The Operative Word is…..” Yes.”

Winter Hike with the Bride.

You know, last time I referred to a saying in my post that goes like this. ” You don’t quit skiing because you get old, you get old because you quit skiing.” You could really plug in any activity there. ” You don’t quit golf because you get old, you get old because you quit golf.” Really any activity you could plug in there and the lesson is still valid. I remember talking to Scot Nichol of Ibis Bikes one time and asked how long he thought we could ski and mountain bike like we do, and his answer is one that I always reference and think about. Scot says” Don’t even think about it Pat. Just keep doing it.” So true. Whenever you ask any older person what keeps them going they always say………” keep moving.”

So, the other night Jan and I were out to dinner and we ran into some folks that we knew. Had a nice conversation and the question came up whether we were still skiing. We said “of course” and they kind of chuckled when I asked them if they still skied, and they sadly said no. They said they thought they were getting too old and they didn’t want to get hurt at their age. The saying above immediately came to my mind but I didn’t verbalize it. I just left things go and Janet and I left the restaurant thinking that our path in life is a pretty good one. We are blessed for sure and we keep moving. When someone wants to do something, we just say “yes.” It is just the two of us now and we tell people all the time that we are flexible and can make some spur of the moment decisions.

The Smittys. Our skiing and snowshoeing pals.
Lifelong friends- The Birsics

Soon we will be heading west to ski with our pals from Philly – the Smiths, and our local Park City resident friends, the Birsics, on what has become an annual affair at Deer Valley. We all comment on how there are fewer and fewer of us who still ski together and how important it is to keep going. The days and years go so quickly now that the operative word ” yes” is even more important. We will also ski this winter out in Bend with our friends, the Chetlins, the Hutchinsons, and the Durfees. Jan and I are the common denominator on this trip introducing our friends the Chetlins to our other skiing pals- the Durfs and the Hutch’s. We really like making introductions like this so that new adventures can be shared with some new friends. So important to keep like minded couples together doing things well into our older years. We met the Hutchinsons through the Durfees and now the Hutchinsons and the Durfees will meet the Chetlins through us. Kind of a cool dynamic with active couples who keep doing things together.

Julie and Jeff Chetlin hiking at Laurel Mountain.
Lifelong friends the Durfees from Lake Tahoe.
Vermonters Mark and Nancy Hutchinson hiking in their beloved Green Mountains.

So I guess the point of this virtual Venn diagram is to point out that as we age, we need to keep active and keep friendships going. It takes work, as we all know, to schedule things with friends. But it is so important. Time flies so fast and if you don’t keep in touch, the years fly by and your friends become nothing more than a memory. This year, Jan and I will also start taking some bucket list trips that we have the time to do now. We don’t want it to get to the point where we said, ” we really should have gone here and there and now it is too late.” Do things with your friends, schedule trips with your friends, do the bucket list trips, and make the operative word” yes” part of your senior vocabulary. Thanks for reading.

How To Not Check the Box

Nice day at Laurel Mountain

So, the other day, the sun was shining on a bright winter landscape and Jan and I decided to take off and head for Laurel Mountain State Park Ski Area- our local area. Not everything was open, but the point was to try Jan’s new boots and get some turns in for her in a relaxed, lowkey setting. There was lots of snow on the mountain, not too many people, and just a nice, relaxed way to spend a weekday during the holidays. You see, the older I get, the more I start to realize that every day is a gift. I have this tendency to check the box with things like days of skiing, trips out west, days of exercise, places to go, plans to achieve, basically a lot of checking the box over my years just to say- been there and done that. Not the best way to move through life.

Don’t get me wrong- you have to plan things to get them done, but for the most part I am learning as I get older to enjoy each day as it comes. You just don’t have to check the box on everything. Working from home has taught me a lot over the last two years and most of it has been to look at each day as one of its own and don’t worry about tomorrow. Enjoy what we have each day and that includes our beautiful parks, the Laurel Mountains, and most of all each other. Our son Jack is out of town now and so basically it is Janet and me together forging our way through this world. And that’s ok.

Enjoy your friends for life. Dixon, Melissa and Jaime.

Driving through Ligonier and taking in the horse farms along the way, I remarked to Jan that this is part of the experience for us now. Learning to take things in, enjoy drives, look at the scenery and in short- make the most of the day. Looking out over the Ligonier Valley from the top of Laurel Mountain is relaxing. Yeah- it is not the same as the views in Utah or the west but for an hour and a half from our house, I will take it. I love the Laurels and if you take the time to enjoy them, you can appreciate what you have right here in Western Pa. I looked at Jan making her turns and enjoying her new equipment and was not counting the vertical or the number of runs we made. It was an opportunity to be together and that included the drive up, the ski day, and an apres’ ski beverage in the Wildcat Lounge at the ski area.

