Reed Finfrock, a 74-year-old ultra-marathon bicyclist from Sequim, recently completed the Silver State 508 as a fundraiser for the Captain Joseph House Foundation. (Submitted photo)

Reed Finfrock, a 74-year-old ultra-marathon bicyclist from Sequim, recently completed the Silver State 508 as a fundraiser for the Captain Joseph House Foundation. (Submitted photo)

Sequim bicyclist rides hundreds of miles for a cause

Man promotes Captain Joseph House

SEQUIM — In a year with a multitude of national and regional catastrophes, all “Flamingo” wanted to do was get his 10th race in and go home.

Earlier this month — 508 dust- and smoke-strewn miles later — Reed Finfrock did just that.

The 74-year-old Sequim ultra-marathon bike rider with the bird nickname joined about 90 others to take on the Silver State 508, a bike race that starts in Reno, Nev.

The competition sees participants climb mountains and endure deserts.

Founded in 1983, the race is recognized as “The Toughest 48 hours in Sport.”

Finfrock, a veteran of ultra-marathon races, clocked in at 43 hours, 37 minutes and 2 seconds for his 10th — and final, as he sees it — Silver State race.

“It was one of those situations nothing seemed to work out right; you just have to keep going,” said Finfrock, who wound up having to walk his bike at certain parts after his arms seemed to tire beyond usefulness.

Finfrock had a bit more motivation this year: the Captain Joseph House Foundation.

Gold Star families

Founded by executive director Betsy Reed Schutz, the foundation is the first-of-its-kind respite house in the nation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created to lend support for Gold Star Families. The organization looks to create a home for families of military members who have died in combat.

When the program becomes operational, the house in Port Angeles will accommodate as many as three Gold Star families at a time for a maximum of 16 people per week.

Families who have had immediate family members killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible.

Schultz’s is one of those families. Her son, Army Special Operations Capt. Joseph Schultz, 36, was killed May 29, 2011, in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device while on patrol. Two members of his team, their Afghanistan interpreter and their canine, also were killed that day.

The renovated former bed and breakfast at 1108 S. Oak St. is set to open when enough funding is established and when coronavirus health guidelines allow for family respites.

Finfrock, who had donated some items to raise money to the foundation over the years, said he recalled seeing fellow race competitors with messages or signs on their jerseys promoting one fundraiser or another.

“I thought, ‘I can do that, too.’ ”

Finfrock comes from a military family: his father was a tail-gunner during World War II, while his father-in-law handled landing crafts and served at Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal, and his brother-in-law served the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

He began wearing stars and stripes gear at the start of the first Gulf War as a tribute to U.S. troops and to veterans of all wars, and he continues to wear the patriotic garb.

So raising funds for Captain Joseph House seemed like a natural fit.

“I just thought it was a really wonderful thing to do; the sacrifice made to change her business, her B&B, into a (home) for Gold Star families, is an unreal sacrifice on her part,” he said.

“It was the most worthwhile local thing that I could think of that I would like to help.”

Those interested can still contribute in Finfrock’s fundraiser or the foundation in general by writing a check (made out to Captain Joseph House Foundation) and mailing it 1108 S. Oak St., Port Angeles, WA 98362; going online at www.captainjosephhousefoundation.org (Mastercard, VISA and Discover cards accepted), and/or texting GIVE to 360-318-7296 (include Reed’s Ride in the comment section).

Exercise evolution

Finfrock said he rides a good amount on the North Olympic Peninsula to get out into nature and stay fit.

“A lot of my routes are pretty remote,” he said. “I get to see wildlife that changes every day.”

An ultra-marathon bicyclist — to Finfrock, that generally means 200-plus miles — he often ties in rides in Death Valley, Calif., and mountain climbs in the Mammoth area in California to his vacations.

“Ride, eat, sleep, ride, eat, sleep: perfect,” Finfrock said.

He came to two wheels late in life. An athlete, Finfrock said he started with the standard sports such as football, basketball and tennis, then really got into running and, eventually, ultra-marathons (anything past the standard 26.2-mile course).

But by the mid-1980s, when he hit his mid-40s, injuries caught up with him, and on physician’s advice, he turned to another sport that allowed for long-distance routes.

“Bicycling was the obvious alternate,” he said.

The 100-mile “century” rides became 200-mile rides, and one day he found a 500-mile race had its start just a few minutes from his front door.

“That was a whole other world,” Finfrock recalled. “I stuck with it and learned. My first goal was to just finish one of those races.

He went on to tackle some of the toughest races, including the Furnace Creek 508 (a Death Valley race since discontinued in lieu of the Silver State 508), Race Across Oregon, a half-dozen 24-hour races and, in 2000, the cross-continent Race Across America, of which he won his 50-plus age group.

It was during one of the Furnace Creek races that a race director came up with a lighthearted change to race protocol: instead of numbers, he was assigning racers “totems,” with animal names corresponding to the first letter of their last names replacing the digits.

“At first … I was (hoping for) falcon or ferret or something more vicious,” he recalled. “But I took it and ran with it.”

Finfrock said he figured he had one more Silver State 508 race in him, but something seemed to be thwarting that chance: events across the nation were being cancelled with the coronavirus outbreak, and in the days leading up to the race’s start on Sept. 17 smoke from wildfires was clogging the air and even shutting down some major highways.

Undeterred, Finfrock got to the starting line where, just the day before, winds blew the smoke away. Unfortunately, he said, the smoke stayed right in the riders’ path, so they wound up riding through it anyway. When it wasn’t smoke, riders were dealing with lightning strikes — some as close as 100 yards away, Finfrock said — plus heavy winds and at times driving rain.

Finfrock was riding unsupported; meaning, he didn’t have assistance from a trailing vehicle to provide physical or mental relief during his 500-mile sojourn.

“Whatever the environment serves up you have to deal with with, (but) we all had with the same thing,” he said.

Finfrock wound up walking some of the hills after his exhausted triceps couldn’t keep him from collapsing over the handlebars.

“I’d remount, go for a ways, (then walk again); that was just maddening,” he said.

“I figured I’d never be able to come back and do this again. It’s a relief.”

Finfrock said he and his wife moved to the Sequim area about 7½ years ago after years with sweltering heat; his job as an insect ecologist meant the beneficial insects he raised had to be close to customers, and that typically kept his family in hot climates.

“I just told my wife — she didn’t like heat, either — when we retire, we’re going someplace where it never gets hot.

“We found it.”

For more about the Captain Joseph House Foundation, contact Schutz at 360-460-7848, [email protected] or [email protected].

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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