Posts Tagged other people’s stories

Sari Keeps On Changing

Sari Max is a new person

Sari Max is just melting away, and it’s having a huge effect. She wrote earlier in March about how she’d lost over 60 pounds. Now she has dropped another 15! And she has brought fitness and athletics into her life. She is biking for the first time in maybe 15 years, kayaking, which she hadn’t done in at least 20 years, and sometimes adding running spurts to her fast walking.

Sari with son Ben

She is a changed woman, with her new hair style and a bit of color. “I am full of vigor, she tells me proudly.”

I know it takes a lot of discipline to exercise when you haven’t been. But Sari is even doing floor exercises at home, including push ups and 25 sit ups at a time. Way to go, Sari!

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Nico Calabria Inspires With Just One Leg

Meet Nico Calabria, a senior at Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts who was born with one leg. But despite only having a left leg, Calabria is co-captain of the school’s junior varsity soccer team along with the varsity wrestling team. In a game against Newton South, Calabria scored one of Concord’s nine goals with an amazing volley that would have been difficult for every player on the field.

Concord-Carlisle was given a corner kick and Calabria stationed himself on crutches by the far post just outside the box. The ball sailed past the goal where Calabria planted his crutches, turned his body and connected with a scissor-kick to put the ball in the back of the net.

But if you think that highlight is amazing, you should probably check out the documentary called “Nico’s Challenge,” a story about how Calabria climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at age 13. Kilimanjaro. 13 years old. One leg.

In 2007, he went on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show and explained that he climbed the mountain to raise money for kids in Africa who need wheelchairs.

If the goal just didn’t do it for you (not sure how that’s possible), check out Calabria’s domination in wrestling below:

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Armless Archer Matt Stutzman Wins Silver At Paralympics

Champion Archer Matt Stutzman

Matt Stutzman calls himself the Inspirational Archer (which he certainly is) on his web site , but he’s better known as the Armless Archer. What an achievement. He also has a sense of humor, with the site subtitle, A Foot Above the Competition.

Born without arms, Stutzman inserts the arrow using his left foot, lifts and steadies his bow with his bare right foot, and uses his teeth, shoulder and jaw to pull back and release the arrow. He only took up the sport two or three years ago.

At the 2012 Paralympics, Stutzman won silver for the United States, placing behind Finland’s Jere Forsberg, 6-4, in the final contest of the Men’s Individual Compound – Open event on Sept. 3. It turns out Matt was aiming for the Gold, so he was probably disappointed with this result.

According to USA Today, Stutzman’s competitors were all wheelchair users but had use of their arms.

“My goal was to inspire somebody, even if it was just one person, with my positive attitude,” Stutzman told the Herald-Sun after winning his silver medal.

The excitement around Stutzman’s performance was palpable in the archery final. Whereas his opponent, Forsberg, shot his arrows in silence, the Telegraph likened the sound of camera shutters going off around Stutzman to “exploding birdshot.”

If you jump immediately to 0:41 in the video below, you can see how Matt inserts arrows into the bow with his feet and uses an off-the-shelf wrist device (although he has it on his shoulder) to draw (pull back) the arrow, and then his jaw movement releases the arrow for flight. All his equipment is standard and not adapted to his unique situation. What a talent.

If you go right to 2:00 in the video below, you can see how Matt uses his foot and toes EXACTLY like able-bodied people use their hands and fingers. Amazing.

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Early Life Of An Extreme Outdoorsman And Speed Junky (Part 1 Of 3)

idyllic cruising in the great outdoors

Met a new friend out West who described his life of total immersion in the outdoors and his love of fast cars and motorcycles. His stories were so astonishing and descriptive that I urged him to write them down. Who could have guessed that his prose would be extraordinary too. I told him he reminded me of Hunter Thompson’s gonzo style or other journalists I imagine writing about speed on speed…or some other hallucinogenic. You are in for a real treat! (I hope he doesn’t mind that I relocated the first paragraph from deep within the story to give you a perspective of what is going on)

For whatever reasons, not the least of which was my father having a triple bypass at 35, I always figured on needing to pack as much experience into one presumably short life as a person could. So I’ve had the pedal down as far back as I can remember. The joke is on me of course, I never developed heart disease, but I did break a few bones, lose a shitload of skin and probably deserve to be dead 30 times over doing various things. Also got a late start building a career, so I’ll probably be working until I am in fact dead—but I design/test outdoor gear. How bad can that be?

OK, a quick bio: I’ve always been bipolar or multi-polar regarding outdoor sports, grew up at the beach but was sneaking onto the Irvine Ranch (before it was developed) behind our house with my .22 to hunt rabbits and quail (yes, quail, you just have to make a head shot, and I don’t mean when they are flying) and started fly fishing in the mountains around LA whenever my mom could drive me or with the Boy Scouts, then Explorer Scouts. Luckily the Explorer group I joined was the mountaineering group in Anaheim, which gave me my first glimpse of the High Sierra’s, and I got as interested in Golden Trout as I did in peak bagging.

As soon as I got my driver’s license, it was good bye to the scouts, and I was off every winter weekend to cross country ski tour/snowcamp in the San Gorgonio or San Jacinto Wilderness areas, often alone, which would drive my mom crazy, then backpack with a fly rod in the summer. Surf, ski, climb, hunt, fish, and of course getting around when younger I got everywhere on a bike, which became a nicer and nicer bike which became another, lifelong passion including a little bit of road racing in high school. I quit that because I kept getting clobbered by motorists who in those days weren’t used to seeing humans on road racing bikes out in traffic. Last crash involved being hit from behind by a car and flung through traffic across three fast lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was like playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber and surviving without a scratch. The rear wheel and rear triangle of my bike absorbed most of the impact and I came to a stop on the center divider balancing on my crank set, still clipped in, cars whizzing by in both directions. I did not get religion, I just left the bike laying in the highway and hitched home. No more road bikes for me.

Then one summer I came through Ketchum on a fly fishing trip and saw my first mountain bike—one of Tom Ritchey’s first hand-made bikes at the Elephant’s Perch, and my life was wrecked. I was living in Laguna at the time and the steep coastal hills were crawling with jeep roads, single track and game trails.

In a fitting way I was wrapping up my involvement with motorhead activities. My first car was a red Alfa Romeo Duetto softail Spider which I rescued from ruin and re-built myself. My second car was a raging-fast Lotus Elan which followed the same pattern, find a junker and bring it back to life one turn of the wrench at a time. I’d had a go-kart my Dad built for me when I was about 7, motorcycles, etc. so high performance driving was written into the software by the time I was a teen, and I could really drive. At one point I actually thought about it as a career, maybe an F1 pilot like Dan Gurney, but as I started hanging out at various tracks I realized I couldn’t stand the people who were involved with the sport. They were like golfers on crack.

With some irony I had long been co-evolving into a leftist tree hugging wilderness freak motorhead. I joined David Brower’s F.O.E. (Friends of the Earth) when I was 16, was reading Abbey, getting pangs about joining Dave Foreman’s Earth First gang but didn’t like the idea of prison. Note that both cars I mentioned were small, light, fast, fuel-efficient machines. But showing up to a Sierra Club meeting with my Lotus (even though it got 30 mpg) didn’t go too well. Which I found really disappointing. The leftist tree huggers turned out to be like accountants on crack.

In those years I tried everything that fit my personal ethos of small footprint, treading lightly, loving wild places, and having a fucking great time getting to those places. Think of hand-made (by me), aero cross-country ski racks and skis tucked behind the tiny roof line of a Lotus Elan howling through the desert North of LA at 2 A.M., on the way to Mammoth Tamarack lodge with the headlights off, navigating by the full moon at 120 mph with the Doors playing Riders on the Storm backed up by the sound of a nasty, tweaked-out twin cam motor pushing a low, smooth glass slipper through the void. Fuck the Sierra Club. (Continue to Part 2/3 in post below)

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Addicted To The Duck’s Most Musical Power Plant On Earth (Part 2 Of 3)

the author in his younger days

In this second part of my friend’s exciting story, I really feel the contrast between his life of extreme sports and unfettered risk-taking, compared to how most people live. Just this week I yet once again chose to lease an Audi A4 that will hit 60 in 6.3 seconds and not spend more than double for the RS5 that can soar from 0 to 60 in 4.5. I can’t spend that, so I ask how can an extra $40K justify 1.8 seconds faster takeoff from the light, lower gas mileage, danger when others drive my car, yatta, yatta, yatta. My friend lives his fantasy, while I just keep on dreaming…What about you?

The world was fascinating and crazy. My sister was in a rock band in Hollywood, so now and then I would dip into the dark side, Whiskeys, the Rainbow, Club Lingerie, The Troubador, Wongs; see X, China White, Fear, the Gears, Dead Kennedys, Nina Hagen; stay up till 4 then crash with bizarre creatures in strange motels or sleep in the chaparral on dirt trails above Mulholland, get up and go to work. Over time things happened that sharpened me up. Met an interesting girl. Started to get serious about doing something with my 5 years of university. Realized I could turn my outdoor addictions into a career.

So for the last few years I lived in the Southern Lands, my time was spent riding with the Radz, (including Hans Rey), hitting the mountain bike races all over, going to Fat Tire Bike Week in C.B., paddling/surfing my kayak, training with road wheels on my mountain bike by playing chicken with traffic and drafting trucks on Sunset from Hollywood to Santa Monica . . . and starting my biz…

About the Ducks. I grew up riding dirt bikes from age 8, always wanted a sportbike but, having self-knowledge about my impulse control, swore I wouldn’t buy one until I was 30, you know, Mature. So I waited, and then I did. Always having European cars, I wasn’t interested in rice rockets. I wanted a Ducati. I thought I wanted an older (78) 900ss. I had ridden a couple over the years and to me, besides being narrow and easy to ride fast, the Ducati motor was the most musical power plant on earth. I went into a local dealer looking at a 900ss bevel-head, and while I was haggling with the store owner he casually walked over to a low miles 851 Superbike that was already cammed and chipped and Termignoni-piped and started it up, letting it idle lumpily, the way tuned motors do . . . (Uuhhh, what’s THAT bike?). He blipped the throttle a coupla times. Boy did he have me made. “Why is this guy selling a bike with 800 miles on it?” I asked. “Because it scares the shit of of him”, the shop owner said. We smiled. Ah, Maturity. Ah, hubris.

I’d ridden a bunch a street bikes, from Harleys (ridiculous) to Ninjas and GXR’s, etc. and for the most part even the fast bikes were engineered to be very docile below their powerbands, except for Harleys, which don’t have powerbands because they don’t have any power to band. But nonetheless, all of these bikes could roll around town like two-wheeled sewing machines if you kept the revs down. Leaving the dealer on the 851, on the other hand, was quite an eye-opener. It made so much torque so low in the rev range it was like taking a tiger for a walk on a six-inch leash. On my ride back home I figured if I lived a week, I might make it a month, and if I made the month I was probably going to be OK. Talk about impulse control. Riding that bike was like jogging through the woods with a shotgun taped to your temple. But like with sports cars, the software was installed in my head long before—it just needed to boot back up. (Continue to Part 3/3 in the post below)

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Street Racing On My Ducati (Part 3 Of 3)

fearless racing on his Duck

Here is the last of a three-part story from a friend who loves Ducati motorcycles. This just describes one little outing on his bike, but his writing style is so powerful that I think you will not only feel his emotion and excitement, but also wish you’d been on the rear seat behind him. It’s never too late. I think I will ride my own cycle this week as soon as I have a chance and see if I can reach its max acceleration of “just” 4.9 seconds…without crashing of course.

This was Southern California, mind you. It was war. I’d tool around Costa Mesa, Newport or C.D.M. in street clothes, no helmet, but if I went anywhere else I had the full kit—race leathers with body armor, boots and gloves and a Kevin Schwantz replica Arai helmet. Too cool. But still, it was indeed war. One time near South Coast Plaza, as I was leaving my lawyer’s office, I had a gang banger in a lowered turbo Nopar sled try to squeeze me into the car next to us coming off a red light. My offense was splitting lanes to the front row at the red, usurping his turf as it were, which in California is perfectly legal but was an outrageous trespass to the guy behind the dark tinted windows and the subwoofer boom. As he squeezed he expected me to slow down and back off. Instead I squeezed back by making the Duck go quack. We had just passed a Cop on a motorbike when he heard the Nopar’s front tires light up, saw me accelerate away and (not that I was paying any attention) he started to chase us down. We hit another red a block later and the Vato tried the same thing. No traffic ahead, so I slipped around him—now I was not only adrenalized but really pissed off, and just pinned the 851, tucked my helmet, shifted my weight forward and rode a wheelie crossed-up and flat fucking out through 4 gears up and over and down the Bristol St. overpass, until I found some traffic ahead, finally, and put some cars between myself and the angry banger, then backed off, following from ahead. I half expected a pistol to come out.

Fast. This was 23 years ago and Ducati had just won the World Superbike Championship with a race version of the 851. The chasis was good, but the motor was superb. Water cooled, desmodromic four-valve, fuel injected fury. A “Supercar” from that era would do 0-60 in 5-6 seconds. A quick superbike would do it in 2.5 seconds in first gear, if you could keep the front down. The sensation is like nothing else. Tucked in tight with your tailbone pressed against the acceleration pad, in three seconds you are well on your way to 100 mph and you start to see in tunnel vision because what isn’t in front of you is passing at your periphery in a blur. If you expect to live much longer you can only look far ahead, where you WILL be . . . in another heartbeat. In 1989, with any superbike, when you decided to leave the party no production street car on earth could do anything but watch your ass-end very rapidly disappear. With an open-exhaust Ducati Superbike, the sound of your departure was akin to a P51 Mustang making a low pass. Talk about fun.

Then the flashing blue light of the policeman on the Kawasaki was behind me and I tried to play back what he’d just seen: A guy doing crazy shit in heavy traffic on a sport bike, hitting triple digits on an overpass on the rear wheel, etc. I pulled over. He started screaming at me, and it wasn’t until I had my helmet off that I realized he was angry that I had pulled over, that “we” let “him” get away. He had seen the whole episode, seen the Vatto try and clip me. I put my lid back on and “we” proceeded, in vain, to chase down the offender. When he finally pulled over on a side street, we shot the shit for a while, and he started asking about the Duck. I offered to let him ride it and to my surprise he accepted. Without thinking I told him to be careful and he smiled, “I have a gun” he said. “No worries.”

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J. Roundtree Loses 200 Pounds

He lost 200 pounds in 19 months

Here is a really inspiring story about a kid who weighed 405 and finally decided to lose some weight. I always wonder what clicks to get someone to overcome their inertia—whether weight loss, healthy living, starting a new career—and choose a new routine. His father had died of a heart attack, but that didn’t prevent the son from gaining all that weight.

J. Roundtree, 21, from Lancaster, Ohio, lost 200 pounds in 19 months in order to join the Army, the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette reports. In November, he will begin basic training at Ft. Benning in Georgia, and he eventually wants to become a police officer.

So how’d he go from 405 pounds to 205? Roundtree started with P90X and then stuck to a strict 1,500 calorie-a-day diet and adopted an active lifestyle—spending his time jogging, playing basketball, swimming and using home workout DVDs. When hand and foot injuries threatened to hinder his progress, Roundtree persevered.

“There’s going to be days where you’re like, ‘Oh I don’t want to do it’, but you gotta keep doing it,” Roundtree told the station.

As a child, Roundtree played football, baseball and basketball, but eventually picked up video games as a hobby and began to gain weight due to lack of exercise. He went on to play in gaming tournaments when he was in high school.

Roundtree comes from a family of servicemen and women. His father, mother, and sister all served in the Army, according to the news outlet. But while he always had his sights set on serving himself, Roundtree found his poor health seemed to pose an insurmountable problem.

“I never would have imagined that he would do that,” Roundtree’s mother explained. “But when J. sets his mind to something, don’t tell him he can’t do it…because he’ll prove you wrong.”

And this attitude is exactly what has led him to where he is today. “I want to be better than I was today,” he said. “I wanna look the best I can. I wanna feel the best I can. I wanna run the farthest or the fastest.”

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Paralyzed Woman Finishes Marathon 16 days After Start

Another inspirational achievement by a woman who can’t use her lower body, but finished a marathon anyway. I know there are lots of people who overcome their apparent limitations and the predictions of realistic doctors. But their endurance and determination deserve so much admiration. And if they can put in so much effort, overcome so much pain or soreness, then why can’t we do it also.

32-year-old Claire Lomas used a robotic walking suit to complete the London Marathon, 16 days after the event began. Hundreds of onlookers cheered a tearful Claire Lomas on May 8th as she crossed the finish line on The Mall in central London, The Sun reported.

