Perimeter Profile: Willie Olivas

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

A recent heart attack will not keep this rider from his first El Tour!

Willie Olivas (left) with Michael Wilkinson (right) at Tucson's Loop Bicycle Shop. Photo by Elaine Mariolle

On Sunday, August 26, 2012, Willie Olivas went out for a 30-mile “car-free” training ride on the multi-use paths along the Santa Cruz River Park and the Rillito River Park. It’s part of a wonderful cycling resource called “The Loop”~ 55 miles of car-free paths being developed around metropolitan Tucson.

Along a straight and unpopulated stretch he raced a pair of cyclists, pushing way beyond his typical cruising speed of 14 mph.

His shoulders began to hurt, he sweat a lot and he felt like he had no energy.  Later in the day he walked his dogs and passed out on the lawn in the park. His sister insisted he go to The University of Arizona Medical Center to get checked out. Willie was surprised to learn he had suffered a heart attack.

“I told them I was training for my first El Tour and that I didn’t want to miss the event,” Willie said. “The ER docs told me that the hospital is a major sponsor of El Tour ~ I knew I was in good hands when one doctor said she just started cycling and also planned to ride El Tour.”

Willie had a stent placed in his heart on August 27th. The doctors told him his practice of regular exercise probably saved his life. He took 33 days off the bike and began rehabilitation therapy at the UAMC Pivirotto Wellness Center. “I rehab in the same center they hold the El Tour training sessions,” he said. “My rehabilitation program includes training for the 42-mile El Tour. I’m happy to be back on the bike. I can’t do the 111 miles this year, but I can do 42 miles.”

Willie joined the UAMC Pivirotto Wellness Center El Tour team and proudly sports the jersey. He’ll be participating in the 4-week El Tour training sessions which begin on October 21st.

On Saturday, September 29th, Willie got back on the road. His first ride was an advanced Traffic Safety Class offered by Pima County’s Bike & Pedestrian Program. The next day, he was out on the Loop and stopped to check out Tucson’s Loop Bike Shop.

While he was there, several riders wearing UAMC jerseys also stopped. A few were medical students and residents at UAMC. “I told them my story and they couldn’t believe I’m back out riding so soon,” Willie said.

“I always wanted to do El Tour. When I turned ’50’ in January 2012, I  decided to train for El  Tour as a way of doing something for myself, ” he said.  Willie will also be riding for others. His plan is to raise funds for The University of Arizona Medical Center.

Each e-News bulletin features a Perimeter community member who contributes to the success of our events. Contact Elaine Mariolle, Public Affairs for Perimeter Bicycling to suggest someone you think deserves the recognition – it may be a rider, volunteer, sponsor, or beneficiary.

Posted in PBAA News
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