The Internal Amplitude Dial

photoCottonwood-20120216-00019IMG00132-20100208-1434 We all have an internal dial or dials which are like radio dials. We have the ability to turn up the dial, turn down the dial, look at a second dial which might indicate how we approach fun, aerobic limit, or competitiveness. Everyone’s dial is different based upon experience, age, physical fitness, and the ability to assess risk. I have written previous blog posts entitled Risk versus Reward and I would encourage you to re-vist them for a perspective on that subject. Outside Magazine’s current issue is dedicated to the topic of risk. But all of us have the ability to adjust those internal dials based upon where we find ourselves at the moment when we are partaking in a physical activity.

If you look at the picture above, this is our skiing group that gets together once a year in Tahoe/Mammoth for a week to 10 days of pretty hard core skiing for a bunch of guys who are pushing 60.( Some of the group are already there). The good thing is that this group is extremely enthusiastic and skiing is very important to all of us. Last year, I turned the group on to the I-Phone App “Alpine Replay.” This is one of many apps that measure vertical feet skied, speed, calories burned, and other measurements. We all got sucked into the technology and spent one day during the week at Northstar at Tahoe skiing perfectly groomed trails with no crowds. We actually had the perfect day to beat the single day record because there are several high speed chairlifts,and we have the equipment that makes it easy to turn and control at speed. The dial was turned up a little that day with our enthusiasm. We ended up skiing 57,833 vertical feet (each of us). The next day, Hutch and I logged 52,000 vertical each. That is a lot of runs in two days but again, we had perfect conditions which allowed us to turn up the dial a bit.

Even guys our age can get caught up with modern technology. I-Phones, Map my Ride, Go-Pro cameras which allow you to video document your own experience as you race to get it on You Tube for the chance to go viral. Equipment advances, high speed chairs, over-sized racquets and clubs, dual suspension all carbon mountain bikes, carbon road bikes, power meters, the list goes on and on which allows mere mortals to venture into the expert zone. We all know our limits and the amplitude dial is relative to each person. But the outside influences on the dials can increase the amplitude sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The secondary dial is more important to me. As the 59 year old kid, I love the challenges on the trails and the slopes. But the competitive mark on the dial is seldom used any more. It is more of an adjustment between fun and aerobic fitness. I love the roller coaster sometimes with friends on the slopes and the trails with all of the modern technology. But sometimes, I like to get off the roller coaster and stand on the platform or have a seat on the bench and dial it back a bit. Take today. I was running trails in the rain and ordinarily I try to push myself to the best of my ability. The amplitude and the secondary dial were not that high but I enjoyed the run and even stopped to see two beautiful bucks. I took the time to count their points. In the old days, I would have just kept running. My wife and I were hiking up at Glendorn a few weeks ago and I stopped to observe a beautiful salamander on the trail. Other days, I would not have even noticed. This week, Mark Sauers and I rode with an old friend who has had some extreme physical problems yet keeps on riding. Bill Belch is a testament to fortitude and continues to ride even at night with some serious vision issues. Mark and I dialed it back a bit and we really enjoyed our ride with our friend as it was great for us to reconnect and great for Bill to be pushed a bit. His dial was turned up pretty far but the outcome was very positive for a very positive guy. John Staab is another friend who rode with us yesterday and wanted to stop for a bit to have an energy bar, sit on a rock and enjoy the scenery for a little bit. You know, he got off the roller coaster and wanted to sit on the platform for a while. Really, nothing wrong with that. John had the longest ride of his season, his dial was up a bit, but he also enjoyed the experience. The secondary dial was turned to …..FUN.

I have been reading some interesting commentary lately about smaller ski areas and how they do not necessarily have high speed chairs. It is part of the experience. They even talked about the single chair at Mad River and mocked it as “stupid.” I tend to disagree and respect the history of the single chair. I remember riding the one at Stowe,Vermont when they would give you a blanket for the ride up. Sometimes, the slower double chairs allow for longer conversations. Skiing is a great sport and a fun activity, but it is as much social for me as it is making turns and runs. Sometimes, I am fine with not constantly taking the high speed chairs and maybe turning the dial down a bit and enjoy the slow ride up the mountain. Kind of like listening to the Frank Sinatra station on Sirrius Radio. As much as I like to stay up with current music, sometimes listening to the Chairman of the Board and even the Spa Channel, relaxes me. Sometimes that dial needs to be turned down a bit. Not all the time. But sometimes when you need it.

My friend Eric drove down to Mammoth this week to catch the first ski runs of the season. Eric has had neck surgery, shoulder surgery, and foot issues which have limited his ski time a bit. But he was enthused when he made his first runs down there and had no pain. The ability to ski like that and to enjoy the sunny weather caused him to turn his dials up. It is funny that his doctor told him he may want to “dial back” a bit but he ended up skiing between 23-30 runs per day and then going for a mountain bike ride. Somehow, I don’t think Eric will be dialing back any time soon. He will be pushing us to break the 60,000 vertical feet in a day record this spring on the Alpine Replay app and that is ok. The dial may be turned up a bit that day, but all within reason for a bunch of older dudes. So pay attention to your inner amplitude dials. They can be adjusted many times during the course of a day or a trip depending on how you feel. Go for the gusto but know that the dials can be adjusted to the fun zone and ……………..that’s ok. Thanks for reading. By the way, that is a Porcupine on my skis. I stopped to look at him too and he liked me. Also- this is my 100th post. Thanks for reading. This has been a lot of fun.