I used to plan everything, and if the plan was sidetracked somehow, it made me nervous. But I am learning to go with the flow as I get older and take things in stride. For instance, I don’t have to keep up with people who are faster than me on the bike. I am 68 years old and want to enjoy the time spent in the outdoors and the scenery and not have to be in anaerobic debt looking at the guy’s shorts in front of me. I haven’t given up. I just slow it down a bit recognizing that there are more important things to understand. If I can go to an event, great. If I miss it for some reason, I don’t beat myself up. If I get a day on the slopes or the bike, that is great. I enjoy it and don’t ruin it by trying to get the most runs for the day or the most mileage on the trails. Enjoy it as it comes.

Our son Jack made it home for the Christmas and it was so good to see him. He and his girlfriend Marisa and their dog River spent a lot of time here and it was nice just hanging around with them despite the bitter cold outside. We went for walks, had some nice meals together and in general, we tried to enjoy each day with them and tried not to plan too much. It worked out great and they made it safely in and out and back to Grand Rapids. I even enjoyed their dog River even though I am not much of a dog guy.

The very rambunctious River
Marisa and Jack
The Ligonier Valley

So, the point of all of this is that in 2023, we all should make an effort to stay active or get active. The old saying goes that you don’t quit skiing because you get old, you get old because you quit skiing. Insert any activity and the truth is still there. But be willing to enjoy the experience and not just check the box. Take in the outdoors, enjoy your family and friends, and slow down so you don’t miss anything along the way. I am a slow learner. That comes with the territory when you are a Type “A”. But I am indeed learning. Thanks for reading and think snow!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

-Matthew 6:34

Apres at the Cottage

You know, the older I get, the more I value the social aspect of things related to mountain biking and skiing. I have posted many times about sitting around in the parking lot after a ride and sharing a beer with my pals and talking about the day on the trails. The same holds true for skiing. I have talked about the great places to go after a day of skiing out west. Places like The No Name Saloon in Park City, The Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville, Utah, The Mangy Moose in Jackson and other iconic locations to sit down after a great day on the slopes. But there is something special about visiting the Adirondacks in Upstate New York and having an apres experience at The Cottage right on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.

Let me set the scene a little bit here. One of my favorite things to do is pack my Jeep, put on my tunes and podcasts, and drive up to the Adirondacks to see my pals Mike Smith and Mark Hutchinson. If only for a couple of days, we make it our business to ski Whiteface in Lake Placid – seen above- and spend a good amount of time on the Summit Chair skiing all the great runs at the top of the mountain. Whiteface is not only a great ski area, but the views are spectacular. You can see all the way to the spine of the Green Mountains of Vermont so eloquently described by my friend Mark in several of my videos I have posted about skiing in the pouring rain on the Summit Chair trails and also on bullet proof ice. But we have had great days there too with brilliant sunshine and spectacular views of the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Lapping that chair is such a fun thing to do and you can really rack up the vertical. But then comes the social aspect with an apres ski visit to The Cottage.

A visit to The Cottage is a must. I have had so many memories of settling into those bar stools, sipping a nice cold draught, and looking out at the skaters and hockey games on Mirror Lake. The food is always good, the conversations with Mike and Mark are fun with recounting all of our great runs of the day and good times there in the past. Again, as I get older, I value the time spent with friends post skiing at a great watering hole. I am kind of a one and done guy with the beer, but that first sip is always the best. There is so much history in Lake Placid with it’s Olympic background. In fact the Cottage is owned by the Weibrecht family who own the Mirror Lake Inn right across the street. Andrew Weibrecht, the Olympic Silver Medalist, is their son and the pride of everyone at The Cottage.

I spent a lot of time in Lake Placid for PSIA events and also taking in the Olympics way back in the day. But I have always made it my business to visit Whiteface and Lake Placid recently as the Adirondacks hold a special place in my heart. The nice thing about doing a road trip is not having to deal with airports, delays, rental cars, and other inconveniences. You can pack your vehicle with anything that you need including multiple pairs of skis for any conditions that might arise. Kind of a nice way to travel if you don’t mind driving.

The west is great for skiing and the experience of seeing the Rockies, the Wasatch,the Sierras, and the Cascades, but in my mind, I truly enjoy the Adirondacks just as well and topping off the experience with a session or two at a great apres place like The Cottage. So, if you are looking for something different or maybe an experience that brings you back to your past, look no further than Lake Placid. I am kind of ready for the seasons to change and for winter to start. Thanks for reading and think snow.

