S: The Legend of SoNoMas 2010
FC: THE LEGEND | of SoNoMas 2010
1: T h e L e g e n d o f S o N o M a s 2 0 1 0 | Part 1: Couch Time by Matt Muldoon with Greg "Shred" Srednicki Part 2: Domestiques by the Keeler Family
2: Part 1: Couch Time
3: There are many legends in the world of cycling. How is it that this humble, modest man- Greg Keeler- became The Legend? Noted cycling scribe Greg "Shred" Srednicki explains: “We call him The Legend because of all the medals he’s racked up. Since retiring he just came out of nowhere and the medals started piling up. Being an old guy and a member of the Friday Fat Boys, we look up to him. He’s accomplished a lot for a bald headed old fart, much more than any of the (other) Fat Boys have done." This is the account of a chapter in his life. The long, punishing climbs of Big Rock Ridge glower just outside The Legend's door. He probably rides Big Rock more than anyone, which is like making regular visits to a bully who likes to pummel you every time you stop by. Sure, it's hard on your face, but it does make you tough. It is here that this formerly shapeless, doughy mass was forged into a hard, determined riding machine. In competition, The Legend is like a really pale Kalahari bushman hunting a caribou. Instead of attacking a rival, he relentlessly stalks him. He bides his time, probing for weakness, and upon sensing it, he pounces, his exhausted prey helpless to save himself. And as if that weren't macho enough, he drives a sweet, mint-condition Geo Metro- the Blue Bomber- that really turns the ladies' heads. But the year 2010 was different for The Legend. At the Granite Bay race, victory was within reach, but it slipped away like a Vaseline-coated ninja. He described his performance at Sea Otter as “not up to par”. He opted out of the Lake Sonoma Series* entirely: “I see no reason to drive all that way just to beat myself up." It didn't change his mind when I reminded him that since we carpool in my van, he wouldn't be doing much driving. Previously, on our ritual grinds up Big Rock Ridge, we'd climb all the way to the radio towers at the summit. That changed, too- he’d cut the ride short and skip the last few miles of steeps. He said he wanted to keep his distance from the towers because the EMF emissions were responsible for his ever-expanding forehead. "Nope. I'm not coming. 7PM is couch time". With that, The Legend said goodbye to what was for us a rite of summer, the Wednesday night dirt crits at Howarth Park. Along with our friend Todd, we'd participate in several crits every year. The intensity of these 30 minute races more than compensates for the short duration. Moreover, there are no age divisions, encouraging the younger riders to engage in blatant elder abuse. But who cares? It's a great workout, the kind you can't make happen in any other setting. After the race, with endorphin elves dancing in our heads, we wrestle the technical trails of nearby Annadel State Park, the hillsides aglow with a surreal golden light from the setting sun, the air rich with the scents of dry grass, bay leaves, dust and sweat. Then off to El Texanita, our favorite Mexican roach coach, to enjoy delicious tacos while listening to the Giants game. Not a bad way to spend a summer evening. But this year, The Legend traded in all of that for couch time. Toddler and I were left to soldier on without him. *Similar to SoNoMas but less than half as long.
5: Who can blame him for wanting to trade in his bike shorts for disposable undergarments? To race hard, you've got to train hard- hour upon hour, week after week. Every day, the same choices buzz around your head like fruit flies around a decomposing melon: exertion or ease, discipline or indulgence, focus or lassitude, boxers or briefs. As Johnnie Cochran might've said, "The choices that lead to strength are hard, but the easy choices lead to lard." Race day is fun, too. Journalistic accounts of these events are replete with terms such as “pain”, “suffering”, and “eternal damnation”. Riders are said to “crack”, “turn themselves inside-out”, “explode”, and “soil themselves”. It’s a sport where suffering is directly proportional to effort. There's no way around it- the harder you try, the more it hurts. Life is full of hard things that can't be avoided. Racing bikes is a hard thing that's entirely optional. Why do it? There's value both in laboring to achieve a goal and in the achievement itself. In the process, you are faced with your weakness, and humbled; surprised by your strength, and exalted. Both experiences are edifying. Pushing yourself beyond your limits, and in doing so redefining them, is satisfying and rewarding. Accomplishing what you previously thought to be impossible is exhilarating. On a personal level, it becomes a kind of touchstone, a monumental event. But it doesn't come easy, and it doesn't come cheap. And in the spring of 2010, The Legend wasn't buying it. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do it anymore- he just didn’t want to. Instead of falling in battle, he was falling asleep. I hated to see it happen, but didn't know what to do about it, or if I should even try. Who was I to whip this tired old workhorse? Hadn’t he earned the right to spend his days nodding off in front of Dr. Phil reruns, a thick web of drool sagging from his slack mouth onto a damp, stained blanket draped across his flaccid, withered thighs? After all, isn't that what everybody really wants? I decided I didn’t care about what he wanted or what his rights were. I missed The Legend, and set about trying to coax him back to greatness.
