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

Over the Edge

Mammoth Mountain, Ca.

Years ago, my friend Jack Banbury and I started to go on ski trips with our pal Eric Durfee who at that time lived in Vermont. Eric would take us to places that were a little bit out of our comfort zone and it kind of went like this. Eric went over the edge first, then I saw that it can be done, so I think positive thoughts and went over next. I heard Jack laughing behind me. He reasoned that if Pat can do it, so can he and we all followed Eric. Many different places like the Palisades at Squaw( now Palisades-Tahoe), Corbet’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, and many other iconic drops that make you think about your first turns.

Eric and I went to Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire for many years and skied down some really steep walls there that we climbed first. One year, we hiked in the fog over to Dodge’s Drop and broke our rule of never skiing anything that we had not climbed first. But we made it and were the only tracks in there for the day. Eric did it with a cast on his wrist which is another story altogether.

The Headwall at Tuckerman Ravine

Fast forward a few years and Eric’s childhood pal from Vermont started to come with us. Mark Hutchinson was a ski race coach at Stowe and a Level III PSIA ski instructor with a lot of experience. He is a nice smooth skier but we both continued to follow the “alpha dog”,as Hutch calls Eric, down some interesting places at Mammoth Mountain, California and Mt. Rose in Nevada. Same situation, Eric showed us how it is done and then Hutch and I looked at each other, mustered some courage, got rid of any negative thoughts, and proceeded to ski down some iconic drops. Places like ” Dave’s” and “Paranoid’s”. Better judgement said “no” to some drops which Eric skied. But for the most part, we followed the “alpha dog” and breathed a sigh of relief when we had completed the run. In fact, most of the drops that I have done in my life were with Eric and all of them were most memorable. I can honestly say that most of my really good skiing experiences have been with these two guys. We have been skiing together for years and we still put them over the edge from time to time- just to make sure we still have it. The thing is as you age, your experience with these things comes into play. We know how to make the turns. We just need to make sure we are in shape and use good judgement when it is warranted.

Chair 23 at Mammoth- serving up some great “drops”
The Chutes at Mt. Rose, Nevada
The cornice this year at Dave’s Run at Mammoth- whoa!!! Not sure I would be challenging that.

Recently we have been taking trips with our wives and have a nice one scheduled again this year up in Oregon. But I ski Deer Valley, Utah with my wife and some friends from Philly (The Flying Smittys), and locals Patter and Tom Birsic, on another trip each year. When the opportunity arises and the conditions are good, I make my way over to the Daly Chutes at Deer Valley and look over the edge on the cornice above a series of steep drops. I think of Eric and Hutch when I am there and as I peer over the edge, I think about my first turns, get all the negative ” what if” thoughts out of my head, and use the experience that I have over the years to begin a series of turns down to where it flattens out a bit. Skiing these things are part of the western experience that you pay your hard, earned, money for and each year, the challenge is there. As I get older, I assess the risk and the reward and if my experience and feelings at the time are in order, I drop in. But if not, I will defer to another day and time. But the feeling of making some really steep turns down a vertical face is quite intoxicating and one of the reasons why I try to stay in shape by riding my mountain bike. My friend Pete always explains that I am not really a cyclist. I am a skier who cycles to stay in shape. Even though I live in the mid-Atlantic and ski locally most of the time, I love to head west and ski these challenging runs to keep the flame alive. Janet lets me go and burn a few which I appreciate. And when I get together with Hutch and Eric, the “stoke” is still alive as the young chargers say.

Eric and Hutch sipping a cold one at the June Mountain Brewery a few years back.

I am looking forward to what the new ski season will bring with these guys and the ladies. I am sure we will get some chances to “burn a few” together. We may even have a time or two when the ladies need a rest to “peer over the edge” at some things and see if the “alpha dog” thinks it is a “go.” Hutch and I will look at each other, decide, and then eventually make our way back to the ladies for some relaxed smooth turns with them. But we will have that twinkle in our eye if we did something fun with Eric. Just like the old days. The older we get, the better we were. Thanks for reading and think snow.

