(Photo: Fight For John/Facebook)
Bishop crash survivor, local life coach Adams in serious condition.
He was the fifth passenger, one of those injured in the Aug. 9 multi-vehicle accident just south of Bishop that claimed the lives of three people. His name is familiar to many Mammoth locals, athletes in particular: John Adams. Curiously, of those inside the SUV, little if any mention was made in the initial California Highway Patrol and media reports of Adams, who sustained serious injuries in the wreck.
Adams, whose first name is actually Nathan (but he goes by “John”), is considered one of the founding fathers of the area’s elite high-altitude athletics that have become part of the fabric of the Mammoth community.
Bound for San Diego from Mammoth Lakes, Adams was riding in an SUV that was involved in a fiery collision that killed a cheerleading coach, Wendy Rice of California Baptist University. Rice was in one of three vans from the college heading northbound carrying athletes to Mammoth for high-altitude training. Of the five persons in the southbound SUV, Natalie Nield and Amanda Paige Post, two recent Cathedral Catholic High School graduates from San Diego, were also killed.
Adams was heading back to San Diego, where he serves as a coach, with 4 athletes he had brought to Mammoth for personal Renegade Training, a new program he created and recently unveiled. He reportedly suffered second-degree burns on about 30% of his body, two punctured lungs, several broken ribs, a fractured skull, as well as brain hemorrhaging and swelling. He also may have a few broken teeth and a broken jaw, though that is still being evaluated. On a positive note, he sustained no brain stem or spinal column injuries. At press time, he is still in the ICU and being kept heavily sedated in a doctor induced coma to allow his body uninterrupted time to recover.
It wasn’t until several days later that his name began to surface, and many who had sent him routine text messages that tragic night were shocked to find out later that he had been involved in the accident.
Adams is well known in the Mammoth’s athletic community. “To all the victims and their families, we express our deepest sympathy,” High Sierra Triathlon Club Coach and event director Alana Levin said on behalf of the Tri club and many other friends and colleagues. “John was instrumental in starting the Triathlon club (back then we called it the “Tri High Club”) and his smile, dynamic personality and sparkling eyes accompanied his strong and encouraging voice. John also worked at Snowcreek as a trainer and taught at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area when he lived here. He is a positive force and we wish him and all involved a full recovery.”
While working as a trainer at Snowcreek Athletic Club, Levin said she knew he’d done triathlons and pressed him into service to pull together the origins of what would become the local triathlon community. “I roped him into it,” she recalled. “He helped me get it started and realize it was doable. He’s a Texan … for John, the sky’s the limit and he pushes those limits.”
Andrew Kastor said his wife, Olympic medal-winning marathoner Deena, spoke to Adams’s group. among others, at Snowcreek Athletic Club just 3 hours before the crash in Bishop. “She gave them a pep talk on life and running,” he recalled.
“I saw them on Monday at SAC,” Levin remembers. “These young, fit kids got out of this SUV and then I heard this heavy Texas accent behind me saying, ‘Hey girl.’ I turned around and there was John.”
Perhaps the last locals to interact with the passengers of the ill-fated SUV, before it headed south around 6:30 p.m., that evening were Stu and Julie Brown. “We’d been trying to meet the group and catch up with John all weekend about his new Renegade project (i.e. marketing and positioning, etc..) but couldn’t hook up for one reason or another. They’d been camping, and stopped by on the way out. The kids were great, full of life, full of energy.” Stu said. Adams typically stops at the Paiute Palace for fuel, and then tries to find something healthy to eat.
Brown said he met Derek Thomas, 19, who had been dating Post, one of those who died, through a common love of rugby. Thomas was taken to West Hills Hospital with third-degree burns over 85% of his body. Drew Dellis, 22, another who was traveling in the SUV, is an avid soccer player. He was transported to San Joaquin Hospital in Bakersfield with third-degree burns and body trauma.
Brown said Post ran track in the 400, 800 and 1,500 meters, and Nield was a cross-country/distance runner.
“Renegade is a multi-dimensional program. While they were here, they went fishing, mountain biking, hiking … high-altitude cross training for the mind as well as the body,” Stu explained. “He breaks inhibitors and barriers of what you think you can do. In a competition scenario, there’s nothing that will stop you. You’ve conquered your fears.” Stu said that Adams’ work with great athletes demonstrated his knack for taking them well beyond their comfort zone. Among Adams’ clients are U.S. Ski Team member and two-time Olympian Steve Nyman, and up-and-coming triathlete Carly Rivezzo, 19, who’s been in Reno helping the family since the accident.
“He worked with us at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area as a snowboard instructor for a year and conquered that, becoming one of our most popular instructors. He’s got this great way of connecting to people,” said Julie Brown, who also mused on how Adams has been characterized in personal notes posted on www.CaringBridge.org/visit/IronAdams. “I’m struck by the common thread of how he can re-establish those connections and how he can pick up where you left off. You’re happy to see him, he can light up a room, but he’s piercing. He knows what’s going on with you and gets you to talk about it. He drops in and often when you need him the most, sort of like Nanny McPhee!”
Adams trained Julie to ride her first Century Ride in 2001 with little more than a week to prepare, including several cycle fit classes. And, while riding with her in another Century a few years later, helped her get through arduous weather conditions. “He probably did 125 miles, with all the turning back he did to come back and get me to pick up the pace and finish before dark!”
“He got me into triathlons — he gave me his old Trek carbon bike frame — he shows up at weddings, new births, and even surprised me at June Lake beach for my first triathlon. He personifies true Aussie mateship. He takes a personal interest in you. More than just a personal trainer, he’s a LIFE coach,” added Stu.
Adams lives full-time in San Diego, but calls Mammoth (especially the spare room at Julie and Stu’s) his second home. “He’s got a season pass and uses it a lot. He’s been known to get on the road from San Diego at 2 a.m. and be standing in line for first tracks. That’s the kind of guy he is,” Stu related.
Levin agreed. “He may live in San Diego, but he keeps in touch with friends and what’s going on [in Mammoth],” she said.
Adams is currently still in Reno’s Renown Intensive Care Unit, listed in serious condition. He may need some therapy after recovering from his initial injuries, but Brown pointed out that in addition to his athletic background, Adams is also a certified personal trainer. “He’ll probably take care of a lot that himself,” Stu said. Echoing Levin’s observation about his roots, Stu added, “Those Texans are tough … if anyone can kick through this, it’s John.”
Well-wishers and supporters can help by contributing to the John Adams Renegade Fund, handled through the Talbert Family Foundation. Donations may be made online at www.talbertfamilyfoundation.org via a credit card [service charges will be removed] or via regular mail [postal information is provided on the site]. A future event to show support, and help out Adams and his family, possibly held in the fall, is being contemplated. Meanwhile, Brown said the Renegade organization’s “family” is expected to continue advancing the program even while Adams recovers.
As Stu summed up, “Quite simply, John would demand that!”