Saturday, September 13, 2008

In Memory

My Grandfather, E. Kalin Hill, passed away in the early hours of Friday September 5, 2008. He was a veteran of World War II and was 84 years old. He is one of my greatest heros for many reasons, and he was someone that our family will miss greatly. He is survived by my grandmother, and they were married for over 62 years.

Pappy was born the 8th of 19 children in the Hill family. He was drafted for service in WWII, and while in Europe he trained with and was accepted into the First Special Service Force - one of the most dangerous and capable group of soldiers that fought in WWII. They were the precursors of the Green Berets and have been memorialized in books and movies.

Pappy, as he was known to us, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this Spring and he knew that it would kill him. He was incredibly brave, and he told us that he was ready to go and had no regrets. He was able to move through the end of his life on his own terms at home. Last week I had a feeling that I had to get home soon, and on Wednesday I made a reservation to fly home on Thursday. I arrived at Grandma and Pappy's home at around 1am on Friday morning. Pappy had seemingly waited for me, though he hadn't talked with anyone since Tuesday, my mother and Grandma had told him that I was coming home to see him.

As I sat in the jet in early July I talked with Pappy, as I wasn't sure that I was going to get a chance to see him again. He told me not to worry about him, that he would be around when I got home. We had gone home to visit him at the end of May and I really didn't think that I would see him again. Fortunately he kept his word, and about 30-minutes after I arrived last week Pappy passed away. I only hope that Pappy didn't suffer waiting for me to arrive. My sisters and I all spoke at his funeral, and I was barely able to make it through my comments. Below are the words that I spoke to remember him:

