I really try to be a good father to my two boys. Give ’em mulligans in life and in golf. Play through my injuries while I’m being tag teamed in the living room during Wrestle Mania 2008. Be a great Soccer coach, example, and friend. But, compared with Dick Hoyt I may come a bit short.
Eighty five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars, all in the same day. Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right? What has Rick done for his father? Not much, but save his life. This love story began in Winchester , Mass.
43 years ago Rick Was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain damaged and unable to control his limbs. “He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life;” Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an institution.” But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told.
“There’s nothing going on in his brain.” “Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed.
Turns out a lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want to do that.”
Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self described “porker” who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he Tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore for two weeks.”
That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, It felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”
And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.
“No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially. In 1983 Team Hoyt ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.
Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”
How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.
Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironman events in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud Getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you think?
Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.
This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992, only 35 minutes off the world Record, which, in case you don’t keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.
“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the century.”
And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was 95% clogged. “If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” one doctor told him, “you probably would’ve died 15 years ago.” So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.
Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass. , always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend.
“The thing I’d most like,” Rick types, “is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.”
And the video is below….
These photos of Henry were taken about thirty minutes after the scheduled start of the Kokopelli triathlon at Sand Hollow reservoir near St. George, Utah. About 30 minutes after these photos were taken a massive storm front hit and the race had to be canceled. My age group never got started. I was supposed to start at 7:30, I was in the water warming up for quite awhile waiting for them to start the race. I had swam about 400 meters just warming up. The waves were pretty fierce! At about 8:30 the storm hit with hail, wind, rain and waves! The wind blew the finish line down! We were all pulled out of the water and the race was canceled. What a bummer! In the first photo, to the right of Henry’s head you can see one of the big triangle buoys that marks part of the swim course.
The Scofield Triathlon was held on August 11th. Scofield reservoir is about 90 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, tucked away high in the mountains about halfway between Spanish Fork and Price. It is actually quite near Huntington Canyon where the coal mine collapsed on the miners this past summer. It is the highest elevation triathlon in the United States at 8000 feet above sea level. Believe me, I was feeling it! There was no air! I was sucking wind. Despite the lack of oxygen I did very well and ended up with a personal record! It was such a fun event. They had a big barbecue with a live band after the race. It was a big party.
I also did the Alta Canyon Rec Center triathlon on September 4th. It was held at a local rec center, and was a outdoor pool swim. It was really a fun event put on by Sandy City and Alta Canyon.
Monique and I have competed in a couple triathlons since the summer started. The first was the Utah Summer Games (USG) on June 16th. The USG is part of the Trifecta series in St. George, so we are familiar with the course. We had a great time, and both improved our times over the Kokopelli triathlon held on the same course last fall. It’s a bugger of a bike ride. Last Saturday (July 14) was the Xango Echo triathlon at Echo reservoir. It is an excellent event, well organized and very popular. There were almost 1000 athletes participating this year! It is a great course, and Mo and I both improved our personal best times. Next up for Mo is a tri held at one of our local rec centers, and I am competing in the highest elevation tri in the U.S.A. at Scofield reservoir on August 11. Then both of us are competing again in the Kokopelli in September.
Both Mo and I competed so neither of us were free to take photographs of the event. Luckily there was a professional photographer at the race taking pictures of every racer. What a great race! Kokopelli is the third part of the Trifecta series in St. George, Utah. It was held on September 23rd 2006. Sand Hollow resevoir was fantastic to swim in. The water was almost cold enough for mandatory wetsuits, but right at race time the water temperature crept up to 65 degrees and allowed racers the choice. Although I think you would have to be crazy not to wear a wetsuit. Wetsuits are a huge advantage. They increase floatation, decrease drag, and keep you warm. You can swim faster more comfortably without working as hard, why wouldn’t you want to wear one? The water in the resevoir was crystal clear, I could see all the way to the bottom, It was a great swim! The bike portion in the TRI, which is the same for the St. George Tri and the Utah Summer Games Tri, sucks! The sprint distance is 14 miles, from the transition area there is a 2 to 3% false flat for approximately three and a half miles. Then there is a hill that is a mile long with a 10% grade lovingly called the Beast. Then you continue the false flats for an additional two and a half miles to the turning point. You then get to turn around and and ride down what you rode up. Fun, right? Wrong. This area is not called Hurricane for nothing. You fight a head wind all the way home. The run portion is 3.2 miles of the bike route. A out and back type of route from the transition area. This was painful for me, as you can see from the picture, because I am running downhill at the end. This is a great triathlon, Mo and I are registered for the Utah Summer Games Tri, and have plans to compete in the St. George and Kokopelli Triathlons. All three make up the St. George Trifecta.
Jaren and I will be competing in the Utah Summer Games Triathlon in June and would like all of you to come see us compete in St. George! It is the weekend of June 16th. I will submit more details as I get them. We want to see all of you competing next year!