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Al Lester

by Pamela Blalock

 

 

I met Al on a bicycle. Where else? We met while doing qualifying brevets for Paris-Brest-Paris. Al and I, and thousands of others riders dreamed for years about doing this ride. We lived it, breathed it, ate it and dreamed it.

Al had epilepsy and his doctor's told him it would keep him from doing long distance rides, but he defied them by doing a century. They said nothing longer. He did a double century. They said that was the limit. He did a triple, and then a quad. After he completed Boston-Montreal-Boston in 1990, they decided to stop telling him he couldn't do things anymore.

Al started taking conversational French lessons before we traveled to Paris last year. He used to drive me crazy calling out obstacles in French while on rides, but it helped to prepare him for the ride and got him psyched. Telephone callers were even treated to an answering machine greeting in French when they called.

But Al had so much energy, that in addition to all his training for France, he was on the crew that pushed Cathy Ellis to victory in last years RAAM.

When I was getting burned out riding last year, he helped bring the fun back into the ride. He was one of the ride leaders for TOSRV-East. This ride tours scenic rural Vermont, by traveling up route 100 for 100 miles and then back the next day. This year will be the 21st year of the ride. Last year, Al and I had planned to drive up together, but at the last minute, I broke a shift lever. I suggested that we try the tandem. Al had never been on a tandem before, but decided to try. We set the seat height, put him on the back, and road around my neighborhood. Based on that 3 mile ride, we decided to do the back to back centuries the next day. He did great, and rarely complained about sore stoker butt. He fell in love with tandeming on that ride. We did a few more centuries together. I even let him on the front once!

He had just started riding with a new tandem partner recently, and we were looking forward to doing a little competing on TOSRV-East this year!

Al completed Paris-Brest-Paris in 1991 and was ready to do it all over again in 1995! We had a blast on the ride and touring around Paris. Al practiced power napping while standing over his bike on the first day. He would get ahead of me, and stop, sleeping standing up over his bike. When I rode by, I'd wake him, and he'd do it again. He helped me through some of my low points during the ride.

Al served as president of the Greater Boston Chapter of American Youth Hostels for 4 years, until he did a walkabout this past winter. His leadership there pushed a great many projects along. He led trip after trip and ride after ride. He was an absolutely tireless volunteer.

Al had done a tremendous amount of touring in the US and in Europe and had incredible stories about the people he met along the way.

Al attended MIT, and received a degree in Computer Science. This past year, after suffering major burnout or plain dissatisfaction with his career, he decided to take some time off and tour through the southeast for a while. He planned to lead several trips and tours this summer and then enter graduate school in the fall. He wanted to teach math.

Al had mentioned Ididabike and RAAM as future possibilities. Al was competing in his first 24 hour ultramarathon in Johnstown, NY. He was always a strong rider, but he was shocking everyone with how well he was doing. All that touring this winter had really paid off. Apparently, he was just playing with us, when we won those town line sprints from him on the 300K this year.

Al was 31 years old, and had definitely packed a great deal of adventure into those 31 years. He touched a lot of lives along the way. You may have been one, and not even known it. He touched my life and I miss him dearly.


Al, just before the start of the race

It was during that 24 hour marathon bike race, that he was hit head on and killed by a drunk driver. In the same race, and just minutes apart, Andrew Spiller suffered a similar fate. Please don't drink and drive, and don't let your friends, family and children drink and drive.


Andrew, out training Easter weekend

 


Mt Mitchell