Friday, June 12, 2009

Birthday rides

Here is an article stolen from the latest Road Bike Rider newsletter. These guys take the concept of the birthday ride to another level. Some would say to an immoderate level. There isn't even a mention of patio stops.

It's fun to do a special ride on your birthday. For RBR co-founders Fred Matheny and Ed Pavelka, the tradition is to ride twice as many miles as their age. Now that they're into their 60s, this means some long days in the saddle.

When he reached the big 6-0, for example, Coach Fred marked the occasion with a 120-mile (193-km) jaunt on a western Colorado course that climbs Grand Mesa. This is the highest flat-top mountain in the world, rising more than 6,000 vertical feet (1,820 meters) in about 25 miles (40 km).

The grade is never greater than 8% but the sheer length of the grind, coupled with the 10,839-foot (3,288-m) summit, makes for a challenging, sometimes disheartening, and occasionally gruesome ascent. As Fred deadpans in his upcoming eBook, "The Complete Book of Climbing for Roadies," that particular birthday ride probably took 5 years off his life.

Ed knows the feeling. Last Sunday when he turned 63, he did a 127-mile ride into the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The course had 9,200 vertical feet (2,790 meters) with way too many at 15%. A highlight was the 2.4-mile (3.9-km) ascent of a knee buckler called Fox Gap. It started at 14% and evened out at 9-11%.

Hard, for sure. But what a view from the top! And what a sense of satisfaction finishing rides like these when lots of people in their 60s are breathing hard just walking upstairs.

Fred and Ed aren't smug. And they sure aren't supermen. They're able to do these birthday rides for one basic reason, a dedication to the key component of lifelong fitness: Consistency, staying in shape year-round.

Well, Ed was forced off the bike for 10 months in 2007-8 due to a hip replacement, but that problem is mostly behind him now. Fred has had better luck -- no physical setbacks -- and at 3 months shy of 64 he's in the midst of riding 1,100 miles (1,770 km) in 2 weeks while coaching at PAC Tour cycling camps in Wisconsin.

Some people their age dread birthdays. For these guys, the main concern isn't growing older, it's finding courses long enough.

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome, something we should aspire to.

    Paul, I recommend you double whatever you measurement you're going to use for your ride. It doesn't need to be anything crazy, but you'll be able to say you're the first to one to double-down and set the bar for all subsequent events.