67-year-old islander proves she's rock solid By Evan Mohl The Daily News Published December 13, 2009 GALVESTON Hundreds of rocks decorate Lucilla McMahons house. Igneous and sedimentary, quartz and granite line the window sills and tables. McMahon carries others in her purse and even sleeps with some rocks in her bed, giving new meaning to Ella Fitzgeralds Classic. Rocks fascinate McMahon. Rocks withstand the test of time lasting thousands of years and defy mother nature, surviving rain, wind and hurricanes. They represent what McMahon wants to be chiseled, cut, strong, timeless and sturdy. Theyre majestic, McMahon said. Unlike anything else. So is McMahon, in appearance, strength and heart. After 19 years without lifting weights or entering a competition, McMahon withstood the test of time. She set a world record at 67 years old, becoming the first person to compete in the 97-pound class in the 60-69 age bracket at the Gulf Coast Powerlifting Meet in Corpus Christi. She squatted 135 pounds, benched 75 and did a personal-best 150 on the dead lift. McMahon, originally from Mexico with an Irish grandfather and a Native American grandmother, went from excited to numb after the competition. When tournament director Scott Taylor put the medals around McMahon, she held back her long curly, dirty-blonde hair. She then lifted her head back up and tears flowed from her green eyes onto her tan face. It had been a long time since McMahon felt above water or had won anything. But, like those rocks, she prevailed. The Competitive Itch McMahon always had loved to compete. Growing up in Mexico in the state of Morelos, McMahon mastered flamenco. She was so good that when she moved to New Orleans with her first husband, she earned a spot in a play without speaking English. Though she got out of the competitive spirit after her husband left her in 1972 she needed to have two jobs to take care of her two children McMahon started to run in 1983, when her kids were old enough, and she regained her confidence. A group of colleagues at the University of Texas Medical Branch invited her to help in a handful of charity 5K runs. It turned into a passion and reminded McMahon how much she loved to push herself. McMahon won the 5K Bud Light Beach Run in 1985, at 43 years old. She won four more races from 1986 to 1988, including the U.S. Marines 15K and the Galveston Marathon Relay. A back injury forced McMahon to stop running, but it also gave her a new love. During rehab, physical therapists instructed McMahon to lift weights to strengthen her abdominal muscles. She was hooked. For her 46th birthday, McMahon joined a gym to focus on weight lifting. A handful of trainers encouraged her to try bodybuilding; she did with resounding success. McMahon finished second place in the 1990 NPC National Bodybuilding Championships in Houston and got third the subsequent year in West Palm Beach. She never sits still, John, McMahons son, said. Off Course McMahons life took a bad turn in 1991. She was involved in a car accident, injuring her neck. The pain was excruciating. McMahon could not turn her head or lift her arms without intense agony. She could not hold a pole. Im a person who has to move, McMahon said. I cant sit or stand around and watch TV. Thats not for me. The accident shook McMahon to her core. Her husband, whom she later divorced, discouraged her from going to the gym. I now understand why girls, even confident ones, dont get out of bad relationships, she said. I was strong, pretty, confident. But these men, they brainwash you. Make you feel bad. You cant get a hold of yourself and you keep falling deeper and deeper. Even after leaving her second husband, McMahon dealt with depression. She was no longer in shape and couldnt get herself to go to the gym. McMahon called it her late-life crisis and left the island for Chicago, hoping for rejuvenation. She felt old and incapable. She didnt fit in anywhere. She was no longer a rock. It was strange, John said. I didnt recognize her. Back On Track In May 2009, 19 years after her car accident, McMahon walked into Total Fitness on Seawall Boulevard. She still doesnt know why she did it. She just showed up. McMahon had returned to Galveston less than six months earlier, not having any luck in Chicago. I guess, in my mind, I was tired of being depressed, McMahon said. She started running and then slowly lifting. A trainer, Tony Galavez, encouraged her to continue and think about competitions. At first, McMahon resisted. She didnt want to embarrass herself. But a friend, Karen Siemssem, of Corpus Christi, took McMahon to a meet in Humble. Siemssem also looked up records and discovered no woman in the masters category, 60-69 years old, had ever recorded a lift. It was all the motivation McMahon needed. She trained for just five months. She worked out for 15 minutes on her lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays; it was all she could afford to take off from the day care. She also lifted on Saturdays and Sundays. McMahon returned to her eating regimen of 19 years earlier, too. She cut out all animal products and sugar. She loaded up on soy. McMahon had entered only one powerlifting tournament her entire career; in 1988, she finished second. It had been so long that she forgot how to fill out her form and what each category meant. She had to ask the judges for a rundown of the rules since she didnt know them. McMahon proved a quick study. It was special, John, who attended the meet, said. I hadnt seen her that happy in a long time. McMahon isnt done yet and plans to break her own records. She keeps her crumpled form in her purse so she remembers the rules for the next contest. It sits next to a group of rocks that remind her that strength and survival are possible, even for a human.