Claire Lomas crosses the finish line of the London Marathon—5/8/2012

Lomas, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a 2007 horse-riding accident, walked the 26.2-mile course using crutches and a £43,000 ($69,500) suit that uses motion sensors to help her move her legs. When Lomas shifts her balance, the ReWalk machine moves her joints forward, allowing her to take a step, the BBC reported.

Lomas, of Eye Kettleby, England, averaged more than 1.5 miles per day since the marathon began on April 22, following the official route. She stayed at a hotel at night and was driven to the spot where she stopped the day before, according to the BBC. Her husband, Dan Spicer, accompanied her the whole way, and her parents and 1-year-old daughter also were with her for parts of the walk. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inspirational Runner And A Magic Moment

Here is an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy whose achievements—to keep running and to push though his physical pain—inspire his friends to cheer him on during a class field day. And now he inspires us to cheer and work harder ourselves…because if he can do it… Excerpts below by Barbara Rodrguez:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—When John Blaine realized 11-year-old Matt Woodrum was struggling through his 400-meter race at school in central Ohio, the physical education teacher felt compelled to walk over and check on the boy. “Matt, you’re not going to stop, are you?” he encouragingly asked Woodrum, who has cerebral palsy. “No way,” said the panting, yet determined, fifth-grader.

Almost spontaneously, dozens of Woodrum’s classmates converged alongside him, running and cheering on Woodrum as he completed his second and final lap under the hot sun. The race on May 16, captured on video by Woodrum’s mother, Anne Curran, is now capturing the attention of strangers on the Internet, many who call the boy and his classmates an inspiration to be more compassionate toward each other.

Woodrum said he had a few moments where he struggled. “I knew I would finish it,” he said, “but there were a couple of parts of the race where I really felt like giving up.”

It was his fourth race of the day, and one he didn’t have to run. Only a handful of students opted to give it a try, and Curran said her son doesn’t exclude himself from anything, playing football and baseball with friends and his two brothers. “He pushes through everything. He pushes through the pain, and he pushes through however long it may take to complete a task,” she said. “He wants to go big or go home.”

“The kids will tell you that Matt never gives up on anything that he sets out to do,” Read the rest of this entry »

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Natsumi Hayashi Floats And Levitates For Fun

200-300 attempts to get the perfect shot sounds like a very tiring effort

Natsumi Hayashi posts photographic self-portraits on her blog, Yowayowa Camera Woman Diary. I love them, and definitely regard them as an athletic challenge and achievement. She does 200-300 jumps to get one winner that she uploads and displays in print shows.

“I must be aware of the shapes of my arms and legs and make slight adjustments in every jump,” she said.

New York Times writer, Kerri Macdonald, says, “the more complicated—in some cases, dangerous—the pose appears, the less inclined a viewer will be to anticipate a landing. Ms. Hayashi holds her head high, averting her eyes from her landing point. She releases her muscles. She points the soles of her feet to the sky.

floating down for a drink

And she readies herself for a fall, knowing that it’s important to maintain the pose in the air.”

“I cannot easily suggest my style to everyone,” said Ms. Hayashi, who, like an athlete, uses therapy to learn to control her body. (Still, she did fall—and land on her jaw—once.)

You can read the whole article here and see many more of the levitation photos. Ready to start jumping yourself???

Natsumi likes defying gravity inside the picture

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TJ Faces Two Big Challenges

TJ (left) with friends—3/24/2012

Back on March 17th, I wrote about how I hurt my knee and was scared that I might no longer be able to play tennis…and then was ashamed that with all the sickness and sadness in the world, I had no right to feel sorry for myself. Here is a poignant and powerful comment from a reader named TJ. She has really set a high athletic challenge for herself: to run a marathon (26 miles) although the most she has ever run non-stop in her life is “just” eight miles! She also has another challenge involving her health and appearance, and has an unbelievably positive and adaptive attitude. She reminds me how in the past, as my hair thinned out, my bald spot became larger, and I watched a relative lose all her hair during cancer treatments, I would rationalize that “it’s better to be bald than dead.”

This post resonated with me, so I felt the need to comment. These are just some thoughts, so forgive me if the sentiment’s a little scattered.

This past December I entered the lottery for the New York City marathon for the fourth time in my life, and was admitted. FINALLY I’m getting the chance to live out one of my lifelong dreams of running 26.2 miles in the city in which I’ve learned some of my most important life lessons. To have the opportunity to meet this challenge head on, means the whole world to me, and every day that I go running, I just picture all of my Rocky Balboa-esque workouts culminating in that final moment when my mind has conquered matter, and I’m dashing across the finish line.