6: Star Lake above South Lake Tahoe 9100 feet September, 2008
7: Hoping to resuscitate his comatose competitive spirit, I emailed race reports to Greg: From: FITS, LLC Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2010 4:29 PM To: Greg Keeler Subject: Today’s race Yo Dawg, Toddler wanted to know why you weren't at the race today and I realized I didn't know, so I told him you had to re-organize your shoe tree. It was all I could come up with on the spot. Speaking of Todd, that tough Mormon devil put a good scare in me. After three laps, he was nowhere to be seen, and I thought I had dropped him. Then, just before the final hillclimb to the finish line, he materialized out of thin air, about 100 feet behind me. I couldn’t believe it- had his long quest to acquire the power of teleportation finally come to fruition? With the finish line less than a mile away, I set the throttle for "Ludicrous Effort" and managed to stretch the gap. Dang them Mormons and their good, clean living! Everyone had a great day. Wish you were there! From: FITS, LLC Sent: Saturday, July 24, 2010 2:40:44 PM To: Greg Keeler Subject: Race report Yo Dawg, While you were out pricing hair implants, Toddler and I were exchanging hammer blows before a cheering crowd in the coliseum of pain. Afterward, the usual gaggle of giggling Greg groupies, in various stages of undress, approached us demanding to know where you were. We told them you apparently had better things to do, which made absolutely no sense at all, given the situation. They didn't take it well and immediately began attempting to hang themselves with discarded inner tubes. It would've been funny if it wasn't so pathetic. For their sakes, would it kill you to show up? Seriously, dude, I don’t know how you sleep at night.
8: Howarth Park Dirt Crits June, 2009 | "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17
9: The Legend responded to my prodding by asking Mrs. Legend to roll him over periodically so he wouldn't get bed sores. Clearly, I was getting nowhere. I decided to take a more subtle, nuanced approach by questioning his manhood: From: FITS, LLC Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 02:10 PM To: Greg Keeler Subject: Dirt Crits tomorrow! Yo Dawg, For God's sake, man up! Cancel your mani-pedi appointment for tomorrow night and come to the crits! I promise the really uncomfortable part will be limited to a mere 30 minutes. Come for the workout, stay for the tacos. From: Greg Keeler Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 10:35 AM To: FITS, LLC Subject: Re: Dirt Crits Dude, I can't man up, I'm surrounded by women. From: FITS, LLC Sent: Wednesday June 23, 2010 10:58 AM To: Greg Keeler Subject: Re: Dirt Crits Yo Dawg, Being surrounded by women is no excuse to become one.
