LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Albert Garcia, a controller in the 47th Operations Support Squadron, proved everyone wrong when he competed in the 208-mile No Country for Old Men ultra bicycle race Oct. 12.
When Garcia got run over on his bicycle June 9, 2015 by a hit-and-run driver, it was supposed to be a day that stopped many things for him.
It was supposed to stop his life – first responders stopped by his hospital room weeks later because they had to see to believe he was still alive.
His list of injuries was long. He broke multiple bones including his pelvis into two pieces; his upper left leg; his lower left leg; his left arm in three places, cutting it to the bone; broke both wrists and his spine; not to mention loads of cuts and scrapes. But the one thing that wasn’t broken – his indomitable spirit.
Of course, it was supposed to stop his racing. However, what fate didn’t realize, there’s no stopping Albert Garcia.
After three and a half years recuperating, Garcia competed in the race he’d finished third in 2015 before his accident and that he’d been training for when he was hit.
His training began with walking 10 steps, sitting for a minute and then repeating the process. He threw himself into physical therapy the fall of 2016, when he started riding again.
His physical therapist said Garcia had a drive she seldom witnessed. “He demonstrated a determination and grit I rarely witness as he let no obstacle get in the way of his goal to cycle again,” said Kristi Reyes-Hinton, Garcia’s physical therapist.
His training now consists of week day rides of 20 to 30 miles and longer 50 to 70 miles on the weekends, will now be getting longer.
Garcia isn’t pleased with the fact he fizzled in the Oct. 12 race, pulling out of the race at the 93-mile mark.
“My lower back and hip were killing me,” he said. “I knew the next 13 miles were going to be mostly climbing and I knew there was a chance that if I kept riding, I’d cause more serious damage.”
Rather than wallow in self-pity, the retired master sergeant has a plan to improve, by dropping 30 pounds to get his weight down to 170 pounds.
“That is going to make the hills much easier,” he said. “I look forward to climbing those hills next year without carrying that extra weight.”
He’s also expanding his training to include, more weights, more riding and will now spend some mornings in the Losano Fitness Center’s pool.
One of the keys to the 53-year-old’s resilience is constant goal-setting.
His next fitness goal is to finish the 208-mile-race in 2019.
“But my real goal is to finish the 1,000 mile race,” he said. "No Country for Old Men has three different races under it’s umbrella, the 208-mile race, as well as 383- and 1000-mile versions. “But before that, I may do a triathlon.”
However, a triathlon will present a huge hurdle as he’s got a permanent limp and can’t run, but once again, he’s got a work around. “I’ll just walk running portion,” he said.
Despite not finishing the race, his riding peers saw his participating as a huge success as race organizers gave him the Maverick Steer Award.
“The Murder Maverick Steer Award is given to the crew member who displays true grit, courage, inspiration and sportsmanship,” said Dex Tooke, No Country for Old Men organizer.
Tooke said that typically, the award isn’t given until the end of the race, but with Garcia, they broke from tradition.
“We gave it to him at the pre-race meeting so he could get the recognition he deserved,” he said. “He was an inspiration by just being there.”