Another challenge presented itself this past December too—I discovered I have an auto-immune disorder called alopecia areta that causes my hair to fall out in patches sporadically. While otherwise perfectly healthy, I have absolutely no control over what my hair will look like the next day, and eventually, if my body doesn’t respond to treatment (cortisone injections in my scalp once a month), I could end up totally bald.

You can imagine that for a woman, not having any control over how I’m going to look is incredibly frustrating, and it’s made me consider how drastically others’ perceptions of me could shift in the next year or so. But surprisingly (even to me), I’m not that upset. I’ve had a lot of time since December to reflect on what my condition really is in the grand scheme of things. I’m not dying. Being bald wouldn’t change who I am fundamentally. There are so many worse things that can happen to a person. I have friends who are battling cancer, mourning the losses of their parents, and learning how to live their life again with only one leg. So whenever I start to feel sorry for myself for a little hair falling out, I remember that for now, I can still go for a run. Who knows? Maybe if I end up totally bald, the lack of extra wind resistance will shave a couple minutes off my marathon time? : )

she is losing patches of hair

It’s tough not being able to do something you’ve been able to your whole life. It’s tough not having control while your body changes. I know playing tennis and putting your hair up are in two totally different ballparks, but I think I can empathize with the sentiment. We’re all constantly on a journey to achieve and to perfect ourselves despite the wear and tear that comes with living. But maybe if you stay off of your knee for a while, you’ll have the opportunity to pull something else out of yourself you didn’t know was there. Maybe you’re a world class chess player? Maybe you’ll spend more time rowing and find that it’s something you love?

We are each a project that’s always evolving and re-growing. I could lose all of my hair. I could sprain my ankle and not even make it to the marathon (knock on wood). But until that happens, I’m relishing in shampooing my hair every morning and beaming with every step I take in the evening because you’re right—as long as we’re alive, it’s not enough to just watch the ocean from the beach. You don’t get a dress rehearsal, so you have to enjoy what you’ve got while you’ve got it and push for everything you want in this life. If you love tennis, play tennis until you can’t play tennis anymore, and then when you can’t, you’ll find a new passion within yourself and be a stronger person for it.

When I’m running, I spend a lot of time thinking about the people and ideas that have made me strong enough to conquer a marathon, and I want to put them all on the t-shirt I wear that day in some way to remind myself of who I really am. You can be sure that I’ll have a shout out to irasabs.com somewhere on that shirt. Thank you for always being an inspiration.

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Rower/Adventurer John Fairfax Battled Raw And Primitive Nature

John in Britannia, in which he became the first person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Here is an amazing story about a man who was clearly NOT ordinary. But what an inspiration. John Fairfax, a British journalist and adventurer, just died February 8th at age 74. He is best known for being the first person to row solo across the Atlantic and (with Sylvia Cook) to row first across the Pacific ocean.

Among the highlights in his life:

* Ended his Italian Boy Scouting career with a pistol rampage at age 9
* Went to live in the Argentine jungle “like Tarzan” at age 13
* Lived as a pirate and gun smuggler
* Gave up piracy to appease his mother, and farmed minks for a while instead
* In 1969, rowed solo across the Atlantic (“battling storms, sharks and encroaching madness”), and received a congratulatory letter from the crew of Apollo 11
* In 1971, rowed from San Francisco to Hayman Island, Australia with Sylvia Cook, whom he met via a personal ad
* Bitten by a shark during the Pacific trip
* Attempted suicide by letting a jaguar attack him
* Lived in later years as a professional Baccarat player

This video of John just after he made it to Hollywood Beach, Florida in 1969 at age 32 records his description (starts at 8:15) of the white, mankiller shark attack (he was in the water scraping the bottom of his boat) and how he defended himself with a knife. Earlier he says how he is “a lone wolf…a happy guy, and therefore I don’t have any problems…I never thought I wouldn’t make it…It was a little harder than I thought, but I never give up.”

Mr. Fairfax was often asked why he chose a rowboat to challenge two roiling oceans. “Almost anybody with a little bit of know-how can sail…I’m after a battle with nature, primitive and raw.”

