Julie Lockhart : A Story of Vivacity
Julie Lockhart isn’t your typical 66-year-old woman. If you’re at all familiar with cyclo-cross in the Northeast, then you’ve seen her powering through the mud on her Redline with a vivacity more often found in racers half her age.
Last year, as the oldest woman entered in the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships, Julie picked up the stars-and-stripes jersey for the women’s 65+ category – a title she defended again last weekend.
Riding in conditions she described as “frozen corduroy with stretches of soupy chocolate pudding,” Julie earned her eighth national title of the year last Friday. She earned four on the track this summer (500-meter time trial, sprint, individual pursuit, and points race) and captured three on the road at the USA Cycling National Festival (road race, Criterium, and time trial).
USA Cycling caught up with Julie during her solo drive from her home in Dunstable, Mass. to the site of the weekend’s national championships in Kansas. From a hotel somewhere in Indiana (she’s not sure where exactly), she explained that she wanted to arrive early so that she’d have time to check out the course prior to her Women’s B race start on Thursday and her national championship race on Friday.
Julie travelled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so that she’d only have to stop for gas. And if it hadn’t been for that speeding ticket early Tuesday morning, she would have achieved that goal. She only stopped when her husband called to warn her of the icy conditions in Kansas.
“I think I’ve averaged about 73 miles per hour,” she said. “I really think I could have driven through the night if it hadn’t been for the ice.”
After using the Women’s B race to learn the course on Thursday, Julie lined up on Friday with the women’s 55+ group and prepared to defend her title in the 65+ category.
“I applied skiing skills, and stayed upright except where spectators were yelling a wrong crossing of a drainage dip to re cross the pavement,” she recalled. “And I hit an 18 inch hole with no momentum and sort of toppled to hand down before recovering.”
Julie’s can-do attitude hasn’t only made her a popular face at ‘cross events but also an inspiration to the crowds of people who have never considered racing themselves.
When asked by a spectator earlier this season about whether or not she was scared of hurting herself or breaking a bone, Julie replied “You can’t think about things like that. Because when you do stuff you’re stronger and because you’re stronger that stuff doesn’t happen.”
She may be pretty hard core at 66, but making her even more incredible is the fact that 2007 is only her second season of ‘cross. Although she’s never been inactive (she’s also a ski instructor and rock climber who plays basketball twice a week with the neighborhood guys), she wasn’t into competitive sports at all until age 62.
Her grandfather was an Olympic pole vaulter for Canada and her father and uncles were all runners. “But girls didn’t do that and I was unfortunately not as independent as a young person as I am now,” she said.
In 2004, because she commuted 20 miles each way to work on her bike a few days each week, a friend asked her to be the cyclist in a triathlon.
“I decided that the bike was the strongest part of the triathlon for me,” she explained. “So the next year I went and joined NEBC (The Northeast Bicycle Club). They’re very new racer friendly.”
She started out with the club’s weekly time trial. “Then they said I should do the intro to racing clinic,” she said. “And I said ‘I’m not going to bicycle race. That’s dangerous’.” But after learning bike handling skills at the clinic and taking part in a local crit as her official graduation from the clinic, Julie was hooked. She competed in a couple of crits and a road race during the summer of 2006 then grabbed her husband’s relaxed fit road bike and joined her new club-mates at a cyclo-cross clinic.
“My first race was a really flat, very windy kind of thing with nothing scary,” she recalled. But then the very next day, she made her way to Coonamessett, Mass. for her second ‘cross endeavor which she described as “more mountain bikey.”
“I went out there and pre-rode the course and was like ‘oh my goodness I’m going to kill myself’,” she said. “It was a beginner race, but it was not a beginner course.”
With the adrenaline gained from avoiding an early-race crash, Julie was able to leave her wariness behind and take on the deep gravel, the single track, and the drops with the confidence of a seasoned racer. And she’s been hooked on ‘cross ever since.
“Bike racing keeps your mind so vibrant and vital because you have to focus all the time,” she said. “In cyclo-cross particularly you have to be constantly assessing your future because you can’t do anything about it when you get to it. You visually assess it so your bike and your body can do what it needs to do without you thinking about it. You have to be able to let the bike take care of itself and the only way you can learn that confidence is by doing it.”
Julie thanks Mark McCormack and Lynn Bessette for their encouragement in her first year.
“They talked to me about how to do things. They answered my questions and were very, very forthcoming - way beyond the ordinary kind of being nice.”
And she also thanks Redline for spotting her two bikes and enabling her to finish her race at nationals last year after she had some trouble with her tire pressure.
To all the women that Julie met this year at road and track nationals and at Gloucester: Julie wanted us to mention that she has lost all of the contact information stored in her laptop. So please get back in touch with her!
This Article Published December 20, 2007 For more information contact: