Athens and Cycling

Some of the places I’ve lived and trained on a bike:

The flag tells it all for a cyclist.
Seriously, there’s some $$$ around here

Savannah, Georgia, Easton, Maryland, and New Hope, North Carolina, are all coastal cities. The cycling there is primarily flat. There’s wind, but there are no hills. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania there’s not much wind, there isn’t a level road in the city. In Pittsburgh you are screaming in pain on a climb or screaming in terror at 48 – 52 miles per hour going downhill. Cleveland, Ohio, where I lived near Lake Erie is flat. Kennesaw, Georgia has rolling hills and not much wind.  Augusta, Georgia and Statesboro, Georgia had some hills and were easy on the wind for cycling.

Athens is unique.  Athens has nice rolling hills with some decent climbs – nothing of the Pittsburgh caliber. What is unique is the wind.  There’s always wind. The wind here is practically coastal in nature.

On some rides, you just have to stop and smell the cow sh.t. We’re surrounded by cattle. (Better cows than cars)

Wind is an environmental element that anyone who plays outside must deal.  The only times, it seems, when the wind is calm are at times like these when I’m typing, glancing out the window, and see no limbs or leaves moving.  Of course!

 If you’re doping to get a $2.00 medal – you are an idiot.

While cycling over the past few days I was daydreaming about racing.  Recently, I’ve been looking at times (results) of cyclists and duathletes in my age group. Even though I’ve not raced a bike in a few years I think about racing. Man, the times for some of the results I’ve found are incredible.

If I did a bicycle race it would be a time-trial, an individual event, to reduce chances of crashing.  Crashing hurts and could impact archery as well as my body.

The last purely cycling race I did was in North Carolina.  It was a time-trial.  I knew my expected time before going into the race and knew those practice times would be practically unbeatable.  In the race, I held my time and still got beaten.  It wasn’t even close.  The fellow that won was a complete animal.

At a recent 5K, I did win that race; the second fastest time of the day came from a fellow nearly 10 years older than me (I’m 64 in a few weeks.) That was simply amazing.  This old fellow smoked many high school track runners.

Thinking about racing I measured results of people in my age group at major events against my times.  I did fine against those posted results until around the 4thplace.  Then, the top finishers had faster times.  Not at all events but at some I found results online of men in their 60s who were as fast as pros racing the Tour de France. Dang!

Well, not dang but dope.

Over the past couple of years the USADA has busted 56 cyclists for doping.(1)  Fifty of them are in the Masters division with an average age of 50 years old. (1) By the way, 2 archers were also busted over that time frame. – they weren’t Masters. (1) Fifty Masters cyclists busted for doping! Why? It’s not as if Nike is looking for Masters athletes to give out huge sums of money.

The fellow that beat me cycling in North Carolina was doping. It was a regional race and no one was getting drug tested.  I’ve done a lot of racing and seen a lot of cheaters; this guy was just about out of his skin he was so amped. I didn’t say anything – it wasn’t worth it.

It was discouraging to take a second place at that bike race.  I’d worked hard to win, losing sucked.  At that 5K with the old fellow running like a cheetah I was lucky in that he wasn’t in my age group.  He, also, wasn’t around after the race.  I think he was doping, training, and plans to stop doping before any major event, make sure he tests clean then compete. He wasn’t around for the podium glory post-race because he probably wasn’t interested in answering any questions. Heck, if that worked for the Russian and Germans it will work for him.

Knowing how often Masters athletes are doping is sort of a bummer when it comes to motivation. (2,3) I have decided to look for time-trials and other individual cycling events for fun.  At nearly 64 years old fitness is a more important reason to train.  Racing is simply a fun activity.

Archery, unlike cycling, is a more serious endeavor when it comes to competition for me.  Archery is a test for me of talent transfer and finding a sport where an older person can be competitive longer.  Like I said above when I looked over the list of athletes suspended for doping 2 archers were on the list.(1)

Many of the older archers I shoot against are taking beta-blockers.(4,5) Y’all keep taking your beta-blocker. Archery isn’t worth a stroke or worse. And like cycling Nike isn’t looking for older archers to hand out big checks.

I can recognize the individual likely to have high blood pressure and be taking a beta-blocker. For the most part these individuals are easy to spot and they’ll sooner or later fatigue during a competition, have a momentary loss of concentration, and despite the added advantage of the beta-blocker will give up a few points. (6-8) Not often, but often enough.