The Daly Chutes at Deer Valley

The Ski Swap

This time of year- the Ski Swap notices start coming and people get excited for the coming season. The Ski Swaps are not only an outlet for selling and buying equipment, but also a social time to reconnect with your ski buddies who perhaps you have not seen since last winter. But there are plusses and minuses for these things and I believe that there should be an acronym for the word SWAP( S#$% we all purvey) Yes- we are purveyors of the “s@#$” from our basements and garages and in most cases, we just want to unload and if we get a buck or two for it, so be it. But the main reason is to clear out so that we can make room for new equipment. Old boots, helmets, skis, and various auxiliary ski items can be moved but the funny thing is the difference in what we think they are worth compared to what people are willing to pay. If your main reason is to unload stuff at the swap, then you will take whatever is offered. But if you think your “stuff” is worth more than people are willing to pay- you will be sorely disappointed. If you want to get rid of your “stuff” then you better be prepared to let it go for next to nothing.

Let’s go through a couple of examples shall we? Skis- if your skis are straight skis and not shaped, meaning they are “old”, you have next to no chance to sell them.. You are better off disposing of them or donating them to those guys that make Adirondack chairs out of old skis. Or hang them up above your fireplace if they are real old. Anything 10 years or older – the ski shops will not work on the bindings for liability purposes. Kids skis?- There is a market for these. But again, they cannot be too old or they will not sell. But people are willing to at least purchase used kids skis because they grow in and out of them quickly. My opinion- it is better to go to a shop and be a part of their seasonal rental program. Better equipment, and you can return it after the season. Better skis like you see above? If you want to move these, you need to be realistic about the price. You may have paid over $1000.00 per pair for them with bindings in the past, but people are not going to want to pay more than half of that if they are a number of years old- no matter how well they are maintained. And in my opinion, you are better off marketing them on line rather than take them to a swap. You will not get anything near to what you want at a swap. Sad but true.

Lets talk about boots. A discerning buyer will look at used boots to see what kind of shape they are in. Are the liners worn down? Are the toes and heels of the shell worn? They won’t work well in the bindings if they are. Are they more than a couple of years old? If the aforementioned things are true, don’t expect much from a swap. Take what you can get and leave the building. Rear entry boots- use them for a flower pot. Not worth a hoot. My dad’s old buddy had a pair of Hansens that he wanted to sell back in the day. I told him to plant his geraniums in them in the spring. Nobody in their right mind was going to buy those things. Be realistic.

Clothing- a lot of swaps do not have clothing options because of COVID. However, there are some that may try it. Again, don’t expect much for used clothing. Your old Bogner one piece may have been cool in the day, but it is not worth a thing today. Again- lower your expectations and try to unload if you can for a cheap price.

People are amazing at swaps. There are those who find it entertaining to seek out the hidden great deal on a pair of used skis, boots, or other equipment. Every once in a while you will find someone who is unloading some good “stuff” because they have to move, or they have quit skiing for one reason or another. It is fun to look for these things but buyer beware- there are no guarantees and usually all sales are final. The great pair of skis you bought at the swap may appear to be in pristine condition until you get home and notice that core shot in the base, or the edge that is damaged by a rock. You may be able to repair them, but no chance of getting your money back. Most sellers at a swap just dump off their stuff and put a price on the items and wait for the swap people to give them their money or shop credit at the end of the day. Sellers are usually nowhere to be seen. But buyers are there for several reasons.

Some ski shops will sponsor swaps and perhaps give shop credit for items sold. They also have old equipment from trade ins, or perhaps some items that have not sold in the regular shop sales. It is an opportunity also for the shop to market its new wares for the season. Get people in the shop or venue and allow them to perhaps change their minds and get new equipment.

There are some swaps where there is a beneficiary like a charity or kids ski program that benefits from the sale of the equipment. If you are in the generous mode and are willing to donate for the express purpose of supporting the cause, it is a successful day. You have unloaded some stuff out of your basement or garage for a good purpose and these types of swaps are becoming more popular.

