Victor Conaway, 75, Escondido, California
Victor Conaway is a retired mechanic and continuing education teacher who once owned his own motorcycle shop. Known among endurance racers, his favorite challenge was the grueling Baja 500 desert run in Mexico. He admits to not always taking the best care of himself, but when he needed heart surgery a dozen years ago he took his doctor’s advice and began daily exercise on a mountain bike, and later gravitated to street riding.
His competitive nature took hold and he began racing again, this time under his own power. Victor has taken great pride in making the cut to cycle in each National Senior Games since 2009. Last year, the 75 year old says he “dug deep” and gutted through stiff competition in the Pasadena Senior Games. He set his sights on traveling to Minnesota for the 2015 National Senior Games Presented by Humana. Then, a stroke of fate-literally-threatened to ruin his plans. The week after his qualifying runs, Victor suffered a debilitating stroke that nearly ended his life.
Once it became clear he would survive, Victor, while still in the hospital, quickly set a lofty goal well beyond what his doctors and therapists first presented to him. He wasn’t just going to recover, he was going to work his way back and make that trip to Minnesota.
The ongoing physical and occupational therapy has been intense. Victor admits fearing he would not be able to balance and ride a bike again, let alone race. However, his determination, humor and enthusiasm quickly earned the admiration and encouragement of each of his doctors, therapists, nurses and support staff. Friends and family joined in the effort. His wife Trudi collectively calls his support network “Team Conaway.”
On Tuesday, January 13th, barely six months after the stroke, Victor mounted his bicycle and rode down the driveway of his home and pedaled 60 yards under the watchful guidance of his riding partner and a friend. Despite the challenges and setbacks that come with rehabilitation, including a diabetic condition that resulted from the stroke, “Team Conaway” believes Victor is on track to don his racing suit in July. “I’ve got to be there,” he says. “My goal for the Nationals this year is to simply get a start and a finish of the 5K. It may not be my best time but it will definitely be my best ride.”
Another recent honor has humbled Victor. California Senior Games has invited him to be a co-flag bearer for the Celebration of Athletes Sponsored by AstraZeneca Diabetes on July 10 at CHS Stadium in Saint Paul.
“I never expected to have this kind of response,” Victor emotionally told us. “I’m just trying to be a good soldier- and there’s no softies at any age I’ve seen in these games. If I inspire people to overcome, even to raise the spirit of one person, well that would be great.”