11: I should've known it would be like trying to sell sand to an Arab who is allergic to sand. Greg is so stubborn that mules ask for his autograph. It was time for yet another approach. A big part of the problem was that most races don't have a separate division for guys over 60. Competing against guys 10 years his junior was understandably demoralizing for The Legend. So I asked our friend and race organizer, Carlos Perez, for a favor. If not for Carlos, the story would've ended here, another bleak tale of suburban ennui. From: FITS, LLC Sent: Sunday, July 11, 2010 12:36 PM To: Carlos Perez Subject: Favor to ask Dear Carlos, I've got an idea for SoNoMas, which in reality is a favor to ask: how about a meta-masters (or mega-masters, or Metamucil-masters) division for riders age 60 and over? You'd be doing me a favor because my buddy and frequent Bike Monkey participant, Greg Keeler, turned 60 a few months back. For an old geezer like him to complete an event like SoNoMas would certainly be commendable, and it would be cool to give him and any other senior citizen SoNoMas survivors some recognition. I know it would mean something to Greg. From: Carlos Perez Sent: Monday, July 12, 2010 9:43 PM To: FITS, LLC Subject: Re: Favor to ask Matt, For Greg, it will be done! I'm adding it to the list of categories. Cheers!! Carlos I emailed the news to The Legend, and as she always does, Mrs. Legend intercepted it. She registered him for the race, paid the fee, and then told him about it, adding this gentle, wifely encouragement: "You need to get excited about a race." Realizing he was trapped, he began trying go gnaw off one of his feet. We, the Cabal of Co-conspirators for a Competitive Keeler had done all we could. It was up to him now.
12: Another factor in The Legend’s resurgence was the lure of the SoNoMas race itself. This year, the challenge of the unique course would attract such elite athletes as Levi Leipheimer, who has four top-10 finishes in the Tour De France; Chris Jones, who has two straight top-10 finishes at the USA Cycling National Road Race Championships; and Menso DeJong, who took 3rd this year at the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals at Northstar. Indeed, pros accounted for about a quarter of the competitors in the 2010 race. Weekend warriors are wise to sit this one out. SoNoMas is difficult on both quantitative and qualitative levels. Consisting of a single lap around the southern leg of Lake Sonoma, it’s 35 miles long with 6,500 feet of elevation gain. Big numbers, yes, but manageable in another setting. It’s the nature of the terrain that sets SoNoMas apart. Most race courses have a few less taxing sections where riders can recover or relax a bit. SoNoMas, by contrast, offers no respite. Constant concentration is required, making the demands on the rider mental as well as physical. It keeps coming at you like a sadistic Nazi oral surgeon who doesn't like any of your teeth. | The Legend began to stir from his slumber. His once mighty pulse had become a weak, fitful squirt, but it began to bound again, like a kangaroo on a trampoline in a low-gravity environment. Dormant nerves came to life, buzzing with the message, “Please, not this again." Atrophied muscles with the consistency of tapioca- but far less tasty- were rejected for dessert. But that was a good thing, because he was going to need them.
13: The only level part of the course is the parking lot. The hazardous downhills threaten you like a sadistic Nazi plastic surgeon who doesn't like any of your face. The climbs are so steep they require a maximum effort just to keep moving, whether you're pedaling the bike or pushing it. Turns are tight and loose. The narrow trails traverse steep hillsides- to one side, a steep drop downhill; on the other, a steep upward embankment. One lapse in attention and you risk dropping off the side or sideswiping the embankment. The many creek crossings are slick with moss-covered rocks and stocked with piranha that think sweat is a dessert topping. And as if all that weren't enough, the area is wild and remote, and access is poor. At SoNoMas, no one can hear you scream. The Legend had ridden it before, and had a good idea of what he was getting into. But remembering sustained, hard physical effort is never the same as experiencing it in real time.
