Rusty Hall – Rusty in Name, Iron in Will

RUSTY HALL – ATHLETE ELDER

In life you occasionally come across older athletes that inspires you. As a masters athlete researcher and lifetime athlete myself, I’ve met a few in my time. As part of a new regular feature of our website, we will be bringing you interviews with masters athletes who inspire! This guy lives in my town and trains with athletes 60 years younger than himself! And refuses to believe he can’t beat them!

Rusty Hall is a legendary athlete in my home town of Rockhampton in Central Queensland. Rusty is a 75 year-old cyclist who races regularly in local road cycling races, takes on 220k road races every now and again, and every year for many years rides in a multi-day charity ride to raise monies for burns victims. He is married with 2 sons, 3 grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren. I asked Rusty to tell his story and why he still enjoys training and racing and what makes him tick? Enjoy the wisdom of an athlete elder!

Masters Athlete (MA):  What work did you do in the past?

Rusty Hall (RH): I’m currently retired. I operated my own business from home until August 2012. Overall I spent 43 years in Fire Services. I Joined the Brisbane Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Brisbane as a fireman on the 14 March, 1960. I left the Fire Brigade after 3 years 8 months to join the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), Airport Fire Service at the Brisbane Airport due to my interest in Aircraft and a higher rate of pay. I then was the Unit Manager of the Rockhampton Airport Fire Station for 19 years until I became redundant in 1993. I was also as an Instructor at the Training College, located at  Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne. In 1995, I was successful in attaining a position as a fire fighter with the Queensland Fire & Rescue Service (QFRS), Rockhampton until my retirement from that Service on 27th June 2003, at the age of 65.

In my early formative years from age 10 to 18, I grew up on numerous share farms, milking dairy cattle, rearing pigs and growing grain crops at various localities on the Darling Downs and on other farms located elsewhere throughout Queensland. Most of the time, my immediate elder brother, my younger sister and I were the core members of the family who assisted our father to milk the cows and feed the pigs in the dairy during the early hours of the morning, before going to school and again later assisted when we got back home from school.

Being the 3rd eldest member of 7 children, the traits and attitudes that were forged during my early formative years were continually being reinforced during this period. As I matured to an adult these were the primary precursors that directly forged my character and values that I have always held dear to me throughout my life. Nothing has changed.

MA: Past and current sports?

RH: I currently race bicycles on the road. In the past I was a long distance runner, triathlete and adventure racer.

MA: How long have you been involved with sport and at what level?

RH: I first started running on an ad hoc basis, when I was a young teenager. As the distance to school on a number of farms was approximately 5 miles we usually rode a horse to school. When a horse was not always available to ride with only a bridle and cornsack, I always made a point of running to and from school. My love for running began at that time about 60 odd years ago.

In 1970, when I was still single and renting a room in the suburb of Alderley, Brisbane, I began interval training on the 400 metre running track that belonged to the Mayne Harriers Running Club. At that time I trained independently to Dr. Tony Blue, who also used the field for his training. Tony was the then current Australian 800m track champion. I competed in 800m and 1500m races on the Athletic field at Lang Park that was surrounded by rows of concrete spectator seating. This is now known as SunCorp Stadium home of the Broncos Rugby League Football Club.

Several years later, I used to do interval training on the Nundah Athletic Track with our eldest son Trent. Over the years Trentdeveloped into one of the finest distance runners Rockhampton has ever had. When we moved to Rockhampton in 1972, Trent and I both joined the Rockhampton Little Athletic Club at Jardine Park. Initially, they did not cater for any events for longer distant runners, like myself, our two sons Trent and Scott , John Spence, Terri Dunne, as well as the Gill and Black family children. All of whom enjoyed competing in the longer distance cross country races. Eventually, with my encouragement, the Club introduced the 800m, 1500m and 2 mile events as a regular feature at their weekly Friday night Club meets.

As an offshoot to track racing, with my wife Marion’s assistance, we introduced and began holding Cross Country competition events that were held on each Saturday afternoon in Carlton St. North Rockhampton. Eventually with our love for the sport in conjunction with a ½ dozen  other like-minded athletes, we formed the Rockhampton Road Runners Club. I initially became the President of the Club with my wife Marion as the Chief Timekeeper. During our tenure we introduced a variety of notable distance running events on the Annual Racing Calender (MA note: most of these events are still going today):

*          The King of the Mountain (Mt Archer);

*          TheRockhampton Down Town Dash;

*          The Great Turkey Chase;

*          The Rockhampton Half Marathon;

*          The Rockhampton to GladstoneRelay.

