Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Finishing what you start

This black-and-white photo was taken in 2000, when Mike Rogers was 50. He had just completed the last of six annual Catalina Classic Paddleboard Marathons, and had raised almost a million dollars for cancer patients.

He took time off to care for his ailing father, and he gradually got out of shape. Two and a half years ago, he began training again.

"I'm back to my fighting weight."

Four months ago, however, he tore his right bicep, paddling around the R10 buoy near Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County. He adds: "I have really bad tendonitis in both arms. I ice them every night. It's an overuse injury."

In the photo on the right, he makes his way under the Manhattan Beach Pier and, in the photo below, he comes in aching.

Luckily, he has a loving back-up team: his Australian shepherds, Makena and the red Angel, below.

Sunday, he will return to the Classic for the Ocean of Hope, a series of ocean races that benefit the Sarcoma Alliance. At 62, he will be the oldest O2H team member.

"Even if I blow out my bicep and have to have surgery Monday, I have to complete this. I'm an old linebacker at heart," he says. "I have a real fear of failure this year. People say, 'What's the worst that can happen? You have to give up?' To me, that is the worst that can happen. I do not want to fail.

"I've been surfing my whole life," says Rogers, who was a linebacker in high school and college. He started paddleboarding in 1993. "In my 40s and 50s, I was a really strong paddler.

"One of the problems of the Catalina Classic is that it's so long and so hard. The quicker it gets done, the easier. The last 10 miles are pure hell." If you don't paddle hard enough, the current can pull the board backward. "I have dreams of paddling backward."

Supporting the Sarcoma Alliance, Rogers has discovered this rare cancer is not all that rare, at least not to O2H members, some of whom have lost friends and relatives. "Every story reinforces our cause; that it is greatly needed … and that we are truly making a difference.

"I love being in motion, and I love helping people," he says, explaining his motivation. Just as I post this, I get an email from him, with these words: "Five days to go for the old horse ... Manhattan never looks so good. It's about life, long or short … the wake we leave is all it boils down to. So, I paddle and try to help the ones less fortunate, one paddle at a time ... I hope my wake is remembered as a good one ... in the end …."

To keep him going, donate here.
-- Suzie Siegel

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