Swaps may be more popular these days because of the economy. Seasoned skiers and real enthusiasts are going to always buy good equipment and maintain what they buy. But the skier who perhaps is watching their bucks, especially with all the increased costs of skiing today, may be willing to compromise a little bit and get some used stuff at a swap. Typically these are the casual skiers who want something to do every once in a while in the winter. But the real skiers- they will buy the good stuff and scrimp somewhere else.

But the bottom line is see your friends, see what s@#$ they are trying to buy or sell, laugh at the curmudgeons, and enjoy one of the highlights to the beginning of ski season. Think snow and thanks for reading.

The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

The beginning of fall at Mt. Washinton, NH.

So it’s a rainy day and I am surfing around You Tube and I happen to see Phil Gaimon’s coverage of the Mt. Washington Hill Climb. Phil is a former professional in road cycling and has raced all over the world. He now has a You Tube channel where he continues to chase records on STRAVA and tours the country riding in the most iconic places and chasing records for climbs. When I saw the coverage, it brought back memories of when my pals Eric Durfee, Jack McArdle and I did it back in the mid-80s. Eric, at the time was a Category 1-2 road cycling racer and extremely fit and ended up in the top 5 overall which was a huge accomplishment. Jack and I were not in that category but I recall being respectable at the finish.

A young Pat back in the day at the start in New Hampshire.

Thinking back on that day, it was a bluebird sunny one at the bottom of the mountain and as I recall it is about 7.6 miles to the top on a road that was part asphalt and part gravel and dirt. The road today is paved to the top but at the time, it was definitely a cyclo-cross tire on the rear wheel. A fairly large group at the time started together and people started to settle in for what was a grueling climb to the top of one of the highest mountains in the East – topping out around 6,000 feet. I recall settling in and at about the halfway mark( reported to me by a bystander), it was about 46 degrees and a heavy fog. Typical weather for Mt. Washington that can change rapidly at any moment. It was windy. The highest winds recorded on earth are at the top of Mt. Washington because of its location as the epicenter of weather patterns roaring across the US and Canada. My friend Jack was behind me and he reported later that he stopped several times to get a drink out of the rain barrels that were used to cool down radiators on the descent in a vehicle. Pretty nasty stuff but he was thirsty. LOL!! Coming into the upper sections, I was able to see the summit weather station and just kept my head down and grinding the gears to approach the last several switchbacks that were reported at a 20 percent gradient. Lots of people cheering us on as I struggled to finish upright and came in with a time of 1 hour and 25 minutes. Respectable for a guy from Pa. My pal Eric from Vermont was top 5 and he was a little over 1 hour and three minutes, just to give perspective. Don’t remember what Jack’s finishing time was, but he made it and immediately stripped down at the top to his Superman briefs which garnered laughs from the crowd as he shivered to change clothes in the parking lot and put on a wool hat and parka because it was 41 degrees and sleeting.

The course marked in red.
Todays racers finishing on the 20 percent paved grade.

The interesting thing is that there is a running race up Mt. Washington as well. The winning times for the bicycle race and the running race are within a minute of each other. Phil Gaimon’s winning time this year was 51.38 which was a record. Sure he had the advantage of paved roads all the way and also the good fortune of technology of light bike design, training improvements and nutritional expertise. But nonetheless, an excellent time, and speeds up that mountain are getting faster every year. Athletes today are just so much better. But back in the day, my buddy Eric made a statement. Today there are a lot of entrants with many of them making the top to the cheers of their friends and family in 2 hours, 3 hours, or whatever it takes. Many of them ride it just to see the scenery and to say that they finished. One guy rode up there this year on a unicycle. Amazing!

As we made our way back down the mountain in Helen Durfee’s van, we were amazed that we could not ride our bikes down the hill. Even with today’s disc brake technology, you would not want to negotiate that road on a bike downhill. Even many of the parade of cars descending the Auto Road have to stop to cool the brakes. It is that steep. So happy to have seen Phil’s recording of the 2022 event as it brought back many memories of an interesting day a long time ago in the White Mountains in early fall. 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.