My Grandfather - Emil Kalin Hill, or Pappy as he was affectionately known to us, was a hero of our country and a hero to our family. He came from a very big family – one of 19 Hill children. With a family that big, you’d have to do something pretty special to stand out and it’s evident that he did based on the loss that his brothers and sisters are enduring now and the amount of love that they had for him. He was a great man, and it is how he handled himself over his lifetime that made him so. Much of what made me and others around him love and respect Pappy so much came not from the stories that I’m going to talk about now, but because of the way he carried himself and how he led by example throughout the community. Much of what you’re going to hear was recounted to our family only a few months ago when Pappy found out he had cancer. He told us that he was ready to go and be with the Lord and that he had fought enough in his life. He was comfortable with everything that had happened in his life and had no regrets.
Some said that he was a lucky man, and I don’t think that I would disagree. I would also add, though, that Pappy would have agreed with the statement that the harder you work, the luckier you get – and Pappy did work hard. He was lucky enough to have married my Grandma over 62 years ago and he worked hard to support my mom and Grandma throughout his life as a husband and father. As a young man, his name came up in the draft for WWII and he served his country with pride. He was never one to shirk responsibility, and he served his country like many others of his generation – the Greatest Generation.
As a soldier, he didn’t stick with the standard stuff, though, and he volunteered for one of the most intense and dangerous military units that the world had ever seen. The First Special Service Force was a joint US and Canadian force that fought throughout the European theater, and its members were known to be rough, tough, proficient, fiercely loyal and dedicated soldiers. They were some of the first covert special operations troops in modern history and they have been portrayed in books and movies and were the forerunners of the Green Berets. This group had special weapons made for them, including the V42 fighting knife, which Pappy kept proudly as a reminder of his service.
Pappy never talked much about the war for a very long time…as war is not something that one wants to remember much – especially from the kinds of fighting that he was involved with. In 1984, on the 40th anniversary of WWII, he and Grandma went to visit places in Europe that he had fought during a WWII anniversary tour. They saw several countries that he had helped liberate including Italy and France. They were welcomed as the heroes they were, and many towns have monuments to the heroism that Pappy and others displayed in helping to defeat our collective enemies. The president of Italy and the Pope were among those who expressed their thanks to Pappy and the other men of the force who were there on that trip.
When we found out that Pappy had cancer this Spring, he finally told us a lot about his time in the service including some of his better memories of his time in the Service. He told us of the training that he endured and the difficult test that he had to pass in order to join the FSSF. I will always remember the poster that hangs in the basement – it is a picture of a Black Devil, as they were known.
On a lighter note, Pappy talked about getting some extra days off during combat…kind of by mistake. Though he’s always been a Christian, his name – Emil Kalin Hill has occasionally been confused as being a Jewish name. One of his commanding officers assumed that Pappy was Jewish, and so on the major Jewish holidays Pappy and one of his fellow soldiers who was actually Jewish would get the day off and when near a synagogue Pappy would drop off his buddy to do his praying while Pappy grabbed a beer at the local bar. He might have been a good soldier and someone who risked himself for others – but we wasn’t a dummy. The commanding officer never asked him if he was Jewish…and he wasn’t going to give up a day of R&R and a beer if he didn’t need to. I would say that this might be the first version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”…that allowed Pappy a slightly easier passage through a tough time.
After the war, Pappy worked as a trainer for the US Army boxing team. He still has his order signed by General Weed detailing his position with the team. When he spoke of this time, his eye’s really twinkled.
After WWII officially ended, Pappy had to wait a little while to come home. Then finally in December of 1945 Pappy decided that he had waited long enough and it was time to come home. He survived the 11 day journey by boat back to the US – something that he thought he’d never do as he got so sick on the way over that he said he wouldn’t have minded if his boat ride to Europe was the last that he ever took – fortunately for all of us he was brave enough to sail home though it made him sick as a dog. Once back on US soil, he took trains, buses, and finally make his way back home late on Christmas eve to see my mom. He even managed to get a haircut before getting to the house to see mom and Grandma…as Pappy always liked to look nice, no matter the circumstances.
Pappy went to work after he got back to the US, and eventually ended up working for the paper mill like lots of folks here in Lock Haven. When Pappy got word that the mill was shutting down, he was offered a position with Penn DOT. The problem was that the position required a high school diploma or GED. Since he never got to graduate from high school because of work and the war, Pappy had to get his GED to get the job. He was one of the oldest people to earn his GED, and also had one of the highest scores on the test - providing again an example of stepping up to responsibility and doing what needed to get done. He worked for Penn DOT and retired when I was young. He and Grandma always took us grandkids up to their trailer near Cross Forks. For me, those weeks make up some of the best fun that I had as a kid: fishing, hiking, boating, swimming, and exploring the outdoor world. Pappy taught me a lot about fishing, hunting, and the outdoors around Cross Forks and Bush Dam. I never got a really good chance to say “thank you” for that Pappy – so I am now: Thank you!
Pappy’s Army company motto was – "The Worst is Yet to Come", but I’ve decided that I want to use something to pay tribute to him…and remember Pappy for all the good that he gave his family and friends. For me, the phrase that I’m going to use is “The Best is Yet to Come” and I know that for Pappy now and for all of us, this really in true. Pappy, we love you and will miss you. The Best is Yet to Come.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back Home

The Olympic games of 2008 have come and gone...and I've finally arrived home. It's been an incredibly summer filled with great experiences, lessons, and friendships. Taylor had the best showing by an American in the individual pursuit since Steve Hegg won in 1984 with his 7th place. He beat several previous Olympic medalists and rode 2 out of 3 possible rides. He is already looking toward London in 2012, but is enjoying a break for now. Here are some final shots for Beijing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Beijing is crazy right now - lots going on with the games. Inside the venues not all of the seats are taken, and outside the gated areas there are a lot of people who want to get inside...but don't have access because they don't have tickets to the events. It seems like a weired catch-22 situation that there are empty seats, but lots of people who want the tickets to those seats, but the tickets are all sold out. Not sure how that happens...but there it is.

I got to have dinner, kind of, with Taylor last night and that was fantastic. There was a dinner sponsored by Dow Chemical company that sponsors the USA Cycling Team, and Taylor and several other members of the US track cycling team were there. Unfortunately, I didn't get to sit at a table with Taylor, as he was encouraged to sit at one of the tables for folks from the company that be able to meet with them. It was good to have some time with him though, and we could see that all was well. The Olympics are challenging for many athletes and their coaches, because if you are not one of the national team coaches with Olympic credentials (and there are only a few of those per sport), then you don't have much access to the athletes or facilities where they are doing their final training sessions.