How to Stay in the Game

Saltlick-20130109-00082IMGP1925IMG00375-20110730-0915 Age and Treachery will beat Youth and Skill- true or false? As the 58 year old kid, I would like to believe that statement but in most instances, this is not the case. You have to rely on other things to stay in the game and enjoy the activities that you have been enjoying for a long time. Chris Crowley in his excellent book “Younger Next Year” states with conviction that if you keep doing the things that you are doing in your 50s and 60s, there is no reason, barring catastrophic disease, that you can’t keep doing it well into your 70s and 80s. I believe this and have seen evidence of this with active people on the ski slopes and on the trails. I am not an exercise physiologist, certified trainer, coach or anything close, but I can tell you what has worked for me and I hope that these following little tips can keep you in the game as well.

Equipment- Chris Crowley screams from his book to buy the best equipment that you can really afford. Why not? We could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Spend the money because if you are dedicated to pursuing your sport, you will use the equipment almost every day. Skis are shaped, well constructed, and shorter these days allowing less fatigue as the day wears on. The new ski equipment definitely improve most skiers one full ability level. Beginners become intermediates, intermediates become advanced, and advanced skiers become…well …. really experts. Mountain bikes and road bikes are made with lightweight carbon fiber and utilize lightweight componetry allowing quicker ascending on the roads and trails. Larger diameter wheels like the 29ers make riding more efficient with rolling resistance lowered and climbing more effiicient with more tire patch on the trail. Full suspension technology allows a more comfortable ride which is especially important on technical trails as an older rider.

Clothing- with the advances of Gore Tex and similar wind and water resistant fabrics, exercise becomes more comfortable allowing more time on the trails and slopes. Again, spend the money and get good riding, running and ski clothing. Compression socks are another plus to promote blood flow while running and giving the legs some support. Technical clothing is well worth the investment

Nutrition- I am not a dietician but I can tell you that if you stay away from high fat foods, fried foods, desserts, and eat within reason, you will feel and perform better. When I moved out of my parents house in my twenties, I started to run on a daily basis and I started to eat more chicken,fish, fruits and vegetables. I ate my big meal at noon and hardly anything at night and lost 15 pounds in two weeks. I was not intentionally wanting to lose weight, but my improved fitness coupled with a sensible diet and correct eating times, helped me lose the weight and gain efficiency.

Water- I had a blood clot years back because I was injured and dehydrated. I am still paying for that today because I take Coumadin. I don’t have any side effects but had I hydrated properly at the time, I may not have had the DVT. I also had a kidney stone this year and the doc said that I don’t take enough fluids in while I exercise. I wouldnt wish that experience on my worst enemy. So I drink plenty of water these days and you should too. You almost have to consciously drink more that you think you should not only while you are exercising but before and after and on the days when you are inactive.

Attitude- take a look at the pictures above. The one picture is of my buddy Heff and me in the bowels of West Virginia in the rain. We had the gear and enjoyed the mountains and the ride immensely despite the horrid conditions. We never let weather spoil our fun. Another picture above is of me and 3 time Tour De France champion Greg Lemond. Here is a guy who loves to ride a bike despite his age and he will talk cycling and sign autographs for as long as anyone want him to be there. The last picture is of my lovely wife riding a chairlift in the freezing rain. She was having such a good day skiing that day that she didn’t want to quit. She has a great attitude and she rides a bike and is into hot yoga of all things. These individuals are older athletes but their attitude, nutritional habits, good equipment and fitness keep them in the game. Chuck Swindoll the great preacher says that “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” Even if you have been away from it for a while or you want to start a new exercies and fitness/nutritional program, it is never too late. Get with a physician to determine your baseline fitness and just do it as the Nike ads proclaim.

I was out with a bunch of guys the other day on the mountain bike and it was really hot. I made sure I was drinking a lot, I pounded the energy gels to keep the energy levels high, I rode the hills at 60% so as to keep something in the tank for the three hour slog with some younger guys.Because I was leading the ride, I did not have the luxury of sitting in with the group and allowing someone else to set the pace and take all the pulls. On a road bike, you can get away with this by sucking wheel more than you are out front taking pulls. I was good at this back in the day when I got an award from the ACA. It was a little plunger and the nameplate said Wheel Sucker of the Year. In short, I pulled out most of my treachery and skulduggery just to stay with the ride. My age and treachery did not beat the youth and the skill the other day, but I sure had fun on the ride and want to continue that high for many rides to come. Stay in the game my friend. Thanks for reading.