Getting older but better

Observations on age and improvement…like wine but less red…

It wasn’t that long ago that I could ride 300 miles a week, drink hard on Friday and Saturday nights and still knock back a century on Sunday. Those days are over. Definitively, and for many reasons. I’ve had a few real and long lasting injuries in the last few years, thankfully not related to cycling. I say thankfully because injuries incurred from the bike usually bring to an end your riding. In my case as they were occupational injuries, once I had the requisite surgery to do the repair, riding the bike was recommended to me as my recovery method.

When i got back on the bike post surgery this May, I had to accept that I was essentially a beginnng cyclist. While I might have the wits and bikesmarts of an experienced rider, I definitely didn’t have the body. The legs were weak, the lungs were tight, and even my back and neck were barely up to the task. It’s been four months now, and something like 70 rides, and I’m feeling a lot more like my old self. I’m still slow, relatively speaking, and my endurance sucks, also relatively speaking, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Progress is obvious to those around me, and it cant be hidden from the scale, the power meter or the training log. My weight is down over 29 pounds, my FTP is already up 30 watts from my January threshold power test, and all my clothes are loose. In my fact my uniform, that I wear every day, barely stays on me right now.

As I’ve previously pointed out, I’m a recently self admitted data geek. I kinda feel that at 45 years old, I don’t really have the time to chase rabbits down unknown trails during training, I kinda need something of a sure thing. By measuring my performance on a regular basis, I can redirect as needed to keep progressing. I’ve always tracked my rides, and logged my miles, but I never really worked it into any kind of holistic training regimen. I just did what my legs felt like and pushed as hard as I could all the time. Using the old F.I.T. Acronym, I pushed frequency to every day, Intensity to 11, and Time to all day.

In the last four months, I’ve followed a much more carefully planned strategy, more time conservative, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve seen better improvement than I would have using my old methodology. I used the TrainerRoad guys plans as a base, and built my weeks around total Training Stress, working in aerobic stuff for weight loss on my commutes, and harder more structured stuff (anaerobic, and HIT) during my at least two trainer rides a week. One of the best decisions I’ve made in years was investing in the Wahoo KICKR last December. I bought it in anticipation of being broken for a while post surgery, and that was definitely the case. What I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy structured workouts on it. Lately I’ve been que’ing up a TrainerRoad workout, putting some first person cycling video on the big TV in front of my trainer, and jamming some appropriate music while I ride. I’ve got a pretty good sound system in the garage, so I can really blast it.

I’m about to start working in two short, easy runs a week to channel some of my cardio fitness into the things I have to do for the army, but personally, its all about the bike. The oldest boy is loving his mountain bike, and he’s been riding a lot himself, so I’m looking forward to being able to do some real rides with him in the spring time. Maybe Pablo Duro canyon, and something kind of epic. A year ago I didn’t really think that would be possible.

Things are looking up.

In the eyes of others

Ive been thinking lately about the need to get my riding back on track, if for no other reason than I’m turning into a large mammal. As significant as that is, it’s really secondary to my bigger concern, it’s mostly for my mental health. I’ve definitely felt the impact of not riding in my state of mind. I haven’t had the lows I get in a big training cycle when I miss a ride, but I have been kind of “meh” about everything else. So no highs either, you know.

I did 20 minutes on the trainer the other night and it felt like a stage of Le tour when I was done, but it broke the ice, now is the time to get out there on the roads, and go like a real boy. I think I’ll do an hour or so today, nothing crazy and nothing off road other than the trails to get through places.

I read an essay yesterday where the author was discussing how he felt that real life begins after fifty. He made many cases for his stance, but a few things stuck with me over the others.

  1. You care less what other people think. This is one of the most concrete facts for me that I wish I could get my kids to understand and believe.
  2. There isn’t a point a where the tap turns off. Society would have us believe that we’re just done with life at 40 or whatever, and that after that you’re just waiting to die.

I’m 45 and from the neck up at least I feel better than I ever did. I understand things so much better now than I did when I was younger. The trick is to bring the body into line with the head, and then keep it there as long as possible. Certainly there is an inevitable decline, but as I’m not competing with anyone else (see 1. above), I only have to answer to myself. If I feel I’m working hard enough, and seeing the results I want, then I’m happy. It’s that simple.

My new boss is over 50, he made sure we all knew that on his first day. While he’s certainly kind of a knucklehead, he’s also a smart, vibrant guy. He seems very different from those were accustomed to, and I know that some of the younger leaner guys see him as out of touch and less “aggressive” than they think he should be, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s very much aware of what’s going on around him, he is simply unconcerned with their opinions. I’ve seen this several times before with leaders I’ve worked with, and I’ve come to realize that most of the time, they just don’t care what you think of their style. They’ve found what works for them, and as you don’t write their performance reviews, your opinion of their style is pretty low on the list of things they care about that day.