For me, some of the best inspiration comes from both ends of the age spectrum. Earlier this year we touched base with the young Apex rider, Adrian Magun. In the “age is no excuse category,” Seattle septuagenarian Dale Harless has been a fierce competitor since high school, racing bikes since the late 1980s, and doing a stint as member of the age group champion baseball team Compadres in the early/mid 2000s.
“It was a fantastic track, beautiful city, great competition. I plan to use this as a springboard to the 2017 Masters World Championships, in Los Angeles October 8-15. This year I was in the 70-74 age group, but next year I move to the 75+ group.”
Dale graduated from the University of Washington in 1967 with a degree in transportation. After college he worked for Pacific Air Freight, then a new job and a series of promotions with Airborne Express took him to New York and the east coast. He eventually left Airborne and returned to Seattle as the Vice President of Lynden Air Freight. In 1980 he left Lynden and bought Champion Transfer. He sold Champion in 2011 and is now retired. He married Karen Jo in 1979, who handled all office administration of their delivery service. He has 2 grown sons, Patrick who has a PhD in economics, and Andrew, father of 9-year old Auny.
What is your athletic background?
I’ve been athletic all my life. I enjoy working out regularly, trying to get better at an endeavor, and going “all in” after my family and job.
I raced from 1989 to 1992 as member of Wheelsport Cycling team. In 1992 I was coached by Olympic trainer Roger Young who developed a program for track and criterium racing. I won the 1992 age national championship on the track for the Kilo and Pursuit. I’ve been a member of Cycle University team since 2008 and in 2011 we became Apex Racing team. I have always had a cycling coach. The first was Craig Undem owner of Cycle U, then Dan Harm, who is a professional bicycle rider, artist, and adventurist. My core trainer is Rick Emerson who is a cutting-edge muscle activation trainer at Athletic Training Institute.
From 1993 to 2001 I worked on running my business and wasn’t able to race. Then in 2001 I began playing adult baseball, hardball in the Puget Sound Baseball League. In 2003, I was chosen for an all-star team and this team, the Compadres, won the 2003 age Word Series in Phoenix AZ. Over the course of my baseball career, I played 3 games at Safeco Field, was at bat 9 times and got on base 9 for 9.
Prior to bicycle racing and baseball, I raced dirt motorcycles on an oval track, and in college I wrestled 3 years on the varsity team at UW. In my senior year at UW I was voted team captain, most inspirational, and the Hustling Husky.
I enjoy bicycle criterium and track races most because they are short, intense, and fast. Bike handling skills and strategy are both important. I travel 2 or 3 times a year to races in Arizona and Texas, since they have 70 and older races, whereas in Washington most masters races are 50 and over. I would like to think I can compete with 50 and 60-year olds, but in reality, since I’m 75, it doesn’t work. I kid my trainers who work with improving fast young kids and remind them that young athletes will get better year to year without a trainer. If they want to take credit, get me a 75-year-old to get better year to year! Mostly I struggle to maintain. I have several tests and races I do each year to measure results, and my performance goes down 1 to 2 % per year. I don’t use testosterone or human growth hormone therapy since they are illegal by USA Cycling.
Talk about your participation in this year’s Nationals. In which races did you compete? How did you prepare? How did you perform? Lessons learned for next year?
I have competed in Masters Nationals the last 9 years, and in 1992. To prepare this year, I have a training program which me and my trainer Dan Harm work up using Training Peaks. I update my progress daily. My entire training year is geared for success at the Nationals criterium. I finish my race season, start doing base and endurance miles, then in February for May peak Nationals race, I start with intensity. This year, due to a big crash on the track–which resulted in 4 broken ribs, a concussion, and 4 days in the hospital, I was not able to do proper endurance and base training, and as a result I did not do well at Nationals. Last I got 5th, this year I could not keep up with my age group.
Next year is special because I’ll race in as the youngest of the 75+ category. It does make a difference, the youngest in the age categories do tend to be faster. You wouldn’t think a year or two would make a difference but at 75+ yes, it does.
As a septuagenerian, what advice do you have for younger folks?
Over the years several coaches and relatives have inspired me to work hard and compete.
Brian Nelson, my high school wrestling coach was hard as nails, no nonsense.
Keith Delong was a fellow wrestler, and we had many challenge matches in high school and college, which forced me to go 100%.
My son Andrew sets good examples for using his talent to the fullest extent.
My son Patrick will ask pertinent questions, sometimes pointing out the obvious in indelible fashion
My wife Karen always supports my athletic efforts. When I’m not sure I want to work out or practice, she will always encourage me to get off my butt and go.
Bob Budshat, a national number 1 motorcycle racer loaned me his 250 cc Ducati to race, and it increased my desire to compete hard and show I deserved the gesture. The support he showed was a huge factor in my competing and working hard to win.
Kent Bostic in cycling left a huge impression showing how impossible is possible, doing things like leading a team pursuit the entire race.
I have found over the years and in many athletic endeavors that confidence in your ability is a huge factor in results. If you try something to see if it works, or hoping it works, chance of success is less than if you go all in no questions asked to make it work. If you give the effort or attempt any thought of failure or look to see if its working, then your push to make it work is lessened and the chances of success are lower, and you create a weakness that might produce failure. The short answer: how you gain and hold confidence is to focus on what you can do, and what works, not on what you can’t do. Look at the good not the bad.