Start of the Pacific Crest Half Ironman. I'm the one in the blue cap. "You will have a long and prosperous life," promised the fortune cookie that I cracked open a couple of days ago. I sure hope so. I tucked the tiny slip of white paper into my pocket, not wanting to tease the Gods by unceremoniously sending it to the recycle bin.
Last week, Eddie Miller died on a trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with a group of fellow Bendites. I knew Eddie a little, paddling with him a few times with the stand-up group in Bend. He was a fit, athletic 57-year-old outdoorsman who had just received his river guide license. When the headline circulated the internet last Wednesday, I immediately assumed that a deadly rapid, maybe the notorious Velvet, had taken him. I felt a jolt of sadness for Eddie, but also a jolt of fear. I'll be floating the Middle Fork as you read this.
However, Eddie had negotiated the river safely. It was the final day of the weeklong trip and he had set out on a pre-prandial hike with his wildflower books. Eddie simply slipped on some wet rocks and tumbled down a cliff. The National Guard finally located his body four days later.
On Friday night, I went to watch the criterium at the NWX Hullabaloo. Congrats to all the daring racers, especially the winners: Brian Fawcett for the Juniors, Arielle Filiberti in the women's race, John Rollert in Cat 4/5, Steven Wilsenns in Cat 3, and Brian Seguin in the Pro 1/2 event. I used to race crits in my 20s and 30s. I loved the tight cornering, the all-out bursts of speed, the excitement. That is, until I broke my scapula in a big pile-up and decided bicycle racing was too dangerous. I want to live to play another day.
The Pacific Crest Sports Festival is a huge hullabaloo now, with thousands of people coming from out of town this past weekend for all of the races in Sunriver. The toughest event was the Half Ironman on Saturday. The water for the 1.2-mile swim in Wickiup Reservior was a numbing 60 degrees, the 58-mile bike course featured a tough climb to Mount Bachelor and the 13.1-mile run was on the black asphalt bike paths of Sunriver in 87-degree heat. Congrats to the winners, Mark Van Akkeren from Boulder, CO and MacKenzie Madison from Eugene. I was one of the 586 competitors. Don't ask me why. The last time I did something like that was 8 years ago. I guess I just needed the challenge.
Which brings me to concepts of challenge and risk. As outdoor athletes, I think we all thrive on challenges which involve embracing some risk. We climb mountains, run rivers and ride bikes. In my opinion, the much greater risk is to fritter away life sprawled on the sofa in front of the high-def flat screen embracing a bag of Fritos.
I have a silver bracelet given to me by a dear friend who is a cancer survivor, entrepreneur, surfer and grandmother extraordinaire. It says, "Fortune favors she who dares." I wear it whenever I feel I'm playing it too safe, whenever I'm fearing a challenge, whenever I need a little extra inspiration. I also hum my favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter song:
"Now some people say that you shouldn't tempt fate And for them I would not disagree But I never learned nothing from playing it safe I say fate should not tempt me I take my chances, I don't mind working without a net I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get"
Switching gears for a moment, we'd like to give a quick shout out to the Central Oregon Women's Senior Tennis team which upset Portland in this past weekend at the USTA Northwest Championship to earn a berth in the USTA National Championships this Fall in Tucson. It's a pretty remarkable achievement for the team. As captain Heather Drakulich points out, "Some people compete in USTA Team sports all their lives and never get to go to Nationals." Good luck, ladies.
By the way, this column is my 52nd in a row-a little personal challenge I set for myself. Next week, fans who miss Woody will enjoy his guest appearance until I return safely from the Middle Fork. When I do eventually go, I hope it's Eddie-style: doing something I love.