The following is a transcript for Episode 5 of Season 3. Click on the embed above to listen to, or you can subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app.
Season 3 of Razed Sports is brought to you in partnership with the Dominic Fouts Memorial Cancer Fund, which helps patients and family members pay for cancer treatments. For information on how to help, go to DomFoutsFund.org.
SUBSCRIBE TO RAZED SPORTS:
Apple | Radio Public | Google | Stitcher | Spotify | Pandora | TuneIn | Others
[Allison Lauritson: “And he was like ‘noon is the best time. There’s no one out and it’s like 90 degrees outside. It’s the best time to run because if you can run in the heat, you can run in anything.’”]
In April of 2020, my father, Tim Harkins, died of cancer. This is a tribute to him.
Episode 5: Strength
Back in the spring, when Dad collapsed and ended up in the ER, and my siblings and I all rushed home to Spokane to be with Mom, things looked pretty dire. The cancer, which was spreading unchecked, was bad enough. The infection made things even worse.
But Dad was a tough man, a determined man, a strong man, and he rallied to the point where he was able to come home, to have his hospice care in his own house with all of us there. I’m not sure many people would have been able to come back from that like Dad did. I’d imagine even fewer would have been able to give us an entire week together, a week that was so precious to all of us.
Recently Mom said something to me about Dad … it was more of a general statement but I think it applies specifically to that week. She said “the more something meant to him, the more determined he was to go for it.”
I think Dad was determined to buy as much time with us as he could that week. And he applied all of his strength – mentally and physically — to go for it. And when you examine his history, and how he continuously challenged himself in life and in sports, this is not surprising at all.
[MUSIC TRANSITION: Doug Maxwell, Psychedelicacy]
Back in the late 70s, things in our family were on a pretty good course. Dad had passed the bar and become a lawyer. Paul arrived in 1978 — joining myself, Allison and Katie — and Bridget was born two years later to complete our family. But Mom and Dad were never ones to settle, and amidst all of this there was something that they wanted to improve on – their health. At the time, he and Mom were both smokers, and they wanted to quit. But for Dad it was more than just quitting smoking. Mom says he wanted to really get healthy.
Coincidentally, it was also around this time that America was being swept by a cultural phenomenon, the jogging craze. Some say that the genesis of this was Frank Shorter’s gold medal in the marathon at the 1972 Olympics. Others point to Bill Bowerman’s Oregon track program, Steve Prefontaine and a little startup called Nike. But for the residents of Spokane, this craze quickly became all about Bloomsday.
[BLOOMSDAY CLIP 1]
Bloomsday is a 12-Kilometer road race, created in 1977 by Don Kardong, a world-class runner and Spokane resident. Kardong finished fourth in the marathon in the 1976 Olympics, missing the bronze medal by only three seconds. He thought it would be great if the city held a road race to promote fitness, and to kick off Spokane’s Lilac Festival. This event, the Bloomsday Race, became a huge deal.
[BLOOMSDAY CLIP 2]
In this environment Dad couldn’t help but get into running, and as Mom said, he really went for it. He got all of us into it as well. I think we all ran Bloomsday multiple times and at least once with Dad. It was sort of a tradition for him to stay with us the whole way, then as soon as we could see the finish line, we’d take off and sprint to beat him to the finish, which he let us do.
But for Dad, running was also a serious endeavor, and he got it into his head that he wanted to go bigger than Bloomsday. He had his sights set on another race just across the Idaho border, The Coeur d’Alene Marathon. His first attempt at the 26.2-mile distance would be May 24, 1980. More on the significance of that date in a moment.
Dad, who had never run track in high school, was training like a serious competitor, running with a group of guys who were real runners, not just recreational types. These included Steve Jones, a Spokanite who ran at Stanford. It also occasionally included one of Jones’ college teammates, the former Olympian and founder of Bloomsday, Don Kardong. These were the kind of guys Dad was training with, and according to Mom, they had him in perfect shape. She said at this time he weighed about 175, which for him was pretty svelte.
Dad would run with this group on his lunch breaks, then return to the office, shower and get back to work. He’d put in even more time on weekends, regularly going 10-15 miles. Mom says he got up to 20 miles on some runs, though not often. He’d learned from these hard-core runners that if you could do 15, you could do a marathon.
So Dad was primed for The Coeur d’Alene Marathon, ready to go. Best shape of his life. Confident. And then, six days before the race, on May 18, 1980 …
[MOUNT ST. HELENS CLIP 1]
Mount St. Helens exploded.
[MOUNT ST. HELENS CLIP 2]
The eruption was massive, sending huge plumes of ash up into the atmosphere. This ash, which would eventually circle the globe, hit Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho pretty hard. And because officials were uncertain what kind of health risks the ash might carry, they canceled the race.
