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Friday, September 19, 2014

Sea Gull Century Participant Rides in Father's Memory

Terry AllenSALISBURY, MD---Terry Allen was a two-time veteran of Salisbury University’s Sea Gull Century, having fully completed the 100-mile Assateague route in 2011 and the 100-kilometer Princess Anne ride in 2012.

He was lifting weights to build his upper body strength for his third appearance in 2013 when a persistent summer back injury led to a cancer diagnosis. He was recovering well from treatments and surgery when he unexpectedly passed away in late October last year - just three weeks after the Century he had been training to complete.

That ride likely was going to be the last for Terry’s 1994 blue and white Barracuda mountain bike - a hand-me-down from his son, Tom, who first got him into riding competitively in the late 1990s. Terry had been talking to Tom about looking for something newer. He also, for a few years, had been asking his son to make the long trip from Wisconsin to give the flat Eastern Shore ride a try with him. 

Due to work and schedules, Tom regretfully never got a chance.  But on Saturday, September 27, he will.   

Tom’s last promise to his dad was that he would push the mechanical limits of the now two-decade old bike, riding it across the Sea Gull Century finish line one more time for him.

“Dad was always a competitive athlete, even in his 60s,” Tom said. “He was above and beyond fit his whole life. He could just turn and turn and turn. It’s that old farmer thing.” (Terry was a native of Oklahoma.)

Not only will Tom ride his dad’s bike (they were the same height), he’ll also wear his jersey, his helmet and rider no. 905 kindly issued to him by organizers, as it was the number Terry wore when he completed his metric century.  (The original is framed in the home of Terry and his wife, Dr. Diane Allen, SU’s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.)

“The only thing I can’t wear is his shoes,” Tom said, jokingly. “He had little feet, for his height.”   

Terry and Tom both rode competitively, often at events together, into the mid 2000s when a knee injury sidelined the younger Allen. 

Tom AllenTerry Allen“Preparing for this ride is a journey back for me,” said Tom, now age 36. “I’m not ready, but I’ll finish. I told him I’d get his bike through, no matter what.”

Tom has been training for the ride off and on since last November. Sometimes he pulled his now 20-month-old daughter, Priya, in a trailer behind his bike. Riding behind her dad, she had the same view Tom usually had of his dad during their training.

“I remember being on rides with him and we were the ones setting the pace even though we were on slower mountain bikes and others were on faster road bikes,” Tom said. “When Dad was hammering at the front of the pack, I remember smiling behind him, thinking ‘that’s my dad, bringing the pain.’”

Tom likens his dad’s riding style to that of German cyclist Jens Voigt, the oldest 2014 Tour de France participant who is known for his “all go, no quit” racing and, more importantly, his affable personality. This week Voigt broke the “hour record” for riding the farthest distance possible (51.115 km) in exactly 60 minutes. 

“It would be the perfect race for my dad; he was ridiculously hard working and could push himself well past normal limits,” Tom said.

Terry also never understood that mountain bike races are individual sports, his son said. Instead, Terry would talk to whoever was racing next to him the whole time, and once, paused to help someone fix a broken bike, even though it was against the rules to assist another participant.

“That was him,” Tom added, “friendly and helpful to everyone he met.”

Diane and Terry AllenTerry quickly became part of the campus community, after coming to Salisbury with Diane in 2009. A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, he advised SU’s Student Military and Veterans Association and rode with some of its members in the Century. He also was a supporter of Sea Gull athletics and, as a classical music enthusiast, the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra.

“Dad was a brilliant athlete,” said Tom, who will arrive in Salisbury a few days before the ride with Priya and his wife, Nina. “He had a pace that he wanted to hold for his next Sea Gull Century, and I haven’t been able to match it yet, but I’m going to try.”

For more information about the Sea Gull Century, call 410-548-2772 or visit the website at www.SeaGullCentury.org.


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