I knew I didn’t stand a chance of winning the gold. I looked at the two women, one on each side of me, as we waited our turn to start the 20K road cycling race. It was Day One of the Wyoming Senior Olympics with about 50 or so cyclists gathering for the event that took off from Kiwanis Park.
My competitors, who were both quite fit and trim, hailed from Colorado. On the plus side, I was guaranteed third place — and I would be the first place Wyoming finisher in my age group — as long as I did the distance.
“Ready, set, go,” the race starter shouted as we hopped on our bikes and headed out on Highway 130 and then north onto Herrick Lane. Both women sprinted out, as did I, but my sprint was a lot slower than theirs. In nothing flat they were out ahead and, eventually, out of sight.
I still pushed myself. While I’m not fast, I went as fast as I could mostly in an effort to not embarrass myself when I crossed the finish line. Not that it mattered to anyone since just participating in the Senior Olympics is an accomplishment. Still, I had my pride and was out there to go as fast as I could even if it wasn’t all that speedy.
As medals were awarded after the race, I still grinned when I heard my name. I got third, as expected, but that was also first for Wyoming and, well, it was also last for my age group. It’s all a matter of perspective. I was tickled none the less and met my goal to have fun and not kill myself in the process.
Later that day, I changed mode and went to the Laramie High School pool for my next event: the 1,500 yard freestyle. This event that involves swimming 60 lengths of the pool, never draws a crowd and this year was no exception. There were just five of us: two women and three men. The other woman was about a foot taller than me and 10 years younger. Still, I had the gold in my age group as long as I finished.
In this event, too, I pushed myself and was satisfied, when finished, with my time. Due to limited training, I knew I wouldn’t set a personal best but I was at least in the ballpark. The other woman lapped me twice but I fared better than the last time I swam against her. That time, about two years ago, she lapped me three times. I considered it progress and am hoping next time we meet I’ll actually train harder and maybe limit her to lapping me just once. We take our victories however we can get them.
During the next two days of competition, I was inspired when watching the track and field events and competing in the swim meet. I cheered on the oldest competitor, Laramie’s EG “Gerry” Meyer, in the 100 yard dash.
I first met Gerry some 30 years ago when I served as Mayor and Gerry was active in the community before he also became a member of the Laramie City Council. Since I started doing the Senior Games when I met the minimum age of 50, I’ve bumped into Gerry most every year. Now, at the age of 99, Gerry is particularly inspiring.
“Just keep moving and make an effort to be active every day,” Gerry told me when I asked if he had any advice for others. “Just keep both your mind and your body active even if it’s doing little things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking farther away from the store to get a little extra walking in. It all adds up.”
When the starting gun sounded for Gerry’s heat in the 100 yard dash, he was flanked by Charles Bruner, 98, of Douglas. Bruner, using a cane, wore a rather atypical running outfit: he donned a cowboy hat, blue jeans and even wore his cowboy boots. Gerry finished well ahead but both competitors were cheered and applauded as each crossed the finish line.
Gerry said he looks forward to competing in the next National Senior Games to be hosted next June in Albuquerque, New Mexico. By then, he’ll move up to the next age group as he competes at the age of 100.
While I have no idea my health at 100 or if I even come close to living that long, I opt to at least do what I can to stay fit and healthy for however many years I have ahead. The Senior Olympics offer a great incentive even if, like me, your speed is just not all that quick.
Amber Travsky earned master’s degrees in wildlife biology and exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She runs her own environmental consulting company, as well as a martial arts school. She authored “Mountain Biking Wyoming” and “Mountain Biking Jackson Hole,” both published by Falcon Books. She is the tour director and founder of the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour, which crosses the state every July.