Bill Bell is anything but the model 92-year-old.
The Palm Desert resident is out nearly every morning before the sun comes up, biking 20 miles. He also swims regularly and works out in the gym at the retirement community where he lives.
Since he started racing competitively in 1982, Bell has completed more than 300 triathlons, including 19 Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, considered the holy grail of triathlons.
His accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed.
Bell in April is being inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, along with Olympic bronze medalist Susan Williams, Ironman World Champion Tim DeBoom and three other athletes.
“This is really a big thrill,” said Bell, who was 36 years old when he entered his first marathon along with his daughter.
A Southern California native and retired engineer, Bell doesn’t believe in living life quietly. Having a pacemaker put in his heart 16 years ago hasn’t seemed to change his philosophy either.
In addition to the myriad of races he’s entered over the last 32 years, Bell has also biked across country twice with Iron Gents, a group he helped found for athletes 60 years and older.
He’s the surviving member of seven, he said.
Bell admits his age has slowed him some and he’s not able to compete at the level he did a decade or two ago.
But he’s still racing — just not in triathlons. But he is thinking of becoming a spectator to the annual Tram Road Challenge, saying the steep incline makes competing in the race difficult.
Still, he doesn’t feel 92 years old. And he encourages people of all ages to be active as well.
“You don’t have to run a race. But you’ve got to do something,” he said. “Your body is like a lawn mower. If you take care of it and use it, it’s amazing how long it will last.”
The walls in Bell’s home office are covered with photos and articles of him and his races. He even made Sports Illustrated in 1996.
“I look at these pictures, and I remember them just like it was yesterday,” Bell said of his prior races.
For him, racing hasn’t been about winning.
“When you finish, you’re really spent. But when you see that finish line, you get an adrenalin shot. You just can’t believe it and think, ‘I did it. I did it. I did it,” he said.
The Hall of Fame induction will be held April 18 at the Harvard Club in Boston, as part of the city’s marathon celebration.
While Bell is thrilled about his induction, it’s not the only reason he’s glowing these days.
He also got married over the weekend.
Having been married 66 years to his first wife, who died four years ago, Bell said he never thought he would find that kind of happiness again.
“My life has been wonderful,” he said, with a huge grin.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 778-4694. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherry
By the numbers:
Bill Bell’s accomplishments as a triathlete:
•300-plus triathlons of various lengths
•158 Marathons and Ultra runs
•32 Ironman triathlons
•41 Half-Ironman races
•8 Escape from Alcatraz triathlons
•5 times won his age group at the Ironman World Championship
•3 times won his age group in World’s Toughest Triathlon
•2 times won his age group at the Ultraman races