Wednesday, July 28, 2010

KOM, meet MOM

The Tour de France wrapped up Sunday. Anthony Charteau's Tour de France essentially wrapped up Thursday. He was there to win the King of the Mountains jersey, and they were headed for the flats. All he had to do was finish.

My parents' tour wrapped up Friday. They finished the Michigander, one week and about 275 miles of riding in the hills of northern Michigan. They do have some hills up there. My folks made every mile, every foot of elevation, under their own power. In my mind, they, too, can wear Charteau's polka-dot jersey. Also the yellow jersey for the overall winner and the green points jersey. The only one that's open to question is the white jersey, the one awarded to the best young rider. My mom and dad are 73 and 74 years old, not that it matters. It doesn't matter to them.

Actually, it does matter to them in a way. It was when my mom hit 70 that she decided to make it an exciting decade. She promised herself to do one thing every year that she hadn't done before, and if it was something no one expected a 70-something lady with high blood pressure and porous bones to do, so much the better. It began when she went to Battle Creek to watch her son and daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter racing the Shermanator triathlon. Turned out there was an option to just enter the 5K run/walk portion, and she did, on the spot, pushing her 2-year-old twin grandkids over the mostly gravel, hilly course while the triathletes showered her with compliments, back pats, fist pumps and no small amount of second-hand sweat.

The next year she went parasailing over Mackinac Island on the same trip we all celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Last year, she knocked off Lansing's Hawk Island Tri sprint triathlon (400 meter swim, 16K bike, 5K run), finishing dead last and winning her age group. This year was the Michigander. She had to push her bike up a few hills, but so did a lot of people. My dad tootled up every one of them - he's got the build and endurance of an oceangoing albatross - right alongside her. Several times he offered to ride off and get the car or hail the broom wagon, the support vehicle for riders with mechanical or exhaustion issues, but Mom would have none of that, which I think Dad knew full well. He also knows that it's impressive enough to succeed when you have no choice, but that it's exquisitely satisfying to look back and know you've persevered when you had the opportunity to bail. I'm sure Mom enjoyed that when she looked back, which she probably did for about 10 minutes before she focused forward again. I wonder what she's pondering for next year.

I'll ask her this weekend. I'll see them Saturday when I go to Big Rapids for my high school class's 30-year reunion. That really isn't my thing - I, too, find the future more interesting than the past. But I'm not embarrassed by my past, and I've got an interesting career and some cool adventures to throw in there if the conversation lags. But it won't lag, because everyone will be talking about my parents. I'm just more of the same. Or so I can hope.

8 comments:

Steve said...

Hey, you're a great guy and all, but I think your MOM just became my new hero and spirit guide.
Your comment about making the effort to persevere when it's easy to back down, reminds me of those folks who finish a race and say: " well, I could have (*gone faster or met hit some target*) but I wasn't going to kill myself. Here's to those who have the choice and still live the fullest by 'killing themselves' whenever it's called for.

baggsjeff said...

Impressive and inspiring! I have a friend relate a story of going Mt biking at a ski resort somewhere in NY with his father (76yrs old) and some younger nephews. At the top of a steep down hill that required quite a few zig-zags. The father went first and proceeded to wipe out with some impressive tumbles. My friend asked the 21 year old nephew "do you still want to go?" The answer was "My 76 year grandfather just went, do I have a choice?" None of them made it to the bottom without a couple of falls.

Jef Mallett said...

There's no doubt, I don't hold a candle to my mom. In another 25 years maybe I can try. And Baggsjeff is especially appropriate: My wife, Patty, did that triathlon last year, too, which is something people with MS aren't expected to do any more than 72-year-old women. And she did it for the same reason your friend tumbled down that mountain in New York.

Jim Smith II said...

Jef - I've always thought your exploits were great, but your folks are awesome. Looks like you "come by it naturally" as my parents used to say. Congrats to them both!!

veloben said...

It's just great when our parents give us no excuse to get, dumb or lazy or both. Ever.

Chapeau!

Joanne Emig said...

Jef, I almost missed this post about your mom! Did you link it to Facebook? Your mom and your wife are my newest role models. I'm turning 60 next summer and I have some modest goals. The only physical limitation I have is a self-imposed weight problem that I'm working on. Maybe by the time I'm 70 I'll go for something bolder like the women in your life did. Kudos to them and to you!

Jef Mallett said...

Shoot, Joanne, my mom and my wife are MY role models. I think of them often during the hard parts of my races. I'm proud of you for using their example, too! If I can say one thing, it's Don't wait until you're 70 to start emulating them. The perfect time never comes, because it's always now. Dive in. The preparation is part of it all, and any limitations will slip away. The extent and degree of permanence may vary -- Patty still has MS, for instance -- but the experience is forever. My, didn't that sound sappy? Mom and Patty would snort. And I don't care.

Rick Oberle said...

Hey, now I know why I started the Michigander all those years ago! I thought it was to promote the creation of rail-trails and to get on the front page of the Freep at the time. But sometimes better things happen than one intends. Maybe Frazz can work a plug for the Kal-Haven Trail into his story line some day. Nudge, nudge; wink, wink; know what I mean....