60 at 60
At age 60, Jim LeMonds of Castle Rock plans to mountain bike 60-plus miles of trails in one day to help raise money and awareness for three charities. Courtesy photo

CASTLE ROCK — The same dream, over and over again. Same colors. Same smells.

It visited Jim LeMonds in the middle of the night so often, he decided to name it.

"It was my ‘60 at 60' dream," said LeMonds, a Castle Rock outdoors enthusiast and author, who turns 60 years old next month. "I believe that you have to dream it first to even know if it's realistic. I like dreaming big to see if I am able to do it."

At age 60 — a few weeks prior, to be exact — LeMonds plans to mountain bike 60-plus miles of trails in one day to help raise money and awareness for three charities, including one that is near to his heart.

Yes, in one day — for a man who will be eligible for Social Security in a matter of weeks.

For LeMonds, however, there was never any doubt that the dream would become reality, no matter his age.

In addition to raising money for the Castle Rock Library and Girls on the Run of Southwest Washington, he is donating funds to CurePC.org, an organization involved in pancreatic cancer research.

LeMonds has known six people with pancreatic cancer, all men, including four from Castle Rock. Two of his best friends, college roommate Mick Spane and former R.A. Long head football coach Gary Ekegren, are currently battling the disease.

Spane has a rare form of pancreatic cancer that is treatable, with a survival rate of 10-12 years. Ekegren, who retired last year as the head football coach at Big Sky High School in Missoula, Mont., has been told by doctors that he has months to live, not years.

LeMonds and his wife, Sherry, returned Tuesday from Missoula, where they spent valuable time with the Ekegrens. He called the visit "very emotional."

"Gary's wife, Karen, and my wife are good friends, and Gary and I coached together at R.A. Long," LeMonds said. "I think Karen needed Sherry to come and laugh with her. He is stage 3 now. It's not good."

Ekegren, 69, is a retired teacher at Big Sky, and had planned to remain on the coaching staff after resigning as head coach "to give him something to do," LeMonds said. Ekegren, who won a state title at Big Sky, posted a 47-44 overall record with the Lumberjacks from 1980 to '89.

"I'm riding for Gary and Mick. I will have their names on my gloves during the ride to remind myself that any pain that I am experiencing is nothing compared to what they are going through," LeMonds said. "There have been four men from Castle Rock who've gotten pancreatic cancer. They all died in 6-9 months."

Taking to the trails

LeMonds is aiming for a July 23 ride, although he doesn't turn 60 until August. The plan is to complete four of the best-known mountain biking rides in the Northwest, including Ape Canyon (southeast side of St. Helens, 15.4 miles), Blue Lake (west side of Mount St. Helens, nine miles), Lewis River (22.2 miles) and Falls Creek (near Oldman Pass on the way to Carson, 17.1 miles).

Attacking one of these rides in one day is standard for many seasoned mountain bikers. But four?

"I guess that's a little bit off the chain," LeMonds said. "It's very tough to explain how 60 miles on trail are different from 60 miles on road. Best guess is that it would take 3-5 miles on road to equate to one mile of the trail we will be riding.

"There is no rolling resistance on pavement. On trail, it's a nonstop wrestling match with your bike," he added. "There are rocks, drops, roots, ruts, loose stuff, water crossings and log-overs that tend to complicate things."

He'll be joined by a support crew that will assist with everything from packing his gear, providing wrench work and pacing LeMonds, to shuttling the vehicles. One of his crew members was on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Cycling Team.

LeMonds has been training for the ride since Jan. 1. One cardiology scare and 13 pounds shed later, he feels he's ready for his dream odyssey.

"At my age, everything takes longer. But by the end of (June), I completed about 60 rides and 50 gym workouts," he said. "I've focused on core strength because mountain biking is so demanding on your upper body. I can feel my endurance ramping up. Riding for 2-3 hours is something I'm accustomed to, but moving to the 6- to 10-hour range is a different thing."

LeMonds rode the third and fourth legs of the "60 at 60" (Lewis River and Falls Creek, totaling about 40 miles) two weeks ago with three pals. He felt strong and wasn't sore.

"The physical part is one thing, but I have also tried to take into account hydration, proper fuel and equipment," he said. "I'm a little concerned about how things will play out when I get fatigued. All of these trails have spots that are real technical, and in some of them the penalties are large if you screw up."

As for his health scare, LeMonds experienced light chest pains and abdominal discomfort during a ride in the spring. The symptoms came back later on a trip to Las Vegas, where LeMonds was working out at a hotel gym.

He called his doctor back home and tests were performed when he returned. The good news? No heart attack.

But a specialist wrote him a prescription for nitroglycerin pills and told him to keep them with him at all times, "just in case."

Eclipsing his goal

LeMonds' goal coming into "60 at 60" was to raise $3,000. As of Wednesday, he had more than $3,500. Now he's talking about $4,000.

Many of the details about the ride can be found at www.writeteknorthwest.com. LeMonds operates WriteTek Northwest, which specializes in technical writing and press releases for companies. His website is a journal for many of his outdoor adventures.

Anyone interested in making a pledge, no matter how small, should contact LeMonds at jim@writeteknorthwest.com, or call him at 360-430-4416. None of the pledges go into LeMonds' pocket, and payment is not due until after the ride.

"I've always liked challenges, especially physical ones. I just threw the number out there - ‘60 at 60' - and thought it sounded good," he said. "Anything I go through at the time, I don't care what is ... sweating and snot running off my chin and being short of breath ... I will look down and see the names of Gary and Mick on my gloves. It will remind me what other people are going through.

"Certain things in life, you can't change," he added. "But you can pay tribute to others."


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