14: We took Todd along to test ride the SoNoMas course to get some idea of where we stood. By the time we were done, we weren't standing at all, but curled into the fetal position, whipped, wasted, and whimpering. That was before we got the bad news. As he poured over the GPS data, The Legend fought in vain to hold back the river of tears that poured over the GPS data. He checked and rechecked, but there was no denying it- we took a few wrong turns, and the route we took was nearly 7 miles shorter and 1200 feet flatter than the official race course. This came as an unpleasant shock, like biting into a rabbit and learning that not all of them are made of chocolate. It took several visits to his therapist, but The Legend pulled himself together. As sobering as the test ride was, it was the perfect wake-up call. He was the wiser for it. Instead of shrinking from the challenge of SoNoMas, he embraced it. He set for himself a daunting goal: he would finish the race in less than 6 hours. For this to be possible would require a level of effort and preparation exceeding anything he had previously attempted. The Legend got to work- long rides, fast rides, steep rides. He pushed himself, training with purpose, determination, and a sense of urgency. It was about as far from couch time as you can get. On one of our training rides, we crossed paths with the Fat Boys, who appeared to be having allergy issues. From: Greg Srednicki To: Fat Boys Sent: Friday, July 30, 2010 11:23:25 AM Subject: 29er and the Legend ...how ironic it turned out to be as we blast the downhill who comes moseying along but The Legend of all people, and his sidekick Matt (aka 29er). They are both entered in the big race out at Lake Sonoma at the end of the August and are out to do an endurance ride today. The Legend who never starts riding before 9 has been blowing off the Fat Boy ride lately because he knows he can’t get the endurance workout with the Fat Boys that he needs. The Fat Boys ride too slow and take too many breaks. 29er on the other hand is pretty hard core and will push The Legend to his limits which is what he needs. They started at Big Rock, went over Loma Alta and we meet them on their way to Pine Mtn, Shafter, Bolinas Ridge, Mt Tam and somehow they'll get back to Big Rock. Now that’s a ride and it wipes us out just thinking about it. The short 5 minutes that we spend yakking with them is 5 minutes too much for The Legend and he has to push on. We wish them luck and head in the opposite direction. For us it’s a breeze the rest of the morning and we get back to mtn bike HQ by 11:30 and ready for a nap. The Legend and 29er are out there somewhere suffering, we just smile, we're done...
15: The Luiz Fire Road is one of Big Rock Ridge's most punishing ascents. Climbing it without stopping always requires a determined, exhausting effort. With SoNoMas a little over a week away, The Legend climbed it, turned around, and did it again. He had never even attempted that before. Strength was revealed. Limits were redefined. The time had come to see if it would be enough. | The Fat Boys in Cool, CA, circa 2010 | “Shred” was prophetic. On that 42 mile training ride with 6700 feet of climbing, The Legend’s heart hammered away at an average rate of 151 beats per minute for over 6 hours. He was indeed pushed to his limits, and suffered for it. But he absorbed the punishment and came back for more, including the 47 mile, 6800 ft Locust III ride three weeks later.
16: The Legend can hardly believe it- he is standing on the podium at SoNoMas. The mature yet fetching trophy girl reaches her hand toward his face and catches his teeth as they fall out of his mouth, one by one. "If you're trying to get my attention, it's working", she said, smiling warmly. "I'll look after these for you". It's been a long time since anyone has offered to look after any of his body parts, let alone an entire set. The Legend can feel his heart opening like a blossom. Then it nearly jumps out of his chest as the alarm clock rings early on August 29. Dang, just when it was getting good... Thin ribbons of mist hung suspended in the cool air as dawn smiled on Lake Sonoma. The forecast called for moderate temperatures and blues skies- a perfect day for a bike race. | We arrived an hour early to sign in, make preparations, and get warmed up. We chatted with other riders, some of whom we knew, some we didn't. There was the easy camaraderie among strangers who understand something about each other simply by the fact of their presence there. But as start time drew closer, the vibe grew more businesslike as the riders focused themselves for the task at hand. The Legend dropped his usual pretense of being a nice guy and put on his game face. All the weeks of planning and preparation had brought him to this moment. It was time for the big dance, to step into the ring, to put up or shut up, to walk the talk, to run with the thoroughbreds, to deliver the mail, to dance with the horse that brung ya, to eat with the dirigibles, to blow bubbles in the birdbath, to slap the royal Rottweiler, to play jacks under the house, and to demand a flavored Binky. What follows is Greg Srednicki's account of what happened:
17: "We Fat Boys call him The Legend, we call him 'Kneeler', we call him Greg Keeler and we call him many other things behind his back, but we’ve never called him a loser, never said he was a dinosaur, never said that he lacks determination, never said he can’t hang in there when it gets tough, and have always had the utmost respect for his riding ability. He showed us why once again last Sunday as he takes first place in the 60 and over category at SoNoMas. He does his 35 miles with 6700' of climbing in a very respectable 5 hours and 38 minutes. Lake Sonoma is a grueling race, constant sharp loose rock downhills followed by steep loose rock uphills, over and over and over and over till you just want to puke. The race was composed of 127 cyclists, with around 35 of them pros. The Legend is riding with some big names. They get a CHP escort as the group of riders rode up 2 miles of asphalt before reaching the trailhead. By this time The Legend was at the back of the pack and had no idea where or who his competition was. Once he hit the dirt it was a matter of gritting it out and not hurting yourself for a good five hours or so. He wasn’t last as from time to time he would pass riders from other age brackets. He winced and slowed down considerably when he witnessed a couple of good downhill crashes amongst the rocks. There are warning signs alongside the trail. Three black arrows pointed in the down direction meant danger and they are not kidding. The Legend made a mental note. At one point he takes a tumble off the downhill side of a narrow section of sideslope trail. He rolls down the slope for a short distance before managing to stop himself, and then claws his way back up to the trail, dragging his bike behind him. It could’ve been a real mess, but it wasn't, and The Legend knows someone is watching out for him. The arduous 35 mile course had more than half a dozen paramedic staffed first aid stations along the course to take care of any medical problems. There were refreshment/replenishment stations set up along the course as well. One of those cost The Legend some time. Stopping at the GU - Camelback station a young lady squirts the energy gel in The Legend’s mouth as two others remove his backpack and fill it with water for him while he sits and rests. I guess the Camelback folks are unfamiliar with any backpacks but their own as they screw up the top of The Legends water bladder. He loses about 4 minutes as they have to jury rig it closed. It leaks the rest of the race. With 10 miles or so to go he spotted someone who might be a challenger in his age bracket. They both noticed each other at a refreshment station and the race was on. The challenger had been ahead of The Legend since the beginning of the race and when he spotted The Legend he took his last bite of watermelon and was gone in a flash. The Legend shoved some food down quickly and was hot on his tail, maybe a quarter mile behind. He stayed behind him for a while and slowly but surely got within sight of him. The challenger was weakening, walking the tops of the same hills that The Legend was riding. The Legend knew he had him. It wasn’t long until The Legend passed him and pulled away with 5 miles to go, never looking back and in the end beating his challenger by 4 minutes. The Legend’s forsaking of the Fat Boys rides and entering into a hard training regimen for the last few months with his buddy Matt (29er) really paid off as they both rode a good race, Matt also doing well in the 50 and over grouping. Congratulations Greg on another first place finish especially a first at SoNoMas, you’ve got the medal and the T-shirt to prove it. It’s an honor to ride with you."
18: 1st Place Overall Levi Leipheimer 2 hours, 57 minutes | Some other career highlights of Levi Leipheimer: Tour de France, 2 stage wins Tour de France, 4-time top-10 finisher Vuelta a España, 2 stage wins Olympic bronze medalist (2008) Winner, Tour of California (2007, 2008, 2009) Winner, Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré (2006) Winner, Deutschland Tour (2005) Winner in record time, Leadville 100 (2010) National Road Race Champion (2007) National Time Trial Champion (1999)
