It’s hard enough to win second place in a race involving skiing, biking, running, and kayaking.
For the Bend man who took the prize in the men’s elite category at the Pole, Pedal, Paddle on Saturday, it was even harder due to the loss of an important presence at the race.
Mike Condon has competed in the event for 16 years.
“That’s the highest I’ve finished,” he said of his win. “First year I did it was in 2005, the year I graduated from high school, and I’ve done it every year ever since.”
This time around, one face was missing from the cheering onlookers.
His dad. Tom Condon.
“He was on my support crew every single year that I’ve done it. He loved going and helping with the transitions up at the mountain, and just the excitement and anticipation on race day,” Condon said.
Tom died of a heart attack last May. No one saw it coming.
“We had his funeral on May 15, which would have been race day last year,” Condon added.
He remembers his father as ever-present, investing most of his time in his family. Though he didn’t grow up in Bend, Tom was always a huge fan of the PPP.
“He loved Pole Pedal Paddle, he felt like it was a celebration of Bend and all the things that we do,” Condon said.
His dad’s role supporting him in the race took many forms, including waking up early to drive him to the mountain.
“The biggest thing my dad really helped was just helping me kind of calm down before the race, because I get really anxious leading up to Pole Pedal Paddle,” Condon said. “The morning of is the extreme version of that and he’d always show up at our house and help me load everything in.
“He was just really calm. There was no pressure. If I felt like talking, he’d talk. If I didn’t want to talk, he’d just be quiet. So it was a really nice calming effect leading up to the race that I definitely missed this year.”
A supportive dad in all of life and a forever cheerleader, even in spirit.
“Just coming in seeing him cheering on the sidelines, that was missing this year,” he said. “So it was hard, but at the same time just all those years of him being on the support crew, I almost had the feeling like of what he would’ve said if he was there, what it would’ve been like if he was there. He wasn’t there, but there was an element that kind of felt like he was.”
A presence felt both on the course and in the Bend nature he loved so much.
“On the one-year anniversary of him passing, there was a giant rainbow over Bend that morning. I was actually out on the river practicing for the kayak that morning,” Condon said. “Going up to the race on Saturday, I always stop at Meissner Sno Park to go to the bathroom, because I can’t make it the whole way, you’re trying to hydrate. And there’s a giant rainbow right over Meissner. So, it made me think of him as well.”
Condon wasn’t sure he would compete at all this year, as time previously spent training was poured into his two young kids.
But that knowledge made the end result even sweeter — and a tribute to his father.
“It felt even better to not have it just consume me, and spend all that time and energy on it, to continue to invest in my kids, that’s what my dad would’ve wanted and to still compete well, it was the perfect balance,” he said.