Initially my love of distance running always remained my primary sport, that was until I was forced to stop running due to a knee injury. Since being injured, my primary sport had to change. It is now riding and racing on the road. At this point in time discontinuing riding is not an option for me. It was, and will always be mainly at a local level in Rockhampton. For myself, prior to injury, I was always on the road by 4 am running anything from 20 mile a session with a total distance of 80 to 132 miles a week depending on what I was training for at the time e.g. marathons, or intercity racing etc. I ran 6 days a week both morning and afternoon each day to achieve my goals.

In addition to this, I also trained at the CQUniversity Oval twice a week on a Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. This was a conscious decision to include fast interval training into my program to build my speed endurance. When I was doing this, I learnt all about “muscle memory’ the hard way, through experience. At that time nothing was written in books to guide me. If you wish to race fast, it is very important for you to include fast training in your weekly training schedule. Regardless of whether your “primary” sport is running – cycling – swimming, or for that matter any sport that requires the athlete to develop his/her speed endurance.

Note: –       Always combine fast training into your training program 2 days prior to racing. The reason for this is – your muscles will remember how to perform at a faster rate during your race. The end result is a faster performance.  “Hence the term “muscle memory”.

I first competed 3 Gold Coast Marathons back in the 1970’s when only 70 runners competed in the event. The numbers of runners who compete in this event now, is in the thousands. I broke the sub 3 hour marathon several times when competing in this event. The holy grail of achievement for any marathon racer. After doing this, I switched to ½ marathons as I could recover much sooner and race the same distance again the following week if I needed to.

I competed in every level of triathlon, both Short Course and Long Course Iron Man Events and other distance races in – between. My triathlon days lasted about 10 years. I came 2nd in the Forster/Tuncurry (now Australian Ironman) Iron Man Event and only 2 of us in our age group over 50 qualified for the Hawaiia Ironman Race. I relinquished my position for that event when I torn my right calf muscle and could not run, let alone a full marathon. Prior to that, I won the State age group championship over the 3 – 130 – 30km distance race at Jupiter’s Casino the Gold Coast. I competed in a great variety of different triathlons over the years.

As I was looking for a new challenge and a new test of my character, I completed the Quoll Adventure Race in Cairns several times. One was a 12 hour event during the night and the second, a 30 hour event continuing non stop throughout the night into the next day. This was definitely something different, a new challenge to contend with. I was simply branching out in a new direction. The Quoll provided a combination of sports within one race that gave me a great sense of achievement as each person had to be competent and reliant on knowing how to read their compass correctly in country that you had never been in before and that you were totally unfamiliar with, yet still know exactly where you were at all times when referencing a topographic map. This was not only necessary to find your check points as you progressed, but also to avoid getting lost in unfamiliar country. You would be instantly disqualified if you were found to using a GPS to find your way around the Course.

MA: What got you interested in sport as a younger man?

RH: I am an extremely competitive, positive thinking person who does not give in easily. I was always like this stemming from my very early childhood days. When we lived at Holland Park a suburb of Brisbane in the early 1940’s, with my brother Brian we used to help the milkman deliver milk in bottles to houses in the suburb of Greenslopes. The delivery of milk was completed using a horse and sulky. We got up in the morning at 3am and run into Greenslopes a the distance of several miles. When we finished the deliveries, we would then run home. Arrive about 7am, have breakfast then get ready for school and be there by 8.30am. We would earn the sum of 20 pence a week each for spending money to go to the picture theatre for sixpence and sit in canvas seats and buy ice blocks to eat from the local shop for tuppence each.

MA: What is a typical current training week for you?

RH: If you want to be successful at what you do in life, you have to be prepared to do the hard yards. In other words the harder you work the more likely it is that you will be successful in achieving yours goals. Because I knew I had to be fit for the recent 2014 Bike 4 Burns Charity Bike Ride, I made a point of riding 260-300km a week. As I tend to be a loner, I have no problem with completing the majority of the training by myself to build on my fitness and endurance. Having said that, I still believe it is essential that I ride with other cyclists to enhance my riding skills, increase my speed and to develop my mental toughness.

MA: What motivates you to keep training and competing at your age?