A Slave to the Watch

The Garmin Fenix 6X- Taskmaster!!

I have always liked gizmos. I had Polar heart rate monitors for many years as well as sports watches and devices mounted to my bike to tell me my mileage. I regularly entered information into Velo-News logs about rides, who I rode with, maximum heart rates, and all kinds of information that was interesting to me as a weekend warrior. I had the first app on the I-phone for calculating vertical feet when skiing, and when the creators of Alpine Replay( the name of the app at the time) saw that my buddy Hutch and I had broken the one day record each for his app( 57,000 vertical feet in one day at Northstar at Tahoe), they texted me wanting to know more about us. I had a backup battery in my parka so as not to lose any data and to make sure I collected all the vertical from 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM that day. In any event, I have always liked these things and they have been of particular interest to me with their amazing technology.

So at the suggestion of my friend Mark ” the Shark” Sauers, I recently purchased a Garmin Fenix 6 X Sapphire watch. It was available on the Amazon Prime sale and I got a good deal on it. I had not purchased anything like this in a while and have been amazed at the data and information that it provides. I am only using a fraction of that data because I am not a real techie. But what I have discovered is very interesting but the watch is starting to make me feel bad. It is subtle in it’s insults and I am hoping that the information I entered as an aging athlete would have tempered it’s comments. But to no avail. This thing in a subtle way admonishes me, and I am starting to think it has a personality all of its own.

The Aging Athlete

To give you an example, it tells me I am a poor sleeper and I need to focus on getting better rest. I think I have had a decent nights sleep but I guess with the frequent trips to the bathroom as an older guy, it senses that I am not getting enough REM, and deep sleep. And it lectures me. ” Although you slept enough, your sleep was restless.” ” Try a white noise machine or earplugs.”

There is a measurement called load focus which tells me I am balanced based on my running Vo2 max trend. It tells me that my training load is sufficient to maintain fitness but I need to work out longer and more often to improve. WTH- I am riding four days a week on my mountain bike. I don’t race anymore and ride to ride again. I use my mountain bike for exercise. But this thing says I am loafing. Come on!!! Guys I went to high school with are coming home and getting a hot bath and watching Fox News. They have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel but my Garmin won’t give me any slack.

When I look at the training effect measurement after a two hour weekday ride, it says,” This activity enhanced your ability to maintain a moderate pace for a longer amount of time” ” You gained a slight anaerobic benefit from this activity” My heart was pounding at 169 beats per minute on many climbs. I would argue about the moderate pace. I thought it was a pretty good pace at close to 8.5 MPH moving average speed. Come on Garmin- I am an old dude. It did say I had 64 minutes of vigorous intensity and 22 minutes of moderate intensity, so what gives? I think it just likes to insult me.

This winter, it says that there are over 2000 ski areas mapped into the Garmin. So wherever I am , I should be able to map how many vertical feet I log without going to the standard I-Phone app for vertical feet. I wonder if it will tell me I am lazy or not making enough turns? How will it insult me on the slopes? The watch has an app that connects to on my I Phone called Garmin Connect. It takes the data from the watch and downloads it to the app. So both the watch and the app double team me. Admonishment from two sources.

The watch- motivating or insulting?

Speed, Timing, Heart Rate, Training Effect, Elevation, Nutrition and Hydration, Temperature MTB Dynamics, and Intensity Minutes. What did I do do deserve this? TMI if you ask me but I was the one who bought the watch. So buyer beware!! If you sale for one of these watches and you are an aging athlete like me, be ready to be humiliated by a device. I am sure in its own little way- it is trying to motivate me, but my giddup and go for a lot of these measurements has gone up and left. I just need the basics to give me the data on the rides or the slopes. I don’t need much more than that. But I will still look at the watch. Heck, I sleep with it to get the after hours measurements. It is part of me now. Thanks Shark!!! Thanks for reading.

A Fitting Tribute

Lois and Phillip Dupre

Sitting at one of the tables reserved for friends of Lois Dupre Schuster, I was engaged in a conversation with Angel and Andy Michanowicz and Willis Croker. Willis is a bright young guy involved in commercial real estate in Pittsburgh and I ended up apologizing to him for Andy and I rehashing 50 year old ski stories of friends and events. That is kind of the way it was at the induction ceremony this weekend at Seven Springs Resort for the Pennsylvania Snow Sports Museum Hall of Fame. Willis’s grandmother Lois and her late husband Phillip were inducted this year into the Hall of Fame and it was a fitting award for two people who really shaped the soul of Seven Springs back in the day.

Lois Dupre Schuster

Lois not only developed the rental shop at Seven Springs back in the day, as well as many other services, but served as the mayor of Seven Springs Boro for 50 years. Her enthusiasm for the ski area and the people who came as guests was only matched by her late husband Phillip who was the “go to” guy for a lot of daily things at the resort in the early days. Lois said that if you needed anything, you called Phillip. He was just that kind of guy who always had a resolution for any issue and was always willing to help. Lois had a great story about the early days when a congressman and his wife arrived at Seven Springs. The hotel was booked and when asked by the congressman if there was anything Phillip could do to secure a room, he responded that he had extra beds in his home. That is just the kind of person Phillip was. 40 years of Christmas cards that came in the following years from President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, served to show how much they appreciated the effort. They had a great time and always remembered the kindness of the Dupres.

Stories like this abounded at the induction ceremony. Rus Davies, a local legend in ski instruction and ski patroller foundations at Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain was also inducted in a most deserving way. And behind every good man is a good woman. Rus’s wife Miriam encouraged Rus all along the way in his illustrious career with the ski community.

Rus Davies

Western Pa has been widely represented in the nominations and elections to the Hall of Fame. Josef Cabe, Dick Barron, Jim McClure, Bill Bendl, Herman Dupre, Lars Skylling, Willi Klein, Doc DesRoches, and the founders of Seven Springs- Helen and Adolph Dupre. Even Olympic medalist and World Cup racer Dianne Roffe has also been inducted for her work with ski areas in Pennsylvania.

Michelle and Frank Pipak and Helen Durfee( Lois Dupre’s oldest daughter)

But as Charlie Hinchliffe and I looked about the room this weekend and at the subsequent reception at Lois’s home. we remarked that it was amazing to see how many people there look at skiing as a lifestyle and not just something that they do once in a while. People like Frank and Michelle Pipak, whose countless hours as PSIA Level III ski instructors have enriched the lives of their students in many ways. Rich Wright was there to honor Lois as he was the voice of Seven Springs for many years on the PA system. If you continued to scan the reception, it was amazing to see how well people are faring after many years. Skiing does that to you. It keeps you young and alive and enthusiastic for that first snowflake that comes as the herald of winter. There are people who ski, and then there are skiers. The people in that room and at the reception were skiers – there is a difference.

Now many of us have skied all over the world and appreciate the Rockies, the Wasatch, the Alps and other alpine venues. And although the Laurel Highlands do not offer the vertical drop of some other places in this country, the soul of skiing still exists strongly in our part of the world. We all consider the Laurel Highlands our home field and it is always great to reconnect at the beginning of the season and see our winter friends enjoying the slopes once again. The passion that the inductees into the Pa. Snowsports Hall of Fame have shown, indicates a love for something that is greater than themselves. They selflessly contributed and developed the opportunities for many of us to enjoy the sport of skiing- right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. The Eastern contingent of guests this weekend also feel the same way about their inductees from the Poconos and together, the blending at the reception of eastern Pa skiers and Western Pa skiers was really heartwarming to see.

Dupre memorabilia

As I drove home from the event, I thought about the 61 years that I have spent in the Laurel Highlands and the friends that I have made over the years. Skiing has brought so much to my life and thinking of friends who are no longer with us, but made an impact, was a bit nostalgic driving down County Line Road. Pennsylvania has a rich history in the sport of skiing, and to have it celebrated with events like the induction ceremonies this weekend, showcases the enthusiasm and passion that local skiers have for their home mountains. I am happy to have been a part of it and hopefully will have many more years on the slopes both locally and in other areas where there is another whole host of friends who share the same love of the sport of skiing. Thanks for reading, congratulations to all the inductees, and think snow!!

Elizabeth Regina

Queen Elizabeth II

Watching the events that have transpired since the Queen’s passing, I would feel remiss if I didn’t express my feelings in my little blog about someone whom I have admired all of my life. It all started when I was a kid and my cousins from England came to visit us. Margaret and Charles introduced me to the Royal Family with their stories, their mementos that they shared with us, and left me with a book about the Queen. In the following years, I followed the Royal Family with interest, but particularly the Queen who I found out was amazingly benevolent to charities and worthy causes around the world. By circumstance, she became Queen at a young age and has ruled for 70 years- longer than I have been alive. I have followed her for all of my life and although I don’t put most political figures or monarchy figures on a pedestal- the Queen was the exception for me. I felt like I knew her for some reason and she was really a model for the citizenry of Britain and people worldwide. I know you can’t live forever and at 96- she had a full life and died peacefully at Balmoral. But something struck me that day that I still am coming to grips with now.

