Getting on and slowing down.

Posted: June 7, 2011 in 2011, General
Tags: , ,

Many years ago I was chatting with a guy who had sent his whole life cycling and a goodly chunk of it racing. He was still a strong rider but was getting easier to beat and on the odd social ride we did with him,  rarely put any of us under pressure. Occasionally, he would display glimpses of his former self, riding with consummate ease through tight and tricky singletrack but, soon enough, he would be back to pedestrian plodding (brisk pedestrian plodding, but plodding nevertheless) and after a while he stopped riding with us and ploughed his own furrow around the forest. I rarely see him any more but it is usually in the car park or at some remote spot in the forest, fall from the beaten track. Anyway, the reason for the introduction is simple; he made a comment which, in the arrogance of ‘youth’ I pooh poohed, but which seems remarkably prescient at the moment.

‘Once you hit 50, you have to accept that your speed drops off…quite a lot, and you have to work harder to stand still’. Utter tosh, he doesn’t know what he is talking about, it will never happen to me. Well, it has. I still ride hard, I can keep up a good average pace and can put long rides in almost on demand but, my top end speed has gone. The little burst that could shake a competitor off your wheel or the sustained tempo which would break a chaser, they have all gone, well they are disappearing fast! Tuesday night races used to be a good litmus test of fitness. I seldom troubled the ‘podium’ but on occasion made the top three; more commonly I would stick with the pace makers for three or four laps then slowly and inexorably drop back to sit maybe 20 or 30 seconds off the pace, on my own, pushing in the vain attempt to close the gap. The other week, I managed to get away for a Tuesday night ride and I was off the back almost from the start. My gps indicates a good average speed, quite consistent but in reality, nowhere near fast enough to even stay within half a lap of the leaders.

Maybe the attraction of sportives is a tacit if subliminal acceptance of the fact that my racing ability has deserted me, that I am less of a Billy the Whizz and more of a Brian the Snail. On the other hand, maybe I need to adapt my training methods, spend less time doing what I enjoy, and concentrate more on high speed pain! None of the training books out there seem to cater  for the old farts, they are aimed at the up and coming whippets. The basic concept that stressing your body repeatedly results in enhanced fitness doesn’t seem to work ay more. When I stress my body repeatedly I just want to sit down, have a cup of tea and maybe a snooze until I have recovered.

On the off chance that anyone out there has a training program for old farts (Saga for Cyclists maybe) 🙂 whose minds are willing but whose bodies need a different kind of kick up the backside to get them back up to speed, drop me a line… and be prepared to eat my dust when I get it together!

  1. Hi John, I interviewed a lady of 62 this week who is tiny, slim and lithe and she deadlifts one and a quarter times her own weight, can do chin ups and does sprints as part of her training. Until 4 years ago she was sedentary. So there must be a training programme out there for you. Anne.

  2. slowjo61 says:

    One suggestion has been that I recalibrate my benchmark. A lot of the guys (though not all) are 15 and sometimes up to 30 years younger than me. They just seem able to put the speed in and hold it for longer than I can.

    Sprint training is an idea, maybe I’ll put some sessions in on the road bike (it is easier to sort out a decent sprint circuit on the road).

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