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Mountain hike 'was experience of a lifetime'

Cary Ashby • Aug 29, 2016 at 12:00 PM

MONROEVILLE — Once Gary Lyons retired from the Sandusky Police Department, he gained a passion for hiking.

“When I retired, I enjoyed hiking,” said Lyons, the current Monroeville police chief who retired from the Sandusky force as the assistant chief in 2007.

“I envisioned doing the Appalachian Trail as a bucket list,” he added.

While that massive hike is still on his bucket list, Lyons recently climbed two Colorado mountains. He attempted one and was pushed back due to the weather and physical ailments he faced. Then, less than two days later, the Monroeville police chief successfully climbed another peak.

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” Lyons said.

Lyons worked for the Sandusky Police Department for 27 years. During his time there, in 1983, he was a power-lifting champion during the Ohio Police & Fire Games.

“I was pretty good in sports in high school,” said Lyons, who was a baseball pitcher and played on the defensive and offensive lines.

“In my sophomore year I pitched a no-hitter,” he recalled about the game in which he struck out 21 batters following an initial error by the second baseman.

“I was excited because it was in front of a Cleveland Indians scout. He was scouting for my catcher,” Lyons added with a chuckle.

Soon in his police-related desk work, Lyons found himself overweight. He said he knew he had to something about it if he wanted to remain in law enforcement and respond to any emergencies in the field.

“The wake-up call was my blood pressure,” Lyons said.

A subsequent exercise regime resulted in a 45-pound weight loss. But in 2012, a health episode gave him another jolt of reality.

“The end result was me needing a heart catheterization and a stint put in,” Lyons said.

Once he was medically cleared, he did more cardio work. Lyons, 64, worked with Anytime Fitness trainer Levi Goedel, who is from Fort Collins, Colo., to get into the best shape possible for his age and so he could handle himself as a police officer.

Lyons mentioned to Goedel his interest in hiking Colorado’s highest peaks through the 14ers. According to the 14ers website, the mission is “to provide free access to peak information, photos, climbing routes and an active forum, all in an open environment that's easy to use.”

“He said it will be really, really physically demanding,” Lyons said, because he would be breathing half the amount of air as usual in Colorado.

To prepare, Lyons did even more cardio work and training, with his trainer giving him demanding exercises that combined body control and weightlifting.

“I never worked so hard in my life,” Lyons said. “Levi did a great job of pushing me without hurting me.”

By June, Goedel felt Lyons was ready. On July 30, Lyons headed to Colorado and then attempted to climb Mt. Elbert, with an elevation of 14,443 feet.

Lyons said he realized he wasn’t feeling 100 percent when he was about 30 minutes from the trailhead. He had to take 15 steps and then rest since he was having a headache and was sick to his stomach.

At about 13,800 feet, a storm front came in. Lyons said his hiking group was out in the open with lightning in the forecast. 

“We just got to the tree line as the storm hit. It was a severe storm,” added Lyons, who was dehydrated and thought he might lose a toenail.

“It was physically grueling, My feet were bleeding,” he said.

The next day, Lyons spent the day relaxing, stretching and generally “replenishing my body.”

Then at 4 a.m. Aug. 2 — the day he was to fly back to Ohio, he took on Mt. Bierstadt, which has an elevation of 14,060 feet. Lyons hiked on his own, but was with other hikers.

“I was keeping up with them,” said Lyons, who felt winded, but unlike before, was controlling his heart rate. “The adrenaline was going, but I took my time.”

It took him about 3 1/2 hours to reach the summit of Mt. Bierstadt.

“It was one of the best feelings I ever had,” Lyons said. “(It was) worth every labored breath.” 

The trip down the mountain took until about 12:30 p.m., leaving him plenty of time to catch his flight.

“I may do it again. I’d like to try Mt. Elbert again,” said Lyons, who lost 10 pounds from his two treks and enjoyed every mental and physical challenge he faced.

“I think that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing at age 64. I enjoy those challenges,” he said.

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