We last saw Taylor on Thursday when he left the bus headed for the Olympic Village. We've stayed in contact by email, texts, and some phone calls. I will be heading to the Olympic Village on a day-pass on Friday morning...which will be cool. Taylor applied for the passes for Davis, Connie, and I last Saturday...and we're just now getting access. Me on Friday and Davis on Saturday. Connie was supposed to go today, but it didn't work out for some reason. Lots of hoops to jump through, always.

I'd like to thank Hamilton Gregg, a friend of a friend, who set me up with a room to stay for the first few days in Beijing. I am now at the same hotel as the rest of the Phinney clan and their family and friends. Yesterday (Tuesday) we got to see some syncronized diving, where the Chinese pair swept up the gold. They were clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Then we had the dinner, and after dinner we had tickets to swimming prelims. Our driver was a mess and didn't go the right way so we had to walk extra far to get to the venue, and then walk even more to get through security screening. We got there just in time to the watch the men's 4 X 200 meter relay finish with the US team setting an Olympic record. Today, that team crushed the world record by about 5 seconds - that's massive! Phelps is still on track for his golden feat...which is crazy to think about.

Today was spent going to the White Pagoda near the Forbidden City and Tian'amen Square. There were some pretty incredible shrines in Beihai Park. Then we went to eat pizza at Hutong Pizza in HouHai...thanks for the recommendation Bruce! Then, I headed over to a spot to meet up with another coach for a little while near the beach volleyball venue, as someone from our group had tickets. I spent a little too much time talking, and by the time I headed to beach volleyball they had gone...and I didn't get the tickets before I left. Bummer...but now I've got it on TV and am able to get another post up and download the pics from my camera. Enjoy! It's less than 2 days until Taylor races...and all things are good. We're starting to get it's almost here. Enjoy the pics...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Let the Games Begin!

Last night I watched the opening ceremonies live on TV at a friend's place of my Beijing host for the first few days, Hamilton. The girlfriend of Hamilton's friend is Korean, and several of her relatives were there, Hamilton is also from the US as were two others, and then there was a girl from China there as well. We ate great Korean food, some of which was cooked right in front of us as we ate, and watched everything on TV. It was very impressive...though I couldn't understand of the Chinese broadcast, everyone did translate some of the story that was being told. The broadcast didn't end until just after midnight, so it made for a long day...but it was great to know that the Olympics had gotten off to a start without a hitch. I saw Taylor and Mike Friedman walk by on the TV broadcast - they both looked really excited, and Taylor looked really young...sometimes it's kind of easy to forget that he just turned 18 a few weeks ago.

Today, on Saturday morning, we got up and walked out to the Olympic cycling road race course that passed through downtown. We wanted to get out to the finishing circuits, but there was no simple public transportation to get there and it was nearly 60km away. We decided to watch the race go by a corner near the Lama Temple. We watched some of the oldest cheerleaders do a routine as we waited, and then finally saw the racers fly by. There were two riders about a minute ahead of the peloton, and we were only about 10K into the race. I didn't see Stevic, but I yelled out for him anyhow. He did finish today in 67th place...well done in a tough race Ivan!

After the road race went by, we went to lunch at a small restaurant located in a siheyon in a local hutong. It was food from an area in Southern of China and was fabulous. Then I got a text from Connie, who said she had some tickets for gymnastics and maybe swimming. We took a taxi to the Olympic area near the Bird's Nest, where the Opening Ceremonies were last night. It was incredibly huge - and we had to walk a bit to find the place to meet with her to get the tickets. We finally met up, and went straight into the National Indoor Stadium to see some gymnastics. It ended up being a rotation of the men's teams (China, Russia, Canada, France, Japan, and a mixed team). They were doing compulsory routines in all of the events used to seed the individual events and also the team competition. It was pretty impressive...and the cheers for the Chinese athletes was definitely the loudest.