The procession outside of Buckingham Palace in London

When you see the amazing crowds of people who lined the streets to see the funeral procession, you can get a sense of what the British people felt about their monarch. It is said that the line to view her bier got to be 5 miles long with people waiting for days to pass by and pay their respects. The interviews with the people are so touching and in some way, I feel like I have lost someone too. People of that generation are to be greatly admired. They survived the great war, depression, and the Queen led the British for such a long time. The interesting thing is that the British economy is suffering and there are issues arising for energy this winter in the U.K. But if you ask any Brit- they will tell you that they have nothing but the highest admiration for the Queen and the pomp and circumstance of the monarchy is something that they hold with the deepest regard. They love the Queen and love the Monarchy. It is a source of pride when they tell people they are from Great Britain. Sure there is the minority who wishes to dissolve the Monarchy, but that has been put aside for the moment with the 10 days of mourning in Great Britain.

The Queen lying in State

I had the opportunity years ago to ride my road bike through Great Britain. Riding on the opposite side of the road was interesting as it was when I cycled through Ireland, but I enjoyed the challenge- riding and walking. It was an amazing journey that took me to Stonehenge, the great cathedrals of England including Salisbury Cathedral where I saw the Magna Carta. I visited Windsor Castle and saw Henry the Eight’s suit of armor. I went to the evensong services in the afternoons in the cathedrals, and sat in with the choirs. It made me think I was in Heaven listening to the angels. They were so supportive and beckoned me to come in and sit with them. I cycled around the Isle of Wight and had high tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. When I told the server that it was perhaps the best thing I have ever tasted, she looked at me quizzically and said,” Where are you from ? The Moon?” We had a good laugh about that one. I remember riding the T in London and exiting at all the famous sites like the Tower of London where I saw the Crown Jewels. I sat outside Buckingham Palace and thought that a woman that I admired so much was inside as I saw the Royal flag flying on the roof indicating the presence of the Queen. Everywhere I went, there were images of the Queen and Prince Phillip. Even the fire hydrants, phone booths and fence posts were adorned with a crown and the letters ER on them. This was for Elizabeth Regina and I found out later that Regina was not her middle name but really meant Queen. Elizabeth Regina- Elizabeth Queen.

What an honor these guys had.

There will be 200 heads of state attending the funeral and not one of them is admired as much as the Queen. If there was ever a leader of the free world, it was Elizabeth. People worldwide admired her, liked her, and respected her. The Prime Minister and Parliament actually run the country but nothing happened without a consultation with the Queen who was passive in her judgements but nonetheless sought out for her opinion. King Charles may be more involved but he has some mighty shoes to fill.

Speaking of King Charles- he and I have the same birthday and I always sent him a card when I was in college when he was the Prince of Wales. Never got a response but wondered if he ever got them? The Prince of Wales, c/o Buckingham Palace, London, England. LOL!!

The Queen’s generation is quickly fading away. It was said a few years ago that we were losing the Greatest Generation by 1000 a day. I think of my uncle the B-25 pilot in the great war. What he went through as a pilot and as a POW in Japan for a year. That generation was tough and I am wondering what my generation will leave people in the future? What will we leave our children and grandchildren? That is what I was thinking about when I heard of the Queen’s passing. She was a member of that generation and greatly admired. I am hoping that my son will keep and pass on the values that his mother and I have tried to instill in him. I hope that he can have some heroes like my Uncle Jack and the Queen. She was not only a monarch but in many ways, a mother to us all. Like the Brits, we looked up to her for most of our lives. RIP Elizabeth Regina. Thanks for reading.

Duckin

Breaststroke by the incomparable Michael Phelps

It’s funny. My wife says to me occasionally as we walk, ” Hey- you are duckin.” I laugh and say-” well maybe that is because of all the breaststroke I did as a kid?” Duckin is her word for saying that I walk like a duck. Left foot pointed left and right foot pointed right in a kind of fast waddle. I am kidding but as I remember back, all of us kids who were breaststrokers, walked like a duck. Perhaps it was a hallmark of the physiology needed to do the whip kick that is the engine of the stroke. The Rose brothers, me, Johnny Kane, Dru Duffy, all battled it out in the community pool wars and the YMCA teams. We all ducked. Even the Rose girls ducked ( sorry Annie and Mary). Breaststrokers all ducked. That is the way it was and apparently still is. I still duck.

The Allegheny Y Team back in the day- I am third from left at the top.

