, others just spending several nights in the wilderness. I had volunteered to bring our first nights dinner in that there were no restaurants, the nearest lodge was ten miles up the road and we needed our energy for our following days hike to the Big Meadows Lodge. I had purchased four Rib-Eye steaks, marinated and froze them and also brought four potatoes with all the timings. I also brought two bottles of a California Cabernet Sauvignon, Lee and I finished the first one in the pre-meal conversation and preparation. Our cookout went well and all was eaten and drank thus nothing had to be carried in the coming days.
We were all up and ready for the 9 mile hike through the mountains at 7:30 AM. Ron and Phil had been visited by a hungry mouse thus Ron had one less grain bar and one less bag of Fiber-One for snacks on the trail. None the less spirits were high and we were on the trail.
Within the first
mile we were into a steady climb, traversing the side of the hill in a series of switch backs, this was no walk in the woods. We were rewarded for our efforts with a beautiful valley overlook where we stopped to rest, take in the view and have our first snack. As we made our way back onto the trail we crossed paths with two through-hikers. We’d seen several through-hikers earlier but these two were different.
Haleigh and Clayton Smith, brother and sister were at mile 927 having started their hike in Georgia at Springer Mountain on April 2, 2011. What made them so different was that Haleigh is fifteen and Clayton is thirteen and their hiking on their own. They assured us that the Appalachian through-hikers are a close knit family all looking out for each other, they hooked up with their parents every 10 to 14 days, and their cousin was two days ahead of them. We would cross paths with Haleigh and Clayton several more times over the coming days and each of our admiration grew for these two kids. Phil asked them what they were going to do after college, “become a doctor or lawyer?” Their response was,”Why would we want to tie ourselves down to such a profession when there are so many opportunities available in this world. No we’ll be entrepreneurs, we’ll start our own businesses and remain flexible in this changing world.”
Our hike continued and we attempted to gauge our speed by making calculations based on the various trail intersections. At first we determined that we were walking one mile per hour which would mean that we would not arrive at the lodge until 4:30 or 5:00 PM, so we picked up the pace, putting more strain on our legs and other muscles that had not been accustomed to such a workout. The scenery was magnificent and regularly changing, we all wanted to see deer and bear, but the path was in some spots rocky and in other had protruding roots so to be safe as we hiked we had to keep our eyes on the ground, placing our foot with each new step.
At 11:45 we reached a gravel road at which Haleigh had instructed us to turn right and climb to the black-top turn left and it will lead us to the lodge. We had been hiking for over four hours, we were all exhausted, we had brought our pace up to 2.5 miles per hour, counting breaks. The gravel road was a 40 degree climb for a quarter of a mile, I could see the black-top off in the distance. A shirtless, heavily tattooed 22 year old through-hiker turned onto the gravel road with me. “I’m going to keep up with him,” I said t myself, “I want to get this over.” I put my head down and swung my arms with each stride, the 22 year old and I reached the top together and we continued up to the driveway leading into the lodge and the Way Side store. He headed for the Way Side Store I headed for the lodge. He probably slept comfortably in a trail side hut or in his tent that night while I tossed and turned in a queen-sized bed trying to find a comfortable spot to lay my left leg having ruptured a tendon in my knee.
I was unable to make the second leg of the Lodge to Lodge hike; first I could barely walk and second I was scheduled to run in the Senior Olympics in 13 days, my walk in the wood would have to stop here. The Big Meadow Lodge was a true lodge having been built in 1939 by the CCC, with a mountain top view of the Virginia valley below. The food for dinner and breakfast were both above my expectations and the help were obviously happy to have us as guests.
Ron, Lee and Phil set off on the second leg of our hike to the Skyline Lodge, an 7.7 mile hike through even rougher terrain. “It was like we were were walking down a rock avalanche at times, you had to carefully pick your every step. Even though it was shorter it was a tougher trail,” was the consensus. “We have another problem”, Phil informed me. “One of Ron’s bug bites has produced a lightning bolt path across his leg, we think it may be blood poisoning, we need to get him to an emergency room.”
The balance of the afternoon was consumed with getting a ride to where we had left the car and getting Ron down the mountain to an emergency room. The staff at the Skyline Lodge were gracious to give us a ride up to our car and when we arrived at the hospital we found that ours was not an unusual visit. However the doctor did commit that Ron didn’t smell as bad as most of the through-hikers that showed up in the emergency room.
At dinner it was decided that our Lodge to Lodge hike would not include the scheduled Lodge to Parking Lot hike that would finish our adventure. We had already retrieved the car and we all agreed that we would call an end to our adventure one walk in the woods early.
In hind site it was a great “guy trip” and I’ll remember the laughs and pranks that reminded me of when I was a boy, I’ll remember the beauty of the mountains and the peacefulness of the woods, I’ll also remember the strength that three guys 62 to 69 years old displayed and the daring just to have tried. But I regret that we didn’t complete the task that we had set out to complete and I feel it wasn’t that we weren’t able it was because we expect to much from ourselves, and for that reason I will go back.
Tomorrow Ron, Phil, Lee and I start our “man trip” of a three day hike on the Appalachian Trail. Two years ago Ron and I volunteered to work on a maintenance crew for a week to do some repairs on the trail, which involved camping out and sleeping on the ground. I don’t want to do that again. Don’t get me wrong the week in the woods working on the trail was a great experience and I’m glad I did it but sleeping on the ground is something I don’t want to do again.
This trip will be a Lodge to Lodge Hike. We’ll drive to Thornton Gap, Virginia (653 miles from Birmingham) where we’ll leave our car and be shuttled south to Lewis Mountain. Here we’ll stay in trail cabins with toilet and shower facilities but will require us to cook our dinner and breakfast. I’ll be bringing 4 rib-eyes and a bottle or two of Carbernet Sauvignon for a campfire cookout and a kickoff to a great man trip.
Tuesday we’ll hike north to Big Meadows Lodge a bit over 9 miles. Features may include several short steps out to viewpoints toward the westward Shenandoah Valley where if it’s a clear day we’ll be able to see into the state of West Virginia. We’ll have the option of a side trip to an authentic Appalachian Trail hut and camp—Bearfence Hut—originally constructed by the
Civilian Conservation Corps. Tens of thousands of long-distance hikers have used this facility over the decades, and continue to use it.
Another optional side trip will be the Bearfence Scramble. This may not happen because it will include a bit of hand-over-hand bouldering along a rocky route using a narrow ridge—however the effort if we so chose to man up will be rewarded with striking views and photo ops in all directions.
The final optional side trip will be to Lewis Falls—late in the day—down to a westward facing valley viewpoint that also features a popular waterfall. Then we’ll finish our first man day at Big Meadow Lodge.
This gives you a snip-it of what we’ll be doing; I’ll write a summary of our trip here on my blog after we get back. I’m confident it will be a real Man Adventure.