Preparing for the senior games: one athlete’s trials and tribulations

When I decided to write an article about the Western Colorado Senior Games, my editor thought it was a great idea. A senior moment had made me forget that I abandoned my athleticism somewhere back in 1968. She sent me the entry form, and I made up my mind to try at least five of the activities. The things I do for a story!

Killer cribbage

My first foray involved the Grand Junction Senior Center, a cribbage board and a well-used deck of cards. I used to be pretty good at the game. I remembered I had to make card combinations of 15, and that there was some strange thing called knobs that involved jacks. Nevertheless, I figured I couldn’t embarrass myself too badly.

I sat down with Joe Hoey, president of the senior center, and Jerry “Killer” Churchmann, the resident expert. He slaughtered me. Twice. There’s only so much humiliation a woman can take.

Strenuous swimming

After my incredible defeat, I thought maybe swimming would wash the disgrace away.

I headed for the gym, donned my suit and strode to the pool deck, humming “Chariots of Fire.” Stepping confidently into the water, I struck out for the far end of the far-from-

Olympic-sized pool. I made it… barely. Clinging to the side, I tried to breathe normally. Five minutes later I headed back. And forth. And back. And forth. Eighteen laps later, I had set a record in sheer determination if not speed.

Competition swimming obviously wasn’t my cuppa. I slunk to the steam room, where eucalyptus-scented vapors revived me enough to shower and move on to the next great adventure.

Trying track and field

Stocker Stadium’s track was fairly empty as I tied my Merrells, hitched up my shorts and headed out in the inside lane. I was stepping right along—even breaking into a jog at times—thinking that with a little practice, the 100-yard dash might be my event.

Then a young woman pushing a stroller, tan and lithe in her running shorts and tank top that had “serious” written all over it, came up behind me. Her 3-year-old waved happily as they hurtled past. That would have been okay if he’d actually been in the stroller, but he was running beside Mom. Another dream bit the dust.

Punishing pickleball

I went back to the registration form, looking for something I could do without embarrassing or maiming myself—or anyone else.

Bocce ball? Can’t pronounce it, probably can’t play it. Golf? Only when I get too old for sex or fly fishing. Basketball? Being five foot and a whisper, I’d need a ladder to get anywhere near the rim. Bowling? My all-time high score of 23 leads me to believe that only disgrace can come from a visit to the local bowling alley, unless beer is included in the entry fee. Horseshoes? With my luck they’ll still be attached to the horse.

Pickleball sounded intriguing, so off I went to Lincoln Park, where I meet George Gerson, who’s been playing the sport for eight years and is one of the movers and shakers in the Western Slope Pickleball Club.

“It’s the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.,” he explained to me and several other novices as he handed out paddles that looked like oversized Ping-Pong paddles and Whiffle-type spheres about the size of tennis balls. Then he launched into a detailed talk about rules and terminology. Kitchens? Serves? I needed lunch!

Three others and I started hitting the ball back and forth. Well, they hit it. I missed it entirely, smacked it into the net or lobbed it over the fence. Fortunately, a passing golfer used a sand wedge to lob it back. Eventually, I found my stride—or serve—and at the end of the hour, I was actually enjoying myself.

Ballroom dancing I’m good at. Good enough to win? Maybe not. Good enough to strut my stuff? Definitely. Now all I need is a partner over 50, and I bet I can find one.

Let the games begin!

Get ready for the Western Colorado Senior Games on August 21-27
Call the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation office at 254-3866 to register. Contact the Western Slope Pickleball Club at Club membership is $35 per year and includes discounts on equipment. The Grand Junction Senior Recreation Center is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Call 243-7408 or email for schedules and special events.

Jan Weeks

Jan Weeks

Jan Weeks has been writing and dreaming since childhood. She’s worked as a public school teacher, heavy equipment operator, surgical ward secretary, waitress, administrative assistant and fly fishing guide. Her articles, short stories and essays have appeared in “Outdoor Life,” “Guideposts,” “Natural Health” and other markets. Her award-winning novels and short stories include “Season of Evil, Season of Dreams;” “The Centerville Code” and “Anna, Old.”
When she isn’t writing, she teaches writing workshops and edits both fiction and nonfiction manuscripts. She facilitates the Colorado West Writers’ Workshop and belongs to the Authors’ Guild. Visit her website for more information and links to her books and classes.
Jan Weeks

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