So as the days dwindle down for our community pool, I do take advantage of what we have left until Labor Day and swim some breaststroke from time to time when the pool is not crowded. Breaststroke was always a natural stroke for me. I could freestyle and backstroke, but the butterfly? No way. But breaststroke came natural and I competed as a kid for our community pool- Valley Brook Swimming Club, The Allegheny YMCA and also Shannopin Country Club. My dad drove me back and forth between venues a lot so that I could catch my heats. I would no sooner finish a heat in a relay or individual event when my dad would rush me into the car to catch the meet at Shannopin which started later. Breaststrokers were a valued commodity and all three teams needed a breaststroker for individual events and medley relays. There was a lot of competition between all of us “strokers” but it was a fun part of the competitive side of growing up.

Our community pool

Today I find that swimming in my community pool is relaxing and as I “stroke” along, I think about how the sport has changed. Watching swimming on TV I see the rules have changed as well. It used to be that you needed to touch both hands on the wall before you could turn. When you did turn, you had to push off the wall and get your arms above your head and make one giant pull under water and kick to surface and start swimming the next lap. Today- you can dolphin kick for as long as you can and then surface and start swimming. You also submerge your head after each stroke. In my day, your head could not go below the surface of the water. I try the new breaststroke and it is definitely more efficient and faster. But the main reason I swim is to stretch out. I tend to get tight from mountain biking and swimming helps me stretch out and relax those tight leg muscles. As I swim along, I think about all those old meets at Trees Pool at Pitt, with the Jello sticking to our feet. The energy powder in those days was Jello and it spilled all over the floor and made our feet sticky and we sported the many colors of cherry, grape and lime. I think about the summer meets at Valley Brook and the other away meets and finally think about how hard it was to jump in the pool at the Allegheny Y or Allegheny High School in the winter. Wool hats and parkas to Speedo suits in the indoor pools.

So as the countdown begins, I will try to take advantage of all the great summer days left before the fall takes the pool out of play. Another guy from the neighborhood swims every day and he is amazing. He plays golf every day and swims every day and I just found out……..he is 80 years old. Doesn’t look it. Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise – even if it makes me duck. Thanks for reading.

Rich Roll Rocks

Rich Roll- ultra distance athlete and successful Podcast host.

Last year, my friend Jeff Chetlin turned me on to a great podcast by Rich Roll. You can google him to find out all about his podcast and his amazing lifestyle change over the years. But suffice to say that he is impressive as is his list of guests on his daily podcast. I also read his book which is a good one too.

I have listened with great intent to his interviews with world class athletes like Lyndsey Vonn, Lance Armstrong, and Rebecca Rusch. Rich brings out the best in all of them by asking provocative questions and allowing them to expand during his usual 2 hour show. The interesting thing about world class athletes is their drive to which Rich is intimately familiar as he himself is a national class ultra athlete.

The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich is aging like many of us and it is interesting to hear his guests who speak on what it takes to stay healthy. I heard a Rich Roll podcast with Drs. Dean and Anne Ornish who spoke at length about plant based eating and how that lifestyle can be a “fountain of youth” for many of us. They also spoke about mitochondria health in our cells and as we age, how it is compromised. I first heard of NADs (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and how we can refurbish our cells taking a product called Tru-Niagen. I take it every day because I believe that the science is there. Rich has varied guests in the medical field who talk about health in general but also as it relates to those of us who are trying to stay healthy through exercise as we age.

Rich on an ultra distance training run.

Recently Rich had Dr. Peter Attia as a guest who has worked with many world class athletes. The discussion centered around Zone 2 training. Now, as I listened, I thought back to where I had first heard that term. It was from the Heart Rate Monitor Book published by Sally Edwards in 1993. I had a monitor in those days and found the discussion on training in zones particularly enlightening. Sally Edwards as well as Dr. Attia find that training in Zone 2 which is basically a heart rate zone where you can exercise and still have a conversation, is the most beneficial. The heart rate zones are different based on the conditioning of the athlete, but the basic premise is not to always be in zone 4 or 5 which is aerobic to anaerobic in scale and often hampers one’s ability to be conditioned. He spoke about lactate levels which are blood lactate readings taken basically in a lab environment where an athlete’s blood is taken regularly during exercise to find the optimum level at which lactate levels begin to build in the muscles leading to lactic acid formation. If you can be aware of your levels, keep your heart rate in zone 2 and not go above your recommended levels, the training benefits are optimized. The discussion also included awareness of watts produced during exercise and the balance between watts and lactate levels. Watts seemed to be more pertinent in the discussion than heart rate but many casual athletes do not have a watt meter attached to their bike as world class cyclists do.