19: 1st Place, 60+ Division Greg Keeler 5 hours, 38 minutes | Some other career highlights of Greg Keeler: (various years and divisions) Howell Mountain Challenge: 1st Napa Valley Dirt Classic: 2nd, 3rd Central Coast Cross Country: 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th Granite Bay Challenge: 2nd, 2nd MTB Challenge Series Granite Bay, 2nd Sea Otter Classic:, 5th, 8th Howell Mtn Classic: 1st Lake Sonoma Series: 2nd, 3rd, 3rd
20: "The Lord satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle" Ps 103:5
21: From: FITS, LLC Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2010 5:50 PM To: Denise Keeler Subject: The Man of Steel Hey Denise, You should've seen KeelOver after the race. He was giddier than Kirsty Alley at an all-you-can-eat buffet and perkier than an over-caffienated Rachael Ray. I, on the other hand...well, this picture says it all:
22: "Your boundary lines mark out pleasant places for me. Indeed, my inheritance is something beautiful." Ps 16:6
23: AFTERWARD - Part 1 As it is for all who walk the earth, the future of The Legend is uncertain. But this much is certain: of his many conquests, SoNoMas 2010 is among his greatest. It didn't come easy, and it didn't come cheap, but he paid the price and won the prize. I am proud of what he accomplished and to have been a part of it. Although I took some minor liberties to create a pulse-quickening dramatic narrative that careens down the track like an out-of-control subway train with a talking GI Joe doll at the helm, the facts of this story are true. The emails, though edited, were retrieved from archives. The interpretation of events, however, is mine. Greg might take issue with all that stuff about him turning into a putz. Hey, write your own book. You don’t have to race to have a rewarding and memorable experience. All you need is a good ride with a good wingman. To wit, the photo at left. Greg took this shot (that’s his massive, steel-cable quad in the bottom right corner) of me reclining at the summit of Marlette Peak in 2008. At 11,000 feet, it commands a view of Marlette Lake, 1500 feet below, and 1500 feet below that, Lake Tahoe. We worked hard to get there and harder to get back, but it wasn’t about winning anything. It was about being there, on top of the world, in such a beautiful, desolate, remote place, with a good friend. It’s my hope that some day we return to Marlette Peak and give thanks to God for the moment and so many others like it. In the meantime, let's go visit the bully and get pummeled. Matt Muldoon, November, 2010
24: Part 2: Domestiques It is said that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind The Legend are five of them, spanning three generations. This no doubt accounts for his fivefold greatness. In road racing, a team consists of a leader and several "domestiques", from the French word for "servant". A domestique works for the benefit of the team and leader. They are the soldiers who expend themselves and do everything possible to put the team leader in a winning position. In the case of Team Keeler, the domestiques have performed several critical functions, including but not limited to: 1) tolerating all this foolishness in the first place, 2) encouraging him when he grows weary or disheartened, 3) refraining from beating him so severely he can't ride, 4) praying for him during events, and 5) reminding him to shower after a workout. Being a domestique is a thankless job, laboring in obscurity while someone else gets all the glory. Accordingly, I thought that the women of Team Keeler might appreciate the opportunity to blow off some steam. So I asked them to write a few words about what they really think of The Legend.
25: I am responsible for the presence of "The Legend" in our lives. Yep, I'm his Mom. So you can either give me hugs or throw eggs at me...I like mine over easy. Today, I celebrate him as The Legend....as exuberantly as I did the day of his birth.....in noticing his tenacity, determination, and infectious smile......traits that have groomed him for his love affair with his precious velocipede. It started out as sheer enjoyment, then advanced into a passion for competition. | The SoNoMas race was the epitome of challenges. Forget placing....just endure in an upright position was his goal. But guess what?? Those furry, little but mighty legs, brought him into a 1st place win, and whatta victory at the tender age of 60. | Greg entered every race well prayed for....by me, and his dear family. My prayer was always the same....."Dear God, if You'll just pick up those cute legs. he'll put them down. Please keep him upright on his bike, and keep his legs from cramping." God hears and answers prayers. CONGRATULATIONS my dear son and eternal Legend. Mom P.S. And Greg, don't forget the pickle juice.