RH: Age does not weary me. Yes it does, when I say that I don’t dwell on this fact, or think much about myself being old even though I feel young at heart, and getting older. All I think about is “Train longer and harder to slow down slower”. If I do not perform up to my own expectations, in reality I may well be disappointed, but I always maintain a “Positive   Attitude” to ensure that I will do better next time”. To achieve this, I take a lot of care of my personal well being and remember to maintain my energy levels while I am out riding. If I don’t do this I know I will under – perform and not achieve my goals I have set for the day.

Also, it is just as important to re-energise on completion of my training for the day and make sure I have sufficient nutrients, rest/sleep at critical times to allow for the effort I have put in doing my training to prepare myself for my next training or race. I know I have to do this. If I am feeling down and want to keep up with the younger riders on several of my usual weekly rides, it is a necessity. On some rides the age difference between the young riders and myself can well be over 60 years, or more.

Like I said before, and I will keep on saying it over and over again that I am a very positive thinking person. Once I set my mind on doing something very little will change my mind, or stop me from completing the tasks I have set myself. I set my goals i.e.- achievable goals and I consider I know exactly what I want to do to achieve it. If I don’t achieve my goal/s, I review and analyse what I have been doing and change my training program around and try something different. I keep an open mind and I am not resistant to change. If I decide there   is a need to rearrange my training program, I will do that. My expectation is next time I will perform at a higher level. If I don’t achieve that new goal, I have a fall back position where I will say to myself again, I will do better next time. Please note: It is very important to set yourself small achievable goals and only advance further after achieving your present goal.

I have another saying that means a lot to me and it is one of the driving forces that enables me to keep motivated. This saying is “While I am doing that – I am doing nothing else). In other words this means, I will always endeavour to do the best I can in any given circumstance no matter what the difficulties are, or what I may have to confront and overcome to be successful. Crudely, this quote means “If I was a shit shoveler – I would            make sure I was the best shit shoveler in the world“.  I am one of those persons who finds it very difficult to give in. I don’t believe in entering and competing in an event and then pulling out just because the going is getting tough i.e: – “when the going gets tough – the   tough get going”. In my vocabulary, I don’t believe in a DNF beside my name either. When I am riding a pushbike and I am doing it tough, I will not give in while I have an ounce of energy left in my body. I don’t understand the words for DNF. I call myself a “Grinder” and will keep grinding away until I complete the event. If someone drops off in say a group of riders after me, I will use their weakness, or lack of fitness, to motivate me and will do everything in my power to chase them down.

MA: What are your seven top tips for longevity as a Masters Athlete?

RH:

1.         Always be honest with yourself and with other people around you

2.         Always have a positive outlook on life

3.         Set yourself small on – going, achievable goals

4.         Be prepared to do the hard yards, if you wish to be successful

5.         Don’t worry about what other people say you ought to do.  At the end of the day, it’s your life, do what you want to do, providing you are happy to do that

6.         Don’t be dogmatic – Keep an open mind – remain flexible and open to change. Set new challenges for yourself. Analyse what you are doing and don’t be resistant to change if change is required

7.        As a Masters Athlete ensure you maintain your overall strength and flexibility. Do cross training e.g. Swimming, or running.  Consider workouts in a Gym. This can be most rewarding if it is well organised and blends in with your primary sport.

MA: What 5 bits of advice would you give for a happy and healthy life?

RH:

      1.         Maintain your health and fitness levels as best you can

2.         Always be consistent doing what you wish, or want to do

3.         Remember you have your own private life to lead other than sport with your wife/or partner and other family members;

4.         Be truthful, considerate and understanding about their needs and wishes as well as your own. After all, they are the most important people who can share your successes and failures and provide moral support probably when you most need it

5.         Take time out doing something different when the going gets particularly tough. Like take a holiday. Learn to relax and comeback bigger and stronger next time.

MA: What motivates you to get out of bed and onto the bike these days?

AF: A will to keep active and not ‘lose it’.

MA: What are your top five nutrition tips?

RH:

Prior to commencing training or racing, try to energise at least 30 minutes before the                activity. I always take the following high energy foods:

1.         A small mixed bowl of Uncle Toby’s Rolled Oats c/w sultanas – ½ a banana – a scoop of Chia Seed sweetened with honey to taste. Add water. When cooked and placed in bowl and add a quantity of mixed powdered skim milk. Note: Usually cooked the night before. Saves time during my preparation in the early hours of the morning to leave home in time to reach the starting point for my riding activities

2.         Vital Greens + Wheatgrass. Taken as a mixture with a rounded off teaspoon of each in half a glass of water

3.         Tangy Vitamin C with Hesperidin. Acts as a laxative. Taken the same as the above

4.         2 scoops of Chocolate Sustagen Sport. Ditto;

5.         1 Cadel Evans – no caffeine Energy Gel. Take no later than ½ hour before exercise.