Now Rich Roll even admitted during the interview that most people who exercise are not at the level at which lactate measurement is a consideration. Most of us can relate to heart rates that are in different zones and if we stick to training or exercising in zone 2 – the conversational zone, it will be more beneficial and also……..more enjoyable. Pain is not always gain.

Dr. Peter Attia- google him.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about the interview with Dr. Attia was the discussion on what goals we have as we age. Dr. Attia stated that as an aging athlete, we need to consider what we would like to do in our later years as octogenarians and above. Do we want to be able to get up off the floor without using our hands? Do we want to easily get up out of a chair? Do we still want to race? Do we want to ski? Do we want to have sex? All of these things are considerations and if we outline them, we can “back cast” to the present time and lead a life that will make those things possible barring any catastrophic health issues. Bottom line in the discussion for us mortals is just to keep moving. I always quote Scot Nichol of Ibis Bikes when I asked him how long we can ski and ride like we do. His standard answer is ” just keep doing it.” ” Don’t even think about it.”

If you get the chance, tune in to the Rich Roll Podcast. It can get technical but for most of us who exercise for health with our racing days behind us, his discussions with his guests are enlightening. I won’t be undergoing any lactate testing any time soon but I recently did get a Garmin Fenix sports watch that gives me way more information about my daily exercise and lifestyle than I could ever utilize. But it does give me some benchmarks that I can use as I “forecast” to the future and see how long I can keep doing the things that I like to do. Garmin, Rich Roll, and books like ” How Not to Die ” by Michael Greger M.D. keep me in the game. Friends do too and to have a group of people who have similar interests on the slopes and trails keep me motivated and engaged. Zone 2 keeps it fun too. Thanks for reading.

The Greatest Summer Job

Golfer and Caddie contemplating a putt.

Watching Tiger ,Rory McIlroy, and my favorite, John Daly, last week at the British Open on TV reminded me of all the fun times I had as a caddie at Shannopin Country Club here in Pittsburgh back in my youth. I was never much of a golfer because I was too nervous and jerky to have the patience to be a good golfer. But I enjoyed playing with my dad. But as a caddie, I learned the nuances of the game and carrying doubles twice a day during the summer when I could was a great experience and some good money as a young guy.

You learn a lot about people when you caddie. I had the good fortune of being friends with our caddie master and his assistant so when my friend and I would get to the parking lot on men’s day and on the weekend days at 3:00 AM and take a snooze until the sign up list was out, we would be the first out and have the opportunity to carry two rounds with two bags each. Eddie Weil and Joe Stavish would make sure we got some good guys. Right up the middle guys with low handicaps. Those guys were not only good golfers but real characters on the course. Between belches and farts, they loved telling us stories and when they hit the turn at 9 holes, they would go in for the obligatory shot and a beer and press their bets on the back nine. That is when the pressure mounted and being a caddie, and a good one at that, paid off for these guys. I always made sure I put the bag down so that they could select their club and not have to pick it out of their bag on my back. I was careful to not walk in anyone’s line on the green and would always wash their ball whenever I could and return it to them on the next tee. Little things like that made you a good caddie besides course knowledge to a visitor.

Shannopin Country Club 9th hole

My claim to fame was being a caddie for Ben Crenshaw when he was a student at the University of Texas. He came to Shannopin to qualify for the U.S. Open and Ed Weil gave me his bag for the event.

Ben Crenshaw at the 84 Masters

Ben was two years older than me. He was a sophomore at Texas and I was a senior in high school. He was very quiet and used those extra long tees when he hit his driver. I was amazed at how long the guy hit his tee shots for someone of his stature. He is not a big guy but his timing was impeccable and he would launch these tee shots into the stratosphere. He didn’t have much to say other than ask me the occasional question about a particular hole- where to hit the tee shot, how long to the back of a particular hole, questions like that where a good caddie has the answers.

I had the good fortune of being a caddie for other good guys at Open qualifiers and West Penn and State championships as well. Mo Barr- the star basketball player at Duquesne back in the day, was an excellent golfer and I had his bag at a qualifier. He was a strong guy and leveraged his height to really hit the ball out of sight off the tee. Rick Hrip was a really good regional golfer and I had his bag at the State Open one year and when we came to the 17th hole at Shannopin, he hit his shot up to the left of the green on the hillside. He asked me if he could play a pitch and run down to the green and I told him no. If he did that, the ball would run off the green and over the hillside. I knew that from experience. I told him to cut a sand wedge up high and land it square in the middle of the green. He did that, saved his par, and went on to win the State Open. He gave me credit when he was talking to reporters at the end and I was very happy to have helped him. Nice tip too.

