Bernice Will Be Backby Joe Ward
As many in the club who know Bernice Martin have suspected by now, she wuz robbed in Switzerland.
First there was the weather. “When we got there,” she said, “it was 90 degrees out.” Come race morning, the temperature had dropped to 50 degrees, and by the time Bernice and her daughter, Cheryl McGinnis, got to the bikes, it was 36 degrees and there was a torrential downpour.
Then there was the language barrier. Bernice soldiered on through the rain, and was well ahead of everybody in her age group, coming down a hill to finish the third of five five-mile laps, when she realized her hands wouldn’t work the brakes. There were tight turns and steep downhills on the course, and the road was flooded with rain. She figured she’d need her brakes.
There was an ambulance parked along the course, and she asked if she could get in just long enough to get some feeling back in her hands, and then go on. The helpers nodded understandingly. She didn’t realize until later that they didn’t speak English, and what they understood was not what she meant. Inside, it was Hypothermia City. Four gray, shivering women looked at her out of hollow eyes. She was just starting to rub her hands when the ambulance drove off to get some of those women to help, quickly, she surmised. They wouldn’t let Bernice out. So it was the end of the race for her, and it was a pity. “She was so far out in front of everybody,” Cheryl said. “She would have been the only American to bring home a gold medal.” Bernice now gives the helpers the benefit of the doubt, conceding she might not have been able to finish anyway. “Wait until next year,” she said.
As anybody who reads local fitness magazines or LEO knows by now, Cheryl did finish, fourth in her group, behind a Swiss, a New Zealander, and another American, though she also suffered from the cold, and was given pause by a twisting, plummeting bike course. She described the experience for Kentuckiana HealthFitness, and there was at least one passage we can all identify with. As she struggled around the frigid course, she found herself hesitating on the turns because that’s one aspect of her technique that needs honing. “Bikers flew by me, fearless and fast,” she said.
Cheryl is 49 and Bernice is 69. They’ve been running together for 25 years, and they qualified for the Duathlon World Championships by finishing in the top ten in their age groups in trials held in Georgia in June. Bernice said Cheryl is a triathlete, very strong in running and swimming, but relatively new to serious cycling. And Cheryl said being sound in two of the three might get you by in Kentucky, but when you’re at the World Championships, you don’t want to be weak in any area.
“She’ll get better,” Bernice said.
She’s already working on it. On Oct. 4, she was in Shreveport, La., qualifying for the USA’s triathlon team, to compete in Portugal next May. And both Bernice and Cheryl plan to take another shot at the duathon championships, which are in Denmark next year.
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web posted: 4 November 2003
last updated: 6 November 2003