Saturday, July 26, 2008
I feel the need for speed...
The dude in this photo is David Bailey. Once a world motocross champion, then later a winner of the Ironman Triathlon in the wheelchair division.
A lot happened between those two worlds. I knew Bailey since he was an upcoming pro racer in the late 1970's, and was later his promotions agent during the 1983 and 1984 championship seasons. My recollection of the epitome of the two-wheeled world was when I traveled with the U.S. team to the 1986 Motocross des Nations in Italy. The Americans cleaned up, and Bailey was clearly on top of the world, riding the now legendary RC500 factory Honda.
A few months later, that chapter in Bailey's life came to an end. He missed a jump at a local race in California on January 11, 1987. I rushed out to San Jose to see him in the hospital. The day I arrived, Gina (David's wife) told me she was pregnant with their first child, Sean.
A long recovery ensued. Bailey made the best of a bad situation, and became one of the top wheelchair athletes in triathlon. After competing in the Ironman in 1998, 1999 and winning the event in Hawaii in 2000, he moved on to other things - including a career as a color commentator for ESPN and its Supercross telecasts.
There's another piece of this story that holds the most merit for me. Back in 1983, I was quite overweight, and living an unhealthy lifestyle. I decided to make some changes, and started to exercise and lose weight. At the Atlanta Supercross in 1984, I ask David if I could run with him, so we headed out on a slow jog from the hotel.
That was the portal to the life I know today...training, racing and fighting past all the obstacles. I lost over 45 pounds, and became a triathlete, then marathon runner, and to the present an ultra runner. There were epic runs with David and Johnny O'Mara, bicycle rides to the limit, and on some occasions Johnny's mechanic at the time, Jim Felt, would also come along. Jim went on to his own new career - and founded Felt Bicycles, now one of the top performance brands in the world.
I was just an average guy, but David Bailey taught me how to have a world-class attitude. That continues to this day.
Thank you, David, for being a friend and mentor in life. I'll pass it forward to others who are searching for a new way to make it to the finish line.