Doping in amateur sports, like cycling and archery, is a fact of life.  Doping among athletes over 50 is common. (9)  If you compete clean great.  If you are over 50 and are competing clean great.  If you’re doping because you have a medical need get a therapeutic use exemption.  If you’re doping to get a $2.00 medal – you are an idiot.

Reference:

  1. https://www.usada.org/testing/results/sanctions/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jun/01/dope-and-glory-the-rise-of-cheating-in-amateur-sport
  3. http://jumping-the-gun.com/?p=2641
  4. https://www.rxlist.com/high_blood_pressure_hypertension_medications/drugs-condition.htm
  5. https://healthfully.com/athletes-would-use-beta-blockers-5622585.html
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181843/
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/173068.php
  8. https://healthunlocked.com/bhf/posts/136191614/beta-blockers-confusion-loss-on-concentration-side-effects…slightly-anxious-has-anyone-felt-this
  9. https://www.narcononuk.org.uk/blog/the-problem-of-amateur-sports-doping.html

Time-Trial Flop

If you read posting on this sight you know that I am keen on health and fitness. Everyday I do some form, often multiple forms, of exercise.  For example, aside from archery practice today, I stretched, ran, and did a time-trial on a bicycle. It’s that time-trial that flopped.

Now, I did get through the course I’d planned.  The idea was to break a prior personal best on the 11.7-mile course. No, 11.7 miles isn’t a long ride. It is the course that makes it tough.

For the first 3.6 miles the ride is all uphill.  Then, it levels, dips a little, and climbs some more.  The backside has a steep short downhill, then a gradual climb for the next several miles.  The final 2 miles intersects with the start of the course.  It is hard and I’ve been trying to break 30-minutes on the ride.

The plan was to use a triathlon bike.  On an easier try the day before I’d done the course in 32 minutes using a tri-bike. There was, along with the climbing, a heavy wind.  Usually, I’m on a road bike, the tri-bike using a tucked position helped in the wind. Without much effort I’d come close to the 30-minute time.

The bike I’d planned to use

When I picked up that Cannondale Slice tri-bike today the rear tire was flat.  Perfect.  I grabbed a road bike and planned to go for it anyway.

Let me say, I’m no meteorologist, but it seems unlikely that there can be a headwind at every turn and in every direction.  Yet, today it happened.  As hard as I pushed the wind pushed harder.

At 8 miles I thought there’d be a chance.  I thought I’d get out of the headwind and have a tailwind.  I was wrong. I didn’t get that sub-thirty minutes.

Again at Hester’s Ferry

We’re at another campground, an old favorite, Hester’s Ferry near Lincolnton, Georgia.  Here we have all the toys: bikes, running shoes, archery equipment, kayaks and a pontoon boat. Plus, we’ve been spending time with the grandkids. Well, three out of four of them.

View from our campsite
Nice running trails

 

These trails also work for cycling
Plenty of time for archery
Those targets at 45 yards, the chair is at 35 yards

 

This old bike is steel – man steel is so nice. (Reynold 841 tubing)

 

Well, that works

 

Yep, that works, too.
Night at the campsite
Had to get a tire plugged. This sign was in the shop.

Nice thing is there are all sorts of ways to play. No time to write.

Fitness Minded

I often mention the number of archers that I compete against that appear, in my expert opinion, to be taking beta-blockers. They’re taking the drug, a PED in archery, to manage their hypertension.

I spent a solid decade studying hypertension and methods of treating it.  During that period I published research, sponsored the research of others, and helped develop methods to improve the health of people that have hypertension.

One of the best ways to combat the typical hypertension I see is through diet and exercise.  I worry about hypertension and the impact it could have on me.  Personally, a stroke would seriously limit my activity.

With that in mind, I exercise a lot.  The exercise aids in keeping my weight down – I do enjoy a good meal.  I admit I have exercised a lot all my life.

Picking up archery later (at 58 years old) than most archers being fit has not hurt me.  If I stopped shooting a bow tomorrow I’d still run and ride a bike.  In fact, I run almost everyday and ride a bike at least 4 times a week.

Wear these once then wash them. Fives days worth this week

I used to ride more when I raced bicycles.  When I picked up duathlons and triathlons cycling became another element of the sport. Of all the sports I’ve done cycling is my favorite (no offense to archers).  Actually, football is my second favorite sport and had it not been for cycling I’d have played in college.

Lots of nice open roads here in rural Georgia to enjoy cycling

In my junior year of high school I’d been scouted by a few college teams.  My high school coach had all but guaranteed my parents I’d get a chance to play in college. To them that meant college tuition they’d not have worry about.

