The National Senior Games are being held in the San Francisco Bay Area. Stanford University is the host for 11,000 athletes in a wide array of sports from swimming to track and field to racketball. Of course there are cycling events as well and I am the announcer for those events.
The cool thing about the National Senior Games, besides the fact that athletes from ages 50-89 are competing is that the participants come from all across the United States. And to top it off, they all seem very happy to be competing. That happiness might stem from the fact that you have to qualify to participate or it might just be that fact that they are still competing at an age when most people are feeling lucky just to get out of bed.
What I like the best is all the stories the riders have to tell. Unlike most professional athletes, these competitors have, well, most of them are retired, day jobs and are just as accomplished off the bike as on. For sure, the bike is a priority for the competitors, but sometimes the best stories are what they are doing off the bike.
John Platero, who has won both road races in the 50-54 Men's division, has an incredibly interesting past. He spent several years in New York as a cover model for romance novels. When he wasn't riding his bike in Central Park, he was posing in a Confederate General's uniform or Pirate garb with some femme fatale to be painted onto the cover of a romance novel. He got the job because Fabio decided to try his hand at TV and there was an opening.
After his cover model gig, John, who is also a professional drummer, played in Woody Harrelson's band which toured the United States and cut an album. Platero, who owns a fitness gym in the Thousand Oaks are of Southern California has just written a book, "Yes, You Can" about being fit and being over 40 years old.
Then there is Phil and Benna from Kentucky who raise horses. You just don't raise any old horses in Kentucky. With the namesake derby, if you raise horses in the blue grass state, they better be fast. This year, Phil and Benna owned the mother of one of the horses in the Kentucky Derby. Since the offspring was a longshot at 50-1, Phil and Benna decided to compete in a 6-hour ride in Ohio rather than be present at the Derby.
Well, to make a long story short, the offspring, Mine that Bird, won the Kentucky Derby. Phil and Benna had to resort to celebrating in a sports bar rather than in the winner's circle. Frankly, they don't seem to mind, especially since they were out on their bikes and that is what it is all about. BTW, Phil and Benna have been on the podium in both of their road races.
As Lance Armstrong once said "Its not about the bike." For John, Phil, Benna and the 650 other athletes competing in the 2009 National Senior Games, they have found a way to enjoy what they do both on and off the bike. Hopefully, that applies to more than just the athletes at the National Senior Games.