Then we went straight to the Water Cube to watch some swimming. There were preliminaries for the men's 400 IM, women's 100 fly, men's 400 free, women's 400 IM, men's 100 breaststroke, and womens 4 X 100M relay. Michael Phelps set an Olympic record in the 400IM, and an athlete from Norway set a new Olympic record in the breakstroke. It was quite cool all in all. The facilities are remarkable...very impressive! Check out the photos below. Enjoy - I am!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Technial Difficulties

Yeah, yeah, I know that I haven't updated my blog in over a week..BUT my hard drive died not long after we left Paris, so I've been unconnected from the internet for the most part. Fortunately during that time Jane, Abby, and Renee were with me in Bordeaux and we got to see some cool places and spend some much needed time together. During that time, Taylor hit some excellent workouts and hit some PR times in training. Everything is going along very, very well with Taylor's prep for Beijing. The weather was pretty good most of the time, and we even got in a trip to the beach, which was nice. The traffic to get there was a little bit of a nightmare, but fortunately didn't delay the trip too long. We went to Arcachon, just south of Bordeaux. It was nice and hot that day, and my back got completely cooked. Taylor's friend, Gabe, also came along with the 4 of us...making for a fun trip. On Saturday we went to the old Mediaval town of St. Emillion (great wines come from there, by the way) and then had our final supper together until I return in August. On Sunday morning I took the girls to the Bordeaux train station as they started the long trek home (TGV train from Bordeaux to Paris; flight from Paris to Reykjavic, Iceland; change planes then fly to Minneapolis; stay overnight in hotel in MN; and then finally fly home to Denver, and then finally home - or in Jane's case right to work. Though it was a long trip home for them, they might it without too many hassles. I'm jealous of Jane now, as she's sleeping in our bed...while I'm on the road for another two weeks. I have to give lots of credit to Jane for taking care of Abby (and Renee) this whole time - thanks Love! For now, it's off to Beijing!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vive Le Tour!

Howdy sports fans. Welcome to Paris, site of the finish of the Tour de France. On Saturday morning, I took a TGV (tres grande vitesse = very great speed) train from Bordeaux to Paris to meet Jane, Renee, and Abby at the airport in France. I got there around 12:15 and the girls arrived just at 1pm. They were a bit tired, as none of them had slept very well on the way. We got their luggage and then took various trains to downtown Paris, and then walked a few blocks to our hotel. The hotel rooms in Europe are usually small, and the Hotel Astor was no different. We all showered and then went to dinner with Taylor's friend Gabe Kennedy, who had also just arrived. Initially, we had planned on having Taylor come up to Paris, but our plans had changed along the way and he had an important workout to do on Saturday at the velodrom in Bordeaux, so he and Connie stayed there.

Sunday was the finish of the Tour on the Champs Elysees, and we had some breakfast and then relaxed a little before heading toward the finish area. We were lucky to have some media passes that gave us great access. I had to meet up with a couple of folks while we were there, and got all of the work done while enjoying the finish. We stood at the place de la Concorde for the first 3 laps (of 8), and then walked down to 100 meters before the finish - and just in front of the Versus TV truck. Yes, we saw Frankie Andreu, Bob Roll, Phil Ligget, and Paul Sherwin there. The finish was fast, and Geert Steegemans of the Quick Step team won. We watched as the riders returned toward the team trucks. Some looked happy, some thrashed, and others in between. It was overall a pretty amazing day. I had carried a GPS (a sweet Garmin 705, no less) throughout the day...and by nightfall after dinner we had walked just over 20-miles in total! Attached is a picture of Abby "driving" the Garmin-Chipotle team bus...she was pretty jazzed!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out of Africa...and into France!

Ancient Medieval Ruins from 9th Century

Awesome Church

Another old church

Our home for the next week!

Greetings from a fantastic old castle outside of Bordeaux, France! We arrived late on Sunday night and have been enjoying the beautiful surroundings and great weather for the past 2 days. Taylor took the day off on Monday while Connie and I explored a bit. We rode to the medieval town of St. Emillion, clocking in about 85 kilometers on small, winding roads. It was a great change from the urban, and sometimes scary, surroundings in Cape Town. We also went to the Bordeaux velodrome today just for a look is beautiful, and looks quite fast. The New Zealand team was there doing some Olympic preparation rides. Taylor already did his specific Olympic simulation in LA, so now we can just focus on appropriate and specific workouts to focus on Beijing. I'm excited to see my family this weekend, as the girls get in on Saturday. We'll stay in Paris a couple of days, and will be seeing the Tour de France finish on Sunday...should be awesome! Here are some shots from the place where we're staying and also from the ride. Many of the older buildings in these shots are from the 9th-12th century. Bon soir!