[MUSIC TRANSITION: Doug Maxwell, Psychedelicacy, reprise]
This was a huge blow for Dad. Not just because the race was canceled, but also because his training was drastically interrupted. Outdoor exercise in Spokane was discouraged. So Dad took to running stairs inside his office building. This was great training, but going down the stairs was hard on his knees, and it would lead to some issues. Remember that Dad was bow-legged, and his legs were strong and muscled. He didn’t really have the typical body type you think of when you think of runners. And this pounding, going down the stairs, really wreaked havoc on his knees, causing him a lot of pain. He got orthotics to help, though you have to wonder how much it helped to train so hard with a piece of plastic inside your shoe. The other thing was Dad would try to make his shoes last, instead of buying new shoes when the soles wore out, he’d get this stuff called Shoe Goo, which was kind of like liquid rubber in a tube, that he would squeeze out onto the bottom of his shoes, where it would harden. He’d coat the bottom of his shoes with this stuff in order to preserve the sole.
Here’s my sister Katie, a runner herself:
[KATIE: He would wear running shoes, and I don’t even know if they were good running shoes, because you know running shoes get better year after year, and you would just, if you flipped over his running shoes they were just, it was like, just a tributary system of shoe goo running through the bottom of it. Because he would just goo them back together, because he wore them to the point where they just, I guess, cracked? I don’t think I’ve ever wore a pair of running shoes to the point where they cracked. … Which makes you wonder if he got to the point where his shoe was cracked and he needed shoe goo, was there any tread left on the shoe?]
So running stairs, wearing orthotics, liberal use of shoe goo. None of this seemed to be a good recipe for long-term knee health, but Dad kept training. And eventually he got back outside, heading out in the heat of noontime for his runs. Allison remembers that. She always wondered why he did it.
[ALLISON: When I worked at his office here and there in the middle of summer. So he’d always go run at lunch time. And he was like ‘noon is the best time. There’s no one out and it’s like 90 degrees outside. It’s the best time to run because if you can run in the heat, you can run in anything.’ And he’d go back and shower in his office. But I know I went with him once to run in the middle of the day. And I was like ‘why are you going in the hottest, the heat. He thought it made you tougher.]
[KATIE: … he used to make fun of me because I run with a water pack on. And he’s like ‘you don’t need water when you’re running.’ And also he said I was a baby because I run in the gyms in the summer time because it’s too hot. Like you need to get used to running outside, and I swear once you do you’ll like it much more, because your joints are oiled up. But I have a feeling that’s because his knees were bad and he needed those joints oiled up.]
By the time 1990 rolled around, Dad felt like he was finally ready for another shot at the Coeur d’Alene marathon. By this time he was 42 years old and not quite in the same kind of shape he had been a decade earlier. This time around he trained with his friend Nick Lopez, a solid runner in his own right. Allison and Mom remembered waiting for Dad at the finish line. They saw Nick Lopez come in, and were growing anxious when Dad hadn’t shown up.
Allison started heading down the course to find him. It didn’t take her long. He was going to make it, going to finish. But he was struggling. He was hurting. He had hit the wall.
[ALLISON: This was the very end … I ran like 200 feet with him or something .Just the very end as he was going to the finish line. So I was like ‘let me go out and cheer him on to the very end.’]
But Dad was having none of it.
[ALLISON: I wasn’t being super loud and obnoxious but I was all cheery and I was like ‘oh yeah go Dad! You’ve got this!’ And he was just like ‘shut up. Don’t talk to me.’ So I thought ‘oh, well now I guess I will be quiet.’ (laughs) So I just stopped and let him finish. I didn’t go through the finish line with him, I was just trying to cheer him on a little bit. … I know he was exhausted. But he did it.]
[MUSIC TRANSITION: Dyalla, Randy Butternubs]
I had a similar experience with Dad a little over a decade later. Not coincidentally it involved another iconic Spokane event – the 3-on-3 basketball tournament called Hoopfest. I played in Hoopfest numerous times. So did my brother Paul. He had a regular group of buddies he played with. A couple of longtime friends, Adam Brown and Tom Hildrum, were regulars, but several people tended to rotate in and out of their fourth spot. Then one year Paul thought it would be cool to invite Dad to play.
And so “The Timonators” were born.
[PAUL: So when it came time to register, we put down me, Tom, Adam, you know three 23-, 24-year-olds, and then one 54-year-old or whatever. And I think it kind of threw us into just a little bit of a wacky bracket. There were a couple of like mixed-age teams in there, and then there were some others that were just I don’t know, it was just kind of interesting. But yeah it was…and then we’re like ‘OK what do we think about the name? How about The Timonators’? … And we just went with it.]