The row took 180 days. Upon completion of his row he received a message of congratulations from the crew of Apollo 11 who had walked on the moon the day after he had completed his voyage. In their letter the crew stated:

“Yours, however, was the accomplishment of one resourceful individual, while ours depended upon the help of thousands of dedicated workers in the United States and all over the world. As fellow explorers, we salute you on this great occasion.”

Fairfax used two different custom-made boats on the ocean journeys, and he used the stars to help him navigate. He survived by eating up to eight pounds of fish a day. He had a system to convert ocean water into drinking water.

“On the Pacific, a shark took a big chunk of his arm out” when he was spearing fish, said Tiffany Fairfax, his wife of 31 years. “There you are on the Pacific Ocean and there’s no hospital, and you need to row. He was an amazing, amazing human being.”

“He believed a human could accomplish anything if they had confidence,” she said. “When he would get an idea in mind, he would pursue it and say, `I can do it.'”

Fairfax remained lifelong friends with Sylvia Cook, 73, his rowing partner across the Pacific who lives near London.

John Fairfax and his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, made history in 1972 when they became the first known people to cross the Pacific Ocean by rowboat.

This link to the Ocean Rowing Society contains excerpts from a book beginning in 1966, when John is seeking support for the first solo trip across the Atlantic, as well as selected journal entries during his historic voyage. Also included are details of his early years as a boy.

While seeking people to help plan his first transoceanic trip, he met Sylvia Cook, a secretary who became his girlfriend and fellow traveler on his two-person expedition.

“The only reason I am doing it is because it is the hardest way to cross the Pacific,” Fairfax told The Times in 1971. “This is the Everest of the sea.”

They set out in another custom-made rowboat, the Britannia II, in April 1971 and endured fierce storms and a cyclone that knocked out their ability to communicate for the final two months of the trip. Unable to swim, Cook spent much of the trip lashed to the boat.

“Had Been Feared Drowned” a Times headline declared when they arrived 363 days later at Hayman Island, Australia. Both appeared to be in good physical shape, but Fairfax had a deep gash on his arm caused by a shark bite while he was spearing fish.

John and Sylvia

After his second historic voyage, he declared: “It was a miserable journey. I don’t care if I never touch another oar.”

Here are excerpts from the New York Times obit by Margalit Fox:

…For all its bravura, Mr. Fairfax’s seafaring almost pales beside his earlier ventures. Footloose and handsome, he was a flesh-and-blood character out of Graham Greene, with more than a dash of Hemingway and Ian Fleming shaken in… Read the rest of this entry »

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Marc Sokolik Wins Six Medals At St. Louis Senior Olympics

Marc Sokolik throws a silver medal shot put—5/30/11

Marc Sokolik continues to amaze us all. He is 70 and a terrific life-long athlete. You can read about him in earlier stories , as he continues to compete in various Senior Olympics. Here are his latest results from St. Louis.

IRA,
YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS ONE, BUT I ENTERED 9 EVENTS AND MEDALED IN 6 OF THEM.
I AM ATTACHING A SHOT PUT AND MEDAL PICTURE ALONG WITH THE EVENT LIST.

MAY 28, 2011
STL SR. OLYMPICS
BRONZE BASKETBALL
16 OF 20 FREE THROWS

MAY 29, 2011
STL SR. OLYMPICS
SILVER 99′ FOOTBALL DISTANCE

MAY 29, 2011
STL SR. OLYMPICS
GOLD BENCH PRESS 150#

MAY 29, 2011
STL SR. OLYMPICS
GOLD SOCCER KICK
6 OUT OF 10 KICKS

MAY 29, 2011
STL SR. OLYMPICS
BRONZE 118′ SOFTBALL DISTANCE

MAY 30, 2011
STL SR. OLYMPICS
SILVER SHOT PUT 33′ 2″

he won six medals at the St. Louis Senior Olympics—5/11

When I asked him how many people compete in each event, which is sub-divided by age groups, he wrote me that “EVERY EVENT IS DIFFERENT. ON AVERAGE THERE ARE ALWAYS 10-12 COMPETITORS, BUT AS THE AGE ADVANCES THE NUMBER DIMINISHES. THAT IS WHY I JOKE ABOUT WINNING (MORE GOLDS) AT 80.” He also said that this was the first year he has competed in the bench press, and he won a gold in that event. Watta Guy!!!

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