Taking a Flyer at Snowshoe

The Finish Line- Snowshoe, WVA World Cup Mountain Bike Race

” So Pete, what made us think we would escape the rain, roots and mud of riding in West Virginia?” I said this as my friend Pete Hilton and I made our way through the Backcountry Trails at Silver Creek right outside of Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia. We decided to take a flyer and go see the World Cup Cross Country Races and get a ride in too. We have a lot of experience over 30 years of riding mountain bikes in West Virginia for different events and unfortunately it rains most of the time. But somehow, that adds to the allure of the place and we kind of expect it. When we went to the Word Cup finals last year, it was a hot, sunny weekend. But that was a first. At the Wild 100s, the 24 Hour Races, the NORBA Nationals, the Fat Tire Festivals over the years- it always rained………….and that’s ok believe it or not.

Before the muddy mess.

So Pete picks me up at 4:00 AM and we take the drive to Snowshoe from Pittsburgh. About a 4 hour jaunt and when we get there, we get our tickets for the races and then head to Silver Creek. The long and the short of that is we got lost because I started out on the wrong trail. We had a long, rocky, climb and eventually ended up in the woods on a trail system that we had ridden before. Rooty, muddy , slimy and all around West Virginia treacherous snot fest. But we survived as usual and got back to the van and changed clothes and headed to the races. We met up with our Pittsburgh contingent and took in the expo area and saw a lot of the new bikes and equipment and also saw some of the racers who were warming up for the respective women’s and men’s cross country events.

U.S. Rider Kate Courtney warming up for the Scott Team

As we made our way to the start line and then to the course, it began to sprinkle and then about halfway through the women’s race, the skies opened up in true West Virginia fashion. We were positioned at this amazingly muddy and steep downhill and witnessed some of the most skillful bike handling you will ever see. Take the time to watch the races on Red Bull TV and you will see how difficult the course became and how well the women rode. My MVP for the day was Jolanda Neff of Switzerland who bombed down the muddy, slimy, rock infested descent and bridged to the lead group to finish on the podium. An amazing feat of fitness and skill was on display for all of us to see in a truly biblical, torrential downpour.

The first lap for the men .

The men were next and it seemed to be raining even harder as Hank, Samra, Pete and I hung out in the North Face Store just to stay a little dry although we were totally soaked. We welcomed people into the North Face Store jokingly hoping not to get thrown out. But eventually we made our way to the wicked fast start and eventually back to that treacherous downhill to see how the men handled it. Well, not only are the speeds higher than the women, but the fearless attacks in the torrent both on the climbs and on the descents were impressive.

Thomas Frischknecht- Former Olympic medalist and World Champion- manager of the Scott Team and a nicer guy you will not meet.

Although the weather was really foul, the amazing thing about the whole event is the people. First off, the fans are truly enthusiastic and no matter how badly they were soaked, their cheerful attitude and encouraging voices and cowbell rings, buoyed the riders on. The Red Bull TV people all comment on the enthusiastic fans at Snowshoe and it was on display even in the raging rainstorm.

The athletes, managers, and employees of the manufacturers at the booths are amazingly approachable and always happy to oblige with a picture or a discussion. There is something in the air at Snowshoe that makes it a great venue for mountain biking and mountain bike racing. People are friendly, and the visiting athletes from all over the world are always glad to come here. Even though it is quite remote, it is like a gem in the wilderness of West Virginia and the people of mountain biking make the venue even more special.

Don’ miss this bar b que – bottom of the mountain on the way out.

The Pittsburgh Contingent.

On our way out, Pete and I stopped at the Almost Heaven Smoke House at the bottom of the mountain on the way out to RT219. Great bar b que if you visit and the owners are hard working and friendly – typical of the locals of West Virginia who embrace the World Cup every year. I am hoping that the UCI always hosts the World Cup at Snowshoe and we can continue to see world class athletes show us all how it is done. Nothing like the races and nothing like the people of the mountain bike community.

We headed home after the men’s races were over and the four hour drive back seemed to fly by with our enthusiastic recounting of the events of the day. A long day for a couple of guys in their 60s but what the hell- go for it. Spending the weekend is the way to go, but Pete and I had other things that precluded that. But we made the effort, got a ride in, and saw some great racing in the wilds of West Virginia. It truly is ” Almost Heaven” even when it rains. Thanks for reading.

Final Images courtesy of Red Bull TV

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.