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At 67, This Is How You Handle A Crisis And Get Back At It

January 13, 2024 4 min read 6 Comments

At 67, This Is How You Handle A Crisis And Get Back At It

Rick Allen at the high jump pit last Sunday at the University of Minnesota. It was his first meet in 11 months and he wasn't discouraged. He was elated.

 

By Ray Glier

Rick Allen, 67, had a stroke at 11,000 feet last March 27. He was in a ski lift chair riding up a mountain in Taos, New Mexico, when he turned to his wife, Mary, and couldn’t speak. The episode lasted three minutes, Allen said.

Mary didn’t frantically dial 9-1-1 and a helicopter didn’t swoop in for a rescue. Sherpas did not arrive and ease him down the slope in a chain of sleds.

Rick and Mary skied to the bottom of the slope. Then they went off to the ER.

So it is not surprising that last Sunday Allen competed in an All-Comers track & field meet at the University of Minnesota less than two months after heart surgery to repair the whole in his heart that led to the stroke. The meet was also less than a month after surgery to repair the ulnar ligament in his right arm.

This is how many Geezer Jocks handle a crisis. They show some poise. They get on with it. And they are usually glad they did get on with it, whatever it is.

“I wasn’t ready to give it up, said Rick, who lives in Richfield, Minnesota. “My wife and I are very, very active people. I may be the only guy you know that, at 67 years old, got rollerblades for Christmas.

“We bike, we hike. In the winter here, we do cross-country skiing. We snowshoe and we downhill ski. Health is our thing and being active is our thing as well.”

Then Rick said, “I shut down a lot of stuff to make sure I was ok after the stroke. Yeah, it was kind of tough to not be able to do stuff.”

Last Sunday made it 11 months since he last competed in a track meet. Allen exercised plenty while he sat out the 2023 outdoor track season, but he wasn’t reckless. He remained vigilant on finding the causes of the stroke. Docs worked him over pretty good, then he had to wait for a surgery date, which was two days before Thanksgiving.

“I was happy with the way my body held up after 11 months out of competition and I was ok with my results considering zero practice,” Rick said by email after the meet. “Today was definitely the start of my comeback and I am grateful that it went well. (I'm also grateful for ice and Tylenol!).”

Allen went 1.35 meters in the High Jump, six inches less than his jump last January (1.50). For context, Rick was ranked No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world (M65-67) in the High Jump in 2022.

He also did the Long Jump last Sunday and that was disappointing, Rick said. He had two fouls and one legal jump of 3.87 meters.

Allen said he has some work to do before the USATF Masters Indoor Championships in Chicago (March 21-24) and that is the point. It is work he still relishes after 17 years of Masters competition.

The stroke did not strip his zeal for sports, but his commitment to Mary almost made him quit.

“We were on one our driving trips and I decided I was going to present my wife with all the reasons I should keep going and all the reasons I should quit, that it was too much about me and the impositions on her,” Rick said. “I didn’t get to finish my list of reasons to quit and she said, ‘You need to do this’.”

And that was that.

What is helpful here to Geezer Jocks is how Rick trained with the limited time he had before last Sunday’s meet.

He had a plan, which was “to go slow and make sure your body can keep up with your desire.”

For the most part, he followed his advice with some beginner yoga videos to improve flexibility, stationary bike work, foam rolling, and a lot of stretching.

One day, however, Rick over-did it and that is another lesson from his story. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get it all back quickly. Rick got in a hurry and paid for it, he said, after a “heavy leg day” the day after Christmas.

“I needed a few days of stretching, ice, and Ibuprofen to recover from that one,” he said.

Allen has a few more muscles to manage at 67. He does not have the angular features of a customary High Jumper, which a church group friend gleefully pointed out. So Rick decided he needed more heft for the throws in the pentathlon, and he added some bulk.

It paid off.

In 2018, in the indoor pentathlon for M60-64, Allen was No. 2 in the U.S.

In 2019, he was No. 3.

In 2022, after Covid had worked over the sport, Rick was No. 3 nationally in the pentathlon M65-69 cohort.

That “three-minute thing” he calls the stroke was not enough to make him retire from Masters track & field and competing for the excitement, fun, and medals.

“I’m still too young to give it all up, there is too much to do,” Rick said. “I do love the sport, the activity, and the people.”

The name is irreverent, the stories are not. Please support Geezer Jock and the sportswriter who brings you the best storytelling on the internet about older athletes, which is all of us who move. 


6 Responses

Dave McNair
Dave McNair

February 16, 2024

I had the pleasure of meeting Rick at a meet in Arizona in 2021. Since that competition we have been good friends. It was scary when he told me about his “three-minute thing” but I knew he would be back. It was fantastic to see him competing again at the University of Minnesota all comers meet. Welcome back Rick and see you in Chicago!

Demetri Bryant
Demetri Bryant

January 21, 2024

GREAT story. We are both the same age, wish I could find a dude with his life-exuberance to train with.

Andrea Collier
Andrea Collier

January 14, 2024

Great example of being able to come back to compete after a lay off from the sport. Very Inspiring Story! Thank you for sharing.

Steve Klopp
Steve Klopp

January 14, 2024

Rick is an inspiration to us “couch potatoes “
The first step is the hardest, his commitment to his health and staying active is one to emulate. Congratulations Rick!

Florence Meiler
Florence Meiler

January 14, 2024

Really, enjoyed this story. Never Too Late is my motto.

Neil Moore
Neil Moore

January 14, 2024

At times, I have let a little back pain or muscle soreness get in the way of my training. This story puts that into perspective.

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