Imagine, at age 69, being happily married for 40 years, a dedicated father, ranked as a Triathlon All-World Athlete, having completed a full Ironman race (at age 67), being a multi-marathoner, a cancer survivor, coaching others not to fear ocean swimming, having retired from a job you loved, learning to fly fish and you’re nicknamed “MacGyver.”
Meet Paul Semnacher. Paul is – and always has been – making the most of life.
Why MacGyver? Paul’s father died when Paul was 15. He was offered a job by his dad’s mechanic and worked six days a week (while going to school), including all-day Saturday. Reflects Paul, “I learned a work ethic, how to show up on time and acquired skills from a Dutch guy who survived the Nazis.” To this day, Paul can build or fix almost anything. Hence the "MacGyver" nickname.
One explanation of how he’s able to fix, jury-rig or cobble together items from cycling to plumbing? “Things just make sense to me.”
After service in the Navy (where Paul says, “You really had to have your s*%t together”) and studying art and linguistics at UCI, Paul went to work as a printer’s rep. The new job entailed 60-hour work weeks and left little free time. To get a quick competitive fix, Paul took up sailing, in particular, sailboat racing. While fun, it’s not an inexpensive hobby. Paul defines sailboat racing as: “Like standing under a cold shower tearing up $100 bills.”
When Paul and wife Suzanne’s daughter Claire was born in 1987, it was time to cut down work time. Paul got a new job as the Director of Production for a Los Angeles-based creative directory. The job offered Paul the opportunity to learn new skills, travel to China, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan and Singapore and make long-lasting friendships around the world.
Having more normal work hours also allowed Paul to dive into a new pastime: Triathlon. “I’d grown up surfing in San Pedro so was used to the water but I was encouraged by a friend of mine who published a magazine called “Swim, Swim” to start thinking about competing in triathlon. And then, on TV, I watched Julie Moss compete in the 1982 Ironman Triathlon, crawling over the finish line in Kona. ‘Holy cow, what is this?’ Paul said, ‘I gotta do that.’”
To date, Paul has completed more than 15 marathons and many more half-marathons. In addition to finishing the full Silverman Ironman, Paul has not only crossed the finish line at dozens of Sprint, Olympic and 70.3 Ironman Triathlons but he has also won his age group at each of these three distances. About two years ago, Paul’s triathlon friends threw him a “retirement from racing party” as he was heading to World’s in Australia. Not long after, Paul went to Kona as an observer of the granddaddy Ironman World Championship Triathlon and decided, after all, that he didn’t want to retire. He explains, “If this doesn’t move you, you’re not conscious.” Paul enjoys the challenge, the fitness, the excitement and the friendships that Triathlon brings. At age 69, he recently raced the Hanu 70.3, the Santa Rosa 70.3 and Wildflower Long Course.
Paul’s rationale for his drive and achievements? “If you can do it and you want to do it, now’s the time.”
As a way of giving back, Paul coaches beginning triathletes how to ocean swim without fear. “I get people comfortable swimming in the ocean. Most people are afraid of critters and the dark; I get them over that by telling them to open their eyes, enjoy the colors – shades of yellow, warm reds and the textures created by sand mixing with water -- and the sounds. Helps demystify they whole thing.” Instead of people going to the “I’m gonna die” response, Paul works with swimmers so that through practice and repetition, they feel comfortable and say instead, “I got this.”
Now retired, Paul feels his greatest achievement so far was working at a job that he loved. He greatly values having a close, loving family and a large circle of friends – with some relationships going back 40 and 50 years. I’ve got opera friends, triathlon friends and fishing friends. “Friends are the root of happiness for me.”
Speaking of fishing, Paul took up fly fishing about three years ago. “When I retired, I wanted to learn a new skill. Something that was hard but required some skill…I really enjoy it.” And when asked what was on his bucket list? “I’d like to go fly fishing in Scotland,” he responds.
Like Paul says, “If you can do it and you want to do it, now’s the time.”
From time to time, Packbands profiles their Packbander friends and customers. Know someone who has an inspiring story to tell? Let us know!