But, I got hooked on cycling and thought I’d give it a ride to see if I’d make an Olympic Team.  It is impossible to keep weight on while racing bicycles.  So, my football opportunities dropped as fast as the weight.

Cycling didn’t pan out either.  Just out of high school I did have a chance to race in Europe but passed and gradually migrated my attention to academics then a day job.  Through out it all I stayed on a bike. And I eventually raced in Europe.

ITU Long Course Duathlon, World Championship – 2007

Decades of fitness are paying off now that I’m in my mid-60s.  I take no prescription drugs.  My blood pressure runs around 117/68 and my percentage of body fat is in the single digits.

Where fitness pays other dividends is in archery.  Over a long two-day tournament I am far more bored than fatigued.

I thought I heard someone yell, “Get him!.” So I ran like I stole something.

The hardest thing for me in archery is to remain in the game.  During a 4-hour 100-mile bicycle race or a 5-hour 70.3-mile ½ Ironman, I can stay focused.  (The young professionals are much faster than those times.) During a marathon or ½ marathon focus isn’t an issue.  During a long archery tournament my mind becomes numb.

That lack of focus might be assisted by a PED.  Certainly, those early end jitters would be reduced.  But, it is better to be fit and get through an event without the aid of a hypertension support medication. It is even better not to have high blood pressure.

Want to get fit? Check with your doc before you run around the block.

It will happen if you run trails. 

I’ve read and been told that archery is the second safest sport.   It really depends on the reference.  No doubt, archery is a safe sport. Running on the other hand, while it seems safe, can be hazardous.

If you do a lot of trail running you know where I’m headed.  Sure, you might get attacked by a mountain lion and need to fight for your life.  You might run up on a rattlesnake, copperhead, or other poisonous snake.  That’s when you sprint away while doing the hopping chicken dance.  Heck, in some places there’re bears to worry about.

Most likely all of those animal intersections with a runner are limited.  The more likely trouble comes from something that doesn’t even move – the root. In come cases a root might be a rock, stump, or other obstacle that just sits there waiting to trip you.

If you run trails it will happen. You’ll cross paths with that non-moving hazard and eventually the impact will be just right to create a face plant.

Run trails and a face plant is just a matter of time

I’ve had more face plants mountain biking than running.  I still have a fair share of running tumbles.  Yesterday, I ended up face down on a trail.  It wasn’t a bad fall.  Nothing has broken; there was a slightly scraped nose and a little frustration.

I was running with my dog, River, and I swear when she saw what had happened she laughed.

A Big Tree, Cold Archery, and a Tailwind

Before archery practice this morning, like nearly every morning, I ran. On the trails where I run there are some enormous pine trees.  I’ve been trying to remember to carry a camera to take a picture so you can see. Here is one of them:

Reminds me of “Hometree” from the movie Avatar.

For comparison, you can see the regular tall pine trees next to this larger pine tree.

30 degrees when I headed out to the range. It was 27 degree while running.

Of course, after running, I practiced archery.  For the past couple of days outdoor archery has been rough.

This little heater is great
It wasn’t all bad

I put on every article of clothing I own to stay warm, use an outdoor propane heater and get through it just fine.

Mountain bike gloves keep my bow hand warm, but aren’t good for archery

What really hurts, is heading out on a bicycle when the temperature is still in the 30s and the wind is howling.

Speed 20.6 mph. Coasting with a tail wind.

Changing the 2019 Event Calendar

When I completed my 2019 goals and event calendar I made certain conditions.  Those conditions are associated with the more expensive archery tournaments.  For example, in order to put out the money to compete at the NFAA Nationals in Cincinnati, Ohio, I needed to shoot a pre-determined score at the NFAA regionals.

It wasn’t a difficult task. I needed to shoot two 300s at the regionals.

When I shoot a 5-spot, the target for both events, I shoot a 300 83% of the time.  Sometimes, I mess up a shoot a 299 or 298. Those scores are essentially meaningless at the Nationals.  No, at the NFAA Nationals you win by having the high X count.

My highest X-count is 104 out of 120 arrows.  That’s not a winning score.  But, it would be a fine score, yielding 600 total points and 104 Xs, and worth the trip. At the regionals I didn’t come close.  I ended up with a 597 and I don’t recall the X count.  With shooting like that there’s no point in spending big bucks for a trip to Cincinnati – at least for me.

This change opened up my weekend calendar.  In fact, as far as archery is concerned, I found a significant gap between competitions. I had to fill that gap.

