In my dark place. That’s what he called it. That pain cave when you were deep into anaerobic burn. Alex was a master at this. Managing the dark place.
Alex had a thing with Mary’s peak. It was in his back yard and the perfect place to push yourself beyond your own limits. I rode Mary’s with Alex a couple of times. Or I should say started at the base with Alex. I couldn’t believe it when we finished at the bottom. I totally spent, longing for home, food, rest, and Alex turning around for another climb of the peak. Alex was so amazingly, and beautifully driven. He knew how to push into that dark place.
I met Alex in 2004. Jim Fischer had pulled Alex onto our bike racing team. He was in a transition from graduating College to what was coming next, and decided to give cycling a serious try. Back then he rode a single speed everywhere. I used to tease him to get some gears on that bike. I think it was the only way I could keep up with him. The thing that struck me most about Alex, was how he talked to you. He had this way of making you not just feel, but know you and that conversation was the most important thing in the world at that very moment. He made such a strong connection with people. He was so interested, and cared so much.
Like most athletic endeavors Alex pursued he adapted and excelled immediately. In 2005 he went from Cat 4 to Cat 2. Alex left our tiny little team and joined one of the biggest teams in the North West. We all knew great things were coming.
Alex had become a fantastic climber. One of the best climbers Oregon had ever seen. Alex had his eyes on a state hill climbing championship, but when Jim Fischer decided to promote the Mary’s Peak Hill Climb in 2006 it immediately became a huge target for Alex. His home mountain. His special training ground. His dark place.
I had the amazing luck that day to ride in a follow Car with Buzz to watch & video Alex dance his way to the top of the peak. Doug Ollerenshaw was there. Another local great. An OSU grad and cycling collegiate champion. In 2006 Doug was riding on a professional team. He was the guy to beat. Jim Fischer arranged for Doug to be Alex’s 30 second man. The rabbit up the road tempting Alex all along the way.
What a gift to be an observer when Alex caught Doug. Then to witness that moment where Doug just couldn’t hang on anymore. The elastic snapped. Alex free to fly. Then to be able to shout encouragement out the window. Both Buzz and I. And to see Alex respond with even greater ferocity. Mastering the dark place.
Like everyone else, I was so proud of Alex that day. Doug Ollerenshaw was awesome in his graciousness up at the top.
Alex would go on to win multiple state hill climb championships. As far as we know, consulting all the OBRA historians & data, his time on Mary’s Peak from that day in 2006 is still the official record at 37 min, 31 seconds.
I hadn’t stayed closely in touch with Alex the past few years. I saw him occasionally. Read his blog now and then. I am sad for the missed opportunities to be around him. I am heartbroken that I won’t get to live vicariously through his certain ultra-marathon accomplishments to come. And most of all, I am terribly sorry for Buzz, Pat, Adam, McHale, and the huge void left behind.
Like all of you Alex has been wandering through my mind these past several days. Pushing his way in with a pang of deep sadness, but also with appreciation and joy for the amazing individual he was. Alex is reminding me how to live and appreciate what I have. He is reminding me to remember him for the great example he set, and how he so positively influenced and touched so many people; reminding me to make NOW the most important time.
John Wilson, August, 3 2014,