I contested the 47-kilometre Motutapu mountain bike race last Saturday (4th March). The results confirmed I am on track to win the UCI Masters Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in Perth, Australia, in September this year. I'll be contesting the 70-plus age group but setting out to beat all the ages from 60 and up. I think I can do it. Since I am the two-time Olympic distance age group champion, I'll be the favourite for the 70+ category, and I'm comfortable with being the target everyone is aiming at. Three years of fighting this mRNA insanity have prepared me for this!
The times for the Motutapu were all about ten minutes slower than usual due to a headwind the entire distance, plus it was wet and cold for the last 20 or so kilometres. The field for the race exceeded 1,100.
Because I was unfamiliar with the route, I held back a little on the effort for the first 30 kilometres. Then, realising I had gas in the tank but running out of distance to put it to good use, I began to push the pace. However, the conditions were wet and cold by then and primarily steep, with a few small climbs and many stream crossings. So, by the last portions of the race, when I was trying to crank up the pace, the main limiting factor was not stamina but the willingness to smash it downhill, and that comes with severe risks of crashing that I was not prepared to entertain.
My split placings in the chart below show how I got progressively faster relative to the riders around me, then evened out once we hit the final downhills and river crossing.
I trained well leading up to this race, finishing comfortably ahead of the next 60-year-old and ahead of all but one of the 50-year-olds and 38th overall.
So, with confidence, preparations are now focused on the MTB marathon world championships.
Here are a few points about how and why I am doing so well despite my age
People may think I win because I ride more miles than anyone else. While this is partly true, the reason I can ride fast and long is more complicated than that. I do the following:
Everyone has the seeds of a wide variety of diseases harboured within themselves. It may take many years for each to germinate and grow to become a health problem. Diseases like coronary artery disease, cancer, and Parkinson's take decades to become identifiable diseases. If we wait for a disease to trigger a medical diagnosis, it is leaving things far too late. My strategy is to identify the tell-tale indicators of disease, using tests like this one to guide me, then take simple, practical steps to nip it in the but. By doing so, I'm confident I'm keeping at least 20 years ahead of the disease. An older athlete that keeps disease from expression has eliminated one of the main reasons we slow with age.
In addition, I train smart, listening carefully to my body, knowing when to push hard and when to back off and rest.
I have concentrated on Olympic-style mountain biking, cyclocross distances, and limited running races to mostly cross-country and five kilometres on the road. I have done this deliberately to ensure that the wear and tear on my body never exceed its ability to repair and grow a little stronger. So, despite a PB of 2hr 34 minutes for the marathon, my last one was in my late 20s. Besides a few exceptions, bike races are done and dusted within two hours, usually much less. A mountain bike marathon, for us oldies, is about 60 kilometres, so that is about 2.5 to 3 hours for me. Not too much at all.
In addition, I concentrate on refining the cycling and running skills needed to safely and efficiently navigate what is anticipated in a race. This includes practising tumbling skills, so when I fall off my bike, as I do, I tuck and roll rather than do a face plant or land on a shoulder (I've learned the hard way!).
Finally, I make sure life is full of fun and adventure!
So, in my 70th year, I am riding better than I was in my 20s and 30s, having a great time exploring remote and wild places and doing so with great company.
I ride hard, fast and long because I can.