Bill Katovsky R.I.P.

It's hard to type these words. My close friend, my brother-from-another-mother Bill Katovsky, the creator of Triathlete magazine, the co-author of the first edition of Bike for Life, the funniest, smartest, clever-est, kookiest character many people in the triathlon/cycling/running worlds have ever met, passed away a few days ago, at the way-too-young age of 58. Writer of numerous books about his two passions, fitness and politics, he was an occasional Huffington Post and San Francisco Chronical editorial writer, founding editor of Inside Triathlon, author of the book “Return to Fitness,” co-author with Tim Carlson of the acclaimed book “Embedded” (first-person stories of the reporters in the 2nd Iraq war), founder and editor of the great running website… the list goes on and on.

Bill was a serial inventor, an idea machine, spitting out TV scripts and newspaper articles and book proposals and ideas for new magazines, you name it. He called me one day in 2003 and said, "You know all those stories you're always telling me about meeting Hollywood celebrities while riding your bike? They'd make a good book. We'll call it Bicycle Sex. I have an agent." That turned into Bike for Life.

Witty and weird and conversational and charming, with a Robin Williams-ish ability to slip so many pop-culture references, puns, and literary references into the conversation that you had to fight to ignore them just to stay on track, Bill knew how to get through to important people and make things happen; he admired innovators like himself who were pushing he envelope. Example: Bill and I flew to Costa Rica in 1997 as the first journalists to do La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the now-world-famous mountain bike race from Pacific to Atlantic, because Bill met the founder, Roman Urbina, at Interbike two months earlier and promised him I'd write a bunch of stories if he flew us down. I've since been to La Ruta 6 more times and have been all over the world doing crazy mountain-bike stage races - all because of Bill.

Bill was teaching and getting his Masters in Political Science at UC Berkeley in early 1982 when he turned on his TV and saw Julie Moss crawling to the finish line at the Hawaii Ironman. He immediately took a six-month leave of absence from school and began training for the next Ironman, having to learn how to swim. His late-night, 14-hour finish in Kona changed his life, as he quit school to found Triathlete magazine. He went on to found Frisco, a San Francisco city magazine, before returning to the sports world. I met him in 1994 on his second round at Triathlete, and we hit it off immediately, running the Los Liones Trail in Pacific Palisades and the Hi-Tec off-road race series. He was fast then, faster than me; he’d run every day at his home in Marin County near Mt. Tam with his beloved dog Rockee.

The photo [above] is of me and Bill in Kona at the Ironman in October 1994. Behind his back, I cropped his head out of that photo to put it on the rear cover of the first Bike for Life in 2005; he was always mad about that, saying it made him a fraud because “I don’t look like that anymore,” since he’d lost his hair over the years. Also, he didn’t want people to think of him, for the rest of time, in a pink shirt.

Bill was the real deal, a true mensch, with every project a passion, whether it be an Al Gore quotation book, “1001 Runner Quotations;" his excellent running book “Tread Lightly;” his important dissenters’ interview book, “Patriots Act;” or his uncompleted Quotations of Donald Trump, which was to be a Christmas point-of-purchase item. I don’t know what happened, but he was very weak from a recent spinal operation and under an extreme 24/7 deadline for the Trump book. He often tried to include me and his other writer friends in whatever big deals he was working on, which often involved a paycheck, and sought out my opinion on his ideas and writing.

Bill Katovsky was one of those rare individuals who left an impression wherever he went, made a true impact in this world, and created work that entertained, educated and helped people. We’re all one-of-a-kind, but Bill for me was almost a celebrity, a guy who, in a different life, would come back as a Charlie Rose-meets-Seth Meyers talk show host. He was an intellectual, a ha-ha funny man, an idea maniac, a thoroughly quirky character. I owe him a lot. Those of us who knew him will have stories to tell about him for the rest of our lives.