From books to bikes

Rebecca Mohr

Retired 82-year-old professor stays active by biking, writing

Former Kent State professor V.E. Bixenstine trains for a duathalon in the basement of his Kent home. The duathalon will take place later this fall in Spain. Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Ed Bixenstine has always been active. From being his son’s little league coach to being a world champion athlete who continues to compete at age 82, he is not someone who is going to turn into a couch potato.

“He’s a guy who looks for ways for being the best that he can be,” Bart Bixenstine, Ed’s son, said. “He wants to live his life actively as long as he possibly can.”

A gray-haired Ed sat on a couch in the patio of his house, drinking green tea and talking enthusiastically about his life’s adventures of teaching psychology at Kent State, running his own psychology clinic, retiring twice, being an athlete, writing two novels and finding his own inner cowboy.

Never too old

Ed is a three-time duathlon world champion. He won his previous championships all across the world: In 2002 in Weir, Austria; 2006 in Newfoundland, Canada; 2007 in Gyor, Hungary.

“The race in Austria was in the mountains and it took me almost five and a half hours,” Ed said. “They had a hill that they were very proud of. It had a degree of 16 percent. You don’t find that in U.S. races — they don’t allow more than a degree of 10 percent.”

Ed won the Austria race at age 76.

His upcoming race in Rimini, Italy, is the 2008 World Duathlon Event.

“I race in the 80-84 year old age group,” he said. “So I’ll have some youngsters in there.”

A duathlon consists of 6.2 miles of running, 25 miles of biking followed by 3.1 more miles of running.

Ed said he usually finishes in under three hours.

Racing that incredible distance is something to be proud of at any age, especially at 82. His sons agree.

“Dad was game for the idea of racing,” Bart said. It was Bart who brought the idea to Ed. “It’s what he wants to do and be active for as long as he can.”

At age 82, Ed’s training may differ from that of his other competitors.

“My training is different than younger people because not too many folks my age do it,” he said.

Ed said he only runs twice a week.

“I ran 14.7 miles today,” he said as he checked the distance on his sports watch. “And yesterday I did the weight machine and bike that I have in my basement.”

In order to get ready for his upcoming race on Sept. 28 in Italy, his training has been different.

“I’m trying to peak up,” Ed said. “Of course you don’t want to injure yourself. Your body is very adaptable but it’ll squeal if you do too much.”

A natural teacher

Teaching was one way Ed kept himself active. Interacting with students is his favorite part of teaching.

“I like to teach the clinical area of psychology where you engage students in stuff they are interested (in),” Ed said. “The students who challenge and work are more gratifying to the teacher.”

Ed retired in 1981 for the first time from Kent State. He went from teaching psychology to opening his own private practice in Kent.

At the university, he had seen clients, such as citizens from the community and students, but Ed wanted to apply his skills to the real world. The curious part of him wondered if he could succeed in real-life psychology.

“It was just something that was of interest to me,” Ed said. “I wanted to see, ‘could I apply my clinical skills and find something useful and valuable?’ and I did.”

Wild west

When Ed was in his early twenties and working on his doctorate at the University of Illinois, he found a way to relieve the stress of studying every day. The “multi-faceted” Ed wrote a historical western novel.

He had always been a reader of westerns but could not find out what interested him at the time. Ed soon decided he could do something about that.

“I can write a better western than read one,” Ed said. “So I sat down and wrote in evenings when I could no longer study. I didn’t review, I didn’t revise it, I didn’t correct the mistakes — I just cranked out.

After six months Ed had the framework of the novel.

He didn’t think of having it published. He said it was just a way to for him to calm down, and it worked.

It was not until after he retired years later that he rediscovered his story.

“I one day happened on this box and I thought, ‘Why don’t I put that on disk?'” he said. “I put it on a disk so I could mess around with it. I never really finished because I would want to go back and rewrite some more.”

In the writing process he discovered the struggle that some professional writers have to deal with. Ed never really felt like the story was complete. Eventually, his two books: “Marshal Sands and Miss Molly” and “Purgatory Sands,” were both published.

“I found this is something that folks that write for a living do — they become addicted to writing,” Ed said. “There is a pleasure in getting it just right.”

Mike said he thinks Ed is a talented writer.

“He has a way with the words,” he said.

Racing, writing and teaching are all layers of Ed’s personality. Being a father, husband and grandfather is also a very important part of his life.

Mike Bixenstine, another son of Ed who runs his own production company, said his dad has always been multi-faceted.

“Dad has always been interested in many different things,” Mike said. “It gives him a sense of accomplishment.”

Bixentstine’s in many different things contributes to the different aspects of his personality.

“Peeling off the layers of my life …that inner-core is a cowboy,” Ed said.

Contact features reporter Rebecca Mohr at [email protected].