It was 2002, and Dad was 54 at the time. He was still playing pickup basketball. But he wasn’t the same guy. His knees were shot, he couldn’t move that well anymore, and he couldn’t jump at all. But he still had quick hands and he was still incredibly strong. And Hoopfest is very physical, unless you’re in an elite bracket, there are no refs, so a lot of fouls don’t get called. This was perfect for Dad. He could foul all he wanted. And if you were fighting for position with him, you could not move him. He was like a fire hydrant.
So Paul’s team turned out to be pretty good in this sort of odd bracket. The three young guys would run around and do most of the scoring, and Dad would come in for brief spells to rough up the other team a bit and give one of the young guys a break.
[PAUL: “We would bring him in if we were just gassed. So we were you know in the final couple of games we were taking advantage of both our timeouts and our substitutions. We would take a sub or whatever and put Dad in for a bit, but I mean he would take himself out really quickly. … he was in the key most of the time. He was pushing these guys around and stuff and he would get gassed pretty fast.]
On the second day of the event, Sunday morning, “The Timonators” lost their first game, then they fought their way back, battling all the way to the championship game, where they would take on the team that had beaten them. And because they had already lost a game, they would have to beat these guys twice to win the bracket. The first game, was a walkover…
[PAUL: “we were hot. I think I hit a bunch of twos…”]
In Hoopfest, a regular basket counts for one point, a 3-pointer counts for 2.
[PAUL: “ … Tom hit a bunch of twos, and Adam hit a bunch of twos. And I think we beat them like 20-12 and it was a pretty quick game, which was helpful because we were tired. (laughs)]
The second game was a battle. I remember watching this game and at one point Dad went in for a brief run. And to my memory, he did well. He got some rebounds, he played some good defense. There was a timeout, and Dad came over and sat on the curb. And I was excited for him, so I went over and put my hands on his shoulder and said something like “great job Dad.”
And he shrugged me off… said “AIR! I NEED AIR!”
It was like the story with Allison all over again. He was fighting, and he was focused on the battle. He didn’t have any time for, or interest in, cheerleading. Shut up. Leave me alone. I need air.
Regardless, it was a great game, and it came down to the end. Paul won it by banking in a two-pointer from the top of the key.
[PAUL: It felt pretty good coming off. I didn’t expect it to fully bank. But it was a very solid use of the soft Hoopfest backboard. (laughs) … and the guy just kind of looked at it, and I just go ‘I’ll take it.’ And I was like hands on knees, I was dead. I couldn’t do much more after that except go home and get a beer.]
The winning bracket for The Timonators, a gift from Paul, is framed and hangs on the wall at Mom and Dad’s house.
[MUSIC TRANSITION: Dyalla, Randy Butternubs, reprise]
Dad would eventually give up basketball as he got older, and he would have both knees replaced in his late 60s. But he never lost that desire to compete. And this brings me to a story from my sister Katie.
Katie and her husband Jesse like to run, and they got into these long-range relay runs. Specifically the Hood-to-Coast, a 200-mile relay in Oregon. The competition takes place over the course of two days, with teams of up to 12 athletes taking turns running from the top of Mount Hood all the way to the Pacific Ocean. They call it the Mother of All Relays. So when Katie decided to form a team, she started looking for runners:
[KATIE: So I put it out on my Facebook page. ‘Anyone want to join our team?’ First come, first served kind of thing.]
This got Dad’s attention.
[KATIE: And he was response No. 2. Thought he could do it. Wanted to do it. I think he was probably joking. But I think there was always wishful thinking. I bet he would love to do it. If they had that stuff that he could have participated in back then, I bet he would have loved to do it. Just because it was fun. … He was rearing to go. Turns out having two knee replacements doesn’t bode well for you know being on a 200-mile relay race. So we didn’t do that.]
But even though he couldn’t run, Dad did get involved. He became sort of a coach for the team.
[KATIE: So what he did do is he would come and watch our kids every year when they were little, while we ran it. And we would send him our Google doc with everyone’s projected splits and you know what leg they were doing. And he would follow along on our GPS and on the Google doc and he would be saying ‘OK, looks like, what happened there? (laughs). Looks like so-and-so, looks like they fell apart.’ And we’d explain, exchange was bad or we were just off pace. And usually you know because he liked to challenge people, he’d be like ‘well you need to make up, you need to make that up. You’ve got about 7 minutes to shave off of your leg to get you back on.’]
As Dad grew older, he never lost that desire to compete, that desire to test himself, to show his strength. And even as his body gradually began to betray him, he never stopped challenging himself. From marathons to basketball tournaments, to appointing himself coach of a long-distance relay team, he just changed the nature of the challenge.