26: What began as a means of transportation during a camping trip one summer several years back, grew and evolved into a passion, a hobby, a challenge to go faster, climb higher, and endure longer. With broken bones, dislocated joints, and much blood loss, this hobby has taken on a life of its own, taking Greg with it. I have watched him push himself to the limit and beyond, often suffering for days after, but still climbing back on to conquer another mountain, or race another biker up the hill. He is a competitive man with a strong spirit and will, though occasionally lacking in confidence, which led me to enter him into the first 60+ category at SoNoMas. He was quite hesitant at first but when I told him I had paid the registration already, he had no choice but to reluctantly agree. You met the challenge with tenacity, courage, and patience as every day you would train, physically, mentally, emotionally. I observed as you daily prepared and educated yourself in the dietary needs required for the grueling ride and strengthened your muscles, focused your mind, and ride, ride, ride. | Greg, I so seldom tell you or convey to you how very proud of you I am, for the many successes and triumphs over adversity you have realized, but especially for facing this fierce and unrelenting race that would take you to the very edge of everything you possessed. I respect you for the unwavering commitment with which you faced your demons, obstacles, fears, and doubts. In short, what I initially resented, I have come to appreciate and admire and I love you with all my heart. Denise
27: As I reflect back on my father’s life and accomplishments, I would say he has had many. He successfully raised an amazing family, held the same job for years and gained respect for it, and in his mid-forties, picked up a new hobby: mountain biking. No one saw where it would go or where it was about to take him, but it definitely started a new chapter in his life. Many kids say their dad is their hero, but mine really is. I don’t know anyone who can do what he does. He really is quite amazing, a savage animal on the mountain. I have personally gone riding with him and trying to keep up with him is virtually impossible; he kicks my butt every timeI don’t know how he does it! I truly respect his talent and the hard work he has put into getting as far as he is in his riding career. When my dad talks about riding, or his races, or building a pump track with his friends, he lights up. It is truly his passion and I love seeing him care about something so much. Since retiring, it has really given him a purpose and it has been wonderful to see him become so dedicated to the sport, and to grow and succeed in it. The Sonomas Race is a huge part of his journey. The grueling 35 mile single track is something that would intimidate many people, including my father. It is the one event the past two years that has brought more excitement and trepidation than any other race. It is the biggest of all events for him and all races pale in comparison. I remember talking to him after first riding the track this year, and he didn’t finish it. I told him as I do all the time, “You got this.” His thoughts were not exactly the same. If any track could defeat him, he knew it would be this one. But he trained and worked hard beforehand, just as he did for every other race. All the practice on insanely small single tracks, the falls, the scars, the hours spent prepping his bike all led up to this race. I know he gave it all he had. He handled it like a champ and it took a toll on him, but at 60 years old, he finished the race. And not only did he finish but he placed FIRST in his class. When he came home with that medal, he was beaming like a Heisman winner. And his family could not have been more proud. It was a very special moment and seeing him that happy was priceless. For him to win that race, to be racing with the likes of Levi, was a pretty proud moment for him, and I hope he never forgets that feeling. I don’t know if he knows how much I respect him for it, but I cannot ever imagine participating in a race like that, let alone winning it. As I write this, it brings a smile to my face, thinking that this person I’m describing is my dad. He is one of a kind, and his success at this tortuous race is just one of the many reasons I respect and love him. I can only hope I have half as much courage as he does to follow my own dreams. - Shannon
28: Dear Pops, I love you and admire you for your hard work, determination, and perseverance. I watched as you trained day after day, rain or shine with nothing stopping you; no falls you might have taken or your back or painful injuries. You pushed through the pain and exhaustion. It seemed to only fuel your fire. Although you may be a bit crazy, I would just call you incredible. You have taught me that hard work pays off and you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it. I hope that you realize how amazing your accomplishments are. I love you Dad and I am so proud of you! Love, Danielle
29: Mountain bike, mountain biker: you could think “Gary Fisher”, “Specialized”, or Cannondale or even Ned Overend or some other world renowned mountain biker. But not me. I think “Greg Keeler, my dad.” What started out as a sporadic hobby turned into a gifted ability and intense passion. Passion, talent, and sheer craziness are the only things that can describe my dad’s relationship with mountain biking and it is truly inspiring. There is nothing that will stop my dad from getting on a mountain bike. Not time, money, weather, or injury. More people need a passion like my dad has. Not only is he passionate about it, but he is great at it. He has competed in many different races and conquered courses that make me tired and dehydrated just hearing about them. Not only has he completed all these races, but he has excelled in them, often bringing back First Place medals. I could go on and on writing about how much my dad has accomplished, but it wouldn’t even begin to express how proud of him I am and how much he inspires me. It makes me so incredibly happy every time he goes on a ride or works on his bike, or when he wants to show me the data from his Garmin. We always give him a hard time about the amount of time he spends biking, but if only he knew how much joy it brings to my life to see him doing what he loves. Even if he doesn't bring medals back from his races, he will always be our champion and forever, my only hero. Lindsay