MOUNT VERNON — Diana Ready is fearless. Whether she’s racing on land, in the pool or on a bicycle, the senior athlete gives it everything she’s got. At 68 and a half years young, she shows no intention of slowing down.
“It feels good. I enjoy knowing that I’m doing something healthful for my body,” said Ready, who frequently competes in road cycling, mountain bike racing and triathlons. “I feel so free on a bicycle … if I see a road that I don’t know where it goes, I’ll take that one sometimes just to see where it goes.”
Ready has been cycling competitively for 16 years, participating in regional, state, national and even world competitions. This week, she headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the National Senior Games, where she’ll compete in the sprint triathlon and four road cycling events. Ready’s trip out west comes less than a year after the accident that almost took her life.
Last October, Ready was at the top of her game. She’d just earned a gold medal in mountain biking at the Huntsman World Senior Games and was on track to earn first place overall in her age category. But during another mountain biking race, she made the mistake of glancing sideways as she glided down a hill. It happened in an instant — her front wheel hit a rock, she squeezed her front brakes and the sudden stop caused her 35-pound mountain bike to flip forward and smash her into the rocks.
When Ready came to, she discovered that the heavy padding she had been wearing was torn to shreds and her helmet cracked in two places. Her injuries were extensive — she broke six ribs, punctured a lung and shattered her clavicle into three pieces. She had a bump on her head and a bruise that stretched from her spine around to the front of her hip.
She considers herself lucky.
“I am happy to be here,” she said. “When three emergency room nurses told me I almost died, I’ll take their word for it.”
Ready missed one race due to her stay at the hospital, but she didn’t let her accident deter her for long. After having 11 screws and a metal plate put in to keep her fragmented clavicle in place, her doctor advised her not to race for three months.
“So two months later I came back to his office wearing two golds, a bronze and a fourth (from the Florida Senior Games),” Ready said with a grin.
The wins came in spite of her uncharacteristic caution — she had opted to take corners a little slower than usual during her recovery.
“It’s the least competitive I’ve ever been,” she admitted.
While last October’s wreck was by far the worst, it’s not the only time Ready has wiped out during a race — or broken a helmet.
During a road cycling competition in Cincinnati, she whipped around a corner and hit a puddle on the other side. Her bike flew out from under her, leaving her with a scratched up arm and fractured headgear. For Ready, it was a lesson in the importance of preparation.
“Thank goodness I had another helmet, because in an hour I had another race,” she said. “Now I know to always carry two helmets.”
Another close call came five years ago at a mountain biking event in Youngstown. Ready splashed through a puddle only to find that the muddy waters had hidden a sizable crack in the road. She skidded across the ground, wearing through her jersey and leaving an abrasion under her arm.
“I still got second,” said Ready. “You just pick yourself up and keep going.”
This year’s National Senior Games is set to host more than 13,700 athletes ages 50 and older. The event includes 20 sports, with competitions organized into five-year age brackets.
While Ready headed to Albuquerque with years of experience under her belt, another Mount Vernon athlete is making her national debut.
When Kim Williams started swimming five years ago, she could only put in two or three laps at a time. She began practicing so she could meet the swimming requirements for a lifeguard license, but ended up enjoying it enough to make it a hobby.
“It turned out that I liked it and was getting stronger and able to go longer,” she said.
Last spring, she swam in her first competition, Cincinnati’s regional qualifiers for the Ohio Senior Olympics. She came home with first place titles in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle and 50-yard breaststroke.
“I just did it as a whim and something kind of fun,” she said. “I didn’t go in it with any expectations of winning at all.”
A few months later, she competed in the same events at the Ohio Senior Olympics, earning silver in both freestyle events and a bronze in the breaststroke competition. These results qualified her to compete at the national level. She’s been training hard ever since.
In addition to her lifeguarding job, Williams shows up to the YMCA at 6 a.m. most days to swim between a half and three fourths of a mile before her shift. She’s shaved a few seconds off her times since the state competition last summer, and that her back and knees are stronger, but she’s still humble about her podium prospects.
“I’m just going to do my best, that’s all I can do,” she said. “I don’t really have any expectations. … I’ve never (been to nationals), so I don’t know.”
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