And in the spring of 2020, facing his greatest challenge ever, Dad fought for every last moment he could get with his family. The more something Dad wanted something, Mom had said, the more he’d go for it.
[MUSIC TRANSITION: Emmit Fenn, Tangled]
The night of April 13th, almost a week after Dad had come home from the hospital, things started to take a turn. His temperature was running hot, his pulse was running fast, and his oxygen levels were running low. All were sitting on the edge of dangerous territory.
My shift with Dad that night ended at 11 pm, and I handed off to Paul. I told him that Dad’s breathing sounded different, like he was struggling more than usual, and I said to wake me up for any reason. Then I went to my room and pretended to rest. It wasn’t long before Paul texted me. He asked me to go wake up his wife Meg, who is a nurse. I did, and when we arrived Dad sounded worse than ever. We thought he might not have much longer. So we woke up everybody. And we got Allison, who had returned home to Phoenix by that time, on the phone. We were all there, together with Dad, when his strength finally gave out.
Dad had fought back from septic shock and a trip to the ICU. He managed to avoid COVID-19. And after he came home, he held off both the infection and cancer for an entire week.
Here’s Allison on what that week meant, and the good fortune of Dad being able to come home:
[ALLISON: You wouldn’t have been able to share the, remember the stories, and to see him smile and take the selfies with him smiling and even Charlie Facetiming him and talking about who’s going to win the Super Bowl, and Charlie’s like ‘the Cardinals!’ And Dad’s just repeated a few times, ‘yeah, we’ll just see about that. we’ll just see about that.’ And it was so funny. Charlie just started laughing and it’s a good last memory to have, instead of five minutes alone when he’s so medicated that he can’t speak, like at the very end. We would have missed all of that.]
And Katie …
[KATIE: When he came home it was like good all Dad again. That almost made it harder to let him go because it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with him. I mean obviously there was, he was in pain, but he was just so mentally there, then. It seemed unfair because he did seem better. A lot better.]
And Paul …
[PAUL: I feel, I don’t know if I feel guilty, but I feel like I miss a lot because of how far away I am. And, when he went into the hospital I knew this could be it. And it might not be, but it could very well be. … It was just, I don’t know. It was not even a question to me. I wanted to go and be there and cram in as much as I could. Just see him, give him a hug, whatever. I’m glad that he was able to come home.]
And Bridget …
[BRIDGET: I think it was, in a way an amazing time, really. You know. For all of us. I think we all bonded and grew a little closer. … But I think it was a blessing we were all able to be there. I think it was a blessing that he was able to come home. And he was there for a whole week you know? … I’m just glad that, I can’t remember how they made that decision in the hospital to send him home, but I’m glad that we had that choice.]
Dad set an example of determination, grace, loyalty, humility for all of us to follow. And at the end it was his strength that allowed us to bask in all of it — with love — for one last week.
This episode was written and produced by me, Bob Harkins. Special thanks to my siblings and their spouses, Allison and Adam Lauritson, Katie and Jesse Hancock, Paul and Meg Harkins, and Bridget Porter for being so amazing. … and also to my Mom, for everything. I’d also like to thank Dad’s brothers and sisters and their spouses, for their love, support and many, many stories. They are Kathleen and Dave Keeney, Vern and Kathleen Harkins, Mary and Joe Zavaglia, Cecilia and Gary Shumate, Joe and Lindsey Harkins, Shannon and Scott Greenburg, and Kelly and Judy Harkins. Also a thank you to Dad’s long-time friends Joe Staeheli, Dave Hughes and Bill Leedom for contributing to this season, as well as countless other friends and relatives who have sent notes of love and encouragement.
The theme song for this season comes from Corbyn Kites. Other music in this episode by Doug Maxwell, Dyalla and Emmit Fenn. Bloomsday clip from KXLY and Mount St. Helens clip from KGW. This season of Razed Sports comes to you in partnership with the Dominic Fouts Cancer Fund. For more information, go to DomFoutsFund.org. Razed Sports is a proud member of the Story Hangar podcast network.
And as we finish out this season of Razed Sports, I’d like to leave you with one last clip. It’s of me in what I guess you could call my very first podcast. I’m about 3 years old at the time. And my co-host is my Dad.
*** *** ***
Written and produced by Bob Harkins.
Theme song: “Orbit” — Corbyn Kites
Doug Maxwell — “Psychedelicacy“
Dyalla — “Randy Butternubs“
Emmitt Fenn — “Tangled”
(All music edited for time purposes)
SUBSCRIBE TO RAZED SPORTS:
Apple | Radio Public | Google | Stitcher | Spotify | Pandora | TuneIn | Others
Leave a Reply