Note:-  During my bike rides, whether it be training, or racing,  it is important and necessary to re-energise approximately every 20 – 25km. At this point, I ingest another Energy                    Gel and drink as often as I require, having added  1 Vitamin B table – 1 Scoop of Staminade – Wild Berry Rush combined with ½ to 1 scoop of Glucodin powder to my water bottle that I carry on the bike.

MA: What advice would you give to a younger athlete just starting out in sport?

RH: Be prepared to listen to other experienced athletes, if they are forthcoming in giving you   advice. After all, no matter what sport you are proposing to undertake as a newcomer, you          must remember, they will have most likely been through the mill themselves and are only          trying help or assist you by giving you a better understanding how you can go about improving your performance. If it is well intentioned advice about a safety issue, or nutritional advice given as a means to enhance your performance, please take note. Respect what they may say, but at the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not you agree, or disagree with their advice. Remember what is good for Peter may not be necessarily good for Paul. How you react to their advice, by putting it on the back burner until you seek out alternative opinions and advice is up to you. Don’t rush in to make changes before you have thought about it thoroughly. You will have your own ideas and thoughts to consider and contend with before making any important changes you may live to regret.

MA: What are your favourite quotes regarding a sporting life?

RH:

 “Train harder and longer to slow down slower.”

  “While I am doing that, I am doing nothing else.”

MA: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

RH: I believe my 1st Quote above is self explanatory. I would like to explain how my 2nd quote came into being and why it is so important to me?

When I was 10 year old I started school at theJingh Valley State School. This One teacher          School was located approximately 26 miles from Jandowae on the Darling Downs. Mr.            Arthur Moran who was 26 years of age was the Principal. He was very strict and        authoritarian in the way he managed the school and was well predisposed to use the cane to control the kids. Of the 26 country kids who attended the School my immediate elder brother Brian was the eldest kid in the school. He was 12 years of age. We all studied and were taught in one large room at the top of external sets of stairs. The building was high Set.

One other boy named Tuppy Gachidle was 10 years, the same age as me. In the beginning            both of us were very poor scholars and always got very low marks in regular tests for history, spelling, reading and the times table. When Mr Moran read out the marks following these tests of our class all he used to say was “Hall & Gachidle come out to the front of the  Class – 6 cuts each with the cane for both of you since you got very poor marks. Every time we only got 2 or 3 marks out of ten on our subjects. When we held out our hands, he promptly gave us our punishment 3 cuts on each hand which he wielded with great vigour. Every time both of us got low marks, it was always the same punishment 6 cuts with the cane.

The only time I cried was when he broke a 4 inch section off the tip of the cane he wielded when he gave me my punishment. I do not recall how many times both Tuppy and I got the Cane, but after many times that both Tuppy and I endured receiving the cane because of our poor marks, I decided to spend a lot of time of a night at home doing homework.

Many was the night, I used to sit at the kitchen table by myself doing my homework after the rest of the family had gone to bed. The kitchen in the farm house where I studied by the light of a flickering hurricane light was cold, unpainted and very dark and difficult to see.

There was not such thing as electricity in most of the farm houses in those days. Eventually my hard work paid off and my marks improved substantially until I was getting 8 or nine out of ten in most of my subjects and the Caning stopped. I went about learning my times table by Rote i.e. repetitively reciting it over and over again like 2 – 2s are 4, 3 – 2s are 6, 4 – 2s are 8 etc. I used the same method when I learnt my spelling, repeating it over and over so when   it came to test time, I remembered most of the correct answers and the caning stopped.

My point is: – “I was very successful in achieving my objective by working hard at such a young age”. It was only achieved by consciously making the effort and working very hard to b successful so in the end “While I am doing that, I am doing nothing else.” so “If I was a shit shoveler – I would make sure I was the best shit shoveler in the world“.

My final word is. I hold no malice towards Mr. Arthur Moron whatsoever. After all he was          only doing his job to the best of his ability and he was very successful at doing that and I        learnt one of Life’s lessons that I am very thankful for.

The moral of my story is – Work hard and you will receive your just rewards.