I run nearly every day. I ride a bike often in the winter and nearly every day once the weather improves.  Once, I raced triathlons.  Could a triathlon fill that gap?

Ironman World Championship – seems so long ago.

No, I’ve not swum a stroke in over a year.  If you don’t train for swimming, you can die in a triathlon. It has happened. Even if you finish the swim, without proper training you could fail to met the cut off times and be pulled from the race.

I could, however, race in a duathlon.  There are two duathlons within 45 minutes of where I live.  I prefer duathlons to triathlons.  I decided to add both of those races to my calendar.

Swimming – it is always cold to me.

To start, I’ll race some 5Ks and 10s.  I do run often, I don’t run fast.  My daily runs are purely for pleasure and health management.  When I’m on a bike, I’ll sometimes crank it up.  Running is another matter and I’ve just not been going fast.  I’ve been exclusively running trails with River, a Labrador retriever. She stops a lot to sniff I have to slow down and wait. If I don’t she might cut to a chase or roll in something foul. I can change that without much thought.

Pushing into a head wind.

Archery is fun.  It is a whole lot less expensive than a duathlon. But, if there aren’t enough easy to access archery events I’ll pay a bit more to register for a duathlon and save on travel expenses.

Nice Thing to Say

If folks have said nice things about me, well I don’t really recall any.  I mean, who says nice things to someone’s face other than a loved one. Honestly, when I have received a compliment in public what I recall is that it made me feel awkward.

There was a time in my career where I was often called upon to give talks.  During those times someone would introduce me and say lots of flowery things about my accomplishments and education.  I didn’t like those, either.  In fact, it got pretty old and I eventually gave whoever was introducing me a written introduction to read.  It was prepared, short, and not so ingratiating.

Last week, during an archery tournament, I was shooting with three kids.  There were enough older archers competing that I’d been bumped down the line and was on a target with kids younger than my children.  Two of them were in college and one was still in high school.

Archery is a big equalizer among sport disciplines.  Age isn’t a major factor when it comes to skill.  I mean, if I’d been competing against similarly skilled athletes in, say running a mile, a high school aged track star and two college track runners they would smoke me.  But, in archery it is another matter.

At that tournament, at 3-spot, a professional shot 118 Xs out of 120 arrows. His was the top score. (He’s younger, at 41, than my oldest daughter.) The next best score came from a 15 year-old clearing 116 Xs.  Back to my target.

Of the four of us, the high school student was shooting the best.  I’d changed bows the day before and had finally gotten it sighted and was shooting Xs.  On one end I shot two Xs and a nine.  The next end was three Xs.  Then, I repeated the sequence.

That’s when the high school student said to the college students, “That’s how an old pro does it!” He wasn’t saying it to me directly, he was providing evidence to the other two students.  It cracked me up. (I laughed on the inside rather that risk embarrassing anyone and said nothing.)

I don’t know if the speaker had intended me to overhear.  It wasn’t spoken loudly; more told in a tilted head conspirator softness. But, I heard it.  The speaker may have figured because I’m old my hearing isn’t so good.

At first, the word that grabbed me was “old.”  But, compared to them, I’m old.  Generally, it was a compliment.  And as I said, it cracked me up.

“Your goal should be to have fun.”

Just before the start of the second day of shooting during the USA Indoor National Championships in Suwanee, Georgia a friend of mine said, “Your goal should be to have fun.” That wasn’t my goal.

My goals also weren’t to shoot a specific score. I had only two goals.  One was to “Shoot every arrow right.”

By that, I mean to go through a perfect process for each shot.  When I get it right the arrow lands in the X.  When I’m off the arrow lands in the nine ring.  When the process is out of control – all bets are off.

As far as having fun, that’s an activity that can occur between ends.  Essentially, it amounts to good conversation while waiting to shoot. It helps pass the time of a three and a half hours long tournament.  But, it isn’t why I go to tournaments.

No, I don’t go to archery tournaments to have fun.  I go to compete against other archers.  Oh sure, you’ll say, “You’re there to compete against yourself.”  Well, you can do that at home and save the entry fee expense and whatever other costs you incur to compete.

I go to tournaments to compete.  Tournaments add a competitive layer of archery I don’t get shooting alone.  Yes, I do enjoy it.  I also enjoy the friendly conversation with people I know and ones I don’t know during a tournament.  It is a great way to make friends. Which comes to my second goal, “To make new friend.”

Where my goals are concerned for that last tournament, I feel I was more successful with the second. As far as having fun, tournaments are a lot more fun when you’re winning. In that regard, this last tournament was fun.