This is a big year for me. I’ve turned 60 years old and I feel great! I’ve got much to look forward to, and much to look back on. Specifically, I’m looking forward to placing high in my new age group in the Boston Marathon in April, the Tour of California Alps Death Ride in July, the Ironman Canada triathlon in August, and the Alcatraz Invitational swim in September. Wow! What a way to celebrate being alive!
I’m looking back on over 40 years of running. I started running in high school in Kansas City because of my Dad. During the long winters we’d get a bit wild in the house. My Mom called it cabin fever. My Dad would take us to the school track to run for a couple of miles. I didn’t like running enough to go on my own, but I learned that it was a great stress relief.
So years later when my first serious job ended up being extremely stressful, I returned to running. I started with early morning runs through my Berkeley CA neighborhood. Then, in the early 1980s, I started competing in the Bay to Breakers, Bridge to Bridge, and other short running events. I believe it was the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles that inspired my brother Grandy and I to run our first San Francisco Marathon. Those were the years of Bill Rodgers, Carlos Lopes, Joan Benoit, Grete Waitz, Alberto Salazar, and so many others that inspired me.
But I really got serious about running and exercise in 2003. My sister Maria, my brother Chris, and I ran the Big Sur Marathon, which I still consider to be the most beautiful marathon I’ve run. I started the event just planning to complete the course. But halfway into the race I was still feeling good, so I picked up the pace and finished high in my age group.
Afterward, I realized that if I followed a training program I could qualify for the Boston Marathon. I’ve always been goal driven, so I trained hard for two years and ran in Boston in 2005. And I did great! Until I bonked at Heartbreak Hill. But my time was good enough to qualify for 2006 so I continued training.
In 2005 my younger brother Chris completed the Santa Cruz Triathlon. Biking and swimming seemed easier than running, so I added them to my training routine and registered for the event in 2006
Of course, when you’re racing nothing is easy. I’ll never forget the first moments of that triathlon. I was full of energy and eager to go. At the sound of the start, everyone raced to the water. It was total chaos: arms flailing, feet kicking, the water like a washing machine, swimmers swimming over each other. The shock of the cold ocean made me gasp for air, while the constriction of my wet suit didn’t let me breathe. My mind was overwhelmed with memories of being caught in a rip tide. Total panic set in.
Only my pride kept me from abandoning the race. Eventually I calmed down enough to enjoy the adventure. The bike portion of the triathlon was another new adventure. I saw racers competing to pass each other with sometimes painful results. I’ve seen more than a few ambulances in triathlons – fortunately, I’ve not been one of those picked up. The run, of course, was not a new experience, except that it was on legs now rubbery from swimming and biking. But I enjoyed the triathlon experience so much that I have since competed in two Ironman-distance triathlons.
I’ve been thinking for some time about how to celebrate my 60th birthday. What better way than to enjoy being the young man in my new age group in all the events I love!
I definitely wanted to go back to Boston, now for my fourth time. Registering for the Boston Marathon requires a qualifying time. In March 2010 I completed the Napa Valley Marathon, placing fifth in my age group with a qualifying time of 3:40:04. Good thing I qualified early in the year because, for the first time ever, the Boston Marathon sold out within 8 hours of the open of registration.
I wanted to complete another Ironman too. I chose the Ironman Canada in British Columbia in August.
For years I’ve been hearing about the Tour of the California Alps Death Ride. It’s not a race: it’s a brutal 130 mile bike ride through the beautiful Sierras. Because it is about six weeks before the Ironman, it will be a good training event.
Lastly, I’ve done the Alcatraz swim 3 times and enjoyed it immensely each time. So I’ve gone ahead and registered for that as my final event of the year. This year should be extra special because I’ll be doing it with my younger sister and her 14 year old daughter.
So what’s next? A lot of training. But I’ve got the base, and a lot of experience. And in the back of my mind, I’m already thinking about next year.When Jim is not training or participating in endurance events, he is the owner of Phoenix Technical Publications. Phoenix Tech Pubs has provided complete technical writing and documentation services in Palo Alto and the San Francisco Bay Area for over 25 years.