The good thing about being a caddie as a young guy is not only is it a good job outside, but you meet people who teach you a thing or two about class, sportsmanship, and life in general. I loved being a caddie for Knox Young who competed many times in the U.S Amateur and was a West Penn and State Amateur title holder. He was a kind, gentle guy who talked to me on the golf course about things in life and had a real interest in where I was going to school.. I met many captains of industry on the golf course who had a lot to say about business and how to approach a career as a young guy. I would also see the guys who would play golf and then stay all night playing cards in the locker room to avoid going home . Those lessons on how to treat or not treat your family were not lost on me.

I worked a lot in those teenage years at Shannopin as a caddie, a car parker and the occasional stint in the kitchen when Rico, the manager, was shorthanded. The lessons you learn at a country club as a young guy are priceless and I will never forget my times there. I knew every member and caddied for a lot of them. Recently, I saw a young guy while riding my mountain bike on a trail that is adjacent to the practice tee at Allegheny Country Club here in the burg. He was a caddie and was talking to another caddie and I pulled up and said to them, “guys- you will always remember this job. To be a caddie is the greatest summer job there is.” I meant it, but they looked at me like I had two heads. Youth is wasted on the young. Thanks for reading.

PPP( Pat’s Pleasant Peddling)

With Hank and Samra- Wolf Rocks Overlook- Laurel Mountain, Pa.

So, when we pulled into the parking lot at Laurel Mountain, the snake hunters were getting ready with their long tongs, long pants and boots. We all chatted briefly and the conclusion was that there probably would not be much to look at because of the cool temperatures and cloudy conditions. This suited Samra just fine as she commented, ” I thought this was going to be a pleasant ride?” “If I see a rattlesnake, it is not going to be pleasant.” Hank and I chuckled as we explained that rattlesnakes are fairly docile. If you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you. Yes they are in the Laurels as well as black bear, but again- just leave them alone. We all were up for a pleasant ride and although Samra and Hank are in great shape, they were content to ride at my pleasant pace. I find that the older I get, the more I like ” pleasant rides.”

My mantra-LOL!!!!
Blooming Mountain Laurel

I am not in the “blast out of the parking lot at full speed” crowd anymore. I need to warm up. Probably a good half hour or more. I had my stint in bicycle racing for 25 years and although it was a lot of fun with it’s share of suffering, I am happy in these last several years to back off a little bit and enjoy the rides. See things like blooming mountain laurel instead of focusing on the guy or group ahead of me. Samra and Hank don’t like big groups and were perfectly happy to have me show them my favorite place to ride at a reasonable pace.

If you live in Western Pennsylvania or are thinking of visiting, the Laurel Mountains have some great options for hiking and mountain bike riding. The trails are well marked and can be found on Trailforks and MTB Project. Maps are also available at the DCNR office in Laughlintown at the bottom of the mountain on Rt. 30. I usually ride the trails up near Laurel Mountain State Park Ski Area. Even at a pleasant pace, there are challenging sections like Wolf Rocks and Spruce Run Trail into the Summit Trail. I still like the challenge of riding the rocks but they can be done at a pleasant pace and not necessarily race pace. They will work you and your suspension but definitely worth the effort. The view from the Wolf Rocks overlook is not to be missed as well. But be aware of the rocky overlook where above said rattlesnakes tend to sun themselves if not too many people are around. But if there are riders and hikers present, no worries at all.

I still have friends who are very skilled riders and like to push the pace. I admire them for their fitness and when I ride with them, I tend to go at my own pace and sometimes take short cuts in order to make the ride pleasant. They will push me oftentimes and I have to get out of my comfort zone, but more and more as they age, they appreciate the opportunity to sometimes ride the PPP pace. I think we still get a good workout and as I always say, ” nobody is going to the Olympics.”

The fall is coming.

Another good thing about the PPP pace is that it is good for some of my friends who have had some recent health setbacks. They are trying to work their way back and you don’t have to hammer all the time to get the benefits. In fact, it is amazing to me and to some of my pals, that if you back it off just a little bit, you don’t kill yourself and you have a lot of energy left to enjoy more of the ride. This weekend with Hank and Samra, we worked the rock sections but rode at the PPP and completed the whole enchilada of my Laurel Mountain ride and I did not collapse in the parking lot. I could have ridden more. My fitness at this time of year is best, but I think the pace of the PPP helps me and can help others too. I like to think of it as an aging guy’s program. Ride to ride another day.

So if you see me out there on the trails, or you want to ride with me, you will know that I will ride at a pace where I can talk to you. I am learning to listen more and I would like to hear more about you, than telling you about me and my worn out stories. The PPP is a fun mountain bike ride. You will always smile. Thanks for reading.