Scores of elite athletes and industry insiders come to the aid of Boulder's Walton family.
By Susan Eastman Walton
Elite athletes are often described as heroic for accomplishing great feats, winning big races or overcoming major obstacles. I’ve discovered that some athletes in Boulder are real heroes by the true definition of the word – heroic because of the depth of their character and generosity, not for their physical efforts.
On September 12, after two days of epic rain of “Biblical proportions,” a new creek branched off from what used to be a dinky stream in the field behind our house in North Boulder. If you’ve ever biked or run on the Foothills Trail where it crosses Lee Hill Road, you know where I’m talking about. At first it was kind of fun; I joked on Facebook that I now had waterfront property as the water flowed passed my house. But when the flow started backing up and forming a lake in our yard, it wasn’t so amusing. And when it began lapping at our basement window wells, we knew we were in trouble.
My husband Hugh, a former pro cyclist working for Descente Cycling, our kids and a neighbor who was joining us for dinner, headed to the basement to start moving my business’s inventory up to the first floor. My company’s offices, RecoFit Compression Gear, were down there and we’d just received from the factory $15,000 worth of new calf, full-leg and shin-splint therapy compression sleeves.
The reality of what we were facing hadn’t quite registered, until -- as we unplugged the office computers -- one of the window wells filled up with water and the pressure exploded the glass in. A waterfall roared into the room.
I ran upstairs to my other computer and pounded out a distress call, that if anyone could reach us, please hurry. A second window burst, sending glass flying. Water surged around our knees as we carried boxes of RecoFit up the stairs. Two strange men arrived, offered their help and jumped into the human brigade. My assistant Adelaide Perr and her pro cyclist boyfriend Kennett Peterson appeared, as did Fleet Feet Sports manager Laurie Mizener and her fiance Jim Heuck.
Everyone moved quickly and purposefully, taking art off the walls and rescuing the TV and X-Box. Water was pouring in too fast to save much else. We all retreated, worrying about electrocution, as the water and mud reached the basement’s ceiling and inched up the stairs until it was just three steps from the first floor. When it seemed that it had stopped, people began to leave. As I thanked the two guys who had arrived at the beginning, I finally asked them their names. One said, “Wes.” I said, “I know of a Web Hobson, a triathlete.” He answered, “That’s me.” He happened to be in the neighborhood when he saw our disaster unfolding and jumped in to help. Hero!
Over the next couple of days, the terrible scale of what had happened across the Front Range was unfolding. But somehow our house became the epicenter of an incredible outpouring of help. Here I was used to supporting athletes with my compression products, and now they were supporting me.
Olympic runner and XTerra champion Roberto Mandje and US Pro Challenge King of the Mountains winner Matt Cooke (who happen to be RecoFit fans) slung mud, furniture, carpet and drywall out of the basement all day Saturday and Sunday. I caught myself thinking at one point, “This can’t be good for their training regimens.” Again, heroes!
Erin Carson, the manager of RallySport Health and Fitness and a member of the MarkAllenOnline elite triathlon team, brought a sump pump from the club. Anne Lannan of the Boulder Orthopedics cycling team was heard cursing in true Massachusetts Irish Catholic fashion, as she transported an especially heavy bucket of mud, grunting, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Aussie Cyclocross racer and photographer Michael Robson chucked junk and f-bombs with equal aplomb. Jessie Nie of the Nie Brothers Cycles shop schlepped dripping drywall from the basement to the yard. Patty Nilsen and her Ten 20 cycling teammate didn’t seem to mind the mud under their fingernails. A group of rock climbers called the Mudslingers, led by Ashley Clark and Larkin Carey, put their upper body strength to good use as they mightily shoveled out the basement’s contents.
At one point on Sunday, there were easily 60 people at the house, shoveling and working in the bucket brigade. Each bucket of the heavy, dense silt weighed around 30 lbs. and was handed from one person to the next to be dumped in the field. Probably 1000 buckets were hefted; that translates to the volunteers moving 15 tons by hand.
Competition is never far from any athlete’s mind, no matter what the challenge, and at one point someone thought it would be a good idea to have a six-pack comparison. I wish I had photos to document the fit, mud-caked abs being bared and compared as the rain continued to fall.
A large contingent of yogis from my daughter Aislinn’s extensive community flowed in and out throughout three days, including CorePower’s Alec Vishal Rouben and Joey Burton. People bearing platters of sub sandwiches, lasagna, drinks and cookies kept walking into the kitchen, saying, “You don’t know me but I want to help and I thought your volunteers might be hungry.” Church groups arrived, as did experienced disaster relief workers such as Roger Wolsey, Isaac Savitz and Alicia Fall, bringing shovels, construction lights, rubber gloves, face masks, extension cords and their network of volunteers, who’d worked relief efforts in Haiti and Costa Rica. Even a Good Morning America film crew appeared to do an interview because they’d heard of all the volunteers at our particular address.
These people stripped our finished basement down to the studs and cement. It’s tough to lose part of your home, but it’s also tough to have a pity party about it when so many people are standing in front of you, shoring you up and saying, “We can help!” That’s what these heroes did for us. They gave us support and inspiration to keep moving forward.
You can’t tell a hero by his or her team kit – but rest assured that we’ve got them by the score here in Boulder.
Susan Eastman Walton is the owner of RecoFit Compression Gear, and a former editor at VeloNews and Inside Triathlon magazines.